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How LI schools got through this pandemic year

'We did it': How LI students, teachers, staff came together during pandemic

The students, who many people said would never wear masks, did it. The teachers, who many people said would never learn the technology for distance learning, did it. The school staff, which had to take on extra tasks such as contact tracing and temperature checks, did it.

As Long Island's 656 public schools, 476,000 students and 36,000 teachers bring this tumultuous year to a close, the prevailing sentiment was perhaps best captured by eighth-grader Ashley Benitez DelCid, who spoke during a moving-up ceremony in Freeport.

"We did it!" said Ashley, a student at J.W. Dodd Middle School. "We had our ups and downs throughout the year, but look where we are now. Ready to start a new chapter."

The year was filled with anxiety and confusion, with teachers learning new ways to teach and students picking up new ways to learn. It was a year of social distancing, self-isolating, disrupted learning, hand sanitizer, mask-muffled conversations and trying to learn algebra on a computer at the kitchen table.

Take a look back on the year like no other.

Reflecting on that academic year marked by COVID-19

For Long Island’s students, parents and teachers, this year challenged virtually every aspect of the school experience.

Students like Samantha Mack, of Merrick, had to watch teachers through screens — sometimes a computer screen in their room, other times a plastic screen around their school desk. Teachers like Cordelia Anthony, a science teacher at Farmingdale High School, had to adapt to new learning protocols during the crisis. And parents such as Jessica Leavey, of Ronkonkoma, had to weigh the safety of their children against the strong pull of wanting them in school.

In these essays, a teacher, parent and student share their thoughts on the school year.

Delta variant tied to nearly one-fourth of new NYC COVID cases

Nearly one-quarter of all new COVID-19 cases in New York City are connected to the highly infectious and dangerous delta variant, city Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said on Monday.

While the overall number of cases in the city remains low — less than 180 per day on a seven-day average, according to NYC statistics — roughly 23% are from the mutated virus variant, Chokshi said.

"My primary concern with the variant is people who are unvaccinated," Chokshi said during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daily news briefing. "And, in some ways, based on what we are seeing with the delta variant around the world and in New York City, now may be the most dangerous time to remain unvaccinated because of the threat this variant poses."

City health officials said the vaccine remains highly effective against the variant.

Plus: On Friday, New York registered the lowest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic began, state officials said.

The number of new positives reported today: 22 in Nassau, 30 in Suffolk, 156 in New York City and 290 statewide.

This map shows the concentration of new cases in Nassau and Suffolk.

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

LI bar, restaurant owners react to suspension of to-go alcohol sales

The era of ordering a cocktail or mixed drink to-go at a bar or restaurant is over on Long Island.

On Thursday, the state’s liquor authority forced restaurants and bars into another quick pivot when they announced, via a tweet, that to-go alcohol sales would come to an end the next day.

"Licensees please be advised that with the ending of our state of emergency and the return to pre-pandemic guidelines, the temporary pandemic-related privileges for to-go and delivery of alcoholic beverages will end after June 24," the tweet read. Beer-to-go sales are still permitted, as it was pre-pandemic, according to an SLA spokesman.

To-go booze sales had been part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s executive order of March 6, 2020, that declared an emergency. With time, it helped ease the financial shock that restrictions had on the restaurant and bar industry. See what Long Island bar and restaurant owners think about it in this story by Newsday's Corin Hirsch.

More to know

The free Hampton Hopper shuttle service to Montauk will return this summer to the East End after it was suspended last year during the pandemic.

Bruce Springsteen returned to Broadway this weekend, strapping on a guitar and reviving a show ahead of most Broadway shows coming back in September.

Port Washington launched a digital passport that offers deals to consumers, joining seven other downtown communities offering Downtown Deals Travel Passes to lure in regional visitors.

The popular annual two-day "Polish Town Fair and Festival" was canceled this year, but Riverhead Polish Hall representatives say they plan to hold a temporary one-day event in August to celebrate the spirit of the festival.

News for you

Fun for the kids in your own backyard. The pandemic reminded people of how much fun can be had in our own backyards — and the toy industry has dreamed up more options to keep enjoying time at home even as more attractions open. Here’s a list of 12 toys — some new, and some old favorites.

A guide to fireworks on LI. Start celebrating summer and the Fourth of July by watching fireworks around the Island. Check out these locations and events for planned shows and attractions.

Cleaning is still important. And best practices and household cleaning products have changed over time. Here are some older cleaning rules you can start to break.

Plus: Newsday’s reporters, photographers and multimedia journalists are across Nassau and Suffolk today covering what a Day in the Life of Long Island looks like, especially now that things are opening. Follow along.

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Commentary

COVID changed their spiritual DNA. Rev. Dr. Sonia Trew-Wisdom, director of chaplaincy care and spiritual services at South Shore University Hospital, and Rabbi Simcha Silverman, director of spiritual services at Lenox Hill Hospital, write in a guest essay for Newsday: Right down to our spiritual DNA, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed us. All of us. As hospital chaplains, we can only describe the spiritual toll of these experiences as massive. Our work always has been to comfort patients and their families. But COVID made supporting and standing by our medical colleagues a responsibility, a necessity and a privilege.

We stood with health care staff as they experienced the loss and exhaustion that presented them with the most challenging workplace challenges they’d ever faced — notifying faraway families of deaths, zipping up body bags and sometimes attending memorial services for their own colleagues.

We offered renewal where we could.

"I didn’t used to pray," one nurse said. "I’m not known to pray. But during the pandemic, I needed prayer."

We tried to make space for reflection and peace. Keep reading.

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