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Long Island Health CEOs Take Pay Cuts To Keep Businesses Afloat

Dr. Raj Raina, president, CEO, and owner of Medical Associates, is among local business leaders taking pay cuts amid the pandemic.

Dr. Raj Raina, president, CEO, and owner of Medical Associates, based in Hauppauge, has been taking care of patients — and his practice. 

A primary care doctor who runs the six-site, multispecialty practice, he has kept Medical Associates’ doctors, nurses, and staff busy treating COVID-19 patients as he puts his own pay on pause. And he’s not alone among doctors in private practice on Long Island who are making sacrifices to keep their doors open.

“I personally have not taken a paycheck for the last couple of paychecks; I’m living off my savings,” Dr. Raina says, noting that his wife, a nurse, is receiving a paycheck for helping to run the COVID-19 test center at Jones Beach State Park. “Once they opened in Jones Beach, she was one of the first to be there. She’s a coleader there, scheduling patients.”

While healthcare providers and hospitals are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, physicians without the resources of hospitals are facing financial and medical challenges, sometimes making financial sacrifices.

“We’re living right now on income we produced in the past, hoping the government gives us some help,” Dr. Raina says, saying that his 79-person practice didn’t get help from the first tranche of funds. “It’s very hard in our industry to train people.”

Many physician practices face financial troubles, according to a survey by the Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY). The society says 83 percent of respondents saw patient volume drop by more than half, while 80 percent’s revenue fell by at least half since the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The impact has devastated practices and the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers they employ,” says Dr. Art Fougner, president of MSSNY. “Many doctors are working alone or with a skeleton staff.”

More than a quarter had to lay off or furlough more than half of their employees and about two thirds applied for forgivable loans, but most hadn’t received help before the first round of funding closed.

“Our first priority remains to ensure that our patients, through the crisis, can continue to receive the care they need,” Dr. Fougner continues. “But we need to know if our practices can keep their doors open for patients now and in the future.”

Other healthcare providers, also considered essential, are taking steps to keep producing, as CEOs reduce or suspend their compensation or pay employees who are unable to work.

Hauppauge-based American Diagnostic Corporation, which employs 117 on Long Island, makes thermometers, stethoscopes, blood pressure instruments, pulse oximeters used to measure oxygen, and other medical devices.

“Our products are experiencing an unprecedented level of demand unlike anything we’ve experienced in our 35 years,” ADC CEO Marc Blitstein says. “We have shipped nearly 1 million diagnostic instruments to our distributors since mid-February.”

He says about 30 plant workers are on paid leave out of concerns for coronavirus exposure. “We’re utilizing temps where possible and lots of overtime to meet demand,” Blitstein says.

ADC transitioned many workers to paid leave at home, including the elderly and vulnerable, although manufacturing continues, and took measures to make the workplace safer, including spacing, safety equipment, and other steps.

Melville-based Henry Schein CEO Stanley Bergman, who received $14.4 million in compensation last year, including about $1.5 million in salary, isn’t taking a salary from April 6 to June 30. Several other Schein executives are temporarily cutting their salary in half and board members are taking a temporary 25 percent cut.

Other CEOS have been taking cuts or suspending their salary, such as Ron Loveland, president of Summit Safety and Efficiency Solutions in Miller Place. 

“I stopped taking a paycheck to be able to pay my team,” Loveland says.

Ernie Canadeo, CEO of The EGC Group in Melville, temporarily stopped taking a salary once he closed the office and cut the rent that he, as landlord, charges his company. Canadeo, whose firm received a forgivable SBA payroll loan, says the loan is “a tremendous help, while business is down substantially.”

The federal government, meanwhile, made it easier for physicians to do virtual visits, increasing patient and provider safety, but Raina said that typically leads to $50 reimbursements.

“We’re mostly getting patients who have COVID-19 infection,” Dr. Raina says, adding that most are virtual visits. “Our revenue came mostly from stress tests, echocardiograms, and allergy tests.”

Dr. Raina is still getting funds from previous work, since insurer payments typically lag two months behind.

“I don’t want to lose employees,” Dr. Raina says. “They know what they’re doing. I would not want to start again. I’ve tried to keep everyone going. If I go through this year without a loss, I will think it is a good thing for me. I’m not sure that’s going to happen, though.”

Related Story: Some Long Island Companies Thrive in Pandemic Economy

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Bill Would Forgive Student Debt For COVID-19 Healthcare Workers

Physician Aliea Herbert administers a test for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to a patient at Interbay Village, a village of tiny houses managed by the Low Income Housing Institute, at a mobile testing site run by Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Washington, U.S. April 29, 2020. REUTERS/David Ryder

Signs, applause, and donations are among the many thanks healthcare heroes are getting for their response to the coronvirus pandemic, but a bill introduced in Congress this week takes it a step further by proposing healthcare workers have their student debt forgiven.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D- Manhattan) along with nine Democrats as co-sponsors introduced Tuesday the Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act. No companion bill has yet been introduced in the U.S. Senate.

“Healthcare workers are worrying about their own health and how it will affect their families,” Maloney said in a statement. “They should not have to worry about their financial security after the crisis has passed.”

The legislation would forgive private and federal student loans taken by physicians, medical residents, and many healthcare professionals caring for COVID-19 patients. The bill also would apply to researchers working to find a cure and vaccine for the disease.

There would be no compensation related to money already paid and debt forgiven could not be considered as income subject to taxes. The federal government would pay back the remainder owed to private lenders, erasing remaining principal and interest.

The bill comes at a time when some medical schools already such as the NYU School of Medicine shifted to tuition-free education out of a concern that high costs keep many would-be doctors from entering the profession.

“New York physicians have been on the frontlines since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, risking their lives,” said Dr. Art Fougner, president of the Westbury-based Medical Society of the State of New York. “We urge the U.S. Congress to incorporate these ideas into its next stimulus package that is currently under development.”

Many healthcare providers accumulate substantial, even massive, debt, which adds financial stress to the pressures of their job.

“Graduate student loan forgiveness would alleviate their financial burdens and acknowledge their sacrifice during this unprecedented time,” said Eileen Sullivan-Marx, dean of the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and President of the American Academy of Nursing.

Nicole Kirchhoffer, a registered nurse, also said on top of concerns over spreading COVID-19 to their families, healthcare providers face financial concerns.

“Putting my life in imminent danger to provide care for those inflicted with COVID-19 while having graduate student loan debt looming over me and my family is psychologically distressing and distracting in a time where I need to be more focused than ever,” she said.

The legislation is endorsed by the American College of Emergency Physicians, American Medical Association, American Federation of Teachers, Association of American Medical Colleges.

“Hazard pay is nice, but it pales in comparison to the immense student loan debt accrued by the majority of physicians and nurses in this country,” said Dr. Manuel Penton III, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

The bill would create a commission to review applications from borrowers and determine which frontline applicants are eligible for loan forgiveness. The text of the legislation indicates healthcare workers could qualify regardless of the amount of time spent on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19.

Standards would be set and decisions made based on whether a person “has made significant contributions to the medical response to the qualifying emergency for purposes of determining whether the individual is a frontline healthcare worker.” The bill also establishes an appeal process, so healthcare workers can challenge denials, by providing more information and challenging conclusions.

Frontline healthcare workers, according to the legislation, would include doctors, medical residents, medical interns, nurses, home healthcare workers, mental health professionals, various other healthcare professionals, laboratory workers, and emergency medical service providers.

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor, as well as the Committee on Financial Services and Ways and Means Committee.

Cosponsors of the legislation in the House include U.S. Reps. Steven Cohen (D-Tenn.), Jahana Hayes (D-Cocc.), Ilhan Omar (D-Min.), Marc Veasey (D-Tx.), Jesús G. Garía (D-Il.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wa.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY).

Related Story: With Cheers, NY Nurses Greet Reinforcements From Across U.S.

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Peconic Bay Medical Center Expanding Into Former Catholic High School

Peconic Bay Medical Center

In a move that will further expand healthcare on Long Island’s East End, the Peconic Bay Medical Center has acquired the building and campus of a shuttered Catholic high school in Riverhead.

Northwell Health said the Peconic Bay Medical Center Foundation, the fundraising arm of the medical center, acquired the property and buildings of McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School from the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

Northwell Health didn’t give the terms of the transaction for the 24-acre property occupied by Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School, which closed in 2018.

Peconic Bay Medical Center President and CEO Andrew Mitchell said the medical center and foundation look forward to working with the “Town of Riverhead to develop future plans recognizing the growing and diverse health care needs of the East End.”

Emilie Roy Corey, chair of the foundation’s Board, said the center is “planning for the continuation of service to the community with much needed expanded healthcare services.”

The Peconic Bay Medical Center already has been expanding, recently opening the Corey Critical Care Pavilion and Kanas Regional Heart Center, seeking to bolster serves on Long Island’s East End.

Founded in 1951 as Central Suffolk Hospital, Peconic Bay Medical Center is a 182-bed hospital in Riverhead with about 1,500 employees and a wide range of services, including a cardiac catherization laboratory, a Level III trauma center and a New York State-designated stroke center.

The medical center, which in 2016 became a part of Northwell Health, also operates a 60-bed skilled nursing and rehabilitation center, a home health agency and ambulatory, and urgent care facilities in Manorville.

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Northwell Testing Heartburn Drug Ingredient As COVID-19 Treatment

Northwell Health researchers are studying a heartburn drug ingredient in treating coronavirus patients.

New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health more than a month ago quietly began a clinical trial of famotodine, an ingredient used in heartburn drug Pepcid, to treat COVID-19 patients.

The 23-hospital system began providing the ingredient intravenously at nine times the dose used to treat heartburn, according to an article in Sciencemag.com. The system said it didn’t announce this trial at the time, even as it announced others, out of a concern that widely publicizing it could lead to problems in securing an intravenous version of the ingredient, after seeing demand surge for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.

“If we talked about this to the wrong people or too soon, the drug supply would be gone,” Dr. Kevin Tracey, CEO of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Northwell Health’s research arm, told ScienceMag.com in an article published Sunday.

This study is in addition to two other clinical trials for coronavirus treatments being conducted at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research that Northwell announced in March.

That website indicated nearly 200 COVID-19 patients in critical status, including those on ventilators, already have been given the medication intravenously as part of a clinical trial targeting nearly 1,200 patients.

Northwell funded the clinical trial initially on its own, after which the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) provided Florida-based Alchem Laboratories, a medication manufacturer, with $20.7 million to help with the research.

Northwell Health is using an intravenous version of the ingredient rather than the over-the-counter medication used for heartburn. Limited research in China seemed to indicate patients with heartburn on famotidine died at a lower rate than those not on the drug, an observation far from a clinical trial that could result from other factors. Computer modeling also indicated that several dozen medications, including famotidine, could show promise.

Northwell Health ran into an unusual situation as it sought to do a clinical trial of this drug. Since so many people at the time the trial began were being given hydroxychloroquine, itself an unproved treatment, the healthcare system found it needed to include patients receiving that medication in its trial.

Northwell Health is using patients receiving famotidine and hydroxychloroquine, hydroxychloroquine only and patients treated earlier with neither.

The clinical trial has been continuing with results expected to be reported soon.

“If it does work,” Tracey told Sciencemag.com, “we’ll know in a few weeks.”

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Related Story: Northwell Health Initiates Clinical Trials of 2 COVID-19 Drugs

Related Story: FDA OKs Garden City-Based Beyond Air’s Clinical Trial For A New COVID-19 Treatment

For more coronavirus coverage visit longislandpress.com/coronavirus

Nurses From Around U.S. Lend Hand As Oxygen, Gown Needs Grow

Northwell Health workers welcomed 46 nurses from across the country to North Shore LIJ Hospital in New Hyde Park. Northwell Health photo.
Nurses from Upstate New York and around the nation are providing some relief to Long Island hospital staff who face large numbers of patients in need of care, even as demand grows for portable oxygen tanks and hospital gowns.
 
Telehealth restrictions have been loosened and credentialing guidelines have been eased, allowing out-of-state nurses, physicians and others to practice in New York State.
 
“This alleviates one burden for the hospitals,” said Kevin Dahill, president and CEO of the Suburban Hospital Alliance.
 
Forty-six nurses from across the country have been placed by Cross Country Nurses, a staffing agency, at the Northwell Health System. Another 22 nurses from the Upstate University Hospital are now working alongside other nurses at Stony Brook University. And upstate hospitals and systems such as Cayuga Health entered into staff leasing arrangements with a New York City-based system, alleviating some of the strain on the workforce.
 
The New York State Department of Health meanwhile has assembled a volunteer pool of 80,000 healthcare workers who answered Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call to work in the state.
 
“Both hospitals and nursing homes throughout the state are able to draw from this pool, which is coordinated with the assistance of the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS),” according to a written statement from the Suburban Hospital Alliance.
 
The state health department reviews licensing and credentialing of workers who come from out of state to work in New York. 
 
HANYS helped facilitate hospitals’ access to the pool, known as NYServes, and to bring in LinkedIn to assist in managing it. About 7,000 workers have been vetted by the state.
 
The Alliance, however, said, there “continues to be a demand for gowns and masks at the region’s hospitals.”
 
“We are hearing that gowns are in need,” according to Janine Logan, a spokeswoman for the Alliance. “With hospitals running at full capacity, staff are donning and doffing gowns at an accelerated pace. A shortage of impermeable isolation gowns has developed.”
 
Supply needs and availability shift with the patient population, caseload and demand from other parts of the country, according to the group.
 
There is also an increasing need for portable oxygen tanks as some COVID-19 patients eligible for discharge require oxygen to continue their recovery at home, the group added.
 
“Patients who experienced respiratory difficulties while in the hospital, but whose issues did not require the level of a ventilator, are now improving and recovering,” Logan said. “These individuals are discharged and sent home, but still need portable oxygen to continue their recovery.”
 
Discharges from hospitals are fueling portable oxygen needs and a need for the equipment to provide the oxygen. There is a limited number of suppliers of this equipment, and facilities need the same product.
 
The Alliance said hundreds of waivers have been approved by the state and the federal government to loosen restriction on hospitals and other healthcare providers, while  “meeting all quality and infection control standards and state and federal oversight requirements,” according to the Alliance.
 
New York State has set up a hospital coordination center to manage the needs of workers from out of state.
 
Cuomo also is using state-owned college dormitories for various purposes related to the pandemic.
 
The federal government’s coronavirus website and New York State Department of Health website provide additional information for healthcare providers and the public.
 
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Find additional coronavirus coverage at longislandpress.com/coronavirus

Long Island Researchers Studying Immune System Overreaction in Most Severe COVID-19 Cases

The researchers are looking at whether “overactive immune cells” produce Neutrophil Extracellular Traps or NETs, which may be responsible for the most severe cases.

Researchers on Long Island are looking at whether the body’s own immune system’s overreaction can be leading to the most severe COVID-19 cases, which could open the door to different treatments.

Northwell Health, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and nine other medical research institutions are studying whether an overreaction by white blood cells may cause the most severe cases of coronavirus, potentially leading to additional treatments.

The researchers are looking at whether “overactive immune cells” produce Neutrophil Extracellular Traps or NETs, which may be responsible for the most severe cases.

The group of institutions, known as the NETwork, on Long Island includes Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Northwell’s Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research and the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.

A paper published last week in the Journal of Experimental Medicine concluded that patients with COVID-19 infection sometimes develop Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome  or ARDS, pulmonary inflammation, thick mucus secretions in the airways, extensive lung damage and blood clots. 

“This late stage of the disease is difficult to manage,” according to Northwell. “In the worst cases, patients require invasive mechanical ventilation, and still, a large number of patients die.”

This condition, however, may result from overactive white blood cells or neutrophils that, in the body’s effort to battle the infection, can damage lungs and other organs.

“We propose that excess NETs may play a major role in the disease,” said Betsy Barnes, lead author of the paper and professor at the Feinstein Institutes. “It will be important to determine whether the presence of NETs associates with disease severity and/or particular clinical characteristics of COVID-19.”

NETs can lead to mucus in cystic fibrosis patients’ airways and acute respiratory distress syndrome or ARDS in flu or influenza.

If findings show excess NETs cause severe symptoms of COVID-19, Northwell said a new “avenue of treatments may be deployed to help COVID-19 patients,” reducing the need for intubation.

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Find additional coronavirus coverage at longislandpress.com/coronavirus

Some Long Island Companies Thrive in Pandemic Economy

With kids home from school amid the coronarivus pandemic, many parents are telecommuting. (Getty Images)

Ever since the coronavirus outbreak disrupted daily life, New Era Technology’s phones began ringing off the hook as companies sought them out for improved telecom and video conferencing so workers could telecommute to avoid contagion.  

Disney closed parks, major league sports seasons were suspended, the stock market crashed, schools were shuttered, and states of emergency were declared in local municipalities and nationally. But if this has been the worst of times from Wall Street to Main Street, certain businesses have seen, if not the best of times, surges in revenue. Telecom, delivery, sanitizers, drive-throughs, cleaning, and healthcare providers are all experiencing, for better or worse, rising demand.

“We’re busy,” says Zig Fekete, New Era Technology executive client manager in Islandia. “People are getting nervous and want to keep their employees safe, keeping them at home — and not letting employees who might be infected bring that infection back to the office.”

The coronavirus is leading to infections as well as seismic changes in behavior, as technology and remote access sometimes replace being there.

“You can do anything you can at the office other than stand around the water cooler and talk to everybody,” Fekete says. “We’re doing a lot more videoconferencing, instead of hand-to-hand combat, to avoid contact in spreading the virus.”

Louis Biscotti, Marcum LLP’s food and beverage practice leader, says that while restaurants, hospitality, catering, and travel take hits, delivery and some food makers are going strong. 

“Delivery companies and big processed food companies [are doing well] as people are stocking up on staple goods,” Biscotti says.

The grocery hoarders are also boosting retailer sales.

“Small grocery stores and distributors are also seeing a surge in profits as customers stockpile for a quarantine scenario,” says Joe Camberato, president and co-founder of National Business Capital & Services, a small-business loan broker.

There is a huge rush for healthcare services, as people seek insight into whether they might be infected. 

“Privately owned walk-in medical clinics and urgent care facilities are experiencing a surge in symptomatic visitors,” Camberato says. 

Family Affair Distributing, which provides promotional products, decorated apparel, and printing services, saw a boost in orders for hand sanitizer branded with company names before supply dried up.

“Some of the last orders went in last week,” says Lisa Chalker, the company’s CEO. “Then the whole industry got hit. Our suppliers are inundated. They ran out of stock.”

The shutdown of trade shows reduced demand for promotional items and Chinese factories shut down, making it impossible to order many products. 

“Because all the factories are closed, I can’t take on a job that’s a custom order,” Chalker says of certain custom products such as phone charger key chains. “A lot of conventions and trade shows are not happening now. That means my business clients may not have the need for trade show items which I help them with.”

Plastic bag bans, however, created an opportunity to make canvas bags with business names. 

“Now people need tote bags,” Chalker says. “These are great ideas for my clients to give to their clients. It’s a great way to put out their brand to clients.”

Camberato says some “lenders are placing limitations on highly affected industries like restaurants, travel, retail, and entertainment” because they’re less likely to generate the cash to pay off loans. 

“It’s certainly still possible to get funding,” he says, “but being in an industry or location affected by the virus makes it significantly more difficult.”

Chalker says promoting when others pause can position companies for revenues when business returns. 

“In marketing, when you have a thing like this and you’re still visible, people perceive you as a stronger company,” she says. “When you come out of it, they’ll go to companies that stayed strong through that perilous time.”

New Era, meanwhile, says manufacturers such as Cisco and Avaya are giving away audio/videoconferencing software to not-for profits for extended time periods, to curb travel and boost productivity.

Fekete said he’s doing a lot of selling, making phone calls, but not visiting potential clients quite the way he once did.

“No more door knocks,” Fekete adds. “It’s going to be phone calls and emails until, of course, it’s safe to come out.”

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Long Island Mask Maker Crosstex Working Overtime To Meet Demand

Hauppauge-based Crosstex makes in-demand masks.

Crosstex is busy on an ordinary day, but these have been extraordinary times for the Hauppauge-based brand of HuFriedyGroup that manufactures masks.

Little Falls, N.J.-based Cantel Medical owns HuFriedyGroup, its dental arm, which includes the Crosstex brand, systems to maintain and sterilize dental equipment, dental towels, bibs, hand sanitizer, and other products. Crosstex, with operations predominantly on Long Island, has ramped up to about 4 million masks a week, including a smaller operation in Rochester where two more manufacturing lines were added. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted some global supply chains abroad and boosted demand for Crosstex’s masks.

“At the outset of this crisis, we ramped up all of our production,” HuFriedyGroup President Ken Serota says. “We are currently running basically 24 hours, seven days a week in order to keep up with demand.”

That’s up from five days a week and 12 hours a day for the company that supplies distributors, such as Melville-based Henry Schein.

“Our customers are primarily dental offices,” Serota said, noting that Crosstex doesn’t sell directly to consumers. “They [masks] will provide protection from the transmission of aerosolized particles (minuscule particles suspended in the air) consistent with the level masks are indicated.”

Crosstex, founded in 1953, supplies dental products sold in about 100 countries. HenrySchein.com called masks “currently the most sought-after item” and expects “shortages to persist.”

“The increase in demand we’re seeing is in large part because the production of the majority of these is overseas,” Serota says. “Given the onset of the virus in China, the flow of product from China has been cut off to a significant extent.”

Crosstex uses what it calls SecureFit technology designed to make the mask fit and work better.

“That is unique technology,” Serota says. “That’s critically important to get maximum protection.”

He says the company has orders beyond the fall as companies seek to lock in production in advance. 

“Demand for personal protective equipment is crazy high,” Serota says, adding that the company is “100 percent subscribed for our inventory on hand sanitizer.”

“These are trying times for everyone,” Serota says. “We’re committed to doing everything we can to supply the dental industry with PPE (personal protective equipment) products.”

As to masks used to boost security against the virus, Serota says people should heed U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and not expose themselves to greater risk because of the products.

“Common sense is first and foremost,” he adds. “Social distancing. Avoid putting yourself in at-risk areas. Avoid crowds. Those are all critically important.”

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Long Island Real Estate Market Weathers One Storm, Faces Another

Spring is typically peak residential real estate sale season on Long Island. (Getty Images)


 The Long Island residential real estate industry had a good run in 2019 and in early 2020, fueled by low interest rates and low unemployment and despite limitations on state and local tax deductions, with robust demand and sometimes shrinking supply. 

The coronavirus outbreak, however, has cast a cloud on real estate as well as other industries since March, nearly erasing the rosy picture of life B.C. — before coronavirus — amid growing uncertainty. Springtime is normally the strongest season for home sales.

“The entry level marketplaces and the bread-and-butter price ranges are very active,” Ann Conroy, CEO of Douglas Elliman Real Estate’s Long Island Division, said in early March. “The buyers are out there. People have jobs. The unemployment rate is very low. And interest rates are very low. As long as there’s affordability, you’ll have an active market.”

Home sales closed in Nassau and Suffolk in 2019 reached 29,053 valued at $15.8 billion in a banner year, according to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island.

“What sold for X in 2018 wasn’t going to sell for X plus 10 percent in 2019,” Deirdre O’Connell, CEO of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, said. “It took a while for homeowners to make adjustments in pricing that was more realistic.”

This year started on a high note with the January 2020 median home price for Long Island (including Nassau, Suffolk and Queens) closed sales at $480,000 up 6.4 percent over the prior year, according to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island.

Nassau’s median closing price was $532,250, up 1.4 percent from $525,000 a year ago, according to MLSLI. Suffolk’s median reported closing price in January was $401,750, up 5.7 percent from $380,000 a year ago. 

Median sales in Nassau and Suffolk (excluding the Hamptons and North Fork) were $450,000 according to Douglas Elliman Real Estate’s Quarterly Survey of Residential Sales 2019, provided by Miller Samuel Inc. appraisers and consultants, including condo and one- to three-family sales).

Low interest rates helped fuel higher home prices, providing a big boost. Rates fell to as low as about 3.5 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage as of mid-March, according to Bankrate.com. O’Connell said she “entered 2020 optimistic,” with units under contract entering this year up 26 percent.

“Interest rates came down. Sellers are more realistic,” O’Connell said, noting the public has grown accustomed to the new State And Local Tax (SALT) deduction cap. “The SALT laws have become our new normal.”

Douglas Elliman’s report indicated that Long Island (excluding the Hamptons and North Fork) “listing inventory fell to a record low as sales and prices continued to rise” in 2019.

“The scarcity of supply has pressed prices higher for an extensive period,” according to the Douglas Elliman report.

Properties remained on the market for 72 days since listing in 2019, flat with 2018, but down from 117 in 2010, according to Douglas Elliman.

“The buying trends have been different than ten years ago,” Conroy said. “People like to live close to transportation now and vibrant towns.”

The coronavirus, and the reactions to it, put a big question mark over real estate and the region.

“Nobody, regardless of your crystal ball, can predict,” Conroy said.

O’Connell agreed it’s hard to tell how this infection will impact the real estate industry long term.

“I don’t know what kind of access homeowners will give us to homes,” O’Connell said. “I think the year should end OK, but I believe we’re going to have some bumps in the middle. This is a world event, not a local event.”

Providing open access to residences amid coronavirus concerns could become an issue.  “We had a good weekend with open houses, but I’m seeing questions from my agents,” O’Connell said in early March. “What are we going to do about open houses? The impact is ahead of us.”

Investors could rush to real estate, reassured by the value of a tangible asset.“They (interest rates) are historically low,” Conroy said. “Look at the volatility of the stock market. What is the best place to invest your money? It’s in real estate.”

Real estate could provide a refuge for those seeking to invest, but also could be impacted by the economic downturn.

“I think people who are broad-minded will see this as a time of opportunity, a time to lock in for 30 years at an amazing interest rate,” O’Connell said. “We entered the year really positive. The coronavirus is an unknown factor. We hope the year will end as it started.”

O’Connell said “Confidence is everything,” adding that she hopes Long Island real estate will weather the coronavirus storm as it has weathered other forces.

“Bricks and mortar are solid,” O’Connell said. “You can hold it. You can feel it. Long term, we’re going to be fine.”

Northwell Health Adapting Med Device As Ventilator

Drs. Stanley John, Hugh Cassiere, and Todd Goldstein converted a BiPAP to a ventilator and and shared instruction on how to 3D print a hard-to-find t-valve that others will need to replicate the efforts. Credit: Northwell Health.

Northwell Health is converting a medical device used for sleep apnea and other conditions into a ventilator to increase the number of ventilators available to its patients, throughout New York, and nationwide.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo today referred to Northwell Health’s transformation of a medical device into a ventilator as an example of innovation in an effort to be prepared in the event of an ongoing surge of COVID-19 patients.

The Manhasset-based health system said one of its physicians, a respiratory therapist, and 3D printing bioengineer together developed a system to convert a device known as a bi-level positive airway pressure or BiPAP.

Northwell Health said it’s able to transform a BiPAP into a “functional invasive mechanical ventilator” through a 3D printed adaptor.

A BiPAP or positive airway pressure machine is used to maintain consistent breathing for people with sleep apnea, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Dr. Hugh Cassiere, medical director for respiratory therapy services at North Shore University Hospital, and Stanley John, NSUH’s director of respiratory therapy, developed the method to convert the Philips Respironics V60 BiPAP into a ventilator.

“I knew we could develop a way to repurpose and convert these machines to save hundreds of lives,” Dr. Cassiere said in a statement.

Northwell Health said it “has an adequate supply of ventilators for its patients,” but is seeking more to prepare for “a likely surge.”

The organization said it has a good supply of BiPAP machines across its 23 hospitals and, “faced with a surge when ventilators numbers do get low,” it believes converting these machines could help.

Dr. Cassiere and John collaborated with Northwell Health’s 3D Design and Innovation department to make a 3D-printed adapter.

“We were able to imitate the design of the T-piece adapter and print the plastic-resin piece with our 3D printers,” said Todd Goldstein, Northwell Health’s director of 3D design and innovation. “If the need arises, we would be able to print 150 adaptors in 24-hours.”

Northwell Health said it can share the new protocols to convert the BiPAP machines and T-adapter 3D print designs.