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North Shore schools and municipalities taking action against coronavirus

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The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Nassau County stood at 51 as of Saturday morning, according to County Executive Laura Curran.

Curran posted county Department of Health guidelines on Twitter: Elderly residents and those with respiratory conditions should not attend large public gatherings, and people feeling sick should not visit the elderly and those with respiratory conditions.

Across New York state, there were more than 400 cases. Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency.

Cuomo said he expected the number of coronavirus cases to climb as the state conducted more tests for the virus. Northwell Health and Stony Brook University Hospital are aiding in testing patients.

Two school bus drivers who work in the Glen Cove, Oyster Bay and Locust Valley school districts were diagnosed with coronavirus earlier this week, prompting all three districts to close on March 10. Since the North Shore Central School District uses its own buses, it was able to stay open.

Although there have not been any confirmed cases in the district, North Shore Superintendent Dr. Peter Giarrizzo said that he and the rest of the administration have been very proactive in preparing for the coronavirus. The district had placed bulk orders for supplies like hand sanitizer and soap several weeks ago, some of which have already arrived.

Giarrizzo also said that the district has been cleaning each building constantly using supplies designed specifically to kill the COVID-19 virus. This includes disinfecting each of the district’s buses every night, he said.

“I think we’re going to do the very best we can to ensure that the schools are ready,” Giarrizzo said, “that they are clean and if we needed to take active steps, that we have the structures in place in order to that.”

Throughout Monday and Tuesday, Giarrizzo said, the district installed hand sanitizer pumps in each of its classrooms. The district is also taking precautions, he said, on the social level, teaching children about keeping their distance while speaking or playing. There is also an increase in signage about maintaining personal hygiene.

Also, on March 10, the City of Glen Cove announced via its website that Mayor Tim Tenke had decided to close the Glen Cove Senior Center and the Youth Bureau “out of an abundance of caution.”

The center’s executive director, Christine Rice, said maintaining the cleanliness of the center is of the utmost importance to her and her staff. For the past month or so the janitorial crew has cleaned every surface in the center three times each day, she said, and the center’s staff makes regular announcements on personal hygiene.

“It’s priority number one,” Rice said. “We need to make sure that the environment that we are allowing our members to be in is of the utmost in cleanliness so we know that we have a safe and healthy environment to be in.”

At the Glen Cove City Council’s March 10 meeting, Tenke said the senior center will reopen on March 12.

Glen Head’s Bill Mozer, who runs a community Facebook group boasting over 6,500 members from across the North Shore, said the site has been quiet.

“On a widespread basis I think people should obviously be very concerned about this,” he said, “but as far as my Facebook group, I haven’t seen any panic about it in our area.”

Nassau’s first confirmed case of coronavirus was a 42-year-old man who works at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre, according to Uniondale School District and Mercy officials.

Uniondale Superintendent Dr. William Lloyd said in a statement on Friday, “The district has been in close contact with Nassau County and New York state health officials, and we have been told that at the current time, there is no reason to take any additional precautionary or preventive measures than those we already have in place.” 

Authorities said the man is a part-time employee at Mercy, and they were reviewing with whom he came in contact. Officials said they were unsure how he contracted the illness, but he had not been to work at the hospital for a week.

He was being treated at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, officials said. Cuomo said on March 5, “His condition keeps improving.”

In a statement to the Herald, Mercy Medical Center said the New York State Department of Health notified the hospital of the case on March 3.  The man last worked an eight-hour shift at Mercy toward the end of February when he was not exhibiting symptoms, the statement said. 

Mercy’s infection prevention specialists were conducting a contact investigation with people the man may have been in contact with, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Mercy officials said. They also noted that Catholic Health Services, which Mercy falls under, is “prepared to diagnose and treat patients showing symptoms of COVID-19 while also taking the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the disease.”

“The health system is prepared, and prevention and control protocols are in place to appropriately isolate patients who enter its facilities to prevent the potential transmission of infection,” said Patrick O’Shaughnessy, CHS’s executive vice president and chief clinical officer. “All CHS clinical personnel are educated on the latest CDC and New York State Department of Health coronavirus guidelines and recommendations.

Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein, the Nassau County health commissioner, said on Friday, “We’re doing a case-contact investigation, which is what our disease investigators do.

“We’re going to interview them and their family and identify whoever they’ve been in contact with and make recommendations based on exposure or not exposure,” he continued.

“We want people to be calm,” Eisenstein said. “We want people to go about their usual business. It is cold and flu season without the presence of coronavirus, and it’s a respiratory virus. What works for cold and flu prevention also works for coronavirus prevention.”

Most important, people should thoroughly wash their hands — up to 20 seconds — and limit physical contact such as handshaking and hugging.

And, Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said, “If you’re sick, stay home.”

“We’re taking every step necessary to keep our residents healthy and safe,” Curran tweeted.

She added, “Reminder: If you’re sick, call your healthcare provider before visiting. They’ll direct you on next steps.”