Tough decisions have to be made. Some people will be happy, while others will be disappointed.
However, Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino is determined to get through the next part of the COVID-19 pandemic as smoothly as possible. The key for the supervisor is straight forward: re-opening the area as much as possible while limiting the spread of the coronavirus.
But as the weather starts to get cold, unexpected challenges with undoubtedly arise. The ones Saladino can predict several months in advance, such as the increased demand for indoor dining with the closure of outdoor eateries and the eventual return of high school sports. Unfortunately, some events will not take place, like the traditional Oyster Festival.
This year, it will be mostly virtual. But the town, the Oyster Bay Rotary Club and the Oyster Bay Charitable Fund found a creative way to make sure people can support local businesses with the same spirit of the Oyster Fest.
Saladino wants high school athletics to return sooner rather than later, and he believes it can be done in a safe way, vaccine or not.
Saladino spoke to Anton Media Group about the re-opening of schools, going virtual for major town events and more.
Q: What are your expectations with schools re-opening?
A: We commend our local school districts for how they’ve successfully navigated these unchartered waters and offered students meaningful education, support and solace under the most challenging of circumstances. Our school districts have truly been a beacon of hope and a community lifeline throughout this crisis for both students and parents.
Q: With the fall’s arrival, what will be different in the area in terms of COVID-19 regulations?
A: We have seen so many changes over the past several months as we enter every phase of this new normal. As was the case over the summer, many events will continue to move to a virtual or otherwise reimagined platform, such as the annual Oyster Festival, which takes place each year in our hamlet. We, too, will continue looking for creative ways for our residents to enjoy their fall seasons, including our upcoming Halloween drive-in movie series.
Q: How do you see the situation changing as the weather gets colder and indoor dining will become the only option for patrons? How is the town working with restaurant owners to make sure they can safely serve guests inside?
A: We successfully worked with restaurant owners to help them re-open with outdoor dining earlier than originally planned in our state. The town continues to help our business community get back on its feet and we have helped restaurants increase their capacity and attract diners to their establishment while of course maintaining all social distancing regulations.
In the coming days, we will announce Foodie Week, a unique opportunity for dining establishments to showcase their world-class culinary hotspots. It will take place from Oct. 4 to 11. This week-long extravaganza will highlight the finest culinary creations our local chefs, bakers, and artisans have to offer.
Q: For parents, students and coaches upset that fall sports will not happen, what is your message for them? What needs to be done to bring winter and spring sports back in a safe way?
A: These have obviously been unprecedented times and for parents, balancing the educational and psychological needs of their children has been a struggle. Needless to say, the initial decision to fully cancel fall sports was very upsetting to thousands of students, parents and school officials. We worked with dozens of communities to advocate for the return of fall sports, specifically those deemed safe for play by New York State. We rallied with parents, student athletes, high school sports officials, and school representatives to urge Section VIII of the New York State Public High School Sports Association to allow our kids back on the fields.
It’s been months of navigating through virtual learning, Zoom lessons, inconsistencies in what they can and can’t do. While school districts have been doing a monumental job in keeping it all together while keeping our children safe, these kids have truly endured enough.
Many of them need the outlet that sports provide. We all know the obvious benefits of athleticism, especially to our young people, but the rewards go far beyond keeping them active and physically fit. Sports help them learn concepts of cooperation and teamwork, lessons they take with them throughout the rest of their lives. Many of our children have been playing these sports throughout their entire school careers, and utilize athletics to further their academics in college and beyond.
Of course, we recognize that any return has to be achieved in a safe and efficient manner, and we are fully confident that this goal can be reached. We’ve already proven throughout this state that regular activities can return in a safe and responsible manner, provided everyone follows the rules and helps protect one another.