Rise and Shine: April 27, 2020

Good Monday morning, CivMixers. Welcome to another week on PAUSE, which may well be coming to an end – of sorts – in the not-so-distant future. But more on that in a moment.

On this day in 2018, an historic summit took place between Korean leaders, the North’s Kim Jong-un and the South’s Moon Jae-in, during which they agree to officially end Korean war and rid peninsula of nuclear weapons.

Now, a lot of other interesting stuff took place on this day in history. But this particular moment seems noteworthy as we collectively wonder about the status of the current leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, who missed the celebration of his grandfather’s birthday on April 15 and hasn’t been seen in public since.

U.S. officials are said to be monitoring Kim Jon Un’s health, which may or may not be in jeopardy. The South, by the way, says he’s “alive and well,” but a U.K. news outlet reported that Kim, 36, had received a cardiovascular procedure because of “excessive smoking, obesity, and overwork” and may now be receiving treatment in a villa in Hyangsan County.

Of course, speculation is rampant online, and North Korea hasn’t done anything to dispel these rumors.

It’s all very mysterious.

There’s plenty of news occurring right here on our own shores. But much of it is so downright depressing that speculating about the health of the leader of a foreign nation has become a welcome distraction…speaking for myself, that is.

As for distractions, if you were hoping to find some outside today, you’re going to get wet, it appears. The Weather Channel says we’re in for showers throughout the day, with temperatures in the high 40s. And yes, there might be some snow in the mix. Whomp, whomp.

Oh, and by the way, it’s National Devil Dog Day. You’re welcome.

In the latest virus news…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo sketched out a rough road map for New York’s coronavirus comeback — which could see some “low-risk” state businesses open by mid-May.

“With certain precautions, after May 15” (when the current PAUSE order ends), construction projects and manufacturing jobs may be able to resume in certain regions, the governor said.

Cuomo cautioned that the Centers for Disease Control has said that coronavirus hospitalizations must decline for 14 days before reopening.

The governor’s announcement, coming as the state recorded its lowest death daily toll in nearly a month, was filled with caveats, but nonetheless offered the clearest outline yet for recovery in New York, the national center of the outbreak, with nearly 17,000 dead.

More than 400 Big Apple residents succumbed to confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus Saturday into Sunday, raising the combined death toll to nearly 17,000, City Hall statistics show.

It looks like upstate, which was hit far less hard than New York City by the virus, will be allowed to lead the way in re-opening, while the governor warned that a broader reopening of the southern part of the state would be “problematic” and require coordination with New Jersey and Connecticut officials.

New York State will have its eye on a key number, the rate of transmission, as officials determine to what degree the state should reopen.

Cuomo’s cautious embrace of a phased-in reopening comes even as other states — largely led by Republican governors — have been more aggressive about such plans.

Tennessee, Mississippi and Montana are set to lift some coronavirus lockdown restrictions today, with certain businesses that can practice social distancing allowed to welcome customers again.

New York neighbor Vermont is also slowly moving toward reopening.

Cuomo says he can envision baseball games being played without fans this summer at Yankee Stadium and the Mets’ Citi Field, telling the industry: “Be creative. Try to figure it out.”

The Chinese Professional Baseball League is one of the only pro sports leagues in the world currently operating. They even have bench-clearing brawls and cardboard cutout “fans.”

President Donald Trump last night denied he was going to fire Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, tweeting: Reports that H.H.S. Secretary @AlexAzar is going to be ‘fired’ by me” are false.

Trump’s erratic handling of the coronavirus outbreak, the worsening economy and a cascade of ominous public and private polling have Republicans increasingly nervous that they are at risk of losing the presidency and the U.S. Senate if the president does not put the nation on a radically improved course.

After more than a month of near-daily White House coronavirus press briefings, Trump stayed behind closed doors on Saturday after advisers reportedly warned the president that his appearances were hurting his campaign.

In a rambling Twitter outburst, Trump complained that he gets no credit for working long hours on the coronavirus crisis and called on Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters to be stripped of their “Noble” prizes for critical reporting about him.

Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the White House coronavirus task force’s top public health officials, said Americans should expect to continue practicing social distancing through the summer.

There is no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 are protected from a second infection, the World Health Organization warned Saturday as the worldwide death toll topped 200,000.

Antibody tests, which show who has been infected, are often inaccurate, recent research suggests, and it is not clear whether a positive result actually signals immunity to the coronavirus. But widespread testing is nonetheless underway, and the lynchpin of many re-opening strategies.

A clinical trial is underway at major New York hospitals to test the efficacy of heartburn medication, in combination with the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, on coronavirus patients.

Bootleg coronavirus home testing kits are flooding the internet and posing a potential “disaster” in the fight to stem the pandemic, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warned.

Italy has outlined plans to ease the strict restrictions it imposed seven weeks ago to curb the spread of the coronavirus. While the country begins to open up slowly, many Italians understand that their lives will not be the same.

Prisons across the world have become powerful breeding grounds for the coronavirus, prompting governments to release hundreds of thousands of inmates in a mad scramble to curb the spread of the contagion behind bars.

While the city and the state struggle to stem the spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said bail reform measures that took effect Jan. 1 have freed thousands of dangerous prisoners and turned the five boroughs into “cuckoo-land.”

Cuomo doubled down on the state’s controversial directive ordering nursing homes to admit COVID-19 patients.

The federal government is taking steps toward a more equitable distribution of COVID-19 funds when applications open today for the second round of Paycheck Protection Program relief loans.

The Trump administration will impose limits on how much individual banks can lend under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) due to the program’s high demand among businesses seeking relief from effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

This comes after it was revealed that dozens of large but lower-profile companies with financial or legal problems have received large payouts under the PPP, according to an analysis of the more than 200 publicly traded companies that have disclosed receiving a total of more than $750 million in bailout loans.

A consultant for the state is predicting that the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic will be deeper and the recovery longer than the 2008 Great Recession and that which followed the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001.

Business filings under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy law rose sharply in March, and attorneys who work with struggling companies are seeing signs that more owners are contemplating the possibility of bankruptcy.

New York City’s population already was declining before the pandemic sent some fleeing. A COVID-19 exodus could leave the city without the workforce it needs to attract businesses and without the tax revenue it relies on to provide vital services.

Citing her work with the ThriveNYC initiative, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed that his wife, First Lady Chirlane McCray, a rumored contender for Brooklyn borough president, would co-chair a Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity as the city plans its eventual reopening.

School districts around New York are struggling to develop budgets for the coming academic year with the prospect of cuts in state aid as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

As the virus has continued its spread into suburbs and rural towns, overwhelming hospitals and emergency medical workers, it also has taken a toll on scores of volunteer emergency response units, many of which are the sole responders in critical and urgent situations.

The peak of the coronavirus epidemic in New York City — when paramedics were declaring scores of people dead a day — has passed, at least for now. Yet the virus still casts a shadow over everything they do. And when it resurfaces, it does so swiftly and with a vengeance.

Every hospital in New York has struggled to cope with the pandemic, but the outbreak has laid bare the deep disparities in the city’s health care system.

A Navy hospital ship is offloading patients as it gets ready to set sail from New York City, the state is starting to test health care workers and first responders for coronavirus antibodies and data shows hospitalizations for the disease fell to their lowest level in three weeks.

The US Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds will roar above the New York Metropolitan area tomorrow in tribute to workers fighting to stem the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

There was a big win yesterday for taxi and other for-hire drivers delivering free meals to homebound New Yorkers during the pandemic – a pay increase.

New York officials are canceling several June elections in the hopes of reducing density at the polls amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Cuomo issued an executive order Friday requiring state election officials to send postage-paid absentee ballot applications to all voters amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The state Board of Elections will meet today to consider canceling the Democratic presidential primary, after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sander’s departure from the race left only former Vice President Joe Biden on the ticket. (Sanders supports are urging New York not to call off the election).

Although immigrants seem to make up the lions’ share of frontline workers, they also often slip through the safety nets made for Americans during the pandemic, said Steve Choi, the Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

Students at Long Island University, Columbia University and Pace University are suing their schools to refund part of their tuition and fees after coronavirus forced their classes to move online for the rest of the semester.

Police on Long Island have issued far fewer speeding tickets during the coronavirus crisis as drivers largely stay home and off the streets, but police say some motorists are taking advantage of relatively empty roads to put the pedal to the metal.

Former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has won his on-again, off-again battle to be released to home confinement from the federal prison in Otisville, according to a court filing.

Cuomo plans to slash aid to localities by $8.2 billion and cut state agency budgets by 10 percent unless new federal aid comes through in the coming weeks, according to an updated state financial plan released over the weekend.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the next coronavirus stimulus package will include federal funding for hard-hit cities and states “in a big way” – a promise that came as U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was less committal about the level of aid.

Staff cuts could be coming to the city of Rochester. A city spokesperson confirms Mayor Lovely Warren is expected to announce an unknown number of layoffs in the city’s 3,000 employee workforce.

The City of Ithaca announced to city employees that it would begin seeking an unknown number of furloughs via an email from Mayor Svante Myrick, who called the decision “regrettable” but the best solution for the city’s long-term future.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh is pleading with the federal government to include aid for local and state governments in the next COVID-19 stimulus package, saying his city is now projected to lose $30 million – mostly from sales tax as stores are closed and shoppers are forced to stay home.

With the entertainment world shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, the Met staged an At-Home Gala on Saturday that would have been inconceivable to the Vanderbilts and Morgans who helped found the company in 1883.

In non-virus news…

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to invoke a provision in the Iran nuclear agreement, which the Trump administration pulled out of in 2018, in an effort to either extend an arms embargo on Iran or reimpose even harsher United Nations (UN) sanctions.

Louis Puliafito, a 62-year-old Republican doorman, now has a strong chance to win an Upper East Side Assembly seat thanks to a pre-election ballot fluke involving three-term Democratic incumbent Rebecca Seawright.

A project to repair a New York City subway tunnel connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan has been completed ahead of schedule, despite the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

After months of consideration, Schenectady County officials have come up with their plans for a $1.55 million Nott Street safety improvement project.

Former MSNBC host Chris Matthews said in his first interview since retiring from the network that the allegation of harassment leading to his ouster was “highly justified.”

Richard Hake, a WNYC news host, reporter and producer for the past 28 years, died on Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 51. His cause of death is not yet known.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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