At the time of publication, more than 200 Long Island residents have been infected with the novel coronavirus.
While Nassau County, not the Town of Hempstead houses the local health agency, America’s largest township provides important services and programs for more than 770,000 residents. In light of the ever-changing status of the novel coronavirus in the nation, state and with several confirmed cases in the county, Supervisor Don Clavin announced special efforts taken by the town to combat the spread of the potentially deadly illness at public facilities and municipal offices.
Clavin established a task force, led by Town of Hempstead Medical Director Dr. David Neubert and Councilman Anthony D’Esposito. The task force is dedicated to crafting strategies and precautionary measures in response to concerns related to novel coronavirus. The agenda includes expanded disinfectant and cleaning efforts as well as enhanced communication and education initiatives.
Along with Dr. Neubert and D’Esposito, Clavin was also joined by Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, Councilman Bruce Blakeman, Councilman Dennis Dunne, Sr., Councilman Tom Muscarella and Councilman Chris Carini, Town Clerk Kate Murray and Receiver Jeanine Driscoll.
“In light of the ever-changing situation surrounding novel coronavirus, I swiftly acted to create a Hempstead Town Task Force to meet daily to address precautionary measures aimed at preventing the spread of illnesses among employees and members of the public,” Clavin said. “The health and safety of residents is our priority and we take this matter very seriously. I’m joining with members of our task force to unveil our coronavirus prevention strategy as it relates to the numerous public facilities and offices within America’s largest township.”
Some of the initial steps taken included the increase of hand sanitizing stations in town facilities, stepped up cleaning efforts and the distribution of flyers containing safety tips. Clavin and the task force have now incorporated an array of other precautionary measures, with a special effort to protect the senior citizen population at the town’s 14 senior centers.
“Health experts and officials have deemed the senior citizen population as among the most vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus,” Clavin said. “With 14 senior centers, we want to do all that we can to reassure our seniors and educate them on the coronavirus.”
Additionally, Clavin and D’Esposito announced an initiative to coordinate efforts with the town’s first responders. Led by D’Esposito, who is an NYPD detective and former fire chief, and Dr. Neubert, the town is contacting fire departments to offer them an informational session to share their questions, concerns and ideas.
“Our first responders volunteer their time to protect their communities,” Clavin said. “Our volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians have families and livelihoods to be concerned about. We want them to know that we appreciate and support them as they are on the front lines of the coronavirus battle in our nation. Our coronavirus task force will meet daily for the foreseeable future and we will continue to monitor updates from the state and county health agencies. We are ready to revise and introduce protocols and will share any updates with the public as necessary.”
Northwell Health Labs in New Hyde Park is testing for the coronavirus after receiving state and federal authorization to begin manual testing for the virus.
“Utilizing a testing process developed and approved by the New York State Department of Health (DOH), Northwell’s Lab expects to manually test 90 potential coronavirus samples within the first full day,” Dr. Dwayne Breining, executive director of the Northwell Labs said. “With one of North America’s largest automated testing lines, the facility processes about 20 million tests annually. Beyond the manual testing authorized, Northwell Labs is seeking the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s approval to use semi-automated testing within the next week. This would give the laboratory the capability to process hundreds of tests daily, with a plan to ramp up to thousands daily in the near future.”
While the expanded ability to test patients for coronavirus will greatly enhance Northwell’s ability to manage patients with potential infection, testing will continue to be reserved for those at risk for severe disease and who have had confirmed close contact with an infected individual.
“Only people who meet that criteria will be tested and that testing is currently being performed at hospital emergency departments and urgent care centers,” Dr. John D’Angelo, chair of emergency medicine at Northwell said. Northwell operates 18 emergency departments throughout New York City, Long Island and Westchester County. “Even as our testing capacity increases, we will continue to screen people judiciously so we can focus our attention on those most at risk for severe coronavirus infection, who require more-immediate and intensive medical attention. All others who are concerned about exposure but who have mild or no symptoms should recuperate at home.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo praised Northwell Health Labs for its advanced lab.
“This is one of the most technologically advanced labs in the state of New York, and one of the most sophisticated labs in the United States of America,” he said in a press conference last weekend. “This lab can do high-throughput automated testing, which expands exponentially the number of tests that can be done. Let’s increase as quickly as possible our testing capacity so we identify the positive people, so we can isolate them and be successful in our containment.”
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran authorized the closing of all county public schools for the next two weeks in order to curb the community spread that is ongoing with the coronavirus.
“This action, being done out of an abundance of caution to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), means that no staff or students are to report to school from Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 27,” the Sewanhaka School District said in a statement on their website. “There will be no activities or events during this time. We will be in touch regarding further guidance for any coursework that can be completed from home during this time. For those who may have children relying on free/reduced breakfast and lunch options through the school lunch program, the district is coordinating a “grab and go” program to continue supplying those meals, if needed.”