Schools Close As Town Unveils Coronavirus Prevention Strategy

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Town of Hempstead officials gathered to warn residents about the coronavirus and ways to prevent the spread of the disease. (Photo courtesy of the Town of
Hempstead)

At the time of publication, about 100 Nassau County residents have been infected with the novel coronavirus.

In the area’s schools, there is at least one case of the coronavirus in Levittown, Seaford or Wantagh. The Levittown Public Schools announced they would have a thorough cleaning on March 13 “ following the guidelines of disinfecting recommended by the Center for Disease Control.” And they will “continue this method of cleaning on a daily basis for the foreseeable future.”

A day later, the district shut down. At the time of publication, Levittown closed its schools for March 13 and March 16 after a GC Tech staff member tested positive for the coronavirus.

“We have been notified by the Nassau County Department of Health that a GC Tech staff member has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19),” the district’s website read.

Though the staffer is not an employee of the Levittown Public Schools, the district believed this was the proper course of action that needed to be taken.

Shortly thereafter, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced all schools, both public and private, will be closed.

The Seaford School District was previously “in the process of proactively developing a plan in case schools may need to be closed.” In Wantagh, schools canceled trips and postponed large gatherings.

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, Councilmen Bruce Blakeman, Dennis Dunne Sr., Tom Muscarella and Chris Carini, Town Clerk Kate Murray and Receiver of Taxes 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 coronavirus.

“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 and 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.”

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