Biden signs burst of virus orders, requires masks for travel

President Joe Biden signs executive orders after speaking about the...

President Joe Biden signs executive orders after speaking about the coronavirus, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in the White House on Thursday. Credit: AP/Alex Brandon

Biden signed 10 executive orders on Thursday aimed at jump starting his national COVID-19 strategy.

He plans to increase vaccinations and testing, lay the groundwork for reopening schools and businesses, and immediately increase the use of masks — including a requirement that Americans mask up for travel. One directive calls for addressing health care inequities in minority communities hard hit by the virus.

"We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and it will take months to turn this around," Biden said. " … To a nation waiting for action, let me be clear on this point: Help is on the way."

The new president faces steep obstacles with the virus actively spreading in most states, slow progress on the vaccine rollout and political uncertainty over whether congressional Republicans will help him pass a $1.9 trillion economic relief and COVID response package. Keep reading.

Cuomo: State is 'ready, willing and able' when vaccines arrive

The COVID-19 positivity rate continued a small but steady decline in the state and on Long Island, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Thursday, as the state clamored for more vaccines to fight the virus.

He said the state stands "ready, willing and able" to deliver vaccines to its residents faster if the federal government steps up deliveries, adding "all we need is supply."

In test results from Wednesday, the statewide seven-day average positivity rate dropped to 6.23% from 6.27% the previous day, and on Long Island it fell from 7.47% to 7.39%.

Earlier this week, Cuomo had said he was concerned about the positivity levels on Long Island. After an infection spike, during and after the holiday season, the numbers have been gradually dropping.

The number of new positives reported today: 1,306 in Nassau, 1,505 in Suffolk, 5,198 in New York City and 13,886 statewide.

The chart below shows the positivity rate in the state and in New York City throughout this month.

This chart shows what percentage of coronavirus tests were positive...

This chart shows what percentage of coronavirus tests were positive for the virus each day.

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

NY changes unemployment benefit rule for part-time workers

New Yorkers on unemployment will see their benefits reduced by hours...

New Yorkers on unemployment will see their benefits reduced by hours worked, not days worked, under a new order from the governor. Credit: Anthony Behar/Sipa USA via AP

Long Islanders collecting unemployment will no longer see steep cuts to their benefits when they work a few hours a week, under an emergency order issued this week by Cuomo.

Under the order, which takes effect Sunday, unemployment checks will be reduced according to the number of hours worked. The current system reduces benefits according to the number of days worked. The system deterred those unemployed from seeking part-time work, as their wages might not make up for the loss in benefits.

"I am immediately directing the Department of Labor to change outdated rules so, as we build back from the pandemic, unemployed New Yorkers aren't penalized for taking part-time jobs," Cuomo said in a statement.

Some LI restaurants are 'going into hibernation'

Citing difficult times, Morning Rose Cafe in Bellmore has temporarily...

Citing difficult times, Morning Rose Cafe in Bellmore has temporarily closed. Credit: Barry Sloan

Some notices started appearing during the first week in January:

  • The LakeHouse in Bay Shore announced it "will be going into hibernation after today. We look forward to opening our doors again in March."
  • The Snapper Inn in Oakdale "decided to close Jan. 2 to March 4. This decision comes from an abundance of caution for our guests and staff."
  • Morning Rose Cafe in Bellmore closed until further notice.

Call it a midwinter hibernation — taking a short break can be a smart move for businesses that can afford it. All three restaurants understand their employees will shoulder much of the burden of closure.

"There’s unemployment," said The Snapper owner Richard Remmer, "but, particularly for servers who count on tips, it’s going to be hard. But on the other side," he said, "I’m concerned about the high COVID numbers. If we are open, we are potentially part of the problem."

How some Long Islanders are aging in place in the pandemic

Ellen Connor uses the stair lift in her home in...

Ellen Connor uses the stair lift in her home in Baldwin. Credit: Chris Ware

When Ellen Connor needed a hip replacement in October, her doctor recommended that rather than being discharged to a rehab facility, because of COVID-19 it would be better to go home after surgery.

The only problem for the 83-year-old was the flight of 14 stairs to her second-floor apartment in Baldwin. Her adult children recommended a stair lift at a cost of $3,000.

Many seniors — and their adult children — would rather they remain at home, particularly as nursing homes have been hit hard by the pandemic, one expert said. Even before COVID, according to a 2017 AARP study, 90% of people age 65 and older would prefer to stay in their own homes as they age, and not go to a nursing home or assisted living facility.

The alternative is aging in place. Often that means needing a plan for reworking the space with safety and convenience in mind.

More to know

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell slightly last week to 900,000, still a historically high level.

Nassau property owners will have until April 30 to file grievances with the county's Assessment Review Commission under a 60-day deadline extension announced Thursday.

Veteran Suffolk County Police Department Lt. Robert Van Zeyl, 60, died on Wednesday from the virus, officials said.

World leaders welcomed Biden into their ranks, noting their most pressing problems — including the pandemic — require multilateral cooperation.

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This year, many people will either opt to stay home for spring break or take extra precautions as they plan their winter getaways.  Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/nito100

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Plus: Join us for our next Newsday Live virtual discussion where experts will answer your questions on the revamped PPP and what companies should know. You can register here and submit questions in advance.

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How some are paying it forward with a Post-it

Alice Bopp, owner of Muni's Coffee Joint in Lindenhurst, with...

Alice Bopp, owner of Muni's Coffee Joint in Lindenhurst, with her Post-it note board. Credit: Chris Ware

There's a tight-knit community of customers at Muni’s Coffee Joint in Lindenhurst. And since October, owner Alice Bopp has been inviting them to pay it forward with a Post-it during the pandemic.

It works like this: Buy a coffee for a stranger, write on a Post-it note and stick it to the whiteboard by the window. Then, another customer can redeem the sticky note at the counter for a treat — already paid for.

Customers often use the Post-it to leave words of encouragement, like: "Appreciate the little things," "Spread kindness" and "Pay it forward." She said she's seen customers take a Post-it to the counter, and then buy another to replace it.

"To see that cycle going is unbelievable," said Bopp, of Lindenhurst. "It’s really touching to see people caring for others."