Good Wednesday morning, CivMixers, and Happy 50th Anniversary to Earth Day!
Did you know that Earth Day, which marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970, is widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, marked by more than a billion people every year?!
Well, I didn’t.
I mean, I knew it was a big thing. But that’s really sort of mind-blowing.
And it all started with a guy named Gaylord Nelson, who, at the time, was a junior senator from Wisconsin, elected to the chamber after serving two terms as governor of his home state, where he earned the title, “the Conservation Governor.”
The theme of this year’s Earth Day is climate action, and ironically, the majority of us are behind closed doors, unable to inflict our usual carbon footprint on the environment. The impact has already been felt, and the pandemic has also awakened many people to just how interconnected we all are, which underscores the need for a global effort to save the planet – after we’re done trying to save the population from the novel coronavirus.
Yeah, there’s a lot on our collective plates, isn’t there?
Usually, this day is marked by all sorts of in-person events – rallies, speeches, lobby days, etc. This year, everything has shifted online. There are so many opportunities to get involved, on the local level, for example, here’s just one example from my friends at The Adirondack Council.
At the national level, there’s this. Also, check this site out for more ideas. Also, be sure to check out the Google Doodle, which is all about bees. Bees are very cool, and absolutely necessary to the survival of our planet. They’re under a lot of stress these days – just like us, but for vastly different reasons (actually, mostly because of us).
If you were planning to take a brief foray outside today, well, better bundle up. There were more snow showers overnight, and today it’s only going to be in the mid-40s, according to The Weather Channel, with clouds and wind – a lot of wind, with gusts as high as 30 mph or more possible.
In the headlines…
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he had a “productive” meeting and a “very good conversation” with President Donald Trump yesterday at the White House where the two discussed coronavirus testing.
“The big issue was testing as everybody knows that’s going to be the next step as we go forward,” Cuomo told MSNBC. “And how do we separate the responsibilities and the tasks on testing vis-a-vis a state and the federal government and the acknowledgment that we will need to work together on this.”
Cuomo said states should regulate labs and determine where tests are taken, adding that tracing is also a state function. But the federal government’s role is to “make the supply chain work for manufacturers,” he said.
The meeting came after Cuomo’s daily press briefing, where he shared a story of two of his daughters questioning why he didn’t try harder to find test kits for the state.
The governor described the president as “inquisitive” about New York’s timeline for reopening but said Trump did not attempt to impose a deadline for that milestone. He said the two also discussed federal stimulus funding for the president’s former home state.
Cuomo said that the Navy hospital ship sent to New York City to help fight the coronavirus is no longer needed, “so if they need to deploy that somewhere else, they should take it.”
The president has said the ship, the USNS Comfort, will return to port in Virginia to prepare for its next mission.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi renewed her criticism of what she called Trump’s “total failure when it comes to testing,” saying that it has impeded the federal government’s ability to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first at-home coronavirus test.
Also in D.C. yesterday, the U.S. Senate approved a nearly $500 billion coronavirus aid bill after two weeks of stalemate and days of frenetic negotiations. The House is set to vote tomorrow.
The agreement centers around providing $380 billion for small businesses and also includes $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for disease testing. It comes after a brutal conflict between party leaders over how to pass a massive bill with the Senate in recess.
A section-by-section analysis obtained by CNN shows the deal will authorize the Paycheck Protection Program, which is currently out of money, to spend an additional $310 billion.
Two Republican senators – Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Utah’s Mike Lee – slammed the Senate for passing the $484 billion coronavirus rescue package while lawmakers remained scattered across the country.
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she may oppose the next federal coronavirus aid bill for being too small and is urging Republicans concerned about the national debt to help her raise taxes to finance items such as recurring $2,000 direct payments.
Trump announced his forthcoming executive order barring new immigration will apply only to people seeking green cards, last 60 days and won’t affect workers entering the country on a temporary basis.
The president backed away from plans to suspend guest worker programs after business groups exploded in anger at the threat of losing access to foreign labor.
Missouri is suing the Chinese government and other top institutions for the role they played in the coronavirus pandemic and the effects it has had on the state, accusing the country of covering up information, silencing whistleblowers and doing little to stop the spread of the disease, Missouri AG Eric Schmitt said.
Officials in Santa Clara County, Calif., announced late yesterday that two residents there died of the coronavirus in early and mid-February, making them the earliest known victims of the pandemic in the United States.
…It was previously believed that the first US victim of the virus was a man in Washington state who died on Feb. 29.
The federal agency led by Dr. Anthony Fauci issued guidelines that stated there is no proven drug for treating coronavirus patients, a finding that essentially reinforces Dr. Fauci’s dissent from Trump’s repeated promotion of certain drugs without evidence to support their use.
The head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic expected this winter could be deadlier than the current pandemic because it would likely coincide with peak flu season.
The novel coronavirus has mutated into at least 30 different genetic variations, according to a new study in China. This further complicates the task of finding an overall cure.
More than 3,000 nursing home residents in New York have now died from COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 cases.
Cuomo said nursing homes are responsible for accurately reporting COVID-19 positive cases and deaths to the state Health Department, as New York doesn’t specifically “run” the facilities.
An overwhelming majority of Americans say that stay-at-home orders issued throughout the U.S. in response to the coronavirus outbreak should remain in place until health experts say it is safe to reopen, according to a new poll.
Americans are increasingly hostile to China as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the U.S. and global economies and after three years of Trump administration antagonism toward the country, according to a nationwide poll released yesterday.
Trump joined mounting criticism of Harvard, saying the richest university in the country would pay back $8.6 million in relief money from a coronavirus stimulus package that the president himself signed last month.
California State University, Fullerton announced it was planning to begin the fall 2020 semester online, making it one of the first colleges to disclose contingency plans for prolonged coronavirus disruptions.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has begun notifying 280 employees they will be furloughed effective May 1 through July 31, according to an internal email shared with the Times Union.
As the coronavirus outbreak has rapidly remade American education, teachers’ unions are asserting the power they have amassed over the last few years, this time in response to the changing demands being placed on educators in the midst of the pandemic.
In a Facebook post and an interview, Jay Timmons, the head of the National Association of Manufacturers, sharply criticized demonstrators who have defied social distancing protocols.
Cuomo said New York will restart the state’s economy on a regional basis, a sharp turn from his earlier statements that implementing that type of plan could lead people to travel in large numbers to locations where businesses have reopened.
Leading the effort in the Western New York region will be Buffalo native Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who has been assigned by Cuomo to work with local leaders in monitoring public health data which will guide the process for reopening businesses in Niagara and Erie counties and across the region.
Facebook made its largest single investment by putting $5.7 billion into Jio Platforms of India, an enormous bet on the developing market and a sign of how large tech companies are forging ahead in the pandemic.
Many American department stores, which have been slowly failing over time and shoppers increasingly move online, will likely not survive the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
Chipotle Mexican Grill agreed to pay $25 million to resolve criminal charges accusing the fast food company of serving tainted food from 2015 to 2018, sickening over 1,100 people in the U.S., federal prosecutors said. The fine was the largest ever imposed in a food safety case.
As the pandemic has battered hospitals across New York and other parts of the country, there has been a sharp increase in demand for midwives who can deliver babies at home or in facilities that are not part of the traditional health care system.
New York state just issued a drastic new guideline urging emergency-services workers not to try reviving anyone without a pulse when they get to a scene, amid an overload of coronavirus patients.
A major Christian group is being sued by former customers in at least three states – including New York – who claim it sold them an alternative to health insurance that misled them about protections against large medical bills.
The coronavirus has hit the Hasidic Jewish community in the New York area with devastating force, killing influential religious leaders and tearing through large, tight-knit families at a rate that community leaders and some public health data suggest may exceed that of other ethnic or religious groups.
In a pouring rain, protestors honked horns and flashed signs outside the Executive Mansion yesterday to demand that Cuomo grant clemency to inmates with compromised immune systems as COVID-19 case are continuing to increase in New York prisons.
New York City reported another 744 new coronavirus deaths between Monday and Tuesday, a major spike that followed days of declines. The terrifying pandemic has now claimed the lives of 14,427 New Yorkers who either tested positive for COVID-19 or exhibited many of its symptoms before their deaths.
The NYC will introduce a sprawling legislative package aimed at helping New Yorkers during the coronavirus pandemic by bolstering tenant protections and requiring hazard pay for essential employees during its first-ever video conference session today.
…some Council members are questioning whether any action taken remotely will hold up in court.
The Big Apple will celebrate its “rebirth” after the coronavirus lockdown is lifted with the “greatest” ticker-tape parade ever — to celebrate the city’s health care workers and first responders, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced.
Former MTA chairman Peter Kalikow is appealing to his longtime friend Trump to help rescue his old agency from a coronavirus-induced financial wipeout.
Coogan’s, an iconic Irish pub in Upper Manhattan, closed its doors due to the pandemic lockdown and now its owners say it won’t reopen.
The venerable improv comedy troupe the Upright Citizens Brigade, founded in 1990 by a group including future “Saturday Night Live” stand-out Amy Poehler, reportedly announced that both its Hell’s Kitchen theater and its 8th Avenue training center have closed for good.
It is now “unlikely” that coronavirus-stricken former state Senate leader Dean Skelos will be released from prison into home custody, federal prosecutors revealed this week.
David Penepent, who runs the funeral services administration program at the SUNY Canton, and his students have been transporting decedents from overwhelmed funeral homes around New York City to crematories in places as far as Pennsylvania and Vermont, helping grieving families and taking some of the pressure off a system strained by the epidemic.
Albany County Sheriff’s Office, State Police and State Park Police talked a woman off the Thacher State Park escarpment, according to Sheriff Craig Apple, who predicted there will be “more of this” as people struggle with the financial hardships of the pandemic.
With the season just a month away, boaters, marina operators and tourism businesses along the 525-mile state canal system are wondering when the waterway will be open, or if it will be fully open at all this summer.
Cohoes City Court Judge Thomas Marcelle says he “might be inclined to suspect” that Cuomo’s executive order that allowed preliminary hearings for criminal defendants to be suspended during the coronavirus pandemic to be unconstitutional.
Columbia County is reporting its second spike in opioid-related overdoses since the COVID-19 crisis hit New York.
Capital Region arts organizations have begun taking advantage of federal relief programs related to losses from the COVID-19 crisis, but leaders say factors unique to cultural institutions present different challenges and opportunities than faced by commercial enterprises.
There will be no reading teachers in the Troy City School District when schools open in September for the 2020-21 school under a budget proposal designed to close a $2.93 million budget gap that was presented to the Board of Education last night.
The city and Discover Albany will hold a Virtual Tulip Fest to showcase the city’s blooming flowers over the next few weeks.
Philip Foglia, an Italian-American civic leader who spear-headed campaigns to honor Mother Cabrini and preserve Christopher Columbus statues in NYC, died after contracting the coronavirus.
Over a week after he was spotted out and about in the Hamptons, coronavirus-stricken CNN anchor Chris Cuomo has released a video of his “official re-entry” from his quarantine.
Former First Lady Matilda Cuomo thinks her two sons are “putting on a great show” when they take to the national TV airways with their brotherly banter.
In appreciation for the healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters and paramedics who are committed to our health and safety, McDonald’s will offer free Thank You Meals, starting today and running through Tuesday, May 5, as a token of appreciation for their selfless service.
In non-virus news…
The Albany Capital Center is now a certified film-production facility, meaning any production filmed inside the ACC is eligible for an Empire State Film Production tax credit, the center announced.
A patched and leaky roof over the Milton town hall has shuttered the offices and courtroom until further notice.
A-Rod and Jennifer Lopez, who are engaged, reportedly have retained J.P. Morgan to represent them in raising capital for a possible bid for the New York Mets.
Photo credit: George Fazio.