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Getting ready for a summer season with COVID: Town brass discusses beaches and upcoming events

Eight weeks after the town declared a state of emergency to deal with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Police Chief Jim Read said, “We are doing something right.”

The chief, who is the town’s emergency management coordinator, spoke at an informational meeting on Friday — closed to the public but live-streamed over the internet and then broadcast on Channel 22 — and was referencing the eight Island confirmed cases of the virus, and two deaths.

Those numbers have not changed in three weeks, and the chief urged residents to keep practicing safe practices the town has put in place and not to get complacent. “Keep the momentum going,” he said, adding later not to “let your guards down. Wear masks. Support your community.”

At Friday’s meeting, the board discussed the summer season and provisions for crowded beaches and the status of summer public events. Superintendent of Schools Brian Doelger, Ed.D., discussed the ongoing distant learning program and other school-related matters, and Shelter Island Library Director Terry Lucas joined the discussion, providing information on programs since the library has physically closed to the public.

Supervisor Gerry Siller also weighed in on the past two months of people isolating themselves, the school and businesses closed, and everyone coming from off-Island required to quarantine themselves for 14 days. He said he understood that “people are getting tired and upset and itchy.”

But the town directives were working. “We’ve been so good,” he said. “A lot of it’s luck. But a lot of it is Shelter Island. We have respect and we take care of each other.”


Two of the largest events of the season are the Memorial Day Parade and the Shelter Island 10K. Councilman Jim Colligan said he had met with American Legion Commander Dave Clark, and an announcement would be coming soon on what will be ceremonies videotaped the week before and aired on Memorial Day on Channel 22. (The Reporter will post a calendar of events for Memorial Day shortly.)

The 10K, scheduled for June 20, is currently on hold, Chief Read said. There will be a meeting of race organizers and town officials on May 20 to weigh cancelling or postponing the Island’s most popular public event.


“It’s going to get hot,” Chief Read said, and that means people going in numbers to the Island’s public beaches. Plans are being discussed among town officials and Recreation Director Bethany Ortmann on how to best handle crowds at Wades and Crescent beaches. Lifeguard and beach attendants will be hired, and will have new roles this summer, Chief Read said. They will support the town’s insistence on social distancing and will also help clean the public bathrooms to ensure they’re safe. There might also be limited parking with reduced spaces for social distancing, and signage is being prepared to inform people to stay safe.

Med Center

Supervisor Siller said the Medical Center, closed for months, is still scheduled to open on May 15, but office hours will be limited to two days a week, until Dr. Josh Potter completes his residency and can practice without the supervision of another physician.


The school, closed for the year, is continuing its at-home “distant learning” program. Superintendent Doelger said a survey had been sent to parents seeking information and concerns about the program. More than 100 parents had responded and the results will be made public soon, he said.

“Clemency week” has been brought back, Mr. Doelger said, which means students who have not handed in homework on time can do so and there will be no penalties. There will also be a school parade, the superintendent said, on May 20, with details to follow.

Mr. Siller said the Lions Club, in coordination with the school, had provided iPads to senior citizens and care givers to keep them connected to Island life and events.

Mr. Doelger and Board of Education President Kathleen Lynch home-delivered egg sandwiches for breakfast to the seniors one day this week. “It was supposed to take an hour,” he said, but the delivery took five hours because everyone wanted to talk. “Unfortunately, the last person got a cold egg sandwich,” Mr. Doelger said, and promised to reverse the route for the next home delivery.


Ms. Lucas said that, although the library is physically closed, there are events occurring digitally on a regular basis, including book club meetings, a wide selection of audio and e-books available, and access to movies. Ms. Lucas urged residents to go the library’s website at silibrary.org, or contact her at [email protected]

There are programs for all ages, including “toddlers and littles,” Ms. Lucas said, and a new photography club that all ages are urged to join. The popular Zoom trivia contest, sponsored by the library, is back this Saturday with ringmaster Bob DeStefano presiding.