It’s been more than 12 weeks since the first positively diagnosed case of the coronavirus was confirmed on the North Fork.

Times Review Media Group continues to keep a running blog of stories and information about COVID-19.

Check back frequently for the latest updates.

Times/Review subscribers have full access to all coverage. Select content is also being published outside of our subscription wall during the pandemic. We appreciate your readership and your support during these challenging times.

DeWitt Warner, 96, was potato farmer and more

(Updated: Tuesday, 7:30 a.m.)

DeWitt Warner was an impressive man in many ways: his devotion to his wife and church, his involvement in a potato chip factory, his passion for music, his love for the rich soil that he toiled on for much of his life as a potato farmer. His life story paints a portrait of steadiness and reliability.

That story sadly concluded May 4 when Mr. Warner’s 96 years on this earth came to an end. His stepson, Edward Cheslak of Baiting Hollow, said he died of complications from COVID-19.

Mr. Warner, a lifelong Baiting Hollow resident, was buried May 23 next to his wife at a family plot at the same Baiting Hollow Cemetery he had been involved in maintaining for several decades.

Read the full story

— Bob Liepa

LIVE: County Executive’s briefing

(Updated: Monday, 2:20 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here:

Two more regions to begin Phase 2

(Updated: Monday, 1 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced two more regions in New York will begin the second phase of reopening, brining the total to seven out of 10. There was no timetable for Long Island, which will be one week into Phase 1 on Wednesday.

The Western New York region will start Phase 2 on Tuesday, followed one day later by the Capital Region. New York City is still the last region that has not yet entered Phase 1.

About 50,000 COVID-19 tests were done across the state on Sunday. There were under 1,000 confirmed cases out of that group, the lowest number to date since the outbreak began and percentage of positive of 2%. And at that time in mid-March, only a few thousand tests were being conduced a day.

“The progress is just phenomenal,” Mr. Cuomo said.

There were 54 reported deaths on Sunday, which is also the lowest figure since the number of fatalities began its climb in March. There have been 392 fatalities in the state over the past six days. At the peak, more than 800 people died from the virus in a single day.

“That number is dramatically different than what we had been looking at for a number of weeks,” he said.

Mr. Cuomo cautioned that numbers of positive cases could rise as thousands of people across the state gather during protests.

“We spent all this time closed down, locked down, masks, socially distance, and then you turn on the TV and you see these masked gatherings that could potentially be infecting hundreds and hundreds of people after everything that we have done,” he said. “We have to take a minute and ask ourselves what are we doing here? What are we trying to accomplish?”

The governor said he shared the outrage and he “stands with the protesters” after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“We still have to be smart,” he said. “We just spent 93 days limiting behavior, closing down. … We don’t even know the consequence of the COVID virus from those mass gatherings.”

—Joe Werkmeister

Watch: Governor’s Monday briefing

(Updated: Monday, 11:30 a.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here:

Watch: Governor’s daily briefing

(Updated: Sunday, Noon)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here:

Q&A with PBMC’s Andy Mitchell

(Updated: Sunday, 7:30 a.m.)

On May 16, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that hospitals in Suffolk County could begin performing elective surgeries again. These had been suspended in mid-March by executive order as hospitals responded to the wave of COVID-19 cases inundating hospitals.

On Thursday, The Times Review Media Group interviewed Andy Mitchell, the president and CEO of Peconic Bay Medical Center, a part of Northwell Health, on the resumption of these procedures. His answers have been edited for space and clarity.

TR: How does your hospital define elective surgery?

Mitchell: Elective surgery is surgery that is not urgent or emergent, meaning it can be put off for a period of time, but not if that means a significant health deficit for the patient. I can look at my own case. I had a hip replacement on Feb. 4. I had put it off for two years until it reached that point where it really impacted quality of life. I could have continued to put it off, and it would not have caused serious health consequences but it was uncomfortable. That is elective surgery.

TR: During the time of the executive order stopping these procedures, how did you handle such requests?

Mitchell: We were very careful. A gall bladder issue can be elective if it’s not inflamed. It could wait a while. Or it could be vital and emergent and needed to get done. There are, in other words, either by state regulations or the executive order, or what we receive from the American College of Surgeons, procedures to be followed.

Patients are listed from zero to four, four being vital and emergent. During the executive order we continued to do the fours. A hospital will sometimes do a three, but what we do is continuously monitor those parents to see if their conditions have changed.

Read more here.

—Steve Wick

Watch: Gov. Cuomo gives his daily COVID-19 media briefing

(Updated: Saturday, 11:40 a.m.)

Outdoor dining ‘under review’

(Updated: Friday, 4 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and budget director Robert Mujica said on Friday that officials are still examining the possibility of outdoor dining being allowed ahead of the current third phase of the New York Forward reopening plan.

“We’re still looking at those guidelines and we haven’t decided yet,” Mr. Mujica said during the governor’s press briefing in response to a question about outdoor dining. Restaurants are currently listed as Phase 3 in the reopening plan, which could mean late June for Long Island, although there is no specific timeline.

The Riverhead Chamber of Commerce issued a call for people to be “relentless” in reaching out to elected officials to urge them to argue for the governor to allow outdoor dining. Restaurants have been limited to takeout and delivery.

Riverhead Town proposed temporary outdoor dining legislation this week in conjunction with the Business Improvement District Management Association and the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, that “will allow for restaurants to provide outside dining while maintaining all social distance protocols as mandated by the CDC and the state Department of Health,” according to Supervisor Yvette Aguiar.

“There’s a possibility that you could separate outdoor dining,” Mr. Mujica said. “It’s a little different depending on which part of the state and what access you have to sidewalks and spaces for outdoor dining. But that’s something that is under review.”

Read more here.

—Joe Werkmeister

Watch: Governor’s daily briefing

(Updated: Friday, 1 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here:

Property tax deadline extended

(Updated: Friday, 12:30 p.m.)

The deadline to pay the second half of property taxes has been extended to June 21. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order last week pushing back the deadline by three weeks.

The extension comes after repeated calls to extend the penalty phase for late property taxes by a month. 

The Suffolk County Supervisors Association had sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo in late March asking him to extend the date by which people can pay their property taxes without incurring a penalty from the current May 31 to Aug. 1.

The supervisors cited layoffs and lost wages that have occurred in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the proposal ran into opposition from school districts and from Suffolk County, which had $410 million in short-term borrowing that was done in December in anticipation of receipt of property taxes in May, according to County Comptroller John Kennedy. 

First-half taxes were due by Jan. 10 and the second-half taxes are due by June 1, since May 31 is a Sunday. Late payments after the new deadline will have a 5% penalty.

Since Riverhead Town Hall is closed to the public, taxes can be paid from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at a walk-up window at the Recreation Department office in Stotzky Park; by a secure mail box outside Town Hall, by regular mail or online, which incurs a 2.45% fee, Riverhead Town Tax Receiver Laurie Zaneski said.

—Tim Gannon

Opinion: Post-pandemic, let’s change the way we assess students

(Updated: Friday, Noon)

It seems that our goals from before the pandemic are now a distant past, as teachers and leaders begin to tackle yet another challenge brought on by COVID-19 – re-entry planning.

Just before most of us knew what COVID-19 was, we were all engaged in conversations about inclusive excellence.

We aimed for equity and were busy building school cultures to support students’ social-emotional health, as well as their rigorous and engaging academic experiences.

Our dreams were of schools and classrooms that were carefully constructed for all students, and we charged toward this mission. For those of us who serve communities that include students with special needs, students living in poverty and students with a variety of immigrant experiences, we have been aware of the flawed assessment system that has been in place for far too long. We always understood that the achievement gap has everything to do with the “haves” and “have nots.”

Read more here.

No parking trial run to begin in Greenport this weekend

(Updated: Thursday, 2 p.m.)

Walking around Greenport Village this weekend, you may notice more room to practice social distancing.

Village officials announced Thursday that no on-street parking will be allowed on either side of Main Street north to Center Street and on Front Street between Third and Main streets from 8 a.m. Saturday through 8 a.m. Monday, June 1.

This weekend’s parking limitations will provide a glimpse into how a proposal to eliminate parking to increase sidewalk areas, and possibly have food, beverages and retail available curbside, may look.

Read the full story

— Tara Smith

Watch: Governor Cuomo delivers his daily COVID-10 briefing

(Updated: Thursday, 11:30 a.m.)

Riverhead Town will allow outdoor dining for restaurants

(Updated: Thursday, 4 a.m.)

Riverhead officials are hoping that outdoor seating and even tents can help revive some of downtown’s restaurants, which have been financially hurt due to a state-ordered prohibition on indoor dining that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The plan, which officials expect to discuss again Thursday, can’t be implemented for at least two weeks, however. 

The state has given Long Island a green light for curbside retail in Phase 1 of four phases of reopening allowed by the state. But sit-down restaurants won’t get approval until Phase 3, which isn’t expected to occur until later in June, officials said. 

Read the full story

— Tim Gannon

Watch: County Executive Steve Bellone delivers his daily COVID-10 briefing

(Updated: Wednesday, 2:30 p.m.)

Watch: Governor Cuomo delivers his daily COVID-10 briefing

(Updated: Wednesday, 1 p.m.)

LIVE: County Executive’s briefing

(Updated: Tuesday, 2:40 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here:

Phase 1 Wednesday

(Updated: Tuesday, 2 p.m.)

After more than two months of closures for a wide array of nonessential businesses, the first major step toward returning to a new normal on Long Island begins Wednesday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during Tuesday’s media briefing that Long Island will start Phase 1 of the NY Forward reopening plan on Wednesday. He said contact tracers — one of the seven metrics required for each region — will come online today and be ready to start. The last remaining metric is a 14-day decline in hospital deaths, which Long Island will be on target to now reach.

“We’re going to turn the page on COVID-19,” the governor said, adding that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone rushes back to the beach. “It was never a question of reopen or not reopen. The answer was always reopen. The question was always how smart are you on the reopening? How intelligent are you on the reopening?”

The Mid-Hudson region, north of New York City, is reopening for Phase 1 today. That leaves New York City as the last region still waiting to begin Phase 1.

Many upstate regions are already a week into Phase 1, which allows for manufacturing, construction, curbside or in-store pickup for retail, wholesale trade and agriculture.

The second phase will open up retail fully as well as professional services, administrative support and real estate. Restaurants, a major point of contention, are still listed as Phase 3.

The governor reiterated that preventative measures such as wearing a mask, washing hands and social distancing will need to remain in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus from picking up again.

—Joe Werkmeister

Governor’s daily media briefing

(Updated: Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding a daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus and reopening news. Watch here:

Watch: County Executive’s daily briefing

(Updated: Monday, 2 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here:

Watch: Governor’s daily briefing

(Updated: Monday, 11:30 a.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here:

Q&A with hospital CEO

(Updated: Monday, 11 a.m.)

With the number of COVID-19 patients falling, and a frantic and stressful two months of the pandemic seemingly coming slowly down from its peak, Robert Chaloner, chief administrative officer of Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, took time on Friday to take stock, and to begin looking ahead at the lessons learned from a difficult first half of 2020.

Q: How are things in general?

Actually, they’re going very well now. Our volume [of patients being treated for COVID-19] has dropped down into the teens, and things are very under control right now.

The big unknown is … it’s the Friday before Memorial Day, when we’re usually in high gear, thinking about the summer ahead. It’s the first wave of summer we usually see. So we’re all kind of curious, actually: Are we going to see the wave? Or not see the wave?

Q: In a statement this week, you noted that the hospital successfully discharged 117 COVID-19 patients since the start of the crisis. That number is probably significantly higher than the number of deaths due to the disease?

Absolutely. As of a couple of days ago, we had 150 total; I’ve lost track of how many people tested, came into the ER and went home, but we had 150 inpatients, and 117 discharges. We had 15 deaths. The rest are still in the hospital.

Read the Q&A here.

Watch: County Executive’s briefing

(Updated: Sunday, 2:30 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus and reopening news. Watch here:

L.I. remains on track, governor says

(Updated: Sunday, 12:45 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday that Long Island remains on track to begin the first phase of reopening Wednesday.

New COVID-19 hospitalization cases in the state were slightly up in the latest rolling average, but still part of an overall decline, he said. An additional 109 people in New York died from complications due to COVID-19, an increase from the prior 24 hours when that number dipped below 100 for the first time since March.

Mr. Cuomo also said that state campgrounds and RV parks will open Monday.

Veterinarian practices will be able to open in all regions Tuesday, the governor said.. Prior guidelines had restricted practices to “essential veterinary care, including spay/neuter, treatment for infectious disease.”

Watch the briefing here:

The Reopen: Worries increase for Riverhead

(Updated: Sunday, 7:30 a.m.)

As Riverhead begins to assess the economic toll of COVID-19, experts project that its downtown could be among the most affected places on the East End, derailing recent advancement as unemployment rises to historic levels.

“We’re waiting for people to move to Riverhead who have money to spend to have a good experience,” said Tom Flesher, associate professor of economics at Suffolk County Community College. “That’s one of the first things to go when we’re in a recession and when we’re being careful about how we’re spending our money.”

That’s a grim prognosis for a community where several multi-story apartment buildings have opened in the last few years and several more are in the construction or planning stages. Recent history in communities like Patchogue on the South Shore suggest that those buildings would typically be filled by young working professionals who want to spend their downtime and hard-earned money at nearby restaurants and entertainment venues. 

“Riverhead was following the Patchogue model,” said BNB Bank CEO Kevin O’Connor. “Things that can’t be ordered on Amazon, the service industry, obviously have dominated these downtowns.”

The Reopen: Read more here.

—Grant Parpan, Tim Gannon & Steve Wick

Watch: Governor Andrew Cuomo gives his daily COVID-19 briefing

(Updated: Saturday, 11:30 a.m.)

Celebrating Riverhead’s Class of 2020 with drive-through parade: Photos

(Updated: Saturday, 8 a.m.)

A message written on the back of a pickup truck cautioned motorists to “Stay back 6 feet.” Another vehicle featured a sign that read “Honk for me! I’m a 2020 senior!” Except the zeroes were drawn with rolls of toilet paper.

At any other point in time, the signs would have seemed quite perplexing.

But there’s never been a senior year for a high school graduating class quite like this one underway for the Class of 2020.

Read the full story

— Tara Smith

County campgrounds to open June 1

(Updated: Friday, 4 p.m.)

Suffolk County campgrounds will open on a limited basis starting June 1 for those with existing reservations, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.

New reservations will also be accepted starting at 7 p.m. Friday for dates beginning June 15 and going forward, he added.

“This just is another positive sign of the progress that we are making,” he said during his daily media briefing.

Indian Island Park off Route 105 in Riverhead is a county campground.

Camping units must be self-contained and no tent camping is available. No walk-up reservations can be made. Reservations can be made 24 hours in advance for the first day of camping.

Read more here.

—Joe Werkmeister

Watch: County Executive’s briefing

(Updated: Friday, 2:20 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here:

Long Island close to Phase 1, governor says

(Updated: Friday, 2 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday expressed optimism that Long Island could be in line to begin Phase 1 of reopening within the coming days if the decline in hospital deaths continues and contact tracing comes online.

The only other New York regions still waiting to begin Phase 1 are Mid-Hudson and New York City.

While the metric for hospital bed availability for Long Island had fallen under the requirement in recent days, it was back at the minimum 30% threshold, according to the latest data shown Friday. Hospitals must have a minimum of 30% of their beds available to be ready for any potential surge in COVID-19 patients.

“If the number of deaths continues to decline the way it has and they get their tracing online — every region has a certain number of tracers that they need to reopen — both [Long Island and Mid-Hudson] could reopen this week,” the governor said.

Read more here.

—Joe Werkmeister

Watch: Governor’s daily briefing

(Updated: Friday, 11 a.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here:

Distance learning brings opportunity, but officials say it’s no substitute for the classroom

(Updated: Friday, 7 a.m.)

“Good morning, boys and girls!”

Under normal circumstances, principals Bryan Miltenberg and Gary Karlson begin each morning at Aquebogue Elementary School with this greeting to students.

Those greetings have since gone virtual, coming in the form of read-alongs and daily challenges to engage with students in this time of distance learning.

“It’s not ideal,” Mr. Karlson said in an interview Tuesday. “But that connection is really essential. That’s the part kids hold onto.”

Read the full story

— Tara Smith

Cuomo: Schools should begin planning for fall reopening

(Updated: Thursday, 1 p.m.)

Distance learning is set to continue for summer school programs, but school districts should begin to plan for a potential fall reopening, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced during a press conference Thursday.

As he spoke about reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year, Mr. Cuomo noted that a COVID-related inflammatory illness similar to Kawasaki disease has been documented in at least 157 children in New York. Cases have now been confirmed in 25 states and 13 countries.

Continued investigation into the illness will be a guiding factor in reopening schools. 

Read the full story

— Tara Smith

Watch: Gov. Andrew Cuomo holds media briefing Thursday

(Updated: Thursday, 11:30 a.m.)

As Memorial Day weekend arrives, expect a different type of summer on the North Fork this year

(Updated: Thursday, 7 a.m.)

Local beaches with no out-of-town residents. A strawberry season with no festival. Mitchell Park with no dancing. 

The summer season of 2020 could shape up to be unlike any in recent memory.

Officials at the state and local levels have introduced a number of new policies and guidelines specifically for beaches as the unofficial start of the season begins this weekend with Memorial Day.

Read the full story

— Tara Smith

Suffolk County to request 45-day extension on property taxes for residents, businesses financially affected by COVID-19

(Updated: Wednesday, 3:20 p.m.)

A committee of county and local government officials is asking the state for a 45-day extension on payment of property taxes, County Executive Steve Bellone announced Wednesday.

Mr. Bellone said the extension would apply to individuals and businesses that have lost income during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Bellone said homeowners with a 25% decline in income and businesses with $1 million in net income or less that have seen a 50% dropoff will be eligible for the extension.

Read the full story

— Grant Parpan

Watch: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to make ‘major announcement’

(Updated: Wednesday, 2 p.m.)

(Updated: Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.)

Dellaquila Beauty Salon, despite warnings from police, continues to operate in Jamesport

(Updated: Tuesday, 4:20 p.m.)

Feeling around the desk he uses to schedule appointments, Frank Dellaquila searched for a small booklet he said contains all the answers he needs to assure him that the business he runs with his wife Denise is allowed to reopen to customers.

“There it is,” he said before setting up his copy of the United States Constitution on a nearby table. “That’s my bible. I’ve had that a long time.”

The Dellaquilas of Mattituck, who have owned their eponymous beauty salon on Main Road in Jamesport for 17 years, are putting their faith in a belief that the current executive order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandating a shutdown of all nonessential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic is a voluntary recommendation and not an enforceable law.

The Riverhead Town Police Department, they said, has offered a different viewpoint and has said a continued operation of the salon could lead to an arrest.

“It was like you can’t even imagine. You cannot even imagine,” Ms. Dellaquila said of a visit four police officers paid to her shop Tuesday afternoon. “They said if we open tomorrow, they’re going to arrest us.”

Read the full story

— Grant Parpan

LIVE: County Executive’s briefing

(Updated: Tuesday, 2:45 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here:

Pilot program for hospitals

(Updated: Tuesday, 2:40 p.m.)

A two-week pilot program will be launched to allow increased visitation at select hospitals throughout New York as the slow process of reopening begins from the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday the Greater New York Hospital Association will run the program in the downstate region.

The only Suffolk County hospital in the pilot program is Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital.

Visitation at hospitals has been largely restricted since the onset of the outbreak locally as a way to contain the spread. That has meant families have been unable to be with loved ones, even during their final moments. Hospitals have turned to video tools like FaceTime as a way to keep family members connected with patients.

“This is getting visitors back into hospitals with the right precaution, with the right equipment,” said Mr. Cuomo, who spoke from the The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset. “It is terrible to have someone in the hospital and that person is isolated, not being able to see their family and friends. I understand the health reason for that. We were afraid of the virus spread.”

Read more here.

—Joe Werkmeister

Watch: Governor’s daily briefing

(Updated: Tuesday, noon)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus and reopening news. Watch here:

No flags at national cemeteries

(Updated: Tuesday, 11 a.m.)

The annual event that brings thousands of local Scouts and other volunteers out to Calverton National Cemetery to place flags at gravesites for Memorial Day is in jeopardy following a decision by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, according to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

Mr. Bellone said he has submitted two letters urging VA secretary Robert Wilkie to allow for local control of flag placement with an assurance that social distancing guidelines will be adhered to. To date, the VA is not allowing flag placement.

“I cannot understand for the life of me why the VA is not allowing the local community at the national cemeteries to do flag placement where the local health department is certifying that we are meeting all safety requirements,” the county executive said during his media briefing Saturday.

Read more here.

—Grant Parpan

Watch: County Executive’s daily briefing

(Updated: Monday, 2:30 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news. Watch here:

House of worship fall under Phase 4

(Updated: Monday, 2:30 p.m.)

State officials on Monday provided a clearer picture of where houses of worship fall under the four-phase reopening plan that is already underway for a large portion of upstate New York.

State budget director Robert Mujica said houses of worship opening under new guidelines would fall under the fourth phase of the reopening plan. 

“As the governor said, that’s a mass gathering,” Mr. Mujica said. “The same thing with a stadium or any situation where you have a lot of people together.”

The final phase of reopening also includes education, arts, entertainment and recreation. 

Mr. Mujica said an answer to the question of whether houses of worship could host smaller groups than their normal capacity has not yet been determined.

Read more here.

—Joe Werkmeister

Riverhead graduation plans

(Updated: Monday, 2 p.m.)

Though the coronavirus pandemic has pushed commencement ceremonies online, Riverhead graduates won’t be deprived of the chance to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas in-person.

During a Zoom meeting Monday morning, district officials announced plans for a walk-up graduation ceremony to take place in person in late June to recognize just over 400 graduating seniors in-person.

The modified graduation will take place over three days: June 29, June 30 and July 1, according to Riverhead High School Principal Sean O’Hara.

“It will take place on the football field and it’ll be dressed up just as you expect graduation day to look,” Mr. O’Hara told a group of seniors that participated in Monday’s Zoom call.

While officials must still fine tune the logistics of the ceremonies, including how students will be split up each day, Mr. O’Hara said students will be asked to arrive at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field at a specific time with their family. They will then be escorted onto the field to have their name called, get their diploma and pose for photos.

Read more here.

—Tara Smith

Watch: Governor’s daily briefing

(Updated: Monday, 11:30 a.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding a daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus and reopening news. Watch here:

Community ‘adopts’ students in Riverhead’s senior class to show support

(Updated: Monday, 7:30 a.m.)

“We know your senior year got a little crazy. Here is a treat to make it a bit sweeter…We are cheering for you!”

The handwritten note, accompanied by a bag of candy, was left at the doorstep of Riverhead senior Lily Kutner and several other seniors in her neighborhood this week in the latest show of appreciation for the Class of 2020.

“It’s very sweet,” Lily said Thursday. “The community supporting us definitely makes us feel a little better.”

With the school year cut short and graduation plans altered amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, ‘Adopt-a-Senior’ groups on Facebook are popping up in communities across the country to lift the spirits of disappointed students.

Parents or family members who join the group post a photo of their graduate and write about their accomplishments and interests. Then, anyone wishing to ‘adopt’ the student can get in touch to surprise them with a gift.

Since the page was created by Aquebogue parent Jennifer Mato last Sunday, it has grown to over 770 members. She said she got the idea from a friend with kids in a nearby district.

Read the full story

— Tara Smith

LIVE: County Executive’s briefing

(Updated: Sunday, 2:10 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here:

No current cases at Peconic Landing

(Updated: Sunday, 2 p.m.)

Peconic Landing reported last week that there are no longer any known COVID-19 cases on the Greenport campus. The lifecare and retirement community had been the location of the some of the earliest known cases of the virus in Suffolk County back in early March.

In a letter to family members of the community, Peconic Landing’s president and CEO, Robert Syron, said the last member who had tested positive has now recovered. The May 12 letter from Mr. Syron was posted on Peconic Landing’s website.

“Mitigating the spread of the virus across our campus has only been possible due to the numerous safety protocols we put in place over the last two months,” Mr. Syron said. “I am very proud of our team for their persistence, commitment and tenacity in providing excellent service and care while ensuring the highest safety standards possible.”

Read more here.

—Joe Werkmeister

Watch: Governor’s daily briefing

(Updated: Sunday, Noon)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus and reopening news from Albany. Watch here:

No penalties for businesses just yet

(Updated: Sunday, 10 a.m.)

Even as the NY on Pause shutdown continues for Long Island, some North Fork businesses are quietly beginning to open back up.

In some instances, it’s because they believe they have been deemed essential. In other cases, it’s standing up for what they believe is right.

So far, these businesses are doing so without penalty.

Officials in both Southold and Riverhead towns said they are receiving and responding to complaints about businesses that have reopened prior to state and county officials declaring an end to the shutdown, but the outreach to date has been limited to simply bringing these businesses into compliance.

Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said three downtown businesses were brought into compliance this week after police received complaints about them operating outside of current state guidelines. The enforcement has included sending sector cars to the business. He said complaints mostly involve eateries serving takeout and still allowing customers to eat onsite.

“I think it’s mostly [the business owners] not understanding the risk,” the chief said. “Or maybe not knowing there is risk.”

Read more here

—Grant Parpan

Watch: County Executive Steve Bellone gives daily COVID-19 briefing

(Updated: Saturday, 2:45 p.m.)

Governor Cuomo: Elective surgeries can return to Suffolk County hospitals

(Updated: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.)

Elective surgeries, mostly on hold in New York State since mid-March, can once again be scheduled in Suffolk County, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced at his daily media briefing Saturday.

Mr. Cuomo said hospitals now have the capacity to perform the surgeries and outpatients care in both Suffolk and Westchester counties. He had previously reopened other parts of the state to those services, with the first counties announced in late April. A majority of New York’s counties reopened to elective surgeries this week.

“We want to make sure people who need ambulatory services are getting ambulatory services,” he said. “You need a medical procedure we want to make sure you get it.”

Read the full story

— Grant Parpan

Watch: Governor’s media briefing

(Updated: Saturday, 11:30 a.m.)

Economists, business leaders predict period of great change on horizon

(Updated: Saturday, 1 a.m.)

In his daily media briefing Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for a new federal stimulus package he hoped would do more than reopen America following the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s time, the governor said, to be “aggressive,” “creative” and “smart” in the nation’s efforts to revitalize the economy.

“Now is a chance to actually reimagine America,” the governor said.

That sentiment echoes the thoughts shared by local economists, business leaders and other public officials interviewed in recent weeks about the immediate future of the North Fork economy. The experts painted a bleak picture of the short term — massive unemployment and shuttered businesses — but agreed that with proper leadership, creative thinking from businesses and additional federal assistance, North Fork commerce can shift to a “new normal” that favors safety, imagination and partnership.

Introducing our new Closer Look podcast series The Reopen.

Listen to episode 1 now

— Grant Parpan and Steve Wick

NY PAUSE extended

(Updated: Friday, 3:50 p.m.)

As five upstate regions begin reopening Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has extended the “NY PAUSE” order for the downstate region for another two weeks.

The executive order, signed Thursday, continues the shutdown of nonessential businesses and cancellations of nonessential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason through May 28.

“It’s all on the numbers,” Mr. Cuomo said during a briefing Friday morning. Regions must meet seven criteria, including testing, tracing and a decline in new cases and hospitalizations, before it can begin the first phase of reopening.

If a region hits the benchmarks anytime before the PAUSE order expires, Mr. Cuomo said it can begin opening.

There are a number of guidelines in place for regions which can begin opening Phase One industries, including construction and retail. Those in the construction industry are required to use masks when they cannot socially distance at work, and retailers who cannot offer curbside pickup must limit patrons to 50% of their capacity and use masks during curbside and in-store transactions.

According to the state’s dashboard, Long Island only meets four of the seven metrics required to begin reopening under Phase One. Earlier this week, it had met five of the guidelines but available hospital beds fell to exactly 30%, according to the state website.

The Long Island region also hasn’t met the criteria of a 14-day decline in hospital deaths and new hospitalizations.

—Tara Smith

106th flyover

(Updated: Friday, 3 p.m.)

In a tribute to health care workers on Long Island, members of the Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach conducted a flyover across Suffolk County on Friday to salute health care, essential workers and first responders dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three aircraft participated in Friday’s salute: an HC-130J Combat King II search and rescue plane and two HH-60G Pave Hawk search and rescue helicopters.

The tribute began with a flyover at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital before flying over Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport and Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead around 1 p.m. It then continued west.

A crowd of hospital employees gathered on the front lawn at PBMC Friday afternoon to watch the flyover. See more photos in the gallery above.

See more photos.

—Tara Smith

Watch: Governor’s media briefing

(Updated: Friday, 11:30 a.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news. Watch here:

SWR adopts updated budget

(Updated: Friday, 8 a.m.)

The Shoreham-Wading River school board met remotely last week to adopt a $77.2 million budget that has seen revisions in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

In March, officials were proposing a $77.4 million budget that would have funded several new initiatives, including wellness, art and world languages clubs, a summer science program and replacement of gym equipment.

Funding for those programs has been redirected to address distance learning needs created by COVID-19 and pay for additional sanitizing equipment and supplies, officials said.

Read more here.

—Tara Smith

College seniors deal with virtual graduations, uncertain job market from pandemic

(Updated: Thursday, 7:00 a.m.)

For many students, the highlight of their college life is walking across a stage in front of their classmates, family and friends to receive a diploma they have spent years working to obtain.

The class of 2020 version will be sitting in front of a computer, watching a live streamed virtual graduation ceremony or waiting for later in the year — or even next year — for a live ceremony, if that’s possible.

Yes, these are strange times.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown life into upheaval, college seniors in some cases are still waiting to hear how their schools will handle graduation ceremonies. The class of 2020 (referred to as the class of COVID-19 in a story last month) has had to deal with a lot, from online classes to the possible cancellation of commencement ceremonies to a scary job market facing a recession.

Read the full story

— Bob Liepa

Air National Guard flyover to honor first responders

(Updated: Wednesday, 2:30 p.m.)

A search and rescue plane and two rescue helicopters assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach will conduct a flyover across Eastern Long Island on Friday to salute healthcare, essential workers and first responders dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The flyover will begin at about 12:15 p.m. over Riverhead and will conclude by 1 p.m. ending over Jones Beach, according to an ANG press release.

Read the full story

— Tim Gannon

Watch: Governor Andrew Cuomo gives his daily COVID-19 briefing

(Updated: Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.)

COVID-19 fatalities at PBMC’s Skilled Nursing Facility attributed to hospital overflow, CEO says

(Updated: Wednesday, 8 a.m.)

As part of Peconic Bay Medical Center’s emergency plan to expand capacity during the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, the Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on the Riverhead campus was partly transformed into an overflow area for COVID-19 patients.

PBMC CEO and President Andy Mitchell said the short-term patients who were being treated at the facility, which is part of the hospital but has its own external access, were discharged. And the long-term patients were cordoned off to limit any contact with the new COVID-19 patients.

As a result, no long-term care patients have contracted the coronavirus and none have died, Mr. Mitchell said Tuesday afternoon. As the New York State Department of Health has begun releasing more data on nursing homes, PBMC’s Skilled Nursing Facility as of Tuesday has been listed with 15 fatalities attributed to COVID-19.

But Mr. Mitchell said those numbers are misleading since those deaths have been from hospital patients in the overflow section.

Read the full story

— Joe Werkmeister

Bellone, Cuomo raise concerns over positive COVID-19 tests affecting seven children in Suffolk County

(Updated: Tuesday, 4:30 p.m.)

Seven pediatric patients across Suffolk are being treated for a newly detected illness state and county officials are warning is a type of COVID-19 affecting children and teens, County Executive Steve Bellone said Tuesday.

The patients are among 100 statewide that Governor Andrew Cuomo said are displaying symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock-like syndrome, but are testing positive for the coronavirus or related antibodies.

“We don’t completely understand it at this point,” Mr. Bellone said during his daily COVID-19 briefing with the media. “We don’t know all the details of this new syndrome … but we do know now that it’s affecting our kids.”

Read the full story

— Grant Parpan

County Executive Steve Bellone gives daily COVID-19 briefing

(Updated: Tuesday, 2:30 p.m.)

Watch here.

Gov. Cuomo gives daily COVID-19 briefing

(Updated: Tuesday, 1:30 p.m.)

Watch here.

Artists pay tribute to front-line hospital workers with their work

(Updated: Tuesday, 6:30 a.m.)

The Peconic Bay Medical Center lobby has been transformed, at least temporarily, into an art gallery — and a tribute to the Riverhead hospital’s front-line workers, who have seen close up the horrors wrought by the COVID-19 disease.

In appreciation of the hospital staff’s sacrifices during the coronavirus pandemic, the East End Arts & Humanities Council launched the Front Line Heroes Program in early April. Ten artists associated with the council created intimate artworks from photos submitted by hospital workers. The photos were of whatever the workers chose: self-portraits, portraits with others, a happy place of theirs, a pet, family members. Ten artists, working with oil, charcoal, pastel and acrylic, created 33 pieces, according to Monique Parsons, the council’s director of marketing and development.

The artworks were hung in the lobby Friday by Darrien Garay, Peconic Bay’s special gift officer, and a colleague, Candace Porter.

“They’re stunning and moving — incredibly moving,” said Mr. Garay.

Read the full story

— Bob Liepa

No timeline for Long Island

(Updated: Monday, 5:15 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said it’s unlikely the Long Island region would be ready to start Phase 1 of the reopening plan Friday when the NY on PAUSE executive order expires and he declined to speculate on a timeline.

“Unless there’s some major turnaround in the metric, we’re not going to meet those metrics by Friday,” Mr. Bellone said Monday during his daily media briefing. “We’re making real progress on those metrics, but we’re not going to be there by Friday.”

The State Department of Health on Monday released a dashboard that tracks each of the 10 regions in New York on seven metrics that must be met to begin the first reopening phase. The dashboard shows Long Island as having met five of seven metrics. Mr. Bellone spoke Monday as Suffolk County specifically meeting four of those metrics and he said the county Department of Health will post a separate dashboard as well with numbers specific for the county. But the reopening will be based on the region of Suffolk and Nassau counties.

Mr. Bellone said the county is “actively working on getting contact tracing up as quickly as possible.”

The county has not yet met that benchmark of 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents. The state dashboard lists that metric as “expected” for Long Island since it’s a known variable.

Mr. Bellone said the county needs between 400 and 450 contact tracers in addition to the contact tracers already on the team. The contact tracers will be tasked with tracking down anyone who may have been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient to alert them to isolate and therefore limit further spread.

Read more here.

—Joe Werkmeister

Watch: County Executive’s briefing

(Updated: Monday, 3:15 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here.

Reopening phases

(Updated: Monday, 2:45 p.m.)

Three upstate regions out of 10 in New York have met the metrics to begin the first phase of reopening when the NY PAUSE executive order expires Friday as the state begins shifting from a statewide set of guidelines to a more regional approach, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

“We start a new chapter today in many ways,” Mr. Cuomo said during his Monday press briefing in Rochester, nearly two months since the initial stay-at-home order went into effect to curb the spread of the coronavirus that has claimed more than 21,000 lives in New York. “It’s an exciting new phase. We’re all anxious to get back to work.”

Long Island has now reached five of the seven metrics, according to latest data from the state.

The first phase of the reopening starts with construction, manufacturing, curbside retail, agriculture, forestry and fishing.

“[People] have to understand this is not the floodgates are open,” Mr. Cuomo said. “Be smart. Nobody is going to protect your health but you.”

Read more here.

—Joe Werkmeister

Watch: Governor’s daily briefing

(Updated: Monday, 11:30 a.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding is daily media briefing in Rochester where he’s expected to provide more details on what will come next as NY Pause is set to expire May 15. Some regions upstate could be set to start Phase 1 of the reopening process.

Watch here.

For this doctor, moving forward means more COVID-19 testing

(Updated: Monday, 6:40 a.m.)

As health professionals survey the landscape now that COVID-19 hospitalizations are trending down, many see what must happen next before any kind of new normalcy can return: a lot more testing.

“Three things have to happen,” said Lawrence Shulman, chief medical officer for ProHealth, which operates a walk-in clinic and a COVID-19 testing site in Riverhead. “We have to test for the virus itself. This will make sure people who are positive are not going to places where they will infect other people. 

“This has to be combined with antibody testing,” he said, which will show if a person has been exposed to the coronavirus. “And the third point is contact tracing, to see who has been exposed by an infected person.”

As experts regionally and statewide have said, this kind of aggressive testing must occur before schools can reopen and businesses can operate on a normal schedule with normal customer capacities.

Numbers released Friday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo showed that 216 persons had died of the virus on Thursday, a rate that has been falling in recent weeks, as have hospitalizations. According to Northwell Health, its 19 hospitals had 1,203 COVID-19 inpatients as of Friday, down 64% from a month ago.

Meanwhile, because demand has fallen, Stony Brook University closed the satellite testing facility it set up in a parking lot at the university. Overall since it opened last month, the facility tested 2,600 people.

ProHealth’s Riverhead facility remains open for testing. Dr. Shulman said an average of about 1,000 persons a week have been tested at ProHealth’s 29 urgent care centers, including Riverhead, which opened on March 31. At all the urgent care sites, he said, approximately 37,000 tests have been performed.

Read the full story

— Steve Wick

Updated numbers

(Updated: Sunday, 3:20 p.m.)

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Suffolk County has now surpassed 42,000, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Sunday.

An additional 669 positive cases were reported in the last 24 hours, although 446 of those are attributed to antibody tests as opposed to the diagnostic test. The county has begun tracking positive antibody tests into the overall number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. A total of 5,265 positive antibody tests have been recorded.

Subtracting the positive antibody results from the last 24 hours would leave 223 positives from diagnostic tests, a figure that would be on par with what the county was seeing during the initial spike in cases in mid-March. By March 23 there were more than 400 daily new confirmed cases, which kept climbing toward the apex.

An additional 20 fatalities in Suffolk County were reported, bringing the total to 1,617.

Mr. Bellone said updated figures on hospitalization numbers were not available from the state.

The county executive spoke about antibody testing done last week for law enforcement and first responders, which showed less than 6% testing positive. That’s well below the averages seen across Long Island and in the state.

“To have that number at less than 6%, it’s a great number,” Mr. Bellone said.

Testing was done throughout the week, including Friday in Riverhead. Mr. Bellone said the bulk of the tests were for Suffolk County police officers, but East End departments also participated.

—Joe Werkmeister

Watch: County Executive’s daily briefing

(Updated: Sunday, 2:10 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here.

Additional steps to protect nursing homes

(Updated: Sunday, 2 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday outlined additional steps the state is taking to protect the vulnerable population in nursing homes from COVID-19 and said facilities could lose their license for failing to provide appropriate care to a patient.

A nursing home must transfer a patient out of the facility if it cannot provide appropriate care for whatever reason, such as lack of staff, personal protective equipment or quarantine space, Mr. Cuomo said. The State Department of Health can then help coordinate finding another facility.

All nursing home staff must now also be tested twice a week, he said. That goes above simple temperature checks for staff entering a facility. They must be given diagnostic tests as well.

“That is a rule, not a ‘I’d appreciate it if you did,’ ” the governor said.

Hospitals also cannot discharge a patient to a nursing home unless that patient tests negative for COVID-19.

Read more here.

—Joe Werkmeister

Watch: Governor’s daily briefing

(Updated: Sunday, Noon)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, now back in Albany after recent trips around the state, is holding a daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news.

Watch here.

Officers to monitor beaches

(Updated: Sunday, 9:50 a.m.)

Beaches in Riverhead Town will be monitored by a police officer or traffic control officer starting this month from noon to 8 p.m. on weekends, the police department said Sunday.

Officers will be posted at the entrances to the Wading River, Reeves, Roanoke, South Jamesport and Iron Pier beaches. They will allow vehicles entry if they have a 2019 Town of Riverhead parking permit. 2020 permits are not currently for sale, but may be in the future.

Officers will be monitoring for proper social distancing and recommended use of personal protective equipment if available.

“Voluntary compliance is the ultimate goal to keep everyone safe and allow the beaches to remain open,” a press release said.

The Suffolk County Supervisors Association announced May 1 it would be forming a task force combining supervisors from all the Suffolk County towns, as well as those in Nassau County, to start a collaborative effort to look at ways the towns can coordinate summer programs and facilities.

—Joe Werkmeister

Memorial Day traditions canceled

(Updated: Sunday, 7:15 a.m.)

Several annual Memorial Day traditions in the Riverhead area have been called off due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

The Combined Veterans of Riverhead has canceled its annual Memorial Day parade and ceremonies typically held at World War monuments in the downtown area.

“It’s not happening this year,” said Mike Pankowski, a member of the town’s Veterans Advisory Committee and American Legion liaison to Calverton National Cemetery.

“But we haven’t forgotten. We’re doing the best we can under the situation,” he said Friday.

No public ceremonies will be held at Calverton National Cemetery, Mr. Pankowski said, including the annual tradition that sees groups including the Boy Scouts place flags at each of the more than 200,000 gravesites.

In a statement, the National Cemetery Administration said they are continuing to monitor guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention as well as state and local officials to inform a decision on Memorial Day services.

“Regardless of whether a cemetery holds a public ceremony, VA national cemeteries will observe Memorial Day in some fashion,” a statement on its website said.

Read more here.

Tara Smith

Celebrating 103

(Updated: Sunday, 7 a.m.)

For Irv Pitman, Saturday was supposed to be spent at Yankee Stadium, where his beloved Bronx Bombers had been scheduled to play the rival Boston Red Sox. 

During the seventh inning stretch, the Yankees were expected to honor Dr. Pitman, a retired dentist and World War II veteran who served in Italy, where he set up a dental clinic for soldiers in Florence in a railroad station built by Mussolini.

It was to be a special day for the Southold resident and 30 family members and neighbors, including friends from the Southold American Legion, who were to escort him to the game.

After the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in New York and the Major League Baseball season was suspended, so too were Dr. Pitman’s plans.

But those same friends and family members weren’t going to let the coronavirus put a complete stop to the celebration. After all, not everyone gets to experience their 103rd birthday.

Read more here.

—Grant Parpan

Density is not your friend

(Updated: Sunday, 7 a.m.)

Last weekend, as the sun came out and warmed the land around us, people left their homes and went outdoors. They went shopping, they bought ice cream, they walked around Greenport Village and downtown Riverhead. For a weekend, it seemed like a victory party was underway and that COVID-19, the destroyer of economies, businesses big and small and people’s lives, had finally been vanquished.

Alas, although predictable, it was premature. Two months of self-isolation and the warm sun brought out crowds across the North Fork. The sight was alarming for many people, including Greenport Village Trustee Mary Bess Phillips. Early Sunday morning she wrote a guest column for The Suffolk Times describing crowded sidewalks over the weekend and a lack of separation between people. 

Her concerns serve as a reminder that the virus — which has so far caused billions of dollars in economic losses and, as of Tuesday morning, claimed nearly 70,000 lives nationwide — will do even more harm if we end social distancing standards prematurely.

Read more here.

NY on Pause extended

(Updated: Saturday, 5 p.m.)

Gov. Cuomo on Friday signed an executive order extending the closure of non-essential businesses through June 6.

The order, however, does not prevent him from opening up portions of the economy in different regions across the state prior to that date. It has been expected that portions of New York will reopen for construction and several other industries May 15. Had the current order not been extended, all industries would have been allowed to reopen at that time.

Earlier this week, Mr. Cuomo announced criteria regions must hit before the economy can be reopened. Long Island — Suffolk and Nassau counties will be counted together — had only reached two of seven benchmarks when the criteria was released earlier this week. The state has not released any official update to how regions are doing since that time, though it is expected to next week.

Read more

— Grant Parpan

Bellone wants local groups to be able to be able to lay out flags for Memorial Day

(Updated: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.)

The county executive has written the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to allow for local control over traditional flag laying ceremonies around Memorial Day.

Local groups, including scouts, decorated national cemeteries each year but current federal guidelines due to COVID-19 would prevent that this year.

Mr. Bellone said at his afternoon media briefing Saturday that he has written the VA to allow for local health departments to approve such ceremonies, so long as they can assure safety guidelines are being met.

“This virus has taken a lot from us,” Mr. Bellone said. “We cannot allow it to stop us from honoring America’s heroes.”

Watch the briefing

— Grant Parpan

Cuomo warns of COVID-related illness in children

(Updated: Saturday, 12:15 p.m.)

Calling it a “truly disturbing” development, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Saturday shared new information about how the coronavirus is effecting young people.

The governor said New York hospitals have reported 73 cases of what they believe to be a COVID-related illness in children who are toddlers or elementary-school aged. The symptoms present themselves similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome, the governor said. Three children have died, he said, including a teenager in Suffolk County.

“These are children who come in and don’t present the symptoms that we normally are familiar with with COVID,” Mr. Cuomo said. “They’re not respiratory problems. I think that’s one of the reasons why this might be getting discovered this far into the process.”

Read more

— Grant Parpan

Watch: Gov. Andrew Cuomo holds his daily media briefing

(Updated: Saturday, 11:30 a.m.)

Watch here.

Roxana Flores, 47, remembered as ‘the embodiment of the American dream’

(Updated: Saturday, 8 a.m.)

When she was 17, Roxana Flores left behind everything she knew in Costa Rica for a new life in New York. She had come to the East End on a work visa, cleaning houses to make ends meet as she got married and started a family in 1998.

“When my sister was born, my mom would take us with her,” her son, Cesar, recalled in an interview Friday. “I’d be pushing my little sister around in a stroller, making sure she wouldn’t cry.”

Nearly a decade ago, Ms. Flores began a job as an interpreter for the Southampton Town Justice Court. Whether it be the judges, stenographers or court clerks, Ms. Flores was “loved by all in the court.”

The Flanders resident died Tuesday of complications caused by COVID-19, her son said. She was 47.

Read the full story

— Tara Smith

High school seniors feel pain of lost spring season

(Updated: Saturday, 7 a.m.)

quarantine, Mattituck High School baseball player Emmet Ryan was watching “Moneyball,” the 2011 film about the Oakland Athletics and their former general manager, Billy Beane, currently the club’s executive vice president of baseball operations. A scene in the movie struck a chord with Ryan when the senior outfielder heard these words:

“We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game. We just don’t know when that’s going to be. Some of us are told at 18, some of us are told at 40, but we’re all told.”

For most of Long Island’s high school senior athletes, including Ryan, that word came down April 21 when Section XI announced the spring high school sports season had been canceled in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Section XI executive director Tom Combs said the decision followed a unanimous vote by the section’s athletic council.

The season that never was ended before it had even started. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for athletes in sports such as baseball, boys tennis, boys and girls lacrosse, boys and girls track and field, golf and softball.

And especially tough for seniors, who will never again get a chance to play for their high schools.

Read the full story

— Bob Liepa

Virtual graduation

(Updated: Friday, 5:15 p.m.)

Plans have been set to hold a virtual graduation for Riverhead High School seniors this year, but Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez vowed that it would not replace an in-person ceremony later this summer.

In a robocall sent out to families Friday afternoon, Dr. Henriquez said the e-ceremony will be held on the scheduled graduation date of June 26 and will be streamed online.

Additional details on the virtual ceremony were not yet available.

District administrators have been holding virtual roundtable discussions with members of the senior class as they plan alternatives to graduation, prom, yearbook signing, awards and other events.

“The students and the community have been very vocal about wanting a virtual ceremony and something in person,” Dr. Henriquez said in an emailed statement earlier this week.

The superintendent said the in-person event is tentatively scheduled for July.

“Since we do not know if we will be allowed to come together by then, we will plan for [an event] that will provide enough space and options to keep everyone safe,” her pre-recorded message said.

—Tara Smith

Plants donated to hospital workers

(Updated: Friday, 3:30 p.m.)

For 25 years, the annual East End Garden Festival has become an unofficial marker of Mother’s Day weekend.

The annual fundraiser, which has supported both Peconic Bay Medical Center and the International Surgical Mission, could not take place this year due to concerns over the coronavirus, but nearly two dozen growers have teamed up to keep the tradition alive.

In lieu of the festival typically held at Tanger Outlets, thousands of plants were donated to hospital workers across all three East End hospitals.

“The Riverhead Rotary wanted to do something for the hospital workers and were able to contact the growers that normally help us,” said Darrien Garay, special gifts officer for the PBMC Foundation and also a member of the Riverhead Rotary.

“They wanted to bring a smile to everyone’s faces here, which has been successful so far. We’ve seen a lot of happy people and it’s a good way to kick off Mother’s Day weekend,” Mr. Garay said.

The parking lot at Mercy High School, which was recently acquired to become Peconic Bay Medical Center’s northeast campus, was transformed into a pop-up nursery Friday morning as doctors, nurses, security guards and other employees perused the displays in search of the perfect Mother’s Day plant during their shift change.

Read more here.

—Tara Smith

Watch: County Executive’s briefing

(Updated: Friday, 2:45 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news. Watch here.

Governor: Remain vigilant for children’s symptoms

(Updated: Friday, 1:30 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday urged parents to remain vigilant for potential symptoms in their children that could be linked to COVID-19. He said the State Department of Health is investigating 73 reported cases in New York of children getting severely ill with symptoms similar to Kawaski disease and toxic shock-like syndrome.

He said a 5-year-old boy in New York City died Thursday from complications believed to be caused by COVID-19. There may be other cases as well, he said.

He said the thought over these recent months has been that children were more at risk of being carriers of the disease and spreading it to others as opposed to developing serious symptoms themselves.

“This would be really painful news and would open up an entirely different chapter,” Mr. Cuomo said. “I can’t tell you how many people I spoke to who took peace and solace in the fact that children were not getting infected.”

Mr. Cuomo outlined a list of symptoms that parents should be aware of in their children and seek care for if they develop.

“This is every parents’ nightmare, that your child may actually be affected by this virus,” he said. “It’s something we have to consider seriously now.”

Watch: Governor’s media briefing

(Updated: Friday, noon)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is giving his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news Friday from Marist College. Watch here:

Presidential primary back on

(Updated: Friday, 10:30 a.m.)

The Democratic presidential primary is now back — at least for now.

A court order reinstated the primary for June 23 after the New York State Board of Elections recently canceled it out of concern for the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that there was one presumptive candidate: Joe Biden.

Primaries for local elections were not part of the original cancellation and are still scheduled to continue.

The Board of Elections is now appealing the decision.

A lawsuit filed by former Democratic candidate Andrew Yang, and a group of several other of his delegates, argued the decision to cancel the primary and remove their names from the ballot violated their Constitutional rights.

The primary was originally scheduled for April 28, but an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in March pushed it back to June.

A total of 10 candidates, all of whom had dropped out of the race, were removed from the ballot following the state BOE’s decision to cancel the primary.

Read more here

—Joe Werkmeister

Out-of-work renters can take ‘deep breath’ as governor extends moratorium on evictions

(Updated: Friday, 7:20 a.m.)

New York State residents struggling to pay rents cannot be evicted by landlords through August 20, according to an executive order signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday.

The updated mandate is a 60-day extension of a previous moratorium that was issued by the governor in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and was set to expire in June.

“I hope it gives families a deep breath,” the governor said at his daily media briefing Thursday. “Nothing can happen until August 20. And then we figure out what the situation is.”

Read the full story

— Grant Parpan

North Fork school officials grapple with uncertain times in education

(Updated: Friday, 6:25 a.m.)

Since mid-March, the prospect of students and educators returning to the classrooms during the current academic year has grown less and less likely with each passing week.

An unprecedented shift to digital learning, now in its eighth week, appeared destined to continue through the end of June as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The hypothetical became reality Friday, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that New York schools would remain closed through the end of the academic year, ending any hope that the Class of 2020 would come together again. And districts must now begin to prepare for a possible September reopening amid many lingering questions about what school will even look like once it does resume.

“It’s incredible when you start to think about it, how this can really mechanically work,” said Greenport-Southold Superintendent David Gamberg, who had already announced his upcoming retirement before the school closings. “It’s daunting. It’s really daunting.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo alluded to the many challenges school districts will face when trying to develop plans to account for social distancing and other precautions that businesses are currently tasked with for reopening. He said the state will provide guidance to districts, though no specific solutions have yet been outlined.

“It’s going to be easier said than done,” Mr. Cuomo said Monday. “The problem is the gathering. A school is a gathering.”

Read the full story

— Tara Smith

Watch: County Executive Steve Bellone gives his daily COVID-19 briefing

(Updated: Thursday, 3 p.m.)

Watch: Gov. Cuomo gives his daily COVID-19 briefing

(Updated: Thursday, 11:30 a.m.)

Richard Diem, 73, a longtime firefighter whose quest for knowledge never wavered

(Updated: Thursday, 8:45 a.m.)

Richard Diem approached each day with a sense of purpose, always eager to expand his knowledge on myriad topics or tackle a new hobby. He had never been a contestant on “Jeopardy,” but if the opportunity had presented itself, he could have excelled on the quiz show, his family said.

“He had such a broad knowledge base on so many topics,” his oldest daughter, Stephanie Knief, said.

Mr. Diem, a Navy veteran who worked for the United States Department of Energy at Brookhaven National Lab, sought to instill that passion for knowledge in his three children. When they sat together for dinner — always in the same seats — he urged them to talk about whatever was on their mind, whether it be current events, history or science. He wanted his children to become deep thinkers. Family vacations included stops at museums more often than amusement parks. For the Diem children — Ms. Knief, 45; David Diem, 43; and Erika Diem, 41 — their father was the one who could fix anything. Plumbing problem? He could fix it. Electrical problem? He had it covered. Need something built? He could do it. 

“Whenever we had important or exciting decisions, or something really impactful, or even minor things, we would always trust Dad to give us his honest feedback and his guidance,” Erika Diem said. 

A native of South Jamesport, Mr. Diem died April 22 at Peconic Bay Medical Center due to complications from COVID-19. He was 73.

Read the full story

— Joe Werkmeister

Riverhead Town Board votes to push back property tax grievance day

(Updated: Thursday, 6 a.m.)

Grievance Day, when property owners can challenge the assessed value assigned to their property by town assessors, has been moved back 30 days to June 30, as a result of unanimous vote of the Town Board Tuesday. 

Grievances are held before an independent board of assessment review that will meet on June 30 at Town Hall to hear and examine complaints. 

The town also moved the completion of the assessment roll to May 31. Officials plans to make the assessment roll available on its website.

The move, which is allowed under state law, comes as a result of Town Hall still being closed to the public due to the COVID-19 conoravirus pandemic.

— Tim Gannon

Watch: County Executive Steve Bellone gives his daily coronavirus briefing

(Updated: Wednesday, 2:35 p.m.)

After reporting hospitalization increases on consecutive days, County Executive Steve Bellone said Wednesday that the number of patients in Suffolk hospitals has declined.

Mr. Bellone said 85 patients were discharged Tuesday into Wednesday and the overall decline was by a total of 62 patients. There are now 773 COVID-19 patients in area hospitals.

“That is a great result today,” he said. “I’m very happy to see that and particularly happy to see the number of the decline. Sixty-two is a significant increase.”

Thee number of intensive care patients also declined.

Who is getting hospitalized? Governor shares new survey data on hospitalizations

(Updated: Wednesday, 1:15 p.m.)

In an effort to offer a next level of analysis into the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that more than 100 hospitals across the state have begun submitting new survey information about who is getting hospitalized with the coronavirus.

The governor said preliminary results show the vast majority of cases are coming from people who say they are staying home as social distancing guidelines remain in place.

The early results announced Wednesday, during the governor’s media briefing at Northwell Health’s The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, was based on information provided about 1,269 patients at 113 New York hospitals over a three-day stretch.

The governor said 18 percent of newly hospitalized patients are coming from Long Island.

“That’s a number that jumps out of you,” he said.

Read the full story

— Grant Parpan

Watch: Gov. Cuomo gives his daily COVID-19 briefing

(Updated: Wednesday, 11:30 a.m.)

Heroes Way approved

(Updated: Wednesday, 10 a.m.)

The board unanimously approved the honorary designation of a portion of Roanoke Avenue near Peconic Bay Medical Center as “Heroes’ Way,” in honor of hospital workers and first responders in the wake to the coronavirus. 

The idea was suggested recently by PBMC president and CEO Andrew Mitchell. 

“In my nearly 40 years in health care administration, I have never before seen this scope of bravery, dedication and human caring that took place within the walls of the medical center during the COVID-19 outbreak,” Mr. Mitchell wrote in a letter to the Town Board. 

“From doctors and nurses to technical and support staff, everyone at PBMC risked their personal welfare to work as a team and provide incredible levels of care to huge numbers of extremely sick patients. I have never been so proud to service with these amazing healthcare heroes.”

He also thanked the community for its support during the crisis. 

“It’s a great tribute and it’s well deserved,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said upon casting her vote the designation. 

“I’m very proud to do this, and hopefully we can have some type of dedication ceremony,” Councilwoman Catherine Kent said. 

— Tim Gannon

Nurseries gear up for their Super Bowl with a COVID-19 twist

(Updated: Wednesday, 10 a.m.)

April showers bring May flowers, and with them — nurseries hope — the revenue to keep their businesses flowering.

Mother’s Day, the biggest flower day of the year, is upon us, and the monkey wrench that is COVID-19 has impacted area nurseries in different ways. May marks the unofficial start of the busy season for nurseries and horticulturists who have had to adapt to life under the spell of the novel coronavirus.

Sunday, Mother’s Day, is a big day for producers of flowers and plants. “Huge” was the word nursery operators uttered time and time again.

“You can ask anybody in our industry, Mother’s Day is the biggest day,” said Nancy Leskody, co-owner of Trimble’s of Corchaug Nursery, a retail grower in Cutchogue. “It’s like the Super Bowl.”

Read the full story

— Bob Liepa

Cornell Cooperative Extension offering free Zoom workshops for essential workers

(Updated: Wednesday, 8 a.m.)

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County is offering free Zoom workshops to support workers who are essential in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.

According to a press release, each program will be 45 to 60 minutes in length. Those who want to participate should contact Jane Juran at [email protected] 48 hours ahead of the program so that materials can be emailed.

See the programs

COVID-19 Update: Hospitalizations up in Suffolk, fatalities reported at Riverhead nursing home, local deaths doubled in March and April

(Updated: Tuesday, 6 p.m.)

For the second straight day, the number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in Suffolk has increased, County Executive Steve Bellone reported Tuesday.

The slight spike — 835 patients on Tuesday, up from 813 on Sunday — follows a period of nearly two weeks of steady decline in hospitalization.

Mr. Bellone said the increases is something he is definitely “concerned about.”

“It’s not the direction we want to be going in,” Mr. Bellone said during his daily media briefing Tuesday. “We’d been on a downward trend and it’s important that we see that trend continuing.”

Read the full roundup

— Grant Parpan

Watch: County Executive Steve Bellone gives his daily coronavirus briefing

(Updated: Tuesday, 2:30 p.m.)

Watch: Gov. Andrew Cuomo gives his daily coronavirus briefing

(Updated: Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.)

Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League cancels 2020 season

(Updated: Tuesday, 7 a.m.)

The Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League will not play ball in 2020.

The league’s 13th season will have to wait until next year. On Monday afternoon the HCBL announced that it had canceled its 2020 season in light of the coronavirus pandemic and governmental regulations related to it.

“Summer baseball is a special opportunity for these players, but given the current circumstances in our community and throughout New York, the board voted unanimously to cancel our season,” HCBL president Sandi Kruel said in a statement. “This decision was not taken lightly. However, out of an abundance of caution for our players, league staff, and residents here on the East End, we all felt it was a necessary one.”

Read the full story

— Bob Liepa

Feed the Need initiative by AFTEE leads to nearly $200K in grants for East End food pantries

(Updated: Tuesday, 6 a.m.)

All For the East End, an organization that works to support East End nonprofits, has distributed nearly $200,000 in grants to pantries and nonprofit organizations addressing food insecurity, according to AFTEE.

The Feed the Need campaign is addressing issues of food instability and other concerns raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. After distributing $100,000 to four pantries last week, another $95,000 was approved by AFTEE’s grant advisory committee to be distributed to several local organizations such as Blaze Church in Flanders, Community Action Southold Town in Greenport and Church of the Harvest in Riverhead.

Read the full story

WATCH: County Executive Steve Bellone gives daily COVID-19 briefing

(Updated: Monday, 2:40 p.m.)

County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing on the coronavirus. Watch here:

Governor outlines additional details into how regions will manage and monitor reopening plans

(Updated: Monday, 2:15 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday outlined additional details into how a reopening plan would begin to unfold in different regions of the state and presented a chart showing no region currently meets all the criteria.

The first phase of reopening would include construction, manufacturing and wholesale supply chain as well as select retail offering curbside pickup. The second phase would include professional services, finance and insurance, retail, administrative support and real estate/rental leasing. Restaurants, food services and hotels would fall under a third phase. The fourth phase would be education, arts/entertainment and recreation.

“Remember, density is not your friend. Large gatherings are not your friend. That’s where the virus tends to spread. That’s why those situations would be down at the end,” the governor said when speaking about Phase 4.

Read the full story

— Joe Werkmeister

LIVE: Governor’s media briefing

(Updated: Monday, 11:30 a.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding is daily media briefing on the coronavirus. Watch here:

Q&A: Riverhead Police Chief speaks about the coronavirus crisis

(Updated: Monday, 7 a.m.)

The outbreak of COVID-19 has changed nearly all aspects of daily life —including how police departments function. An essential function of society, there are concerns about how to keep police officers safe without heightening the risk to public safety.

The Riverhead News-Review recently interviewed Police chief David Hegermiller to see how the pandemic has affected his department. His responses have been edited for space and clarity.

Riverhead News-Review: What are some of the challenges presented amidst the COVID-19 pandemic?

Chief David Hegermiller: We’re at the point where you have to, as with everyone else, treat people like they have COVID-19 and be cautious with everyone you’re dealing with.

If we’re going on an aided case, an ambulance call, we’re making a conscious decision: who is the person going inside? Obviously, if we’re there and it’s a life or death situation, we’re going in. If it’s just a routine transport, we’re going to let the ambulance person go in.

Read the full interview

— Tara Smith

Hospitals duel with dance videos to relieve the tension

(Updated: Monday, 6 a.m.)

The staff of Stony Brook Southampton Hospital has thrown down the gauntlet in a dance challenge with its North Fork counterparts.

A video the hospital staff posted to YouTube this week features doctors, nurses and administrative staff dancing to Justin Timberlake’s song “Can’t Stop The Feeling” in the halls and on the lawn of the hospital to break the tension of their battle against the COVID-19 epidemic.

The dance-off started when Stony Brook Medicine administrators suggested that all of its staff consider taking a brief break during their shifts to … dance a little.

See the videos

— Michael Wright

Watch: County Executive’s Sunday briefing

(Updated: Sunday, 2:30 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news. Watch here:

Watch: Governor’s Sunday briefing

(Updated: Sunday, 12:30 p.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news. Watch here:

Strawberry Festival canceled

(Updated: Sunday, 11:30 a.m.)

Summer is already shaping up to look a bit different on the North Fork this year amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

After a meeting Friday night, the Mattituck Lions Club has decided to cancel the 66th annual Strawberry Festival typically held Father’s Day weekend.

“Naturally, due to the circumstances, with no large gatherings allowed by the county and state and more importantly for the health and safety of all of our attendees and their families, we decided to cancel the festival,” said Rob Nine, immediate past president of the Mattituck Lions Club.

But that doesn’t mean the 66-year-old tradition will die.

Instead, members of the festival’s steering committee have come up with an alternative plan for the festival. The club plans to sell fresh North Fork strawberries, strawberry shortcake and daiquiris via drive-thru service at the usual festival location at Strawberry Fields.

Click here to read more.

—Tara Smith

Editorial: Tentatively, government plans for new normal

(Updated: Sunday, 8 a.m.)

Locally, town supervisors in Southold and Riverhead are also beginning to lay out what it will take to begin to process of restarting the economy in a region heavily dependent on small businesses and tourism. 

In Riverhead, Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said the town will have to begin studying ordinances that, for example, allow restaurants to offer outdoor seating or tents behind their restaurants, all with the eye toward meeting social distancing and safety requirements. 

“We’re not the only town that’s considering this type of proactive approach,” she said. “All the towns are talking about it.”

She said the Suffolk Supervisors Association and the East End Mayors and Supervisors Association have been discussing a range of ideas to help jump-start their local economies, while making sure safety is the No. 1 priority over everything else.

Read more here.

Legislature meets remotely

(Updated: Sunday, 7:15 a.m.)

There were no speakers at a public hearing Tuesday on the question of whether to increase the terms of Suffolk County legislators from the current two years to four years. 

The meeting was the Legislature’s first to be conducted via the Zoom computer application, with a live audio and video stream of each legislator participating remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The public was able to connect to the meeting and interact with legislators remotely, although not many did, and many hearings and resolutions on the agenda were not voted on and were tabled for future meetings. 

The proposal to double the length of legislators’ terms was introduced by Legislator Samuel Gonzalez, a Democrat whose district covers Brentwood and Central Islip. 

The proposal requires an amendment to the county charter, which reads: “This Legislature hereby finds and determines that Suffolk County’s elected officials, with the exceptions of County Legislators, all serve a four year term of office. County Legislators are elected to only a two year term of office.” 

Read more here.

—Tim Gannon

Watch: County Executive’s daily briefing

(Updated: Saturday, 2:05 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing on the coronavirus. Watch here:

Town officials say it’s still too early to tell full effect pandemic will leave on budgets

(Updated: Saturday, 7:30 a.m.)

The COVID-19 pandemic will potentially have a large impact on the budgets of Riverhead and Southold towns, but just how much of an impact remains unclear, officials said. 

Both towns closed their town offices — other than police — to the public and many of the towns’ revenue sources have also been halted statewide by executive orders from Gov. Andrew Cuomo aimed at preventing people from congregating and potentially spreading the virus. 

Among the larger revenue sources for towns are building- and planning-related funds, residential rental fees, beach fees, mortgage tax revenue, county quarter-percent land transfer fees, and even sales taxes, all of which could be impacted by the state-mandated shuttering of things like retail stores and construction. 

Read the full story

Tim Gannon

Hospital capacity near 70%

(Updated: Friday, 4:30 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Friday the county remains on target to pass the 14-day benchmark of consecutive days of declining hospitalization on May 5. That guidance set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is one criteria that will be used toward when a region can begin reopening.

Mr. Bellone said the hospital capacity is also right around 70%, which is another indicator used for reopening. There are 1,008 beds available out of 3,337. The capacity for ICU beds is at about 73%.

“We need to keep that extra capacity open as we begin to reopen the economy,” Mr. Bellone said.

The number of patients hospitalized declined by 67 in the past 24 hours, which Mr. Bellone said was “another big decline.” There are 903 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, which is around the number at the start of April. Elective surgeries have not yet resumed, so Mr. Bellone said the number of COVID-19 patients, while declining, is still high.

There are now 324 ICU patients.

New cases continue to be confirmed and there were an additional 478 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total past 35,000.

There have been an additional 26 fatalities, bringing the total to 1,203. Mr. Bellone noted that on April 1, the death total stood at 69, which at the time “was staggering,” he said. Now a month later, the total has skyrocketed past 1,200.

—Joe Werkmeister

GoFundMe for FNVA paramedic

(Updated: Friday, 3:50 p.m.)

A GoFundMe page has been established to raise money for a Flanders Northampton Volunteer Ambulance paramedic who is currently in the intensive care unit at Stony Brook University Hospital, where has been diagnosed with COVID-19. 

Jeff Alt, a full-time paid paramedic who has been with the FNVA since 2018, has double pneumonia, which means he has pneumonia in both lungs, as well as diabetic ketoacidosis, which he acquired because of the COVID-19, according to FNVA chief Mark Dunleavy.

Mr. Alt is the first member of the FNVA to test positive for COVID-19, the chief said. 

“He’s been responding to pandemic calls within the FVNA district, and he also works as a per diem paramedic for the ambulance corps in Westhampton and Gordon Heights. He’s also a longtime volunteer with the Middle Island Fire Department,” Mr. Dunleavy said.

Click here to donate.

—Tim Gannon

Watch: County Executive’s daily briefing

(Updated: Friday, 2:45 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news. Watch here:

Schools to remain closed

(Updated: Friday, Noon)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced that schools will remain closed through the rest of the academic year.

“The decisions on the education system are obviously critically important,” the governor said.

Distance learning programs will continue, he said. Decisions on summer school will be made by the end of May, he said.

“No one can predict what the situation will be in weeks from now,” he said. “Any decision on summer school will be made at end of month.”

Child care services for essential workers and meal programs will continue. Districts should begin developing plans for an eventual reopening that take into account safeguards.

School closings have continued to be extended since mid-March when the order was first announced. The latest date for possible reopening had been May 15. The high school spring sports season had already been canceled in Suffolk County in advance of the governor’s decision.

—Joe Werkmeister

Watch: Governor’s daily media briefing

(Updated: Friday, 11:30 a.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news. An announcement about the next step for schools is expected.

Watch here:

Summer Operations Task Force

(Updated: Friday, 10:50 a.m.)

The Suffolk County Supervisors Association is announcing a joint planning effort with three Nassau County town supervisors to explore areas of a possible coordination of summer programs and facilities across all 13 towns. It will be known as the Nassau/Suffolk Towns’ Summer Operations Task Force.

A press conference is currently underway.

Watch here.

Tribute at 8:20 p.m.

(Updated: Friday, 9:30 a.m.)

School districts across Suffolk County are planning a tribute Friday night to honor the high school student-athletes who lost out on their final senior seasons.

The theme is “Turn the Lights On” for the Class of 2020.

The Riverhead Athletic Department is asking families and businesses in the Riverhead School District to take 20 seconds “to recognize senior athletes by flickering their lights on and off and making as much noise as possible by yelling, ringing cow bells, blowing air horns or honking car horns, so the athletes can feel the love of the community.”

The school district will be posting a tribute on social media at 20:20 (8:20 p.m.).

—Joe Werkmeister

Supporting high school seniors

(Updated: Friday, 7:45 a.m.)

From Shoreham to Southold, signs are popping up to show support for the Class of 2020.

What began as a small idea to honor the graduating seniors, who may miss out on the usual traditions in light of the global coronavirus pandemic, has blossomed into a regional effort to recognize every graduate.

Blue and gold signs mark the Shoreham and Wading River homes of “Wildcat” seniors under a project put together by parents Lee Steimel and Mary Sheridan, both of whom have children graduating this year.

“It was their year,” Ms. Steimel said Monday, adding that she feels terrible that her daughter, Summer, will miss out on everything from her final lacrosse season to saying goodbye to teachers and friends and, now, possibly even a graduation ceremony. “Everything’s changed,” she said. “We wanted to do something to recognize them and put a smile on their face.”

The idea is spreading east.

Read more here.

—Tara Smith

Making a difference at Wendy’s Deli

(Updated: Friday, 7:30 a.m.)

One afternoon in late March, Wendy’s Deli owner Wendy Zuhoski decided to make sandwiches for the COVID-19 team at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital.

It felt like the right thing to do, she said, and it was a slow enough day at her Mattituck deli that she and her staff had the time. 

Little did she know what she was starting.

In the month that has followed, the Wendy’s Deli team and their selfless customers have made about 100 food runs to area health care facilities and other workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

“People started saying, ‘Oh, let me help you,’ ” Ms. Zuhoski said of the effort that has seen her crew donate more than 3,500 sandwiches and hot meals. They’re often delivering them four times per day, with each item individually wrapped.

The help has come in all sorts of different ways. Some customers have left $100 bills to put toward the effort. Others have baked and wrapped cookies and brownies. Some have volunteered to go on the runs, which have benefited health care, sanitation workers and more.

Read more here.

—Grant Parpan

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s medical director credits staff, community for successes

(Updated: Thursday, 1:15 p.m.)

As Stony Brook Southampton Hospital begins to see a slow decline in admissions among COVID-19 patients, the hospital’s medical director took time this week to reflect on the scramble to treat “some of the sickest patients we’ve encountered in many years.”

Dr. Fredric I. Weinbaum is a veteran of New York City hospitals, and while he’s proud that Southampton’s medical facility had a better rate of successfully treating COVID-19 patients, he’s quick to point out the “good fortune” of practicing medicine here.

“We were fortunate. We were able to stay a jump ahead of this surge,” he said, crediting the local efforts at social distancing, which kept the number of cases manageable as the hospital expanded, at Governor Andrew Cuomo’s order, to keep pace.

“We are fortunate to live and work and be in Southampton, where we’ve got a population that’s afforded the luxury of social distancing, and many of whom can shelter in place at home,” Dr. Weinbaum said in an interview on Monday. “And I think that’s been a godsend to our area, and kept us from being overwhelmed.”

The hospital had to intubate a “significant number” of patients who were admitted for conditions related to COVID-19. Unlike in New York City hospitals, which recently reported a death rate of more than 80 percent for patients who were placed on ventilators, Dr. Weinbaum said the hospital had the opposite: only about 20 percent of patients placed on ventilators died, compared to the number who were discharged or are recovering in the hospital. In fact, patients who were on a ventilator an average of 11 days were twice as likely to be discharged as to die.

Read the full story

— Joseph P. Shaw

Riverhead Raceway cancels all events for May, faces uncertain future for rest of season

(Updated: Thursday, 10:30 a.m.)

Another sports casualty of COVID-19 was announced Wednesday morning.

Federal and state restrictions put into place because of the coronavirus pandemic prompted Riverhead Raceway to cancel all of its racing events for May. The track had previously canceled two safety technical inspection days and a warmup day that had been slated for the final three weeks of April.

“We will continue to monitor regulations set forth by the state and we will be ready to race when those regulations change and allow us,” read a statement released by the track’s owners, Eddie and Connie Partridge and Tom Gatz. “All of us at Riverhead Raceway are hoping that you and yours are staying safe and home during this worldwide pandemic.”

Read the full story

—Bob Liepa

Peconic Landing reports more fatalities, clarifies concerns in letter to members

(Updated: Wednesday, 3 p.m.)

In a five-page letter sent to members Wednesday, Peconic Landing CEO Bob Syron provided an update to the Greenport retirement and life care community’s response to COVID-19 that included a new timeline for when the virus arrived on campus and an updated death toll. In total, 12 members of the community died from the virus, according to a copy of the letter Peconic Landing shared with The Suffolk Times.

The letter is the most comprehensive update provided by the community’s administration and the first in several weeks, following concerns over the national media attention the facility attracted over its reported deaths.

“As a result of the publicity that came from being forthright, our Peconic Landing family was inundated by harassing messages, phone calls, and individuals who were trying to come on campus despite it being closed to non-essential visitors to prevent the spread,” Mr. Syron wrote. “This interference threatened to distract us from what we needed to do to protect our community and provide the high level of care and service our members deserve as the pandemic continued to rage in the region and across the nation.”

Read the full story

— Grant Parpan

LIVE: County Executive’s daily briefing

(Updated: Wednesday, 2:30 p.m.)

County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here.

Watch: Gov. Cuomo gives his Wednesday COVID-19 media briefing

(Updated: Wednesday, 11:40 a.m.)

Watch here.

Det. Brian Simonsen Memorial Foundation donates $10K to NY Marine Rescue Center

(Updated: Wednesday, 7:45 a.m.)

art of the mission of the Det. Brian Simonsen Memorial Foundation has centered around supporting animal rescue efforts.

Leanne Simonsen, the fallen NYPD detective’s widow, said animals were “near and dear” to both their hearts.

Shortly after the coronavirus pandemic forced many businesses and organizations to close or scale back operations, Ms. Simonsen read an article about some of the financial difficulties facing the New York Marine Rescue Center, which is located at the Long Island Aquarium in downtown Riverhead.

The nonprofit rescue center rescues and rehabilitates sea turtles and marine mammals from across the state. Ms. Simonsen said it hadn’t struck her until then that such an organization would be struggling now.

“It was like a sign,” she said. “This is a place to give to.”

Not only was it a chance to support an organization that fits the foundation’s mission, but it was also a chance to give back to Riverhead Town.

“They’ve supported me so much,” said Ms. Simonsen, who lives in Calverton.

The foundation board recently began to discuss a way to donate some of its funds to the rescue center. Early this week, the center received a $10,000 donation.

Read the full story

— Joe Werkmeister

Farmers honor health care workers at PBMC

(Updated: Tuesday, 8 p.m.)

A caravan of thank yous have become a popular way for the community, fire departments and EMS volunteers to show support for health care workers since the outbreak of COVID-19 began.

Farmers on the East End put a twist on the blossoming tradition in a salute by farmers to front line workers at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead Tuesday.

Horns blared from tractors, pickup trucks and even a grape harvester as dozens of farm vehicles joined the convoy, which made its way down Route 58 and turned north of Roanoke Avenue around 6:30 p.m.

The parade was orchestrated by members of the Long Island Farm Bureau.

Read more

— Tara Smith

Watch: County Executive Steve Bellone’s Tuesday media briefing

(Updated: Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.)

Cuomo: New York’s reopening must be data-driven

(Updated: Tuesday, 7 a.m.)

As the number of new COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and intubations continues on a downward track, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has shifted his focus on the reopening strategy.

During a press briefing in Syracuse Tuesday afternoon, the governor offered more specifics on how the procedures would be data-driven.

“It’s becoming rhetorical rather than factual,” Mr. Cuomo said. “We want to reopen, but we want to do it without infecting more people or overwhelming the hospital system.”

The reopening strategy will be based on two key measurements: hospital capacity and the rate of new infections.

Moving forward, even as elective surgeries resume primarily in the upstate region, hospitals must maintain at least 30% of their bed capacity, the governor said. The rate of transmission also must not exceed 1.1, which could signal another outbreak. “Those are danger signs,” Mr. Cuomo said.

New York’s strategy mirrors guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that say states can only begin to reopen once hospitalizations decline for 14 days straight.

Read the full story

— Tara Smith

WRIV to broadcast radiothon to fight hunger

(Updated: Tuesday, 1:40 p.m.)

WRIV 1390 AM in Riverhead will broadcast “Radio Cares: Feeding America Emergency Radiothon to Fight Hunger” on Thursday as part of a nationwide effort to benefit Feeding America and its network of 200 food banks. That includes Long Island Cares in Hauppauge.

WRIV will broadcast the radiothon from 6 a.m. until midnight Thursday.

Donations can be made by texting “Feed” to 95819. All donations will go directly to Feeding America for distribution to local food banks.

Feeding America established the COVID-19 Response Fund on March 13. Since then, they’ve distributed $112.4 billion and 94 million pounds of food to food banks across the U.S., according to a press release.

Feeding America is trying to raise $1.4 billion to cover the expected costs to provide food for people struggling with hunger and to sustain their operations that trickle down to Suffolk County.

For more information, click here.

—Joe Werkmeister

A veteran who serves as ‘role model’ at PBMC shares his COVID-19 story

(Updated: Tuesday, 7 a.m.)

Charlie Parker graduated from Riverhead High School in 1969, then did construction and other jobs around town, played a mean bass in Curtis Highsmith’s band, Little Curtis and the Big Men, and enlisted in the Army National Guard. 

In search of more opportunities, he joined the 106th Rescue Wing of the Air National Guard at its base in Westhampton Beach. In 1991, when Operation Desert Storm got underway in Iraq, he was deployed to an air base in Kuwait. He later returned to Kuwait after 9/11 for a two-month deployment as an aircraft maintenance superintendent. He can recall other deployments as well, including two to Djibouti on the Horn of Africa and one to Saudi Arabia.

But nothing Mr. Parker, now 69, experienced while serving overseas holds a candle to his battle against COVID-19. His was a very personal war — him against the virus. The troops behind him were doctors and nurses. He said the virus hit him in early March “like a ton of bricks. I could barely breathe.” 

Read the full story

— Steve Wick

Suffolk County Historical Society seeks residents to submit pandemic stories for archival collection

(Updated: Tuesday, 6:30 a.m.)

Few things can be as frustrating for a historian or researcher as looking for archival information about an historic event and finding little or nothing. Victoria Berger can relate to that.

Interested in the parallels between the devastation caused by the Spanish flu of 1918-20 and the current coronavirus pandemic, Ms. Berger was sorely disappointed by the scarcity of material on the Spanish flu’s impact on Long Island a hundred years ago.

“There were references to the Spanish flu … but I wasn’t able to hear the actual accounts of people’s experiences,” said Ms. Berger, the Suffolk County Historical Society executive director.

Ms. Berger said she found more newspaper ads for snake oil treatments for Spanish flu than actual tales of people’s experiences with the flu, the sort of stuff historians treasure. “I couldn’t find the personal anecdotal stories of how our communities are affected,” she said. “That’s where you get a relatable connection to the history.”

A thought popped up: the collection of so-called living histories.

Read the full story

— Bob Liepa

Democratic presidential primary canceled

(Updated: Monday, 5 p.m.)

The Democratic presidential primary in New York has now officially been canceled by the New York State Board of Elections due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

The primary had originally been scheduled for April before Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order pushing it back to June 23.

The decision was made during a commissioners meeting Monday.

Former vice president Joe Biden is now the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party after Senator Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign earlier this month.

Read more here

—Joe Werkmeister

Watch: County Executive’s media briefing

(Updated: Monday, 2:20 p.m.)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is holding his daily media briefing. Watch here.

State to help food banks

(Updated: Monday, 1:20 p.m.)

The demand at Long Island food banks during the coronavirus pandemic has increased by 40%, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday during his daily media briefing.

He announced the state will commit $25 million from the State’s Special Public Health Emergency Fund for food banks and providers most impacted by the pandemic.

“We’re seeing a tremendous demand in food banks which is predictable in some ways,” he said.

Westchester County has seen a 200% increase.

The governor is also seeking assistance from philanthropists willing to help. Anyone interested can contact Fran Barrett, director of nonprofits, at [email protected].

Additional details on how the funding would be dispersed was not yet released.

—Joe Werkmeister

Riverhead woman cooked Thanksgiving dinner for state police for 40 years, now they found a way to return the gratitude

(Updated: Monday, noon)

For about 40 years, Adele Ambrose cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the troopers at the New York State police barracks in Riverside.

A past president of the Polish Town Civic Association and a cook at the Elk’s Club, it’s just one of the ways she liked to give back to her Riverhead community.

She’d wake up at 6 a.m. that Thursday and prepare a complete meal, drop it off and then start cooking her own Thanksgiving feast to share with her husband and six children.

“She’d cook the turkey along with all the fixings,” recalled son Michael. “Everything from scratch.”

When Ms. Ambrose, who has suffered a series of strokes in recent years and lost her vision in 2019, turned 91 last Tuesday, the state police wanted to pay tribute to her. It isn’t uncommon for them to drop by on her birthday and so they hosted a birthday parade for Ms. Ambrose to celebrate the special day. Because she is blind, they played their sirens so she’d be able to hear. The Riverhead Fire Department joined in as well.

“It made her day,” Michael said of his mom, who lost her husband, John, 31 years ago, but still lives in their home on Ludlam Avenue. “She’s a good lady and she’s always been there for other people.”

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— Grant Parpan

Watch: Governor’s Monday briefing

(Updated: Monday, 11:30 a.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding his daily media briefing on the latest coronavirus news. Watch here.

Roanoke Avenue could be renamed ‘Heroes Way’ around PBMC

(Updated: Monday, 6:15 a.m.)

It’s a common occurrence these days for a group of family members to wait outside the main entrance to Peconic Bay Medical center as a loved one is wheeled out of the hospital on their way home to life after being treated for COVID-19.

Joining them is often more than a dozen staff members from the Riverhead hospital. The cheers at first are directed toward the patient on their way to a full recovery. Then the applause usually turns to the health care workers.

Now those workers are likely to receive a more permanent salute thanks to an idea floated by the PBMC administration to the Riverhead Town Board.

The portion of Roanoke Avenue between Route 58 and Middle Road could soon be renamed ‘Heroes Way.’

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— Grant Parpan