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Timothy Bolger

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.

Fire Island Homeowners Urged Not To Seek Beach House Isolation Amid Coronavirus Crisis

Fire Island's 17 resort communities are only accessible by ferry. U.S. EPA photo by Jeanethe Falvey

Officials on Fire Island are urging seasonal homeowners not to come to their beach homes to get away from more densely populated areas amid widespread calls for the public to practice social distancing.

The mayors of the villages of Ocean Beach and Saltaire, two of the most populous areas among the 17 summer resort communities on the 32-mile-long barrier island, have issued warnings that there aren’t enough first responders or medics available in the off-season to handle an influx of COVID-19 refugees.

“We are in winter mode and emergency service is very, very, limited,” Jim Mallott, mayor of the Village of Ocean Beach, the unofficial capital of the island, said in a letter posted on the village’s website. “So please think long and hard about your decision to come here to Fire Island or even if your here now, your decision to stay.”

The impact of New York City residents similarly fleeing to their second homes in the Hamptons has reportedly exacerbated the coronavirus crisis on the South Fork.

On FI, there are more than 4,000 beach homes largely accessible only by ferry, but the population fluctuates from about 300 year-round residents in the winter to more than 20,000 in the peak months.

The fear is that the seasonal residents trying to take advantage of the isolation on the island this time of year will put themselves and others at risk during a time when resources are scarce. For example, water in some of the more remote communities isn’t expected to be turned on until April 15, there is only one market and two restaurants, CJ’s Restaurant and Bar and Castaway Bar & Grill, open on the entire island. Mallott said his village has about 100 families seeking shelter in Ocean Beach but only a dozen emergency responders, about half of whom are EMTs.

In the barrier island’s only other incorporated village, Saltaire Mayor John A. Zaccaro Jr. issued a similar warning as Mallott.

“Some residents have understandably begun to make plans to relocate to Saltaire earlier than normal,” Zaccaro wrote in a letter to residents. “There is nothing at this point that would prohibit that early relocation, but you should give careful consideration as to what services will be available this time of year and when you should make that move. As you know, Saltaire is located on a barrier island with very limited ferry service this time of year.

“Additionally there is very limited access to basic services and health care: the Saltaire market is not open, our roadway system is under construction, water pipes are still very much subject to freezing, the Saltaire Clinic is not open, and our paid paramedics will not be in residence until later in the spring,” he continued. “That leaves the only source of medical intervention from our small winter-season ambulance crew for response and transport to the mainland. Our fire department is excellent, however it can be overwhelmed given the scope of this outbreak and with Suffolk County rationing emergency transports off the Island by helicopter and boat, the only way off in the event of an emergency is by ambulance for all island residents potentially creating much longer-than normal transport-times to the mainland hospitals.”

Fire Island Ferries, the passenger ferry company that serves the more populous west end of the barrier beach, also warned homeowners to think twice before boarding the boat.

“If you do not need to go to Fire Island, please avoid the unnecessary travel,” the company said. “If you are looking to relocate to Fire Island, be sure to have your provisions in order.”

On the island’s east end, the Davis Park Ferry company suspended service Friday, but the Sayville Ferry Service was still operational.

The strongest warnings to stay away from FI were directed at those who may be sick.

“If you are displaying any symptoms of the virus, or in any other way are under-the-weather, Fire Island is not the right place for you, particularly this time of year,” Zaccaro said.

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Barbers, Salons, and Tattoo Shops Join Coronavirus Shutdown Saturday

A tattoo artist at work (Photo by Michael Deschenes)

Anyone looking to get a haircut, manicure, or new tattoo in the tri-state area has until 8 p.m. Saturday, when all such establishments will be temporarily closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, officials said.

The governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania made the joint announcement Friday morning with the goal of not having people travel from one state to another to seek out such services. 

“We know how the novel coronavirus spreads, and we are making data-driven decisions as the situation evolves to continue to reduce density and slow the spread of the virus,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “We remain in constant communication with our neighboring states to ensure we are establishing a set of uniform rules and regulations for the entire region. These temporary closures are not going to be easy, but they are necessary to protecting the health and safety of New Yorkers and all Americans.”

The move comes after the states made similars order for gyms, casinos, malls, amusement parks, bowling alleys, and movie theaters, closed schools on Long Island for two weeks, ordered bars and restaurants to switch to take-out only, and mandated non-essential employers have no more than 25 percent of their staff not working from home to stop the spread of the pandemic.

Officials have repeatedly urged the public to avoid crowds and forced the canceling of widespread concerts and events to keep the virus from spreading. Officials have said the goal is to reduce the rate of spread and not overwhelm the hospital system when the virus peaks by the end of April.

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Long Island Coronavirus Cases Top 1,000

Blood sample tube positive with COVID-19 or novel coronavirus 2019 found in Wuhan, China

The number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus on Long Island rose to more than 1,000 as of Friday morning, New York State officials said.

Update: Long Island Coronavirus Cases Hit 3,000

There were 1,213 cases on LI: 754 in Nassau County and 459 in Suffolk, according to Suffolk officials and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who reported 7,102 cases of COVID-19 statewide, including 35 deaths. Four of those fatalities were in Nassau and seven were in Suffolk, including three people in their 90s who were residents of Peconic Landing, a retirement community in Greenport.

“When you ramp up the number of tests, your gonna get more positive cases,” Cuomo said, noting the increased testing capacity this week resulted in the spike in diagnoses. “We have the testing so high in New York that we’re testing per capita more than China or South Korea.”

There are 15,490 cases and 201 deaths nationwide, he added. New York City has 4,408 as of Friday. Suffolk reported that about half of their cases were people in their 40s and 50s and more than half were men.

In addition, the governor is continuing efforts to increase capacity of the healthcare system to avoid inundation of patients, requiring all non-essential business workers to telecommute, and urging New Yorkers not to leave home unless necessary and avoid congregating in public to avoid spreading the disease to vulnerable populations with the highest mortality rate.

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Coronavirus Phone Scammers Target Seniors, Officials Warn

Unknown number calling in the middle of the night.

Scam artists are increasingly taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis by targeting seniors and other vulnerable residents with phone scams, Nassau County officials warned.

In one case, a scam caller citing the COVID-19 pandemic tried to get a local retiree to hand over his health insurance information and in another case, a scammer tried to get a senior to share their bank account information, officials said.

“If you have someone in your family who’s a senior or someone who’s vulnerable to this sort of thing, check in with them regularly,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told reporters Thursday. “It’s unfortunate that people are taking care of the uncertainty.”

Such scams are on the rise nationwide, officials said. Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said his department has seen a 49 percent increase of phone scams year to date.

“There’s a bunch of lowlife people who sit and wait for times of crisis,” Ryder said. “They’re coming out in droves … They know right now the seniors are vulnerable.”

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NY Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre Tests Positive For Coronavirus

New York State Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Wheatley Heights)

New York State Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Wheatley Heights) has become the third New York State lawmaker to test positive for coronavirus, she announced Thursday.

“Today I learned that I have tested positive for COVID-19,” she said in a statement. “I am now home and doing well and will continue working for New Yorkers remotely during these trying times until it is safe to end my self-quarantine.”

The other two state lawmakers with coronavirus are fellow members of the state Assembly from Brooklyn: Helene Weinstein and Charles Baron.

She’s not the only government official on Long Island who has been quarantined. Suffolk County Deputy County Executive Peter Scully was quarantined after being diagnosed with coronavirus prompting his boss, Suffolk County Steve Bellone, to telecommute from home as a precaution. U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) also quarantined herself Wednesday after coming in contact with a congressmen diagnosed with COVID-19.

“From the outset of this dangerous virus, my staff and I have been heeding the health recommendations from the CDC and Department of Health and we will continue to do so to mitigate the spread of the virus,” Jean-Pierre said. “I urge all New Yorkers to take this seriously and follow these same guidelines so that we can recover from this public health threat.”

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Kathleen Rice Self-Quarantined After COVID-19 Contact

Congresswoman Kathleen Rice is the former Nassau County District Attorney.

U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) is quarantining herself until next week after coming in contact with one of the congressmen who have been diagnosed with coronavirus.

“I’ve learned this evening that someone I was in contact with last Friday has tested positive for COVID-19,” Rice said in a statement late Wednesday night. “After consultation with the attending physician and out of an abundance of caution for those around me, I will be self-quarantining until Friday, March 27. I am currently not experiencing symptoms and feel healthy and well.”

A spokesman for Rice said that she asked about her staff as well, but the quarantine does not extend beyond the congresswoman. The spokesman noted that the person she was in contact with “is another Member of Congress who has already disclosed their condition publicly.”

The first two congressmen to disclose their COVD-19 diagnoses Wednesday are U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah). 

She’s not the only government official on Long Island who has been quarantined.New York State Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Wheatley Heights) has become the third New York State lawmaker to test positive for coronavirus, she announced Thursday. Suffolk County Deputy County Executive Peter Scully was quarantined after being diagnosed with coronavirus prompting his boss, Suffolk County Steve Bellone, to telecommute from home as a precaution.

“I am beyond thankful for those on the front lines of this crisis, particularly our healthcare workers,” Rice said. “And I ask all who are reading this to take me seriously these are difficult times and often requires difficult decisions to keep ourselves apart from our loved ones. When in doubt, just listen to the advice of our medical professionals.”

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Malls, Bowling Alleys Join Coronavirus Shutdown Thursday

Roosevelt Field Mall

Long Islanders itching to hit the mall or go bowling have until 8 p.m. Thursday before the coronavirus shutdown includes the indoor portions of retail shopping malls and bowling alleys, officials said Wednesday.

The move comes after New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a similar order for gyms, casinos, and movie theaters, closed schools on Long Island for two weeks, ordered bars and restaurants to switch to take-out only, and mandated non-essential employers have no more than 50 percent of their staff not working from home to stop the spread of the pandemic.

“Together we will reduce density and slow the spread of #Coronavirus,” Cuomo tweeted.

The mall, bowling alley, and other closures are also in effect in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

The latest round of closures also includes amusement parks, although Adventureland Amusement Park in Farmingdale already delayed its opening weekend scheduled for March 21 and Splish Splash in Calverton isn’t slated to open until Memorial Day weekend.

Officials have repeatedly urged the public to avoid crowds of more than 10 people and forced the canceling of widespread concerts and events to keep the virus from spreading.

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2 More Long Island Drive-Through Coronavirus Test Sites Open in Jericho, Stony Brook

ProHEALTH Urgent Care medics collect COVID-19 test samples in Jericho on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.

Drive-through coronavirus testing sites opened at ProHEALTH Urgent Care in Jericho and at Stony Brook University on Wednesday, a day after the first such site on Long Island debuted at Jones Beach State Park.

ProHEALTH Urgent Care said it saw about 100 cars by noon since starting at 8 a.m. Wednesday and saw even more people at its Little Neck drive-through test site. Jones Beach reportedly saw 500 cars so far. The Stony Brook University mobile testing site features six lanes to accommodate up to 1,000 tests per day and will be open 7 days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

“It’s likely that we’ll look into expanding,” Dr. Zeyad Baker, president and CEO of ProHEALTH Care, told the Press. “We don’t think this is gonna be a matter of weeks.”

The drive-through sites come as the increase in testing capacity resulted in the confirmed cases on Long Island nearly doubling from 228 on Tuesday to 430 as of Wednesday morning. For the same time frame, Nassau cases jumped from 131 to 278 and Suffolk spiked from 97 to 152, although officials noted that the numbers are changing hourly. 

Nassau didn’t provide a breakdown of locations, but Suffolk said its cases were broken down as follows: 43 in the Town of Huntington, 33 in the Town of Southold, 23 in the Town of Islip, 20 in the Town of Brookhaven, 17 in the Town of Babylon, three each in the towns of Smithtown and Southampton, and two each in the towns of Riverhead and East Hampton. Six cases have yet to have their addresses confirmed.

Officials warned the public to call ahead if they think they need to get tested.

“People should not have an expectation that they’ll get tested if they just show up,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “You need to make an appointment.”

For information on how to make an appointment at the drive-through testing site at Jones Beach or in Stony Brook, health officials say to call the New York State Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Hotline at 1-888-364-3065. To make an appointment in Jericho, visit prohealthcare.com

-With Adam Brownstein

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Audubon Societies on Long Island Seek Help Stopping Birds From Hitting Windows

Birds need humans’ help avoiding windows. (Getty Images)

When an abnormally large amount of birds were found to have fatally struck buildings at Stony Brook University in 2018, the members of the Four Harbors Audubon Society flew into action. 

At issue were mirrored windows on several tall buildings that birds flew into because the reflection looked like clear skies ahead, killing and stunning dozens of birds. The solution was found to be 4-inch by 4-inch stickers that reflect ultraviolet light, signaling to birds to avoid the area — but the light is invisible to humans.

“Most people consider bird-glass collisions to be an urban phenomenon,” John Turner, conservation chair for the Four Harbors Audubon Society, told the crowd at a recent lecture on the issue. “When I began learning about this issue a few years ago, I felt similarly. I thought, ‘It must be the really tall skyscrapers in Manhattan,’ but it turns out that less than 1 percent of bird mortality is caused by high rise buildings.”

Collisions with buildings between four and 11 stories make up about 56 percent of bird deaths and structures between one and three stories account for 44 percent, according to a 2014 study published in  The Condor: Ornithological Applications. And between 365 and 988 million birds die annually from colliding with windows, according to the American Bird Conservancy.  

The trend comes amid troubling recent news for birds as a species. Researchers announced in September that North America was found to have 3 billion fewer birds now than 50 years ago — a loss of a quarter of avian life.

To help turn the tide, Turner now regularly speaks on the topic of birds hitting windows, hoping to encourage the public to be kind to man’s feathered friends by using bird-friendly window treatments and stickers to lower the incidence of fatal bird strikes. 

“There is a lot we can do,” Turner said. “From working on one building to trying to set state and federal legislation into motion, there is substance to this issue and the human impact that caused it.”

Drive-Through Coronavirus Test Site Opens at Jones Beach

Jones Beach State Park. Photo by Joe Abate

The first drive-through coronavirus test site on Long Island and the second in New York State opened Tuesday at Jones Beach State Park.

Plans are also in the works to open such sites in Suffolk County, Staten Island, and Rockland County, the governor added. ProHEALTH urgent care is also reportedly opening a drive-through testing site in Jericho on Wednesday. Drive-through test sites allow medics to swab large volumes of people suspected of having COVD-19 without overburdening existing healthcare facilities, where coronavirus can spread in waiting rooms.

Update: 2 More Long Island Drive-Through Coronavirus Test Sites Open in Jericho, Stony Brook

“We’ll open today in Nassau County a drive-through testing office,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters during a news conference Tuesday in Albany. He first said Sunday that such a plan for Jones Beach was in the works. He cautioned that between 55,000 and more than 100,000 people could need hospitalization for coronavirus, which is more than the state’s hospital’s can handle.

The first coronavirus test site in the Empire State previously opened in New Rochelle, which officials said has seen the largest concentration of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the nation. Drive-through testing sites have also opened in other states nationwide as the pandemic grows.

The development comes as coronavirus cases in Nassau County rose to 131, Suffolk hit 84, and there were 1,374 cases statewide, including 12 deaths. 

Update: 5 Dead of Coronavirus on Long Island

The new drive-through testing site is coming online as testing capacity in the state is expected to increase from several hundred per day to up to 6,000 per day this week. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said drive-through tests will be prioritized for people in quarantine, those with underlying medical issues, and first responders. 

For information on how to make an appointment at the drive-through testing site, health officials say to call the New York State Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Hotline at 1-888-364-3065.

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