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LIers can still get help with utilities — but few are taking it

Few customers behind on electric bills are taking advantage of protections

Customers experiencing financial hardship because of the pandemic can still get a state-mandated grace period to protect them from shut-offs through Dec. 21, state and utility officials said Wednesday.

But few customers so far are taking advantage, Newsday's Mark Harrington reports.

Of the Long Island electric customers who were behind on their electric bills at the end of May, only around 184 customers had called PSEG to ask for the grace period, according to a Newsday analysis. LI customers owed a total of nearly $150 million.

The state of emergency formally ended June 24, freeing utilities to use the threat of shut-offs to force customers behind on their bills to pay up starting this week. But the state law passed in May afforded customers who request it an additional grace period to stave off a shut-off if they are financially impacted by COVID-19. Keep reading.

The number of new positives reported today: 37 in Nassau, 25 in Suffolk, 236 in New York City and 411 statewide.

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

Connecting with co-workers when you've never met them in person

Many new hires anticipate getting to connect with co-workers, popping into a boss’s office to ask a question and impressing others during meetings. But for employees who began a new job virtually since the pandemic — especially recent college graduates — it's been a bit complicated, reports Liza N. Burby.

The result is a loss of socialization through which innovation, collaboration and connection are more likely, according to Janet Lenaghan, dean of Hofstra University’s Frank G. Zarb School of Business in Hempstead and an expert on human resources and management. Another loss, she said, is access to the kind of information and ideas that take place during talk before meetings.

Take Andrew Jacobson, who was hired as a financial analyst for Northwell Health in Westbury before graduating from Adelphi University. His expectations of his first professional job didn’t include spending the workday in his childhood bedroom.

"I started fully remote in mid-June and it really felt like there was no transition to work life because I spent my entire last semester of school on Zoom all day at home five feet away from my bed and then essentially just doing the same thing, but for a company this time," said Jacobson, 23, of Albertson.

What LI employers need to know about NY HERO Act

The clock’s ticking for employers to comply with new mandatory health and safety requirements created by the NY HERO Act in response to the pandemic.

The law, signed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in May, is intended to prevent current and future occupational exposure to airborne infectious diseases at workplaces. By July 5, the NYS Department of Labor is expected to publish standards for all worksites, differentiated by industry.

Once published, employers have 30 days to adopt a plan that meets or exceeds those standards and 60 days to provide that plan to employees. The HERO Act also requires employers with at least 10 employees to meet a Nov. 1 deadline to establish a joint labor-management workplace safety committee.

Jamie Herzlich has more on what employers should know.

After pandemic, Toys for Tots now for all seasons

A new initiative by Toys for Tots hopes to provide year-round smiles for children affected by the pandemic by turning the holiday season tradition into a yearlong event.

The announcement of a first-time summer extension to the annual collection program — and a new toy closet, where kids in need can get a toy all year round — was made by the U.S. Marines, who run Toys for Tots, as well as local officials at the Paramount in Huntington on Wednesday.

Newsday's John Valenti reports the idea for what Suffolk Long Island Business Council chair Robert Fonti called "Toys for Tots 2.0" came about when officials saw an "expected increased demand" for toys, books, games and holiday gifts for Long Island kids created by pandemic-related hardships.

More to know

Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon and Jennifer Hudson will headline an August concert in Central Park, marking the city's comeback from the pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced.

An incoming freshman at Great Neck South High School is among the 10 raffle winners of a full scholarship to any SUNY or CUNY college for young people who received a COVID-19 vaccine, Cuomo said.

The number of Americans applying for unemployment aid fell again last week, dropping 51,000 to 364,000 — the lowest level since the pandemic struck last year.

The latest alarming coronavirus variant is exploiting low global vaccination rates and a rush to ease pandemic restrictions, adding new urgency to the drive to get more shots in arms and slow its spread.

News for you

Where to eat this weekend. You might still be making up for some dining experiences lost during the pandemic. This weekend, go for the ultimate sushi experience with one of these three options. Or, find the perfect lobster roll on Long Island.

Will one dose protect me? Yes, but not nearly as much as if you had both doses of your COVID-19 vaccine, experts say. Read more.

An updated schedule of drive-ins. Outdoor, pop-up drive-in movies and concerts have been springing up around Long Island again this season. Here's an updated list.

Plus: As you continue to get back out there post-pandemic, watch out for ticks. Experts discussed how to protect yourself in this Newsday Live webinar on Thursday.

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We're two Americas, vaccinated and unvaccinated. Columnist Doyle McManus writes for the Los Angeles Times: For a few blessed weeks there, it was possible to believe the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States was nearing its end. Case numbers were plummeting, restaurants were reopening and life seemed almost normal.

No longer; the fast-spreading Delta variant has reached American shores. Case numbers are still low compared with the winter spike, but in many areas infections are ticking back up.

And although 57% of adults are now fully vaccinated, giving them strong protection from the variant, states where vaccinations have lagged may be in for an especially tough summer. "They are sitting ducks for the next outbreak," Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, warned recently.

We're becoming two Americas, vaccinated and unvaccinated. Keep reading.