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Searching for the virus in LI's sewers

Looking for signs of a second wave in wastewater

Chris Gobler and Arjun Venkatesan of Stony Brook University are not the only scientists on the lookout for signs the new coronavirus is regaining strength in New York. But they may be the only ones looking in the sewers of Suffolk County.

They have spent the past six months exploring the contents of wastewater pipes from West Babylon to Riverhead, watching for signals COVID-19 is on the rise again and for any other insights a toilet flush can provide.

People infected with the virus shed traces of it in their stool, even those not showing symptoms, Gobler and Venkatesan explained. That makes a sewage system serving tens or hundreds of thousands of people a valuable, if unappealing, place to assess how widespread the virus is. The researchers say wastewater could even help identify outbreaks before other forms of testing.

"The virus is showing up in the wastewater early, and it's showing up for people who might not even know that they have it," Gobler said. "If the levels are going up, and that's not seen yet in the hospitals, it could be an early warning sign that a second wave is coming."

The number of new positives reported today: 80 in Nassau, 89 in Suffolk, 624 in New York City and 1,592 statewide.

Travel advisory list: View a map of the current states and territories on the list.

The chart below shows how many patients are currently hospitalized for coronavirus in New York State in recent days. Search a map and view charts showing the latest local trends in testing, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

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Lawrence schools close as area included in 'hot spot'

The Lawrence public school district in western Nassau is shutting down in-person instruction until at least Oct. 23 because parts of it are within special COVID-19 cluster zones that the state is targeting to try to stop rising levels of the virus, officials said.

The state established red, orange and yellow zones based on proximity to the areas with the most COVID-19 spread, applying different levels of limits on schools, houses of worship and business activity.

In a letter to Lawrence families, Superintendent Ann Pedersen said the district's schools fall into various zones, including the elementary and middle schools, which are in the orange zone and require a full closing for 14 days. Lawrence Primary School abuts the orange zone and falls under the yellow zone.

On Thursday, Pedersen said the high school was outside of the current cluster and that although students would not be in the building, teachers were expected to report to the school. But on Friday, she said the map had been redrawn to add Peninsula Boulevard, which is near the high school, to the yellow zone, and that teachers could work remotely.

See an updated list of COVID-19 cases reported in Long Island schools.

Cuomo: Prosecute protesters in NYC assault

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called for prosecution of protesters against new coronavirus restrictions who reportedly assaulted a journalist in Brooklyn earlier this week, making a distinction between peaceful protests and criminal behavior and telling law enforcement agencies that they have no discretion to do otherwise.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said an arrest is imminent.

Cuomo specifically called on the NYPD and the district attorney in Brooklyn to act.

"Peaceful protest is peaceful protest. Criminal behavior is criminal behavior … The law is the law and there is no provision for discretion where a person is clearly violating the law and you decide, well, because of the political circumstances, I'm not going to enforce the law," Cuomo said. "The law does not recognize political circumstances … Peaceful protest by the Hasidic community, fine. You are beating a journalist, criminal behavior … how did we come into a situation where we allow people to be beaten?"

Why these Manhattanites are staying put on LI

For Ellen Wachtler the choice between moving back to her Manhattan apartment or staying at her summer home on Dune Road in Westhampton Beach this fall was a no-brainer in the age of COVID-19.

"I'm not going anywhere," said Wachtler, who is retired but whose husband still commutes to the city one or two days a week. "I'll be at my house 99% of the time."

The calculus for other Manhattanites is the same, and it's providing a needed second wind for businesses across the East End. Faced with a city in the throes of new coronavirus hot spots, restaurant and entertainment closures and the prospect of pop-up restrictions, thousands are staying put on Long Island. Their reasons are manifold, and evolving, many say, as conditions in the city change, and could lead some to stay long-term or even permanently.

More to know

Broadway theaters will remain closed through May 30, according to the Broadway League, which had previously announced they planned to reopen in January.

Long Island University reopened this semester with in-person instruction for nearly all its classes, but the plan, which was approved by the state, is still concerning to professors with health risks, advanced age or vulnerable family members, faculty members said.

The New York Jets sent all their players and coaches home Friday morning after a player tested presumptively positive for COVID-19, a source confirmed to Newsday.

President Donald Trump said he doesn't think he's contagious anymore, but medical experts say that's impossible to know a week after his diagnosis with COVID-19.

The NYPD continues to lose officers through an accelerating pace of retirements and due to the pandemic and budget cuts, they have not been replaced, driving the head count down to a level not seen in a decade, officials say.

News for you

Your weekend plans. From a drive-thru haunted house to a fall festival and chowder contest in Montauk, see what socially distant activities and events are taking place this weekend.

Year-round waterfront dining. The pandemic has inspired the owner of the restaurant formerly known as Pace's Dockside to re-imagine the waterside eatery from stem to stern, with a new menu, new décor and a new year-round opportunity: watching the sun sink into the inlet from the relative comfort of a heated patio.

'This is Halloween.' Fans of Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" are in for a few tricks and big treat on Oct. 31, when "Aladdin's" genie James Monroe Iglehart presents a virtual concert presentation of the 1993 cult movie as a benefit for The Actors Fund and Lymphoma Research Foundation.

Free virtual event. Join Newsday and the Long Island LitFest for a virtual in-depth discussion and extensive Q&A with Lisa Jewell, author of the new book "Invisible Girl." Reserve your spot.

Drowning in debt? As cardholders experience financial difficulties due to COVID-19, some credit card issuers are promoting their hardship programs. But not all cardholders will qualify or receive favorable terms. Here's what to know about this kind of assistance.

Plus: Whether you're searching for employment, legal or financial assistance, we've compiled this list of resources to help.

Sign up for text messages to get the most important coronavirus news and information.

Commentary

How has COVID affected Long Island's economy? Recently, it might seem like every morning a new headline has blared about the fight between congressional Democrats and Republicans over what level of stimulus package is needed and when, writes Newsday Opinion's Mark Chiusano. But for a deeper sense of just how much COVID-19 has affected the economy in Nassau and Suffolk, take a look at the Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker.

The project, part of a think-tank-type partnership between economists at Harvard and Brown universities, maps the pandemic's devastation down to the county level. It uses outside-the-box markers such as time spent outside the home, charted when available for counties and states over the course of the health crisis.

In Nassau and Suffolk, for example, people are still spending less time outside the home than they did in January, but much more time in parks, according to anonymized Google mobility data.

That might explain the huge shifts in consumer habits — the tracker shows drops in total spending by consumers in both counties.

You can plot county vs. county and state vs. state as well as highlight other categories to see, for example, how low-income vs. high-income workers fared or which job sectors have seen the biggest dips in job postings. Dig in to the tracker.

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