Suffolk piloting COVID testing in schools

The county has begun a targeted in-school testing program in...

The county has begun a targeted in-school testing program in the Hampton Bays district, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said on Thursday. Credit: Randee Daddona

"Our goal today is to be proactive and get control of the virus," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said while announcing the county effort to test students in schools in the two communities where cases are rising.

The pilot program, the first in the county, began Thursday in Hampton Bays, where 400 rapid test kits were offered for students, teachers and staff. It begins Friday in Riverhead.

The five-day rolling average positivity rate stood at 6.5% in Hampton Bays and 5.6% in Riverhead, he said. Countywide, that rate has fluctuated between 3% and 4%.

Christine Tona, interim superintendent of the Riverhead Central School District, said the county had reached out to the districts to get a clearer sense of community positivity rates by testing asymptomatic people at random in schools. The hope is that this testing would produce lower overall positivity rates and avoid the requirement to close schools and businesses.

Long Island schools may shut down, some districts warned residents, since parts of the region are in danger of being designated a "micro-cluster" by the state because of rising levels of infections.

The Levittown and Connetquot districts and the Town of Riverhead have sent out notifications in recent days telling residents to be ready for a possible shutdown.

Local officials said Thursday that they will do everything they can to keep schools open, even as the counties’ infection rate exceeds the 3% seven-day threshold that has shuttered schools in New York City.

They pointed to science, suggesting schools are not major vectors of transmission for COVID-19 — unlike gatherings such as parties, bars and family get-togethers.

Should the Island's infection rate escalate, they said they prefer to continue with the existing method of determining shutdowns on a targeted basis specific to individual schools and districts, with the decisions coming from local school officials.

New York City's daily number of coronavirus infections reported Friday is "worrisome as all hell," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

There were 1,255 new infections in a 24-hour period. (It had been 200 or 300 as recently as September, he said.) He added that new restrictions — such as bans on indoor dining, the shutdown of gyms — are likely to be imposed soon after Thanksgiving.

Search a map and view charts with the latest trends in testing, hospitalizations, deaths and more.

Coliseum's new leaseholder gets break on rent

Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale on June 16.

Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale on June 16. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Nassau County has agreed to let the new leaseholder of Nassau Coliseum off the hook from paying rent until at least the summer in a deal that also guarantees that the Islanders can use the arena if needed during the COVID-19 shutdown.

The lease amendment, which requires approval by the Nassau County Legislature, calls for rent relief that continues until six months after the state lifts all restrictions on arena events.

Under the current lease, Nassau collects more than $4 million in annual rent from the Coliseum leaseholder. The county is filing paperwork to get the amendment before the Legislature Monday.

"This agreement recognizes the impact of COVID on Coliseum operations and the surrounding development," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.

The new leaseholder, Nassau Live Center LLC, headed by Nick Mastroianni II, has not paid rent since taking over in August after Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov had shuttered the building and walked away from $100 million in debt.

Job hunting in a pandemic is no picnic

Job hunter Marie Santora-Lent poses for a portrait at her home...

Job hunter Marie Santora-Lent poses for a portrait at her home in Bellmore Monday. Credit: Barry Sloan

Job cuts and closures caused by the pandemic mean a record number of unemployed Long Islanders are competing for a small number of openings. Many of the openings that do exist are for positions that involve customer contact or could otherwise expose workers to the virus, making them unattractive to those with medical risk factors.

Plus, the pandemic has knocked out most opportunities for in-person interviewing and networking.

The search has taken a toll on Long Islanders like Marie Santora-Lent of Bellmore. She said she often stayed up until 2 or 3 a.m. applying for jobs in the hopes of getting a jump on the competition.

On one occasion, Santora-Lent said she responded to a want ad on Facebook. When she arrived for one of the few in-person interviews she'd landed, the doors were locked and no one answered the phone. Read more about her and others' job search struggles.

Plus, check out these tips from local career counselors on upping your chances of being noticed in a crowded playing field.

A (virtual) party for people with disabilities

Chris Volpe, 20, participates in nightly Zoom hangouts co-hosted by...

Chris Volpe, 20, participates in nightly Zoom hangouts co-hosted by his mother. Credit: Stephanie Volpe

There were two things Stephanie Volpe was certain of when she cocreated Friends Chat: a Zoom hangout for people with disabilities.

"One, everyone would be included," said Volpe, of Holbrook. "And two, it is always free."

Before the pandemic, Volpe’s son Chris, 20, used to hang out at the Dew Drop Inn in Patchogue. The organization held weekly events, including Zumba sessions and puzzle nights, focusing on people with disabilities. There, Volpe and her son met and became friends with Eileen Viola and her daughter, Jessie, who is 24.

When the Dew Drop Inn closed during the pandemic, Volpe and Viola wanted to make sure their children could still socialize.

Volpe said Chris usually loves to sleep and have time off from school, but about a month into the shutdown "he started crying. He was losing his routine and not seeing his friends."

So together, the mothers started Friends Chat with about five or six participants. At its peak, "word of mouth spread like crazy," and there were 50 people on Zoom, said Volpe.

Now, they have a group of 20 people who consistently log in, ranging in age from teens to adults in their 30s. The content of the sessions are appropriate for all ages, Volpe said. Learn more about the group and how to participate.

More to know

Former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato has tested positive for COVID-19 and is hospitalized, his office said Friday.

Two Long Island nursing and rehab facilities have been cited for alleged COVID-related workforce violations, with fines totaling more than $38,000.

Pfizer said it is asking U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, starting the clock on a process that could bring limited first shots as early as next month.

Changes for year-end Regents exams are being considered, according to Regent Roger Tilles of Manhasset, who was also on Newsday’s webinar panel titled "Is your child falling behind in school during the pandemic?"

Three more Giants players tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday night, bringing the total number on the reserve/COVID-19 list to six.

News for you

Gurney's Montauk Resort has socially distant outdoor dining with fire...

Gurney's Montauk Resort has socially distant outdoor dining with fire pits to keep guests warm. Credit: Gurney's Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa

Heated outdoor dining. If eating outdoors, even as the temperatures drop, is still your preference, we've compiled this list of Long Island restaurants that put the fresco in al fresco, happily serving meals to those willing to brave the elements. Weather permitting, of course.

Shopping local for the holidays. If you want to get a jump on your holiday shopping while supporting local businesses, here is our guide to finding what you need in five Long Island communities.

Downsizing your Thanksgiving celebration? Then perhaps there is a little room in the grocery cart for some of the traditional fixings for someone who otherwise might go hungry. Island Harvest hopes to collect 2,500 turkeys for those in need. See how you can help, or receive assistance, around the holiday.

Have test, will travel. If you're planning to fly to Hawaii, you will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test result prior to your departure for the state, with the new rule going into effect two days before Thanksgiving. (Of course, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving. See more CDC tips for safely celebrating the holiday.)

Plus: Another film that had originally been intended for a theatrical release will now be streaming directly to you instead. "Coming 2 America," the sequel to the 1988 big-screen comedy starring Long Island-raised Eddie Murphy, will debut in March on Amazon Prime Video.

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


Nursing home cases of COVID-19 are on the rise.

Nursing home cases of COVID-19 are on the rise. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Nadzeya_Dzivakova

If we're going to control COVID, we need to make this change. Kevin Pham, M.D., MBA, a visiting policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, writes: When COVID-19 first reached America nearly a year ago, we knew very little about it — what it did, whom it affected most, or even whether human-to-human transmission was common. But one of the few things we knew for certain was that this virus — SARS-CoV-2, to use its technical name — was particularly dangerous to older Americans.

As early as March 18, the CDC was citing figures showing the vast majority of mortality from COVID-19 was among those 65 years and older, so nursing homes and the elderly should have been the main focus of our pandemic response since then.

But they weren't. And with nursing home cases on the rise, we need to change course — now.

According to an Associated Press report, there has been a fourfold rise in nursing home-related cases of COVID-19 since June. And CDC data shows there has been an increase of nearly 1,000 COVID-related deaths in nursing homes from September to October.

There are three ways for COVID-19 to enter a nursing home. Continue reading


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