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Covid-19 cases rise in Freeport

Village deals with infection rate uptick as state cracks down

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Covid-19 cases are on the rise again in the Village of Freeport.

With Nassau County seeing its test positivity rate rise above 3 percent, Freeport continues to be one of its hardest-hit communities. The village had recorded nearly 2,200 positive cases as of Wednesday, the third-highest total among the county’s villages, behind only Hempstead and Valley Stream, according to the county De-partment of Health.    

Freeport saw about 200 new cases in the three months between Aug. 10 and Nov. 10, but just two weeks later the county confirmed 200 more.  

If the rate does not drop, Freeport could be designated a Yellow Zone by the state, which would mean the return of restrictions that were loosened this summer. Mayor Robert Kennedy said that the village has begun ramping up enforcement of Covid-19 regulations to avoid that outcome. 

Police and building inspectors were out in force this week to ensure that local restaurants and bars were maintaining social distancing and not exceeding their allowed capacity, while the village’s Community Affairs Department distributed masks to local churches, businesses and senior housing centers. Freeport police gave out masks at the Long Island Rail Road station and other locations on Monday.

Residents can pick up masks at Village Hall and the Freeport Recreation Center. 

“We’re cautiously optimistic that we can get the numbers back down,” Kennedy said. “I’ve also been in meetings with [County Executive] Laura Curran to get more money in for additional rapid testing in the village.” 

Kennedy added that residents can report incidents of overcrowding to the Police Department, and that anyone with questions about the village’s Covid-19 response can contact his office at (516) 377-2252. 

On Monday and Tuesday, Freeport High School switched from in-person to remote-only learning on Monday and Tuesday because of a positive case in the building.

To date this year, about 35 students, teachers and staff members in the Freeport School District have tested positive for Covid-19, according to the State Department of Health. 

“The amount of fear, anxiety and concern over these cases is understandable,” Superintendent Dr. Kishore Kuncham said at a recent Board of Education meeting, “but we take action to make sure everyone stays safe. Positive cases in the schools have not led to any additional outbreaks.” 

Dr. Alice Kane, assistant superintendent for educational and administrative services, and Dr. Helen Kanellopoulous, director of special education and pupil personnel services, explained that when the schools are alerted about a positive case, the district immediately contacts the individual and the family. 

The district then begins contract tracing to determine who was in contact with the positive individual. Staff and students are questioned about mask wearing, maintaining social distancing and what type of contact did they had with the person. All the information is relayed to the county health department, which works with the district to determine a course of action.

The schools are also cleaned and disinfected every day, with additional deep cleaning in areas where the infected individual was, if the health department deems it necessary. Emails and letters are sent out to the parents of guardians of students in the affected school building, informing them of the case.  

“We work quickly and under the guidance of the Department of Health when we make decisions like closing schools or asking people to quarantine,” Kanellopoulous said. 

“No cases are alike . . . and we try to notify everyone in the buildings without going over confidential information,” Kane added.  

District officials also said that there have been delays in contacting the Health Department as cases increase in the county, adding pressure on district officials to act quickly when a case arises in one of the schools. 

Kuncham said that students, faculty and staff members should avoid coming to school if they feel sick and urged them to be responsible to help combat the spread of Covid-19. 

While New York City schools closed last week, Curran has repeatedly said she does not plan to close schools in the county, but she did ask residents to overcome “pandemic fatigue” and continue with Covid-19 safety protocols to avoid such a drastic measure.

“We are not built to withstand a shutdown,” Curran said during a news conference in Freeport on Nov. 19. “The decisions we make now will dictate how we’re able to celebrate the holidays and help keep our schools and businesses open in the winter.”