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Schools' dilemma on social-distancing guidelines

Schools debate relaxing social-distance guidelines

Some Long Island school districts have moved to loosen the six-feet recommendations, which were set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state Department of Health, by moving desks — often protected by sneeze guards — closer together, officials said during a Newsday Live panel. This would allow all but fully remote students to return in-person full time.

But other districts have continued to follow the six-feet guidelines, often necessitating students in grades 6-12 to remain on a hybrid schedule.

Linda Wygonik, president of the Eastport-South Manor Teachers Association Union, said her district brought students back full time in-person by moving desks two-to-three feet apart. The tighter parameters, she said, are a problem during lunchtime when students eat maskless.

Wygonik said the policy has caused an uptick in COVID-19 infections and fractured trust between teachers and district leadership. "In-person education is the number-one priority but we want people safe … and my teachers don't feel safe right now."

Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, said there is not enough data to show whether keeping desks six feet apart or less makes a significant difference in the spread of the virus. But she said contact tracing shows the overwhelming majority of students and teachers who contract COVID-19 become infected outside of school.

Another pop-up vaccine site, new tool to search for appointments

A temporary "pop-up" vaccination site opened Friday in the hardest hit major community on Long Island, administering shots to 400 people in Brentwood as part of a program targeting Latino and Black residents.

Brentwood has the most coronavirus cases per capita of any major community in the region.

Some residents like Kathleen King, 70, of West Sayville, who got their shots said the site was a godsend.

King, who is Black and Native American, said she had spent weeks on multiple websites trying to get an appointment and finally got one — but not until late April and in Queens. "I think seniors want to go someplace in their community, some place that’s convenient."

A new tool for finding vaccines. Long Island residents searching for coronavirus vaccine appointments have another site to check obsessively. Vaccinefinder.org, which was created more than a decade ago to help people track the distribution of vaccines, added COVID-19 vaccine distribution this week.

The site, run by Boston Children's Hospital, collects information from pharmacy chains and states — although most states, including New York, have yet to provide the site with large-scale vaccine location information, according to Kara Sewalk, program manager.

"New York has provided a few locations," she said. The large pharmacy chains participate in an automated daily data feed, so "that's why you see all the chain locations on Long Island."

For more help booking an appointment, check out our guide.

The number of new positives reported today: 742 in Nassau, 675 in Suffolk, 4,419 in New York City and 8,204 statewide.

The chart below shows the percentages of Long Islanders who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and those who have been fully vaccinated.

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

Islanders coach emotional about welcoming fans back

There were no fans at Nassau Coliseum for the Islanders’ game against the Bruins on Thursday night, and that will still be the case for the subsequent six home contests.

But just knowing fans will be back in mid-March, even at a limited capacity, was a boost to the Islanders.

"There’s something about the human spirit, the human emotion that you can’t replicate," coach Barry Trotz said before Thursday’s game. "It’s pure joy, it’s pure anger. It’s pure everything. It’s fellowship. It’s the event. It’s the buzz. There’s nothing that can replicate that."

New York state indoor sports venues with a capacity of at least 10,000 can now host fans at 10% of capacity. For the Coliseum, that will be slightly under 1,400 fans once the doors do open.

Legislators question Cuomo administration on nursing home deaths

State legislators on Thursday challenged Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s health commissioner during a public hearing on the administration’s handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes.

Many Democrats and Republicans confronted state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker over a March 25 guidance to nursing homes which said the homes couldn’t refuse admission or readmission of COVID-19 patients from hospitals. Some critics fear that this directive introduced or worsened infections.

Zucker rejected that criticism, saying the virus was already in 98% of the nursing homes that accepted patients from hospitals. Nursing home "staff brought it in inadvertently," he said. "The virus was already in the community. When it’s in the community, it goes to the nursing homes."

He also said the hospital patients who tested positive for the virus wouldn't have been contagious by the time they were sent to nursing homes. He said the guidance was issued because hospitals needed to free up beds quickly to care for the rising tide of the pandemic.

More to know

A new coronavirus variant has been discovered in New York, according to two studies.

New York City's Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced Friday he would step down, citing the pandemic's personal toll on his family.

America's consumers stepped up their spending by a solid 2.4% in January in a sign that the economy may be making a tentative recovery from the pandemic recession.

Organizers of Pride, New York City’s annual event commemorating the history-changing riots at Manhattan’s Stonewall Inn in 1969, are planning to hold an in-person march — a year after it was canceled.

A new identity verification tool has been integrated into the state’s unemployment application process to help fight unemployment benefit fraud.

News for you

S'mores and brews. For those looking to spend an evening in the fresh air, Blue Point Brewing Co. in Patchogue is serving up something special: A campsite complete with a bucket of beer, ingredients for s’mores, picnic tables, lawn games, a propane fire pit with seats, music and a server.

A new place to get some grub. For Instagram influencer and travel writer Sal DiBenedetto, known as @TheGrubfather to his followers, the pandemic provided a rare lull in his travel schedule, and the stars seemed aligned for him to add a new descriptor to his resume: restaurant owner. His pocket-size eatery in Huntington has some serious culinary firepower.

Restarting live NYC performances. If you've been missing taking in live shows in the city this past year, we have some good news. Lincoln Center intends to create 10 outdoor stages for performances and rehearsals in New York City starting April 7.

It's knuckle puck time. Fans of the 1990s movie franchise "The Mighty Ducks" have a new series to watch next month on Disney+ as Emilio Estevez reprises his role as youth hockey coach Gordon Bombay.

Plus: If you’re looking to get outdoors to see some of Long Island’s most curious and rare wildlife, here's our guide to spotting seals, snowy owls and more.

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Commentary

Mile stone.

Newsday’s Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Matt Davies reacts to the United States hitting 500,000 coronavirus deaths this week. See more of his work.

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