Rise and Shine: March 25, 2020

Good morning, it’s Wednesday. Hump Day, which, when working from home, doesn’t mean all that much. But not all of us are, so there you go.

The big news thus far today is that the White House and Senate leaders struck a major deal early this morning over a $2-trillion package to provide a jolt to an economy struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic, capping days of marathon negotiations that produced one of the most expensive and far-reaching measures in the history of Congress.

This is the largest economic stimulus package in modern U.S. history, aimed at delivering critical financial support to businesses forced to shut their doors and relief to American families and hospitals reeling from the rapid spread of the disease and the resulting economic disruption.

The full details have yet to be released. But it appears there will be $250 billion set aside for direct payments to individuals and families, $350 billion in small business loans, $250 billion in unemployment insurance benefits and $500 billion in loans for distressed companies.

According to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office, the bill has provision that would block President Donald Trump and his family, as well as other top government officials and members of Congress, from getting loans or investments from Treasury programs in the stimulus.

It will also give a one-time check of $1,200 to Americans who make up to $75,000. Individuals with no or little tax liability would receive the same amount, unlike the initial GOP proposal that would have given them a minimum of $600.

…Married couples earning up to $150,000 will receiving $2,400 – and an additional $500 per each child. The payment would scale down by income, phasing out entirely at $99,000 for singles and $198,000 for couples without children.

Larry Kudlow, Trump’s chief economic adviser, called the package “the single largest main street assistance program in the history of the United States” at a White House briefing. Both houses of Congress are expected to pass this stimulus deal swiftly today.

Following Wall Street’s lead, markets across Asia are thus far buoyant today, as investors continued to cheer the prospect of a $2 trillion coronavirus package to shore up the American economy.

It’s going to be cloudy today, with temperatures in the high 40s, according to The Weather Channel.

In other virus news…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was once considered a bit player on the national stage, an abrasive presence who made his share of enemies among his Democratic Party peers. He was too much of a pragmatist for his party’s progressive wing, too self-focused for party leaders and too brusque for nearly everyone. But now, he is emerging as the party’s most prominent voice in a time of crisis.

The rate of coronavirus cases in New York is increasing dramatically more than anticipated, and the height of the infections could strike the state in two or three weeks, when as many as 140,000 hospital beds may be needed, Cuomo said.

White House officials expressed growing alarm about the coronavirus outbreak in New York City, advising people who have passed through or left the city to place themselves in a 14-day quarantine.

Antsy at being sealed off, with no visiting dignitaries and no large crowds, Trump has wondered aloud to aides when life will again return to normal — not just for the nation, but for himself. The slowdown in his own life has led, in part, to Trump’s strong desire to see the guidelines he offered on avoiding crowds and staying at home lifted quickly.

In his zeal to fire up American prosperity after helping to trigger an unprecedented self-inflicted economic meltdown, Trump is already losing patience – weeks before the virus may peak.

…His comments came on day when the number of confirmed cases soared past 40,000 and 100 people died in a single day for the first time.

Governors across the nation rejected Trump’s new accelerated timeline for reopening the U.S. economy, as they continued to impose more restrictions on travel and public life in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The New York Times editorial board is calling for a national lockdown in the U.S. to combat the outbreak of the coronavirus as the growing number of confirmed cases begins to overwhelm health systems in parts of the country.

It was a day of confusion and contradictory images in Britain, as people struggled to adapt to a national shutdown that, while unprecedented in the post-World War II era, still fell short of those in force in France, Spain or Italy.

With four hours’ notice, India’s prime minister announced that no one could leave their homes for 21 days — the most severe step taken anywhere in the war against the coronavirus.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul in an op-ed urged folks to stop “finger-wagging” at him for not self quarantining while awaiting his coronavirus test results, writing: “I did not quarantine while awaiting a coronavirus test because I did not meet the criteria for quarantine.”

Last Friday, more than 40,000 medical students across the country found out where they will be doing their three-year residencies, the first step in their medical careers. But at most universities, match day ceremonies were either canceled or held virtually on Zoom. They will soon be on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle.

States like New York and California have made gig workers eligible for jobless benefits and sick days. But the companies have resisted complying.

Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swedish climate activist, announced that she and her father, Svante, had symptoms of Covid-19 and that while hers were mild, it was “extremely likely” that she had contracted the virus. She used the announcement to urge young people to stay at home.

The National Park Service announced that all three of the busiest national parks – Yellowstone, Grand Teton and the Great Smoky Mountains – would be closed immediately to prevent the spread of the virus, citing concerns about crowding and requests from local public health authorities.

Sullivan, Greene and Delaware counties, all in the Hudson Valley north of New York, have urged their residents to remove short-term rental listings online and suggested that people with second homes in the area consider staying away.

Across the country, meaningful electoral proceedings have been delayed or recast. But the general election is another matter. No one in a position of relevant authority has proposed moving it, though the subject has instantly become a cause of angst for Trump’s critics.

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on statehouses across the United States, derailing policy agendas, forcing legislators to set aside plans for spending on education, road construction and opioid addiction, and draining state coffers with startling speed.

…at least 22 state legislatures have closed or postponed sessions at what is usually the busiest time of the year. (Not New York’s – yet).

Cuomo and lawmakers are eyeing emergency loans to get New York’s cash-strapped state government the billions it needs to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, which is ravaging budget projections with massive new costs and lost revenue.

The traditional face-to-face campaign to convince people to fill out their 2020 Census forms has ground to a halt by the coronavirus pandemic, forcing communities to switch their complete count efforts to social media and digital channels. It’s also forced the U.S. Census Bureau extend the national deadline for the count by two weeks.

Seriously sick coronavirus patients in New York state’s largest hospital system are being given massive doses of vitamin C — based on promising reports that it’s helped people in hard-hit China.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that 300 nonviolent, elderly inmates would be released from Rikers Island in an effort to stem the coronavirus pandemic.

The federal government has pledged an additional 4,000 ventilators to the Empire State’s fight against the coronavirus, with half bound for New York City, de Blasio said.

The mayor warned that NYC agencies will be asked to find at least $1.3 billion in cuts as the coronavirus pandemic slashes tax revenues in the Big Apple.

De Blasio announced plans to open streets for pedestrians in a bid to reduce parks crowds during the coronavirus pandemic — two days after Cuomo gave him 24 hours to do so.

A medical expert at NewYork-Presbyterian’s Columbia University Medical Center detailed the hospital’s “dire” situation as the number of coronavirus patients skyrocketed in the past week.

As the coronavirus engulfs New York, the city’s public transportation network is slashing service by at least 25 percent with ridership in free fall and an increasing number of sick workers hobbling its ability to run a normal operation.

Women giving birth at two leading New York City hospital networks are being told they must labor without spouses, partners or doulas by their side — leaving the expectant mothers anxious and frightened about their upcoming deliveries.

By the looks of things in New York City’s real estate market, spring will be a little late this year.

New York City criminal and family courts are shifting to “virtual court operations” due to the COVID-19 pandemic beginning today and tomorrow.

Capital Region hospitals have developed plans to boost the number of staffed beds within their facilities by at least 50 percent and in some cases more, in order to comply with an executive order issued by Cuomo.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has put all non-essential court filings on pause, lawmakers and activists are ramping up calls to extend the Child Victims Act’s “look-back” window that is set to expire this summer.

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay joined the state Election Commissioners’ Association in urging Cuomo and the Legislature to push New York’s Democratic presidential primary from April 28 to June 23, citing the peril of holding it during what could be the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Schenectady County has launched an emergency response coalition, donation fund and hotline designed to assist residents who can’t safely go out and get groceries or other basic supplies during the coronavirus pandemic. Residents in need of supplies should call 518-621-3536.

As number of new COVID-19 diagnoses continued to rise in Albany County, it’s top leader, County Executive Dan McCoy, warned people are not doing enough to isolate themselves from exposure to coronavirus.

The City of Troy over-billed homeowners in the garbage fee bills that went out this week, an error that may be attributed to the coronavirus outbreak.

All Colonie town meetings are canceled until further notice during the coronavirus outbreak.

Nicholas Gilman, interim CEO of the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, said the fear of isolation as people separate to slow the spread of the virus has not fueled a noticeable increase in the adoptions of companion animals.

Divorce filings are skyrocketing from quarantine-weary and financially stressed couples, according to top matrimonial attorneys, who are experiencing a 50 percent rise in inquiries from potential clients.

RIP Terrence McNally, the four-time Tony Award-winning playwright whose outpouring of work for the theater dramatized and domesticated gay life across five decades, who died yesterday in Sarasota, Fla. at the age of 81 from complications due to the coronavirus.

Kristyn Dayter of Scotia started the 518 Rainbow Hunt after seeing a similar initiative in Italy. The idea is for people — children and adults — to hang rainbows in their window. People then “hunt” for rainbows when out and about, taking walks or “drives to nowhere” during the government-mandated social distancing.

In non-virus news…

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders plans to participate in the Democratic presidential debate in April if one is held, his campaign said, the strongest indication yet that he will continue competing against former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 primary for the foreseeable future.

Under a new recommendation to Congress by a national commission, all Americans ages 18 to 25 — not just young men as currently required — would have to register with the government in case of a military draft.

State Police are investigating a deadly encounter between a 34-year-old man who allegedly pointed a weapon, possibly a pellet gun, at two city officers, before being shot dead inside an apartment building yesterday morning.

The heavy, wet snow that descended on the Capital Region Monday was the most snow to ever fall on March 23. The National Weather Service recorded 6.1 inches of snow at the Albany International Airport, which easily topped the last record set in 2005 with 2.7 inches.

College of St. Rose senior Julia Gargano has made it to the Top 40 of “American Idol” the live competition show that strives to find the next big name in music.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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