Good morning, CivMixers. It’s Thursday, and it’s the first day of Spring.
Yes, Spring is here. A time of renewal and rebirth and the start of the growing season. It’s a hopeful time, generally speaking, and G-d knows we could use a little hope around here these days.
For the scientifically inclined among us, it’s the vernal equinox, which occurs when the sun crosses the celestial equator going north. And here’s an interesting factoid: This is the earliest that the equinox has occurred nationwide in 124 years. There are two specific reasons for this variation of the date: leap years and daylight saving time. (More here).
We’re kicking off Spring with some rain, which seems fitting. The rain is supposed to end this afternoon and then pick up again later tonight. We’ll see temperatures hitting around 50, according to The Weather Channel.
In the headlines…
President Trump last night signed a coronavirus relief bill that guarantees paid sick leave, free testing and unemployment assistance for thousands of Americans whose finances and health are in disarray because of the pandemic.
Calling himself a “wartime president,” Trump invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 to steer industrial output and overcome shortages of face masks, ventilators and other supplies as hospitals brace for an expected onslaught of cases.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams said that the Trump administration’s recommendation to practice social distancing for the next 15 days is “likely not enough time” to halt the spread of the coronavirus in the US.
Economic fallout from the pandemic mounted with major U.S. auto manufacturers saying they are shutting down their North American factories.
…General Motors CEO Mary Barra offered the automakers’ shuttered factories to produce ventilators to address the coronavirus crisis.
China said the former virus epicenter of Wuhan and its surrounding province had reported no new cases, a dramatic development in the city overwhelmed by thousands of new patients each day when the outbreak was peaking there last month.
China is not out of danger yet. Experts have said that it will need to see at least 14 consecutive days without new infections for the outbreak to be considered truly over.
With new daily cases at home dwindling into the single digits, China is mounting a diplomatic offensive to help, as the rest of the world struggles to get the virus under control.
Regeneron has shortened its timeline for designing a drug to treat and prevent the coronavirus. Now, the company hopes to have a drug ready for testing by early summer.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, said he will self-quarantine for the next two weeks after Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart tested positive for the coronavirus, citing a meeting between the two congressmen last week.
Rep. Ben McAdams, a Democrat from Utah, said he isolated himself Sunday after experiencing “mild cold-like symptoms.” He, too, has tested positive.
American adults of all ages — not just those in their 70s, 80s and 90s — are being seriously sickened by the coronavirus, according to a report on nearly 2,500 of the first recorded cases in the United States.
Only days into the start of the 2020 census, the Census Bureau said that it is suspending its field operations for two weeks while it searches for ways to protect its workers from exposure to the coronavirus.
Immigration authorities will halt most enforcement across the U.S., shifting efforts to deport only foreign nationals who have committed crimes or pose a threat to public safety, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said.
Back on Capitol Hill after another stinging primary setback, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said that he’s dealing with the “f–king” coronavirus when asked what his plans are for his floundering presidential campaign.
The coronavirus is forcing big changes to the way Facebook operates and stretching the company to its limits, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Businesses are increasingly going virtual – if they can.
De Blasio said that more than 1,000 retired medical workers in New York City had answered his appeal the day before for volunteers to help in the city’s response.
The mayor plans to release “vulnerable” inmates from city jails to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic into local lockups.
New York City hospitals have begun eliminating elective surgeries to prepare for an expected onslaught of coronavirus cases — amid concerns the move could put other patients at risk.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is headed to New York to meet with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today to discuss a plan to create more hospital beds in New York, U.S Defense Secretary Mark Esper said.
Cuomo announced a statewide mandate that no business can have more than 50 percent of their workforce report to work outside of their home.
Health officials expressed growing alarm that the coronavirus is spreading quickly in tightly knit Hasidic Jewish communities in Brooklyn, saying that they are investigating a spike in confirmed cases in recent days.
The New Rochelle lawyer who fell critically ill after becoming the state’s second confirmed coronavirus case has regained consciousness and is recovering, his wife said.
A day after many major mall retailers said they’d close down temporarily in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Cuomo said he’d ask malls to close their enclosed public spaces as well. This is to occur by 8 p.m. tonight.
The spread of the coronavirus is shutting down school systems across the country, but the federal government is offering little clarity on when they can reopen and what they should offer meanwhile.
A passenger on Delta Flight 4824 from JFK International Airport to Rochester late Saturday afternoon was ill with COVID-19 and likely was spreading the virus during the flight, the county said in a news release late last night.
Anxiety is mounting among many state employees who are still being required to report to crowded offices.
Nurses around the Capital Region are calling for immediate action to boost supplies of masks and other protective gear for frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
A shortage in testing has left sick people and health care workers around the U.S. without answers. Yet the list of celebrity patients grows every day, raising questions about privileged access.
The state Legislature passed a bill granting most workers two weeks of paid sick time if they are quarantined due to the spread of the coronavirus. It does not include previously announced measures that would have gone beyond the current coronavirus outbreak — requiring most businesses to provide paid sick time for employees each year starting in 2021.
Lawmakers debated the measures and explained their votes in largely deserted chambers, occupied only by a handful of legislative leaders and procedural officials. Senators only entered the chamber — one at a time — if they voted “no” on any of the bills, as six did.
Assembly members were split into 9 groups, and only 30 members were allowed in the chamber to vote at a time.
…”There’s got to be a 21st-century way to deal with this,” said Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, 59, a nine-term Democrat from Manhattan, who drove to Albany in a car packed with sanitary wipes and rubber gloves “to push a button.” He added: “I’m not a hypochondriac. But I’m very anxious about this.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie doesn’t want the public counting politicians among the elite crowd able to access hard-to-come-by coronavirus tests, in light of two elderly lawmakers coming up corona-positive over the weekend.
Amid website crashes due to the flood of applicants, the state Department of Labor is adding staff and setting up an alternate-day application system for unemployment insurance benefits.
Two officials who worked the Siena men’s basketball team’s final game of the season last Wednesday have tested positive for coronavirus, the Siena athletic department confirmed. The team members have been told to self isolate until March 25.
Rensselaer County is investigating how a La Salle Institute student, who tested positive for the coronavirus, was able to attend school and possibly infect students, faculty and staff around him, said county Bureau of Central Services Director Jim Gordon.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Capital Area (BGCCA) is providing “grab and go” breakfasts and lunches through mobile delivery sites for youth ages 18 and under. Meals are available from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. through the end of school closings.
Cyber-thieves are exploiting the coronavirus outbreak to try to lure new victims into logging onto websites where they can infect computer networks with their own viruses, an FBI agent warned.
An Albany County deputy assigned to the team that transports prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 this week, raising fears that the virus could soon be in the county jail.
Albany County DA David Soares and 30 other prosecutors around the country all signed a petition for the “Fair and Just Prosecution” organization – calling for lower jail populations as a way to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Five days after Proctors in Schenectady temporarily closed all of its venues, the area’s largest arts organization took another sudden, decisive action, announcing that it would be laying off 80 percent of its employees. The layoffs are considered permanent given the uncertainty of this situation.
In a powerful sign that casualties of the coronavirus outbreak include even the country’s strongest cultural institutions, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is projecting a total shortfall of close to $100 million for the near future and expects to be closed until July.
The Union Square Hospitality Group, one of the nation’s most prestigious restaurant companies, laid off 2,000 employees “due to a near-complete elimination of revenue,” the company said in a statement. (That’s 80 percent of its total staff spread across 18 restaurants in NYC and DC and a corporate office).
Walmart’s store hours are changing, and stores will now open one hour early on Tuesdays for senior shoppers only.
Several athletes and representatives of national Olympic committees reacted with bewilderment and frustration after IOC officials urged them to continue training for the Summer Games despite worldwide restrictions on movement amid a pandemic that has cast the event into doubt.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is forcing nearly his entire 65-member staff to commute and work at the office despite the spreading coronavirus pandemic.
Playboy, the iconic magazine founded by Hugh Hefner 66 years ago, announced it will no longer publish a printed edition, citing coronavirus supply chain woes that have only served to exacerbate its already sagging newsstand sales.
Actor Alec Baldwin wants New York City to pull the reigns on Central Park’s carriage horse trade amid the coronavirus pandemic.
With production shut down on his regular job because of coronavirus, Jimmy Fallon kicked off his new “Tonight Show: At Home Edition” on Tuesday, and followed it up yesterday with his first celebrity guest: Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Princess Beatrice and Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi have canceled their May wedding reception in the gardens of Buckingham Palace and are in wait-and-see mode regarding the ceremony itself, according to the royal family.
Weddings are still happening at the NYC Marriage Bureau in Manhattan.
The sentencing of NXIVM leader Keith Raniere has been postponed until May 21 because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. will be rescheduled to take place September 24-27. It was originally scheduled for June 11-14.
YES YOU CAN GO OUTSIDE. Just maintain your distance from others.
In non-virus news…
Harvey Weinstein, having shuttled between a Rikers Island infirmary and Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital for a heart condition, is now in the maximum-security Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, just east of Buffalo, to begin serving his 23-year sentence for sexual assault.
Weinstein turned 68 yesterday.
The former Manhattan prosecutor Linda Fairstein sued Netflix and the director Ava DuVernay, arguing that she was falsely portrayed as a “racist, unethical villain” pushing for the convictions of five black and Latino teenagers in “When They See Us,” a series about the Central Park Five case.
As they face federal charges for doping racehorses, five thoroughbred trainers and a harness racing owner will continue to be barred from racing in New York, the state Gaming Commission ruled.
Police are investigating a stabbing that killed a man near Washington Park yesterday afternoon.
A Columbia County woman was arrested this week, accused of having nearly three dozen malnourished animals on her property, according to New York State Police.
Photo credit: George Fazio.