Teachers 'will be multitasking in very different ways'

Glen Cove Superintendent Maria Rianna on Friday.

Glen Cove Superintendent Maria Rianna on Friday. Credit: Corey Sipkin

Districts that shut down in mid-March will resume operations starting Wednesday and continuing over the next two weeks. The largest wave of reopenings is scheduled for Sept. 8 through Sept. 10, with a few systems starting as late as Sept. 14.

Across the Nassau-Suffolk region, about 420,000 students in 124 districts are scheduled to attend public schools, either in person or remotely. Several districts continued announcing calendar changes last week. 

Glen Cove, which originally planned to open its doors Sept. 8, is one of five districts now planning a Sept. 14 start.  Superintendent Maria Rianna said the new date would be preceded by three days of professional staff training, along with extra building renovations.

Getting ready this year will be more difficult for teachers, the schools chief explained, because they "will be multitasking in very different ways. They're going above and beyond to prepare themselves to deliver instruction in ways they've never had to before, to ensure students are successful as they transition into this new school year."

Islandwide, many health precautions outlined in districts' reopening plans are unprecedented. In some high schools, students will carry three-sided plastic sneeze shields from class to class throughout the day. Younger pupils will be drilled in proper hand-washing, sneeze suppression and wearing of masks.

The number of new positives today, reported as of 3 p.m.: 67 in Nassau, 57 in Suffolk, 268 in New York City and 656 statewide.

These bars track how many patients are currently hospitalized for...

These bars track how many patients are currently hospitalized for the coronavirus each day in New York State. Sunday's figure was 418 hospitalizations. Credit: Newsday

The chart above tracks patients currently hospitalized for the coronavirus in the state. Search a map and view charts showing the latest local trends in testing, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

Some districts going all out to improve ventilation systems

Franklin Square Superintendent of Schools Jared Bloom at Washington Street School.

Franklin Square Superintendent of Schools Jared Bloom at Washington Street School. Credit: Chris Ware

Desks will stand 6 feet apart, surrounded by plastic shields, and their occupants will wear masks. But with students and teachers returning to classrooms across Long Island in the coming weeks, some fear COVID-19 could spread through the air in schools nevertheless.

Face-to-face contact and infected surfaces were quickly identified as culprits when the coronavirus began fanning out across the globe in the winter. More recently, however, public health experts have called attention to another, less-understood way the virus may infect: Tiny COVID-19-laced droplets seem capable of drifting well beyond 6 feet and of staying aloft for days.

In response, Long Island school districts are going beyond masks, social distancing and staggered schedules to safeguard the air in their facilities. Some districts are spending thousands of dollars on new air purifiers and top-to-bottom inspections of ventilation infrastructure. Other districts outlined less-ambitious ventilation plans in their reopening proposals, including simply keeping windows open and changing air filters regularly.

With much unknown about the virus' ability to infect while airborne, it is unclear how great a threat airborne transmission poses to children and teachers returning to classrooms. That adds yet another risk to reopening schools, but is a risk experts say is worth taking — with proper precautions in place.

"If you've got decent systems that are bringing fresh air into the building and have reasonable filtration, there may not be significant causes for concern," said Corey Metzger, an engineer on the epidemic task force of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. But "the reality is, there's so much we don't know, because the science is being developed right now."

Some LI schools balk at hosting polling sites

Nassau and Suffolk school officials are raising concerns about opening auditoriums, cafeterias and gymnasiums to thousands of voters on Election Day, citing the difficulty of sanitizing spaces that some districts are reconfiguring for socially distanced learning.

The Nassau County Board of Elections has been fielding complaints from school officials and is scrambling to address their concerns and provide them with safety protocols for Nov. 3.

Board procedures include distribution of personal protective equipment to poll workers and voters and sanitizing "high-touch areas" every 30 minutes.

The board said it lacks the money to hire companies to professionally disinfect the spaces after voting ends and before schools reopen the next day.

Schools host about two-thirds of the roughly 700 polling sites in Nassau and Suffolk.

Outbreak closes a SUNY campus

The governor deployed a virus SWAT team to help handle...

The governor deployed a virus SWAT team to help handle the outbreak at SUNY Oneonta. Credit: SUNY Oneonta

The state shut down SUNY Oneonta for two weeks of instruction after 105 students tested positive for the coronavirus, as state health officials sought to manage the growing crisis and cited the presence of symptomatic students at large parties.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday deployed a virus SWAT team to SUNY Oneonta to help handle the outbreak. The campus will be closed for two weeks and shift to remote learning, but students can stay on campus grounds with only "limited campus activity," according to a SUNY news release.

Jim Malatras, who officially started as SUNY chancellor Monday, announced the closure in a conference call with Cuomo and reporters. That figure represents about 3% of the total student and faculty population who are on the upstate campus.

Malatras said officials were responding last week to "reports of several large parties of our students" at Oneonta.

In announcing the closure, Malatras and Cuomo issued a warning to college administrators in New York and across the country: Get a handle on the outbreak, or risk worse consequences.

U.S. COVID-19 funding buoys LI companies

Long Island is reaping tens of millions of dollars in federal COVID-19-related contracts for goods and services ranging from vaccine syringes to meal boxes to a study of the virus itself.

Two contracts worth a total of $9.7 million from the CARES Act were funneled through the Department of Agriculture to Woodbury-based ES Foods Inc. They required that ES Foods deliver meal boxes with chicken or pork to schools and food banks in low-income areas in the West and Southwest.

"This program was a real boon," Jeff Rowe, president and chief operating officer of ES Foods, said of two meal-box contracts that helped food service businesses remain open and provided food to economically distressed regions.

"We service food banks and school districts across the country. We've been in full operations mode since the pandemic."

Another Long Island company, Syosset-based Tasty Brands LLC, was designated for an $11.1 million meal box contract, according to federal data compiled by ProPublica.

More to know

The number of deaths linked to the coronavirus in New York was down to one person across the state on Sunday. "Flattening the curve actually saved lives," Cuomo said.

Blu Mar Hamptons in Southampton and a Roosevelt grocery store were among six businesses statewide that had their liquor licenses suspended after they were found with "egregious violations" of COVID-19 regulations, state officials said.

The governor hinted that Jake's 58 and the state's three other commercial casinos may be given the green light to reopen soon.

The Oyster Bay Town Board OK'd paying refunds to parents and guardians because the town's spring hockey program was canceled.

A French tennis player was removed from the U.S. Open after testing positive for coronavirus. The tournament begins Monday without spectators.

An island park in Detroit has become an extraordinary memorial garden for COVID-19 victims.

News for you

The Dix Hills pool was closed on Sunday.

The Dix Hills pool was closed on Sunday. Credit: Corey Sipkin

Brief closure of town pool. The Dix Hills Park Pool, closed Sunday out of precaution after a lifeguard tested "faint positive" for COVID-19, reopened Monday after a second test came back negative, officials said.

"Harry Chapin: When in Doubt Do Something." A documentary on the Long Island singer-songwriter will premiere at the upcoming Hamptons International Film Festival, which will rely on a mix of at-home and drive-in screenings from Oct. 8 to 14.

School supplies for 2020. Back to school this year may be fraught with uncertainty, but one thing hasn’t changed: Kids grow, so some shopping is a must. If you're running behind on this, here's a look at back-to-school essentials.

Summer's just about done … but maybe you can delay the inevitable with one of these activities happening over the long Labor Day weekend.

The Great School Debate: At Home vs. In Class. As school openings approach, parents in some local districts are concerned with the options being offered for their children. Sign up for a Newsday Live conversation Tuesday at noon moderated by columnist Lane Filler.

Plus: Check out our video FAQ with practical tips before your child goes back to the classroom.

Sign up for text messages to get the most important coronavirus news and information.

Commentary

Converging coronavirus and opioid crises have overdose fatalities spiking again.

Converging coronavirus and opioid crises have overdose fatalities spiking again. Credit: Getty Images / mikroman6

Don't forget LI's other deadly health crisis. Just as social distancing, masks and hand sanitizer help prevent COVID-19 deaths, community education, timely access to drug treatment and the widespread distribution of naloxone reduce overdose fatalities, Jeffrey L. Reynolds writes for Newsday Opinion. But as we mark the 20th annual International Overdose Awareness Day on Monday, the coronavirus and opioid crises have converged, and overdose fatalities that have fallen in recent years seem headed back to all-time highs.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, annual overdose deaths jumped 5% in 2019 to 72,000, and while COVID-19-weary coroners struggle to finish overdose autopsies, 2020 is already looking grim. Real-time data, for example, collected by the Washington, D.C.-based Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program found that overdoses jumped roughly 18% following the commencement of state-mandated stay-at-home orders in mid-March, with more than 61% of participating counties nationwide — including Nassau and Suffolk — reporting increases. 

Preliminary data from the Nassau County Police Department indicate a 48% year-to-date increase in fatal overdoses with 95 deaths so far in 2020 versus 64 deaths in 2019, 67 in 2018 and 80 in 2017. Suffolk County's preliminary data released in May suggest a 40% increase in fatal overdoses over the 89 deaths reported during the same period in 2019.

We shouldn't be surprised. 

Considering the risk factors for addiction, COVID-19 is the perfect storm. Health fears, stress, social isolation, job loss, economic strife and uncertainty about the future are impacting even the most well-adjusted individuals.