Summer sunrise, Riverhead. Photo: Peter Blasl

COVID-19 update

New coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths all remained at their lowest points in New York State and locally since the coronavirus outbreak began in March.

New York State tested about 70,000 people daily over the past week — a total of 5,516,311 people since the outbreak began. A daily average of 1% of the tests administered in the state returned a positive result this week. The Long Island region and Suffolk County dipped to a .9% positive rate this week.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Riverhead increased by three this week to a total of 759. Confirmed cases in Suffolk rose to 42,827. An additional 22,820 people not previously tested for COVID-19 were positive for the coronavirus antibody — a positive antibody test rate of 10.7%.

There were 646 people hospitalized with COVID 19 in the state as of July 24, with 149 of those patients in ICU. There were 78 hospitalized in the Long Island region, with the majority of those — 41 patients — in Suffolk hospitals, where 13 people were in intensive care units.

Suffolk hospitals have discharged 5,582 COVID patients since March 22.

There were 47 COVID-19 deaths reported by the N.Y. state this week, bringing the state total to 25,103. There were two fatalities reported in Suffolk this week, bringing the total number of COVID deaths reported in Suffolk County to 2043, of which 1,996 were Suffolk residents.

Health officials continue to urge New Yorkers to remain vigilant to wear masks and practice social distancing and hand hygiene to prevent a new surge in the coronavirus here.

COVID cases are increasing in 35 states across the U.S., with 20 states having increases of 25% or more over the past 14 days.

The country recorded approximately 5,400 deaths this week, according to the COVID Tracking Project, which draws data from state and county health departments. There were 400,000 new cases this week. Currently the country’s positive rate is about 8%.


Schools

The Riverhead School District its working on its back-to-school plans this fall, which district officials say will involve a “hybrid” model of in-person and remote instruction. The plan is due to be filed by the end of this week.

Riverhead Central School District voters will weigh in for a second time on a proposed $147.1 million budget Tuesday. Students, families and teachers rallied Saturday morning at the Route 58 to urge residents to support the budget in the upcoming vote.

The district’s $144.8 million does not fund clubs, music and athletic programs, as well as many electives. Student athletes at Riverhead High School, which this week was named a scholar-athlete school of excellence by the state public high school athletics association, are worried about their chances for athletic scholarships should sports be cut during their junior and senior years.

Meanwhile, the school board this week authorized the filing of a $4.5 million notice of claim against the town for undistributed tax money for the district’s 2019-2020 school year, which ended June 30. The action drew a sharp response from Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, who accused the district of trying to distract from “mismanagement” and lack of transparency before the vote.


Government

Riverhead Town Justice Allen Smith passed away Saturday at age 77. The former town supervisor was a lifelong resident and public servant. His loss was mourned by residents, colleagues and local officials, who remembered him as a “larger than life,” “one of a kind” person, who was compassionate and fair in 20 years on the town court.

In other town government news, the town board this week held public hearings on plans for a town square and a four-story apartment building on East Main Street. See our wrap-up of Tuesday’s town board meeting action.

Riverhead somewhat belatedly referred its EPCAL land subdivision to the county planning commission for review. The referral typically takes place before the planning board approves a preliminary subdivision, which in this case was June 2019. But it’s not too late, Suffolk County’s planning director told RiverheadLOCAL this week, since a final plan has not yet been approved. The application will go before the county commission next month.

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon voiced alarm over a bill introduced in the state legislature that would ban peace officers from carrying guns. It would disarm most correction officers as well as a host of other types of law enforcement employees.

County Executive Steve Bellone has called a special meeting of the county legislature on July 28 to take up his controversial bill that would reallocate the county’s quarter-percent sales tax revenues for the next three years, shifting more of the revenues to taxpayer relief and away from an environmental protection fund created by the law establishing the quarter-penny sales tax in 1987.

Environmental advocates vehemently object to the measure, though Bellone this week drew support from an unexpected source, former county executive Steve Levy.

Environmental advocates and elected officials are on the same side of another issue: stopping the federal government’s intended sale of Plum Island. This week, they renewed a push to take Plum Island off the auction block.


Community

A popular summer basketball tournament was canceled this week, despite the town’s effort to gain an exemption from the N.Y. Forward phase four reopening rules that ban basketball tournaments.


Local Opinions

Eileen Benthal, the mother of a medically fragile child, urged people to wear face coverings in her Life on Purpose column.

Reader Larry Simms, a former Riverhead resident and civic activist jumped into the debate over the school budget, with a guest column criticizing the school district and voicing opposition to the proposed budget.


Obituaries

Wesley Bullock, 72
Joseph Di Gregorio, 90
Janet M. Jerome, 54
William E. Stark, 92


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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.