Happy Tuesday, guys. I hope you had a good one. It was a lovely day, decent weather to get the little ones out and about, as well as yourself.

Here’s the top story of the day: Gov. Andrew Cuomo brought some good news to the Capital Region, announcing that an “army” of tracers has been identified and trained by local officials, which means that Phase I of the reopening process can get underway tomorrow.

Cuomo said that there has been a continuous decline in infection rate, hospitalizations, and death and that the region is virtually back to where it was previous to the pandemic. Yesterday, we recorded the lowest 24-hour period of fatalities since the end of March, with 20 of those occurring in nursing homes.

The counties slated for reopening are Albany, Greene, Columbia, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren and Washington.

The only remaining regions of the state that have yet to meet the governor’s reopening metrics are the Hudson Valley, Long Island and New York City, which, as the center of the pandemic, is likely to be the last to go.

The other regions where re-opening is already underway are: Central New York, the Finger Lakes, the Mohawk Valley, the North Country, the Southern Tier, and Western New York.

Phase I, as you’ll recall, means the following businesses can get back to, well, business, in a socially distanced fashion:

Curbside/in-store retail pickup
Wholesale trade

The governor also announced that extremely scaled-back Memorial Day celebrations will be allowed this coming weekend, basically gatherings of 10 people or less, and also car parades.

In other news…

2) A Virginia family got a big surprise when they found two bags full of cash in the road while taking their kids for a ride.

When David and Emily Schantz felt the need for a change of scenery last Saturday, they packed their two kids into their pickup and took off.

The truck bumped over what they thought was a bag of trash in the road, and they stopped to throw it in the truck bed along with another bag they found nearby. They then kept on with their change of scenery drive – something we have all done in quarantine.

When they got home, they saw plastic baggies inside of the bags – and inside those plastic baggies was money. A lot of money. Emily Schantz says the baggies were labeled cash vault or something similar. The Schantzes immediately called the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office, and deputies came to their home.

Upon inventorying the cash, the police determined that the money totaled close to $1 million. The Sheriff’s Department has said that they actually have figured out where the money was headed, but are still investigating how it ended up in the middle of the road.

Major Scott Moser of the Caroline Sheriff’s Department commended the Schantzes for their actions and said he hopes the owner of the cash gives them a nice reward.

3) Cuomo continued to pressure Congress to pass legislation giving both state and local governments more pandemic-related stimulus aid. He is standing firm with governors around the U.S. as part of the National Governors Association, of which Cuomo is the vice chair. They are collectively asking for $500 billion in funding to be given to the states.

The state is holding back $1 billion worth of spending that was supposed to go out the door to private colleges, local governments and more. But the Cuomo administration is waiting to detail plans for permanent cuts until D.C. lawmakers sort out the debate over the HEROES Act, which is what the House Democrats have dubbed the $3 trillion stimulus package passed in their chamber last week.

4) COVID-19 survivor Avigdor Zeitlin has partnered with WellTab to help others in the hospital who are fighting the coronavirus to stay in contact with their families.

During his own six-week hospital stay battling COVID, Zeitlin says that tablets saved him by letting him keep connected with his family. He and WellTab are looking to bring that to others. During the final two weeks of Zeitlin’s stay, Welltab provided him with one of their custom-made tablets that are  made specifically to connect patients with their loved ones on the outside with both audio and visual features.

Based in Brooklyn, WellTab is a non-profit that has answered the need for a simple, specialized tablet that allows for live streaming for families and those in the hospital. One tablet is delivered to the patient in the hospital, and one is sent to the family. No information is needed to connect; it is a simple plug-and-play tablet.

Chaim Rothstein, a spokesperson for WellTab, said the company responded to the overwhelming need that came out of family members calling in and causing additional work and stress for already maxed-out medical personnel by seeking constant updates about the health of their loved ones.

So far, the tablets have been handed out in all areas of New York. Many say that, like Zeitlin, the tablets saved them and aided in their recovery. Nine hundred tablets are in use across the state, and they are working on getting up to 10,000 to put in circulation throughout the country, and maybe even internationally.

5) Today Matthew Cohen, a Niskayuna High School graduate, and Nisky native should have accepted his MBA for his two-year program at Fordham University. Instead, he ran to raise money to give to the families of students in need.

After seeing how much the novel coronavirus and its respiratory disease COVID-19 had taken from people, he felt lucky. All he has missed out on so far was walking across that stage. As he watched those medical workers on the front line giving everything to help people, he started to want to give back as well. 

He knew he couldn’t do anything in the hospitals, so he decided to run 19 Miles on May 19 to fight COVID-19. All money he raised opted to donate to Nisky NOW (Nutrition on Weekends). His girlfriend, who also should have graduated Fordham today, rode alongside him on a bike.

If you are interested in contributing to the fundraiser, go to Cohen’s fundraiser here.

Have a great night all! Happy Phase One!!!!

Photo credit: George Fazio.