5 Things That Happened While You Were Out: May 22, 2020

We’re going to knock off work little early this holiday weekend Friday.

But before we go, several CivMixers (you know who you are) reached out to remind me that I neglected to mention that civil rights leader and LGBTQ Harvey Milk, who was assassinated in 1978 and is remembered today, was a UAlbany grad – class of ’51.

Milk was a math major, a member of the Jewish fraternity Kappa Beta and was active in student government, though he ran unsuccessfully for freshmen class president in 1947. He was a spirited competitor in intramural basketball, volleyball and softball and wrestled on the intercollegiate team.

Pretty cool.

So, today was absolutely glorious with temperatures out-performing expectations and soaring into the 80s. We’re in for some showers this evening that becomes steady rain and then continues into tomorrow morning, ending by about noon.

Sunday looks great, with sun and clouds. Ditto Memorial Day. So get out there and enjoy, but also be safe.

Today’s 5 things…

1) President Donald Trump announced that his administration plans to deem houses of worship “essential” during the coronavirus pandemic, and called on governors across the nation to reopen religious institutions for services.

The governors refuse to heed this call, the president is threatening to “override” them, but it’s unclear exactly how he plans to go about doing that, since there’s no clear power afforded to him to do so.

“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics essential, but have left our churches and houses of worship,” Trump said. “It’s not right. So I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential,” Trump said during his announcement at the White House.

Technically speaking, this guidance is going to be coming from the CDC at the president’s direction.

2) Two more New York regions are poised to start Phase I of the economic reopening process – Long Island and the Hudson Valley – by next week, assuming coronavirus deaths continue to decline and contact tracing programs are up and running, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

The governor also announced the New York plans to share its contract tracing program blueprint, established with the financial assistance of former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, with the National Governors Association, (of which Cuomo is the vice chairman), so other states can use it as a model.

According to Cuomo, New York continues to lead the nation in coronavirus testing, with some sites not even testing up to their full capacity. And soon, there will be even more testing opportunities, as the state is launching a new pilot program to partner with 52 independent pharmacies that can conduct an additional 7,000 tests per week.

The governor urged everyone who thinks they might have been exposed to the virus, or are displaying any symptoms, to go and get a test ASAP. Find out more about testing sites near you by clicking here.

3) There has been a lot of consternation and disagreement over the opening of New York City’s beaches, with nearby officials – especially on Long Island – expressing concern that there will be an influx of city residents (coming from the center of the pandemic, remember) into their local communities now that the weather has taken a turn for the better.

The city is now considering opening its beaches in June, should the virus numbers continue to drop, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In the meantime, however, the city will deploy extra police officers its beaches to keep them closed to swimming and increase enforcement against gatherings outside bars as New York enters Memorial Day weekend.

The city is opening 13 more miles of city streets to pedestrians, bringing the total number to 43 miles.

In terms of when the Big Apple will be able to get to Phase I of the reopening process, it’s looking like the first or second week of June, according to the mayor, though the city has to meet the state’s thresholds before it gets the green light to move forward.

4) Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, apologized for telling Charlamagne Tha God, a host on “The Breakfast Club,” a nationally syndicated morning radio show popular with black millennials, that black voters torn between voting for him and Trump “ain’t black,” after his comments – not surprisingly – ignited a massive online firestorm.

“I should not have been so cavalier. I’ve never, never, ever taken the African-American community for granted,” Biden said on a call with the Black Chamber of Commerce. “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy.”

Biden’s campaign had initially defended the candidate, saying he had been speaking in jest, which was an explanation that a number of observers seemed to accept. The Republicans, however, quickly seized on the moment and deemed it gaffe, accusing the former vice president of engaging in “white privilege.”

5) In case you’re looking for something to do this Memorial Day weekend, perhaps consider taking in a drive-in movie. Three more area theaters are opening for business.

The Malta Drive-In, Hollywood Drive-In and Hi-Way Drive-In will join the ranks of the other local theaters that opened the first weekend statewide restrictions on operations were lifted.

Social distancing requirements are in place at these establishments, and you’ll be expected to wear a mask if you leave the safety of your car. Still, to get out of the house and actually engage in some good old fashioned entertainment…well, it sounds pretty good to me.

Stay safe this weekend, everyone. Please me respectful of one another, and keep your distance, but also try to breathe deeply and enjoy yourself – if only for a free, precious and hard-won anxiety-free moments.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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