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Staying safe in a pandemic

Lynbrook, East Rockaway communities take steps against coronavirus

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Two hours before Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order indefinitely banning restaurants from hosting customers to help prevent coronavirus spread, fear and uncertainty were evident in the voice of Pearsall’s Station owner Brian Fern.

“People depend on this job, and I depend on it for my livelihood and taking care of my family,” Fern said on Monday of his restaurant/bar. “The fact that there’s no idea how we’re going to be taken care of as business owners is a real problem.”

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut banned gatherings of more than 50 people effective 8 p.m. Monday night. Gyms, movie theaters and restaurants in Lynbrook and East Rockaway had to close to customers as the number of coronavirus cases in New York rose to more than 950 and the death toll closed in on 10.

Restaurants and bars can provide takeout, but Fern said it was not an option for him. So on Tuesday, after offering takeout for the day, he closed until the ban is lifted. He said not knowing when he would be open again was troubling.

Fern said he understood the necessity to close as the global pandemic continued to spread, but called on government to help small business owners who are forced to close.

“I don’t think that small businesses, in particular, are protected enough, and that’s the frustrating part,” he said. “ … I understand it. I get it, but no one has any answers. It’s unchartered waters and unprecedented.” Fern has owned the business for more than two decades and has about 20 employees.

In addition to local businesses, the coronavirus has caused changes in schools, houses of worship and village services.

 

Schools

On Monday, Cuomo signed an executive order closing all schools statewide until April 1. The order came after County Executive Laura Curran had suspended school across the county for two weeks starting on March 16.

School practices were being changed in the days leading up to Curran and Cuomo’s decisions. Though the Lynbrook Board of Education meeting went on as scheduled on March 11, the mood was tense. Chairs for audience members were spaced six feet apart, rather than in tight rows.

When Superintendent Dr. Melissa Burak recognized the board’s honorees for the month, rather than shake hands, she and the student or faculty member each grabbed one end of a rolled-up T-shirt and gestured as if shaking hands. When parents approached, they expressed dismay over activities being canceled rather than postponed.

During the meeting, the board announced that all non-essential and evening events — including Class Night — were canceled. Burak, who wrote a letter to Cuomo asking for schools to be closed, told attendees that conditions were likely to get worse in New York.

“It is a rapidly changing situation,” she said. “I’ve been trying to send information as new information comes out to the community in an effort to help you prepare for what will be the inevitable. We see it happening all around us, and right now we are in a preparation stage. Each day, there are new numbers that are growing, and each day there is new guidance that comes out.”

Four days later, Curran closed all county schools, followed quickly by Cuomo’s order shuttering schools until April 1.

After Curran’s announcement, East Rockaway Superintendent Lisa Ruiz posted a letter to the community. “There will be no activities, athletics or events,” she wrote. “At this time, our team is working to finalize our plans and prepare steps to maintain learning engagement during this time, and more information will be forthcoming.”

 

Places of worship

Houses of worship across the community have suspended services for at least two weeks in response to the virus.

Hewlett-East Rockaway Jewish Centre administrators had a cleaning service disinfect the synagogue on Friday and spray the sanctuary. Additionally, its members wiped down prayer books after they were used last weekend.

The HERJC nursery and religious school will be closed for two weeks, but the office will remain open. Those with questions can call (516) 599-2534.

Lynbrook Baptist Church canceled all church activities and services from March 14 to 23, but will begin live-streaming services starting this weekend, according to the Rev. Bob Walderman.

 

Villages

Lynbrook village officials barred the public from Monday night’s board meeting, and Mayor Alan Beach sent a letter to residents noting that the library would be closed, recreation programs would be suspended until further notice, and all transactions with the Building Department, Village Court and the clerk’s office were to be conducted through mail or via the internet.

“The health and well-being of our residents is our top priority,” Beach said, “and we will continue to monitor the experts’ opinions and suggestions to take appropriate actions to best ensure the safety of our residents.”

Beach said a meeting has been scheduled among Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin, Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, and officials from surrounding villages to discuss strategies and develop a unified approach to managing the crisis.

Additionally, weekly senior clubs, adult art classes and the homemakers club were suspended, along with the weekly senior bus trip to local stores. The village has coordinated with Key Food in Rockville Centre to deliver groceries to seniors. Those interested should call (516) 634-2560 after 10 a.m. to make arrangements. The cost of delivery is $8.99 and is on a cash-only basis.

East Rockaway Mayor Bruno Romano sent a robocall to residents, which said the village would be take the following measures:

—There will be limited access to Village Hall, and those with business to conduct should call ahead to (516) 887-6300 and make an appointment.

—Wednesday’s village election has been postponed to April 28 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Village Hall after an executive order by Cuomo.

—The Department of Public Works is closed until further notice. For information and special requests, contact (516) 887-6316. Sanitation services will remain available.

—All recreation, senior and library programs have been suspended and the facilities will undergo a deep cleaning in the interim. The library is closed indefinitely, but in-house items are available for curbside pick-up. Those interested should call ahead at (516) 599-1664.

“Please be safe,” Romano said. “As a village, we will get through this together.”