Claude Solnik


Sotor Technologies CEO Derek Peterson: Keeping Long Island Safe and Sound

Derek Peterson, posing with a Sotor Technologies sensor, named his company after the Greek god of safety, Soterus.

As CEO of Ronkonkoma-based Soter Technologies, Derek Peterson is an engineer and entrepreneur. He talked with the Press about the tech sector, going from Symbol Technologies to his own company, developing sensors and new products for COVID-19, and being a Black CEO.

Can you tell us about the device you created to screen for COVID-19? We created a device called SymptomSense, a screening evaluation gateway. It screens for vital signs such as blood oxidation level, temperature, respiration and heart rate. It’s in the same format as a metal detector. You walk through it and it will scan you and give you a pass or not. We’ve learned that blood oxidation level is a better indicator than temperature. We’re shipping to sporting teams, NFL teams, Major League Baseball. We also have police departments, hospitals, health institutions, major bakeries, and food producers. 

How did you get involved in sensors? We invented and designed the world’s first sensor to detect vaping. My background is in engineering. I’ve been creating sensors my whole career. It’s been part of my DNA to design sensors that keep people safe. The name Soter is inspired by the Greek god of safety, Soterus. 

When did you start Soter? Soter was founded in 2017. It was born out of another entity called Digital Fly. We created Digital Fly with a product called FlySights, which was a social media monitoring tool. If you posted a threat against somebody, like a student, teacher or principal, we could identify that threat and alert authorities. We were focused on bullying.

How did that lead to Soter? Schools were asking, “Can you help with physical bullying? Kids are fighting in bathrooms.” We went back to the drawing board. You can’t put a camera or microphone in a bathroom. However we can put a decibel level sensor in a bathroom. We created our first device in 2016 that picked up on sound anomalies. And we branched into becoming a hardware company. We rebranded ourselves to become Soter Technologies.

How did you develop vaping sensors? Schools asked us if we could help them with the vaping problem. Kids were vaping in the bathrooms. We added sensors that could detect if kids are vaping. And we created the world’s first vaping detector. We’re in 21 countries and about 8,000 devices deployed. All of Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, Japan, Singapore. Everywhere. Australia, New Zealand. Canada.

Do you have to be an engineer and an entrepreneur? I’m an engineer first and a business person second. I like to invent and solve problems. However, I’m also on the business side. I view everything as a sport. I like to win. Building a business and winning deals, it’s sport to me, gamesmanship. And I enjoy the win. It’s satisfaction to invent and create technology. Can I sell this? Can I make a change in the world? 

As a Black engineer and businessman, have you faced additional challenges? Now I’m 30-plus years into my career. I built a brand for myself so people understand and recognize who I am. I’ve gotten past a lot of the systemic issues in the engineering world earlier in my career.

What issues? Early in my career, working for other people, I was not paid equally compared to an engineer at the same level, same grade, sitting in the cube next to me. That has been documented. I had to get salary adjustments to catch up with my peers. In the engineering world, there are few minorities, African Americans and Latinos. Typically when I travel, one or two or three engineers at a conference. They’re just not there.

Why? That’s a good question. They’re just not given the same opportunities. Maybe they’re not given the same awareness that these roles and jobs are available. It starts at the high school level.

Have you been able to make a difference as a mentor? I work with local universities in regard to mentoring. I speak often at high schools and universities and bring awareness to what’s going on and job opportunities. I sit on boards like Timothy Hill, the children’s ranch in Riverhead, to help young adults.

How diverse is your company? My company on a percentage basis is probably one of the most diverse on the island. It’s the United Nations, men, women, Black, white, Latino. All mixed races. Everybody plays happily in the same sandbox. Everybody  brings their own talents to the table. People come into the office and see the diversification. I look for good, talented people. 

What new products are you developing? The next thing we’re working on is sensors to open up the schools due to the pandemic. Those will be in the marketplace in August. It’s different technology we’re doing for schools. They can purchase what we currently have, but we’re releasing technology to go a little further to ensure safety.

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Empire State Development CEO Eric Gertler: Long Island Control Room Chairman

Eric Gertler, co-Chairman & co-Publisher of the New York Daily News on Tuesday, June 13, 2017 in Manhattan, N.Y. (James Keivom/New York Daily News)

As acting CEO, president, and commissioner of the New York State’s Empire State Development, Eric Gertler runs the state’s economic engine. The former executive chairman of U.S. News & World Report and managing member of Ulysses Ventures is also the regional captain of the Long Island Control Room, charged with helping to reopen the region’s economy from the coronavirus shutdown. He talked with the Press about his agency’s changing role, adapting in crisis and reopening LI.

What are your priorities for the agency as president and CEO, and have they changed in the wake of the pandemic? When you go through a crisis, they need to change. You need to respond to the times and how a crisis is evolving. For the first 90 days, we supported combating the COVID-19 crisis. Everything we did was in support of that. Now we’re looking at how to support the opening of the economy. 

What has ESD done to support the state’s response to COVID-19? We did an enormous amount of sourcing for the PPE [personal protective equipment] we needed to buy for essential workers around the state. When the crisis hit, we were involved in defining essential businesses and updating guidance. We also focused on how to help New York manufacturers of COVID-related equipment. We needed to make sure we had the necessary supply chain, including food, around the state. Those are not tasks that ESD normally undertakes. We became entrepreneurial and innovative and worked around the clock.

What are things you and the agency have been doing on Long Island? We are looking to support small businesses. Small businesses are critical to New York State. They represent 98 percent of the businesses we have. A lot of businesses, particularly those with under 20 employees, didn’t get federal money. We created the New York Forward loan fund to get loans to small businesses, particularly MWBEs [Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises] in need of financial support. And infrastructure. There are important infrastructure projects on Long Island, including the Belmont Park arena. Focusing on infrastructure, on jobs, is critical as to how we support the economy.

What’s been your experience as captain of the Long Island Regional Control Room? The Control Room has been an important part of assuring that the opening of Long Island goes smoothly. The key to the control room has been to understand the pulse of what’s going on so we can be ahead of the issues and monitor the region, so we can open up safely and keep tracking important data in a way that allows us to open smoothly and not pause.

How is managing the Long Island Control Room been different than other regions? I think the key here isn’t that the managing is different. We’ve been able to learn from other regions that opened up prior to Long Island. Other than New York City, Long Island was the last region to open up. We’ve learned from what other regions went through. You learn about specific issues with business, what people face when they go back into offices. You can write guidelines, but how are they being applied? What are the issues? Where are people feeling frustration so we can manage that? What were the issues for outdoor dining? A hundred things allowed us to ensure that each phase of Long Island opens up smoothly.

What’s the biggest change for you, going from the private sector to the public sector? On a personal basis, there’s a great sense of being involved in meaningful work and a mission. You get to do that, to be part of that in government. Nothing replaces every day being able to help people, to make the state, the community, society better. On a day-to-day operations basis, in the private sector, your thinking is more linear. You do this deal, invest this money and go forward. In public service, at this level, you need to be thinking almost three dimensionally. You need to understand the agency, how this will affect the community, where the pressure points are. You don’t contour everything in terms of projects. How do you make sure you get everybody, and the right people, as part of the projects to make a difference?

Are you optimistic that New York State’s economy will rebound from the recession caused by the coronavirus, and if so, why and how? I am optimistic that the state economy will recover, that we’ll return to the heights we were experiencing before. But I don’t think it’s going to necessarily be easy. I don’t think it’ll be the same. As the governor has pointed out, we’re going to reimagine the economy. Things will be different. I think there will be different types of investments in businesses of the future. As the governor has pointed out, we are New York tough. At the end of the day, the people will fuel the economy. And I have the highest degree of confidence in the people of New York State. I’m optimistic, but also a pragmatist. We’ll have to work too. But I do see a rebuilt, reimagined New York State economy.

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Congress Extends Deadline For PPP Loans

U.S. Capitol
Billions of dollars in unused funds remained in the Paycheck Protection Program for forgivable loans when the deadline ran out on June 30. Now it looks like companies will get more time.
After easing the terms under which Paycheck Protection Program loans could be forgiven, Congress has extended the deadline through Aug. 8. This will create new opportunities for forgivable loans to businesses that can either be turned into grants or paid back at rock-bottom interest rates of 1 percent.
The approvals, which came as PPP sunset on June 30, should mean a new sunrise for a program that went into effect in April. A single vote in the U.S. House of Representatives could have ended the program, which required unanimous consent due to the lack of time before Congress adjourned. In a Congress where disagreement is usually the order of the day, this passed both houses in a matter of days.
The decision answers a $129 billion question, the amount of funding still left in the program administered by the U.S. Small  Business Administration: Yes, companies will get additional chances to apply for the funding, provided that President Donald Trump signs the bill, as expected.
PPP is part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act, which uses the  SBA’s 7(a) small business lending program to fund forgivable loans up to $10 million.
The SBA even before the June 30 initial deadline had approved more than 4.8 million loans valued at $520 billion, according to the Journal of Accoutancy. The big question, beyond which and whether specific loans will be forgiven, may be how many companies can still apply and qualify.
Neil Seiden, president of Uniondale-based Asset Enhancement Solutions, specializing in helping companies apply for PPP, said Congress’ decision meant some of his staffers would continue working on applications, even through the holiday weekend.
“We actually have people who will be working this weekend,” said Seiden. “If there’s work to be done and people are available, we do it.”
While millions of loans have been approved, some companies that qualify either weren’t aware they could or were turned down by banks, often flooded with applications, for a wide range of reasons.
“We’ve kind of been on a roller coaster in the wild west, especially in April and May with the chaos  going on with big banks not communicating with people properly,” said Seiden, whose firm has been helping companies obtain small and larger forgivable loans. “That’s what launched us and motivated our team.”
Many business people initially got loans from the bank with which they do business. But many others were unable to and, in some cases, heard little or nothing back. Some waited, only to have the clock run out, before it restarted a few days ago.
“Now that we have another bite at the apple, we’ve got a whole bunch of cases waiting in the wings,” said one executive who referred clients to AES.
Some business people wrongly believed they didn’t qualify after being rejected due to application errors, where something as trivial as providing four numbers rather than two for year or vice verse, could lead to rejection.
An AES staffer said putting a personal cell phone in a form rather than a business number also could stall an application, even if the applicants simply found out they were rejected without a clear reason.
“It was very hard. It was not easy. For X, Y, Z reasons, we got denied once, twice,” said Mat Lanfant of his Port Washington business, The Cooking Lab. “We had issues when we were applying with another bank.”
Seiden said AES, which pivoted to focused on financing PPP loans, found companies sometimes were unaware of changing regulations or didn’t realize their category of company was eligible. Many sole proprietors, prime examples of small business, never applied, because they weren’t aware that they could qualify.
And other business people often weren’t aware of the intricacies of the program which, for instance, could some companies larger than the 500-employee cut off in most cases to qualify under certain circumstances.
Some companies that were approved initially returned funds, because they felt the terms would make it impossible for them to get the loans forgiven. But the terms changed, which could make these loans attractive, even after they initially rejected them.
Initially, money had to be used in eight weeks in order for loans to be forgiven, prompting some companies not to apply. That was extended to 24 weeks, making loans more appealing to many and easier to forgive.
Initially, 75 percent had to go to payroll, while that was modified to 60 percent, with the remainder able to go to costs such as rent and utilities.
Companies from Long Island sometimes obtained funds by working with banks as far as California and Utah, while Long Island companies sometimes helped businesses around the nation apply and qualify.
In addition to helping nearly 200 businesses in New York get PPP funds, AES has helped applicants from 26 other states, including more than a dozen in California, 30 in New Jersey, 10 in Pennsylvania, three in George and Michigan and many in other states.
“We were losing money. I started panicking, seeing the numbers,” an executive whose organization in New York City provides home health aides said of her initial predicament. “I didn’t know what to do.”
She found out she was eligible, and obtained funding which she said will let her organization continue to operate and survive its own financial crunch. “It’s about making sure we stay afloat, we can continue doing the work that we do,” she said of the funding, obtained through AES.
Some have suggested that most companies that are eligible have already obtained funds. While it’s unclear how many or which companies will apply and qualify, one thing’s clear. Time, a resource that had run out, has been replenished. 
“We’ve got another five weeks of doing this, mixing with other things,” Seiden said.
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U.S. Senate Votes For PPP Funding Extension

U.S. Capitol

It looks like businesses may get more time to take part in a massive program designed to provide funding.

The U.S. Senate approved Wednesday extending the Paycheck Protection Program, slated to sunset on June 30, through August 8, letting more businesses obtain loans which can be forgiven if they meet certain requirements.

The legislation, still awaiting approval in the U.S. House of Representatives and then requiring President Donald Trump’s signature, would extend a program that began in April with $130 billion still approved and not used.

Many companies initially did not apply or turned down loans, due to the original terms, which required money to be used within eight weeks, especially difficult since many companies were still closed. 

That was extended to 24 weeks with 60 percent not 75 percent required to go to salary, and the remainder allowed for rent and some other uses such as utilities.

Neil Seiden, president of Asset Enhancement Solutions, in Uniondale, which has been helping companies apply through the program, said some “companies that were initially hesitant about taking the money” have been applying. 

“We got a call from a guy for a $250,000 loan yesterday,” Seiden said. “Because of the forgiveness being extended to 24 weeks, he determined the loan could be forgiven.”

He said that business person operates a hair salon, which at the time of the initial applications had been closed.

“He didn’t apply, because hair salons weren’t open,” Seiden said, noting more time would allow more companies to apply and receive funds. “This will be a big upside for a lot of companies.”

While some companies are applying for the first time, others have had loans declined due to errors in applications, including improper phone numbers or addresses, even though they would otherwise qualify.

“If any of those things are off, that can automatically reject an application,” Evan Siegel, AES’ director of operations, said. “We’ve had situations where an applicant may have put a home address where a business address should go or cell phone number instead of business number.”

AES, he said, identified mistakes made in previous applications, correcting them, and helps companies go through the process. Companies are not charged for the service, which is paid for by lenders.

“There was definitely a push in the last few days to have people get their items in,” Siegel said, noting an extension would let more companies obtain funds. “I think we’ll pick up where we were and continue doing what we were doing.”

Related Story: Small Businesses Face Uphill Battle In Getting Forgivable Loans

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Long Island Businesses Adapt To New Normal

Getty Images

As Long Island entered the phased reopening of its economy from the coronavirus shutdown, local businesses took preliminary steps toward a new normal. 

But it’s been far from business as usual in July, with changes going beyond the presence of masks, social distancing, and lower density unlike in the days before COVID-19 hit. 

“We’re witnessing a gradual return to normalcy,” says Terri Alessi-Miceli, president and CEO of the Hauppauge Industrial Association, “all consistent with the phase-in plan set forth by the state.”

How and what companies return to, however, may be a mix of new and normal, as reopening becomes not simply a return to, but a redefinition and reimagining of, normal.

Even as stores began to reopen, customers often were slower to return and many relied more on delivery for goods from supermarkets and other retailers than before.

Plexiglass barriers between cashiers and customers aren’t likely to go anywhere soon. With restaurants at limited capacity, reservations are recommended. And businesses such as barbershops and salons typically shifted to by-appointment models, rather than relying on crowded waiting rooms. 

“Some companies are considering ways to incorporate some degree of telecommuting into their new business models,” Alessi-Miceli adds. 

Telecommuting is more common in part because technology is now more widespread. At Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk offices, as the region entered phase two, all office workers were still allowed to work from home. And telemedicine transformed medicine, as virtual visits made house calls more common.

“The use of telehealth exploded during the crisis, especially for the treatment of mental health issues,” says Janine Logan, spokeswoman for the Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council and the Suburban Hospital Alliance of New York State. “Rules and restrictions around the use of telehealth for all health services were relaxed during the pandemic and are still, for the most part, in place.” 

Linda Taylor, CEO of Visiting Nurse Service and Hospice of Suffolk, says her group is using telehealth to conduct more virtual visits, often including family members.  

“This benefits our ability to safeguard our patients and staff by minimizing face-to-face contact between home visits and maximizing our ability to monitor patient symptoms and progress,” she says of online visits, including review of medication, side effects, interactions and effectiveness.

Bill Kiley, a Long Island author who wrote a children’s book titled Hoped and Freckles, had lined up visits at Barnes and Noble stores and schools. He instead has been doing virtual visits that are likely to continue for the near future.

“My first online visit was with a school in Yonkers … and it was a delightful experience,” he says. “Next week I’m visiting an online class from a school in Northport.”

Some companies are changing their business model, offering services that may be more in demand during the new normal. WizdomOne Group,  a wealth advisory firm and employee benefits company in Islandia, launched “WizdomWorks,” providing office space to those who may not need much, if any, square footage.

Marisa Morgillo, a marketing consultant for WizdomOne Group, says “the ability to work more remotely” is making many people rethink sometimes costly conventional office space. 

Through WizdomWorks, she says, “various professionals and entrepreneurs” can work and “share ideas and connections” and space, rather than leasing traditional space.

“WizdomWorks will be offering this philosophy to those who are looking for a fresh atmosphere and start to the ‘new norm,’” Morgillo adds, saying spaces “will be available to lease by startups, entrepreneurs and established professionals.”

Real estate and construction have been returning to their new normal, which may have a different look and feel as brokers rely more on virtual house showings. Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk, meanwhile, isn’t bringing volunteer builders back just yet.

“We have restarted construction with paid staff only,” says Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk CEO Lee Silberman. “We do not anticipate allowing volunteer groups to come out to our worksites until Labor Day.”

Revenue could go down at businesses such as barbershops, restaurants, and others, due to lower volume. Even Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk, for instance, expects to build fewer homes.

“Not having volunteers severely impacts our ability to work on multiple houses at the same time,” Silberman says. 

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Small Businesses Face Uphill Battle In Getting Forgivable Loans

Securing finds through the Paycheck Protection Program has been easier said than done, local business owners say. (Getty Images)

Veronica Bencivenga, owner of Duck Donuts in Hauppauge, owns exactly the type of business the Paycheck Protection Program seems intended for, as a small, family-owned company that struggled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

She reached out to Bank of America, her company’s banker, to facilitate a PPP $98,000 forgivable federal loan — up to 2.5 times monthly payroll — and got nowhere.

“I found an interesting trend,” she says. “Business owners I spoke to who were looking for larger loans, $1 million or more, were getting approved and funded rapidly. Owners looking for $125,000 or $75,000 didn’t make any progress.”

Bencivenga got funds through Bethpage Federal Credit Union, which had handled her personal mortgage, in four days. 

Richard Izzi, a partner in transaction advisory services at Manhattan-based Marcum LLP, which has large Melville operations, says many companies didn’t get loans the first time around due to demand, regardless of amount. He says many companies in the second round often got funded “through banks with which they didn’t have a previous relationship.”

“They were overwhelmed,” he says of banks, citing a $2 million loan not obtained in the first round, but later approved.

Big banks obtained the lion’s share of Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, including many smaller ones. Still, numerous small business representatives believe larger banks prioritized larger loans with bigger commissions per loan.

“Banks did what any prudent business would do: Try to make as many large loans as possible,” said Bencivenga. The number of her business’s employees initially dropped from 26 to 12 as revenues fell by nearly half. “It’s more effective from a business perspective to administer fewer larger loans than many small ones.”

The initial PPP $349 billion was followed by $310 billion in funding, including $30 billion for community banks and small credit unions and $30 billion for medium-sized banks and credit unions. 

“For most other government regulated programs, small business is defined as up to 50 or 100,” Bencivenga says. “PPP defined small business as 500 employees.”

Joseph Durko, managing director of Melville-based Integrekon Partners, helped dozens of companies get funds, often with no help from their primary banker.

He says a San Francisco-based company got nowhere with Bank of America, its banker, before he helped the company obtain $600,000 through Cache Valley Bank, in Utah.

“I believe larger institutions have favored larger clients in underwriting,” Durko says. “The larger the average loan amount, the less work you have to do to get to the same fee level.”

Durko says Wells Fargo told a company the bank wouldn’t have enough funding allocated to help, even though the company applied early.

He adds that City National Bank in Beverly Hills helped Long Island companies obtain loans; others credited Bridgehampton-based BNB.

“The true SBA lenders were better equipped to handle this,” Durko says, noting PPP was run through the Small Business Administration.

Anthony Buonaspina, CEO of LI Tech Advisors in Babylon, says BNB got his company a $135,000 forgivable loan. 

“I decided to go through a local bank that I didn’t even have an account with,” he says of BNB. “They worked their asses off and got my company the funding it needed in a few days.”

Bencivenga said Bank of America’s list of business categories didn’t even include restaurants or food and beverage.

“They had hedge fund manager, legal firm, financial services, and construction,” she says. “There was no restaurant or food service. I had to pick ‘other.’”

Applications in the first round asked companies to indicate if they were affected, but not specify how they were damaged by the economic downturn.

”They didn’t ask, ‘Are your sales down? What percentage? Is your staffing down? How much?’ There were no financial questions,” Bencivenga says. “There were more teeth to the second set of disclaimers.”

Loans can be forgiven if 75 percent is used for payroll up to $100,000 in salaries, with the remainder for mortgage, rent and utilities within eight weeks after the loan is made. Otherwise, they must be repaid within two years at a 1 percent interest rate.

Companies often reward banks who helped. Buonaspina said he’s moving $500,000 into a BNB account. 

“They were very accommodating to me,” he says. 

Bencivenga plans to do business with Bethpage Federal Credit Union beyond this program. 

“We definitely are going to do more banking with Bethpage,” she says, noting that she has been able to staff fully and stay in business, with help from the PPP funds.

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FDA Revokes Chembio’s COVID-19 Antibody Test Approval


Shares of Hauppauge-based Chembio Diagnostics plummeted Tuesday after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revoked an emergency authorization to market its COVID-19 antibody test, citing higher than expected inaccurate results.

Shares of Chembio tumbled on June 17 more than 60 percent or slightly more than $6 by late morning to just under $4, following the revocation. Chembio’s antibody test was one of the first that the FDA authorized during the COVID-19 public health emergency under special orders designed to clear the path to market for products that might be helpful in battling the pandemic.

“New information from three evaluations performed since authorization of the device demonstrates its performance may be both inconsistent and lower than that described in your original submission,” Denise Hinton, chief scientist at the FDA, wrote Monday in letter to Chembio, informing the company of the decision to revoke approval.

The FDA said Chembio had provided additional data on April 29 and May 15 and taken steps designed to improve performance, but the agency was not satisfied the test was able to meet standards of accuracy needed to sustain use.

Chembio did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision.

“Based on the information that Chembio submitted to the FDA at that time, the agency concluded that the test met the statute’s ‘may be effective’ standard for emergency use authorization,” the FDA said in a statement issued Tuesday regarding initial approval.

The FDA in its decision to revoke the authorization cited “data submitted by Chembio as well as an independent evaluation of the Chembio test at the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute” that the agency said “showed that this test generates a higher than expected rate of false results and higher than that reflected in the authorized labeling for the device.”

The agency added that “under the current circumstances of the public health emergency, it is not reasonable to believe that the test may be effective in detecting antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.”

In its decision, the FDA further said that “the risk to public health from the false test results makes emergency use authorization revocation appropriate to protect the public health or safety.”

Chembio recently issued about 280,000 shares of stock that it said at the time were expected to generate $30.8 million.

And it reached a multi-year, non‑exclusive agreement with Thermo Fisher Scientific to distribute its DPP COVID-19 System in the United States.

The company also said it had reached a $4 million deal to provide tests for use in Brazil.

Facing a healthcare crisis, the FDA earlier provided a much easier path to use for tests related to COVID-19 than under ordinary circumstances.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the FDA has balanced the urgent need for access to diagnostic and antibody tests with providing a level of oversight that helps to ensure accurate tests are being deployed,” Dr. Jeff Shuren, director of FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement. “By continuing to monitor authorized tests and emerging scientific evidence, we are able to make changes when appropriate, including taking action when a test’s benefits no longer outweigh its risks.”

Related Story: Long Island Innovators Wield Sharp Minds, Cutting-Edge Tech In War on Coronavirus

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Mad Woman: Austin Williams President Eva LaMere

Austin Williams President Eva LaMere is helping clients adapt to the COVID-19 age.

As president of Austin Williams, an advertising agency in Hauppauge with nearly 50 employees, Eva LaMere has been leading her company and helping others through a huge economic disruption. She talked with the Press about marketing and branding during a pandemic, and how it’s possible to find opportunity in adversity.

How are brands adapting in this environment? The brands that are successful in adapting in this environment are acknowledging that they have a responsibility to help their constituents. Whether it’s reassuring, allaying fears, demonstrating that they are going beyond what they would typically be doing, they’re expressing the heart of their brand, being true to themselves in an authentic manner.

Can you give some examples? BNB, a bank headquartered on Long Island, is a client of ours. They’re very much a community business bank. When the PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] funding came out, there was a lot of turmoil. BNB was right there. They’re also our bank and they helped us get funding. We worked with them to put a TV spot together that was all about, “We understand what’s happening to business. Nobody knew this was coming. But we’re here for you.” This was not about, “Come to us, open a checking account.” It was, “We’re the bank for small business and we’re here to help you.”

How do you even make a commercial today? That was a challenge. We produced five TV spots in the past two months for our clients, about pivoting the message. We did it using existing footage from previously shooting commercials. We created opportunities. They were more somber. We used existing stock footage. We did voiceovers remotely. In the case of BNB, we used Kevin O’Connor, BNB’s CEO, as the voiceover. We felt it was important that the message come directly from him. He recorded it on his iPhone, sent it in, and we enhanced it.

How are marketing agencies adapting and helping clients? I think the most important characteristic for a marketing agency is to be a leader for their client. Consumer sentiment is changing by the hour. They want to hear from brands. They want authentic messaging. We have to be able to pivot and lead them in the direction it needs to be. We’ve been able to be nimble in producing materials.

What are some messages clients want to get out? Orlin & Cohen Orthopedic Group wanted to communicate that they were still open for urgent situations. Orthopedic pain doesn’t stop in a crisis. There were people in pain who wanted to figure out where to go. We created materials to get that message out, whether it be digital or print. It’s all about working quickly and being able to pivot. Gone are the days of, “Let’s have this creative brainstorm and figure this out.” It’s about being proactive.

Are clients cutting back? We have not seen that. We’ve seen, perhaps, a shift. As listenership for traditional radio declined, listenership for streaming audio like Pandora and Spotify has increased. Outdoor advertising isn’t as high right now. So we might shift dollars from outdoor advertising to more TV. We didn’t experience clients cutting back, but they looked to us to help them shift their dollars based on changing media behavior of consumers.

Why advertise amid all this disruption? Every study of advertising during a recession demonstrates that market share increased for companies that do. There’s less noise out there and better rates. Even though some businesses have shut down, consumers haven’t shut down. We may be shopping online, not in a store. Brands we have a connection to will survive and thrive.

How are you and Austin Williams modifying how you operate? We were never big fans of work-from-home policy in an agency environment. We believe agencies are successful when they can collaborate and brainstorm. We have seen we can be efficient and creative and work in a very productive manner in a remote situation. We use Zoom for bigger meetings, we use Google hangouts for smaller meetings. 

Of all that has changed, what’s an example of something you see continuing? I think companies across the board are recognizing the importance of technology in their business for communication. We didn’t use Zoom before this. We didn’t have many videoconferences. That’s going to be more prevalent in our business, investing in the technology that allows us to be efficient and allows us to communicate. 

Long Island Private Sector Jobs Fall Nearly 25% Over Year 

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Private sector payroll employment on Long Island fell 22.6 percent in April and nearly 25 percent for the year, bringing the region’s employment to the lowest level in more than two decades.

The loss of 253,600 jobs in April, following a 7,800 drop in March, is a decline that Shital Patel, principal economist for Long island for the New York State Department of Labor, called the ”largest in the history of the current series” dating back to 1990.

The number of private sector jobs on Long Island year over year decreased by 281,900, or 24.5 percent, to 866,400 in April. In other words, one in four Long Island jobs were eliminated, at least temporarily.

The number of private sector jobs state-wide declined 21.4 percent or 1.76 million for the month to 6,467,600 in what the New York State Department of Labor called “the state’s largest monthly employment drop on record.”

The nation’s private sector job count declined by 15.2 percent or about 19.6 million for the month.

Declines on Long Island spanned most industries with hospitality hit among the hardest, losing well over half of its jobs.

“The largest employment decline (for the month) occurred in leisure and hospitality, where employment plunged by 70,300, or 62.1 percent,” Patel said.

Clothing and clothing accessories’ job count on Long Island fell by 70.5 percent, bigger on a percentage basis than the hospitality industry, or 11,700 for the year and 10,900 or 68 percent for the month.

Food services and drinking establishments lost 67.6 percent or 68,900 jobs over the year and declined by 65.2 percent or 61,900 for the month.

And arts, entertainment and recreation shed 12,000 jobs or 54.7 percent for the year, and lost 8,400 or 45.9 percent for the month.

Meanwhile, retail overall shed 25.8 percent or 40,400 jobs for the year and 38,000 or 24.6 percent for the month.

Hospitals lost 2.3 percent or 1,600 jobs for the year and 2,700 jobs or 3.8 percent for the month, while nursing home and residential care facilities lost 3,400 jobs or 9.3 percent for the year and 3,100 jobs or 8.5 percent for the month.

Insurance carriers and related businesses fared among the best, shedding 2.3 percent of jobs or 600 for the year, and dropping 700 jobs or by 2.7 percent for the month.

Finance and insurance on Long Island actually gained 0.6 percent or 300 jobs year over year, but fell by 200 or 0.4 percent from March to April.

And financial activities shed 5.5 percent or 3,800 jobs for the year and 2.8 percent or 1,900 for the month.

The federal government on Long Island, meanwhile, added 200 jobs for the year, growing by 1.3 percent, while remaining flat for the month.

The unemployment rate for April was 14.7 percent nationwide, while it reached 14.2 percent in New York City and 14.7 percent in New York State excluding New York City.

That followed a near historic low for unemployment in March of 4.4 percent for the nation, 4.1 percent for New York State and New York City as well as 4.2 percent for New York State excluding New York City.

Unemployment last April was 3.6 percent nationwide, 4.0 percent in New York State, 4.2 percent in New York City and 3.9 percent in New York State, excluding New York City.

Related Story: Restaurant, Hospitality Workers Fall Through Cracks of Coronavirus Safety Net

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CBS News Names Northwell Doc Senior Medical Reporter

Dr. Tara Narual appearing on CBS.

When Dr. Tara Narula isn’t practicing medicine at Northwell Health, she’ll be appearing on TV as CBS Newssenior medical correspondent.

As medicine becomes an even bigger part of media amid the coronavirus crisis, she has played an increasing role in CBS coverage, culminating in her appointment as a major source of information for the network.

After working as a contributor to CBS This Morning, Narula in her new role will report for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms, including CBS This Morning, the CBS Evening News With Norah O’Donnell, CBS Sunday Morning and CBSN, the network’s around-the-clock streaming service.

She frequently reported on health trends, cardiovascular disease, general health and wellness, more recently answering viewer questions on the COVID-19 pandemic.

She is a board-certified cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan and an assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell.

She joined the Lenox Hill Heart and Vascular Institute in 2010, where she provides outpatient consultative care, also serving as associate director of the Women’s Cardiovascular Disease Center at Lenox Hill Hospital.

After graduating from Stanford University with degrees in economics and biology, she founded and became CEO of Sun Juice Inc.

She then obtained a medical degree at USC Keck School of Medicine, completing her residency in internal medicine at Harvard University/Brigham and Women’s Hospital and her fellowship training in cardiology at New York Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Narula is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology and a national spokesperson for the American Heart Association.

Related Story: Michael Dowling of Northwell: Long Island’s Largest Employer

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