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Shelter Island Town updates on COVID

Town officials held their weekly informational meeting Friday afternoon on Shelter Island’s response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Joining the meeting was Nathaniel Bialek, Suffolk County’s director of emergency medical services and public health emergency preparedness. Mr. Bialek spoke about milestones the county has achieved to safely phase in the opening of businesses and public events, and what others have to be met before a more complete reopening.

First, Police Chief Jim Read, the town’s emergency management coordinator, gave the statistics of nine confirmed cases of the virus, which include two deaths — Forrest Compton and Kevin Brooks — and seven cases where the persons have been medically cleared of coronavirus.

Chief Read and Supervisor Gerry Siller noted that, although the numbers represented much suffering, compared to other communities, Shelter Island’s number of cases is low, due to some “luck,” Mr. Siller said, but mainly because Islanders’ compliance with procedures to stop the spread of the illness has worked.

Both men urged residents “not to let our guard down,” especially with the upcoming unofficial opening of summer, Memorial Day, and the arrival of more seasonal residents.

Those arriving are asked to self-quarantine at their residences for 14 days, the supervisor said, although he admitted the word “quarantine” was harsh, and “sequester” might be a better term. He reiterated that the town “can’t mandate” compliance, but asked new arrivals “to respect” the directives for the safety of all.

Memorial Day services for Monday, May 25, have been cancelled, but a video presentation is being prepared in advance of the day and will air that morning online and be rerun on channel 22 throughout the day.

Chief Read asked people not to assemble, but watch the events at home. At 10 a.m., church bells will ring and the fire whistle will sound, and all Islanders are asked to have a moment of silence to remember those in uniform who were killed in action.

• The 10K race is still scheduled for June 20, but town and race officials will meet on May 20 to make a final decision. Chief Read asked race officials what lead time they would need to call off the race and was told three weeks.

• The Great Peconic Race scheduled for July 18 is still pending a decision, but the chief said it was likely the paddleboard circumnavigation of the Island would come off as scheduled.

• The July 23 Town Blood Drive is scheduled to proceed.

• The Chicken Barbecue in August is still on, but might be only to-go meals.

Medical Center
Dr. Peter Kelt is in place at the Medical Center, accepting Medicare and Medicaid patients and those with several other insurance plans. A receptionist will be in the Center May 21 — call 631-749-91340 — and Dr. Josh Potter will see patients on Wednesdays and Fridays beginning May 29. Dr. Potter will be at the Center full time starting July 1. Anti-body coronavirus testing will be available at the Center.

School Superintendent Brian Doelger, Ed.D,, told the meeting that the vote on the school district’s budget and candidates’ election to the Board of Education will be absentee voting only, and all registered voters will receive ballots that must be postmarked no later than 5 p.m., June 9.

There will be a school parade on Wednesday, May 20, with faculty and staff driving around the Island past the homes of every student in the school, and the homes of students who attend private schools.

Joining the parade will be the Police and Fire departments and the Emergency Medical Services.

Plans for graduation are still pending, with the possibility of a virtual ceremony, a drive-in ceremony, or on an open field with social distancing.

A live school play written by John Kaasik is on its way, to be streamed online, with a Q&A after, Mr. Doelger said.

Contact tracing
The state is asking for volunteers to do contact tracing of coronavirus in local communities. Chief Read said there had already been 30,000 applicants statewide.

County EMS Director Bialek said contact tracing is when a person has tested positive for the virus and is asked about personal contacts they’ve made since they experienced symptoms and 48 hours before that date.

Anti-body testing, on the other hand, may show if a person has been exposed to the virus, which is different from tests that determine if a person has it. Director Bialek said the anti-body tests don’t reveal the extent to which a person has been around an infected person, and won’t tell if a person is immune to the virus.

There are several different anti-body tests, he added, and the data has yet to be compiled and analyzed in the county.

The metrics the county has met for re-opening businesses are: a decline in hospitalizations, total hospital beds available, and the number of intensive care unit beds available. The metrics the county has not met so far are a decline of hospital deaths and new hospitalizations of COVID-19.