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LIRR reports its first coronavirus-related death

Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Daily Point

A sad day for the LIRR

Correction: The LIRR reported its first coronavirus-related death. The subject line in Friday's The Point incorrectly named which agency reported the death.

The Long Island Rail Road has suffered its first death due to the coronavirus — Selden resident James Houlihan, a station appearance maintainer based at the Mid-Suffolk Yard in Ronkonkoma, who had been with the LIRR for 19 years.

Houlihan also had worked as an assistant conductor, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said in a statement Friday.

Houlihan’s death brings the MTA’s virus-related death toll to at least 84 workers. One of those worked at Metro-North Rail Road; the rest worked on subways and buses. 

But The Point has learned that the impact on Long Island goes beyond the tragedy at the LIRR. 

Eight Long Islanders are among the 82 employees who had worked on the authority’s subways and buses.

The eight Nassau and Suffolk residents included a bus mechanic, a station cleaner, a train operator, a claims specialist, two track workers and two supervisors. Workers came from communities across Long Island, including Bay Shore, North Babylon, Freeport, New Hyde Park and East Meadow. At least two of the deceased worked out of stations or other MTA locations in Queens.

The Transport Workers Union Local 100 has been paying tribute to individual workers on its website, while New York City Transit interim president Sarah Feinberg recited the names of those who’ve died during a board meeting earlier this week.

During that meeting, the board approved a plan to provide a $500,000 death benefit to each family of a worker killed by the virus.

More than 2,400 MTA workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, including 245 LIRR employees. 

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

A growing chorus for hazard pay

NYU Winthrop Hospital joins a growing list of medical institutions under pressure to increase pay for staffers who have worked through the coronavirus pandemic. 

A petition for hazard pay sent by nursing staff at Winthrop to top NYU Langone Health administrators called for a wage increase of “25% to compensate for the hardships and dangers we nurses face throughout the duration of this pandemic.”

The list of grievances, sent in late March and obtained by Newsday Opinion from a Winthrop nurse, is a grim picture of what nurses have gone through in recent weeks, including: 

  • “Housekeeping is not allowed in the rooms, therefore RNs are in charge of cleaning them and emptying the garbage.”
  • “Floors are not cleaned in COVID-19/PUI rooms unless the nurse decides to slide around on the floor with bleach wipes under their feet.”
  • “We are now currently being asked to wear and save our N95 masks for an entire week.”

NYU Langone Health spokeswoman Lisa Greiner confirmed that the petition was received, and sent a statement noting the system’s financial hardships and its efforts to care for staff: “Despite the fact that many significant revenue sources have ceased, our first priority has always been to ensure that our staff are well-equipped with the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required despite shortages in the market, and to provide necessary staffing resources to care for our Covid patients in order to minimize their exposure.”

Winthrop is hardly alone in experiencing these financial and physical conditions and receiving this push for more pay.

Click here to read the full story.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Tea Party 2.0

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/cartoons

Data Point

The coronavirus effect by the numbers

Based on data from Foureyes.io, a sales and data platform, auto sales in New York State from March 20 to April 20 have plummeted by 69% compared to the month before. This includes new and used sales as well as leases. This decline in sales started on March 3 and has steadily dropped since, but April has shown signs of stabilizing.

Connecticut and New Jersey have not done much better, either, declining by 60% and 70%, respectively, in the same time period.

Data from Acura, Audi, Infinity, Lincoln, Lexus and Mazda are not included in the Foureyes report, nor are data from non-franchise dealers or online retailers. 

Meanwhile, as of Thursday, most New Yorkers have yet to respond to the 2020 Census, with only a 46% response rate. New York ranks #43 in the nation, far behind #19 New Jersey and #18 Connecticut, with 53.2% and 53.9%, respectively, while Minnesota leads the nation with 61.8%.

Response rates in Nassau and Suffolk counties — 55.1% and 50.1%, respectively — are better than the state overall. But it still means nearly half of Long Island’s households have yet to respond to the Census online, by mail or by phone.

If you are one of our readers who has yet to respond, you can find out how at 2020census.gov.

Homeless numbers

Homeless individuals have unique vulnerabilities for COVID-19. As of earlier this week, Nassau County’s Department of Social Services counted 23 “COVID clients” among its homeless. That includes 13 COVID-positive individuals, three under investigation for the disease, three who have been exposed to someone who is COVID-positive, and four who have symptoms but were not tested. The individuals are staying in a Bethpage facility.

Documents obtained by The Point through a Freedom of Information Law request show the difficult lengths homeless providers were encouraged to go to in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among that population.

For individuals who displayed risk factors for COVID-19-like respiratory symptoms, a DSS emergency housing supervisor sent guidance to provide surgical masks and “Isolate in private room, with door closed if possible.”

Then there was the following advice to try to make more space, any space at all: “Place beds head-to-toe and provide increased distance (preferably 6 feet) between beds, where possible.”

—Kai Teoh and Mark Chiusano @jkteoh  and @mjchiusano

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