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Tackling COVID-19 ahead of 'a dark winter'

President-elect Biden urges mask-wearing amid vaccine news

Biden cautioned that Americans still face "a dark winter" and need to be aggressive about mask wearing and social distancing as infections surge.

Also on Monday, Pfizer said an early look at its vaccine data suggests it may be 90% effective at preventing COVID-19, and it's on track to file an emergency use application with regulators this month.

But Biden said it could be months before a vaccine is widely available.

"We could save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months. Not Democratic or Republican lives, American lives," Biden said. "Please, I implore you, wear a mask."

Biden's comments came after meeting with his newly formed coronavirus advisory board tasked with developing his administration's pandemic response. The number of confirmed cases has risen nearly 65% over the past two weeks.

Meanwhile, stocks were jumping worldwide on Monday, with the S&P 500 2.8% higher in midday trading after the vaccine news.

Country club's liquor license suspended after 'superspreader' wedding

State officials have suspended the North Fork Country Club's liquor license after it hosted a wedding that turned into a superspreader event, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday.

The Oct. 17 wedding in Cutchogue had 113 guests — more than double the legal limit — and led to at least 34 COVID-19 infections, Cuomo said. About 159 people were quarantined and several schools were temporarily closed because of it, he said.

"As we have seen in weddings and similar events across the country during this pandemic, large gatherings can easily be superspreader events, too often with dire consequences. Hosting one of these events after all New York has been through is obnoxious and irresponsible — not to mention illegal," Cuomo said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Daniel Street Elementary School in Lindenhurst will be closed for two weeks after two staffers tested positive for the virus and "a significant number of staff" had contact with them, the district said Sunday.

The number of new positives reported today: 213 in Nassau, 324 in Suffolk, 1,156 in New York City and 3,144 statewide.

A clinic to help those with lingering COVID-19 effects

The Stony Brook Medicine Post COVID Clinic is set to open the week of Nov. 16 and aims to help people with long-term COVID-19 effects.

Heart, kidney and lung problems, fatigue and persistent cough are among the most common effects many struggle with after contracting the virus, said Dr. Margaret McGovern, Stony Brook’s vice president for health system clinical programs and strategy.

The clinic will start as once a week with 25 to 30 patients seen in a day, but "if we find that’s not sufficient to meet demand, we can add days," McGovern said. It will use existing space at Stony Brook’s Advanced Specialty Care center in Commack.

Patients will have access to specialists, and psychiatrists and psychologists who can address the mental health impacts of the disease, she said.

"You have a whole team of specialists discussing every patient, bringing together all the information, trying to understand the whole picture of what the patient is going through," McGovern said.

SUNY makes changes for next semester (including no spring break)

The State University of New York system announced a plan for the spring semester, which includes mandatory coronavirus testing for students returning, moving the semester in-person start date to Feb. 1 and eliminating spring break this academic year.

In a statement, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said the new protocols were developed "in consultation with public health experts within the university system, as well as campus, faculty, student and union leadership," and said it includes both new protocols and "proven strategies already being employed" throughout the campuses on SUNY colleges and universities.

SUNY has a "What Students Should Know" guideline package available for all students and their families, so they’ll know what to expect come the spring semester. That information includes how many courses will be online, hybrid or in-person, SUNY said.

The system previously announced required testing for all, ahead of Thanksgiving break.

MTA: New technologies tested to fight virus prove disappointing

Early results in testing two technologies to combat the spread of the virus on LIRR trains have been disappointing, transit officials said.

Disinfectant solutions that manufacturers promised would kill viruses on surfaces for weeks with one application have lost effectiveness in as little as a day, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said. The use of ultraviolet lamps to eradicate the virus on trains has proved more costly and time-consuming than having crews disinfect cars with aerosol foggers and wipes.

Despite the setbacks, transit officials remain optimistic about other tech being tested, like air-purifying systems on trains. They say their combined efforts during the pandemic should reassure commuters that trains are safe.

"Not everything works the way you hope it does. But if you don’t try it, if you don’t go through the process, you’re never going to know," said MTA chief innovation officer Mark Dowd, who said the agency is disinfecting every LIRR train at least once a day.

More to know

New York City is "dangerously close" to a second wave of coronavirus infections as the number of cases increase, and if the cases continue to rise there could be business closures and other preventive measures taken, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.

The fate of a winter sports season at Long Island's public high schools remains unknown as state budget director Robert Mujica said Monday "we're not inclined to open up the winter sports right now," given rising infection rates across the state.

Secretary for Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson has tested positive for the coronavirus, a department spokesman confirmed. President Donald Trump's election night watch party in the White House East Room has been under scrutiny since Mark Meadows, his chief of staff, tested positive last week.

Three Long Island health care facilities were cited by the federal government for alleged coronavirus-related workforce violations and given proposed fines totaling nearly $22,000.

Long Island food banks have been stocking up to distribute holiday meals for families already struggling through the pandemic.

News for you

Going to the mall? You'll be able to get tested there, too. Holiday shoppers will be able to get COVID-19 tests with the opening of pop-up labs at Long Island's Roosevelt Field mall, Smith Haven Mall and Walt Whitman Shops. You should see 8-foot-by-20-foot collection sites in the mall parking lots by the end of this month.

Takeout meal deals for the whole family. Switch it up and be adventurous with your takeout choices while still spending time at home. Get family meals from these Long Island restaurants offering deals for cuisines from continents around the world.

Opening a restaurant during a pandemic. Co-owner Marco Pellegrini wasn't going to let a pandemic stop him from opening Osteria Umbra in Smithtown. Watch a video interview with Pellegrini about the new restaurant.

Disney films postponed. Two upcoming Disney films, "Death on the Nile" and "Free Guy," have been pushed off this year’s release calendar. New dates haven't been announced yet.

Plus: How are teachers and students holding up? Join us on Tuesday for Newsday's discussion and Q&A with education experts analyzing how teachers are working through the pandemic and how it's affecting students and schools. Save your spot.

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Commentary

Don't freak out about COVID-19 reinfection stories. Faye Flam writes for Bloomberg: The most attention-grabbing scare stories about the pandemic often revolve around individual cases — someone who got the disease twice; a young, fit person who died; an older person who was likely infectious for more than two months. The fear is that these phenomena could be widespread, but scientists who study infectious disease say it's normal to see extreme variability in the human reaction to any virus.

Early in the pandemic, people often described the disease based on their experience or someone they knew. Some said it was just the sniffles because that's what they experienced. Others said it was worst thing that ever hit them. They're both right. But the overgeneralization of these experiences can feed into the political polarization of the disease. It shouldn't. In the big picture, COVID-19 is neither the Black Death nor the sniffles.

"There's a vast diversity of immune responses as well as responses to infection," says Dan Barouch, a vaccine researcher at Harvard Medical School. That's the case with other pathogens from influenza to tuberculosis to HIV. "Sometimes it's because of different genetics, and sometimes it's from a different strain of the virus," he says. "In some cases, it might be due to different viral doses or other immune parameters, or demographic variables — sometimes it comes down to chance."

He said he's not alarmed that there are a few documented cases of reinfection. Even if there are vastly more than the dozen or so reported reinfections, this would still represent a tiny sliver of the tens of millions of cases that have occurred worldwide. Keep reading.

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