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Town striving to stay ahead of the pandemic; informational meeting updates residents on efforts

Reports from Supervisor Gerry Siller, Superintendent of Schools Brian Doelger and Police Chief Jim Read, the emergency management coordinator for the town, all indicated that the Island was “ahead of the curve” of the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus.

With municipalities surrounding the Island reeling from the affects of the rapidly spreading illness, the Island is holding steady with no deaths from the illness and two confirmed cases “connected” to the Island, with one hospitalized. The town’s Public Information Officer Jack Thilberg said the term “connected to” means a resident, an employee who lives elsewhere, or a frequent visitor.

The town mobilized early to shut down businesses, close the school and put forth a steady stream of information about social distancing and other preventive measures. The IGA remains open, but strict procedure prohibits more than 15 people in the store at any one time.

With the influx of second homeowners, coming from New York City, one of the global “hot spots” of the virus, mandatory self-quarantining is in place.

Tuesday’s informational meeting and Town Board work session was physically closed to the public to maintain social distancing, similar to other meetings during the pandemic. But the meeting was live-streamed over the internet, available on ZOOM and broadcast on Channel 22.

Town Hall is open, with all departments functioning, but only via email or telephone, or video conferencing.

Chief Read stressed that anyone needing information should call 311, a non-emergency number set up by Suffolk County. He also cited a new email for questions on the virus — [email protected] For questions and concerns he recommended the town’s website at shelterislandtown.us/ and a newly launched town Facebook page.

Medical

The chief urged anyone who has tested positive for the virus to contact him. He will keep all notifications in the strictest confidence, he said, but has to alert the town’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) so personnel will be aware if there is an emergency at a particular address.

Chief Read noted that EMS crews, before transporting a person needing “critical care,” will call Stony Brook University Hospital, which will then direct the ambulance to the hospitals in Greenport or Southampton. Because of an expected surge in hospital visits, the decision will be made for the ambulance crews.

Drive-through testing is available at Stony Brook University and in Riverhead at 1149 Old Country Road. By appointment only. If you have symptoms of the virus ( high fever, dry cough), call 1-88-364-3065 for Stony Brook, and for Riverhead, phone 516-874-0411.

Supervisor Siller announced that Rite-Aid Pharmacy will be on the Island in the coming days to dispense vaccinations in a drive-through format in the school’s parking lot for people who are getting a series of shots for shingles, pneumonia, tetanus and whooping cough vaccines. By appointment only, call the Senior Center at 631-749-1059.

For those isolated at home, or with any other concerns, Town Social Worker Lucille Buergers is available for a consultation. Reach her at [email protected], or call 631-749-0302 ext. 151.

Signage will be appearing at the ferry terminals instructing second homeowners that they must self-quarantine for 14 days, meaning they must stay at home and refrain all outside activities, including shopping.

School news

School remains closed. Superintendent Doelger said food deliveries to students and the distance learning program was working effectively. State aid to the district will most likely be cut since Gov. Cuomo has said that no revenue is coming in, Mr. Doelger said. School Board elections, like all local elections, have been postponed, according to state edict, so district elections and a vote on the school budget will likely be in June or July.

Businesses

There has been confusion over the state’s ban on “nonessential businesses” when it comes to construction and landscaping. Building Inspector Chris Tehan told the board that the rule is only one person is allowed to work on a job site, and landscaping is prohibited to lawn maintenance only. If there is a construction emergency, the Building Department will permit a temporary increase in workers at a site.

Recycling, dentists, vets

Beginning Wednesday, April 1, the Recycling Center/Landfill will be closed Tuesday and Thursday, but open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. No plastic or cardboard will be accepted to protect Highway Department Crews from infection.

Dr. Frank Kestler, DDS, has closed his Shelter Island office for at least the next three weeks, and advises that dental emergencies will be handled at The Smilest Dental at the Mattituck and Riverhead offices “in the near future one-day per week,” Town Public Information Officer Jack Thilberg said.

In an emergency, Dr. Kestler has recommended calling your physician, Southampton Hospital, or to obtain pain relief medication. This information will be updated as new information becomes available.

The Shelter Island Clinic of the North Fork Animal Hospital is open, but has modified its services and suggested calling 631-749-2506 for an appointment. House calls have been canceled and the office has been closed to the walk-in public.

The clinic suggests calling to discuss what’s needed, and to call the same number for a pick-up of medicine or supplies.

Helping hands

The newly-formed Shelter Alliance has partnered with the Shelter Island Lions Club. The new organization seeks donations to purchase meals at local restaurants and transport them to Eastern Long Island and Southampton hospitals for health care professionals. The group is also working to provide meals for seniors and those in need. To make a tax deductible donation, contact the Lions by phone at 631) 209-7452 or through their website at shelterislandlions.org.

The next informational meeting will be Friday, April 3 at 4 p.m. Town committees are beginning to resurface for virtual meetings. Check the town’s website for more information on times and dates.