Rise and Shine: March 20, 2020

Good Friday morning, CivMixers. We made it to the end of the workweek…although I find that when working from home, all the days seem to sort of merge together into one gigantic block.

The Google Doodle today recognizes Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician and scientist who is now known as an early pioneer of antiseptic procedures. From Wikipedia:

Described as the ‘saviour of mothers’, Semmelweis discovered that the incidence of puerperal fever (also known as ‘childbed fever’) could be drastically cut by the use of hand disinfection in obstetrical clinics. Puerperal fever was common in mid-19th-century hospitals and often fatal. Semmelweis proposed the practice of washing hands with chlorinated lime solutions in 1847 while working in Vienna General Hospital’s First Obstetrical Clinic, where doctors’ wards had three times the mortality of midwives’ wards. He published a book of his findings in Etiology, Concept and Prophylaxis of Childbed Fever.

In other words: Wash your hands. (P.S. The rest of Semmelweis’ life did not go so well, as he was roundly mocked by the medical community for his hand washing fanaticism…but we know today he was 100 percent right about needing to be clean to avoid the spreading of viruses and germs).

It’s going to rain today, and there might be thunderstorms in the afternoon. But the temperature is going to be in the low 70s!!! Of course, tomorrow, it’s back to the 40s for us, according to The Weather Channel. Ah, Spring.

In the headlines…

U.S. Senate Republicans rolled out a $1 trillion economic stimulus plan to deliver critical aid to businesses and individuals alike – a move that sets the stage for negotiations to begin in earnest in an effort to reach a bipartisan deal to help an economy hit hard by the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.

President Donald Trump made a gathering of world leaders at the Group of 7 summit a video teleconference and canceled plans to hold the June meeting in person at Camp David due to the coronavirus pandemic, White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said.

Trump announced that he’s fast-tracking the testing and possible use of existing drugs in the fight against the coronavirus. He specifically highlighted an anti-malaria drug called chloroquine and remdesivir — an antiviral developed to treat Ebola — as promising prospects.

…it appears Trump exaggerated the potential of drugs available to treat the new coronavirus, including an experimental antiviral treatment and decades-old malaria remedies that hint of promise but so far show limited evidence of healing the sick.

A global arms race for a coronavirus vaccine is underway. In the three months since the virus began its deadly spread, China, Europe and the United States have all set off at a sprint to become the first to produce a vaccine.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals announced a breakthrough in the search for a Covid-19 treatment. It has identified hundreds of virus-neutralizing antibodies that could potentially be used in a cocktail drug.

Members of Congress are pressing to change the rules to allow remote voting during the coronavirus pandemic, despite the resistance from their leaders, signaling that the outbreak may not only require an unprecedented response from the Capitol but also alter how it operates.

U.S. officials and companies are working rapidly to identify and test medications that could be used to treat the coronavirus, particularly in areas like New York where outbreaks are severe and widespread. A clinical trial for one potential coronavirus treatment launched this week at New York medical centers.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits surged last week by 70,000 to the highest level in more than two years, indicating that the effect of the coronavirus was starting to be felt in rising layoffs in the job market.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered the state’s 40 million residents to stay at home, restricting non-essential movements to control the spread of the coronavirus that threatens to overwhelm the state’s medical system.

Carnival Corporation has extended an offer to use several cruise ships from across its brands’ fleets, including Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises Australia, as temporary hospital ships during the coronavirus pandemic.

China reported just one new domestic case of the coronavirus for the second day in a row today. For the second consecutive day there was only one more fresh infection in Wuhan, the central city where the virus first emerged late last year, the National Health Commission said.

While China claims to have lowered its rate of new cases essentially to zero, Europe’s numbers grow faster each day — about 100,000 confirmed infections and 5,000 deaths in all so far — suggesting that the worst is yet to come. To some extent, experts say, Europeans are paying a price for living in open, affluent democracies.

Former NBA player Jeremy Lin, who grew up in Palo Alto and briefly played for the Warriors, is voicing criticism of Trump’s rhetoric in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic.

As coronavirus has swept the globe, placing cities and countries on lockdowns, canceling the spring sports calendar and jeopardizing every major event scheduled for 2020, Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, has not wavered in his determination to hold the Summer Games in Tokyo.

Two epidemiologists say: Very simple interventions, such as working from home and severing even one link, have an exponential effect. Every individual acting preemptively can make a huge difference.

While stores and restaurants across the U.S. have closed up shop, both Apple and Starbucks have reopened all of their stores in China as the novel coronavirus spread slows across the country.

In a series of TV interviews yesterday morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it was inevitable that the state’s health care system would be overwhelmed by a coming wave of COVID-19 cases, but he will not impose “martial law.”

Four more people in the Big Apple have died from the coronavirus and 339 more are confirmed to be infected as testing increased across the five boroughs. The new figures bring the city’s total number of coronavirus cases to 3,954.

As New Yorkers barricade themselves in their homes to practice “social distancing,” delivery workers, typically an overlooked group, have now taken on outsized significance and are on the front lines of the outbreak.

For thousands of restaurants across the country, ordered to close their dining rooms to slow the spread of the coronavirus, contactless delivery may be their only chance to stay open and avoid wholesale layoffs.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio sounded a dire note while pleading for the U.S. military help on the coronavirus outbreak and announcing 26 deaths — more than double the toll from just a day earlier.

State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris is proposing a 90-day rent freeze to help abate the economic strain being placed on households and businesses hit the hardest by the pandemic.

New York will suspend mortgage payments 90 days for individuals under financial distress, a move that will not effect credit ratings or result in any penalties. Fees at ATM machines and overdraft and credit card late fees also are being suspended.

State Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre, a 36-year-old Suffolk County Democrat, has tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the third Albany lawmaker to contract the illness.

…She was in Albany on Wednesday and cast a vote from the floor of the Assembly. But she did not have contact with fellow lawmakers or her staff, according to the speaker’s office.

Long Island Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice became the latest member of Congress to self-quarantine, after learning she had been in contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus, she said on Twitter.

A panel tasked with reducing New York’s Medicaid budget has voted on a plan to cut $2.5 billion out of the state’s health care system. But the commission’s work likely falls far short of closing a widening budget deficit that will likely be expanded by the coronavirus.

The cascading revenue losses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is forcing lawmakers and Cuomo to rethink how the state budget will be shaped. But time is short to have some sort of spending plan in place: The budget is due at the end of the month.

NYC would give adult New Yorkers $550 each and $275 per child, under a $12 billion relief plan Council Speaker Corey Johnson proposed yesterday.

De Blasio plans to release 40 inmates from Rikers Island amid a coronavirus outbreak in the five boroughs, he announced.

With coronavirus cases soaring, doctors, nurses and other front-line medical workers across the United States are confronting a dire shortage of masks, surgical gowns and eye gear to protect them from the virus.

Albany Medical Center and St. Peter’s Health Partners announced that they are suspending community testing for coronavirus and testing only symptomatic health care providers now. The move is being made to conserve what has become a critical shortage of tests.

Cuomo’s order restricting the number of people allowed to work at their employers’ facilities has some Central New York manufacturers wondering how they will be impacted.

Village mayors and trustees’ terms will be extended for more than a month until rescheduled village elections are held April 28.

Due to coronavirus concerns, the Albany County Legislature is postponing public hearings planned for March 24 on legislation related to a paper bag fee and tire-burning at a Coeymans cement plant.

Stuyvesant Plaza is offering its nearly 60 tenants two weeks of free rent. The move comes as retailers and other small businesses face a growing cash squeeze as shoppers stay home in the wake of the spreading coronavirus pandemic.

Price Chopper/Market 32 announced the store is looking to hire more than 2,000 part-time or temporary part-time employees to “better serve customers during these turbulent times.”

Hannaford Supermarkets announced it is shortening its store hours to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, and that it is setting aside a dedicated hour for seniors to shop from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays.

While most people are hunkering down during the novel coronavirus pandemic, quite a few appear to be arming up. Just as toilet paper, pasta and cleaning supplies are being snatched from grocery stores nationwide, guns and ammunition are also in high demand as cases of COVID-19 increase.

The principal of La Salle Institute in Troy defended the school after it was criticized on Wednesday by the Rensselaer County Health Department over its handling of a student who tested positive for COVID-19.

The New York Racing Association announced that racing is off for now after it was found that a groom on the Belmont backstretch tested positive for the coronavirus.

Cornell’s in Little Italy, a Schenectady mainstay since 1943, has closed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Distilleries across the nation are switching from spirits to hand sanitizer.

The coronavirus epidemic could be more devastating to the Big Apple’s hotel business than the 1987 stock market crash, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the 2008 recession combined, the head of the 40,000-member hotel workers union said.

A Queens judge has tested positive for the coronavirus — the first known case among state justices, officials said.

New Yorkers can still get groceries and supplies in plastic bags during the coronavirus pandemic. State officials have announced they now won’t enforce New York’s controversial plastic bag ban until May 15, it was revealed this week.

The NYPD has 20 confirmed cases of coronavirus — while 14 members with the FDNY have been infected with the virus. The uptick in sick first responders comes as the state ramped up its testing for COVID-19.

Students who won admission to NYC’s hyper-competitive specialized high schools next year are concerned about falling behind due to coronavirus school closures.

The New York State United Teachers union called on the U.S. Secretary of Education to waive state testing mandates for children in grades 3-8 for this school year and the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are answers for SUNY students on room and board credits and refunds as well as graduation amid campuses shifting to online learning due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Metropolitan Opera, the nation’s largest performing arts organization, announced that it would cancel the rest of its season because of the coronavirus pandemic and begin an emergency fund-raising effort aimed at covering an anticipated loss of up to $60 million.

Stores under the Gap Inc. company – including Old Navy, Athleta, Banana Republic, Gap, Janie and Jack, and Intermix – closed nationwide due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Amazon.com said it was closing a small New York warehouse temporarily after one of its associates tested positive for the coronavirus, a move that highlights the operational risk it faces as the disease spreads.

Golf is one of the few things people can still do during the coronavirus outbreak — but new pandemic rules are anything but par for the course, operators said.

Stewart’s Shops sent a message to its customers stating they’ve been determined an essential business and will remain open to the public.

Central New York maple producers aren’t slowing down production despite in-person sales concerns.

In non-virus news…

With former Vice President Joe Biden now holding an all but insurmountable lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary contest, many Democrats have shifted their attention to a favorite quadrennial parlor game: the vice-presidential search.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld is ending his primary challenge to Trump.

The Agriculture Department backed off its statement that it would appeal a court decision blocking changes to the food stamp program that would have resulted in hundreds of thousands of people losing benefits.

Anthony Levandowski, a star engineer who helped build Google’s autonomous vehicle unit, pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets from the internet giant.

Joseph Gambino, the easy-going son of Mafia don Carlo Gambino who became a millionaire businessman thanks to his father’s crime family clout — but who steered clear of the rest of the family business — died of natural causes last month at the age of 83.

Asian and white students dominated admissions to NYC’s specialized high schools yet again this year – figures that will likely reignite the debate over entry criteria for the eight coveted campuses.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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