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Four more Long Island schools were closed because of coronavirus concerns

An East Rockaway Junior/Senior High School staff member

An East Rockaway Junior/Senior High School staff member tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the district to close the school this week, said the district's superintendent. Credit: Google Map

This story was reported by Robert Brodsky, Catherine Carrera, Candice Ferrette, David Olson and John Valenti. It was written by Valenti and Olson.

At least four Long Island schools were closed Friday after students or staff members tested positive for COVID-19, adding to scattered retreats from classroom instruction linked to virus cases over the last few weeks.

Schools in the Cold Spring Harbor, Malverne, East Rockaway and Copiague districts were closed, with at least three expected to reopen on Monday, officials in the districts said.

The closure of the Cold Spring Harbor Junior-Senior High School building after a student tested positive was announced in a letter from Superintendent Robert C. Fenter to parents Thursday — and it was not immediately clear when the school would reopen. The letter didn't specify when the student tested positive, when that student was last in the school building or whether the student was in junior high or high school. Instruction Friday was to be fully remote, he said.

The district has been "in constant contact" with the Suffolk County Department of Health and is following "all necessary protocols to reduce exposure to other students and staff," Fenter wrote.

The closures are the latest in a string of decisions to limit spread in schools in both Nassau and Suffolk, as positive COVID-19 cases of students or staff raised concerns.

Most of the closings have lasted just a day or two, enough time for districts to implement coronavirus-cleaning protocols and for county officials to initiate contact-tracing efforts.

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Malverne High School students followed a virtual schedule from Monday through Friday this week after a staff member tested positive for the virus, Superintendent Lorna Lewis said Friday. The school is scheduled to reopen Monday for in-person instruction and resume its hybrid schedule, she said.

"We wanted to be sure to do the contact tracing, which we have done, and we took additional measures to have every single administrator tested," Lewis said. The results were negative for each administrator, she said.

The Copiague district closed its Susan E. Wiley Elementary School on Friday "out of an abundance of caution" after a positive case emerged this week, Superintendent Kathleen Bannon said in a note to families Thursday. The district did not specify whether it was a student, teacher or other staff member who tested positive. The school would undergo a deep cleaning while closed, Bannon said.

An investigation by the state Department of Health found that one class would need to quarantine for 14 days due to the possibility of exposure, she said. The elementary school was expected to reopen Monday, Bannon said.

An East Rockaway Junior/Senior High School staff member tested positive, prompting the district to close the school and move students to a fully remote schedule from Wednesday through Friday, wrote Superintendent Lisa Ruiz in a letter to families. The building was expected to reopen Monday, Ruiz said.

Staff members who had close contact with the employee who tested positive have been identified and will need to quarantine for 14 days, she said.

John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Great Neck remained open Friday after a student tested positive for the virus, with the teacher and students in the infected student's class transitioned to remote instruction for 14 days, Superintendent Teresa Prendergast said.

A student at Bowling Green Elementary School, in the East Meadow district, tested positive, Superintendent Kenneth Card said in a notice to families Friday. The district closed off and disinfected areas of the school that the student used, Card said, but the school remained open.

A message to residents from Port Jefferson schools late Friday indicated the district was notified of a COVID-19 case at its middle school, and students and staff members in contact with that student will be notified separately and asked to quarantine.

The Middle Country School District this week reported that a student and staff member at Newfield High School in Selden, and a staff member at Oxhead Road Elementary School in Centereach, tested positive.

The schools already were scheduled to be closed on Wednesday for remote learning, and they reopened Thursday, Superintendent Roberta A. Gerold said.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, speaking Friday morning at the Yes We Can Community Center in New Cassel, said the positive test results at some schools are not surprising.

"We know that when people are together and inside there’s a slight uptick in cases," she said.

Businesses' licenses suspended

The state said Friday its multiagency task force on enforcement of coronavirus-related orders suspended the liquor licenses of 33 bars and restaurants, bringing the total number of such suspensions to 201.

The Long Island businesses whose liquor licenses were suspended by the State Liquor Authority are Temptations in Bohemia; Plaza Papo Deli and Off-Key Tikki, both in Patchogue, and Toku Modern Asian in Manhasset.

At Off-Key Tikki, task force investigators saw numerous alleged violations in two visits, including multiple patrons standing and drinking alcohol without face coverings and without social distancing, people leaving the business with open containers, and multiple employees without face coverings, according to a statement from the governor's office.

Owner Mike Bruemmer said the SLA agreed Wednesday to restore the liquor license after he paid a $10,000 penalty. The SLA on Friday was not able to immediately confirm that.

"We’ve certainly gone through a monumental effort for the past few months to get our customers to fully comply," he said. "We’re probably 99% successful for that."

The business has spent thousands of dollars on additional security to monitor customers and put up signs warning patrons to observe social distancing and wear masks while standing, he said.

Inside Plaza Papo Deli in Patchogue, 10 people were allegedly drinking alcohol, even though the deli is not licensed for on-premises consumption, the governor's office said.

At Temptations, a "gentlemen’s club" in Bohemia, bartenders, security guards and an employee performing a lap dance allegedly were not wearing face coverings and social distancing allegedly was widely ignored.

Toku Modern Asian in Manhasset was over COVID-19-restricted capacity, and numerous patrons were buying alcohol without food, the governor's office said.

Owners or managers of those three businesses either did not return phone calls for comment or could not be reached.

On Thursday, the task force visited 1,495 establishments and found four with violations, including three in Suffolk.

Also Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced in a statement that 0.88% of COVID-19 test results were positive on Thursday. The state has been at a 1% or lower positivity rate for more than a month.

Of the 790 new COVID-19 cases, out of nearly 90,000 people tested, 63 were in Nassau County, for a total since the pandemic began of 46,052, and 41 were in Suffolk, for a total of 45,956.

The positivity rate on Long Island dropped slightly, from 1.3% on Tuesday and 1.1% on Wednesday to 0.9% on Thursday.

Ten New Yorkers with COVID-19 died on Thursday, Cuomo's office said.

De Blasio defends NYC school delay

During an appearance Friday morning on MSNBC, Mayor Bill de Blasio defended his decision to delay the start of in-person classes in the city public school system to Oct. 1, citing the need to add more than 4,500 teaching personnel as class sizes were forced to be reduced due to social distancing.

The decision was announced Thursday — just days before kids were scheduled to return to class for the first time since March — frustrating many parents who are now forced to scramble to find child care.

"It’s unprecedented," he said. "And as with any huge endeavor, we are finding things that need more work. So, we are going to do it, and we are going to do it with health and safety in place."

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