Rise and Shine: March 26, 2020

Good Thursday morning, CivMixers.

It’s going to be downright springlike out there today, with temperatures flirting with 60 degrees (OK, the high 50s, really, but a girl can dream), and mostly sunny skies, according to The Weather Channel.

After days of around-the-clock negotiations, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved $2 trillion in emergency spending just before midnight to help out workers, companies and state governments in deep financial distress because of coronavirus, locking in the largest economic stimulus in American history.

The measure promises a $1,200 payout to millions of Americans, which officials hope will start being sent out in April, and increased jobless aid. It also creates a government bailout fund for distressed businesses.

It would also substantially expand jobless aid, providing an additional 13 weeks and a four-month enhancement of benefits, extending them for the first time to freelancers and gig workers and adding $600 per week on top of the usual payment.

Tucked into the largest bailout in United States history are a range of provisions that stand to benefit specific industries and interest groups, and it doesn’t entirely block the president and his family from accessing funds for their businesses, as Democrats claim.

The stimulus bill is 880 pages long. Read it here.

The Senate has left D.C. after passing the stimulus package and not return until April 20, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced.

The package now heads to the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic majority will get a chance to chime in before sending it to President Trump’s desk for final approval. The House plans to take up the measure tomorrow.

Pelosi told reporters that she expects the House to debate the legislation on the floor, a shift from previous statements in which she said she wanted to pass it by unanimous consent, a nearly unheard of process for such a large piece of legislation that could be blocked by one lawmaker.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo ripped the federal stimulus plan as inadequate for New York, the country’s epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis, while he renewed calls for the 15,000 ventilators the state will need in the next few weeks for the mounting victims of the virus.

Cuomo said the plan would be “really terrible” because it only allocates $3.8 billion dollars to his state—far less than what New York, the new epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., needs to combat the coronavirus.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio went further, calling the deal “immoral,” and saying the city would be getting only $1 billion, despite having one-third of the country’s virus cases. He said he planned to appeal directly to President Trump, a native New Yorker, to “fix this situation.”

U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, New York’s senior senator, at a press conference waved off pointed criticism that his home-state governor, Cuomo, aimed at the Senate’s $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill earlier in the day.

The hotel industry, which has been hit particularly hard, had asked for a $150 billion bailout. As many as four million hotel employees — housekeepers, maintenance workers, desk clerks and others — have been laid off or will be let go in coming weeks.

While life in New York City and the surrounding region has come to a screeching halt, the construction industry, one of the region’s main economic engines and biggest employers, is humming along as if nothing has changed.

NYC taxi owners and drivers who were barely holding on prior to this pandemic said their livelihood had evaporated as the city all but shut down to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in the U.S. surpassed 60,000, led by a continued surge of infections in New York, as lawmakers worked to soften the economic consequences of the pandemic that has shut down wide swaths of the country.

More than 20,800 people have died, and in a grim milestone, Spain yesterday surpassed China’s death toll from the virus. Infections in Italy rose to 74,386, closing in on China’s 81,661.

The U.S. now trails only China and Italy in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, with 62,086 infections, according to Johns Hopkins data. More than 860 people have died.

Trains carrying factory employees back to work after two months in locked-down cities rolled out of Hubei province, the center of China’s virus outbreak, as the government yesterday began lifting the last of the controls that confined tens of millions of people to their homes.

In a grim midday message, de Blasio predicted that 50 percent of the city’s population could come down with the deadly disease in the coming weeks as Cuomo announced the state now has more than 30,000 cases.

As the number of cases of the novel coronavirus in New York continues to climb, Cuomo pointed to a glimmer of hope: The rate of infections in the state’s initial hot zone has slowed.

New York’s total still includes an unknown number of COVID-19 cases in which individuals have recovered and, in some instances, may have returned to normal activities after a period of quarantine.

The FDA has approved the use of plasma from recovered patients to treat some severe cases. Cuomo announced that New York would become the first state to begin testing serum from people who have recovered from Covid-19 to treat those who are seriously ill.

A backlash has grown on the outskirts of the New York region as wealthy people flee to summer homes to avoid the densely packed city, which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis.

The Essex County Board of Supervisors had a message for second home owners and visitors to the Adirondacks: Stay away.

It is a rare circumstance in the United States, a country where travel between states is generally welcomed and often only noticed in counts of tourism visits, that states are suddenly looking for ways to discourage residents of other states from coming into theirs.

Ambulance calls have spiked every day in New York City since the coronavirus crisis began, officials said — and the FDNY has recorded a public service announcement telling New Yorkers to call 911 only during an emergency.

Cars will be banned from streets in four boroughs from tomorrow to Monday to give a bit more walking space to New Yorkers cooped up by the coronavirus crisis.

NYC officials will take down basketball hoops at 80 courts where persistent pick-up games have flouted social distancing rules amid the coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus emergency in New York City has led to a blitz of inspections by police officers to crack down on socializing and dining out. NYPD officers have conducted more than 66,000 inspections of businesses, public parks and other sites in the city, for violations of virus-related mandates since March 17.

Elmhurst Hospital Center, a 545-bed public hospital in Queens, has begun transferring patients not suffering from coronavirus to other hospitals as it moves toward becoming dedicated entirely to the outbreak. It saw 13 coronavirus deaths in one 24-hour period. “It’s apocalyptic,” one doctor said.

Students who reside at CUNY and SUNY colleges have been kicked out of their dorms as Cuomo and health authorities eye the campuses as sites for make-shift emergency medical centers to help treat a wave of coronavirus patients, officials said.

Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel battling the coronavirus pandemic can stay free of charge at the five-star Four Seasons New York on the ultra-exclusive stretch of 57th Street, the hotel announced.

District Attorneys across New York City have consented to the release of up to 250 inmates in the last week as the city tries to reduce the number of people behind bars during the coronavirus outbreak.

A woman’s so-called “prank” cost a Scranton, Pa., supermarket $35,000 when she purposely coughed all over the store’s produce and on parts of the bakery and meat case, forcing them to throw all the contaminated merchandise away.

Leaders of sleep-away and day camps say they hope they can operate and will follow the guidance of federal, state and local health authorities as rules may change rapidly. Many say that during the coronavirus crisis, with all of its stress and school closures, children will need the camaraderie, sports and adventures of camp more than ever.

Twitter temporarily locked the account of a conservative website after it promoted an article suggesting that the medical community should consider intentionally infecting people with the coronavirus at “chickenpox parties” to help slow the spread of the virus.

As supermarkets shelves are picked clean, some restaurants are adapting their business models to become minimarts, offering raw ingredients and pantry staples well beyond what they’d previously stocked. Other restaurateurs are trying to find different ways to help their laid-off employees and the public at large.

Many restaurant owners are confused about whether they are really off the hook when it comes to late sales tax penalties and interest, due to the way the abatement order was written. Specifically it says the businesses that file annually and periodically won’t have to pay. But that doesn’t apply to those who pay monthly, which is apparently a lot of restaurants.

Several hundred Guilderland middle-schoolers will soon be released from a precautionary quarantine, Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy said.

After coming under fire for providing massive pay hikes to essential workers, Saratoga County slightly adjusted the plan, cutting the number of managers who are receiving time-and-a-half pay and capping such compensation at 35 hours a week.

The spring commencement at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will be held online on May 23 due to public-health concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the school announced.

Blood donations are as critical as ever amid the coronavirus outbreak, and the CDC is urging people who are well to contribute.

Bears waking up from winter hibernation may be roaming a bit freer this year thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. That’s because, with so many people staying indoors and off the streets and out of neighborhoods, there are fewer humans to scare them away, according to wildlife experts.

The 74th annual Tony Awards ceremony, scheduled for June 7 at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, will be postponed, according to the event’s organizers, the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League.

There is some money for arts organizations in the federal stimulus package, but not nearly as much as advocates had sought. (Some Democratic lawmakers in New York and elsewhere, had asked for $4 billion, a dream number few believed would win broad support).

Prince Charles, the 71-year-old heir to the British throne, tested positive for the virus.

The reportedly “youngest, self-made billionaire,” Kylie Jenner, reportedly donated $1 million to buy medical supplies for first responders.

Comedian Kathy Griffin, 59, said on Twitter that she’d been hospitalized with coronavirus-like symptoms, but couldn’t get tested.

Harvey Weinstein is still in isolation and “doing well” at an upstate New York prison after being diagnosed with coronavirus, a source said.

This is encouraging.

A video of an Albany-area couple visiting through a nursing home window due to the coronavirus outbreak has gone viral.

In non-virus news…

A day after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign indicated that he would participate in a presidential debate next month if one is held, former Vice President Joe Biden expressed impatience with the idea, saying that “we’ve had enough debates” and adding that his focus was on combating the coronavirus crisis.

The American population is growing at its slowest pace since 1919, new government data shows, as a drop in births and an acceleration in deaths put the country closer than ever to an overall decline.

“Full House” Actress Lori Loughlin, her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, and other prominent parents urged a judge to dismiss charges against them in the college admissions bribery case, accusing prosecutors of “extraordinary” misconduct.

In a significant victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a federal judge ordered a sweeping new environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Trump administration officials have concluded that Robert A. Levinson, the retired F.B.I. agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007 on an unauthorized mission for the C.I.A., died while in Iranian custody, his family announced.

State Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan joins a number of Republican senators who will not seek re-election this fall.

Mobile NY sports betting will not make the state budget as legislators and Cuomo remain on opposite sides. Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. said that the Senate negotiating team brought up the inclusion of mobile New York sports betting and expediting three downtown casino licenses in the state budget and got back a firm “no.”

Cuomo is pushing for a new law that would roll back newborn bail reforms that went into effect in January and instead expand judges’ power to put defendants in jail. (Criminal justice reform advocates are not happy).

For the past year Schenectady County was the fastest-growing Capital Region county, ranking second statewide for percentage growth at 0.1 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau county population estimates released Thursday.

Larry Spring has abruptly resigned as Schenectady city schools superintendent. School board members during their meeting last night unanimously accepted Spring’s resignation and then appointed Aaron Bochniak as acting superintendent. No reason for the resignation could immediately be determined.

Following discussions with first responders, the state Department of Transportation is making tweaks to a bridge replacement on Route 29 over Batten Kill.

Brooklyn-based talent agent Brhonson Lexier St. Surin, after at least 10 years of dwelling on the fringes of the film and modeling industries, finds himself in separate simultaneous spotlights — a movie that draws attention to two lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct that in turn seem to closely track the plot of the movie.

The mass murderer who killed 51 worshipers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, last year pleaded guilty to all charges in an unexpected move that avoids a trial that was scheduled for June.

The remains of a northern Kentucky teen, Paige Johnson, who had been missing for nearly a decade were found this week after a couple stumbled upon a burned skull while deer hunting in Ohio.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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