Rise and Shine: April 1, 2020

Good Wednesday morning, CivMixers. It’s April 1, and I kind of feel like the joke’s on us these days.

Every day I wake up to a blissful few moments of not remembering what’s going on in the world. And then it hits me: Oh, yeah, Groundhog Day. Is anyone else having that experience?

On a more positive note, because who needs to hear my navel gazing, really…the Google Doodle today celebrates the life and career of doctor and pioneering disease scientist Dame Jean Macnamara on what would have been her 121st birthday.

Mcnamara was born in Australia on this day in 1899. A polio epidemic struck Melbourne in 1925 – the same year she graduated from medical school. Her research on the disease, in collaboration with future Nobel Prize winner Sir Macfarlane Burnet, eventually led to the discovery that there are multiple strains of polio. The findings would be important later on when a polio vaccination was developed in 1955.

She also found many new methods of treatment and rehabilitation for children, which included splints and restraining devices, throughout her lifetime.

The work of health care professionals – researchers, in particular, who are racing to find treatments and, ultimately, a vaccine, for the novel coronavirus – is ao crucial at this moment. It’s also helpful to remember that we, as a species, have faced down serious illnesses before (like polio) and won.

Hopefully, we will be able to do it again this time around.

It looks like it’s going to be a fairly nice April Fools’ Day, (which apparently has been cancelled?! Google, notably, is taking the year off from observations), with clouds in the morning giving way to sun in the afternoon and temperatures in the low 50s, according to The Weather Channel.

From a more sobering perspective, today is a very significant day because it’s the first of the month, which means the rent is due for millions of New Yorkers – and Americans – who aren’t working as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The vast majority of tenants will be getting a reprieve through federal, state or local moratoriums on evictions.

No one knows for sure how many renters in New York City will have a hard time paying, but landlords and the real estate industry say they are bracing for perhaps as many as 40 percent of tenants, if not more, skipping their April payments.

Also, state lawmakers were passing budget bills late into the night, though it’s not entirely clear what’s IN the deal, and it’s also not fully approved. So, in other words, the budget is late.

There’s paycheck uncertainty for state workers as conflicting directives from state budget officials and the comptroller’s office have thousands trying to figure out if their checks are coming today.

Budget Director Robert Mujica asserted that state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli already had the “legal authority to make payments” to ensure thousands of state employees are paid this week. The comptroller’s office disagrees.

At last report, the governor and lawmakers were at loggerheads over his proposed restructuring of the state’s Medicaid program, which critics charge would cut hospitals as coronavirus rages and cost New York City at least $1.6 billion.

Despite Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s threats to forgo the federal funding, state budget officials have suggested that New York will use a portion of enhanced federal Medicaid matching rate dollars approved earlier this month to “soften the edges” and hold off on some of the MRT II’s proposals.

Another major sticking point: Rolling back last year’s bail reforms. Cuomo and Senate Democrats appeared to be on the same page conceptually about language that would change the contentious law. But Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie reportedly walked away from talks on the subject. (See above link).

Not in the deal: Legalization of cannabis for adult recreational use. In: A lot of other stuff (surprisingly). Not clear: How much schools are going to see their state aid cut as a result of the pandemic and attendant economic fallout.

Lawmakers warned their constituents of looming cuts, as the Cuomo administration contends it has not received enough help from the federal government to maintain current spending levels.

Today is Census Day, the 24th time the nation has conducted the count since the first one in 1790. It’s also being conducted under the threat of COVID-19 that’s shut down businesses and social life around the nation, and officials and activists are very worried hard-to-count communities will be even more elusive this year.

In the headlines…

Can the economy really come roaring back from the coronavirus recession as soon as this summer, as President Donald Trump has promised? Economists, not surprisingly, disagree.

The bipartisan partnership that propelled a $2.2 trillion economic rescue package through Congress just days ago is already showing signs of strain, raising questions about how quickly calls for massive followup legislation may bear fruit.

The top government scientists battling the coronavirus estimated that the deadly pathogen could kill between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans, in spite of the social distancing measures that have drastically limited citizens’ interactions and movements.

“This could be a hell of a bad two weeks,” Trump said during a briefing at the White House yesterday afternoon, then quickly expanded upon his own dire assessment: “This is going to be three weeks like we’ve never seen before.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci calmly told Americans that we can “get over this” if we continue to observe strict shutdowns and social distancing. “We really have to hang in there,” Fauci told CNN. “So let’s all hang in there together. We will get over this and this will end.”

As many as 25 percent of people infected with the new coronavirus may not show symptoms, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns — a startlingly high number that complicates efforts to predict the pandemic’s course and strategies to mitigate its spread.

Across Asia, countries and cities that seemed to have brought the coronavirus epidemic under control are suddenly tightening their borders and imposing stricter containment measures, fearful about a wave of new infections imported from elsewhere.

A chorus of governors from across the political spectrum is publicly challenging the Trump administration’s assertion that the United States is well-stocked and well-prepared to test people for the coronavirus and care for the sickest patients.

In hospitals across New York City and elsewhere in the country, nurses and doctors are complaining about a lack of safety equipment, insufficient staffing, murky policies and other challenges.

Nurses and doctors at Jacobi Medical Center are on a “suicide mission” — exposed, along with their patients, to coronavirus because of inadequate protective equipment, a veteran nurse at the Bronx facility said.

As infection from the coronavirus spreads — and with it, fear — hospitals are facing extraordinary tension between health care providers and administrators.

Hospitals are threatening to fire health-care workers who publicize their working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic – and have in some cases followed through.

More than 500 paramedics and emergency medical technicians, 2,000 nurses and 250 ambulances are heading to New York City from across the United States to shore up a health care system that is being buried under an avalanche of coronavirus patients.

Forty-five health care workers across the Albany Medical Center health system have tested positive for COVID-19, with roughly one-third of them contracting the novel coronavirus on the job, hospital officials said.

A cutting-edge manufacturing center at SUNY New Paltz is using its 3-D printers to produce hundreds of face shields daily that are being used by health care facilities and medical personnel at drive-up coronavirus testing sites in that region.

New York City accounts for the largest number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Yesterday morning, the city reported 40,900 cases and 932 deaths.

Every night at 7 p.m., people around the city lean out of their windows or take to the sidewalk to clap, yell, bang pots or ring cowbells to show their appreciation for essential workers.

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo went on the air last night hours after revealing he tested positive for coronavirus. The TV host — and brother of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — assured his viewers that he was well enough to go through with his show — but added, “You don’t want to get this.”

The governor said he is confident his brother will be fine, given that he is young and in good shape. “But there is a lesson in this,” Gov. Cuomo added at a press conference. “He’s an essential worker, a member of the press. He’s been out there. You go out there, the chance you get infected is very high.”

The interim NYC transit boss has a message for her fellow city denizens: If you are not an essential worker needed on the front lines of this pandemic, please stay home.

Transit officials in New York City are struggling to run a reduced subway service as the number of workers infected with the new coronavirus rises rapidly and as thousands more workers are quarantined or call out sick.

The federal Bureau of Prisons said that it would keep thousands of inmates at facilities nationwide locked in their cells with limited exceptions for the next 14 days as officials try to stem the spread of the coronavirus after one prisoner died and more prisoners and staff tested positive for the disease.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency-use authorization for a new coronavirus test that can provide results in as little as five minutes, a potential game-changing development in the country’s battle against the deadly pandemic.

The fate of two cruise ships, one of them stricken by coronavirus, remained uncertain as they headed toward Florida today.

The CDC is re-evaluating its recommendations that people not wear face masks in public in an effort to reduce transmission of the virus. (Here’s how to make one yourself at home).

How should the U.N. General Assembly and its 193 member states respond to the coronavirus pandemic? Members have been sent two rival resolutions for consideration.

Costco Wholesale Club will now offer three senior shopping hours a week amid the coronavirus pandemic and is allowing “those with physical impairments” to also participate of of today.

The owners of small ethnic grocery stores across the Capital Region are starting to worry about keeping their shelves stocked with flavors of home as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts trade, shipments and customer shopping patterns.

Amid concerns about the spread of COVID-19, Tops Friendly Markets once again is offering customers single-use plastic bags. The move comes after New York pushed back enforcement of its plastic-bag ban to May 15 from April 1 as the state DEC deals with a ban-related lawsuit now delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

New York City’s human-rights watchdog is investigating Amazon.com Inc. over allegations that Chris Smalls, an employee at a Staten Island warehouse, was fired for helping to organize a walkout over work conditions in the midst of the new coronavirus pandemic, city officials said.

Nearly a quarter of New York City’s paramedics are out because of illness or injury — as the number of 911 calls for medical service surge during the coronavirus outbreak.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams wants to unify cops serving other city agencies under the New York Police Department as more and more NYPD officers fall ill during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he has been “assured” the evangelical Christian charity overseeing the makeshift Central Park hospital will not discriminate against patients.

With the coronavirus ravaging the five boroughs, the old Navy Yard — one of few large manufacturing centers remaining in the city — is again pitching in during a national crisis as a hub for fighting the pandemic, producing desperately needed medical supplies, such as face shields, hand sanitizer and hospital gowns.

Freshman Democratic Staten Island Rep. Max Rose announced that he would deploy with the National Guard today to assist the hard-hit city’s coronavirus response efforts, making him the first member of Congress to do so.

“Over the past month I have seen acts of incredible bravery and sacrifice by our first responders, nurses, doctors, and essential workers,” Rose said. “…My activation and deployment is nothing compared to what our city, state, and country has asked of all them. And it’s certainly nothing compared to the other men and women serving in uniform both here at home and overseas. I am just trying to do my duty and my small part.”

Walmart will begin taking the temperature of its employees at retail outlets and distribution centers in the next few weeks.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the state Labor Department released this year’s preliminary February unemployment rates for different metro areas and counties. Statewide, private sector jobs numbered 8,362,600, an increase of over 75,000 from the previous February. The unemployment rate also dropped by 0.1 percent in the same time span across the state.

Community Care Physicians has opened a drive-through testing option in Latham for patients who are suspected to have COVID-19. It is the first testing site in the Capital Region that is unaffiliated with a hospital.

As hospitals have ended community testing, saving their remaining coronavirus tests for those who need them the most, the scope of the disease’s impact on first responders is becoming clearer.

Many Americans are asking for help for the first time in their lives. Biting back shame, and wondering guiltily about others more in need, they are applying for unemployment, turning to GoFundMe, seeking money on Instagram, quietly accepting handouts from equally strapped co-workers, and showing up in unprecedented numbers at food banks.

A wide array of Capital Region businesses and nonprofits are having to temporarily lay off workers amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Citing the impact of the COVID-19 health criss, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival has announced the cancellation of its 2020 summer lineup along with layoffs and other workforce changes.

Facing criticism for furloughing workers after it was granted $25 million in federal coronavirus relief funding, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts defended its need for the bailout and outlined its plans for the money.

General Electric Co.’s unions are calling for GE to start making ventilators in Schenectady and other sites across the country where GE has been laying off workers amid the coronavirus outbreak.

More than two dozen golf courses in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady Counties have opened or have target dates to open within the next few days. A majority of those that are closed are waiting for their courses to dry out. They are implementing social distancing measures.

The Saratoga Springs City Center and its builder Bette and Cring will continue construction on the Flat Rock parking garage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Booze sales across America have surged during the coronavirus pandemic. According to the market research firm Nielsen, sales of alcoholic beverages rose 55 percent in the week ending March 21.

Manhattan Democratic state Sen. Brad Hoylman has introduced legislation called the COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Donation Credit, which would make those who contracted the disease and recovered eligible for a $1,000 tax credit if they donate some of their blood plasma for research.

As schools, workplaces and public services shut down in the age of coronavirus, online connections are keeping Americans in touch with vital institutions and each other. But that’s not much of an option when fast internet service is hard to come by.

Public and charter schools in New York City and across the state have been ordered to cancel the scheduled April spring break and instead continue to provide remote instruction to students amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is seeking to end his federal prison sentence early because of fears over coronavirus — but prosecutors are arguing that he may well be safer behind bars than heading back to New York.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a cheerful and funny video game for the Nintendo Switch, has become a social-media sensation in the era of social distancing

Star Wars actor and dialect coach Andrew Jack is dead at age 76 due to complications from coronavirus, his agent confirmed. He is one of many celebrities who have succumbed to the deadly virus.

Using the hashtag #LifeImitatesArtAlbany, the Albany Institute of History and Art is inviting online visitors and art lovers to recreate paintings and scenes from the museum’s collection in their own homes.

The coronavirus is closing down one of Buffalo better known restaurants. The Billittier Family announcing that effective Saturday April 4th at 8pm, both Chef’s Restaurant in Buffalo and Chef’s On The Go in Amherst will temporarily close for business. They will reevaluate when to re-open on May 1.

Here’s a weird internet rumor that’s not true.

In non-virus news…

The Trump Administration and Republican attorneys general are moving forward with a lawsuit to strike down the Affordable Care Act even as they’re encouraging the 3 million newly unemployed workers in the US to sign up.

An injunction will keep Mohawk Ambulance Services as the city’s first responder for emergency calls until a court case is resolved, the Common Council president said last night.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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  1. 5 Things That Happened While You Were Out: April 1 | CivMix - […] Liz said in this morning’s Rise and Shine, today is April Fool’s Day. The tradition of April Fool’s Day goes…

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