Throughout the nation, people are finding ways to adapt to the “new normal,” as Nassau County Executive Laura Curran calls it, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Aside from daily briefings with county health officials, Curran conducted the county’s first virtual town hall to hundreds of online attendees on Wednesday night.
Curran answered questions submitted by Nassau residents about the coronavirus and what more can be done to prevent its already rapid spread throughout the city and Long Island.
Curran said one of the most frequent questions she and county officials have received is if and when schools in Nassau will reopen.
On March 15, Curran took emergency action and closed schools throughout the county for two weeks. Immediately after Curran’s announcement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that all schools throughout the state would be closed for two weeks.
Cuomo announced last Friday that schools would remain closed until April 15, when the state would re-evaluate any further action at that point.
“I think the state will have to assess whether and when we are flattening the curve,” Curran said. “The governor has said that we expect to reach the apex of this crisis in 14 to 21 days.”
Another question Curran received was about the potential postponement and due date of school taxes. Curran, who lives in the Town of Hempstead, said the second half of school taxes are due between April 1 and May 10.
“I recognize there is a lot of concern in the ability to pay taxes right now,” Curran said. “I’m also aware that our school districts have bills to pay, they have a payroll to make, and this is really something that has to be addressed by the governor and by the state Legislature.”
According to the Town of North Hempstead website, school taxes for the town are also due between April 1 and May 10.
One resident asked Curran how residents can prevent others from crowding at public areas such as basketball courts, the Long Beach Boardwalk and Dunkin’ Donuts, for example. Curran stressed the importance of staying home but also mentioned that going outside should be a priority for all county residents if they are healthy.
“One thing that’s sort of nice — I see people going on walks with their dogs, loved ones and kids,” Curran said. “One thing I am looking to do is step up our conversations with store owners and take-out restaurants and talk to them about how to police things better.”
On Friday, the City of Long Beach officially closed off the boardwalk to the public, a step Curran said was “difficult but necessary” to take.
She reiterated a point brought up by several residents about phone scams. Curran said residents have continued to report receiving calls requesting personal financial or healthcare information.
Nassau County Police Commissioner Ryder said March 19, there had been a 49 percent increase in spam calls in the past year and advised residents to remain vigilant.
“There is a lot of uncertainty in this world right now and it is unfortunate that people are taking advantage of that uncertainty,” Curran said.
“There’s a bunch of lowlife people that sit and wait and prey in times of crisis,” Ryder said. “Well, they’re coming out in groves right now and making these phone calls. Our seniors are more concerned about fighting and keeping away from catching the virus and now they have to concern themselves about a scam that comes over the phone.”
In the virtual town hall, Curran was asked how residents should report businesses for price gouging in the county. She said Nassau has identified and fined local businesses that raised prices on N-95 protective masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and other products in high demand since the virus began to spread.
“Along with everything else we are dealing with as a society, it is unforgivable to prey on people in a very vulnerable time,” Curran said. “We encourage all residents to report any price gouging they see whether online or in a store.”
Curran said there have been more than 260 reports of businesses price-gouging items since the first reported coronavirus case on March 5. Curran said the county has distributed 60 violations, including fines upwards of $25,000.
After fielding questions for a half-hour, Curran ended the live video by delivering some optimism to those virtually in attendance and emphasized a continuous effort by the county to remain transparent.
“I want to thank everyone for tuning into this virtual town hall,” Curran said. “If we need to do this again before we get back to normal, we absolutely will. Remember, we will get through this together.”