Rise and Shine: March 17, 2020

Good Tuesday morning, CivMixers. And Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

We’re going to see a mix of light snow (this morning) and rain (later in the day) with clouds and temperatures eventually hitting the low 50s, according to The Weather Channel.

Today is the traditional death date of St. Patrick, the foremost patron saint of Ireland who brought Christianity to that country.

It’s usually a very boisterous and happy celebration of all things Irish. But given the current situation with the novel coronavirus, all the usual ways of marking this day – parades, pubs, beer, parties etc. – are off the table.

As of yesterday, 950 New Yorkers had tested positive for the virus (an addition of 221 new cases) and seven had died.

The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have opted to work together in their efforts to battle this pandemic, announcing that all casinos, gyms, theaters, restaurants and bars would close as of 8 p.m. last night.

As restaurants throughout New York City prepared for a state-mandated shutdown today, they still had customers coming in for one final meal or even a cup of coffee.

Dine-in service as of yesterday was banned in nine states, according to Restaurant Business magazine, and California has shuttered all restaurants, bars and wineries completely.

In New York City, the dramatic clampdown on business threatened to torpedo a humming economy. Comptroller Scott Stringer warned that losses in the hospitality, entertainment and tourism sectors could cost the city ALONE up to $3.2 billion in lost tax revenue over the next six months.

Among the businesses that are doing well at the moment: Online delivery services (especially for alcohol), car rental services and bodegas (in NYC, that is).

Uber Eats is waiving delivery fees on all orders from independent restaurants across US & Canada, and dedicating marketing campaigns – both in-app and via email – to promote delivery from local restaurants, especially those that are new to the app.

The NYPD has told its officers they can ticket — and even arrest — restaurant or bar owners who flout the rules banning city nightlife and dine-in meals.

The Regional Food Bank’s director said his staff is ramping up its operations to meet a surge in demand. The Food Bank, heavily dependent on volunteers, could use some extra help. It also needs at least $120,000 in additional funds to prepare to meet additional demand.

Dollar General Corporation announced plans to dedicate the first hour of each day to senior shoppers, as well as amend store operating hours beginning today.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told schools statewide to close for two weeks. Districts have until Wednesday to comply with this executive order. Also, the 180-day requirement that mandates the length of public school terms state has been temporarily waived.

Cuomo announced a delay in village elections across the state until April 28, the date of the state’s presidential primary. Several villages were set to hold elections on Wednesday.

The governor said he is developing a backup plan should the federal government fail to act to increase hospital bed capacity amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

Ben Smith writes: “Mr. Cuomo has emerged as the executive best suited for the coronavirus crisis, as President Trump flails and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wrestles haltingly with a crucial decision and then heads to the gym…Even many of his critics say the very qualities that make him abrasive in ordinary interactions are serving him well now.”

U.S. researchers gave the first shots in an initial test of an experimental coronavirus vaccine yesterday, leading off a worldwide hunt for protection even as the pandemic surges.

Seven counties around Silicon Valley, California, one of the hardest-hit areas in the nation, announced a shelter-at-home order that begins Tuesday, which Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose said was the strongest directive yet in the United States.

The Trump administration released new guidelines to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including closing schools and avoiding groups of more than 10 people, discretionary travel, bars, restaurants and food courts.

…But the guidelines, which officials described as a trial set, are not mandatory and fall short of a national quarantine and internal travel restrictions, which many health officials had urged.

Trump said the country may be dealing with a number of restrictions through July or August as a result of the virus. He acknowledged the economy may be heading into a recession.

The president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida was closed yesterday for a deep cleaning after three people who attended events at the Winter White House tested positive for coronavirus.

The state Legislature heeded “social distancing” guidance yesterday and canceled its scheduled session for two days, hoping to resume work on Wednesday. The announcement was made about two hours before the Assembly was scheduled to reconvene. The Senate had planned to gather at 3 p.m.

…Both chambers had planned to vote on a coronavirus package including paid sick leave for private-sector employees and updated petitioning requirements for candidates seeking elected office this year.

Following calls from state and local leaders to halt evictions statewide, the state’s chief administrative judge directed courts across New York to suspend eviction proceedings until further notice.

In the latest efforts to flatten the curve on the novel coronavirus pandemic, Cuomo ordered local governments to limit their workforce to 50 percent capacity and directed state agencies across New York to also have “non-essential” employees work from home.

New York’s historic state capitol building got a thorough scrubbing after two state lawmakers tested positive for the deadly coronavirus.

Some spring breakers are not heeding the president’s call for social distancing and are hitting the beaches in Florida.

The coronavirus outbreak in the US may be on track to reach the same levels as Italy if people are not serious about social distancing, the US surgeon general warned.

Republican Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is proposing that every American adult receive a $1,000 check to get themselves and their families through the financial burdens brought on by the coronavirus.

Ohio called off its presidential primary just hours before polls were set to open there and in three other states, an 11th-hour decision the governor said was necessary to prevent further fueling the coronavirus pandemic that has paralyzed the nation.

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have been released from a Queensland hospital in Australia and are now in self-quarantine at their home there.

Actor Idris Elba is the latest celebrity to announce he’s tested positive for coronavirus.

Officials are reportedly set to announce today that the historic Kentucky Derby would be postponed until the fall amid the coronavirus outbreak. The annual race, which draws thousands of spectators and millions more across the country on TV, will be delayed until September.

It’s clear that most of the American economy is grinding to a halt, and will remain that way for months, because of the coronavirus outbreak and the sweeping steps being taken to try to halt it.

Two hundred nurses employed by an interstate health system in New York and Connecticut have been out of work since potentially being exposed to coronavirus patients, a report said.

As the coronavirus expands around the country, doctors and nurses working in emergency rooms are suddenly wary of everyone walking in the door with a cough, forced to make quick, harrowing decisions to help save not only their patients’ lives, but their own.

The use of telemedicine – effectively virtual visits – is on the rise as a way of safely treating patients and containing spread of the infection at hospitals, clinics and medical offices.

On social media, outpourings of generosity during the coronavirus pandemic are part of a shift toward direct giving.

School districts throughout the Capital Region are committed to providing free breakfast and lunch to students in need while schools are closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The efforts are targeted out those children who routinely receive free and reduced meals. (So far, there are few takers).

In an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, many of the city of Saratoga’s homeless population will move out of the Adelphi Street Code Blue shelter into the city’s senior center on Williams Street.

Despite mass shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, the wheels of justice keep turning in federal immigration courts in New York — over the objections of furious lawyers.

NYC will allow delivery workers to use illicit e-bikes as the restaurant industry shifts to takeout and delivery-only due to coronavirus concerns.

With just days to spare, the NYC Department of Education scrambled to marshal a remote-learning plan for more than one million city students in the wake of de Blasio’s school shutdown.

For most of last week, as de Blasio continued to urge New Yorkers to mostly go about their daily lives — sending their children to school, frequenting the city’s businesses — some of his top aides were furiously trying to change the mayor’s approach to the coronavirus outbreak.

Anna Wintour announced that in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the much-anticipated opening of the Costume Institute’s “About Time” exhibit — and its accompanying star-studded red carpet, the Met Gala — will be postponed indefinitely.

Both Saratoga Casino Hotel’s harness track and Aqueduct Racetrack said they will continue to run live racing, but with no fans in attendance.

Yankees minor-league pitcher Denny Larrondo, 17, of Cuba, was the first professional baseball player to test positive for coronavirus.

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and fiancée Roxana Girand have canceled their big “raucous” New York wedding due to coronavirus, and will opt for a small, family-only ceremony.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are on lockdown at their $14 million Canadian bolthole after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau closed the country’s border amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In non-virus news…

A crude effort by hackers to test the defenses of computer systems for the Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday evening escalated yesterday, with administration officials saying they were investigating a significant increase in activity on the department’s cyberinfrastructure.

Amazon has reportedly banned the sale of most editions of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” after decades of lobbying from Jewish groups and Holocaust charities.

The Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss charges against a pair of shell companies accused of financing a Russian troll farm that sought to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced more than $118 million in Continuum of Care grants to support hundreds of local programs across the country that serve them.

Convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein was discharged from Bellevue Hospital yesterday, and is now back on Rikers Island, his spokesman said.

Albany police are investigating after a 17-year-old girl was shot in the lower leg yesterday evening.

The city is of Schenectady is poised to announce the highly anticipated $7.5 million project to make the historic Stockade less susceptible to flooding and ice jams along the Mohawk River.

On the eve of the city of Saratoga entering into a lease agreement with the state in a meeting that the public cannot attend, an attorney is calling on local elected officials to table the agreement to build a fire/EMS station on the grounds of the Saratoga Race Course.

An historic Erie Canal-era aqueduct in Fonda that has fallen into disrepair is in for some needed renovations thanks to $650,000 worth of recently announced state grants.

Douglas E. Gardner became a town justice in Fulton and Herkimer counties without a law license. He also operated a car for eight years without a driver’s license. (The first is legal, the second most definitely not).

A man is recovering after falling down a gorge in Troy.

A state Supreme Court judge ruled last week that the Berne Town Board violated the law when it abruptly made a town planning board member an alternate and then appointed former justice Thomas J. Spargo as the board’s chairman.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wants to establish a federal agency to crack down on companies that profit off of Americans’ personal data, and is sponsoring a bill that would create the Data Protection Agency to police those who would profit from stealing personal information.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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