Shoppers and grocers grapple with higher prices

The supply of coupons has really dried up, says one shopping expert,...

The supply of coupons has really dried up, says one shopping expert, Scott Boudin of Old Bethpage. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

Despite the inflation rate falling 0.5% in the metro area, food prices grew 2.6% from March to April, which marked the largest jump in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' food index in more than 30 years. Prices rose more dramatically — by 3.6% — when excluding restaurants and examining supermarkets alone.

The pandemic disrupted and increased expenses at nearly every stage in the supply chain, according to retail analysts.

"I usually don’t spend this kind of money on groceries,” said Erica Azzara, 37, a Massapequa resident who has been shopping for herself, her husband and their two children.

Before the pandemic, Azzara, a teacher, estimates she spent about $300 a month on groceries, excluding trips to the wholesaler Costco. Now those bills amount to about $450.

"And that’s not really buying anything extra," Azzara said. "That’s just buying what I need."

Cuomo: Outdoor dining is coming to Phase Two 

Outdoor dining will be permitted in Phase Two of New York State’s reopening plan, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced, giving a major boost to restaurant owners desperate to restart some business after months of a crippling shutdown.

The move means restaurants on Long Island may be able to start offering outdoor dining as soon as next week, when Nassau and Suffolk hope they will qualify to enter Phase Two of the reopening.

“We are continuously evaluating activities that can be safely reopened, and today we are adding outdoor seating at restaurants to Phase Two," Cuomo said.

Until now, restaurants were listed in Phase Three of the state's reopening plans, which for Long Island would likely be several weeks away.

Restaurant owners say their businesses have been devastated by the shutdown, which started in mid-March. Some places like Farmingdale recently started implementing outdoor dining, but authorities shut them down as crowds grew and posed a risk of further spread of the coronavirus.

This chart shows the cumulative number of people who have...

This chart shows the cumulative number of people who have suffered coronavirus-related deaths and where they lived.

The chart above shows the total number of people who have died from the coronavirus in Nassau and Suffolk in recent days. Search a map and view more charts showing the latest local trends in testing, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

The numbers as of 3 p.m.: 40,644 confirmed cases in Nassau, 40,062 in Suffolk, 204,872 in New York City and 374,085 statewide.

Poll: Most say they would send kids back to school

Most Long Island and New York City residents would send their children back to school in the fall if there are social distancing measures in place, a new poll finds.

Yet as Long Island moves toward a possible second phase of reopening, and New York City toward a first, residents remain wary of patronizing restaurants and riding public transportation.

The poll, commissioned by Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside and released Wednesday morning, also found that less than half of residents would get a vaccine against the coronavirus if one is developed.

“I think there’s a yearning to return to normal, especially as it comes to kids going to school,” said Dr. Adhi Sharma, South Nassau’s chief medical officer.

No big Oyster Festival event this year

Plates of oysters are stacked for customers during the 2019...

Plates of oysters are stacked for customers during the 2019 annual Oyster Festival in Oyster Bay. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

The Oyster Festival is taking on a new shape in 2020.

The annual waterside festival won’t be held this October in Oyster Bay’s Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park but rather is getting redesigned for its 37th year because of the pandemic.

“As the virus spread and got worse across the country, we came to the realization that it may be very hard to put on a large-scale event that typically attracts 150,000 people over two days in a public space,” says Harlan Friedman, Oyster Festival’s director of development. “As a result, the festival is pivoting to set itself up for the future.”

The spirit of the event will instead be celebrated Oct. 12-18 in a variety of ways, which includes virtual oyster eating and shucking contests. 

Read more about the new approach announced today.

More to know

A woman brings bottles and cans to a redemption center...

A woman brings bottles and cans to a redemption center in Brentwood in June 2019. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Can and bottle redemption sites at supermarkets, big-box stores and other locations must reopen today after many were closed due to concerns they might help spread the virus, state officials said.

Suffolk County received 50,000 surgical masks from the Taiwanese government to help front line workers in hospitals, first-responder agencies and nursing homes continue fighting the pandemic.

Smithtown residents turned to yard cleanup this spring with a vehemence that surprised and dismayed the town workers who struggled to keep pace with the volume of brush and leaves they left curbside.

Northport's John W. Engeman Theater said it will remain closed until March because of the pandemic and its aftermath.

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said his department is investigating allegations from residents that police dismissed phone calls about a heavily attended retirement party last week for a police sergeant.

NYRA finally opens its delayed, 25-day spring/summer meet at Belmont, representing the first sporting event in the area since COVID-19 shut down the sports world in mid-March.

News for you

Tiffany Davila and Jeff Eichenlaub, from Dix Hills, and Mike...

Tiffany Davila and Jeff Eichenlaub, from Dix Hills, and Mike Cimafonte and Amanda Cimafonte, from Mineola, tailgate at Eisenhower Park in Westbury on May 16. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Becoming social again. In need of more interactions beyond the people you've been quarantined with? Try reunion tailgating, something some Long Islanders have been doing as restrictions begin to lift. Newsday food critic Scott Vogel has the tips you need.

Bring the roller rink to your backyard. Families can now rent out a portable skating floor to have set up on their driveways or decks for a day, thanks to United Skates of America skate park in Seaford.

Calling all Yankees and Mets fans. They've now updated their pandemic ticket policies. Both clubs finally are considering May home dates among the “impacted games” eligible for credits and refunds. Find out more.

Gifts for grads. Graduating high school for the class of 2020 is still something to celebrate, even though there may not be an in-person celebration. View our guide to finding the perfect gift from Long Island stores and beyond. And, sign our virtual yearbook.

Growing food from kitchen scraps. This method doesn't require plants or seeds — just your leftovers that end up in the trash or compost bin. Learn how you can yield harvests of vegetables and herbs to enjoy year-round.

Plus: Join us for part two of our free webinar tomorrow to gain more insight on how to stay healthy as Long Island reopens. Reserve your spot. And catch up on today's presentation that focused on helping businesses during the pandemic.

Get real-time updates about the virus' impact on the Island by visiting our live blog and watch our latest daily wrap-up video.


A person walks by the water on May 21 at...

A person walks by the water on May 21 at Jones Beach. Credit: AP/Kathy Willens

About those beach visits. Long Island officials opened the summer season by blocking nonresidents from beaches — but city dwellers are welcome at state parks built or made accessible by Robert Moses.

Episode 26 of “Life Under Coronavirus” looks at an ironic pandemic development: Master builder Moses has fallen out of favor with many NYC residents, but in summer 2020 his handiwork might be the only chance for a legal swim for many of them.

The episode features Thomas Campanella, Cornell professor and NYC Parks historian-in-residence, and a quick check-in with Robert Caro, author of “The Power Broker.”

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