BY ROBERT PELAEZ AND ROSE WELDON
The Great Neck peninsula was deemed a “yellow zone” for the coronavirus by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday, which means new restrictions have been placed on schools, indoor and outdoor dining, and gatherings.
According to Cuomo, yellow zone restrictions allow for nonresidential indoor or outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people and residential gatherings of up to 10 people. Places of worship are capped at half capacity and restaurants are required to limit tables to no more than four people. Schools are permitted to remain open but are required to test 20 percent of in-school students and staff members each week.
“This situation remains fluid, and I appreciate everyone’s patience and cooperation as we work with our health and education partners to develop a plan to meet State requirements. I will share an update when more information is available,” Great Neck School Superintendent Teresa Prendergast said in a statement on Monday.
The Great Neck peninsula’s seven-day positivity rate of 4.77 percent was the second-highest in Nassau County, behind Freeport’s 4.91 percent, and the third-highest on Long Island, behind Hampton Bays’ 5.13 percent.
Village of Great Neck Mayor Pedram Bral said he has “been receiving heat from both sides of the spectrum” in regard to mask-wearing and other state mandates, but spoke about the numbers in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
“Facts are the numbers are going up,” Bral said. “You can agree or disagree but this will not change the fact that the state will order our businesses and schools to shut down. So I urge you again to please act accordingly and avoid attending large gatherings for the sake of our kids and our businesses.”
Throughout the peninsula, more than 1,600 people had tested positive for the virus since the beginning of the pandemic in mid-March, according to county figures as of Wednesday.
More than 7,000 people across the North Shore of Nassau County had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Wednesday, an increase of nearly 400 from last week, according to the county Department of Health.
A total of 57,489 Nassau County residents had tested positive for the virus as of Wednesday, and 2,241 had died. More than 170 Nassau residents remained hospitalized due to the virus, with 33 in intensive care units and 18 on ventilators, according to county figures.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, in a news conference earlier in November, said she was worried about the recent increase of coronavirus cases in the Port Washington area. The area’s 672 cases are almost 10 percent of the North Shore’s positive tests. The town-governed areas of Port Washington, with 386 cases, had a rate of positive tests averaging 4.14 percent over a seven-day period, according to county figures.
Members of the Port Washington community spoke out via Zoom on Tuesday night in a forum organized by the Port Washington school district to implore the community to stay home during the Thanksgiving holidays and follow health advisories in order to prevent the area from developing clusters of COVID-19 cases.
“The objective of our panel discussion is to hone in on the significance and urgency of uniting as a community from all facets of life at the spread of COVID-19, understanding the importance of adhering to local and regional health guidance and taking necessary precautions to ensure that schools remain open,” School Superintendent Michael Hynes said at the forum.
Nora Johnson, president of the Port Washington Board of Education, thanked the families in the area who were “following the rules.”
“We’ve just heard and we’ve all heard before that the numbers are going up in Port Washington as they are everywhere,” Johnson said. “But the truth is that our numbers seem to be higher than some of our other neighboring districts in Nassau County. There’s different theories for that, including that we’re doing more testing. But regardless of the why, as a community, we have to be even more vigilant about protecting our loved ones from COVID.”
Johnson added that the district “had some discussions” about the schools going remote “for a period of time after Thanksgiving, so that the kids whose families are following the rules don’t find themselves quarantined because of the families who aren’t being quite as safe.”
“We decided against that, because school is still the safest and the best place for our kids to be,” Johnson said. “The only way schools can stay open if we’re all mindful of the risks and willing to be personally and collectively accountable as we move into the holiday season.”
Also present at the forum was Dr. Nicole Germano, an outpatient pediatrician with Northwell Health at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, who said that her office had seen more children testing positive in recent weeks.
“Up until about three weeks ago we actually had not had a single positive [nasal test] for COVID-19 in any of our patients,” Germano said. “Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been having, you know, maybe two to three [positive tests] per week. And all of these patients have a couple of things in common. They either have a close household contact such as a parent, or an older sibling that works outside of the home … Once you have one person positive in your house, you have about a greater than 80% chance of the rest of the house [testing] positive.”
District physician Dr. Naomi Jackman said that “whoever is involved” must “do the best they can to have this under control, and the only way that can be done is by people acting responsibly.”
“I unfortunately have heard of situations through my practice and through other doctors in the community of events that happen and are seriously not acceptable, and have resulted in people getting the virus. And all of these situations easily could have been avoided if all the people involved would follow the rules,” Jackman said.
“The rules are sometimes not easy. It’s not easy for a teenager to not be with their friends. I respect that. I understand that. I empathize with that … and it’s hard for them to clamp down now so that their future can be better. They don’t see it, they’re not adults yet. But as their adult parents, you need to also help guide them make those right decisions.”
Local faith leaders were also at the forum to encourage community members to stay home over the holiday and have patience as the pandemic ran its course.
Rabbi Irwin Zeplowitz of the Community Synagogue at Sands Point encouraged patience in his remarks.
“None of us have been in this situation before, and we’re all feeling our way forward,” Zeplowitz said. “So with a little bit of glue, a little bit of patience and a little bit of thinking about people trying to do their best, rather than to think about the worst, I think that in some ways that can lower the temperature and create a sense of calm, as we move forward.”
North Hempstead Councilwoman Mariann Dalimonte said that the local uptick would require the community to “be creative and come up with other ways to connect with the people we love.”
“Please remember that in order to have all our generations around the table together next year,” Dalimonte said. “We need to stop the spread for better days ahead.”
The New Hyde Park area accounted for 1,517 of the North Shore’s cases, with North New Hyde Park having the second-most confirmed positives, 563, out of any analyzed area. The villages of Floral Park, with 430 cases, and New Hyde Park, with 402 cases, were also among the top seven villages or unincorporated town areas in terms of positive tests, according to Health Department statistics.
Municipalities and unincorporated areas that stretch into more than one North Shore area such as Flower Hill, Herricks, Albertson, Garden City Park, Searingtown and North Hills were counted separately and accounted for 968 cases, according to county statistics.
The villages of Mineola, with 585 cases, and Garden City, with 512 cases, accounted for 1,097 of the 1,369 cases in the area that also takes in the Willistons.
Manhasset, which has consistently remained comparatively low since the beginning of the pandemic, had 99 cases, with a majority coming from town-governed areas.
The Village of Roslyn’s 172 cases may not seem high compared with other North Shore areas, but the cases per 1,000 residents, 60.31, is one of the highest rates in Nassau County, according to Health Department figures.
According to figures provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, the estimated population of the Village of Roslyn was 2,882 in 2018. According to Roslyn Mayor John Durkin, the rate of infection reported by Newsday and the population provided by the census are inaccurate.
Durkin attributed some of the cases to people with underlying health conditions at the village’s two senior homes, the Atria and Assisted Living Roslyn. The village had an increase of only one case over the past week, the only one to have less than five new cases in that time frame.
Throughout New York, more than 612,000 people had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Wednesday, according to state figures. Of that total, more than 34,000 people had died. In New York City, 303,000 people had contracted the virus, and 24,220 had died.