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Official: Farmingdale school closed after student positive for COVID-19

Saltzman East Memorial School in Farmingdale was closed

Saltzman East Memorial School in Farmingdale was closed Thursday after a student tested positive for COVID-19, Farmingdale schools Superintendant Paul Defendini said Wednesday night in a phone message to the district community. Credit: Newsday/Brittany Wait

Saltzman Memorial School in Farmingdale will be closed Thursday after a student there tested positive for COVID-19, the school district's superintendent announced Wednesday night in a phone message to the district community.

Superintendent Paul Defendini said the school is expected to reopen Friday.

He said in the phone message that closing the campus Thursday will "provide the district with sufficient time to alert those parties who will be required to quarantine, and to provide us with the time needed to appropriately disinfect the building, prior to our safe return to school."

Defendini said all other schools and buildings in the district will be open Thursday.

"We were able to utilize our contact tracing protocols to ensure that the only school impacted by this positive case is Saltzman East Memorial …, " the superintendent said. "No other school has been impacted by this positive case."

Earlier Wednesday, a middle school in Massapequa closed after one student tested positive for COVID-19. That school closing and the one in Farmingdale are the latest in a string of temporary measures taken by districts on Long Island as they grapple with the early challenges of in-person instruction during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the level of new COVID-19 cases in the state dipped back below 1%, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Wednesday, as he warned New Yorkers to stay the course while speaking from a boat cruising through waters off the South Shore of Long Island.

He acknowledged people are frustrated with the slow reopening on the economy, but said it is necessary to stem the spread of COVID-19, which has been confirmed in 446,366 New Yorkers and responsible for the deaths of 25,410.

Cuomo said the level of new coronavirus cases must remain under 1% and admitted having a sleepless night when it exceeded that number earlier this week for the first time in more than a month.

"New Yorkers want to get back to normal life," said Cuomo, before a lectern on a boat bobbing through choppy waters off Lido Beach. "Yes, I understand, but we are not yet at a point where we can get back to normal life … we still have to manage COVID."

The Massapequa student is under quarantine, health authorities are conducting contact tracing, and the district is cleaning spaces where the student may have been, said Massapequa School District Superintendent Lucille F. Iconis in a message posted on the Berner Middle School website. The rest of the school’s sixth, seventh and eighth graders were to take classes remotely Wednesday.

Several other Long Island school districts reported positive COVID-19 cases, including a student and staffer at Newfield High School in Selden; a student at William Rall Elementary School in Lindenhurst; a student at Chippewa Elementary School in Holtsville; two employees at North Babylon High School in North Babylon, and an employee at Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School in Plainview.

Calling it "a proactive decision," Port Jefferson closed the Edna Louise Spear Elementary School Wednesday, as well, after reporting a student had tested positive for COVID-19. "The closure allowed us to thoroughly clean the building, contact the Department of Health, and work with the agency to determine if further action was needed," Superintendent Jessica Schmettan wrote in a message to parents. It was not immediately clear if the school was reopen for classes Thursday — or if the district was still working through protocols.

A note on the district website Thursday indicated the school had been closed Wednesday for "distance learning," but said only the situation would be updated later.

Those infected at Newfield High School were in the building last week, while the Lindenhurst student has been studying remotely. The other districts did not specify whether those infected had been inside school buildings.

The districts said they are cleaning spaces where infected students or staffers may have been and coordinating with public health authorities on contact tracing.

On Tuesday, five schools in two districts — Port Washington and Oyster Bay-East Norwich — were closed after students were confirmed to have COVID-19. Other schools had closed on Monday when students and staff who were tested came back positive.

Cuomo said he plans to make an announcement next week on the "mental health consequences" of COVID-19 on young students and adults.

"There is going to be PTSD from COVID," he said, referring to post-traumatic stress disorder, and noting the increase in substance abuse and domestic violence during the pandemic. "I don't know that we have fully appreciated all of the effects of the trauma we have gone through."

Cuomo: Open economy as much as you can

Schools in the state had been closed since March, when Cuomo shut nonessential businesses and institutions at the state's height of the pandemic. While stores, shopping malls and restaurants have reopened — to limited capacity — other sites such as movie theaters and concert venues remain shuttered.

"Open as much economic activity as you can to go to 1%," Cuomo said. "That is the rate of spread you can manage."

The State Liquor Authority and State Police Task Force inspected 1,057 bars and restaurants in New York City and on Long Island on Tuesday to make sure they were complying with state regulations to stop the spread of the virus. The task force issued violations to one establishment in Manhattan.

"It’s all about compliance," Cuomo said. "It’s that simple, When people get undisciplined and every business wants to open and every business wants patrons, when you see that happening, you see the uptick in the infection rate."

The level of new infections across the state was down to 0.87% on Tuesday, but inched back up on Long Island to 1.3%, according to numbers released by the state. There were 652 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York, including 66 additional cases in Nassau County and 58 in Suffolk County. There were four new deaths attributed to COVID-19 throughout the state.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said the county measured a "steady level" of new infections at 1.4%, which has remained the same since schools started reopening. In a statement, she noted there were more than 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 across the country on Tuesday, "a sober reminder that this pandemic isn't over."

The state completed about 75,000 tests Tuesday, a sustained high number reached after starting with about 500 tests a day, which Cuomo said makes the state "the most advanced state in the nation in terms of doing testing."

Statewide, 483 people were hospitalized because of COVID-19, and 138 remained in intensive care.

Northwell Health on Wednesday said it had 80 COVID-19 patients at the 19 hospitals it owns and operates, essentially unchanged from a week ago.

The largest health system in the state said North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, at 19, had the most COVID-19 patients in its system, followed by Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, which had 14.

With Mark Harrington and David Reich-Hale

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