Good morning, CivMixers. It’s Wednesday. Hump Day is here.
If you are an early riser, you might like to know that a VERY large asteroid – a bit over a mile wide (2 km) and mostly spherical – is scheduled to make a pass near early shortly before 6 a.m. Now, it’s about 4 million miles away, so there’s noting to worry about, per se.
Originally spotted in 1998 by astronomers and tracked for about 20 years, the monstrous asteroid is traveling at a rate of 19,461 miles per hour and will pass Earth from a safe distance of 3.9 million miles — or 16 times the distance between the Earth and the moon.
Here’s the kicker: The asteroid looks like it’s wearing a face mask.
Nope. Didn’t make that up. Not one iota.
We’re going to have partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-60s today. And you better soak that up while you can, because according to The Weather Channel, we’re in for three straight days of rain after this. Boo.
But Sunday, ah, Sunday. The forecast says we’ll hit the 70 degree mark that day. Something to look forward to – in a social distancing sort of way.
In the headlines…
California joined growing ranks of U.S. states and countries around the world preparing to ease coronavirus-containment measures, with many planning gradual rollbacks to help reduce the potential for new waves of infections. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. confirmed cases of the new coronavirus topped one million.
Total deaths in seven states that have been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic are nearly 50 percent higher than normal for the five weeks from March 8 through April 11, according to new statistics from the CDC. That is 9,000 more deaths than were reported as of April 11 in official counts of deaths from the coronavirus.
The number of Long Island fatalities officially attributed to COVID-19 appears to significantly undercount the virus’ true toll, according to a Newsday analysis of death certificate data kept by municipal clerks.
Invoking the wartime Defense Production Act, President Trump signed an executive order paving the way for meat-processing plants to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic, as hundreds of workers have fallen ill and concerns mount about food-supply shortages.
Trump suggested that new federal payments to help states deal with the coronavirus pandemic could depend on whether or not they were home to sanctuary cities.
The Mayo Clinic, the renowned medical center in Minnesota, has a clear policy in place during the coronavirus outbreak that any visitor should wear a protective face mask, which Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the White House’s coronavirus task force, flouted during a tour yesterday.
Pence later suggested to reporters that he did not need to wear a mask because he is tested regularly for the virus, and does not have it.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading public health expert on Trump’s coronavirus task force, said this week that it might be very difficult for major sports in the United States to return to action this year.
Despite Trump’s prediction that “I think you’ll see a lot of schools open up,” all but a few states have suspended in-person classes for the rest of the academic year, and some are preparing for the possibility of shutdowns or part-time schedules in the fall.
Government data to be released this morning (gross domestic product figures) will almost certainly show that the U.S. economy shrank in the first quarter at its fastest rate in a decade. But the numbers will hardly begin to reflect the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
…Hours after that release, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will host a press conference and possibly unveil new monetary policy measures to help keep the economy afloat.
Millions of those one-time COVID-19 stimulus payments are still on their way to Americans. The coronavirus shutdown, however, could have economic effects for months. Now, political leaders are turning to proposals for putting more income in Americans’ hands – including a universal basic minimum income.
A new legal and political front is coming into view as the nation starts to ease public health limits that have crippled the economy: Will business owners fear lawsuits and stay closed anyway?
The race for a vaccine to combat the new coronavirus is moving faster than researchers and drugmakers expected, with Pfizer joining several other groups saying that they had accelerated the timetable for testing and that a vaccine could be ready for emergency use in the fall.
As other nations in Europe begin to consider reopening their economies, the experience in Sweden, which never locked down at all, would seem to argue for less caution, not more.
The Greeks have been dogged by years of instability, but their government’s response to the coronavirus has won praise from citizens.
The new coronavirus appears to linger in the air in crowded spaces or rooms that lack ventilation, researchers found in a study that buttresses the notion that COVID-19 can spread through tiny airborne particles known as aerosols.
…That had been previously demonstrated in laboratory experiments, but now Chinese scientists studying real-world conditions report that they captured tiny droplets containing the genetic markers of the virus from the air in two hospitals in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak started.
Three children with the coronavirus in New York are also being treated for a rare inflammatory condition, similar to the one that has sparked concerns in the UK and Italy.
As New York prepares to let businesses reopen with the easing of the coronavirus pandemic, the state will have measures in place that will signal another outbreak of the disease and the need to curb activity once again, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
In particular, if either the hospital system in an area of the state hits 70 percent of capacity or if the rate of transmission reaches 1.1—meaning for every person who has the virus, another 1.1 are infected—that would constitute what Cuomo called a “circuit breaker.”
State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said she’s willing to consider increased taxes on millionaires and billionaires in response to the governor’s administration announcing billions of dollars of spending cuts because of revenue shortfalls caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio called on the state-controlled MTA to close 10 end-of-line subway stations between midnight and 5 a.m. so that trains can be cleaned and city workers can better offer people homeless services.
The governor said he wishes he had “blown the bugle” about COVID-19 earlier.
Cuomo accused various world and federal health groups, as well as the news media, of not sufficiently warning the world of the coronavirus outbreak. “Where were all the experts?” he asked, insisting that “governors don’t do global pandemics.”
…Cuomo’s handling of the crisis in New York has resulted in a spike in his popularity, but more critical evaluations of the state’s overall response have increasingly emerged with the mounting death toll, particularly in comparison with other states and cities that have had less serious outcomes thus far.
The NY Post’s Michael Goodwin writes: “(T)he governor’s clear understanding of the special circumstances nursing homes face deepens the mystery about why he allowed his Department of Health to force sick patients into those same facilities.”
The construction industry, an engine that has helped power New York City’s tremendous growth in recent years, is slowly starting to reawaken, offering one of the first optimistic economic glimmers as the city struggles to recover.
The economic toll of this crisis is catastrophic by any measure. The psychological cost is incalculable. It’s one thing to reopen a restaurant. It’s another thing to convince people it’s safe to eat dinner out. Or go out at all.
The recent suicides of a top city ER doctor and EMT could be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the mental-health fallout among health care workers battling the coronavirus, experts say.
The virus outbreak supercharged a continuing shift in the markets, with a few giant companies now exerting the most influence over the direction of stocks since the tech boom.
Hundreds of people lined the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn for a funeral of a local rabbi, a gathering that brought the NYPD and de Blasio to Brooklyn to break it up, with the mayor saying the city has “zero tolerance” for such large events at this time.
In a series of tweets, de Blasio denounced the gathering and warned “the Jewish community, and all communities” that any violation of the social-distancing guidelines in place to stop the spread of the virus could lead to a summons or an arrest.
At least 17 workers at New York’s airports have died from the coronavirus, and dozens more have been infected.
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called for state and federal rent cancellations for tenants struggling to pay their bills during the coronavirus pandemic.
New York City prosecutors have declined trials for dozens of criminal cases in which arrests were made since the coronavirus struck, citing court closures and public health concerns associated with incarceration.
Nearly 170 employees from New York’s court system have been infected with coronavirus and four have succumbed to the bug — including a judge who passed away yesterday morning, officials said.
Antibody tests that show whether someone has recovered from the coronavirus are being rolled out to primary care offices and urgent cares across NYC.
Former Democratic president contender Andrew Yang is boosting his profile in New York, does he want to be mayor of NYC?
Yang and a group of candidates seeking to represent him at the party’s national convention sued New York for canceling its presidential primary, saying the move tramples on the voting rights of millions of the state’s residents.
State and federal primary elections are still happening in New York on June 23, and they include a number of important congressional races.
A polite virtual town hall with a bipartisan lineup of eight New York Congressional representatives put a pause on politics to focus on the collective frustration and uncertainty with the COVID-10 pandemic.
School leaders from across the country — including New York schools boss Richard Carranza — want $200 billion in coronavirus aid from the feds to prevent layoffs.
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will not recommend that schools be freed of any of their obligations to educate students with disabilities during the coronavirus pandemic, the Education Department announced this week.
The Big Apple’s emergency effort to feed seniors during the coronavirus pandemic has left some with no meals at all and others — including those who keep Kosher — having dietary restrictions ignored.
With the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the nation’s economy, there are moratoriums on rent, late utility bills and other payments that countless Americans normally make every month. Now, anti-gambling activists are calling for a month-long Lottery moratorium in New York and elsewhere.
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand proposed allowing the Postal Service to offer banking at its 30,000 locations all across the country to boost the agency’s financial health and allow more Americans access to banks.
Chanting “Open New Jersey now!” and defying social-distancing guidelines by congregating, a few hundred protesters gathered in Trenton to denounce the near-lockdown orders Gov. Phil Murphy instituted to slow the fast-moving spread of the coronavirus in the state and pressure him to lift them.
Simon Property Group plans to reopen malls in 10 states across the country (not New York) between Friday and Monday, the nation’s largest mall owner said.
Put out of work by the societal coronavirus shutdown, two Capital Region moms turned their love of baking cookies into a smash-hit business in less than two months.
During a visit to Syracuse for his daily coronavirus briefing, Cuomo said the New York State Fair can’t go on this year unless the entire state is open.
Former state Senate leader Dean Skelos has been moved from prison to home custody due to the coronavirus pandemic, federal prosecutors informed a judge in a new court filing.
A 101-year-old New York woman survived the Spanish flu pandemic when she was a newborn, and she’s just recovered from COVID-19.
The City of Buffalo has a $35 million year-to-date budget deficit and could run out of money by Friday.
Cristina Cuomo is in good health after becoming ill with the coronavirus, she declared in an Instagram post last night. She recommended supplements to defeat the virus included a vitamin IV drip, Peruvian tree bark and bleach baths.
In non-virus news…
Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee and a political veteran who knows firsthand what it is like to compete against Trump, threw her support behind Joe Biden, the latest party leader to make the case for returning the White House to Democratic hands in November.
Biden won Ohio’s presidential primary, clinching a contest that was less about the Democratic nomination and more about how states can conduct elections in the era of the coronavirus.
This week, the U.S. Department of Defense formally released three Navy videos that contain “unidentified aerial phenomena.” Enthusiasts were encouraged, though there was nothing new.
Norman Seabrook, the former head of the NYC correction officers’ union, deserves a new corruption trial because the star witness against him lied on the stand and has been accused of several fraud schemes since then, according to court papers filed yesterday.
After turmoil at his company, Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO and chairman, is more actively and visibly in charge than he has been in years.
Matt Toporowski, who is challenging David Soares for the Democratic nomination for Albany County district attorney, said he believes marijuana should be legalized and that if elected, he would decline to prosecute some cases.
Under newly adopted state rules, real estate agents and brokers must notify prospective buyers, sellers, renters and landlords about anti-discrimination laws and prominently display information about how customers can file complaints.
The Greater Amsterdam School District appointed Richard Ruberti Jr. last night as its newest superintendent of schools.
The Cohoes Common Council unanimously approved a one-year moratorium last night on the burning of firefighting foam with potentially hazardous PFAS compounds, effectively preventing Norlite from restarting the incineration process that it used to fuel part of its operations.
A massive water-main break knocked out service for much of Jersey City, N.J., and residents there and in neighboring Hoboken were instructed to boil their water as a precaution.
Irrfan Khan, a veteran character actor in Bollywood movies and a one of India’s best-known exports to Hollywood, has died. He was 54.
Photo credit: George Fazio.