Happy Monday CivMixers!! I hope you all enjoyed the weekend, it was nice and offered the opportunity to get some outdoor time in. Today was flat-out gorgeous, and a nice day to work outside if you have the setup to do so. (Editor’s note: Woah. I need to work on that).

I haven’t figured out yet if these nice days make the isolation of COVID-19 easier or harder. In some cases, it is easier – you get out of your house and appreciate small things. Like grass. And birds. And tree buds.

On the other hand, it makes you realize that you are stuck in your home more often than not and more or less everything is shut down anyway, so why bother?

Overall, I think it helps a bit AND makes it more frustrating. I know that doesn’t necessarily make sense, but we are living in a time of contradictions and confusion, so it makes as much sense as anything at the moment.

I have nothing pithy or witty to say about the news over the weekend as my wife and I made a conscious decision to unplug. After a rough day on Friday, we just needed to not flood ourselves with news coverage because we both have to pay attention during the week for our work, and it was just taking a toll.

It did truly help, and our daughter especially seemed to appreciate our improved moods.

We watched OnWard,, which is my daughter’s new obsession. It was good, especially for a kid’s show. The first time we watched it was great. The fourth time today – as now she will watch nothing else, and we have seen it in whole or in part over the past three days – well, actually it still held up pretty well, so highly recommended.

There are quite a few other movies that studios either released to stream early or directly since theaters are shuttered, so if you are bored with the same old things, be sure to check out what may be out or coming out.

April, if you weren’t already aware, is the month of Earth Day. We’ve actually marked that day on April 22 every year for the past 50 years, as this year marks its 50th anniversary. The whole month of April is actually Earth Month. Many places have had to cancel large events due to the ongoing pandemic. However, there are plenty of virtual events that are still happening if you want to get involved.

Well CivMixers, I guess it is that time. Let’s get to it, shall we?

1) The death toll in the United States from COVID-19 rose above 10,000 today, with this grim milestone really starting the week off in a difficult place. We have moved to third in the international death toll count, behind Italy with over 16,000 COVID deaths, and Spain with 13,055. The population of those two countries is just a fraction of ours, though, with approximately 332 million in the U.S., approximately 62 million in Italy and Spain at approximately 50 million.

We still have the most cases reported worldwide with close to 350,000 positive tests. President Donald Trump did warn that this week would be one of the roughest yet since the virus hit our shores. Trump has seemed to realize the depth of the danger, finally, recognizing that there will be many more deaths before COVID-19 has stopped its rampage across the country.

At this point, all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four out of the five U.S. territories are reporting COVID cases, with only American Samoa missing from the tally list. It is believed that the real range and reach of the virus remains unknown due to unreliable test results and a lack of testing overall.

New York is still the country’s epicenter of the virus, with over 130,000 cases and a death toll of 4,758 people. We have also led the country in testing, with over 320,000 conducted.

At least 9 states are reporting over 10,000 COVID-19 cases:

  1. New York: 130,689
  2. New Jersey: 37,505
  3. Michigan: 15,718
  4. California: 15,201
  5. Louisiana: 13,010
  6. Massachusetts: 12,500
  7. Florida: 12,350
  8. Pennsylvania: 11,643
  9. Illinois: 11,260
  10. 2) In non-virus news…An inferno at the Southwest Florida International Airport raged over 15 acres on the airport property for roughly 12 hours and eventually claimed thousands of rental cars. The call went out to the Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting Department around 5 p.m. on Friday. The forestry department declared the blaze under control Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

    Originally 20 cars that were located in what is known as the overflow lot for rental cars were involved, but the final number reported by the Lee County Port Authority was over 3,500. Thick clouds of black smoke hung over the area and could be seen miles away. The Florida Forestry Service, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, the Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting Department, and other additional fire departments fought the blaze, with both ground and air support.

    No structures were affected, according to a spokesperson for the airport, who thanked everyone for assisting in battling the fire. Officials determined that somehow the brush of the overflow property area ignited and that brush was part of the reason for how quickly the blaze spread. There were no reported injuries.

    The cause of the fire is being investigated.

    3) A grim side note to the overwhelming number of the COVID-19 sick and hospitalized in New York City is an equally overwhelming number of dead bodies, and nowhere to put them all. There are plenty of rumors and misinformation floating around, including a report that temporary graves would be located in one of the many public parks in the five boroughs.

    Councilman Mark Levine, chair of the Health Committee, said the possibility was raised during that talks with the chief medical examiner’s office that the dead may soon outnumber the ability of the morgues in the city – both in and out of hospitals. Levine stated that this was when the possibility of a mass grave in a public park came up. The actual park was not named, and both the medical examiner’s office and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed that the plan had been discussed and was under consideration, but had not yet been approved and certainly is not in place.

    All possibilities are currently being reviewed, including mass temporary burials with retrieval and reburial of victims to be worked out with individual families at a later date. As of right now, though, there’s reportedly still room in the city’s morgues.

    Asked about these rather grim discussions, Governor Andrew Cuomo said during his daily briefing with reporters at the state Capitol that he hadn’t heard anything of the sort. Levine, meanwhile, took to Twitter to say that the idea was merely hypothetical and would not be implemented if the virus death rate continues to drop.

    He did not manage to dispel the confusion his initial comments caused, and many people are now calling for Levine to stop being “irresponsible” with disseminating sensitive information.

    The medical examiner’s office has been employing refrigerated trailers – including 45 rushed into service just last week – to serve as backup for morgues and hospitals overwhelmed by bodies. Levine mentioned these trailers as well, stating that they are almost at capacity and pushing again the need for a “temporary internment” plan.

    Indeed, thanks to COVID-19, the number of overall deaths per day in the city has tripled. De Blasio did confirm that “temporary internment” may well be required, but at the moment he believes the numbers are manageable and further discussion of this topic only serves to upset people.

    4) Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed again that there is a possibility that we are close to – or maybe actually at – the apex for COVID-19 within the state as both the number of hospitalizations and people who are critically ill and on ventilators declined for the second day in a row.

    Cuomo stressed that any progress we are making can disappear in an instant if people do not continue to strictly follow social distancing and public health protocol guidelines. To that end he extended the state’s PAUSE period out (non-essential workers stay home, schools and most businesses remain closed etc.) out to April 29.

    To emphasize how seriously he is taking breaches of the social distancing and public health policies he has put in place, Cuomo announced that he is rising the fine for anyone who is found in violation from $500 to $1,000

    New York’s COVID-19 numbers as of earlier today stood at:

    • Positive COVID Cases – 130,689
    • COVID Cases Hospitalized – 16,837
    • Those In ICU – 4,504
    • People Discharged – 13,366
    • Deaths from COVID – 4,758
    • In other news, it was announced that this year’s Regents exams have been cancelled.

      Also still surging: Unemployment claims. There are widespread reports that New Yorkers trying to file claims are being frustrated by busy signals and crashing websites at the Department of Labor. The Cuomo administration says Google is going to step in to help fix the issues.

      5) If you know a kid who had to miss out on celebrating their birthday because of the COVID-19 crisis, the Burnt Hills Fire Department wants to hear from you. Yesterday they posted on Facebook that they are offering to do what they are calling a “fire truck drive-by” for those children who had a canceled party or other missed birthday celebration due to social distancing protocols.

      While talking how the department could give back to the community during the COVID crisis, Captain Steven Mudge said this idea caught (ahem) fire. The entire department is fully on board, even as they face increased challenges trying to respond to calls while protecting themselves and the public during social distancing.

      The drive-bys should start tonight, and all will be after 5 p.m. due to driver schedules. If you are interested in scheduling one you should contact the department on their Facebook page.

      That’s all for tonight guys. Have a good night, and we will be here again tomorrow, same time, same place. Fingers crossed that the numbers continue to drop. Stay home. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Flatten the curve.

      Photo credit: George Fazio.