Rise and Shine: April 13, 2020

Good Monday morning, CivMixers.

It’s Easter Monday, which is a day of celebration in some countries, notably Canada and Australia, where it’s a day when folks are supposed to get outside and enjoy the fresh air.

Unfortunately, after a fairly nice – albeit windy – holiday weekend here in the Capital Region, during which many people celebrated from afar, today is NOT looking like a good day to be spending time outdoors, with another wind advisory in place through tonight (gusts of up to 50 miles per hour are in the forecast, according to The Weather Channel).

We’re also looking at rain this morning, with potential thunderstorms in the evening, and temperatures in the mid-60s.

So, it’s a good day to be inside, and perhaps indulge in the observance of National Scrabble Day.

Most of us weren’t planning on going anywhere anyway as the “PAUSE” put in place by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus continues.

Social distancing appears to be working, as the number of fatalities and hospitalizations continues to drop, though the fatality rate is incredibly high, with yesterday marking six straight days of deaths in the 700s in New York.

Cuomo is also predicting growth of COVID-19 cases in the rural and suburban areas of the state, now that things seem to be calming down somewhat in the epicenter of New York City.

The number of confirmed COVID cases in New York City surged past 100,000 yesterday morning, according to the Health Department. The exact number came to 102,504 as of 9 a.m., with 5,789 death.

Some concerning news from the CDC, which says new research of air samples of hospitals with coronavirus patients found the virus can travel up to 13 feet.

The number of American deaths from coronavirus passed 21,000 yesterday, but Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said that the country is close to a peak in the pandemic.

More than 3,600 deaths nationwide have been linked to coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, an alarming rise in just the past two weeks, according to the latest count by the AP.

…In all, nearly 2,000 residents of nursing homes have died in the outbreak in the tri-state region, and thousands of other residents are sick.

In Suffolk, the number of people hospitalized with the virus fell for the first time since the pandemic began, said County Executive Steve Bellone, who called the news “a bit of light in the darkness we have been in,” but also warned there’s “still a long way to go.”

Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio continue to battle over whether schools in the five boroughs will remain closed through the end of this academic year, as the mayor desires.

The mayor reportedly told only a select few people about his decision Friday to keep the city’s 1,800 public schools closed through the end of June – including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, who gave his blessing.

…De Blasio didn’t tell Cuomo about this significant development until Saturday morning, just a few minutes before his public announcement, and then did so via text after an attempt to reach the governor on the phone was unsuccessful.

The mayor defended his decision to keep city schools closed until the fall over the coronavirus crisis — calling it a “moral question” amid his battle with Cuomo over policy-making power.

The governor said that he wants New York to reopen non-essential businesses and public places “as soon as possible,” and pledged to work with his counterparts in New Jersey and Connecticut to determine when the state could emerge from lockdown safely.

Cuomo briefly showed up at the Pathways Nursing and Rehabilitation Center Easter morning to thank its operator for offering to donate ventilators.

Employers in New York state must now provide protective faces masks for all workers, a new executive order from Cuomo mandates.

Cuomo called on Congress and the president to repeal the SALT provision of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to provide relief to residents of high-tax states like New York and California amid the pandemic.

President Donald Trump reposted a tweet from a supporter who called for Fauci to be fired after the doctor said more lives could have been saved from the coronavirus if the country had been shut down earlier.

Fauci admitted that earlier mitigation against the outbreak would have likely lessened the death toll, but said the idea got “pushback.”

Fauci said that the economy in parts of the country could have a “rolling reentry” as early as next month, provided health authorities can quickly identify and isolate people who will inevitably be infected with the coronavirus.

Dr. Tom Frieden, a former CDC director and former NYC Health Commissioner, said it’s “not too late to do better” in fighting the pandemic.

A Fox News host fired back at Trump after the president took aim at Chris Wallace, host of “Fox News Sunday.”

Democratic 2020 White House contender Joe Biden’s plan to beat the virus and re-open the American economy was printed in the New York Times.

“The administration’s failure to plan, to prepare, to honestly assess and communicate the threat to the nation led to catastrophic results,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee wrote. “We cannot repeat those mistakes.”

Cuomo and Biden have a personal friendship that has grown into a crucial political alliance as the two men have emerged as pillars of the Democratic Party in a national crisis.

There’s a growing call for Cuomo to be on the ticket in the fall – perhaps as Biden’s running mate, or even replacing the former vice president at the top of the ticket – but the governor has repeatedly insisted he’s not leaving New York and his current job.

“Mechanically, it is now next to impossible for the governor to enter the race. Even supporters of the idea acknowledge Mr. Biden would have to decline or become unable to accept the Democratic nomination—leading to a floor vote at the party convention—for Mr. Cuomo to have a shot.”

…But 2024 might be a different story, depending on how things play out this fall. (And quite a lot of other things, too).

Tara Reade, a former U.S. Senate aide, has accused Biden of assaulting her in 1993 and says she told others about it. A Biden spokeswoman said the allegation is false, and former Senate office staff members do not recall such an incident.

As social-distancing requirements curbed Easter celebrations around the world, officials warned that early signs of success in slowing the spread of the new coronavirus shouldn’t mean a quick lifting of lockdown orders.

Oil-producing nations yesterday agreed to the largest production cut ever negotiated, in an unprecedented coordinated effort by Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States to stabilize oil prices and, indirectly, global financial markets.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed his gratitude to the staff of the National Health Service for saving his life when his treatment for the coronavirus could have “gone either way” as the U.K. yesterday became the fourth European country to surpass 10,000 virus-related deaths.

A surge of Chinese people returning from Russia, which is now experiencing its own spike in infections, has fueled the largest increase in reported new cases in China in more than a month.

Japan’s Hokkaido prefecture, which accounted for the country’s highest number of coronavirus infections as the pandemic initially swept through Asia, has seen a sudden uptick in cases, causing government officials there to declare a state of emergency less than a month after lifting a similar order.

The IRS said over the weekend it has started sending coronavirus stimulus payment to eligible Americans who have direct deposit.

…But at least 197,000 taxpaying New Yorkers will miss out on coronavirus relief payments from the federal government because of a legislative roadblock put in place by Republicans, according to data from the state Taxation and Finance Department.

The $2.2 trillion package that Congress approved to offer financial help during the coronavirus pandemic has one major exclusion: millions of immigrants who do not have legal status in the U.S. but work here and pay taxes.

The Cuomo administration was slammed Friday by state lawmakers over the snafus that have resulted in benefit payment delays to hundreds of thousands of jobless New Yorkers, as a new Google-created application system was unveiled to try to ease the backlogs.

Job losses in the Buffalo Niagara region and across Western New York have been significantly higher than in most other parts of the state – except for Long Island – since the coronavirus outbreak started shutting down much of the economy in mid-March.

With its 288 parishes closed due to the coronavirus crisis, donations have plunged 50 percent — to less than $1 million a week — in the New York Archdiocese, spokesman Joseph Zwilling said.

NYC hospitals are on the verge of running out of swabs desperately needed for coronavirus tests, according to reports and city officials.

New York City’s academic hospital systems are losing some $350 million to $450 million a month each as they respond to a surge of patients with the novel coronavirus, while its independent and smaller hospital systems are being pushed to the financial brink and may soon be unable to make payroll, according to a top official.

Medical experts throughout NYC are divided on whether or not the nation’s war with coronavirus will result in another baby boom now that couples have nowhere to go.

FDNY statistics show that the number of New Yorkers who refuse to be taken to hospitals has more than doubled amid the coronavirus crisis — with EMTs blaming the situation on fear of contracting the deadly disease.

The construction of thousands of below-market-rate apartments in New York City has been put on ice over coronavirus — even though the developers are allowed to continue building amid the outbreak.

The ravages of the coronavirus pandemic have extended into the meat industry, as a major pork processor announced Sunday that because of infections among employees, its plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, will close until further notice.

…Slaughterhouse shutdowns are disrupting the U.S. food supply chain, crimping availability of meat at retail stores and leaving farmers without outlets for their livestock.

Walt Disney World plans to stop paying wages to 43,000 workers in about a week while allowing them to keep their benefits for up to a year in what is the largest wave of furloughs since the theme park resort closed in mid-March because of the new coronavirus spread.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS had planned to stream a concert of Disney songs to raise money for the coronavirus fight, but canceled the program when a union demanded compensation for musicians.

Minority business owners have always struggled to secure bank loans. Now, many banks want to deal only with existing customers when making loans through the government’s $349 billion aid package.

Law enforcement officials statewide are stepping up efforts to ensure compliance with executive orders signed last month by Cuomo banning social gatherings and requiring non-essential businesses to shut down.

The first influx of federal stimulus funds will do little to address growing coronavirus costs facing colleges and universities in the Capital Region, which have begun issuing refunds on room and board to students sent home for the term to prevent the spread of COVID-19, school officials say.

One day after the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced they would be releasing people vulnerable to COVID-19 from detention facilities, multiple detainees at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility tested positive for the deadly disease.

Just three months after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, several biotech companies are beginning trials of promising vaccines and treatments.

Although Albany Medical Center just received a donation of face masks, staff are still being asked to re-wear one-time-use masks for rationing purposes, according to nurses protesting Saturday morning.

A New Jersey doctor’s blood was found to have high levels of virus antibodies. Researchers plan to use it to treat other patients.

Long Islanders who are recovering from COVID-19 can sign up this week to donate their plasma for two local clinical trials that could help patients still struggling with the potentially deadly virus.

A Long Beach attorney has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the City of Long Beach’s closure of the city’s boardwalk in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Women won the right to vote 100 years ago, and New York had big plans to celebrate. Then the virus hit, and now state leaders are helping move exhibits online and creating virtual tours to make sure the pandemic doesn’t erase history.

Already facing an uncertain summer and fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, large entertainment and sports venues also risk exposure to coronavirus-related lawsuits once they open their doors.

“Saturday Night Live” emerged from the pandemic quarantine ashes with a fresh, if unconventional, episode Saturday night — including a cold opening “Zoom” montage with cast members phoning it in from their own kitchens and living rooms.

Assemblyman Nader J. Sayegh, a Yonkers Democrat, announced his 90-year-old mother died of COVID-19.

RIP Anthony Causi, a longtime photographer for The NY Post whose prolific talent and larger-than-life personality made him a beloved and respected figure throughout the New York sports world, who died yesterday from the coronavirus at North Shore University Hospital. He was 48.

In non-virus news…

A contingent of Saratoga County supervisors, concerned the board hasn’t held one meeting in April despite pressing financial and public health issues, will set up their own meeting Tuesday through a video platform.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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