So, tomorrow is the big day. The day that much of the state begins to un-PAUSE.
I am feeling a mixture of nervousness, eager anticipation and outright dread.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo today expanded the number of regions able to participate in the phased-in re-opening to five, adding Central New York to the mix. (The others, to refresh your member are: Finger Lakes, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and the North Country).
Phase one allows regions to resume manufacturing, construction and agricultural operations and retailers to reopen with limitations.
I don’t think anything in my immediate future is going to change. I’m still going to be working from home, social distancing and wearing a mask in stores. But the mere knowledge that we are slowly moving back toward some semblance of pre-COVID normal…even while recognizing that nothing will likely ever be normal again, is reassuring.
And then there’s this, which is both sobering and terrifying.
Also in the news today…
1) The House Democrats are forging ahead with their $3 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, known as the HEROES Act, even as Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledges the measure faces very long odds of being approved in the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate.
“We’re putting our offer on the table, we’re open to negotiation,” Pelosi said as her members prepare to vote on the act tomorrow.
The White House, meanwhile, issued an official veto threat on the legislation, accusing Democrats of wanting to pass “long-standing partisan and ideological wish lists” rather than addressing the nation’s public health and economic challenges.
The Trump administration was particularly put out about the Democrats’ decision to make some undocumented immigrants eligible for the second round of $1,200 direct relief payments, and also for including a $25 billion “bailout” for the U.S. Postal Service in the bill and for funding vote-by-mail and same-day registration priorities.
2) An employee who worked at an Amazon warehouse on Long Island has died from COVID-19, further escalating pressure on the online retail giant to disclose the number of its workers who have either tested positive of passed away as a result of contracting the virus.
George Leigh, 59, worked out of Amazon’s Bethpage distribution center, known as DNY4. He died on April 9. His passing marks the sixth known case of an Amazon worker who has died from the virus, following reports of deaths in Jeffersonville, Indiana; Waukegan, Illinois; Staten Island, New York; Hawthorne, California, and Tracy, California.
Warehouse workers have urged the company to put in place greater safety protections, including providing paid sick leave and closing down facilities where there are positive cases for additional cleaning.
3) A federal lawsuit was filed today against the newly released federal guidelines on how allegations of sexual assault should be handled for educational facilities from grade school to college campuses.
The lawsuit states that these new guidelines severely undermine the civil rights of potential victims. This suit was filed by four advocacy groups for sexual assault survivors, including Girls for Gender Equity and Know Your IX.
Under the new rules, protection for victims under the Obama era will be erased with more protections established for alleged attackers. The suit and many victim advocates argue that allowing the accused to have live hearings and perform cross-examinations will allow them to intimidate victims and make it harder for them to achieve justice.
The federal suit was filed in Maryland, in the US District Court. The American Civil Liberties Union actually filed the suit, with Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, a New York-based law firm. The suit names Education Secretary DeVos and Kenneth Marcus, who is the assistant secretary of the DOE’s civil rights. There was no response to the suit from the department.
4) Speaking of education and lawsuits, a number of Capital Region colleges are facing class-action suits filed by students over tuition and fees paid the spring and summer semesters that were moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lawsuits are creating additional financial troubles for colleges and universities already reeling from losses associated with room-and-board refunds, which were issued to students sent home during the pandemic.
Administrators say these reimbursements will set colleges back millions of dollars and that federal stimulus funds – should they come – will only make up a fraction of the burden.
5) In non-virus news: A former state Senate lawyer convicted of misdemeanor assault for whipping his ex-girlfriend with an electrical cord and slapping her in the face was suspended from practicing law for six months.
Robert Nickol, 34, who served as the counsel for late state Sen. William Larkin, was convicted in Albany County Court in 2018 of two counts of misdemeanor assault. State Supreme Court Justice Peter Lynch sentenced Nickol to three years’ probation in January 2019.
Photo credit: George Fazio.