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Traffic is back to pre-pandemic levels

The return of the Long Island traffic jam

When the pandemic was at its peak this past spring, Barry Eisner’s East Meadow car repair shop was struggling.

The steady stream of oil changes, tire rotations and other maintenance jobs that had kept Neighbors Automotive afloat since Eisner opened in 1985 slowed to a trickle. Stay-at-home orders issued by the state were keeping Long Islanders off the roads and their cars out of Eisner's shop.

Those days are over, and traffic congestion is back. About 77,000 vehicles traveled westbound on a heavily used stretch of the Southern State Parkway on a Thursday in October — only 3,000 fewer than the number on a Thursday in February, state data show. On a Thursday in April, the number was 47,000.

Transit experts, business owners and drivers attributed the return of motorists to the easing of pandemic restrictions, some schools and businesses reopening, an influx of new residents moving from New York City, and low ridership on the Long Island Rail Road.

Many LIRR commuters may be 'lost forever,' rail experts say

LIRR riders and experts said many commuters it has lost during the pandemic may be gone for good.

Remaining commuters may welcome extra room on trains, but the prolonged depression in ridership could worsen the railroad’s financial crisis and hurt major capacity expansion projects such as the second Manhattan terminal and an annex to Penn Station, experts said.

"Do we really need that station? I mean, pre-pandemic, it sounded great. But right now, is it really smart to spend that money?" said Gerard Bringmann, chairman of the LIRR Commuter Council, who predicts about 20% of LIRR riders are "lost forever."

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The railroad predicts a 64% drop in fare revenue for 2020.

The chart below shows how daily transit visits have changed throughout the pandemic.

Search a map of new cases and view more charts showing the latest local trends in testing, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

The number of new positives reported today: 65 in Nassau, 54 in Suffolk, 424 in New York City and 1,191 statewide.

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

What life is like with COVID-19's lingering effects

Months after hospitalization for the coronavirus, Gary Degrijze still can’t grasp a coffee cup handle. Ron Panzok suffers from pain in his left foot. Shirelle White needs supplemental oxygen to breathe.

These three are among many who are enduring effects of the disease months later. The virus is so new that scientists don’t know how long patients will continue experiencing debilitating long-term effects and whether some will have complications the rest of their lives.

"It leads to a lot of frustration," said Dr. Ewa Rakowski, a pulmonary critical care doctor at Stony Brook Medicine, which is preparing to open a specialized center for those with long-term complications. "They want an explanation and want to know when they can expect to feel back to normal, and we just don’t really have that yet."

"We are also seeing patients who didn’t require hospitalization or really much medical care, and they’re still coming in with the prolonged symptoms of shortness of breath, fatigue, persistent cough and mental fogginess," Rakowski said.

Read some New Yorkers' stories about life after COVID-19.

Officials push for people to get flu shot to avoid a 'twindemic'

Staving off a "twindemic" of both the flu and COVID-19 starts with getting a flu shot, health experts say.

There's an aggressive push across Long Island by government officials and health care systems to boost the number of people who get the vaccine. More than 1 million New Yorkers have gotten the shot so far this flu season, according to state data.

"We have to remind everyone that there are 20,000 to 40,000 deaths from the flu every year" across the United States, said Dr. Mark Jarrett, chief quality control officer and deputy chief medical officer at Northwell Health. "If those deaths are preventable with the flu vaccine, we certainly want to do that and take the burden off all the health care systems and the hospitals, so they are not caring for a lot of very sick flu patients while at the same time being stressed with lots of patients with COVID-19."

More to know

The number of people hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 has risen to 1,059, Cuomo said Monday, while positivity rates continue to fall over a seven-day rolling average in the red zone focus areas.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Sunday "we’re not going to control the pandemic," adding the administration was focused on developing vaccines and therapeutics instead of containment strategies.

Suffolk County Police broke up a party that involved somewhere between 200 and 300 people on Saturday in Farmingville, officials said.

Two local manufacturers — Islandaire and D’Addario & Co. — will share $1.1 million in grants to make personal protective equipment, Cuomo said Friday.

A spate of coronavirus infections at an Islandia factory and warehouse illustrates the need for employers to take stronger measures to protect workers, officials with the union said.

News for you

The future of takeout and delivery. They're called 'ghost kitchens' and are on the rise. The concept refers to a kitchen-within-a-kitchen, or, more typically, a stand-alone satellite location of an established brand. These restaurants don't have a street presence, only showing up on delivery apps — and there have been a few popping up around Long Island. Check them out.

Santa will be at the mall, but from a distance. Malls across Long Island will welcome Santa back this year, although it will be a little different. He'll be wearing a mask and sitting 6 feet away as part of social distancing efforts. Get more details.

Take the dogs out for a Halloween parade. Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. is hosting a Howl-O-Ween dog parade on Oct. 31. It will be outside, where dogs can wear costumes and play games.

College and COVID-19. Join us again Tuesday for a webinar that focuses on applying to college during the pandemic. How can students find the right school during these times? Register here for the noon webinar.

Plus: Newsday has launched a new program for Long Islanders to share their COVID-19 stories. Introducing Newsday Voices: an opportunity to work with our team of dedicated journalists who will help you tell your story on social media. Apply here.

Sign up for text messages to get coronavirus news and information delivered to your phone.

Commentary

Shy students bloom amid pandemic. Reader Antoinette Cennamo, of Bethpage, writes in an essay for Newsday Opinion: Students at individual desks, socially distanced, each in a plexiglass guarded universe. No friendly tables at which to gather with peers for shared instruction. No moving about, no mingling.

This has been Back to School 2020, a sad accommodation to COVID-19 health risks. But not so sad to some. To this grim scenario some students say, "Yesss!" Quietly, of course.

During my years teaching English to eighth-graders, I had a soft spot for my introverted students. They would slink into my classroom, finding in stories and language respite from the unsettling cacophony of the cafeteria or the nightmarish camaraderie of the locker room. I had been a "shy child" myself, so I knew their predicament. …

Over time, we introverts would encounter less kindness and more impatience. We were often considered unfriendly and aloof. Peers might avoid us. Teachers might deduct points from the dreaded "participation grade." Our lowered eyes would be judged rude, our silences uncooperative. Few recognized that these behaviors were the result of a fervent wish to become invisible. Ironically, I was later hired to teach at my alma mater, where, thankfully, no one remembered me. As a teacher, I would meet worried parents. Is their introverted child socially stunted? Is there a remedy for preferring solitary work? Maybe therapy?

It might take a pandemic to convince parents that a child’s introspection could be a gift that could benefit others. Keep reading.

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