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North Shore heroes battle the continuing pandemic

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The coronavirus pandemic has made heroes of so many people across the North Shore. From health care workers to nonprofit volunteers and residents who have simply wanted to make a difference, people have rallied to help one another through the most urgent health crisis in a century.

Many local residents say conditions have improved since the crisis began on Long Island in March, but much work remains to be done.

Sea Cliff resident Dr. Evan Sorett, a pulmonologist and the critical care director at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, said the severity of the pandemic has decreased dramatically. At its peak, Sorett said, the hospital had 300 or more Covid-19 patients, but now there are only three or four in isolation units at any given time, most of them not critically ill.

Sorett said that masks and social distancing have helped markedly, but equally important is the constantly updated flow of  data on how to treat patients. The information coming from China at the start of the crisis, he said, was questionable at times. Now, with new studies from reliable sources, better treatments have been developed, including the use of steroids and convalescent plasma from those who have recovered from the illness. Plasma is the liquid content of blood after red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets have been removed.

“I think we have weapons we didn’t have before, so our abilities to ventilate patients are better,” Sorett said. “Our ability to treat patients is better, so I’m hoping that, if we do see a resurgence, we’ll be able to handle it better.”

Colleen McCally, of Sea Cliff, a St. Francis anesthesiologist, has been on maternity leave in recent months, but  has stayed in close contact with her colleagues, and they have instituted new policies when admitting patients. Family members, for example, are not permitted past the waiting room. The hospital also has a surplus of personal protective equipment, McCally said, which would be useful in the event of a second outbreak.

Sorett and McCally said that complacency could lead to a second wave. As society open ups, they said, they hope people remain vigilant in following preventive guidelines, especially when in large groups.

“I’m just wary of people letting their guards down,” Sorett said. “I agree with opening the economy slowly like we’ve been doing it, but we just have to be cautious, particularly with everyone going back to school.”

People must “continue to take this seriously,” McCally said, “because I think the second you let your guard down, you bring risk to your family, to yourself and to your community.”

Local nonprofits have also done their part to keep the North Shore safe. From the onset of the pandemic, Peggie Como, president of the Sea Cliff Mutual Concerns Committee, has worked to ensure the village’s older adults are well cared for. She spent several months collecting food donations and delivering them to seniors’ homes, not only ensuring they have enough food, but also making sure the people who are most at risk do not have to leave their houses to pick up essentials.

Como said food donations are still coming in, but she can now give them to seniors in their homes instead of dropping them off at their doorsteps. This was especially useful after Tropical Storm Isaias rolled through on Aug. 4, she said, because volunteers could help seniors who had lost power.

The community has rallied together recently, Como said, as more volunteers, including teenagers, help the committee however they can. “People really don’t forget,” Como said. “They’re not just living in their own little bubble. They think about others. They think about us, which is really nice.”

The pandemic also saw a number of residents create non-profits. Sea Cliff residents Allison Moss and Courtney Citko started North Shore Cares on March 26 to help struggling businesses. Through social media and word of mouth, Citko said, they collected $15,000 in donations through June, with which they purchased food from local restaurants and delivered it to workers at St. Francis and Glen Cove Hospital.

She and Moss were looking to make a difference, Citko said, and she was happy to see many others join in the cause.

“I think it’s amazing,” she said. “It was a no-win situation for everybody, and we were able to at least help organize individuals who wanted to donate but didn’t really know who to donate to or how to donate.”

Glenwood Landing’s Kelsey Edquist, owner of Royal Princess Prep Party Company, said children have felt the stress of the pandemic. Early on, she used her company’s character performances to comfort North Shore children. She said she started doing virtual story times to help kids feel more at ease, noting that they look to their heroes, real or fictional, when they feel scared.

Edquist, who has children in school herself, said she still has not received clearance from the state to do in-person performances. Competitors may be doing so, in violation of state guidelines, but she said she would not risk safety.

Edquist and her performers are holding virtual classes and events while in character. “It’s super tough,” she said, “but I know that my performers and I feel very strongly that it’s important to keep everybody safe for now.”