Good Monday morning, CivMixers. We’re in for some more rain today, according to The Weather Channel, with temperatures hovering around 50 degrees.
The good news this morning: We’ve made it (almost) to the end of March, which I think we can all agree was a challenging month, to say the least.
The not so good news: The New York “PAUSE” and the national “15 Days to Slow the Spread” social distancing efforts put in place to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus have both been extended, by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump, respectively.
Trump’s announcement walked back his previous remarks that he wanted the country to reopen for business by Easter. Public health experts have warned that loosening restrictions by Easter, on April 12, would result in unnecessary death and economic damage.
Two of the top doctors advising Trump on the coronavirus pandemic warned yesterday that as many as 200,000 Americans could die during the outbreak, even with much of the country already under stay-at-home orders and practicing social distancing.
Two of the nation’s largest health insurers, Cigna and Humana, agreed to protect their customers from out-of-pocket costs if they need treatment for Covid-19, a decision that represents a rapid change in how companies are responding to the pandemic.
American companies from the owner of a single liquor store in Boston to corporate giants like Macy’s Inc., must decide what to do about April’s bills. The decisions they make this week could shape how deeply the economy is damaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said eligible Americans will receive direct-deposit payments as part of the $2.2 trillion rescue bill “within three weeks.”
The coronavirus pandemic is forcing the fastest reallocation of labor since World War II, with companies and governments mobilizing an army of idled workers into new activities that are urgently needed.
The governor’s directive requiring all non-essential employees to work from home for another two weeks – until April 15 – came as the number of positive cases in the state rose to 59,513.
New York state is reaching a grim milestone as the coronavirus death toll nears 1,000. The number of deaths due to the virus is now 965, Cuomo said yesterday – a spike from the 728 the day before.
“I don’t think there’s any way to look at those numbers,” Cuomo said, “without seeing thousands of people pass away.”
The governor says there is a “rolling apex” happening across the country and expects the same to happen across New York, with the worst of the pandemic hitting at different times for different places in the state.
Concerned about the further spread of the coronavirus, Trump on Saturday evening decided to issue a “strong travel advisory” for parts of New York as well as Connecticut and New Jersey, after hinting earlier in the day that he was considering a short-term “enforceable” quarantine for the region.
New York and other states are not tracking the number of people who have fully recovered from COVID-19 and are posting daily updates on the cumulative number of people who have tested positive for the infectious disease.
Medical experts say that how much the public should know has become a critical question that will help determine how the U.S. confronts this outbreak and future ones. In the perennial tug-of-war between privacy and transparency, privacy appears to be winning in the coronavirus pandemic.
Cuomo said the state was still working to increase hospital capacity in preparation for the peak of infections, which officials estimate is at least two weeks away. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said a temporary hospital was being built in part of Central Park in Manhattan and will be completed tomorrow.
Producers and distributors of medical supplies across the country are raising red flags about what they say is a lack of guidance from the federal government about where to send their products, as hospitals compete for desperately needed masks and ventilators to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Cuomo said the state’s Wadsworth laboratory has developed a less intrusive test for COVID-19, one that uses saliva and a “short nasal swab, which he believes will increase the state’s ability to test large numbers of people and determine who’s safe to return to work.
Of all the ways the coronavirus pandemic has undermined the conventions of normal life, perhaps none is as cruel as the separation of seriously ill patients and their loved ones, now mandated at hospitals around the world.
Trump announced that a huge cache of desperately-needed coronavirus-fighting supplies has landed in New York. The first flight in the FEMA project dubbed “Project Airbridge” landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport with 2 million masks and gowns, more than 10 million gloves and 70,000 thermometers.
Hundreds of nurses are pouring into New York City from across the country drawn by a desire to save lives — and paychecks reaching $100 an hour.
The USNS Comfort, a 1,000-plus bed Navy medical ship city officials hope will provide relief to New York’s coronavirus-stressed health care system, is scheduled to dock in Manhattan today.
Westchester County’s “patient zero” – a New Rochelle lawyer believed to have infected dozens of people – is no longer hospitalized.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy had strong words for restaurant and bar owners, some of whom are apparently still serving people in violation of the state’s stay-at-home law. “It’s up to a $10,000 fine and we will embarrass you socially,” he vowed.
Any rumors of a 6 p.m. curfew and accompanying fine in Albany are false, the Albany Police Department said.
The state Senate yesterday approved a resolution allowing senators to participate in sessions by “remote means,” including teleconferencing and videoconferencing as necessary. The Assembly will pass a similar resolution this afternoon, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said.
Advocacy groups of all stripes are concerned they have been shut out of the state budget negotiations set to conclude this week, a deal one longtime watchdog said is taking shape in “unprecedented secrecy.”
The state budget is due Wednesday. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said her members “will begin the process of passing budget bills this week as bills are ready.” She had introduced the Senate version of the remote voting resolution.
“I know it’s politically hard for the Legislature. I know legislative bodies. They make friends by giving out a lot of money,” Cuomo said, noting the state could be in for a $15 billion loss in revenue due to the pandemic. “I’m not going to pass or sign a phony budget.”
Despite a $6 billion budget gap and new revenue losses posed by New York’s coronavirus outbreak, Cuomo is threatening to forgo more than $6 billion in federal aid he says would force him to adjust his Medicaid redesign strategy.
Cuomo yesterday slammed U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, New York’s senior U.S. senator, saying “there was no good reason” to stop the Medicaid overhaul effort, which had started prior to the crisis. “It disqualified this state from funding. And he knew that,” Cuomo said.
Hours later, Schumer said he had a conversation with Cuomo and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and “agreed that there is significant money for New York in the bills we passed, but that much more is needed and we will continue to work together to make that happen, and to fix New York State’s (emergency Medicaid) issue as well.”
“The main expense for the state is education,” Cuomo said. “(The federal government) knows that. So when they didn’t give the state funding all they did was cut the education budget to the state of New York which is a tragedy.”
Liberal state lawmakers have proposed raising the tax rate by at least 0.5 percentage points on anyone earning at least $5 million annually, taxing certain capital gains as income and taxing condos and apartments in New York City that function as second homes. All told, that could bring in $10 billion a year or more.
New York will move its presidential primary from April 28 to late June 23 as deaths stemming from the new coronavirus pandemic escalate sharply.
Florida has announced it will roll out highway checkpoints to screen New York motorists fleeing the coronavirus hot spot for the Sunshine State.
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo is no longer singling out motorists from New York for restricted access to her state. Instead, she has broadened the restrictions to include all other states.
In a reversal, New York motorists with expiring vehicle safety inspections will be given extensions through the remainder of the novel coronavirus health emergency. Owners will not be ticketed for failing to replace stickers expiring in March and extending into April.
New York City’s 75,000 public school educators are facing a challenge unlike anything in their careers. For students to avoid permanent setbacks, the success of remote learning is critical.
Even as hospitals across New York become inundated with coronavirus cases, some patients are being left behind in their homes because the health care system cannot handle them all. The NYC 9-1-1 system is overwhelmed with calls for medical distress.
First-term Michigan State Rep. Isaac Robinson died yesterday, according to this mother, who said she suspects her son’s death could be related to the coronavirus. He was 44.
Michael Sorkin, one of architecture’s most outspoken public intellectuals, a polymath whose prodigious output of essays, lectures and designs, all promoting social justice, established him as the political conscience in the field, died on Thursday in Manhattan at the age of 71. His wife said the cause of death was coronavirus.
The owner of a New York City bar has been arrested for allegedly violating the social distancing order after police found at least a dozen people inside, drinking and gambling.
An evangelical Christian relief organization yesterday began setting up a massive field hospital in Central Park to help New York City cope with the crush of patients sickened by the deadly coronavirus.
The MTA’s 24-hour hotline for workers with coronavirus symptoms is constantly crashing because it’s being flooded with calls — and higher-ups are bracing for a mass sickout.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz has tested positive for coronavirus after learning she was exposed earlier this month, her office confirmed. She has “mild symptoms,” including a fever.
An FDNY auto mechanic died from coronavirus yesterday, becoming the department’s first known employee to succumb to the illness.
The number of confirmed NYPD coronavirus cases is expected to spike this morning to around 900, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said, as he revealed that more and more cops continue to call out sick.
The demand for home births is skyrocketing in New York City amid the coronavirus crisis, according to midwives and doulas — who saw an 85 percent increase in calls after hospitals began forcing women to give birth alone.
Workers at Amazon’s massive Staten Island warehouse are set to strike today until the entire 855,000 square-foot “fulfillment center” is sanitized.
The Big Apple food pantries are on the verge of collapse amid the coronavirus pandemic and could be just days away from closing without a major infusion of state and city aid, nonprofit officials said.
The 152nd meet at the Saratoga Race Track isn’t scheduled to open until July 16, but with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the entire world, fans and the horsemen who chase the rich purses there have been wondering if the track will be shut down. And even if some form of the meet does take place, what will it look like?
Over a week after Trump closed the U.S.-Canada border to non-essential travel due to coronavirus, crossings are down 90 percent — excluding trade traffic — along New York’s northern frontier.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife said that she has recovered from being ill from COVID-19 disease caused by the new coronavirus.
A German finance minister is believed to have killed himself amid concerns about the coronavirus’ effect on his state’s economy.
Employees of Mass MoCA are the latest casualties of the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. The contemporary art museum in the Berkshires announced over the weekend that it will lay off 120 of its 165 employees, effective April 11.
Some of the planes grounded by the dramatic drop in air travel as the COVID-19 pandemic plays out are parked at Albany International Airport.
Hunkered down just like a large chunk of the U.S. population, a slew of award-winning musicians played their hearts out in a virtual concert hosted by Elton John, sitting in their living rooms while exhorting viewers to stay home.
…The hour-long broadcast started at 9 p.m. and, by 9:12, they had already raised $1 million, thanks to a $500,000 donation from Proctor & Gamble and a match from FOX, which aired the program.
Following an ordered closure by Massachusetts government, the recreational segment of the cannabis industry is undertaking a new venture: hand sanitizer production to meet some of the need by hospitals across the state.
The family of John Prine says the singer-songwriter is critically ill and has been placed on a ventilator while being treated for COVID-19-type symptoms.
Award-winning CBS News veteran Maria Mercader died of COVID-19 in a New York hospital yesterday, the network announced. She was 54.
For the first time in the Apollo Theater’s 86-year history, the music hall will exclusively host online video auditions for its renowned Amateur Night because of the coronavirus shutdown.
In non-virus news…
The Saratoga Springs Fire Department responded to Saratoga Hospital last night for an oxygen leak, police said.
Guilderland town officials issued a cease and desist order for any additional cutting of trees on three pieces of property subject to the pending an environmental review for a future Costco and new apartments.
Josef Neumann, the most gravely wounded victim from a Hanukkah machete attack at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, died yesterday, law-enforcement sources said. He was 72.
The mayor of Newburgh pleaded for peace and calm after a street riot and fire broke out this weekend in the wake of a police-involved fatal shooting.
Trump says the United States will not foot the estimated $1 million-a-year bill for security for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle after the couple jetted to California amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Assemblywoman Taylor Darling, a Long Island Democrat, said she’s given the gift of life by donating her ovary eggs at a fertility clinic five different times to help other couples have kids. She cited her experience to explain why she supports the bill championed by Cuomo to legalize gestational surrogacy contracts.
Photo credit: George Fazio.