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'Social gathering' forces a senior class to go remote

Wantagh High seniors remote after virus outbreak linked to 'gathering'

Fifteen students, including 13 seniors who "appear to be directly connected to a social gathering" last weekend, have tested positive for the virus, Wantagh Superintendent of Schools John C. McNamara said in a statement.

The cases prompted school officials to shut down in-person instruction and place all senior class members in full-time remote classes this week. A district spokesperson said only seniors are on remote learning, while students in other grade levels continue to attend classes in the school building.

Early Wednesday afternoon, McNamara in an updated statement said contact-tracing at the high school has been completed and those impacted have been notified. Senior student-athletes not identified will be allowed to participate in athletics following COVID testing protocols.

Earlier this week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo pushed school districts to get as many students as possible back into classrooms for in-person instruction and called remote instruction a poor substitute.

Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that he hopes to announce in the next few weeks the timing of reopening public high school buildings, which have been closed since November in the boroughs.

Plus: Beginning Friday, the state will start allowing visitors to care facilities like nursing homes. What are the testing requirements and is there a visitors limit? Find answers to those questions and more in this Q&A.

Trying to make a vaccine appointment? Here are some resources that may help, including a walk-in clinic for veterans on Saturday.

The number of new positives reported today: 519 in Nassau, 425 in Suffolk, 3,363 in New York City and 6,189 statewide.

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

Isles fans can return to Nassau Coliseum on March 18

Fans can come back to the Nassau Coliseum soon. The Islanders announced Wednesday afternoon that the March 18 game against the Flyers will be the first one available for season-ticket holders.

New York State sporting venues with capacities of more than 10,000 are permitted to host at 10% of capacity. For the Coliseum, that would be slightly under 1,400 fans with safety protocols in place.

The Islanders also announced they would be hosting 1,000 Northwell Health front-line staff as guests on March 11 against the Devils in appreciation for their work during the pandemic.

On Tuesday, the doors to Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center opened to fans, who found their way in for the first time in nearly a year. See photos from the day.

La Famiglia in Smithtown gets liquor license suspended

Three weeks after two Suffolk County restaurants had their liquor licenses suspended for violating COVID-19 rules during Saturday service, La Famiglia in Smithtown has followed.

On Feb. 20, inspectors from the state liquor authority visited La Famiglia and noted 123 patrons inside, more than double the currently permitted occupancy of 60, according to an SLA report. In the dining room, investigators observed 12 people at one table — the allowed maximum is 10 — and tables that were not spaced six feet apart, according to the report.

The following day, the SLA board suspended La Famiglia’s liquor license.

On Monday, La Famiglia posted a statement to its Facebook page owning up to the violations. "After a week of snow, rain and ice storms we were very busy," it said, and inspectors for the SLA arrived "during the height of our night."

NY won't get blanket waivers from federally required student testing

President Joe Biden's administration this week underlined its support for resumption of standardized student testing nationwide, a potential blow to states such as New York that were seeking test waivers for the second consecutive year.

In an approach it described as balanced and flexible, the U.S. Education Department released a letter Monday night saying states can apply, as they did last year, for waivers from federal "accountability" rules for schools. Under those rules, schools where large numbers of students fail federally required tests face potential lowering of their academic ratings.

The letter also said that schools still struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic could, in some instances, postpone exams until summer or fall.

However, the federal agency added it was not accepting applications for blanket waivers from testing itself as it did last year. New York, New Jersey and some other states recently requested such exemptions, with some citing the safety hazards posed to schools by the pandemic.

SPCA: Four dogs need a home after owners died of COVID-19

The coronavirus took their owners’ lives and now four much-loved dogs need a new home. The SPCA is seeking donations to help with the dogs' care, but also hopes to find a new owner for the quartet.

The nonprofit’s hunt for a new and loving home for the four-member pack reveals an often-overlooked impact of the pandemic. Until a few weeks ago, the two black labs — Oliver, 5, and Isabelle, 4 — a possible Chihuahua mix named Izzy, 6, and a brown and white boxer, Winston, 5, lived with a father and daughter in Plainview, according to the SPCA.

After his daughter was hospitalized with COVID-19, the father, who also was battling the virus, called the rescue group’s 24-hour hotline for help. They didn't survive.

"This is a fact of COVID that people don’t really see," said Gary Rogers, president of the Nassau County SPCA. "We hear about people dying and leaving their pets behind … For some families, their pets are their only family."

More to know

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine offers strong protection against severe COVID-19, according to an analysis by U.S. regulators Wednesday.

COVID-19 vaccine makers told Congress on Tuesday to expect a big jump in the delivery of doses over the coming month.

The COVID-19 business recovery plans submitted last fall by 10 regional groups appointed by the governor will "soon" be given to the State Legislature, said Eric Gertler, president and CEO of Empire State Development,

News for you

Cooking adventures with the kids at home. While families across Long Island are staying home, they're also expanding their repertoire of making food fun for kids. They're attempting to make foods at home such as homemade pasta, ice cream, sushi rolls and fondue. Here’s how your family can get in on it.

Getting ready for the virtual Golden Globes. The ongoing pandemic means co-hosts will virtually sync their routine, and while some nominees and presenters may be in attendance, many are expected to beam in from "locations across the world." See our picks for the awards.

Mac-and-cheese shop struggles to survive pandemic. Mac & Melts in Garden City once had a dedicated clientele of office workers and passing shoppers. Both have been gone nearly a year as the shop tries to get through the pandemic. Read more.

Plus, next on Newsday Live: The key to full-time, in-person learning could be loosened COVID-19 regulations — but is it worth it? Join us on Thursday for a virtual discussion on regulations and getting kids back to school. Register here.

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The complicated calculus of our lives. Michael Dobie writes in his latest Newsday Opinion column: I notched a milestone last week. The number of people I know personally who have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine crossed into double digits.

They include a physician assistant, a teacher, someone with underlying conditions and a whole bunch who hit the age lottery.

I felt good for them, and for me. Not that I had anything to do with it. It certainly wasn’t my accomplishment in any way. But I felt good about it all the same. Not because of what it might mean for my personal health and safety, but because of what it says about where our country is headed in this difficult virus fight.

That’s pretty much how we measure life, isn’t it? Our outlook is shaped by weighing the balance of the good and the bad in our lives. It’s a complicated calculus, especially at a time like this, when there are so many forces to weigh, some monstrously large and many others immeasurably small.

So you feel good about people you know getting vaccinated, and about more vaccinations being given everywhere, and about vaccine production ramping up, and about attitudes on taking the vaccine creeping in the right direction, and about infection rates and hospitalizations and deaths slowly but surely falling — even as you are disquieted by uncertainty over virus variants that are sprouting like weeds and worries over how well the vaccines will protect against them and concerns over previous dips in case counts that were followed by deadly surges.

It’s a balance, and optimism is inching ahead. Keep reading.