Rise and Shine: March 18, 2020

Good morning, CivMixers. It’s Wednesday. Is anyone else starting to have a little trouble keeping track of what day it is, given the whole “don’t go anywhere” and “work from home” thing?

I’ve read that the key to making this isolation experience work is to establish a schedule and stick to it. So far, I haven’t managed to figure that one out. Let me know if you do.

It’s going to be a nice day, with sunshine and temperatures in the low 50s, according to The Weather Channel. Since getting outside is about all we can do for entertainment these days, this is good news. We’re in for some rain over the next few days, though temperatures may well hit 70 on Friday.

Developments are happening so quickly on the COVID-19 front, with things changing literally by the hour. The latest, as of early this morning…

In a massive federal effort, President Donald Trump asked Congress to speed emergency checks to Americans, enlisted the military for MASH-like hospitals and implored ordinary people — particularly socially active millennials — to do their part by staying home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The Trump administration is reportedly planning to turn back all asylum seekers at both the northern and southern borders over concerns regarding the coronavirus outbreak.

More of the president’s inner circle have been affected by the coronavirus as acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney joined Stephanie Grisham and Ivanka Trump in working from home.

Canada and the United States are working out the details of a mutual ban on non-essential travel between the two countries amid the new coronavirus pandemic, a Canadian official said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the US unemployment rate could soar to a staggering 20 percent if Congress fails to pass a $1 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.

Former New York City mayor and billionaire Mike Bloomberg announced a $40 million commitment to support “immediate action” to fight the spread of the coronavirus in low and middle-income countries.

The coronavirus sweeping across the nation is now officially in all 50 states, as West Virginia last night confirmed its first case of the deadly illness.

At least 100 deaths in the United States have now been linked to the coronavirus, according to a New York Times database that is tracking and mapping every known case in the country as more people are tested.

The number of corned COVID-19 cases in New York is rising steadily. New York City alone is up to 923 cases and 10 deaths as of late night – up three fatalities and 100 cases from just a few hours earlier.

Times Square emptied out. Macy’s closed. The Statue of Liberty was cordoned off. The Empire State Building was shuttered. Restaurants and bars, the ones that had not closed entirely, stood nearly empty and tried to survive on takeout and delivery orders alone.

Overall in New York, there were 1,707 cases and 13 deaths as of yesterday.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who did not get along all that well before this outbreak, are continuing their disagreements in the face of the public health crisis. They can’t seem to get on the same page about whether a “shelter in place” order is necessary for the five boroughs in an attempt to stem the virus’ relentless pace.

Cuomo said he has no intention to quarantine any cities, including New York City, as he continued delivering his message that the state’s available hospital beds will fall short if the federal government doesn’t intervene.

…The governor’s remarks came as he also announced the first cases of COVID-19 in Clinton and Rensselaer counties.

If there were to be a shelter in place order, all non-essential businesses would be shut down. That means only police and fire departments, hospitals, grocery stores, pharmacies and perhaps gas stations, banks and laundromats would remain open.

A day after Cuomo and the president engaged in a Twitter spat after a teleconference between the White House and the nation’s governors to discus cooperation and ventilators, they seem to have patched things up.

New York has lost a staggering 20,000 hospital beds over the last two decades to budget cuts and insurance overhauls, complicating local and state efforts to battle the coronavirus, according to records and experts.

Doctors are increasingly anxious that New York — like other states — won’t have enough of the breathing machines that are key to fighting the coronavirus.

The coronavirus can live for three days on some surfaces, like plastic and steel, new research suggests. Experts say the risk of consumers getting infected from touching those materials is still low, but offered additional warnings about how long the virus survives in air.

Cuomo expects the coronavirus to peak within 45 days.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said the COVID-19 pandemic could cost the state at least $4 billion in tax revenue, and possibly more than $7 billion.

The layoffs have stared, including at Proctors in Schenectady, which will cut staffing by 80 percent and the remaining employees will take pay and benefit reductions.

….Proctors CEO Philip Morris has been under a self-quarantine with his wife after having lunch with someone who ended up testing positive for the virus.

Albany-area restaurants are also engaged in mass layoffs, as are their counterparts across the state.

Workers idled by the coronavirus are overwhelming the state Department of Labor’s website and telephone lines to file for unemployment benefits, the department said.

Major hotel chains are closing en masse, for the first time in history, because of the coronavirus — prompting requests for aid from D.C.

The MTA is asking for $4 billion in federal funds to weather the coronavirus outbreak, which has severely reduced its ridership.

Restaurants licensed to serve alcohol in New York may now sell it with takeout and delivery orders for the duration of the state-ordered shutdown of dining rooms and bars as part of the effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus that causes it.

Local governments are closing their doors to the public as a safety precaution to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading further — forcing municipal leaders to hastily put together plans of how to continue to serve residents on a minimal staff.

The nation’s federal detention facilities thus far remain coronavirus-free, a prosecutor told a Brooklyn federal judge.

The Board of Correction said that New York City should start releasing inmates who are at high risk of contracting the coronavirus — and make efforts to rapidly decrease the jail population.

The chairmen of the Assembly and Senate Health Committees penned a joint letter urging their colleagues in the Legislature to oppose tinkering with the bail law because of the “massive health threat” to inmates in jails that are potential “breeding grounds” to spread the deadly virus.

Albany County District Attorney David Soares, citing the characteristics of grand jury proceedings, said he is asking Cuomo to issue an executive order amid the COVID-19 outbreak to suspend the statutory time limits under the speedy trial rules.

New York state has suspended medical and student loan debt collection for at least 30 days amid the coronavirus financial fallout, officials announced. The immediate collection halt will last through at least April 16 and apply to medical debt and student loans for SUNY attendees.

Some teachers worry that the NYC Department of Education’s remote-learning scramble is headed for difficult problems — given the gaps in student hardware and wifi availability, not to mention the daunting task of engaging kids from afar.

Internet speed, connectivity and capacity are emerging as issues as thousands of employees across the Capital Region are being asked to work from home amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Cuomo’s executive order, signed Monday, directs all schools in New York to suspend in-person instruction for two weeks to stop the spread of coronavirus, but the edict also creates ambiguity for residential facilities serving vulnerable minors who cannot go home.

The state Legislature today will vote on a paid sick leave package that will provide immediate relief to those who have been quarantined or isolated because of COVID-19.

Both the Assembly and Senate say they are working out ways to have members come to the Capitol to vote on legislation, but to also stay safe and help prevent the spread of the illness. One of the ideas is for 10 or so members to come to the chamber to vote, then return to their offices, so the next 10 could come in and cast their votes.

Cuomo has “not considered” postponing the state’s April 28 presidential primary, he told reporters at the Capitol, adding that he has had “virtually no political thoughts at this time.”

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Amsterdam United Methodist Church has started offering drive-thru, touch-free blessings and prayers.

New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fired a political shot across the bow of the airline industry and others hoping for multi-billion dollar taxpayer bailouts as the crisis worsens.

Price Chopper/Market 32 modified its hours – effective today – to add an hour each morning dedicated to senior citizen shoppers amid the COVID-19 grocery surge. The company also suspended all refund, return and rain check policies “given the uneven flow of product.”

In an effort to stay isolated, many are taking advantage of grocery delivery. Instacart, Walmart Grocery and Shipt have all been setting record download days for downloads of their mobile apps, according to app store intelligence firm Apptopia.

Some members of the Capital Region Chinese community are seeking to arm themselves as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread throughout the Capital Region, citing a loss of faith in government and hate-fueled rhetoric.

New Yorkers spooked by the coronavirus outbreak — and the government’s reaction to it — are packing Long Island gun stores to stock up on firearms and ammo amid the chaotic situation across the state.

As city and state officials warned about the danger of large gatherings amid the coronavirus outbreak, hundreds of revelers celebrated at a Hasidic wedding in Brooklyn and huddled together in the street after the Fire Department broke up the celebration.

Douglas Estadt, who owns Capital Distillery in Albany’s warehouse district, has begin making hand sanitizer that is he is giving to customers who purchase a bottle of his spirits. (It’s made from leftover vodka with 75 percent alcohol by volume).

Savannah Guthrie has a sore throat, and as everyone across the country exercises an abundance of caution while COVID-19 spreads, she’ll be anchoring NBC’s “Today” from her home this morning – just in case she is possibly carrying the coronavirus.

“The Bold and The Beautiful”: and “The Young and The Restless” are the latest shows to halt production amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Open is exploring all options with the specter of tennis’ final Grand Slam being largely affected. The first ball at Flushing Meadows in Queens is scheduled to be struck Aug. 24 with the tournament’s conclusion Sept. 13, but the coronavirus pandemic has put virtually all sporting events in flux.

The first known dog to test positive for the coronavirus, a 17-year-old Pomeranian, has died in Hong Kong after apparently recovering from the disease, according to a local report.

In non-virus news…

Joe Biden swept another round of delegate-rich contests yesterday – winning in Florida, Illinois and Arizona – further cementing the former vice president as the dominant front-runner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination over Bernie Sanders as the coronavirus threat scrambles the primary calendar for the foreseeable future.

Former California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter was sentenced to 11 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds and spending the money on everything from outings with friends to his daughter’s birthday party.

It was a lavish birthday party for Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle. The setting was Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Fla. The guest list included dozens of Trump family members and friends. But when it came to picking up the tab, hands went out to other attendees.

A push toward renewable energy is facing resistance in rural areas in New York where conspicuous panels are affecting vistas and squeezing small farmers.

Tom Brady is leaving the New England Patriots — and reportedly headed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In July, a federal jury stunned the music industry by finding that Katy Perry’s hit “Dark Horse” had infringed on the copyright of a Christian rap song, and the jury later ordered the pop star’s team to pay $2.8 million in damages. Yesterday, the judge in that case made an equally surprising move by vacating the jury’s decision.

Former Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, whose long career in government ended with a 2019 guilty plea on corruption charges, died early yesterday after battling cancer, his family said. He was 70.

Photo credit: George Fazio.



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