Town board members listen to comments via Zoom during a public hearing on April 5. Image: video screenshot.

Riverhead Town Board meetings will “permanently” have virtual participation, Supervisor Yvette Aguiar announced on Thursday.

During a work session Thursday, Aguiar said the decision was based on COVID-19 and people attending virtually. 

The announcement coincides with a surge in COVID-19 cases across the state, which has caused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to designate Suffolk County with a high level of community spread, and may make some residents hesitant to attend meetings.

Aguiar said most of the towns are keeping virtual participation. Councilman Tim Hubbard said that residents have been asking for virtual participation.

Councilman Bob Kern also suggested the decision would be good because of rising fuel prices.

The town board originally elected to stop allowing residents to comment through Zoom meetings after case numbers dropped last summer, but re-instituted the option for public hearings only after public backlash

Meetings were moved completely virtual to everyone except the board and town employees at the turn of the New Year, after a record-setting wave of virus cases caused by the contagious omicron variant. 

As case counts, declined, in-person attendance resumed, but Zoom participation in town board meetings continued.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]