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More Long Island schools report COVID-19 cases; state's new positives remain low

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

This story was reported by Catherine Carrera, Matthew Chayes, Jesse Coburn, Bart Jones and John Valenti. It was written by Jones.

Students at Newfield High School were not notified promptly by the Suffolk County Department of Health that they needed to quarantine because of exposure to someone at the school infected with COVID-19, Middle Country School District officials said Thursday.

Meanwhile, several more districts across Long Island reported cases of COVID-19 infection, with some closing schools for one or two days for cleaning. And Adelphi University in Garden City reported at least eight cases among students who attended an off-campus party, and said 16 more had to quarantine.

Middle Country said that earlier this week, the health department started and concluded a contact tracing investigation related to a positive coronavirus case at the high school. The department notified affected students, but "these students did not receive that SCDOH notification in a timely manner," Middle Country Superintendent Roberta Gerold said in a statement.

As a result, the district "has enhanced our communication process on how students and their parents will be informed of a mandated quarantine moving forward. Effective immediately, parents of students who are deemed as a close contact or who are issued a quarantine mandate will receive a communication from the building principal with guidance issued from the SCDOH."

In a statement, Suffolk health Commissioner Gregson Pigott said contact tracing was initiated, but "unfortunately there was a technical issue that contributed to the brief delay in the notification process." He said the county is working with state Department of Health to "implement new protocols to ensure this does not happen again."

There also were school closings in the Farmingdale, Port Jefferson and Longwood districts because of COVID-19 cases. St. Anthony’s High School said Thursday that a staff member had tested positive for the virus, and the school would be closed for in-person instruction Friday, instead providing classes online.

The Longwood school district said it was closing Charles E. Walters Elementary School in Yaphank for in-person instruction Thursday and Friday after it learned Wednesday night that a staff member tested positive.

Saltzman Memorial School in Farmingdale was closed Thursday after a student tested positive, 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.

Port Jefferson closed the Edna Louise Spear Elementary School Wednesday, after reporting a student had tested positive for the virus.

A note on the district website Thursday indicated the school had been closed Wednesday for "distance learning," but the school was cleared by the health department and reopened Thursday, the district said.

The Bay Shore, Kings Park, Remsenburg-Speonk, Smithtown and Three Village districts also reported new positive cases this week, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, though not all resulted in building closures.

"Given the fact that we were able to identify and quarantine the individuals who were in close or proximate contact with the positive case, we made the decision that the rest of the building could safely remain open," Bay Shore Superintendent Joseph Bond said.

The district had one positive case, of a paraprofessional, at Fifth Avenue Elementary School, Bond said.

A student at Kings Park High School, in the Kings Park school district, tested positive for the virus Tuesday, district officials said. The school did not need to close "as this only affected a very small number of students," district Superintendent Timothy Eagen said.

Nassau County districts, including Massapequa, Oyster Bay-East Norwich and Valley Stream Central, also reported new positive cases, as listed on the state dashboard. A student at Valley Stream's North High School tested positive for the virus last Friday, and the building underwent deep cleaning over the weekend, Superintendent Bill Heidenreich said in a letter Sept. 11.

Massapequa on Thursday had two confirmed cases, one at Birch Lane Elementary School and another at the high school, district Superintendent Lucille Iconis said in a letter. The district had to close Berner Middle School on Wednesday due to a positive case, Iconis said. But the other two buildings did not need to close "based on consultation with the Department of Health, and the specific circumstances of the cases," she said.

Another case surfaced in Port Washington, which had closed schools earlier in the week, but no further shutdowns were needed, school officials there said.

Comsewogue High School and Chaminade High School also reported cases this week. Chaminade closed Monday and Tuesday, but it was a previously scheduled move aimed at smoothing out the reopening process, said Brother Thomas Cleary, president of the school.

Adelphi University said Thursday that the COVID-19 positives there arose after more than 20 students attended a recent off-campus gathering that went against state health guidelines and the university’s social distancing protocols.

"Let me be blunt: While this incident has been brought under control, it should serve as a warning to all who think they do not need to adhere to the rules or who believe that this virus cannot reach them," R. Sentwali Bakari, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, wrote in a letter to the student body. "I want each of you to maximize your college experience this year, but this reckless behavior will jeopardize that very opportunity."

NY's daily COVID-19 level remains low

Statewide, the coronavirus level of new positives in testing results completed Wednesday was below 1% once more, after rising to that positivity rate for the first time in more than a month earlier this week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Thursday.

Out of 91,504 test results reported to New York State on Wednesday, 896, or 0.98%, were positive, Cuomo said. The infection level was 1.1% on Long Island and 1% in New York City.

The number of new confirmed cases was 83 in Nassau County, 72 in Suffolk County and 333 in New York City. Three people died Wednesday of COVID-19-related causes in the state.

"No community rose to the occasion like New Yorkers rose to the occasion. We went from the highest infection rate in the nation to one of the lowest infection rates in the nation. That's what the history books are going to say," Cuomo said.

"Now our calibration is between managing COVID and managing reopening," Cuomo added. "We don't want to see the COVID infection rate go over one percent for any period of time, and we are right up against it. There is no margin for error here — this pandemic is far from over."

State Liquor Authority agents and State Police visited 984 businesses on Wednesday, and issued summonses to four of them for failing to adhere to state mandates aimed at curbing spread of the coronavirus. Two of the businesses are in Suffolk.