Rise and Shine: March 12, 2020

Good Thursday morning, CivMixers.

It’s National Girl Scout Day, marking the day in 1912 when the organization’s founder, Juliette Gordon Low, held the first troop meeting in the U.S.

Low was an ardent believer in the potential of all girls and the importance of fostering their individual growth, character, and self-sufficiency.

She was also a very forward-thinking individual, breaking the conventions of the time with that first troop meeting by reaching across class, cultural, and ethnic boundaries to ensure all girls – including those with so-called disabilities – had a place to grow and develop their leadership skills.

Of course, those of us with a certain weakness for sweets know the Girl Scouts for something else: Cookies. And we are deep in the heart of cookie season right now. This year there’s something new: Lemon-Ups, described as “a crispy lemon cookie baked with messages inspired by Girl Scout entrepreneurs.”

Personally, I’m partial to the peanut butter sandwich cookies, but Thin Mints are a general favorite in my house.

It’s looking like another lovely early spring day, with temperatures in the low 50s and a mix of clouds and sun, according to The Weather Channel.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and one-time presidential candidate, is turning 73 today. Other birthdays of note include: Actress and singer Liza Minnelli (74), folk singer James Taylor (73), and singer Marlon Jackson (one of the original “Jackson 5” – 63).

In a prime-time address last night, President Trump blocked most visitors from continental Europe to the U.S. and vowed emergency aid to workers and small businesses as the WHO declared the coronavirus a global pandemic, stock markets plunged further and millions of people cut themselves off from their regular lives.

One of America’s top scientists, Dr. Anthony Fauci, predicted the outbreak would only grow worse. He spoke on the same day that India joined countries like China, Italy, Iran, Japan and Israel in imposing drastic travel limits.

NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof presented 12 steps he believes the president and public health officials should be taking to combat Covid-19.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is on her way out and her power is waning, but in her typically low-key, no-nonsense manner, the German leader yesterday laid out some cold, hard facts on the coronavirus in a way that few other leaders have, predicting that two in three Germans may become infected.

The latest high-profile report of someone with COVID-19: Actor Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, who are currently under quarantine in Australia. (He was set to film a movie there about the life of Elvis Presley).

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, causing the Jazz’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder to be postponed. A short time later, the NBA suspended its season.

The NCAA announced men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be held without fans in the stands as a result of the outbreak. The Times Union Center in Albany is due to host several tournament games next week.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared that the state and city university systems would move to distance learning, as did the University of Pennsylvania, several California State campuses, the Claremont Colleges, Iowa State, Georgetown, Pepperdine, Villanova, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Washington University in St. Louis, among others.

Numerous interviews with doctors, hospital administrators and health officials this week revealed a confused and often troubled testing system in New York that has left many people who believe that they have been exposed to the coronavirus deeply frustrated.

Hospitals may soon face another shortage: health care workers who have become sick or are put in quarantine after exposure to coronavirus patients.

New York will contract with more than two dozen private laboratories around the state to boost the number of daily coronavirus tests being performed statewide, Cuomo said as the state’s confirmed case count passed 200.

Cuomo said he planned to speak with business leaders about having employees telecommute and work staggered shifts in order to help reduce the spread of novel coronavirus.

As Cuomo leads the state’s coronavirus response, state legislators are scrambling behind the scenes at the Capitol to curb potential fallout from the illness on businesses, elections and schools.

State senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said the budget (due April 1) might be scaled back a bit depending on what happens with the coronavirus. They are talking about a possible contingency plan in case lawmakers are quarantined.

Hudson Valley Community College is extending spring break for one week while the college develops a plan to deal with the coronavirus, college officials confirmed.

Maria College has announced that they will be extending their spring break, and suspending classes through March 22.

The governor and state lawmakers are working on paid sick leave legislation that would ensure employees are compensated for time off should they be forced to quarantine for 14 days.

Cuomo is directing the New York State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to investigate the assault of an Asian woman in Manhattan earlier this week.

The Centers for Disease Control awarded New York State $16.7 million to help combat the Coronavirus, federal officials announced.

New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the largest such celebration in the world, was postponed over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, the first time in more than 250 years that the event will not go on as planned.

A part-time usher who recently worked at two Broadway theaters has tested positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, prompting a scramble to inform the public and clean the buildings, according to the theater owners.

Supporters are rallying to help the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York offset the financial losses it faces after the cancellation of Saturday’s 11th annual timesunion.com/Table Hopping Mac-n-Cheese Bowl, a fundraiser that was projected to bring in more than $60,000.

Capital Region hospitals announced that they’re tightening their visitor restrictions in order to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus.

It ended suddenly for the Albany Patroons. There will be no more basketball at Washington Avenue Armory for the defending champions of The Basketball League due to the coronavirus.

The impact of coronavirus on the airline industry started to get really serious this week as major carriers unveiled deep cuts in capacity and spending after passenger bookings have suddenly spiraled downward.

NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson called for the Big Apple to limit nonessential events that draw large crowds in light of the coronavirus outbreak — a direct conflict with Mayor Bill de Blasio who hours earlier said “we’re not there yet.”

NBC chiefs are scrapping live audiences from the “Today” show over Coronavirus fears, they announced.

The Downtown Syracuse offices of Advance Media New York, the owners of the Syracuse Post-Standard and its website, Syracuse.com, shut down for cleaning after an employee was exposed to a confirmed case of coronavirus at an out-of-state conference.

Broadcasting giant CBS ordered its staff in two Manhattan offices to work from home for two days after two employees tested positive for coronavirus yesterday, the network announced.

NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza has been out sick this week with a non-coronavirus related sinus infection.

New Yorkers afraid of contracting coronavirus on mass transit say they’re turning to bikes to get around — many for the first time.

A D.C.-based staffer for U.S. Sen, Maria Cantwell has tested positive for coronavirus – the first known congressional worker to catch the virus, her office said.

A doctor with coronavirus is giving his followers a day-by-day look at the disease’s symptoms on Twitter as it takes hold of his body.

As cases surge in the tri-state area, big Wall Street banks and hedge funds are increasingly encouraging their staffers to work from home.

There are seven presumptive positive cases of the coronavirus in Berkshire County. The North Adams mayor has self-quarantined after a city councilor was potentially exposed to the virus.

In non-virus news…

Harvey Weinstein, the movie producer who dominated Hollywood for decades, was sentenced to 23 years in prison for sex crimes, as the six women who had testified against him watched from the courtroom’s front row, holding one another, some in tears.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is vowing to press ahead with his presidential campaign at least long enough to debate Joe Biden this weekend, even while acknowledging his deficit in the Democratic race may be insurmountable.

While addressing reporters yesterday, Sanders, who has been stripped of his briefly held status as the Democratic front-runner, acknowledged that he was “losing” to the former vice president but stopped short of accepting defeat.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whose endorsement became highly coveted in the Democratic presidential race after she dropped out last week, is unlikely to endorse her ideological ally Sanders. But she’s not backing Biden, either.

The U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to maintain a program that has forced about 60,000 asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their requests are heard.

At least three people were killed, including two U.S. service members, in a rocket attack in Iraq, a U.S. official said.

Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who was jailed last year for refusing to testify before a grand jury that is investigating WikiLeaks, has been hospitalized after she attempted suicide, according to her lawyers.

Modell’s Sporting Goods filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing diminished sales of sports apparel and millions in unpaid debts to vendors and landlords.

New York’s county governments are suggesting the state could curb rising Medicaid spending by reviewing a practice that allows an institutionalized spouse to qualify for the government health program if the other spouse refuses to provide financial support.

Transgender minors in New York will now be allowed to change the sex designation on their birth certificate, state Attorney General Letitia James announced.

The MTA’s debt is a ticking time bomb that could force the authority to raise fares and cut service, the state comptroller’s office said.

A 33-year-old woman tried to check a bag with more than 10 pounds of pot at JFK Airport as she tried to make her way to the Caribbean, authorities said.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has instituted a ban prohibiting residential brush burning between March 16 and May 14 to help prevent forest fires.

Plans to demolish and build a larger McDonald’s restaurant in Schenectady’s Upper Union Street business district appear to be on hold as neighbors continue to express their displeasure with the proposed changes.

A sixth justice in the Town of Ballston Spa has recused themselves because of ties to a local developer who brought trespassing charges against Democratic canvassers who visited one of the developer’s apartment complexes.

The Guilderland Planning Board has extended the public comment period and scheduled a public hearing on plans by Pyramid Companies to build the region’s first Costco Wholesale store as well as dozens of apartments, offices and additional retail space at Crossgates Mall.

Town residents made it clear to the East Greenbush Town Board during a special public hearing yesterday that the solution to getting rid of the odors, dust, litter and other problems emanating from the S.A. Dunn Landfill is to shut the dump down.

Photo credit: George Fazio.



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