For the first time since Nassau County Executive Laura Curran began her coronavirus pandemic news briefings on Feb. 26, she stood behind a lectern and spoke about the latest Covid-19-related numbers from the Five Towns.
On Monday, Curran spoke outside the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC’s Sustenance Hope Opportunities Place, the SHOP in Cedarhurst that houses the Rina Shkolnik Kosher Food Pantry, closets for donated clothes and office space for the social workers who help those in need with an array of services.
“I felt it was important because there was so much uncertainty and so many questions, to give people the information that we got as soon as we got it,” Curran said, explaining why she began giving the daily briefings. “What are the numbers, what are the statistics, what resources are out there to help people, what do you need to know.”
Curran ran down the updated Covid-19 numbers for Nassau County as she usually does. She noted that Wednesday, June 24, with the numbers the way they are, the county will be moving into Phase Three. “We are taking note of the spikes in other parts of the country, but in Nassau County the numbers continue to decline as residents are using common sense,” she said, a reference to wearing face masks in public and keeping to the recommended space of six-feet apart for social distancing. “It is so essential to get this economy cracking again.”
In Phase Three, restaurants will be permitted to open for inside, in-person dining, provided employees and patrons wear masks, and six feet of social distancing is maintained between tables. Spas and tattoo parlors will also be allowed to reopen. Restaurants will only be permitted to reopen indoors at 50 percent capacity, according to the governor’s New York Forward website. The maximum number of people per table will be 10.
Immediately before Curran spoke, Michael Kerr, a Gural JCC board member and a United Jewish Appeal Federation of New York committee member, noted that the UJA has donated more than $46 million to philanthropic causes in the metropolitan area through the pandemic. “For a broad range of essential services, including an interest-free loan program and personal protective equipment for essential workers,” Kerr said. The UJA is a sponsor of the Gural JCC.
Gural JCC Associate Director Stacey Feldman said that they have seen a 40 percent increase of families that they feed through the food pantry on a weekly basis since the pandemic began. That is more than 550 families, Feldman said which is “too much food to quantify,” she added.
Before speaking, Curran received a tour of the SHOP and during her briefing noted the staggering 125 percent increase in people applying countywide for the federal supplemental nutrition assistance program known as SNAP.
Gural JCC Executive Director Aaron Rosenfeld said having the county executive visit was incredible as it underscores the JCC’s connection and its work with the entire community and the elected officials, which includes State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, who helped organize the news conference to highlight the JCC's work.
“What we’ve done is not closed the SHOP and the food pantry this entire pandemic and that was critical to us,” Rosenfeld said. “So, while we have closed our buildings to the public our services, including the SHOP and all of our social services have continued remotely in some cases and take orders over the phone and get them out to families. Wherever there is a need the Gural JCC is there to fill it.”
Though Gov. Andrew Cuomo has stopped giving his daily news briefings, Curran said that she will continue giving her daily briefings as the reopening phases are progressing and many residents still ask questions and “the press is interested in showing up and having the questions answered.”
Being a leader during this time has its priorities for Curran. “No. 1 remain calm, No. 2 assess the situation and No. 3 to marshall whatever resources we have on the county level to address the crisis,” she said.