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Overdue electric bill amounts soar on LI

Behind on electric bills in a COVID world

Electric bills more than 30 days past due as of September showed $33.5 million in arrears for commercial customers, up 53% from September 2019. Residential amounts over 30 days past due totaled $120.9 million, up 20% from last year.

The number of commercial accounts late with their bills increased to 19,214 this year, compared with 17,286 a year ago. The number of residential customers with overdue bills declined — even as the dollar amount soared — to 183,175 compared with 194,279 in September 2019.

The combined $154.4 million in arrears in September surpasses overdue bills during a previous high point of May 2009 during the Great Recession.

LIPA chief executive Tom Falcone said the amounts are "manageable" as a percentage of LIPA's overall $3.4 billion annual budget. PSEG operates the Long Island power grid under a contract with LIPA.

"Given the effects of the pandemic, you would expect not all customers are in the position to pay bills or to afford electricity," Falcone said.

The number of new positives reported today: 65 in Nassau, 62 in Suffolk, 393 in New York City and 1,029 statewide.

The chart above shows daily transit visits in Nassau and Suffolk since early this year. Search a map and view charts showing local trends in testing, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

LIRR officials promise major advance in air-purifying tech

New air-purifying technology being tested by the Long Island Rail Road could kill the coronavirus and virtually all other airborne viruses, but until it is installed, most trains will continue to rely on decades-old ventilation systems that LIRR officials say are effective.

Among several new strategies being considered to combat the spread of viruses on trains is one that would replace standard air filters in train heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems with an electrical grid that LIRR officials said would kill 99.995% of any airborne viruses and bacteria.

Before returning to the car, the air is also ionized, which helps knock down particles in the air.

The technology, developed by Madrid, Spain-based firm Merak — which also designed and manufactured the LIRR's current HVAC system — would be the first of its kind in the United States and is used in transit systems in other countries, including China, according to the LIRR.

The LIRR is installing the technology on a single train car. After a testing phase, officials said they are optimistic the technology could be rolled out across the railroad's fleet of 1,100 widely within months, equipping trains with an air treatment system that would outperform even the highest-rated air filters.

"This is just one part of the overall effort. We want the riders to know that they can ride the trains safely," LIRR president Phillip Eng said. "This is all about everyone doing their part. We're doing what we can here at the railroad, including looking at new technology."

Teaching in this new normal is anything but, teachers say

Cordelia Anthony said she feels like a brand-new teacher these days. Instructing in this new COVID-19 environment, the Farmingdale teacher has to present her lessons to students sitting in front of her in the classroom as well as to several who are patched in remotely on their computers — at the same time.

Anthony, a high school science teacher with 21 years of experience, has to keep the interest of those in front of her and keep tabs on those at home. Many group activities can't be done due to hybrid learning and social distancing, she said, and it's challenging to connect with the students in class, all sitting far apart and ensconced behind masks and clear plastic barriers.

A month into this school year, Long Island teachers say working under the new normal of COVID-19 feels anything but normal. They've had to change the way they prepare lessons — adjusting to remote learning, as well as avoiding group activities, making sure kids wear masks and configuring ways through technology glitches.

Many Long Island teachers are finding creative ways to enhance their teaching while abiding by COVID-19 guidelines. Here are three.

Low positivity a good thing for NY

New York continues to have one of the nation's lowest rates of people testing positive for the coronavirus, but experts say recent outbreaks and cooler weather could push those numbers up.

The state had the second-lowest positive test rate in the country, according to Covid Act Now, a nonprofit website that analyzes COVID-19 data. In Saturday's analysis, only Maine, at 0.5%, had a lower rate than New York, which was tied with Vermont for the second-lowest positivity rate of 1.2%. The group uses a seven-day rolling average of test results.

In March and April, New York was the epicenter for the pandemic in the United States, with hundreds of residents dying of COVID-19 every day.

"We got from where we were in April because we distanced, we isolated, we masked, and the virus ran its course," said Dr. David Battinelli, chief medical officer of New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health, the state's largest health system.

New Yorkers take the pandemic more seriously than many other Americans because they lived through the surge in cases that overloaded hospitals with COVID-19 patients, and they're more likely to know people who got sick or died from the disease, he said.

Presto change-o: Magician's shows go virtual

When the pandemic made Commack magician Thomas Joseph Tana's bookings disappear, he was forced to learn a new trick: how to dazzle "invisible" audiences with virtual shows.

Tana, who is 27 and goes by the stage name TJ Tana, has been performing at paid gigs in front of Long Island crowds since he was 12. At 16, he paid for his first car with cash he earned doing magic shows at private parties and corporate events.

Tana has since traveled the world — performing at venues from Australia to Dubai — and joined The CW Network's "Masters of Illusion" television series as part of its live touring show.

Determined not to let the outbreak do away with his career and business, he worked to keep the magic alive by recreating his performance for an online crowd.

He says the hardest part of going virtual "was taking all that magic knowledge and all of my energy and excitement for performing and tweaking it to a completely new platform, while making sure all the tricks and illusions that I incorporated in the new show translated to that virtual world."

More to know

Fourteen students at LIU Post in Brookville have tested positive for COVID-19 after off-campus gatherings involving members of several athletic teams, the school's chief of student affairs said in a letter Sunday.

The Los Angeles Lakers, led by LeBron James, won the NBA championship with a blowout Game 6 victory over the Miami Heat — closing a unique season that resumed and ended in a bubble at Walt Disney World.

"Soul" to stream. The animated Disney/Pixar feature "Soul" will bypass U.S. theaters and instead premiere on Disney Plus on Christmas Day. It's the latest example of Disney's willingness to move some of its biggest films out of theaters and onto its home entertainment platform during the pandemic.

Legis. Carrié Solages partnered with Five Towns Community Center and Gammy's Pantry to distribute personal protective equipment to Inwood and Lawrence residents after the areas saw an increase in COVID-19 cases.

News for you

How to vote. New Yorkers have three ways to cast a ballot in the election on Nov. 3, as we explain.

Timekeeping concerns. The U.S. Department of Labor released guidance on tracking remote employee hours. "The lines between work and home were blurry before, but now it's just nonexistent," says John Diviney, a partner in the employment and labor practice at Rivkin Radler LLP in Uniondale.

Ready to rock. A gaggle of guest stars has been announced for "The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2020 Inductions" special premiering Nov. 7 on HBO. The May induction ceremony was postponed due to the pandemic, and the live event was then replaced with the HBO special, which will include Luke Bryan, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Miley Cyrus and The Boss.

Plus: His voice — a fast clip with sharp edges that once exuded whimsy, exhilaration and authority — was made for radio. But the Warner Wolf we remember was made for TV. Let's go to the interview, with Newsday TV critic Verne Gay.

Next up for Newsday Live: a talk with author Lisa Jewell about her new book "Invisible Girl" Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., and a panel of experts take on "Celebrating the Holidays During a Pandemic" Wednesday at noon.

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Give the flu vaccine a shot. Poor, misunderstood flu vaccine. It gets no respect: All you ever hear about it is whether it's a good or bad match for the strain of influenza that’s circulating in a given year, and its dismal effectiveness when there's a mediocre fit, writes Zenobia Brown for Newsday Opinion.

Unsurprisingly, the vaccine's bad reputation means poor uptake, which is especially worrisome this year, when we face the possibility of hospitals being swamped by the combined effects of COVID-19 and influenza.

That's tragic, because the flu vaccine actually has a little known superpower that makes it worth getting — even if you do catch the flu.