Does anyone else want the weather to clear itself up? Starting the weeks with pre-spring weather and ending them with summer humidity is not a trend I want to continue. I am not knocking hot weather; I am just hoping that the weather will find a more steady routine and stick with it.

The weather has changed so much and so rapidly, that the Capital Region is currently under a Tornado Watch until 10 p.m. A watch just means that the conditions maybe, possibly be just right for a tornado or two to pop up.

Just make sure that you have all alerts turned up, and batteries in those flashlights in case it does get super stormy.

Five upstate regions are unPAUSing today. No matter where we are and whether our region is one that begins its phased re-opening (spoiler: the Capital Region is only at 5/7 as of this afternoon) today or not, it is forward momentum, and that is better than staying still or moving back.

I know that in today’s Rise and Shine, it mentioned that today is Peace Officer’s Memorial Day, but it is so much more than that.

Today, we are celebrating National Pizza Party Day, National Chocolate Chip Day, National Endangered Species Day, National Bike to Work Day (irony abounds), National Nylon Stocking Day, Nascar Day, and National Defense Transportation Day.

Every May 15 is National Chocolate Chip Day, to honor the day when the chef at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, MA – Ruth Graves Wakefield – in 1937 decided to give in to her curiosity and cut up a semi-sweet Nestle bar to add to a cookie recipe. She signed this stroke of genius over to Nestle in 1939, and from then on, cookie dough – both before and after being baked – has never tasted better.

It just so happens that today is also the third Friday of May, which makes it National Pizza Party Day.

So fire up your preferred video chat or call those in your quarantine bubble, place a pizza order, make some Toll House cookies, throw some money to your favorite endangered species, grab The Sims (or a comparable) game and bike to work (maybe you work nights?), put on some nylon stockings, grab your tank and watch some Nascar while thanking a Peace Officer.

Also, let’s get to the wrap-up, shall we?

1) Half-sisters Truvenia Clarece Campbell, 31, and Vanita Richardson, 19, were found dead under the Etowah Bridge in Rome, Georgia, according to the Rome Police Department (RPD) and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).

Richardson was a high school senior who was about to graduate from Armuchee High School in the Floyd County School District this week. The two were found on Wednesday morning, both with bags placed over their heads and with multiple shotgun shells by their bodies.

Brian Johnston, assistant special agent in charge of the GBI, is running the investigation. He said that it appears that the women were dropped off the bridge and the authorities are looking for a gold 1997 Toyota Corolla that the women seen in the night before their bodies were found.

The GBI is hoping that someone saw something either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning that could lead to further information. If anyone saw something, they are encouraged to call 1-800-597-TIPS (8477) to contact the GBI.

2) Across the nation today, certain areas of many states started phased re-openings.

That included many of the more sparsely populated regions of Maryland, New York, and Virginia. As mentioned, here in New York five out of 10 different areas were allowed to open after hitting all 7/7 of their required virus-related benchmarks. The Capital Region and New York remain short of the requirements, and are still on PAUSE, as the governor has extended the stay-at-home order through May 28.

For those businesses opening, there are huge backlogs of jobs and assignments stacked up since March.

Throughout New York, the longest-running epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, the tide of infections is finally turning consistently down. There has been such improvement that Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined leaders of neighboring states of Connecticut, Delaware, and New Jersey in vowing to at least partially re-open beaches for the big Memorial Day Holiday weekend.

In Maryland and Virginia, a similar scene unfolded, with less populated areas allowing multitudes of businesses to start back up, but extending stay-at-home orders for cities like Baltimore and Washington DC in the hopes of preventing any COVID spikes.

This phased re-opening is forming more along not only demographic lines but also political ones. Democratic governors have taken more cautious approaches to re-open, phasing it open and putting benchmarks up to prevent new secondary outbreaks. Republican governors, meanwhile, are pushing for faster re-openings to restart their flagging economies, worrying more about jumpstarting their economies than worrying about secondary outbreaks.

There is an eagerness across the country and political lines to start the country back up again. Not only are people sick of staying at home, but the economy is also indeed suffering from stay-at-home orders that have closed down small businesses.

Today the Democratic-led House took another step towards approving a $3 trillion bill to double the aid that Congress has passed to help the public deal with the toll the new coronavirus crisis has caused. (Votes are expected tonight).

The Republican-led Senate, meanwhile, is denouncing the Democrats’ HEROES Act, and pledging it won’t get passed in the upper house in its current format.

President Donald Trump is encouraging states to open, going against public health expert warnings – including those who are his own advisors. He has a re-election campaign that he started on the concept of a strong economy, and that seems to be influencing some of his decisions. He has flown in the face of Dr. Anthony Fauci in particular, who has warned that re-opening too soon will likely lead to more outbreaks.

Trump also announced today that the US would work on developing a vaccine with other countries, but made it abundantly clear that the feels the country is done with the pandemic and can move on.

“Vaccine or no vaccine, we’re back.”
-President Donald Trump

Trump has also shown support for protestors against stay-at-home orders – including those who have shown up armed.

3) The first of what I imagine will be quite a few lawsuits filed against Cuomo, and state Attorney General Letitia James was filed this week alleging abuse of power during the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

The suit was filed by HoganWiilig PLLC, a Western New York firm that received a cease and desist order from James after allowing employees to continue reporting to work amid the stay-at-home essential business order issued by the governor.

The law firm is in Getzville and states it was declared an essential business in March by the state Dept. of Economic Development. James nevertheless hit them with a cease and desist because they went further than what allowed – letting employees into the office only for essential tasks and matters.

According to the cease and desist, employees were working in the office on non-essential business. HoganWillig claims Cuomo and James used the pandemic to “expand their authority by unprecedented lengths, without any proper constitutional statutory or common law basis” and that this showed a “disturbing and gross abuse of their power.”

The firm has also stated that James is preventing individuals who are unable to take depositions and video conferences from participating in work. Western New York, where HoganWillig is located in multiple cities in the region, has not yet hit all seven benchmarks to open. The lawsuit is asking for a court to rule cease abusing their powers and pay for their costs and fees.

As mentioned above, Cuomo today extended the PAUSE and stay-at-home order for any region that is not yet set to re-open until May 28, and his emergency power extended out to June 13.

4) Sarah Ingles, a mother of two, passed away in her North Carolina home in her sleep. In April, she got COVID-19 symptoms, but her passing was still a surprise, according to family members. Her brother Sean spoke to her earlier on the day of her death, and she was OK, he says. Then she passed, and officials said her death was due to COVID-related complications.

Ingles may have lived in North Carolina, but she grew up here in Scotia, and this is where her family attempted to bring her home for her burial.

However, they were up against many hurdles. There would usually be none, with the body being loaded onto an airplane in Charlotte and flown to Albany, but in the COVID crisis, the only option available to them was to have Sarah flown from Charlotte to Atlanta to Hartford. 

The White Funeral Home went above and beyond, driving to Connecticut for the family to pick her up. Due to the ban on large gatherings, the funeral will be live-streamed on Zoom.

5) A woman’s body was found on the shore of Saratoga Lake, in the area where Shore Lake Avenue is. So far, the woman has not been identified, and the police are still investigating.

Have a safe and fun weekend, CivMixers, and we will see you Monday!!

Photo credit: George Fazio.