Rise and Shine: April 2, 2020

Good Thursday morning, CivMixers.

Here’s something I can really get behind: It’s National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, an entire DAY dedicated to the world’s most perfect food combination. Really, peanut butter and anything is a good combination…and peanut butter all on its own is glorious.

Did you know that the average American will have eaten over 2000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by the time they graduate from high school!? (I’m definitely WAY beyond my quota).

It’s also the 13th annual World Autism Awareness Day.

We’re looking at another fairly typical early spring day, with temperatures around 50 degrees and a mix of clouds and sun, according to The Weather Channel.

The 2020 state budget is officially late. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo said yesterday he has a deal with legislative leaders on a budget for the state’s new fiscal year, which comes as New York faces an unprecedented coronavirus crisis that threatens to dry up its tax revenue.

Voting on budget bills resumed yesterday afternoon and was expected to continue well into the night. Few lawmakers were actually present in their respective chambers, with most voting remotely to conform with social distancing guidelines. Two of the most important bills – education and health care – are still MIA as of this morning.

Whether New York will miss out on $6 billion in federal funds slated for a portion of the state’s Medicaid program amid the coronavirus pandemic was unclear late yesterday as lawmakers continued negotiating details of the budget deal.

So, what’s in the agreement then, well, for starters, it:

– Authorizes Cuomo’s office to withhold certain state aid payments to local governments if the coronavirus hurts tax revenue worse than expected
– Holds education aid for school districts flat from the previous year
– Legalizes e-bikes and e-scooters, with certain restrictions
– Proposes a $3 billion environmental bond act, which will require voter approval. (Officials have authority to cancel the vote depending on the bond market).
– Bans food containers and packing peanuts made of polystyrene foam — known to most as styrofoam — beginning in 2022.
– Adds “e pluribus unum” to the bottom of the state seal and flag, a pet project of the governor’s.

Also…

– Bail laws will be amended to lengthen the list of crimes subject to bail or pretrial detention.
– $40 million will be earmarked to county prosecutors to accommodate new discovery laws that compel them to turn over evidence to defense attorneys quicker.
– “Green” energy projects will have a new “fast track” process. Single-use polystyrene foam containers will be banned beginning in 2022.
– A version of Cuomo’s “prevailing wage” proposal — guaranteeing union-level wages on certain publicly funded projects — will be included.

The budget talks were conducted with an unusual degree of secrecy, even by Albany standards. It includes an agreement on creating a system of campaigns financed by public funds and provisions that minor parties like the Working Families Party fear will eventually harm their ability to stay on the ballot.

The state is slated to receive $1.1 billion of federal stimulus money to support K-12 education; but according to the budget bills, New York will reduce each district’s allocation by the same amount they are getting from the federal government. (Foundation aid is frozen, just like in 2009).

The delayed budget led to a snag in payroll for 120,000 state workers given that the due date of April 1 also lined up with payday. That meant delayed direct deposits for state employees, including those who are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, which angered PEF President Wayne Spence.

Sixteen thousand New Yorkers could die from coronavirus before the pandemic scourge is defeated, Gov. Cuomo said yesterday, as the state’s death toll approached 2,000 and the city enacted new restrictions to curb the spread of the disease.

Albany Medical Center has begun accepting COVID-19 patients from the hard-hit New York City area, as hospitals there struggle to keep up with a surge of infected patients. Fourteen patients from Jamaica Hospital and Flushing Hospital in Queens were transported via ground and air to Albany late Tuesday night.

Capital Region school districts will continue to provide online instruction through spring break, according to guidance from the state Education Department officials.

The order drew opposition from some teachers who were planning to use the time as a break from NYC’s swiftly improvised foray into remote learning on March 23. But UFT President Mike Mulgrew is supportive.

A group of about 70 students from the University of Texas at Austin celebrated spring break in Mexico, then returned to find that dozens had tested positive for COVID-19.

New Yorkers are struggling to file claims for unemployment benefits, as applications have inundated the state’s Department of Labor. Cuomo has apologized for the inconvenience. The state’s Department of Labor is hiring more staff, extending hours and adding computer servers to address the flood of claims.

In a sudden and sharp reversal of policy, the state now says the real estate industry is an essential business that can continue to operate during the business shutdown, as long as everyone complies with social-distancing rules.

The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision is now allowing all staff to wear either an N-95 respirator or surgical-type mask while on duty inside of correctional facilities, but they have to bring their own.

…DOCCS also will allow inmates subject to quarantine to wear surgical-type masks.

TU columnist Chris Churchill doesn’t think Cuomo’s virus-era popularity can last.

NYT columnist Ben Smith: At a moment when that intangible, direct-to-camera quality of public leadership has turned Cuomo into a national hero, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is filling a different role: Punching bag.

The new coronavirus has struck hardest in working-class neighborhoods in New York City’s outer boroughs, city data shows, underlining how the pandemic has ravaged densely packed lower-income areas where social-distancing guidelines have proved difficult to implement.

To help ensure that supplies go where they are needed in the virus-slammed five boroughs, de Blasio said that James P. O’Neill, the former police commissioner who is now an executive with Visa, was returning to oversee operations and logistics related to the virus outbreak.

Cardiac arrest victims whose hearts cannot be restarted at the scene are now being left there — rather than being brought to coronavirus-strained hospitals for further revival attempts, according to a new guidance for NYC medical responders.

All New York City’s playgrounds were ordered shut yesterday to slow the spread of the coronavirus — a move that led to scenes of crying children shaking locked gates, even as other parkgoers called the measure long overdue.

As the coronavirus epidemic enters its second month, the casualties in New York are starting to severely tax the city’s ability to accommodate its dead. With more than 1,000 deaths so far and thousands more projected, city officials are working hard to stave off an emergency and 45 mobile morgues have been deployed.

Some customers prefer outdoor greenmarkets to shopping inside during the coronavirus outbreak. Last week, rules were introduced in NYC to keep the markets safe.

Spouses and partners being cramped up together because of the coronavirus pandemic is creating a huge surge in visits to New York City’s website for domestic violence survivors.

Doctors have observed neurological symptoms, including confusion, stroke and seizures, in a small subset of Covid-19 patients.

If you thought last week’s gauge of U.S. layoffs was ugly, brace yourself for an even more brutal tally tomorrow as the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic mounts.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, who has become a regular at President Trump’s coronavirus briefings, will receive enhanced personal security after receiving threats following his repeated pleas for Americans to help slow the spread of the deadly pandemic, officials said.

Fauci said recently published research that suggests the coronavirus can travel 27 feet and linger airborne for hours is “terribly misleading.”

Trump is resisting calls to issue a national stay-at-home order to stem the spread of the coronavirus despite his administration’s projections that tens of thousands of Americans are likely to be killed by the disease. One by one, though, states are increasingly pushing shutdown orders of their own.

While Trump has assured states that thousands of ventilators remain at the ready, thousands more are in storage, unmaintained or otherwise unusable.

A Manhattan real estate mogul and longtime friend of Trump slipped into a coma after a coronavirus diagnosis, influencing the White House’s change of heart for an Easter Sunday relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions.

The U.S. Coast Guard has directed cruise ships to prepare to treat any sick passengers and crew on board while being sequestered “indefinitely” offshore during the coronavirus pandemic.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said his state was willing to accept Floridians on board two Holland America cruise ships seeking to disembark in Florida after more than 190 guests and crew reported flu-like symptoms, including eight passengers who tested positive for COVID-19.

Analysts at UBS say booking volume for 2021 cruises has “gone up 9 percent in the last 30 days versus the same time last year,” despite many cruise ships currently quarantined amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump said that officials are considering temporarily limiting flights to and from “hot spots” in the United States that have seen significant numbers of coronavirus cases.

Italy’s official death toll from the virus stands at 13,155, the most of any country in the world. But that number tells only part of the story because many people who die from the virus don’t make it to the hospital and are never tested.

The authorities in Panama, alarmed by widespread violations of its quarantine rules, have announced new restrictions, dependent on gender. Under rules that will be in place for the first 15 days of April, men and women will have separate days that they are permitted to leave their homes.

The FBI reported a 41 percent surge in background checks by individuals attempting to purchase firearms in the United States last month, according to newly released data from the agency, a significant increase over the same period last year.

The Democratic National Committee is facing rising pressure from officials across the country to delay the party’s July convention in Milwaukee, with the original date — and format — for the mass gathering looking increasingly untenable amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Former Vice President Joe Biden last night called for moving the convention from mid-July to August, making him the most prominent member of his party to say the convention must be rescheduled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

As the coronavirus outbreak began spreading last month, doctors across the country cancelled tens of thousands of non-urgent surgeries so that hospitals and medical professionals could begin clearing bed space and freeing up staff to prepare for the now-growing number of coronavirus patients.

Insurance premiums could spike as much as 40 percent next year, a new analysis warns, as employers and insurers confront the projected tens of billions of dollars in additional costs of treating coronavirus patients.

U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer called on Trump to appoint a senior military official to serve as a czar in charge of producing and distributing medical equipment, arguing that the president’s coronavirus task force is not up to the job.

The mayor of Los Angeles urged 4 million residents to wear masks to combat the coronavirus when they walk out in public, even as state health officials shied away from requiring a coverup.

The government says it will begin disbursing loan money to company owners and freelancers Friday under the Paycheck Protection Program, part of the $2 trillion relief package signed into law last week.

New Yorkers who filed their 2019 federal tax refunds weeks ago complain that the state Tax Department is foot-dragging in delivering thousands of dollars of refunds owed them amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Some three dozen NYISO employees have volunteered to be sequestered at their job site in order to make sure the state’s electricity grid continues to operate smoothly.

Workers from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ East Greenbush drug manufacturing facility have been volunteering long hours to help the company make a key component of COVID-19 test kits.

The number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the Capital Region is steadily increasing, and some local counties have started providing that data at the request of the Times Union.

Staff from New York Oncology Hematology located at Patroon Creek Boulevard in Albany teamed up with the Albany Police Department and other first responders to show their support for medical staff and chemotherapy patients.

June Farms has decided to temporarily stop renting cabins after receiving criticism on social media for appearing to appeal to New York City residents traveling in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce is asking its members to respond to a brief survey about the impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on their businesses.

In case you need a smile.

With much of the world staying home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, animals have ventured out where normally the presence of people would keep them away.

Lawyers for former Western New York Republican Rep. Chris Collins asked a federal judge to delay his imprisonment until June 23 because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Lyft has partnered with the National Council on Aging to offer free rides to the caregivers of elderly individuals.

Late night TV is soldiering on…with hosts broadcasting from home.

Actor Samuel L. Jackson performed a dramatic reading of a (parody) book called “Stay the f— at home” on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

A player for the Philadelphia Union has tested positive for coronavirus. It is Major League Soccer’s first player case of the virus that has caused the suspension of the season.

A New York City radio reporter who covered the coronavirus containment zone in Westchester infected at least six people at her mom’s 90th birthday party in New Jersey — some of whom later died, according to a heartbreaking report.

CNN news anchor Chris Cuomo said that he not only chipped a tooth but also hallucinated and saw his late father, former New York governor Mario Cuomo, during a “freaky” first night after his diagnosis.

“I never experienced any kind of fever like what I have going on all the time, and the body aches, and the tremors and the concern about not being able to do anything about it,” Chris Cuomo said.

Gov. Cuomo said he was “frightened” by his younger brother’s coronavirus diagnosis.

Beloved pop culture icon Dolly Parton will begin a weekly web series tonight called “Goodnight With Dolly,” where she’ll read a bedtime story.

Authorities in East Hampton, N.Y., have initiated what the police chief called “a full court press search” after accomplished photographer Peter Beard was reported missing from his home near Montauk Point on Tuesday evening. Beard, who is 82 years old, has dementia and wandered away from his house.

RIP Ellis Marsalis Jr., 85, the jazz pianist, teacher and patriarch of one of New Orleans’ great musical families, who has died after suffering from COVID-19 symptoms.

RIP Emmy and Grammy winning musician Adam Schlesinger, 52, co-founder of the band Fountains of Wayne, who died yesterday due to coronavirus complications at a hospital in upstate New York, his longtime attorney, Josh Grier, confirmed.

RIP Kevin Thomas Duffy, a federal judge who presided over decades of high-profile trials in Manhattan, including those of mob bosses, radical revolutionaries and the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. He died yesterday in Greenwich, Conn. at the age of 87 after contracting COVID-19.

In non-virus news…

A court in Pakistan overturned the death sentence and murder conviction of a British-born militant for the 2002 slaying of journalist Daniel Pearl.

Cuomo wants the de Blasio administration to pay millions in fines every month unless the New York City Police Department moves its tow pound from Pier 76 in Manhattan.

With more sun and warmer temperatures on the way, local officials are urging boaters to take caution and be prepared when heading out onto the water.

The city of Troy’s Little Italy neighborhood is getting nearly $1.2 million in the first year of a two-year makeover that is intended to repair the neighborhood’s deteriorating streets.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said a father and son were injured when their car crashed on Clay Hill Road in the town of Fort Ann Tuesday at about 3 p.m.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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