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LI schools appear to be on track for fall reopening

Focus turns to infection rate

Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of infectious disease at North Shore University Hospital and Long Island Jewish Medical Center, said he believed the benefits of opening schools with masks and other safety precautions outweigh the risks, despite the probability of some infections.

"It's whack-a-mole, and there are going to be outbreaks in schools in New York and every state," Farber said. "We have to be very careful realizing that's what's going to happen, but quite frankly I don't see what the alternative is. This is the new norm and the alternative of never opening the schools is not an option."

Farber added that "the most important thing by far … that will influence whether it is safe to open the schools is the rate of COVID in the community. Right now, New York is in pretty good shape."

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said he would approve school reopenings if the community infection rate is under 5%; the statewide rate is about 1% now. An announcement is expected shortly.

The New York State United Teachers, the union that represents dozens of public school districts on Long Island, said any reopening plan must include protective equipment for staff and students, safety protocols and accommodations for those at high risk from COVID-19.

The number of new positives today, reported as of 3 p.m.: 58 in Nassau, 86 in Suffolk, 312 in New York City and 777 statewide.

The chart above shows new coronavirus cases confirmed each day in Nassau and Suffolk. Search a map and view charts showing the latest local trends in testing, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

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Record-shattering drop for U.S. economy

The U.S. economy shrank at a dizzying 32.9% annual rate in the April-June quarter when the viral outbreak shut down businesses, throwing tens of millions out of work and sending unemployment surging to 14.7%, the government said.

That's by far the worst quarterly plunge ever. 

The Commerce Department's estimate of the second-quarter decline in the gross domestic product, the total output of goods and services, marked the sharpest such drop on records dating to 1947. The previous worst quarterly contraction, a 10% drop, occurred in 1958 during the Eisenhower administration.

Last quarter's drop followed a 5% fall in the January-March quarter, during which the economy officially entered a recession triggered by the coronavirus.

More than 1.4 million laid-off Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department reported.

Setback for restoring Mother Nature

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo postponed a $3 billion bond act planned to improve drinking water quality and other environmental protections on Long Island and statewide.

"We're going to postpone the environmental bond issue for one year," Cuomo said. "The financial situation right now is unstable."

Cuomo has said the state faces a $13 billion deficit because of costs from the coronavirus, including declining state and local government tax revenues and increasing unemployment benefit costs. He has lobbied for billions more in stimulus aid from Congress, but the chances of that are uncertain.

The Restore Mother Nature Bond Act would have gone before voters in November.

Senate Environmental Conservation Committee Chairman Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) blamed "Washington's failure to help states," saying, "This will have long-term consequences for combating climate change, increasing our storm resiliency and creating jobs. There is just no excuse for this and it is shameful."

Trump floats November election delay

President Donald Trump, lagging in the polls and confronted by fresh evidence of an economic collapse and an escalating public health crisis, suggested delaying the Nov. 3 presidential election as he pushed unsubstantiated allegations that increased mail-in voting due to the coronavirus pandemic will result in fraud.

It was the first time Trump publicly raised the idea of pushing back the balloting. Shifting the election is virtually impossible, but the mere suggestion of delay was extraordinary in a nation that has held itself up as a beacon to the world for its history of peaceful transfer of power, including during the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II and marked another bracing attempt by Trump to undermine confidence in the American political system.

"With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history," Trump tweeted. "It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"

The date of the presidential election — the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in every fourth year — is enshrined in federal law and would require an act of Congress to change, including agreement from the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives. Regardless, the Constitution makes no provisions for a delay in the end of Trump's term — noon on Jan. 20, 2021.

Pop-up jazz performances: 'One tune and we're out'

Call it band on the run. A six-piece New Orleans-style street group has begun traveling around Stony Brook village giving pop-up jazz performances at various locations, courtesy of The Jazz Loft. 

"People have been telling me they miss the music," said Thomas J. Manuel, president and founder of the Stony Brook nonprofit, which focuses on jazz preservation, performance and education. "We are doing quick, socially distanced appearances throughout the town — one tune and we're out."

They travel in two vintage cars — a 1935 Cadillac convertible and a 1957 Pontiac convertible.

The two remaining dates of their mini tour are Aug. 8 and Aug. 21.

Due to pandemic restrictions, the musicians can't draw a large crowd. To keep active and the music flowing, the players took to the streets.

"We play distanced from each other and from whatever people are there," Manuel said. "No one is getting in people's faces. We just want them to hear the music."

More to know

Former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain died after battling the coronavirus at 74.

The virus and the economic shutdown it forced reduced the state pension fund for public workers by $16.2 billion to $194.2 billion and will likely force greater employer contributions by state and local governments, according to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

The state will provide $30 million to counties to boost contact tracing and flu prevention, Cuomo said.

Splish Splash threw in the towel for this summer, as the Calverton water park announced the cancellation of its 2020 season.

News for you

Shopping by appointment. Karen McGuigan of Wantagh gets the celebrity treatment when she shops at the Uniquely Yours women's clothing shop in Seaford. She can have the store all to herself almost at any time she wants — and owner Linda Rhoads personally shops with her. McGuigan is one of many shoppers on Long Island who are loving being able to shop by appointment now at stores trying to accommodate customers who want to do in-person browsing in a socially distant fashion.

COVID-19 & your wallet. Many Long Islanders are facing unimaginable financial hardships during the pandemic. Where can you go to get help? What can you apply for? Join us for a Newsday Live conversation Friday at noon, and register here.

"A dampening effect on people's hopes for retirement." A Wharton professor weighs in on America's post-COVID retirement outlook.

Plus: How a 94-year-old snack bar has stood the test of time.

Watch our video full of Long Islanders' opinions on whether children should go back to school.

Commentary

Hoping for a vaccine. Much of our worrying these days takes place in the light of a COVID-19 vaccine, now glowing like the first hint of sun on the horizon, Elizabeth Bass writes for Newsday Opinion.

We argue over whether kids should go back to school this fall in person or remotely — just for now, until the vaccine comes. Should your grandmother stay home and cut her own hair, at least until we get a vaccine? And, sure, get married now, but hold the big party in a year, after there's a vaccine and we can all kiss the happy couple and dance the exuberant dance of our people, whoever they may be. 

But unlike aging and sunrise, the COVID-19 vaccine is far from a sure thing. And if we let our hopes for a vaccine strongly shape our decisions now, we may lose the chance to create longer-term social solutions that we are likely to need, with or without a vaccine.

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