5 Things That Happened While You Were Out: Feb. 27

The cold weather found its way back to the Capital District today. At least by this afternoon, the sun also found its way here. Another Thursday is done and over, and here are some things that you might have missed today.

1) Coronavirus fears are again impacting the US markets, with stocks plunging.

Though President Trump again stated that the preventative measures that have been taken so far keep the risk of a significant outbreak of the virus here very low, Americans don’t seem all that reassured.

The markets always reflect times of uncertainty and fear, and this situation is no different. People are feeling unsure, and therefore they are taking fewer risks.

2) A day after the Trump administration insisted there’s no need to appoint a Coronavirus Czar, Vice President Pence announced that an HIV/AIDs expert, Debbie Birx, has been tapped to serve as the as the Coronavirus Response Coordinator.

Birx served as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director of HIV/AIDs program and left that post in 2014 to become a global AIDS ambassador in 2014. Though critics celebrated the news of Brix’s appointment, they are still voicing concerns about the lack of leadership when it comes to dealing with an epidemic and wondering who is actually in charge.

Pence sought to make it clear that he’s the one in charge when announcing Brix’s new job. But Director of Health and Human Services Azar also recently implied that HE is in fact the one in charge. What’s lacking is a clear chain of leadership and a plan for when the virus hits and starts spreading, though Birx’s addition is generally being hailed as a step in the right direction.

3) Here in New York, the state Senate has subpoenaed many of the biggest companies in the real estate business, including RE/MAX, Charles Rutenberg Realty, Douglas Elliman, Coldwell Banker, Realty Connect USA, and Keller Williams. A total of 31 subpoenas were issued and the recipients were summoned to appear on April 17 in Nassau County for a Senate hearing.

This is in response to a three-year investigation by Newsday that produced evidence of discriminatory practices by real estate companies towards potential buyers of color. The subpoenas were sent out after only one out of 68 realtor executives accepted an invitation and showed up to testify at the Senate’s initial hearing back in December.

4) Cashless tolling is finally coming to upstate. The plan to switch the Thruway’s tolling system has been in the works since 2018.

At the time, one cashless tolling sensor was put into place near Buffalo on the Green Island Bridge. With this most recent update, state Thruway Authority Director Matthew Driscoll confirmed that two more are in place near Selkirk (Exit 22) and Coxsackie (Exit 21B). In order to have the system up and running at full capacity, and meet a goal set by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, 68 more cashless sensors will need to be in place by the end of the year.

That still appears to be the goal, and Driscoll is expressing confidence it can be reached. Cashless tolling sensors work with current EZ-Pass tags. If you do not currently have an EZ-Pass account and tag you may want to sign up for one to avoid delays. Without sensing a tag in the vehicle, the sensor will take a picture of your license plate and you will receive a bill in the mail for your tolls at a later date.

5) A great way to kick off your weekend is to start it at Troy’s Night Out tomorrow evening. On the last Friday of every month, Troy has this event from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Bringing together all of the business, culture, and tech offerings that make Troy a unique downtown, there is something for everyone at the monthly event.

Each Troy’s Night Out is themed, and February’s theme is Geek’s Night Out. From featured comic vendors to VR demonstrations, this month’s night aims to exercise the mind as well as entertain. Grab your special someone, a group of friends or the fam and check it out.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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