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Phase 4 gives boost to morale, despite slow start

Schools and colleges mull variety of options for fall

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Businesses in Seaford and Wantagh continued to open under the state’s Phase 4 rules last week, but the fanfare was somewhat muted. The two hamlets have relatively few of the businesses most likely to benefit, and many that were already open continued to operate under severe restrictions. Still, every move in the direction of business as usual was cause for relief.

The biggest winners were not entertainment venues or museums, though: Athletes are now permitted the use of Nassau County’s 60 athletic fields after some on-again,

off-again decisions by county officials.

Cedar Creek Park was one of the first to take advantage of the reopening, as the Smithtown-based Express Lacrosse began its summer training clinic on July 6. And Seaford’s Tackapausha Preserve was open to hikers and other nature lovers from sunset to sundown, although the preserve’s museum remained closed for the time being. Dogs are not permitted in the preserve.

The Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center at Jones Beach State Park remained “paused” until further notice, according to a recorded message.

Locales like Vintage, a restaurant and bar in Wantagh that features a DJ and dancing, as well as both outdoor and indoor dining, reopened several weeks ago, according to Manager Richie Valentino. Following social distancing guidelines, 50 percent of Vintage’s tables have been removed, and Valentino conceded that business has been slow.

“It’s been hard,” he said. “We’re glad to be open, but business has been really terrible.” Besides the reduction in the number of tables, customers have not been as quick to take advantage of Vintage’s offerings as Valentino had hoped.

An employee at Margarita’s, a Mexican restaurant in Wantagh that features live mariachi music on the weekends, echoed those sentiments. “We’ve been open for about a month, but it’s slow,” said the member of the restaurant’s wait staff, who asked not to be identified.

No sector on Long Island has been harder hit than the hospitality industry, according to a study released by Nassau and Suffolk county executives Laura Curran and Steve Bellone, respectively, on July 9. And while Valentino was happy that Vintage was able to open at all, businesses like his depend on volume to make their margins, he said.

The Seaford Cinemas were open again, with bargain $5 matinees and regular movie showings. But with online entertainment sites like Netflix and YouTube doing boffo box office, the public is not rushing to fill theater seats, either, according to web analytics firms SimilarWeb and Apptopia.

No plans for schools

Schools have yet to unveil their plans for the fall. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has directed all school districts to develop reopening plans, but he is taking a wait-and-see approach to deciding whether students will head back to classrooms in September.

Seaford Schools Superintendent Dr. Adele Pecora and her Wantagh counterpart, John McNamara, said earlier in the summer that they were studying a number of contingencies.

One of the state’s three look-back periods ended with the school’s fiscal year on June 30, and districts will hear in the coming weeks what adjustments, if any, will be made to the state aid the districts can expect to receive, McNamara said. In addition, districts are slated to learn in early August how much they will receive in payment in lieu of taxes payments. Both Seaford and Wantagh receive modest percentages of their budgets in the form of PILOTs, but in the current atmosphere of belt-tightening, even modest amounts are significant.

Cuomo praised New Yorkers for their vigilance and resilience throughout the coronavirus pandemic. He said, though, that he worried people might become apathetic and arrogant, believing they had beaten the virus.

Although Cuomo put the state’s infection rate at below 1 percent, figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a contagion rate of about 2.1 percent — 1.6 percent outside New York City — more than double the governor’s figures, but still well below those in many other big states.

The state had 4,534 new cases of Covid-19 in the seven-day period ended July 12, according to the CDC.

Cuomo cautioned New Yorkers against relaxing their vigilance, saying that the virus is still out there, so people must continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing in public spaces, as required by state law. He implored local police departments to enforce the law, as scattered incidents across the state last week between mask wearers and the maskless pointed to residents’ frustration with

the order.

New York City has lagged behind the rest of the state in reopening, but it began implementing Phase 3 guidelines on July 6, with the exception of indoor dining.