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Looking for virus 'superspreaders'

How a new contact tracing program can help

Once an infected person is identified, contact tracers will investigate how the infection happened and alert the patient’s circle of contacts, with information collected on apps and fed into state databases to help New York’s virus-fighting strategy.

“So-called ‘superspreading events’ involve transmission from one individual to many others,” said Dr. Adam Karpati, senior vice president of public health programs for Vital Strategies, a group funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies that's working with the state effort. “What we’re seeing is that a majority of infections are associated with a smaller number of individuals. But we do need to learn more.”

State health officials expect to hire as many as 17,000 contact tracers — disease investigators who will find out who has come in contact recently with a person testing positive and isolate them to prevent spread. Learn more about what contact tracing is and how it works.

Inside a Long Island maternity ward

Manuel Carchipulla watched with tears in his eyes as his wife, Diana Garcia Garcia, gave birth last week at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital.

Mixed with the joy of seeing their first child was an intense sadness and pain. He had tested positive for the coronavirus that morning, April 28, so he had to watch the birth alone from more than 20 miles away, on a smartphone screen.

“It hurts me so much,” Carchipulla said in Spanish from the couple’s home in Jackson Heights, Queens, as his newborn daughter, Danaey, cried a few feet from an iPad that a surgical technologist pointed toward Garcia in a labor and delivery room in Oceanside. “But thank God it all turned out well.”

This is a birth in the era of COVID-19. Parents are sometimes separated. Moms who test positive don masks before holding their babies. And there’s an empty waiting room where family and friends once gathered in anxious anticipation.

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Cuomo extends rent relief

New York will extend a rent relief measure on both residential and commercial properties until Aug. 20 to prevent state residents struggling to make payments from being evicted during the crisis, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.

The amended measure will also protect renters from late fees and would allow tenants to pay with their security deposits, which they can later replenish, he said. 

Under the rule, “you cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent,” Cuomo said.

A 'Pause' order shutting down nonessential businesses and schools expires May 15. The rent order was due to expire in June.

Meanwhile, the state again saw a decline in the total number of people in hospitals because of COVID-19, with about 8,600 people in hospital beds, Cuomo said.

The above chart shows the number of coronavirus patients hospitalized by day in Nassau and Suffolk. See a map and more charts that show the latest numbers and local trends in testing, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

The numbers as of 3 p.m.: 37,593 confirmed cases in Nassau, 35,892 in Suffolk, 180,216 in New York City and 327,469 statewide.

Drop in emergency visits

Long Island hospitals are reporting 50% reductions in the number of patients headed to emergency departments during the pandemic.

Doctors said patients who would otherwise visit a hospital with cardiac, neurological or other life-threatening events have avoided examinations because they're afraid of contracting COVID-19.

That fear will lead to more bad outcomes well past when the pandemic subsides, doctors predict.

"It's like the ostrich defense, where people stick their head in the ground and hope the truck doesn't hit you," said Dr. Hal Skopicki, chief of cardiology at Stony Brook Medicine and the co-director at Stony Brook University Heart Institute. "But you're going to get hit, unless there isn't a truck."

Union: Workers lose jobs after minding stay-at-home order

Blanca Landaverde was proud of her role in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic — she cleaned contaminated linens from hospitals and nursing homes as an employee of a Hempstead-based laundry facility.

But then, she said, the facility, FDR Services, fired her after she stayed home with COVID-19 symptoms, including body aches, headaches and a fever.

Landaverde, 50, of Hempstead, said at least five other former co-workers, one of whom tested positive for the virus, were similarly fired from FDR Services since the pandemic began. With the help of their labor union, the workers are fighting to get their jobs back along with pay lost due to quarantine orders from the Nassau County Department of Health.

“We are hardworking employees with families that count on us,” Landaverde said in Spanish. “I consider the job I do a major responsibility. To handle and clean linens from the hospitals in the middle of this pandemic is extremely important.”

More to know

At least two owners of Long Island shopping centers plan to help customers and retailers adapt to the change in shopping habits by designating centralized curbside pickup areas at their retail properties. 

Disinfecting public spaces, trains and subway cars won’t ward off coronavirus infection if people fail to protect themselves with masks, hand sanitizer and washing and social distancing, health experts warn.

Emotional eating triggered by stress and anxiety because of the pandemic has some Huntington-based doctors calling to put town residents on a “diet” to avoid weight gain.

Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley recorded a video message for students at Floral Park High School, congratulating the graduating seniors and trying to lift their spirits.

Nearly 3.2 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week as shutdowns caused by the outbreak deepened the worst U.S. economic catastrophe in decades.

Public companies, under fire from small businesses for receiving Paycheck Protection Program loans, have more time to return them without penalty, federal officials said.

Thousands of Long Island police officers and other first responders will soon know if they have been exposed to the coronavirus — even without displaying symptoms — thanks to an antibody testing program started this week.

Closures are threatening local downtowns and the livelihoods of those who own businesses and employ workers there. See how the pandemic is affecting Bay Shore, Lindenhurst and Westbury.

News for you

A healthy dose of spring. Buying and growing plants can provide a much-needed pick-me-up, and Long Islanders can get it at local nurseries. Many are staying open and offering deliveries to your door, curbside pickups, online ordering, in-store shopping by appointment or outdoor checkout.

What Long Islanders have been watching. Newsday spoke recently to seven Long Islanders about their TV consumption during quarantine. Find out what they've been binging. 

Free lunches for all (who ask). Real Usha Snacks & Sweets in Floral Park will prepare a vegetarian “basic Indian lunch” — roti (flatbread), dal (lentils), bhat (rice), shak (vegetables) and more — and box it to-go for anyone for free. All you need do is ask 24 hours in advance.

Friday night at the virtual movies. The Plaza Cinema and Media Arts Center in Patchogue is offering a “Virtual Movie Night” that includes a streamed screening of “Spaceship Earth,” plus snacks and cocktails for two delivered to your home.

Learn to cook like the Cheesecake Factory. The chain is hosting its first-ever virtual cooking class on the company's Facebook page today at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. The chief culinary officer will make the popular lemon ricotta pancakes and a new menu item.

Plus: Watch the replay of our webinar featuring medical officials answering questions about antibody tests, plasma trials and more.

Get real-time updates about the virus' impact on Long Island by visiting our live blog.

Commentary

Wise words from a Holocaust survivor amid pandemic

Exactly 75 years ago Tuesday, I was liberated in the Mauthausen Concentration camp, writes Werner Reich, of Smithtown, in a column for Newsday

It was a warm spring day. I was 17 years old, weighed 64 pounds, and my feet were rotting. I was too weak to stand. Very little changed for us for about a week, and then we received military rations. Every day we were closer to death but we were free.

I said I was liberated in the camp and not from the camp as we had to stay there for at least another three weeks before we could leave for another dictatorship. From Nazism to communism. Liberation gave us hope, although about 20,000 died in our camp even after liberation. One man in our camp, who had been in various camps for 10 years, died from a heart attack on liberation day.

People frequently ask me what our feelings were on being liberated, or on Victory Day on May 8, 1945. Most of us didn’t care as the only thing that mattered was food. Anything edible. Grass, breadcrusts, roots, even raw potatoes.

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