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Two more Long Island schools close after positive COVID-19 tests, officials say

The Carrie Palmer Weber Middle School in Port

The Carrie Palmer Weber Middle School in Port Washington is closing for "sanitizing and cleaning protocols" on Tuesday and moving to a "fully virtual day of instruction" after a student tested positive for COVID-19. Credit: Newsday/Tara Conry

This story was reported by Michael Gormley, John Hildebrand, Bart Jones, John Valenti and Olivia Winslow. It was written by Jones.

Two more Long Island schools were added Monday to those that have temporarily closed due to COVID-19 cases, with Harborfields High School shifting to "full remote learning" on Monday and Tuesday and a middle school in Port Washington announcing it is canceling in-person classes for Tuesday.

The Harborfields announcement, made via Twitter on the official school district account late Sunday and in a letter to local families, said a student tested positive for COVID-19.

Superintendent of Schools Francesco Ianni wrote that "the Suffolk Department of Health was immediately contacted to initiate a contact tracing investigation. If you are considered a close contact, someone will be in touch with you."

In Port Washington, a student at Carrie Palmer Weber Middle School tested positive and the district notified the Nassau County Department of Health "to initiate a contact tracing investigation," Superintendent of Schools Michael J. Hynes wrote in a letter to local families.

The school will close on Tuesday for "sanitizing and cleaning protocols, and out of an abundance of caution," Hynes wrote, and will follow a "fully virtual day of instruction."

A third school, Woodland Middle School in the East Meadow district, said in a letter to residents it was closing off part of the building temporarily for thorough cleaning after a student tested positive.

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In other developments, Cold Spring Harbor Junior/Senior High School reopened Monday after closing last week when a student tested positive for COVID-19. Superintendent Robert C. Fenter announced in a follow-up letter to parents Friday that an investigation showed "there are no quarantine requirements necessary for students or staff resulting from in-school contact."

The latest school closings are part of measures to halt in-person instruction at scattered districts throughout Long Island where students and staff have tested positive in the first few weeks of classes. Those temporary closings aside, there has been no sharp increase in COVID-19 spread in either the region or the state.

That trend continued with news Monday that the positivity rate for new cases remained low in the state. One patient died Sunday of causes related to COVID-19 — the lowest death toll reported "since this began," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said during a telephonic briefing Monday from Albany.

He praised "the spirit of community, the spirit of unity" of New Yorkers that he said "literally has saved thousands of lives" in the state.

" … We won’t stop until that number is zero," for the death toll, Cuomo added, saying that "it’s really an extraordinary accomplishment that New Yorkers have achieved" relative to other states and parts of the world, where the virus has resurfaced after initial waves.

Out of 58,319 test results counted statewide on Sunday, 573 people, or 0.98%, tested positive, Cuomo said Monday.

The number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19 from Sunday was 41 in Nassau County, 48 in Suffolk County, and 260 in New York City, Cuomo said. The positive infection level was 0.9% on Long Island and 1% in New York City.

Still, of 18 businesses cited over the weekend for violating state laws aimed at curbing spread of the coronavirus, 13 were on Long Island, Cuomo said. They included eight in Nassau County and five in Suffolk County.

"Overall, the compliance has gotten much better," Cuomo said, though there remain some "bad apples."

He added that "the bars, colleges, have been presenting an issue for us."

State Liquor Authority agents and State Police inspected more than 4,000 establishments over the weekend, he said.

More COVID-19 cases in schools

A staff member at Eastport-South Manor Junior-Senior High School tested positive for COVID-19, district officials said in a letter to parents on Sunday, but the school was not shut down Monday because the employee is not assigned to a classroom and is not in regular prolonged contact with students.

Smithtown Central School District Superintendent Mark Secaur announced that a student at Smithtown High School West tested positive, but there were no building closures. Secaur said the student was last in the building Sept. 11, and that contact-tracing efforts have been "initiated."

Islip Public Schools announced Friday a student at Sherwood Elementary School tested positive. In a letter to parents, Superintendent Ellen Semel said the student was last in the elementary school building on Sept. 15.

The district is asking anyone who was in contact with the unnamed student, including on the school bus, to quarantine for 14 days — meaning all involved with the student's class have been asked not to return to the building until Sept. 30.

County Executive Laura Curran said Monday that Nassau has continued to maintain a low level of coronavirus infections, showing "positive momentum" as the fall starts.

"I think we’ve demonstrated that you can reopen in a way that’s safe and smart," she said. "However, we know that [what] comes next isn’t guaranteed; some countries that initially succeeded in containing the virus, like Spain and Israel, are now experiencing painful second surges."

State courts resuming operations

Meanwhile, Court of Appeals Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said Monday that the state court system is moving to resume in-person operations in every county, including "nonessential matters," but said the road to normal caseloads experienced before the COVID-19 outbreak is long and uncertain.

"Notwithstanding the progress that our judges and professional staff are making to resume and gradually expand in-person operations, we recognize that it will be a long time, if ever, before we can return to even a semblance of the in-person density and activity that took place in our courthouses before the pandemic," DiFiore said in her address to lawyers and judges.

She said the courts are working to expand their virtual capacity, converting from the Skype for Business video conferencing system to Microsoft Teams. She said the new software will better suit the presentation of documents, as well as open court and private messaging between lawyers and judges.

In addition, pilot programs are underway in courtrooms, including one in Suffolk County retrofitted to ward off spread of the virus.

"As soon as we are comfortable with the safety and efficacy of the civil pilots, the next step will be to conduct our first in-person criminal jury trials in New York City," DiFiore said.

Also on Monday, Cuomo extended the state's moratorium on coronavirus-related commercial evictions and foreclosures an additional month, until Oct. 20.

The measure extends protections already in place for commercial tenants and mortgagors because of the financial toll the pandemic has taken on business owners, including retail establishments and restaurants.

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