Innovation in the Age of Coronavirus

Very appetizing: Expanded outdoor dining may return to Long Island next week.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its evolving aftermath are reshaping the world around us, and myriad Long Island forces – large and small, corporate and nonprofit, industrial and academic – have risen to the challenge. Innovate Long Island presents Innovation in the Age of Coronavirus as a real-time journal of this region’s resourceful response to the greatest global challenge since World War II. Stay healthy, dear readers.


Phase 2 approaches LI, but Cuomo urges caution 

Slow and steady: Phase 2 is spreading, but a “boomerang” looms, according to Cuomo.

(June 4) Hang on, Long Island – Phase 2 is just a week away.

Following a “review of regional data by global health experts,” according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, the Mid-Hudson Valley is on track to enter Phase 2 of Albany’s NY Forward plan on June 9, with Long Island following on June 10 – meaning expanded outdoor dining, on-site retail, beauty salons, traditional real estate services and office functions may return to Nassau and Suffolk counties as early as Wednesday (New York On Pause social-distancing and PPE rules still apply).

If all goes according to plan, the entire state will be observing Phase 2 protocols by next week, with New York City finally cracking Phase 1. While the progress is clear, Cuomo is warning against residents and business owners taking too many liberties. “Reopen with caution,” the governor said Thursday. “We’ve seen too many examples of reopening where they didn’t do it right and it boomeranged … you look at the states that opened fast without metrics, without guardrails, it’s a boomerang.” – GZ


Molloy teleconference eyes first-responder mental health

Kellyanne Brady: Grief relief.

(June 4) With an eye on the emotional wellbeing of doctors, nurses, EMTs, police officers and others who served – and are still serving – on the pandemic’s front lines, the Molloy College Mental Health and Wellness Center has scheduled a special virtual workshop for June 15.

Beginning at 7 p.m., the free COVID-19 Mental Health and Wellness Workshop will provide awareness of existing services and brush up coping skills for professionals dealing with significant emotional and mental fallout from the global pandemic, which hit Long Island harder than most areas. The event will be facilitated by licensed professionals from Molloy’s MHWC, with first responders joining via Zoom teleconferencing or simply calling a toll-free number.

With an “increase in stress due to the demands placed on first responders,” the virtual workshop is a virtual necessity, according to Molloy MHWC Clinical Director Kellyanne Brady. “Not only do they fear being exposed to the illness, they also fear for their families and co-workers,” Brady noted. “Grief and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness is a prevalent experience for these individuals, who want so badly to save lives but are often unable to due to the severity of the virus.” – GZ


Arrow Exterminating donation extremely on-point

Close to the heart: Arrow Exterminating’s $15,000 gift really hit the spot for the Island Harvest Food Bank.

(June 3) All donations to the Island Harvest Food Bank come from the heart, but a recent $15,000 gift earmarked for the nonprofit’s pandemic relief effort held special meaning for the executives presenting it, who both recovered from COVID-19.

Debby Tappan, co-owner of Lynbrook-based Arrow Exterminating Company, and Arrow General Manager Thomas Jordan, who is also a volunteer with the North Babylon Fire Department, were both laid up by the novel coronavirus – and, upon recovering, were joined by Arrow co-owner Jackie Grabin to present a $15,000 check in support of the food bank’s hunger-relief programs, which have taken on added importance during the employment-challenging, food supply-threatening pandemic.

“We are grateful for Arrow’s generous donation, which will help us provide much-needed food support for Long Islanders,” noted Island Harvest President and CEO Randi Shubin Dresner. “Most important is that Debby and Thomas overcame their bout with the coronavirus, and were able to attend the check presentation with us.” – GZ


Camp in: Albany greenlights statewide day camps

Safety first: Melville’s Kenwal Day Camp is among the Long Island camps opening for business June 29.

(June 2) Western New York has entered Phase 2, New York City is still locked down and none of that matters right now to parents who today heard four of the most important words from Albany in months: Summer camps will open.

Yes, if it’s not too late, make those camp reservations now – Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced that summer day camps will open across the state June 29, with a decision on sleep-away camps coming later this month. While a certain percentage of parents will be understandably anxious about sending their kids out into the post-pandemic world, many will be rushing to sign up kids who have essentially been locked inside since March.

The governor also signed an executive order allowing “low-risk outdoor recreational activities” and the businesses that provide them to crank back up in regions that have qualified for Phase 1 reopening protocols (which is everywhere except New York City, which should catch up before June 29, according to the governor’s office). “It’s breathtaking, how far and how fast we’ve come,” Cuomo said Tuesday. “The number of hospitalizations is down, the number of new COVID cases walking in the door is at an all-time low and the number of deaths is just about as low as we have seen it.” – GZ


There’s even COVID-19 over the rainbow (but Molloy adapts)

No place like home: Outgoing Molloy College President Drew Bogner, possibly returning to Kansas.

(June 1) The Molloy College community traveled to the Land of Oz (kinda) to bid farewell to retiring college president (and Kansas native) Drew Bogner, who has wrapped up a 20-year run as leader of the Rockville Centre college.

Adhering to social-distancing rules and embracing the recent trend of drive-by celebrations, Molloy students, faculty and staff paraded past the college’s Kellenberg Hall May 29, with Bogner – decked out in green duds recalling “The Wizard of Oz” – waving at well-wishers from a balcony done up to look like the balloon basket the Wiz rides back to Kansas at the end of the classic 1939 film.

While Bogner’s farewell embraced the lighter side of the COVID-19 pandemic and its new social norms, his two decades of leadership – covering the construction of three Molloy residence halls, significant enrollment growth and annual placement in prestigious collegiate rankings – were no joke. “I have loved leading the faculty, employees, staff and students of this big-city college,” Bogner said. “Our challenges now are larger than ever, and I know the college has chosen the right leadership to sustain and thrive in the days and years ahead.” – GZ


Albany unveils COVID-19 ‘early-warning’ system

Before you know it: Forewarned is forearmed.

(May 31) A new early-warning system will help state health officials get a jump on a potential COVID-19 second wave.

Albany’s expansive coronavirus data collection is now aggregated into an Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard, designed specially to help government officials and state residents track and review virus containment. Featuring daily monitoring of infection rates, the severity of reported cases, regional hospital capacity and other critical metrics, the dashboard was “developed in consultation with internationally known experts,” according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, and will prove a key tool as New York State recovers from the pandemic, according to the governor himself.

“You can see remarkably clearly what is happening in terms of the spread of the virus, the severity of the new infections [and] new infections in the region, so everyone will know exactly what’s happening and … what we’re planning to do,” Cuomo said. “This is all about opening smart, which … means you’re tracking the virus.” – GZ


Interphase NY: Five regions advance, NYC still trails

Ask not what phase it is: Things have permanently changed, Cuomo says.

(May 30) Today’s phased reopening scorecard sees five New York State regions entering Phase 2, Long Island entrenched in Phase 1 and New York City – where the percentage of COVID-19-available hospital beds remains too low – still trailing the pack.

Welcoming back office workers, on-site retail, beauty salons and traditional real estate services, among other sectors, Phase 2 is now in effect in Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, North Country and the Southern Tier. Long Island has been in Phase 1 since May 27, while Albany’s tracking system shows NYC still two metrics short of that opening recovery stage (the city also has not established a minimum of 30 contact tracing cases per 100,000 residents, which it is expected to do soon).

Phase 1 is an important step for the Big Apple, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who said clearing the hurdle would immediately add 400,000 jobs back to regional employment rolls. But nobody should have any illusions about Phase 1, Phase 2 or anything that follows, according to the governor. “Reopening does not mean we’re going back to the way things were,” Cuomo said Saturday. “Life is not about going back. We go forward. It is reopening to a new normal, a safer normal. People will be wearing masks, people will be socially distanced … it’s just a new way of interacting, which is what we have to do.” – GZ


Cuomo: No mask, no service in New York State

Cover charge: Cuomo has authorized New York shopkeepers to kick out the unmasked.

(May 28) Most of the state might be in the throes of Phase 1 reopening protocols, but Albany is reminding residents that New York On Pause rules regarding social distancing and PPE still apply – and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is throwing the weight of the law behind those regulations.

On Thursday, the governor signed an executive order authorizing businesses to deny entry to individuals who do not wear masks or face-coverings. The governor also announced that Albany would begin distributing 1 million masks across “New York City’s hardest-hit neighborhoods” today, and urged residents to use them, calling the facemasks both “deceptively effective” and “amazingly effective.”

Meanwhile, Cuomo has enlisted celebrities Rosie Perez and Chris Rock in a (clearly multicultural) effort to “build communication” on the importance of masks and social distancing. “We’re giving the store owners the right to say, ‘If you’re not wearing a mask, you can’t come in,’” the governor noted. “[Store owners have] the right to protect themselves … and the other patrons in that store. You don’t want to wear a mask, fine – but you don’t then have a right to then go into that store.” – GZ


Pandemic promotes busy hands, minds at SBU

Richard Reeder: SBU’s “overwhelming” expertise.

(May 28) No single institution, at least on Long Island, has initiated more pandemic-related action than Stony Brook University, where more than 180 different COVID-19 studies have launched since early March.

The university on Thursday counted up a body of work covering 45 academic departments across eight different colleges and schools, including “52 clinical trials centered on prevention, treatment and care of patients with COVID-19” – among 75 studies commenced at the Renaissance School of Medicine, where N95 respirator disinfection protocols, a “COVID-19 biobank” and other innovative ideas are being put through their paces.

Another 40 trials have started at the College of Arts and Sciences, with campus contributors also focusing on the pandemic’s psychological and socioeconomic effects. The scope and range of Stony Brook’s COVID-19 efforts should surprise no one, according to Vice President of Research Richard Reeder. “The overwhelming response from our researchers in this time of need shows the breadth of Stony Brook’s expertise, which spans healthcare, physical and social sciences and many other academic disciplines,” Reeder said. “Their innovative work during this crisis will help to solve many of the challenges we face now and in the future.” – GZ


Long Island, set Phase 1 and fire

(May 27) Congratulations, Long Island – Phase 1 has finally arrived.

On Wednesday, the metrics clicked into place and the Long Island region officially met the requirements for Phase 1 reopening protocols, as laid out by Albany’s NY Forward plan. With the Island’s final two metrics – a 14-day decline in COVID-19-related hospital deaths and at least 30 contact tracings per 100,000 residents – now in the books, all of New York has reached Phase 1 except New York City, where a deficit in available hospital beds is the holdup.

Before you burn your N95s in a burst of delirious liberation, please note: The Phase 1 reopening only covers construction, manufacturing, agricultural and forestry/fishing businesses, plus outdoor dining at some restaurants and curbside services at some retail locations. Those hoping to hit the mall (Phase 2) or the bar (Phase 3) still have some waiting to do, as do theatergoers, sports fans, students and teachers (all Phase 4) – and for now, New York On Pause mask and distancing requirements still apply. – GZ


Hall of Fame telethon backs LI ‘Health Care Heroes’

Ernie Canadeo: A really big show.

(May 27) Recorded contributions from A-list performers will highlight a Sunday evening telethon benefitting Long Island’s front-line healthcare workers.

The Long Island Music Hall of Fame and News 12 are co-producing the 90-minute concert, which features LIMHOF inductees and is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. May 31 on News 12’s Altice USA and Verizon Fios channels. Participating bands and artists have each recorded a performance for the show, “with most performed exclusively for this broadcast,” according to the Melville-based HOF.

Joan Jett, Blue Oyster Cult, Pat Benatar, Gary “U.S. Bonds,” Debbie Gibson, Kurtis Blow, Lisa Lisa (of Cult Jam fame) and members of the Stray Cats are among the dozen-plus performers stepping up for the concert, which directly benefits the United Way of Long Island’s United Together for Health Care Heroes program. “We are thrilled that so many of our Long Island Music Hall of Fame Inductees are contributing such high-quality performances to help support Long Island’s healthcare heroes,” noted LIMHOF Chairman Ernie Canadeo. – GZ


Cuomo comes out ringing; LI almost ready

Floor plan: The famous floor of the New York Stock Exchange partially reopened Tuesday.

(May 26) Hearts are set on reopening, freedom and “normalcy.” Minds are locked on science, rising death tolls and second waves. Reality is somewhere in between.

Against this dramatic backdrop, Gov. Andrew Cuomo took a significant symbolic step Tuesday, ringing the opening bell as the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange opened for the first time since March 23. Although New York City, as of Tuesday morning, was still three metrics short of a Phase 1 reopening, the NYSE is back in business – an important “first step,” according to the governor, who said resuming action on the “iconic floor” for the first time in two months “show[s] the nation that we will lead the way.”

While New York State leads, Long Island still trails the pack. As of Tuesday, the region was still working toward two required reopening metrics: a 14-day decline in COVID-19-related hospital deaths and 30 contact-tracing cases per 100,000 residents. Over the weekend, when announcing that the Mid-Hudson Valley region was expected to meet the Phase 1 requirements of Albany’s NY Forward plan early this week, an optimistic Cuomo said Long Island “could be ready to open by Wednesday.” – GZ


At Huntington Hospital, lunch is on the LIASB

Feed bags: Graits meals courtesy of The Sexy Salad and the LIASB arrive at Huntington Hospital.

(May 25) As the pandemic ravaged Long Island, a top regional business-networking group made sure frontline healthcare workers felt the love – with a small-business restaurateur right out in front.

Long Island Advancement of Small Business responded to the “undaunting devotion” of Huntington Hospital staffers with 135 free lunches, made possible by LIASB members and friends through a quick-but-heartfelt GoFundMe effort. John Robertson, owner of Hauppauge-based The Sexy Salad and a longtime LIASB booster, led that effort, and the not-for-profit networking group responded enthusiastically, according to President and CEO John Hill.

“Everyone on Long Island is talking about the coronavirus and how overworked the hospital workers are,” Hill noted. “I just thought it would be a nice gesture to show these heroes how much we appreciate them.” – GZ


Play ball! And take a disinfected train to the game

Long run: Extra cars will be added to LIRR trains to accommodate social distancing.

(May 24) This was not the Memorial Day holiday weekend anyone would have anticipated or hoped for, but there’s a definite light at the end of the train tunnel, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who today delivered a mass-transit update and an announcement sure to delight action-starved sports fans.

The governor’s daily coronavirus briefing touched on a number of topics near to Long Islander’s hearts – for instance, some 10,000 Island households have now received Nourish New York products, according to Cuomo, with six additional NNY distributions scheduled across the Island this week. But most likely to score with regional residents was the governor’s announcement that professional sports teams can begin training-camp operations across the state: “We are … encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible, and we will work with them to make sure that can happen.”

Also of particular interest to LI are new public-safety measures being enforced by the Metropolitan Transit Authority as the region prepares to reopen, including mask requirements, extra cars added to Long Island Rail Road trains to accommodate social distancing requirements and a daily cleaning/disinfecting plan for every train and bus in service, unprecedented in the MTA’s annals. “First time ever,” Cuomo noted. “We never disinfected buses and trains before. We never thought we had to. But we get it now, and they’re doing it every day.” – GZ


Renaissance School researchers eye existing inhibitors

(May 21) A $450,000 research grant will fuel a team of Stony Brook University microbiologists hot on the trail of new COVID-19 inhibitor drugs.

The Rye Brook-based G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Foundation (colloquially, the Mathers Foundation) has gifted researchers in the Renaissance School of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology led by Professor Nancy Reich, cytokine-signaling expert and recent president of the International Cytokine and Interferon Society. Their mission: to investigate the use of bradykinin and interferon-lambda inhibitor drugs – both FDA-approved for other uses – for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

Reich and colleagues are optimistic for two key reasons: interferon is a natural antiviral hormone – and the only known cytokine that inhibits virus replication – and bradykinin inhibitors are boffo at reducing lung inflammation due to viral infection. “Safe and effective vaccines take months to years to develop, if even attainable,” Reich noted. “There is an urgent need to identify first-line, broad-spectrum therapeutic agents that will block viral replication and alleviate the effects of … COVID-19.” – GZ


Zucker volunteers, Hempstead innovators exchange affections

Takes a village: The Hempstead School District returns the kindness of Janay Parrish (far right) and other Zucker School of Medicine volunteers.

(May 20) A mutual admiration society has formed between the Zucker School of Medicine and the Town of Hempstead’s diverse community.

Students from the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell have been volunteering for a social-distancing-approved “drive-through” delivery system that distributes much-needed meals throughout the Hempstead community, where food insecurity is common and schools traditionally provide a nutritional cornerstone. Since April, the volunteers have delivered 1,000-plus meals to Hempstead’s hungriest, according to the Zucker School.

In response, the Hempstead School District this week presented the medical school and other Long Island organizations, including the Island Harvest Food Bank, with facemasks created by Hempstead High School junior Fortuntatus Adeyemi, who led a 3D-printing effort in the Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School STEAM Lab. “Hempstead is full of children and families who have fought for many years to make the best of their circumstances, despite constant barriers such as food insecurity and health disparities,” noted third-year Zucker School student Janay Parrish. – GZ


Visitors, elective surgeries return to Nassau hospitals

Good news: It’s not a Phase 1 reopening, yet, but Gov. Cuomo had good news for Long Island on Tuesday.

(May 19) The seventh New York economic region to begin reopening procedures will be the Capital Region, but while Long Island remains two steps behind the Phase 1 pack, there’s some good news for Islanders as well: Elective surgeries and ambulatory care can resume in Nassau County.

The Capital Region (including, obviously, the City of Albany) joins the Western New York, Central New York, North Country, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley regions, all of which have met the seven metrics required for a Phase 1 reopening under the state’s NY Forward plan. Long Island is still two metrics short – combined, Nassau and Suffolk have yet to achieve 30 trace cases per 1,000 residents and a 14-day decline in COVID-19-related hospital deaths.

However, Nassau is joining 49 other counties around the state where the near-term risk of a COVID-19 surge has been deemed low enough to resume elective surgeries and ambulatory care, one of two good pieces of hospital-related news Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered Tuesday. In collaboration with the Greater New York Hospital Association and the Healthcare Association of New York State, Cuomo also announced a two-week pilot program at 16 statewide hospitals – including Northwell Health’s Plainview Hospital and Huntington Hospital – that will increase patient visitations, with vigorous testing of visitors for subsequent coronavirus symptoms. – GZ


Western New York meets reopening metrics

Shuffle off to Buffalo: The Queen City is ready for Phase 1.

(May 18) Western New York will be the state’s sixth economic region to engage Phase 1 reopening protocols, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

The zone – which includes the cities of Buffalo, Rochester and Niagara Falls, among others – will commence Phase 1 on Tuesday, joining the Central New York, North Country, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley regions in meeting the seven metrics required to begin a phased reopening, as per the state’s NY Forward plan. Phase 1 covers most construction, manufacturing, agricultural and forestry/fishing businesses, plus additional retail businesses, including outdoor dining at some restaurants.

According to Albany’s Regional Monitoring Dashboard, as of Monday afternoon, Long Island remained two monitoring metrics short of a Phase 1 reopening – though it was on the verge of clearing one of those hurdles, with contact tracing rates approaching 30 trace cases per 1,000 residents. Combined, Nassau and Suffolk also have not posted a 14-day decline in hospital deaths related to COVID-19. – GZ


Old Westbury faculty unite for virtual sendoff

(May 17) In some parallel universe, the SUNY College at Old Westbury ushered more than 1,200 students – the school’s second-largest graduating class to date – to their post-graduate destinies in a traditional commencement ceremony, flying mortarboards and all.

In this one, SUNY Old Westbury did what quarantined campuses do – a virtual graduation event, which beamed well wishes and more to the Class of 2020 from President Calvin Butts III and dozens of remote faculty members. A conventional commencement may convene at a later date, but at precisely 9 a.m. Sunday, when the regularly scheduled ceremony would have begun, graduates got their dues from Butts and some 60 participating professors.

In the nearly 30-minute prerecorded presentation, the professors chime in from disparate locations throughout an extended music-video montage, offering congratulations, advice and good luck (Assistant Biology Professor Jillian Nissen notes the Class of 2020 “will have a great story to tell”). Butts – resplendent in academic robes, at a podium in his office, with “Pomp and Circumstance” playing quietly – also commends the “amazing achievement” of both students and staff, telling graduates that “all associated with our college are proud of what you have accomplished.” – GZ


Stony Brook, Applied DNA speed top test to clinics

Silvia Spitzer: This is a test.

(May 16) A new, “highly sensitive” clinical test for detecting COVID-19 is in play at Stony Brook Medicine, courtesy of Applied DNA Sciences.

The trailblazing Stony Brook-based biotech collaborated with Stony Brook University on the new testing assay, which has received FDA Emergency Use Authorization and is quite good at sniffing out the RNA of SARS Cov-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease. The FDA’s emergency approval was based on clinical studies at Stony Brook University Hospital’s Molecular Pathology Laboratory, where Applied DNA’s testing protocol was put through its paces by Laboratory Director Silvia Spitzer and a team of pathology residents and students.

In addition to providing a critical weapon now and in case of future COVID-19 outbreaks, the new test cements the importance of scientific collaboration, according to SBU Senior Vice President and Renaissance School of Medicine Dean Kenneth Kaushansky. “It firmly represents an outstanding example of the academic-industrial collaborations that are enhancing our ability to provide the best possible care for our patients,” Kaushansky noted. – GZ


Eye candy meets commercial viability in FSC Design Expo

(May 14) They’re keeping their peepers on the prize at Farmingdale State College, where the campus is closed but the Senior Project Virtual Design Expo will still open some eyes.

Like so many other events this spring, Farmingdale State’s annual eye candy exposition has been rejiggered for your online pleasure, now slated to run here from noon to 11: 30 p.m. May 19. The half-day showcase will highlight the work of 38 students graduating from the college’s Visual Communications program, who will present “commercially viable products executed through graphic, interactive, web and product design,” according to Farmingdale State.

The expo will also peek behind the curtain to show each artist’s creative process and pandemic-induced pivot to digital learning. “We thought that instead of simply canceling the expo, we could celebrate the culmination of their work by being creative,” noted Associate Processor Donna Proper. “Having them share their work digitally [touches] those across the globe right from the comfort of home.” – GZ


SBU improves connections with non-verbal COVID-19 patients

Michelle Ballan: Good form.

(May 13) A “COVID Disability Form” designed by Stony Brook University developmental-health experts to help providers better understand and care for communication-limited patients is rapidly making its way around the country.

Noting that New York State patients with disabilities have a COVID-19 fatality rate 2.2 times higher than the overall COVID-19 rate, SBU School of Social Welfare Associate Dean of Research Michelle Ballan created the Disability Form to “reduce healthcare barriers and to help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities communicate their needs, whether the patient is verbal or non-verbal.” The form – designed to be completed by an adult with IDD or the patient’s caregiver, with space to explain specific communication patterns, triggers and other valuable information – has since been translated into Spanish and “amended for all 50 states,” according to SBU.

Ballan collaborated with Andrew Wackett, a clinical associate professor in the SBU Renaissance School of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine, who played a key role in vetting the form as it took shape. “As an emergency medicine physician and educator, I realize the importance of providing compassionate, appropriate and effective care to a range of patients, and especially including those who are unable to easily communicate for themselves,” Wackett said Wednesday. – GZ


Fourth NYS region hits Phase 1 reopening metrics

Cuomo: Set phases.

(May 13) A fourth New York State economic/geographic region has met the qualifying metrics for a Phase 1 reopening under Albany’s NY Forward plan – and no, it’s not Long Island.

Assuming current numbers hold through May 15, North Country will join the Finger Lakes, the Southern Tier and the Mohawk Valley regions in taking the Phase 1 reopening steps, meaning construction, manufacturing, agricultural, forestry/fishing and certain additional retail businesses can get back to it. But that’s only if the seven metrics – which cover new COVID-19 confirmed cases, new hospital admissions, real-time death rates and other factors – don’t turn south before Friday, when current NYS on PAUSE orders are set to expire.

As of Wednesday, Long Island was still a metric or two away from Phase 1 qualification. Between Monday and Tuesday, Suffolk County confirmed 243 new COVID-19 cases and Nassau County confirmed 153, trailing only New York City (1,127), according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. “As the numbers continue to decline and we are coming down the other side of the mountain, a lot of attention is now on reopening,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “Four regions have now met all seven metrics required to begin reopening, and we will continue to keep New Yorkers informed as this process goes forward.” – GZ


Hofstra/Northwell brass salute battle-hardened grads

(May 12) A month after they officially became doctors (which was actually a couple of months ahead of schedule, but let’s focus), the newest graduates of the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell got their just academic rewards on Monday – or at least virtual ones.

The 102-member Class of 2020 participated in an online commencement ceremony featuring Zucker School of Medicine Dean Lawrence Smith, Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling and Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz, who acknowledged that “this is not the commencement that we all imagined for you,” but noted that the new doctors – pressed into early service by the coronavirus pandemic – “know better than anyone how COVID-19 has changed our lives, in countless ways.”

The Class of 2020 will officially enter residency programs in 19 different states (including 30 entering Northwell Health programs) in July, but many have already earned their stripes, according to Smith, the Zucker School of Medicine’s founding dean. “Medical students and residents who’ve had the opportunity to work in the most disruptive environments, with dangerous illnesses, are different physicians because of that experience,” he told graduates Monday. “You worked and lived in the bullseye of this pandemic.” – GZ


Northwell steps up regional antibody testing

Dwayne Breining: Economic imperative.

(May 12) With Long Island closing in on the required metrics of a Phase 1 reopening (as defined by Albany’s NY Forward plan, see below), Northwell Health is working with public health officials on a complex antibody-testing plan aimed at protecting at-risk populations from new outbreaks.

Targeting first responders across Long Island and Westchester County, Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees and regional low-income communities, the blood tests detect previous COVID-19 infections, helping researchers understand the coronavirus’ path and prevalence within certain communities – potential keys to mitigating its future path.

Northwell Health Labs – which can now handle thousands of antibody tests daily – has already processed more than 2,500 antibody tests from Long Island first responders and was scheduled to begin testing their Westchester compatriots Tuesday, with an MTA testing plan on the way. “It’s imperative that we provide this critical testing to our frontline heroes and the local communities that have been hardest hit by this,” said Northwell Health Labs Executive Director Dwayne Breining. “This testing provides quick and reliable results which … will be critical to opening up our economy.” – GZ


Three NY zones set to reopen, two more to follow 

“Forward” march: Albany has a plan.

(May 11) Strap yourselves in, dear readers – New York State is reopening, at least in spots.

Three of the state’s economic zones (the Southern Tier, the Finger Lakes and the Mohawk Valley) have hit all seven of the metrics (lower hospital admissions, fewer reported cases and others) required to engage Phase One of NY Forward, Albany’s comprehensive reopening strategy – and if those numbers hold through May 15 (when current NYS on PAUSE orders expire) will become the first state corners to begin the long voyage back to “normal.” In accordance with state and federal health restrictions, counties and municipalities within the cleared zones will be able to kickstart construction, manufacturing, agricultural, forestry/fishing and additional retail businesses.

The North Country and Central New York regions have met six of the seven metrics and could also be deemed ready this week, while Albany has launched a real-time Regional Monitoring Dashboard to keep other areas in the reopening loop. “We are starting a new chapter in the fight against this virus,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. “We’ve worked together as a state to flatten the curve and the decline has finally reached a point where … we can turn to reopening.” – GZ


Online bereavement groups help fill grieving gaps

(May 10) Adding sharp insult to the pandemic’s grievous injury, COVID-19’s mounting death tolls are being met by a deafening, heart-rending religious silence: No Christian wakes. No Jewish Shivas. No three-day mourning, always a time to receive family and visitors, for Muslims.

Two of Long Island’s leading mental-health organizations – the Mental Health Association of Nassau County and the Association for Mental Health and Wellness – have united to meet this forlorn challenge, creating a series of Online Bereavement Support Groups specifically for loved ones of COVID-19 victims who are unable to grieve in conventional ways because of social distancing and quasi-quarantines. Remote weekly sessions catering to veterans, peers and other specific adult groups are scheduled to kick off May 19; more information here.

Association for Mental Health and Wellness CEO Michael Stoltz noted the sessions would be led by “skilled and sensitive grief counselors who are well-qualified to help participants build comforting pathways for healing, even in a technologically remote setting,” while MHA of Nassau County Executive Director Jeffrey McQueen said the teams were dedicated to helping Long Islanders through this sad chapter of the pandemic. “Grieving remotely can’t fully replace the face-to-face experience,” McQueen noted. “But it can help reinforce feelings of hope and help fill the void.” – GZ


Bethpage warns of COVID-19 text, phone scams

Sorry, wrong number: Won’t be fooled again.

(May 7) New York’s largest credit union is warning its members, and everyone else, that widespread financial scams are on the rise, with grifters leveraging common coronavirus concerns to swindle unsuspecting victims.

Bethpage Federal Credit Union on Thursday cited “an increase in fraudulent incidents involving both consumers and businesses,” including an “exceedingly prevalent COVID-19 financial scam” that sees fraudsters impersonating financial institutions to harvest personal information. The con involves a text message that appears to be from a financial institution (false), asking the victim to verify a “suspicious” transaction (nonexistent); when the victim denies the transaction, a call from the financial institution follows (it’s not), with the caller (the crook) fishing for Social Security numbers, account PINs and more.

In response, Bethpage is proactively reaching out to members and offering several general antifraud tips: don’t trust your caller ID, avoid Western Union and MoneyGram payments, always hang up on robocalls. “New Yorkers need to be aware of the increased risk of attempted fraud and heightened vulnerabilities created by the coronavirus,” said Bethpage Chief Risk Officer Scott Gyllensten. “Consumers should be especially vigilant now, as New York is experiencing an increase in the frequency and sophistication of fraud attempts during this unprecedented time.” – GZ


Wary PM Pediatrics adds antibody testing, keeps guard up

(May 7) Confirmed current COVID-19 cases and related deaths are both in blessed decline in New York State – but with numbers rising in other national hotspots, increased talk of an autumnal resurgence and a new coronavirus-related illness slowly hospitalizing children, the nation’s largest provider of pediatric urgent care is taking no chances.

New Hyde Park-based PM Pediatrics, which operates eight Long Island offices and 55 total facilities across 13 states, announced this week that COVID-19 antibody testing is now being offered at 36 of its offices nationwide (including offices in Manhasset, Selden, Commack, Massapequa Park, Syosset and Carle Place), while coronavirus testing is still being offered at 21 offices (including the Selden office) and potential COVID-19 symptoms are still being assessed virtually via the PM Pediatric Anywhere telehealth platform.

Meanwhile, the practice group is joining other healthcare professionals warning patients who might need non-coronavirus-related medical attention not to avoid it because of pandemic-induced fear. “Some injuries still need to be seen in person in a timely fashion, such as large lacerations, burns, broken bones and other non-coronavirus-related conditions,” noted PM Pediatrics Senior Medical Advisor Christina Johns. “Telemedicine can also provide an excellent gateway to help families determine what level of in-person care they may need, if any.” – GZ


Adelphi opts out of SAT, ACT application requirements

Kristen Capezza: Holistic scoring.

(May 6) A growing movement to do away with standardized testing as a college-application measure – strengthened by the pandemic’s haywire fritzing of education on every level – has added a prominent Long Island institution.

Adelphi University said Wednesday it will adopt a “test-optional policy” for Fall 2021 admissions, meaning current high school juniors can opt out of standardized tests like the SAT and the ACT and still apply – and possibly gain admission – to the Garden City university. The Adelphi Faculty Senate approved the measure this week, giving the coast-to-coast movement toward temporary (and permanent) opt-out protocols fresh momentum; national data aggregator FairTest now counts more than 1,160 accredited four-year colleges and universities with SAT/ACT-optional policies for Fall 2021 admission.

For now, Adelphi’s opt-out policy is temporary, covering Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 admissions only. “Adelphi has long held a commitment to the holistic review of applications for admission, recognizing that a test score does not always reflect the potential of an individual,” noted Kristen Capezza, vice president for enrollment management and university communications. “We believe a shift to test-optional offers the flexibility needed during this unprecedented time and removes barriers for our applicants.” – GZ


Analysis: New York among nation’s most coronavirus-restrictive

Strictly speaking: New York is one of the most restrictive states regarding the reopening of non-essential businesses.

(May 5) Break out the camouflage and strap on a semi, citizen – it may be time for a peaceful protest in New York, which a recent study pegs as one of the most restrictive states in the union regarding coronavirus controls.

Based on information available through midday May 4, data aggregator Wallethub’s latest analysis places the Empire State below the national curve (or ahead of it, depending on your politics) in several key categories: 12th-most-restrictive on large gatherings (out of 50 states and the District of Columbia), 16th-most on the reopening of non-essential businesses and 20th most on public facemask requirements. Add it all up, and New York is the nation’s seventh-most restrictive state; only Hawaii, Rhode Island, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the District of Columbia have a tighter grip, according to the study.

Before we liberate Albany, though, consider that New York’s tougher-than-most approach is influencing another key metric: In addition to being the nation’s seventh-most-restrictive state, New York – the first U.S. coronavirus epicenter – posted the third-lowest COVID-19 death rate over the past week, according to Wallethub. – GZ


Feds praise half-trillion-dollar (and counting) PPP

Steve Mnuchin: PPP on-point.

(May 3) United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin praised the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program on Sunday, noting half-a-trillion dollars has already been floated to small businesses across the country.

In a joint statement issued with U.S. SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza, Mnuchin said the PPP is “providing critical support to millions of small businesses and tens of millions of hardworking Americans,” and shared some remarkable statistics, including some 2.2 million loans (totaling more than $175 million) already executed in Round 2 of the PPP – which only began on April 27 – and about 3.8 million loans processed since the program officially kicked off April 2.

Most notable, according to the joint statement, is not necessarily the half-trillion-dollars-or-so lent to U.S. businesses, but that the average Round 2 loan size was around $79,000 – indicating the PPP is reaching its intended target, the smallest of small U.S. businesses. “We are fully committed to ensuring that American workers and small businesses continue to get the resources they need to get through this challenging time,” Mnuchin and Carranza said in their statement. – GZ


Gold Coast Arts Center soothes slowdown with select streaming

(May 2) Some Hollywood studios are in hot water with national theater chains for a particular pandemic pivot: skipping theatrical releases altogether and streaming new releases for home viewing.

But there’s little doubt that at-home movie-watching, including a selection of first-run flicks, has been a soothing balm on COVID-19’s wounds – and to that end, the Great Neck-based Gold Coast Arts Center has stepped up its streaming game, partnering with distributors and filmmakers to present the Gold Coast Arts Virtual Cinema Series. Between May 4 and May 31, for instance, the coronavirus-inspired series will feature “What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael,” a 2018 documentary about the work and life of controversial film critic Pauline Kael and her profound effect on 20th century cinema.

The Virtual Cinema Series is also taking time this pandemic to remember beloved Hollywood actor Brian Dennehy, who passed away last month at the age of 81. This week, Gold Coast Arts – which welcomed Dennehy in 2013 for an on-stage one-on-one conversation with producer and media personality Phil Donahue – will roll out “Driveways,” a 2019 independent drama that would be the Chaminade High School graduate’s final performance. Learn more here about the flick and the Virtual Cinema Series. – GZ


‘Western’ medicine proves a godsend for Northwell

Mountain folk: As COVID-19 peaked, volunteer doctors, nurses and other providers from Utah’s Intermountain Healthcare rode to Northwell Health’s rescue.

(May 1) Like heroes riding off into the sunset, dozens of volunteer healthcare professionals have returned home to Utah after helping Northwell Health through the teeth of the coronavirus crisis.

Doctors, nurses and other providers employed by the Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare system were thanked in person by Northwell Health executives in an informal ceremony Friday, before 36 of the 48 volunteers headed home. The healthcare professionals had worked alongside Northwell staffers at New Hyde Park’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Manhasset’s North Shore University Hospital and Bayshore’s Southside Hospital – three of the region’s hardest-hit facilities, according to Northwell.

And since arriving on Long Island April 14, the volunteers – including a pharmacist and three respiratory therapists, along with six doctors and 28 nurses – “have been absolutely terrific,” according to Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling, among the Northwell execs thanking the Utah contingent and wishing them a safe journey home. “We were hit by a tsunami,” Dowling told them Friday. “When we reached out, Intermountain could not have been more helpful and moved very quickly. The assistance you provided was extraordinary.” – GZ


…and all for one at hardworking Farmingdale State

Jorge Osario: Call to action.

(April 30) It’s no surprise that major-league universities like Stony Brook (with its cutting-edge laboratories and additive-manufacturing facilities) and Hofstra (BFF with Northwell Health and its intense research capabilities) have risen to COVID-19’s challenge. But on Long Island, virtually every educational institution has pitched in – particularly Farmingdale State College, where service to staff, students and community has been the pandemic mantra.

For example: FSC alum Jorge Osorio, now part of the college’s Human Resource Department and the U.S. Naval Reserve, who’s been helping the New York State Naval Militia test community members for the disease at a drive-through Jones Beach station. And the college’s Medical Laboratory Science and Nursing departments, which have jointly contributed crates of alcohol wipes, facemasks, hand sanitizer and more to hospitals in Plainview and Syosset.

Not to mention the Biology Department, which donated lab coats and face shields to frontline healthcare providers; a quickly and smartly organized Farmingdale College Foundation emergency fund for students in financial crisis, which raised and distributed upwards of $14,000 in mere days; and the Farmingdale State Small Business Development Center, which has already helped more than 200 startups and early-stage enterprises identify and pursue emergency federal funding. Learn more here about Farmingdale State’s busy pandemic. – GZ


LI cosmetic surgeon taps rich vein ‘above the mask’

Stephen Greenberg: Definitely accepts plastic.

(April 30) Carefully balancing cynical opportunism, savvy business promotion and bona fide innovation, a Hamptons plastic surgeon has reported a sharp spike in virtual “above the mask” consultations – a rising concern, according to cosmetic surgeon Stephen Greenberg, with a “masked summer” approaching.

Yes, the pesky pandemic that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and crippled the national economy also has focused some Americans on “areas like the eyebrows and forehead, which remain visible when wearing a facemask to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus,” according to a release from the University of Pennsylvania- and Albert Einstein College of Medicine-educated MD.

And with the national lockdown slowly unlocking, “thousands” of clients are now seeking online consultations, noted the highly rated cosmetic surgeon, who maintains offices in Southampton, Woodbury and Florida. Belying his normal springtime work – usually a busy season for lip fillers, chin surgeries and neck lifts – Greenberg now finds himself neck-deep in virtual consultations about foreheads and cheekbones, with special attention on reversing aging effects around the eyes. Face the facts here. – GZ


Feds, state unite for essential-worker childcare effort

(April 29) As the pandemic drags on, many still-on-the-job essential workers face an endless double dilemma: Not only are they risking themselves and their loved ones to viral exposure, but virtually all traditional childcare options have suddenly blinked away.

The Economic Opportunity Council of Suffolk is notifying qualified parents about “tuition scholarships” that can send their children to the Way to Grow Child Care/Learning Center, an East Patchogue childcare- and early childhood education-services provider greenlighted to operate through the lockdown. The center, which is focused now on essential workers’ kids, follows CDC-recommended COVID-19 safety precautions and is stocked with essentials such as masks, gloves, diapers and baby formula.

The scholarships are covered by a $30 million New York State allocation, through the federal CARES act, to provide for the childcare costs of government-designated essential workers including healthcare providers, pharmaceutical staff, grocery store employees, police and fire personnel and others (complete list here, income restrictions apply). Interested parents can apply here and expect a response from the Child Care Council of Suffolk within 24 hours. – GZ


This pandemic, get in touch with your inner Caligula

(April 29) Offering “discreet hookups” for “singles and swingers,” AdultFriendFinder makes no bones about its carnal nature (the occasional pandemic-induced pivot toward committed unions notwithstanding, see below).

Now, the matchmaker – think SnapSext with a modicum more class, or Ashley Madison with a smidge less – is embracing its erotic self with Virgy, billed as “a safe environment for people looking to explore orgies during COVID-19.” And lest you think Virgy is just some dime-a-dozen videoconferencing platform stripped down for some pandemic-panky, think again: Not only are many would-be online orgists “unsure if traditional platforms like Zoom or Google Hangouts are best to host NSW events,” AFF notes, but “Zoom recently announced that it’ll be cracking down on virtual sex parties to limit nudity.”

Enter Virgy, a sex-party platform where users can feel comfortable (“stress and fear are major libido buzzkills”) and there’s bandwidth aplenty to avoid lags or other “mood-killing glitches,” according to AFF. “With large gatherings banned across the country … we wanted to create a venue geared specifically for virtual orgies,” said AFF strategy director Gunner Taylor. “We’re all about embracing sex positivity and providing an engaging platform for people looking to find quick flings, casual partners [or] long-term relationships.” – GZ


Exhausted ‘essentials,’ you are not alone

Lisa Burch: How was your day?

(April 28) The great 2020 pandemic is challenging different groups in different ways, whether they’re trapped at home by the quasi-quarantines or braving the front lines and remaining at their “essential” posts.

That second group – essential workers, and not only brave healthcare providers but supermarket clerks, gas station attendants, take-out chefs and many others still reporting for duty – can now find a sympathetic ear and more on a new helpline from one of the coronavirus crisis’ busiest Long Island innovators: the Mineola-based Family & Children’s Association, which has flipped the switch on the Essential Worker Support Line, a call-in support system for the overworked, frightened or otherwise stressed out.

Available Monday to Friday between 7 a.m. and midnight, the helpline – at (516) 281-0202 – is designed to offer mental health and wellness resources, provide a friendly voice or just let overwrought front-liners let it all out. “Many of us have watched those we know and love break down after long shifts in hospitals and nursing homes, or be filled with anxiety after spending all day trying to keep the shelves stocked at the local market,” noted FCA Chief Operating Officer Lisa Burch. “Sometimes you just need to pick up the phone and talk to someone about your day.” – GZ


Tourism agency discovers new ways to help Long Island

Survivor Island: Nautical theme, noble cause.

(April 27) With regional tourism at a “crippling halt,” Long Island’s primary visitor’s bureau is finding new ways to support its target industries and otherwise stay useful – including some big assists for a specific at-need population.

Discover Long Island has adopted “Hold Fast” (originally a Dutch nautical term) as its pandemic mantra and slapped it onto a T-shirt with an image of a figure-8 knot (an essential sailing knot), and is selling the shirts online with proceeds directly benefitting Island hospitality employees caught in COVID-19’s gears. (Regional employers can visit here to nominate workers in need.)

The agency has also teamed up with the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association to distribute protective masks to regional hospitality and tourism workers still on the job. “This is a very difficult and heartbreaking time for our industry, and many of our hospitality and tourism partners are being forced to make unthinkable choices related to their businesses and their employees,” noted Discover Long Island President and CEO Kristen Jarnagin. “We are proud to provide this assistance to our hospitality employees, many of whom are working to provide lodging for essential healthcare workers.” – GZ


Cuomo outlines multiphase NYS reopening plan

Cuomo: Step by step.

(April 26) Set phases for restart: Albany has a plan to reopen New York – and “re-imagine a new normal for the state” – that will bring back businesses gradually, starting with construction and manufacturing industries.

The strategy, laid out Sunday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, kicks off with a required 14-day decline in regional coronavirus hospitalization rates. Once that metric is met, regions can begin a phased reopening, starting with those employee-heavy, economically critical building trades. After a two-week monitoring phase, the region can then move on to Phase 2, with businesses that are both “more essential” and carrying inherently low risks of workplace and customer infections greenlighted next.

The plan – which also coordinates the revival of transportation systems, schools, parks, beaches and certain seasonal businesses – will be executed in conjunction with other regional states, Cuomo said Sunday. “The great achievement in this period has been that when people get the facts, and they trust the facts, and they understand the facts, they do the right thing,” the governor noted. “And we talk about reopening, we talk about re-imagining … let’s start to put some meat on the bones of what we’re talking about so people understand.” – GZ


SBUH stars earn bucks in runaway coffee fundraiser

Turbo shot: No last drop, yet, for caffeinated fundraiser.

(April 25) Grassroots generosity is in overdrive around Stony Brook University Hospital, where a community effort to support hospital heroes has gone venti-sized – or is it “trenta-sized?”

Whatever, it’s huge – $18,000-plus (and counting), all of it earmarked for complimentary Starbucks coffee and products for SBUH staffers, and way more than fundraiser organizers originally targeted. That’s according to Holly Smugala, who joined friends Patti Kozlowski, Nicole Volpini and Stefanie Devery to form Starbucks for Stony Brook Hospital Superstars with the kindly goal of raising $1,000 and distributing a few coffeehouse gift cards around SBUH facilities.

But the social media fundraiser took off immediately – “We reached [$1,000] in about an hour,” Smugala said – and is now pumping Starbucks steadily to SBUH, with employees sharing a multitude of $250 gift cards and the java flowing. “Now, we just want to see how much it will grow,” the co-organizer noted. “We don’t know how long this is going to go on, and we don’t want to stop until it stops.” – GZ


Adelphi International Services steps up for stranded students

Wendy Badala: The comforts of home.

(April 23) “Shelter at home” is a particular challenge for international travelers caught in the switches by the coronavirus – including foreign students studying in the United States, many of whom are stuck thousands of miles from home at the height of a protracted global crisis.

To that end, Adelphi University’s Office of International Services has expanded its slate of services (virtually, of course) to provide assistance and comfort to some 700 members of Adelphi’s international community. That includes 111 registered Adelphi students who were able to return to their home countries before the lockdowns and quasi-quarantines kicked in and 553 who’ve remained in the States – including 33 still hunkered down on Adelphi’s Garden City campus.

Access to on-site food options for those campus-bound students and informal videoconferences for all international students – featuring regulatory updates and other COVID-19 information – are just part of the effort, which is critical to a population that faces “distinct challenges” during the pandemic, according to Wendy Badala, Adelphi’s director of international services. “We have successfully transitioned to be fully operational externally,” Badala said Thursday. “It is important to me personally that the international community knows that International Services is committed to supporting you.” – GZ


Spud finder: Bushwick drops 15 tons on Island Harvest

You say potato: Mark Watney knows all about that.

(April 22) In a coronavirus response that’s part agricultural, part “The Martian” and all heart, one of Long Island’s busiest foodbanks – made even busier by the hardships of the pandemic – has received a massive donation of potatoes.

Approximately 30,000 pounds of them, actually, gifted by the Bushwick Potato Commission – a Farmingdale-based produce grower and distributor – to Island Harvest Food Bank, where the spuds will go a long way for “people across Long Island struggling to feed their families because of the economic havoc created by the pandemic,” according to Island Harvest President and CEO Randi Shubin Dresner.

Potatoes, of course, were the primary survival sustenance of food-insecure astronaut Mark Watney, accidentally stranded on Mars in the Andy Weir novel (and subsequent motion picture) “The Martian.” On Earth, they’ll be key to Hauppauge-based Island Harvest’s ongoing efforts, which have distributed more than 1 million pounds of food – at more than 330 pick-up sites – across Nassau and Suffolk since early March. “We are proud to be able to give back when Long Islanders need it most,” noted Bushwick Potato Commission VP Ken Gray. – GZ


SBU goes full MacGyver with spare-parts ventilator

Kenneth Kaushansky: Mergers and academicians.

(April 21) From the Work With What You’ve Got File comes the CoreVent 2020, an emergency backup ventilator machine designed, prototyped and tested on an advanced lung simulator – in just 10 days – by an industrious crew of Stony Brook University faculty, physicians and engineers.

Combining resources from SBU’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, School of Health Technology and Management and Renaissance School of Medicine, the innovative team – led by Mechanical Engineering Professor Jon Longtin, the CEAS’s associate dean of research and entrepreneurship – worked day and night along an “aggressive timeline” to create the CoreVent 2020, a pressure-cycled, time-limited ventilator complete with assisted-breathing mode, low- and high-pressure alarms, visual status indicators, a menu-based computer interface and more.

Assembled from non-proprietary parts readily available from multiple vendors, the CoreVent 2020 is hardly slapdash, but rather scientifically designed to come together easily and function simply – the ideal emergency standby at a time when ventilators are in critical need and short supply, according to Renaissance School Dean Kenneth Kaushansky. “It is vital that all corners of a research-oriented university be engaged to solve the myriad problems facing healthcare professionals,” noted Kaushansky, also Stony Brook Medicine’s vice president for Health Sciences. “The merging of the talents of the faculty and staff of the three schools defines Stony Brook very well indeed.” – GZ


With barrier-bucking helpline, FCA también habla español  

(April 21) With official Nassau and Suffolk county agencies working to provide digital pandemic-related resources for Spanish-speaking audiences (see below), several private and not-for-profit groups are doing the same – including the Mineola-based Family & Children’s Association, which has launched a bi-county, bilingual COVID-19 Crisis Helpline.

Noting that Long Island immigrant communities are “especially shaken” by the healthcare emergency and its resulting lockdowns, the FCA – a 135-year-old nonprofit servicing some 30,000 Long Island children, seniors and families annually – has two goals with its English- and Spanish-speaking helpline: provide information on emergency resources to everyone who needs it, and remove “barriers to care” around immigrant populations.

The helpline – available at (516) 546-0357 – is part of the FCA’s new Immigrant and Refugee Support Services program, which is funded by the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation and the Hearst Foundation and also includes medical advocacy information and referrals to food programs and legal services, among other resources. “FCA has a long history of assisting our region’s Spanish-speaking populations and recently arrived immigrants,” noted Family & Children’s Association President and CEO Jeffrey Reynolds. “Naturally, we wanted to fill this gap in service delivery.” – GZ


Northwell staffers earn bonus checks, extra PTO

Michael Dowling: Couldn’t do it without you.

(April 20) Acknowledging “the bravery of its front-line staff” during the pandemic, Northwell Health on Monday announced a handsome bonus and an extra week of paid vacation time for health system staffers.

For New York State’s largest healthcare provider (by number of patients and number of providers) and largest private employer (68,000-plus), this is no mean feat: Including nurses, physicians, environmental-services workers, housekeepers, corporate staffers and other union and non-union employees, New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health estimates that some 45,000 “team members” are eligible for the lump-sum payment and supplemental paid time off, which employees can cash in “at any time during their employment with the health system,” according to Northwell.

But it’s a worthwhile investment, noted Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling, who thanked Northwell’s trustees for their generosity, trumpeted a system-wide pandemic response that’s “been nothing short of heroic” and said Northwell’s front-line caregivers and back-office support staff have more than earned the accolades. “We want to continue to support, motivate and inspire our team members,” Dowling added. “We celebrate their wins, recognize their heroic work and amplify the outpouring of community support they are receiving for their courageous actions.” – GZ


Stony Brook eyes COVID-19, diabetes connection

Joshua Miller: Pandemic, with sugar on top.

(April 19) Scientists unravelling the mystery of the novel coronavirus have made an intriguing and important discovery: The COVID-19 disease has a significant impact on blood-sugar levels in both diabetic and non-diabetic patients.

Now, Stony Brook University researchers are working with California-based diabetes-management expert Dexcom to recognize and treat COVID-19 patients who may also be suffering a blood-sugar crisis, or are approaching one. The Stony Brook Medicine Diabetes Program is modifying its reporting platform using FDA-approved, wearable Decxom technology that tracks glucose levels in coronavirus patients, even remotely – potentially, a life-saver for patients and healthcare workers alike.

The new system will both reduce PPE usage and limit viral exposure, according to Stony Brook Medicine, while potentially staving off blood-sugar crises in coronavirus patients. “COVID-19 has profound and unprecedented impact on glycemic control in patients both with and without a known history of diabetes,” noted Joshua Miller, an assistant professor of endocrinology and metabolism at the Renaissance School of Medicine and director of Stony Brook Medicine’s diabetes unit. – GZ


Masks, in 3D: SUNY, CUNY makers churn out PPE

Face it: David Ecker, director of SBU’s iCREATE program.

(April 18) College campuses across Greater New York are cranking out the PPE, with State University of New York and City University of New York facilities producing upwards of 2,400 face shields per day.

The personal protective equipment, critical to healthcare workers on the COVID-19 front, is rolling out of SUNY and CUNY 3D-printing facilities, with 18 state university campuses – including Stony Brook University – manufacturing 2,100 per day and six CUNY schools supplying the rest. And production across both systems is expected to rise this week, as 3D-production materials make their way to additional SUNY and CUNY campuses.

“Our talented faculty and students are using their time, energy and ingenuity to make a significant contribution to our battle against COVID-19,” noted SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson, while CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez suggested “no greater cause at the moment,” adding, “We are proud to stand with New York City and do what we can to help those on the front lines of the war against COVID-19.” – GZ


Small-business advice from NYCB LIVE, on tape

(April 17) NYCB LIVE – the home of, or the outer shell surrounding, or whatever, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum – has assembled a virtual panel of regional business owners, executives and entrepreneurs for an online panel discussion considering “The Importance of Team,” a critic topic at the height of the pandemic.

Moderated by Discover Long Island President and CEO Kristen Jarnigan, the panel – including Pipeline Coffee owner Pat Tighe, Hal’s New York Director of Brand Development Stephanie Reda and regional property developer Nick Galanis – features NYCB LIVE partners who understand that “teamwork is essential to running any successful company,” according to NYCB LIVE Senior Vice President Nick Vaerewyck. The discussion, in its entirely, is streaming here.

“This discussion with local business leaders will enable us to explore ways to make teamwork more effective and be a resource for other businesses in the region,” Vaerewyck said Friday. “It’s imperative, especially now as many businesses adapt … to meet new demands.” – GZ


Hold that pause: Freeze extended through late spring

Freeze frame: Hold that homebound thought.

(April 16) The light at the end of the tunnel is a little farther off than you might have hoped: Gov. Andrew Cuomo is officially keeping his finger on the state’s pause button for another month at least.

The governor, “in consultation with other regional states,” announced Thursday that all New York State on Pause restrictions – the closure of nonessential businesses, moratoriums on residential evictions and more, all detailed in a 10-point plan effected March 20 by executive order – will be extended until May 15. New York and its Northeast partner states will reassess at that time, noted Cuomo, who said he doesn’t want to jump too far ahead and promised “the experts will tell us the best course of conduct based on [the] data.”

“One month is a long time,” the governor added. “Tell me what our infection rate spread is … tell me what the hospitalization rate is. No political decisions, no emotional decisions. Data and science. We’re talking about human lives here.” – GZ


Mobile Stroke Unit relieves pressure on packed hospitals

David Fiorella: Stroking the numbers.

(April 16) To ease the burden of overwhelmed regional hospitals, Stony Brook Medicine’s Mobile Stroke Unit is maintaining its appointed rounds through the teeth of the pandemic.

Founded in late 2018 by neurosurgery/radiology professor David Fiorella, director of the Stony Brook University Cerebrovascular Center, the MSU dispatches two specially equipped ambulances to treat stroke victims in the field. While the units are only available within specific zones at specific times, they aim to reach victims within 20 minutes of their stroke – a critical treatment window – and keep them out of emergency rooms, especially important now.

The MSU’s “mobile stroke emergency rooms” respond to calls within 10 miles of their two bases – at Long Island Expressway exits 57 in Islandia and 68 in Yaphank – between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week. The latest “Beyond the Expected” podcast, featuring Fiorella and Interim Stony Brook University President Michael Bernstein, has more. – GZ


Counties keeping Spanish-speakers en el lazo

Gregson Pigott: El habla español.

(April 15) Both Nassau and Suffolk Counties are working to give Spanish-speaking residents access to up-to-date information and local, state and federal services related to the coronavirus.

Nassau County’s Office of Hispanic Affairs has created a coronavirus landing page that outlines, in Spanish, the county’s COVID-19 response actions. The page, which includes contact information for Executive Director Amy Flores, links to a number of pandemic-related resources for residents and small-business owners – including U.S. Small Business Administration pages presented in both English and Spanish – and directs visitors to OHA services temporarily being conducted by phone, email and the multimedia communications platform WhatsApp.

The Suffolk County Department of Health, meanwhile, has posted a similarly stocked landing page of residential and commercial coronavirus resources – including a link to a Harvard Health Publishing project that translates critical COVID-19 information into 37 languages, including Spanish. The Health Department page also includes a video message from newly appointed (and multilingual) Suffolk County Health Commissioner Gregson Pigott, who speaks in Spanish about the county’s pandemic response. – GZ


Suffolk IDA heads tax-break effort for PPE manufacturers

Steve Bellone: Smart move all around.

(April 15) A coalition of Suffolk County economic-development agencies has developed a tax-relief program for manufacturers cranking out personal protective equipment, disinfectants and other products aiding the public and front-line pandemic responders.

The Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency, “in collaboration with Suffolk County’s broader economic development agencies,” on Tuesday announced the COVID-19 Sales Tax Relief Equipment Program, which establishes sales- and use-tax exemptions of up to $100,000 for manufacturers, suppliers and distributors helping get essential equipment to ERs and priority PPE to the people. Tax abatements of up to six months (maybe extensions, too) are in the offing, with all Suffolk-based manufacturers engaged in the pandemic response eligible to apply and county economic-development officials making case-by-case calls.

Businesses who fit the criteria are encouraged to contact the Suffolk IDA at or (631) 853-4802 to learn more about the new program. “This new County IDA program will help provide the financial relief our businesses need,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Tuesday, “all while helping to save lives and bolster the county’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.” – GZ


Study: NYS tourism managing crisis better than most

Vacancy: That empty feeling, at iconic Southampton motel The Atlantic.

(April 14) A new analysis of COVID-19’s travel and tourism consequences suggests New York’s tourism industries have weathered the pandemic better than counterparts in 40 other states.

With spring weekends falling fast and the summer season in serious jeopardy, that’s small solace to East End hoteliers and vineyard owners. But it’s also a passing grade of sorts for Albany, charged with managing the coronavirus’ national epicenter in a state that is very much a tourism magnet, including the capital city of Earth, Hamptons hotspots, Long Island’s delightfully day-trippy wineries and 50,000 square miles of lakes and mountains.

With all that on the line, the Empire State has done a better job responding to the crisis, travel-wise, than other high-tourism states, according to statistical aggregator WalletHub, which calculated metrics such as travel/tourism dependency and presence of stay-home orders to rank New York’s tourism industry as the nation’s ninth-most-affected – faring better than tourism operations in Hawaii, Nevada and Florida, among other popular destinations. Check out WalletHub’s full tourism-impact study here. – GZ


Seven states join Northeast’s COVID-19 recovery coalition

Cuomo: It takes a region.

(April 13) From the Department of Hang Together or Hang Separately comes Charlie Baker, the latest Northeast governor to hitch his state’s wagon to a regional coalition targeting smart and effective methods for restarting the U.S. economy.

Baker, chief executive of Massachusetts, joins the governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Delaware on the Northeast council, which will include one health expert and one economic-development expert from each state – as well as each governor’s respective chief of staff – in ongoing discussions to “develop a fully integrated regional framework to gradually lift the states’ stay-at-home orders while minimizing the risk of increased spread of [COVID-19],” according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

The now seven-state council will focus on testing, contact tracing, treatment and social distancing and will rely on the best-available scientific, social and economic information to formulate its strategy, Cuomo said Monday. “It is time to start opening the valve slowly and carefully while watching the infection rate meter, so we don’t trigger a second wave of new infections,” the governor added. “We have to come up with a smart, consistent strategy to restart the systems we shut down and get people back to work – and to the extent possible we want to do that through a regional approach, because we are a regional economy.” – GZ


Albany issues employer mask, expanded antibody orders

Drop zone: Masked employees and more antibody testers … Easter in 2020.

(April 12) The days of waiting a respectful six feet behind the next person in line, ordering your cold brew with unsweetened blueberry and two Splendas through a virus-proof plexiglass shield and wondering why the dude making your coffee isn’t wearing a mask are over.

On Easter, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order requiring all New York employers to provide essential workers with cloth or surgical masks, free of charge, to wear when directly interacting with the public. The order coincides with a new state directive expanding the number of people eligible to conduct antibody tests – essentially, allowing laboratory employees to conduct them individually, accelerating the search for a COVID-19 cure.

“The big question for everyone right now is when do we reopen the economy, but first we need to make sure we have a smart, safe and coordinated plan in place to do it without risking public health,” Cuomo said Sunday. “These measures will be key to getting people back to work and making sure they are protected when they do go back.” – GZ


Nixon Peabody serves response course for restaurateurs

(April 11) As part of its Coronavirus Response Team, Nixon Peabody tracks funding opportunities and regulatory developments and chops them into industry-specific, bite-sized web articles – including a recent review of “special considerations” for restaurants under the CARES Act, the federal government’s coronavirus economic-relief plan.

The article – by Corporate Practice Group associate Wesley Gangi and Keri McWilliams, co-leader of Nixon Peabody’s Franchise & Distribution team – technically applies to all franchised businesses, earning it the “franchise law alert” the international law firm issued with its April 7 release. But Long Island’s restaurateurs, winemakers and craft brewers will be especially interested in its content, which covers CARE act provisions applicable across the food and beverage industries.

Among the highlights: breakdowns of the emergency law’s Paycheck Protection Program and critical changes to the SBA’s lending rules, among other provisions important to food businesses suffering the full brunt of the great pandemic. “While few sectors are likely to be spared from the economic consequences of COVID-19, the leisure and hospitality segments have been among the hardest hit,” the authors note. – GZ


Chembio adds point-of-care expertise to SBU blood shot

(April 9) A Long Island biotech known for putting assays in the seats is partnering with Stony Brook Medicine on an ambitious coronavirus-treatment trial.

Medford-based Chembio Diagnostic Systems – the veteran point-of-care diagnostics specialist known best for rapid field tests detecting dengue, zika and other contagions – is collaborating with a Stony Brook team on an ambitious effort to extract precious antibodies from the blood of COVID-19 survivors and brew up a “convalescent serum” (see next story below). Chembio’s patented Dual Path Platform, which is aces at detecting and measuring immunoglobulin M (the first antibody produced against an infection) and immunoglobulin G (the most abundant antibody) is SBU’s “assay of choice,” according to the company.

The collaboration is a welcome opportunity for Chembio, which has received FDA clearance to market its Dual Path Platform IgM and IgG assay system. “[The DPP] read(s) the test results for both IgM and IgG from finger-stick blood in 15 minutes and give(s) a numerical result related to the amount of antibody in the sample,” noted Executive Vice President Javan Esfandiari, Chembio’s chief science and technology officer. “This takes away the individual subjectivity of results and increases the sensitivity and specificity of the test.” – GZ


Survivors bring new blood to COVID-19 fight

Is antibody out there: Stony Brook Medicine professor and researcher Elliott Bennett-Guerrero plans to treat 500 Long Island-area COVID-19 patients with a serum derived from the blood of coronavirus survivors.

(April 9) Attention, COVID-19 survivors: Stony Brook Medicine wants you. At least, your blood.

In league with researchers across the land, and in collaboration with Medford-based point-of-care diagnostics specialist Chembio Diagnostic Systems, Stony Brook scientists are banking blood from those who’ve come through the coronavirus (there are many, of course, in New York and beyond) and distilling it into a “convalescent serum” for an experimental COVID-19 treatment. The call is out for volunteer donors with antibody-rich blood, and SBU – which received FDA approval this month to administer the serum to clinical patients in a randomized, controlled trial – plans to treat up to 500 Long Island-area coronavirus patients.

Such clinical trials routinely incorporate a 50-50 split – half the patients receive the experimental treatment, half don’t – but 80 percent of the patients in this study will receive the convalescent serum, according to Elliott Bennett-Guerrero, medical director of perioperative quality and patient safety at the Renaissance School of Medicine. “We are fast-tracking this large-scale clinical trial,” noted the project lead, who also serves as vice chairman of clinical research and innovation in the Renaissance School’s Department of Anesthesiology. “Every second counts when seeking lifesaving treatment for these critically ill patients.” – GZ


Trojan war pits condom king against online retailers

Battle hardened: “Essential” Trojan is taking the fight to online retailers.

(April 8) From the Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth Department comes Trojan, Earth’s prophylactic pacesetter, now saddling up against online retailers classifying condoms as “non-essential” – an insult, sayeth the contraceptive king, upon the injury that is the global pandemic.

There’s scant evidence of online retailers going out of their way to diss condoms (though there are troubling signs of a coming condom shortage). Still, Trojan’s innovative marketing tact earns a nod – particularly with its wares already in high demand, according to parent company Church & Dwight, the major league New Jersey-based manufacturer behind such powerhouse products as Arm & Hammer baking soda, Arrid deodorants and a medicine cabinet’s worth of toothpastes, vitamin supplements and stain removers you surely know.

Bruce Weiss, Trojan’s vice president of marketing, put a finer tip on it: “More time together spells more sex.” To that end, condoms “should be considered essential products amid the COVID-19 outbreak,” according to Weiss, who said Trojan is working “at a fast and furious speed” to meet the increased demand at brick-and-mortar retailers, but needs digital distributors to step up. “We urge online retailers to consider reclassifying condoms as ‘essential,’” Weiss added, “and speed delivery to all during this unprecedented time.” – GZ


At SBU and elsewhere, new MDs arriving a little early

Not this year: The Renaissance School of Medicine did it old-school last year, but graduation will be virtual for the Class of 2020.

(April 7) As the COVID-19 pandemic swells on Long Island, overworked Stony Brook Medicine is about to welcome some reinforcements – from within.

Stony Brook University’s Renaissance School of Medicine has scheduled a virtual graduation ceremony for Wednesday evening, during which 122 medical students – “having now met all graduation requirements,” according to SBU – will be awarded their medical degrees, two full months ahead of schedule. The April 8 event is slated to feature an address by Renaissance School Dean Kenneth Kaushansky, a keynote by molecular geneticist Michael Brown of UT Southwestern Medical Center and presentations by members of the Renaissance School’s Class of 2020.

Of the 122 graduates, 52 are scheduled to commence residencies at Stony Brook University Hospital and will do so July 1, according to SBU, which is not the only university wrapping up its 2020 medical program a little early. Several regional schools, including the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, have also announced plans to accelerate graduation protocols and get their young MDs into the coronavirus fight. – GZ


All hands on deck in New York Tech PPE push

Eve Armstrong: Theoretical physicist, practical thinker.

(April 7) New York Institute of Technology faculty are finding innovative ways to support the regional coronavirus response, including a unique game of tag that has directly contributed critical personal protective equipment to area hospitals.

It started with Assistant Physics Professor Eve Armstrong, who heard in March about desperate PPE shortfalls directly from family in the medical profession and reached out to colleagues in the NYIT College of Arts and Sciences, who quickly inventoried available supplies on New York Tech’s Long Island and Manhattan campuses. Word spread fast to other NYIT schools and programs, and within weeks a donation-and-supply chain was established, funneling goggles, face shields, dozens of boxes of gloves and more to various hotspots, including Huntington Hospital and New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Armstrong’s husband, who works in the theater industry, even collected protective gear – including precious N95 respirator masks – used in set production by off-Broadway theatre company PunchDrunk NYC, while Armstrong personally delivered supplies to New York Presbyterian. “The looks on the ER doctors’ faces when they learned I had face shields … I believe I will remember those looks for the rest of my life,” the professor said. – GZ


Brookhaven Lab channels federal resources, LI expertise  

John Hill: BNL is pandemic central.

(April 6) A Long Island cornerstone of international brainpower and high-powered scientific collaboration, all fueled by the vast resources of the U.S. Department of Energy, is focusing its multifaceted might on the coronavirus pandemic.

The DOE’s national lab network is marshalling its expertise and other key resources in the battle against COVID-19, and that most definitely includes Brookhaven National Laboratory, where a “minimal staff” of scientists is combining “expertise across disciplines to address drug development, medical supplies, information processing and more,” according to a BNL statement issued Monday. Out in front: molecular-level studies to better understand COVID-19’s interactions with human cells and computational simulations designed to speed up the identification of potential vaccine candidates.

The laboratory is also serving as a clearing house for federal supplies moving through the pandemic pipeline, and exploring innovative options for 3D printing much-needed equipment like face shields and maybe even ventilators. “Brookhaven Lab has exceptional resources for addressing some of the most urgent scientific and logistical challenges of this pandemic,” noted John Hill, director of BNL’s National Synchrotron Light Source II, who chairs a workgroup coordinating the laboratory’s COVID-19 response. “The speed with which the entire scientific community is attacking this problem is amazing, and the whole lab, whether working off-site or on, is part of this effort.” – GZ


Toothy telehealth effort drills deep into proper oral hygiene

(April 6) DIY root canal? Not quite. But oral hygiene can’t take a break during the quasi-quarantine, so a regional dental practice is sinking its teeth into a pandemic-friendly telehealth effort.

ProHEALTH Dental, a Lake Success-based affiliate of the Mount Sinai Health System that networks offices throughout Nassau, Suffolk, Queens and Westchester, has launched a “teledentistry program” offering by-appointment consultations “to both existing and new patients.” While DDSes won’t be talking patients through complicated procedures, they will be available to answer questions about pain and numerous dental-related issues, and to refer patients as necessary to ProHEALTH Dental offices still open for emergencies in Lake Success, Huntington and elsewhere.

Bruce Valauri, the practice group’s chief dental officer, said lax oral hygiene – during the pandemic or anytime – dramatically increases the risk for serious chronic diseases including diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and more, plus of course a wide range of oral ailments, giving the by-appointment teledentistry sessions real bite. “Let’s use this unique opportunity to improve our oral health habits and keep ourselves and our families as healthy as possible,” Valauri said Monday. – GZ


Reinforcements arrive as numbers ‘shift’ to Long Island

Tsai of relief: Nets fans Clara and Joe, generous gifters.

(April 5) Much-needed emergency equipment and medical personnel bolstered the region this weekend, with 1,000 donated respirators and the first battalion of federally assigned medicos arriving in New York State.

The ventilators were among several coronavirus-related donations made recently by the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation, the private foundation started by Canadian billionaire Joseph Tsai, who co-founded Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and owns the Brooklyn Nets. The first 300-plus federalized doctors, nurses and respiratory technicians, meanwhile, were deployed Sunday in New York City, with another 700 expected this week – good news for the state’s overwhelmed hospitals, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, particularly with “a shift to Long Island” underway.

According to the NYS Department of Health, as of Sunday, Nassau County had 14,398 confirmed COVID-19 cases, second in the state to NYC (67,551). Suffolk County (12,405) was fourth statewide, trailing NYC, Nassau and Westchester County (13,723). But “new positive” cases – confirmed within the prior 24 hours – were rising fastest in NYC (4,245), Nassau (1,052) and Suffolk (1,035). “Upstate New York is basically flat,” Cuomo said Sunday. “And as Long Island grows, the percentage of cases in New York City has reduced.” – GZ


We are farmers: EEFI’s virtual market serves up solutions

(April 3) Noting “it’s more important than ever to know where your food comes from,” the East End Food Institute has organized a virtual farmer’s market with a two-pronged mission.

Job No. 1: Support local vendors with an online portal that facilitates farm-to-table sales and other direct-to-consumer marketing. The EEFI’s collaborative network of growers and other producers is making its wares available for pick-up (this afternoon at Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus, more to come) and delivery (Wednesdays and Fridays, within the Town of Southampton for now), with new vendors and expanded delivery routes coming soon.

With an online menu of ready-to-go meals, craft beverages, snacks, desserts, pantry staples, condiments and more – including “additional items added by request” – the virtual farmer’s market, hosted by the EEFI via California merchant-services aggregator Square Inc., also addresses growing supply-chain concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, trumpeting the “clear origins” of its locally sourced products. Learn more here. – GZ


Wartime ‘warmline’ helps parents, caregivers lighten the lockdown

Joaniko Kohchi: Parental guidance suggested.

(April 2) Parents, caregivers and educators of young children have some very specific questions as the new world takes shape, and Adelphi University’s Institute for Parenting has answers.

The institute, designed to promote the mental health and wellbeing of young children and developing families, has dialed up a “warmline” to help caregivers nurture and educate young children, a challenge exponentially exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak. The warmline welcomes calls from parents and caregivers with non-emergency questions about adjustments, activities and how to talk to youngsters about all the recent changes, with callers invited to leave messages and specialists returning calls on Mondays and Thursdays.

“We responded to the coronavirus crisis by launching a community resource,” noted Institute for Parenting Director Joaniko Kohchi. “We are and will be available to support families as their together time extends and questions arise about development, social-emotional growth, age-appropriate communication, family dynamics, routines, transitions and adjustment to new patterns and places.” – GZ


IT ace, PR pro team up for free COVID-19 consults

Bill Corbett Jr.: Guiding light.

(April 1) A Farmingdale IT specialist and a Floral Park PR veteran are teaming up to offer free technology and communications consultations for small-business owners struggling through the economy-eating epidemic.

Sandwire Managed IT is offering no-cost, virtual review-and-strategy sessions focused on technology and connectivity, while the consultants at Corbett Public Relations are logging on for gratis PR stratagems, all focused on business during and after COVID-19. The 30-minute sessions, requiring no further obligations to either company, are both helpful to regional entrepreneurs and on-par with the sudden new world, according to Sandwire President Adam Schwam, who marveled that, “within a matter of weeks, [the United States] mobilized a remote workforce.”

“We want to assist businesses that still need guidance to work safely and remotely,” added Schwam, while Corbett PR President Bill Corbett predicted brighter days at the end of the coronavirus tunnel. “We will emerge from this crisis stronger than before,” Corbett said. “And will continue to move forward together as a community and as a nation.” – GZ


Kids’ clinic opens LI’s first pediatric-only COVID-19 swab sites 

(April 1) A major national provider of pediatric urgent care has opened two additional drive-up COVID-19 testing centers for pre-screened pediatric patients, including its first on Long Island.

Massapequa-based PM Pediatrics, which last week announced a dramatic expansion of its online telehealth services (see below), has opened drive-up COVID-19 testing centers in Manhasset and North Brunswick, NJ, adding them to drive-up pediatric testing sites already operating in New Jersey, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Four more drive-ups (parents, ostensibly, should do the driving) are scheduled to open Thursday across the country, including Long Island’s second, in Selden.

Only patients who have been previously evaluated by PM Pediatrics specialists – either in person or via those ramped-up online services – are eligible for the drive-up tests. Nose swabs are taken in temporary parking lot tents at each location, with results reported in about four days. “While early anecdotal evidence points to children being less susceptible to severe COVID-19 illness, we still want to offer a test to children presenting the specific symptoms,” noted PM Pediatrics co-CEO Jeffrey Schor. “For those not presenting these symptoms, our PM Pediatrics Anywhere app can provide medical guidance and peace of mind, as well as keep children and their parents from visiting our offices unnecessarily.” – GZ


Vulnerable schmulnerable: Jefferson’s Ferry stuffs a bus

(March 31) Some of the pandemic’s “most-vulnerable” (also members of the Greatest Generation) have rolled up their sleeves to pitch in, collecting more than a quarter-ton of foodstuffs for the Island Harvest Food Bank.

During the first two weeks of March, residents of the Jefferson’s Ferry Life Plan Community in South Setauket held a “Stuff a Buss” food drive, collecting 527 pounds of nonperishable food items for donation to, and distribution by, Hauppauge-based Island Harvest. The effort was keyed by resident Jan Parker, who stocked the Jefferson’s Ferry community’s on-campus Country Store with Island Harvest wish-list items, allowing community members to do their part without undue exposure to the rampaging coronavirus.

The “tremendous and immediate” response was deeply appreciated, according to a statement from Island Harvest, and not at all surprising, according to Jefferson’s Ferry President and CEO Robert Caulfield. “The enthusiasm of our residents and staff is matched by their generosity,” Caulfield said Monday. “Our residents are invested in the wellbeing of the Long Island community-at-large and eager to give back.” – GZ


Adelphi undergrads get ‘pass/no credit’ reprieve

Steve Everett: A for effort.

(March 31) The swift switch to distance learning has not been completely painless. The tumult will dent the GPAs of thousands of collegians – a real risk for the scholarship set, with failure a sudden option for many others.

Enter Adelphi University, which has adopted a “pass/no credit” grading policy for the Spring 2020 semester. The policy gives undergraduates the option of converting grades of C-minus or higher to “P” (for “pass”) and lower grades to “NC” (a “no credit” designation). Both switches spare the student’s grade point average, a critical consideration impacting financial aid, NCAA eligibility, graduate school applications, Dean’s List eligibility and much more.

Before submitting grade-change requests, students will consult with academic advisors and Adelphi’s Student Financial Services office for a better lay of the land. “This approach supports you in working to your highest potential, but does not penalize you with an ‘F’ if the sudden conversion to remote learning results in unexpected challenges,” noted Provost and Executive VP Steve Everett. – GZ


Already innovating, SBU seeds COVID-19 research

Richard Reeder: Shot in the arm for SBU innovators.

(March 31) Stony Brook University has established a $500,000 seed fund to kickstart university-based researchers and clinicians tackling the coronavirus.

The COVID-19 Seed Grant Program will stake a half-million-dollar’s worth of pandemic-related innovation, courtesy of SBU’s Office of the Vice President for Research and the university’s Institute for Engineering-Driven Medicine. A straightforward application process is designed for a quick turnaround, with applications from tenured or tenure-track faculty (with exceptions) and full-time, non-tenure track faculty due by April 10.

Stony Brook staffers have already responded to the resources-devouring pandemic with 3D-printed masks and a new World Health Organization-approved hand sanitizer, shipped by the gallon to regional facilities (details below). “We’re seeing an unprecedented need for researchers across the country to provide innovative solutions to combat COVID-19,” noted SBU Vice President for Research Richard Reeder. “We want to do everything possible to support our outstanding researchers.” – GZ


Risk reward: Insurer feeds workforce at ‘front-line’ nursing homes

Geraldine DelPrete: The feast we could do.

(March 30) A top-40 national insurance brokerage with a long history of volunteerism and altruistic community support is picking up lunch for staffers at Long Island’s largest senior-care facilities – “front-line personnel” in the war against COVID-19, according to SterlingRisk Insurance.

The Woodbury-based firm has engaged “Lunch Is On Us,” a campaign delivering catered meals to employees of nursing homes and other senior facilities “keeping residents safe, comfortable and comforted during the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to SterlingRisk. The longtime affinity-programs administrator – which has raised thousands for regional charities in recent years, primarily the American Heart Association – has already fed staffers at Roslyn’s Sunharbor Manor, Kings Park’s St. Johnland Nursing Center and Smithtown’s St. Catherine of Siena Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

The moveable feast lands next at Jefferson’s Ferry of Centereach, with SterlingRisk now accepting suggestions for additional senior-living facilities worthy of a lunch break. “This is clearly an opportunity to mobilize and make a difference,” noted SterlingRisk Programs President Geraldine DelPrete. “In the best of times, our programs provide peace of mind to restaurant owners, mental health professionals and others who are now impacted by today’s events. We wanted to do more.” – GZ


Island law firms digitize their coronavirus response efforts

(March 30) From the When in Rome Department comes a bevy of Long Island lawyers generating online “resource centers” for coronavirus compliance and COVID-19 news.

Uniondale-based Rivkin Radler is the latest to wade in, announcing Monday its online Coronavirus Resource Center, a running log of news updates focused primarily on litigation and insurance issues. Rivkin Radler joins several Island firms creating online hubs specifically to inform clients about the virus and its fallout, including:

Myriad Long Island-based, non-law enterprises have also crafted webpages designed to help Islanders navigate the pandemic, including Stony Brook Medicine, accounting giant EisnerAmper – which maintains a busy Syosset office – and of course Northwell Health. – GZ


Smut site cleans up its act for livestreamed weddings

They do: Eyes up here, mister.

(March 28) A libidinous online broker of “discreet hookups” between “adult singles and swingers” is getting all dressed up, offering online wedding ceremonies for lovers who just can’t wait out the pandemic.

California-based AdultFriendFinder, an even-more-blunt Tinder with a coast-to-coast membership and a two-decade legacy of catering to the randy, has also done its share of full-frontal matchmaking, with “hundreds of our members [finding] their special someone and [tying] the knot,” according to the website. Now, with COVID-19 canceling ceremonies and celebrations across the land, the self-billed “world’s largest sex & swinger community” is dramatically redefining “camming,” reaching out to brides and grooms with this heartfelt message: “Don’t postpone your dream wedding.”

While a livestreamed ceremony and virtual reception on AdultFriendFinder is almost nobody’s idea of a dream wedding, the innovative pivot is undeniable. For more information on the wedding packages – including private channels for friends and family and public channels that invite the world to watch, all in “crisp 4K and 1080p” – come hither. – GZ


SBU chemists churn out WHO-approved hand sanitizer

There’s the rub: Shabnam Davoodi (left), Xinxin Yang and the Stony Brook University Chemistry Department’s homemade sanitizer.

(March 27) Multiple laboratories within Stony Brook University’s Department of Chemistry have united to produce a government-approved hand sanitizer from “raw health-grade materials,” with gallons of the rub already being bottled for frontline healthcare workers.

Manufactured with contributions from six different laboratories – including labs directed by SUNY Distinguished Professors Nicole Sampson, SBU’s dean of the sciences, and Peter Tonge, chairman of SBU’s Chemistry Department – the sanitizer, which adheres to World Health Organization protocols regarding reagents and bottling, is being packed into 4-liter containers and shared with staffers at both Stony Brook University Hospital and the Long Island State Veterans Home, located on the SBU campus.

“We are in a traumatic community emergency and people have come together and said, ‘We’re going to get this done,’” noted Interim Stony Brook University President Michael Bernstein. “It’s quite amazing.” – GZ


PSEG temporarily suspends nonpayment shut-offs

Ralph Izzo: PSEG doing what it can.

(March 27) Long Island’s primary electricity utility announced this week that, for the length of the coronavirus pandemic, it won’t turn off electricity for customers who don’t pay their bills.

In additional to keeping the lights on by ensuring key facilities are staffed and running, Public Service Electric Group, the New Jersey-based parent of PSEG Long Island, has taken several innovative actions in response to the health crisis and its widespread societal effects. Among them: new remote account-access tools for customers and a pair of $45,000 grants for Hauppauge’s Island Harvest Food Bank and the FoodBank of New Jersey.

On Thursday, PSEG President and CEO Ralph Izzo said the utility would further support customers by “suspending shut-offs for nonpayment” during the pandemic. “It’s more important than ever to find ways to send help to those in our communities who need it most,” Izzo said. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure that people are still able to charge their phones to call loved ones, stay warm and comfortable in their homes, and provide a hot meal for their families.” – GZ


Nassau IDA/Hofstra poll eyes pandemic’s economic impact

Richard Kessel: Playing past the pandemic.

(March 27) An online poll will attempt to determine the true effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the Nassau County business climate.

The Nassau County Industrial Development Agency is working with the county’s newly established Coronavirus Economic Advisory Council, led by Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz and Nassau IDA Chairman Richard Kessel, to “assess the countywide impact on both small and large businesses,” according to the IDA. The online poll – comprised of a “10-minute survey” with specific questions regarding operations, finances and employees – is being conducted now through April 1 by Hofstra University.

The idea is to “inform advocacy for economic relief,” according to the IDA, with data ultimately relayed to Albany and federal representatives – a unity-in-a-time-of-need effort with forward-thinking ambitions, according to Kessel. “Working together as a business community will be critical to our future success once the crisis subsides,” the IDA chairman noted. – GZ


Albany exploring additional emergency hospitals for LI, NYC

Bed and beyond: Lots more than linens.

(March 26) The need for additional hospital beds is rising, and Albany is scouting multiple downstate sites – including Long Island locations – for new emergency hospitals, in addition to facilities already planned for the Stony Brook University and SUNY Old Westbury campuses.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that health officials were targeting new facilities by mid-April for each of New York City’s five boroughs and Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk counties, each ready for a “1,000-plus patient overflow.” The state is also preparing hotels and college dormitories for emergency “beds” – a catch-all phrase covering physical beds, critical-care equipment and trained staffers – and recruiting a 12,000-strong “surge healthcare force,” including retirees and medical students.

As of noon Thursday, New York had soared past 37,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases – eight times more than second-sickest New Jersey (about 4,400), with 3,914 cases in Nassau, 2,735 in Suffolk and regional hospitals crowding fast. “We are continuing to work aggressively to increase our state’s hospital capacity and flatten the curve,” Cuomo said. “Our top priority is finding more beds for patients and getting the ventilators we need to ensure our most vulnerable patients are being treated properly, and we are actively scouting new locations for temporary hospital sites.” – GZ


As layoffs pile on, a Long Island job board rises

(March 26) As the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on the job market, the self-billed “most popular website destination” for all things Long Island is leveraging its popularity for an employment-focused coronavirus countermeasure. on Thursday flipped the switch on a free job-listings board designed to connect out-of-work Islanders with much-needed job opportunities. The help-wanted page features customizable searches (by company, industry, job type, location and other factors), along with functions that allow registered users to submit résumés directly to employers, or upload their CV into a database for hiring agents on the hunt.

“ is a resource for the community in both good and challenging times, and now is certainly a challenging time,” noted Publisher Andrew Hazen. “We want to support Long Islanders and Long Island businesses in every way we can.” – GZ


High-tech heart bus sets house calls for LI cardiac patients

Roll with it: A mobile cardiac unit will help monitor LI heart patients during the pandemic.

(March 26) A Long Island cardiovascular team known for its mobility is scheduling house calls to help keep Island cardiac patients safe and sound during the quasi-quarantine.

New Hyde Park-based Advanced Cardiac Diagnostics provides on-site cardiac testing aboard its 40-foot mobile unit, a bright blue, tech-stocked bus that regularly visits police departments, churches and large corporations. Now, the bus – capable of administering lab tests, EKGs, echocardiograms, carotid studies, stress tests and more to up to six patients simultaneously – is adding at-home, by-appointment stops to its itinerary, first on Long Island and eventually around the entire state.

“Everyone is worried about coronavirus, but heart attacks remain the No. 1 cause of death in America,” noted Perry Frankel, a board-certified cardiologist and founder of Advanced Cardiac Diagnostics. “A heart attack occurs in the [United States] every 42 seconds. Those people can’t wait for coronavirus to pass to see a doctor – and we can’t risk them becoming patients for coronavirus themselves.” – GZ


Student Emergency Fund pulls together at New York Tech

(March 25) Even tomorrow’s professionals – today’s college students – are feeling the pandemic’s financial pinch, and the New York Institute of Technology is responding.

New York Tech has created a new Student Emergency Fund for students who subsist on financial aid and part-time jobs – income directly threatened, if not outright eliminated, by the coronavirus outbreak. Already stepping up are the school’s two American Association of University Professors chapters (which collectively donated $50,000) and New York Tech’s annual Big Give marathon fundraiser (which will be held virtually April 1, but is channeling donations made before the actual event straight into the Student Emergency Fund).

The fund is more than a token effort, notes New York Tech, which calculates that 98 percent of its student body receives financial aid and/or works at least part-time. “Thanks to the New York Tech community’s generosity, resiliency and dedication, we will get through this together,” noted New York Tech President Hank Foley. “We will not let this pandemic prevent our students from becoming the doers, makers, innovators and healers who are tackling today’s challenges and reinventing the future.” – GZ


Cradle of Aviation Museum spreads its virtual wings

Put your helmet on: Ground control to “Educator Tom,” Cradle of Aviation TikTok sensation.

(March 25) A little thing like the global shutdown of human society won’t stop the Cradle of Aviation Museum and Education Center from reaching new heights.

In fact, the Garden City-based historical hub – on a continuing mission to “collect, preserve and interpret Long Island’s rich aerospace heritage” and inspire future generations of scientists and technologists – is boldly going where it’s only kinda gone before, with a dramatic expansion of its online offerings. Remote learning sessions, 360-degree virtual tours and a smorgasbord of at-home activities stand ready, all designed to keep minds – especially young minds – reaching toward the future, according to Catherine Gonzalez, the museum’s director of education.

“Learning takes place beyond the four walls of a classroom,” Gonzalez said. “It can be fun and exciting in any environment. During this time, when families are learning at home … we look forward to being a free resource for our community, and to bringing STEM to everyone.” – GZ


Regional SBDCs funneling state, federal small-biz resources

Martha Stansbury: Resourceful.

(March 25) The U.S. Small Business Administration is stepping up its local coronavirus countermeasures, with the Stony Brook University and Farmingdale State College Small Business Development Centers standing by to assist entrepreneurs and early-stage enterprises.

The SBA has made information on a host of small-business resources – including the administration’s Coronavirus Economic Injury Disaster Loan, state employee-retention grants and more – available here, along with virtual-appointment scheduling with the Stony Brook and Farmingdale State SBDCs.

“America’s SBA’s slogan right now is, ‘Keep Calm and Small Business On,’” Stony Brook SBDC Administrator Martha Stansbury told Innovate LI. “A lot of businesses are hurting right now with the lack of revenue, and this is where we come in – providing information about the resources that are available to them.” – GZ


Networking moves online with ‘Virtual Breakfast Club’

Hilary Topper: Bring your own bagel.

(March 24) A self-made stalwart of Long Island marketing is embracing re-invention in the Age of Coronavirus, and inviting Long Island’s networking-deprived business professionals along for the virtual ride.

The Virtual Networking Breakfast Club – brainchild of marketer, author, blogger and adjunct Hofstra University Professor Hilary Topper, also the founder of Long Beach-based HJMT Public Relations – is scheduled to kick off March 26 via videoconferencing platform Zoom (advanced registration required). Featuring short business pitches and tons of social-distancing-appropriate interaction, the weekly, members-only gatherings will help regional professionals “connect with others, share concerns and brainstorm ideas on how to stay relevant,” according to Topper, author of “Branding in a Digital World” (2019, iUniverse).

“I think that it’s more important now than ever before to stay connected with the business community,” Topper told Innovate LI. “Everyone is isolated and concerned about the future of their business. This is a way for people to … get advice from other businesspeople who are going through the same thing.” – GZ


With protective gear dwindling, SBU jumpstarts 3D printing

Charlie McMahon: Happy to help.

(March 24) Supplies of personal protective gear – the masks, gloves, etc. keeping healthcare professionals safe as they battle the pandemic – are running low, and an innovative Stony Brook University program is heeding the call.

Part of SBU’s Division of Information Technology, the iCREATE laboratory provides the tools (and reinforces the ideology) necessary for collaboration, with the ultimate goal of “redefining technological boundaries.” The lab is now focusing its 3D-printing resources on manufacturing much-needed face shields for the medicos on COVID-19’s front lines, with enough materials on-hand to produce 800 “medically compliant” masks – reviewed and approved by Stony Brook University Hospital experts – and plans to acquire the necessary materials for about 4,000 more.

“We are doing something positive to protect the health of the medical professionals that are helping the community,” noted SBU Interim Senior Vice President and Enterprise CIO Charlie McMahon. “Being able to be a part of keeping our medical professionals safer is a really good feeling.” – GZ


PM Pediatrics deploys new kids online options

Jeffrey Schor: House calls.

(March 24) The self-billed nation’s largest provider of pediatric urgent care has dramatically expanded its telehealth services.

New Hyde Park-based PM Pediatrics – which boasts 55 total offices across 13 states, including eight on Long Island – has extended its telemedicine program to include its entire coverage area, adding new online options in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other regions. The practice group, which last month launched an ambitious pilot program offering in-depth telehealth diagnoses and treatment options in real time, says it rolled out the new digital services in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 10,000 parents have signed up for the telehealth services since March 1, according to PM Pediatrics, which treats roughly 175 daily patients – a number that spiked closer to 280 per day this past weekend. “Many patients don’t need to come in but do need to be evaluated,” Jeffrey Schor, co-CEO of PM Pediatrics, said Tuesday. “For people who can or want to avoid coming into an office, it’s an effective option, especially when people are practicing social distancing.” – GZ


Suffolk wellness group expands ‘tele-mental health’ services

(March 23) The Association for Mental Health and Wellness, the Suffolk County chapter of both Mental Health America and the Mental Health Association of New York State, is steadily transitioning its menu of services to “tele-mental health platforms.”

In a world suddenly filled with frightening messages and “the negative effects of social isolation,” the MHAW is expanding the hours of operation of its Peer Support Line and Healing Connections Peer Support Group, both available to all Suffolk County residents and staffed by trained specialists.

The Ronkonkoma-based association is also planning additional online group sessions, including virtual meetings facilitated by its Dwyer Veterans Peer Support Project. – GZ


Long Island media consultant reaches out to small business

Ian Busching: Options for small businesses.

(March 23) From the Department of Pulling Together comes an Oyster Bay-based small business with a plan to help other small businesses weather the coronavirus crunch.

Dig Down Media, a content specialist and media-solutions provider located in the Village of Sea Cliff, announced March 23 it will provide free online training, no-charge one-on-consultations and other gratis, customized technology resources to business owners with fewer than 50 employees, to help them “transition to remote operations, open new revenue streams and continue employee payroll.” The free-for-some is scheduled to kick off with “Remote Work and Productivity Solutions,” a webinar slated for March 26.

“Small and family-run businesses are disproportionately affected by shutdowns and social distancing,” Dig Down Media CEO Ian Busching said in a statement. “Many business owners don’t know they have options. We provide practical advice companies can start using today to help get back on track.” – GZ


SBU ramps up employee online wellness programs

Joshua Hendrickson: Everything on the line.

(March 23) Stony Brook University’s Healthier U – a preventative-health program designed specifically for the university community – is planning daily “wellness programming” sessions for SBU employees, to be livestreamed via Facebook.

A team led by Stony Brook alum Joshua Hendrickson, an adjunct professor of social welfare and licensed clinical social worker who earned his PhD in philosophy from Saybrook University, will lead 30-minute sessions focused on meditation, nutrition and stress reduction. Daily programs, beginning at 3 p.m., are scheduled now through April 10 and “possibly longer,” according to SBU.

“We hope the streaming programming provides some comfort and stress relief for the healthcare providers and support staff at our hospital who are working around the clock to save lives and keep us all safe,” noted Healthier U Director Cathrine Duffy. “We also want to forge connections and a sense of community wellbeing to all staff now working remotely.” – GZ



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