5 Things That Happened While You Were Out: May 27, 2020

Another Wednesday in the books, CivMixers!

It was another scorcher, which contributed to the challenges of wearing a mask in public. But, we do it to keep members of vulnerable communities safe – not to mention ourselves – so that makes the annoyance worth it, right? Protecting one another is the name of the game.

As expected, the Long Island Region joined the rest of the state in reopening, leaving only New York City red in a sea of green on the regional monitoring dashboard. The Big Apple is currently reading 5/7 benchmarks. But they’re very close on the contract tracer requirement as well as total available hospital beds, the threshold is 30 percent of beds, and they are currently at 28 percent.

To be clear, that 2 percent doesn’t mean the city will be opening tomorrow or even this week. Most are predicting a mid-June opening, including both New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Well, time to get to it, agreed?

1) Last month, in response to a concern for those patients working on living in recovery, New York City started a delivery program for methadone to get it out to those who needed it without having them leave their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For those who don’t know, methadone is used for those addicts being treated as they come off of opioids. It is a highly regulated drug and one that has to be taken every day to prevent painful and often dangerous withdrawals.

Methadone is usually dispensed at treatment centers. But due to the pandemic, the federal government agreed that quarantined patients can get the methadone delivered right to their homes – as long as all security protocols are followed.

There are a lot of concerns with delivering methadone directly to patients, an issue that has been addressed by one of the designers of the program, Dr. Denise Paone who works at the state Health Department. Among them are whether the recipient of the methadone has the ability to properly store it, and also is at the correct point in their recovery to both receive and administer it.

Dr. Paone is working with the city to have people referred to the delivery program. Daily phone calls and webinars are being held with doctors to walk them through the process. There’s a capacity to do 1,300 monthly deliveries, but since mid-April only about 70 have been completed.

Not everyone agrees this is a good idea. State GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy, for example, has said that while the opioid crisis is real, so is methadone abuse. He thinks the drug should only be administered by professionals in an official treatment facility, and the money used to fund the delivery program would be better spent on purchasing PPE.

Dr. Oxiris Barbot, NYC’s Health Commissioner, says if the program proves useful to patients then she will encourage the federal government to keep it and the more flexible regulations in place after the crisis ends.

2) The family of George Floyd is pleading that the four Minneapolis police officers who were involved in his death be charged with murder.

Floyd’s brothers, in a televised interview, described him as a “gentle giant” who would never hurt anyone, and questioned why, as caught on video, one officer  – Derek Chauvin –  knelt on Floyd’s neck while he called out that he hurt and couldn’t breathe and other officers watched.

All four of the officers involved have been fired. Both state and federal authorities are now investigating the case, and according to the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, the officers are cooperating. They are asking that all judgment be reserved until the investigations are concluded.

According to the Minneapolis Police, the officers were on their way to an alleged forgery Monday evening. They were told the suspect was sitting on a car, and when they arrived they found Floyd, 46, in said vehicle. Police say he physically resisted arrest, and they did not notice he was in medical distress until after he was handcuffed. They transported him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Video uploaded to social media by witnesses shows Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he lay handcuffed on the ground. Surveillance video from a nearby restaurant shows Floyd being escorted out of his car and handcuffed, then sitting on the sidewalk. It also shows two officers escorting him away from the path with his hands behind his back.

Floyd’s family does not believe he resisted arrest, noting there’s no indication of that on the videos. Yesterday hundreds gathered at the intersection where Floyd died and chanted for justice. When some of the demonstrators dumped rocks outside the precinct for people to throw, the police used tear gas on the crowd.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the technique the officers used is not allowed within the Minneapolis Police Department.

The incident with Floyd is eerily reminiscent of the death of Eric Garner in 2014. He too cried out that he couldn’t breathe while a New York City officer, Daniel Pantaleo, had him in a chokehold. That incident turned the phrase “I can’t breathe” into a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. Pantaleo was never charged and was not fired until 2019 after he was found guilty in a disciplinary trial.

Pantaleo last year sued the city over his firing in hopes of getting his job back.

The manner and cause of Floyd’s death are in pending status as the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office is still investigating – as well as state and federal agencies. The FBI has also opened an investigation into the incident. Their findings will be presented to the District of Minnesota US Attorney’s office.

3) There is no doubt that the Wuhan, China outbreak of COVID-19 is synonymous in many minds with the start of the pandemic. There are still many unanswered questions regarding the details of it, as well as a lot of misinformation and conspiracies about the Chinese government and their actions during the initial phase of the outbreak.

In New York, a Republican state senator and candidate for congress has joined those calling for the Chinese government to be held liable. Chris Jacobs has called on state Attorney General Letitia James to take legal action against the People’s Republic of China.

According to Jacobs’ reasoning, New York was the center of the COVID-19 pandemic and therefore has standing. He also said that due to willful deceit on the part of the Chinese in terms of the breadth of this problem, the world’s health organizations – specifically those here in the states – were unable to react appropriately to have proper plans in place and prevent things from getting out of control the way they did.

The senator noted that Mississippi and Missouri are already moving in this direction, and suggested James should follow suit. The AG’s office did not respond.

4) Moon Dogs, a food truck is a mainstay in Ghent in Columbia County, has launched a pay-what-you-can initiative in an effort to help others during the pandemic.

Since the start of the crisis, the truck has accepted any amount people can afford to pay for their meals. Adam Moon, the truck’s owner and operator, says he wants to do what he can to make sure no one is going hungry during this trying time.

He has also donated money to Price Chopper and a local store that sells auto parts, hoping they will pay it forward.

The food truck is located in the VFW parking lot off Route 66 in Ghent and is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

5) Both the state Senate and Assembly today voted to extend the Child Victims Act lookback window. It was the first time since April that lawmakers met in Albany, and many of them participated remotely due to concerns about the ongoing pandemic.

The Child Victim’s Act was signed into law last year. It allows abuse victims to file lawsuits even after the statute of limitations has expired.

Earlier this month, Cuomo extended the lookback provision via executive order through Jan. 14, 2021. But lawmakers wanted a longer extension enshrined into law, and so passed a bill that pushes the deadline to Aug. 14, 2021.

Overall, lawmakers passed more than a dozen bills, most of which were related to the COVID-19 crisis. One thing that didn’t make it through the Democratic-controlled Senate, however, was a measure requested by de Blasio that would allow the city to borrow as much as $7 billion, payable over the next 30 years, to address financial fallout from the crisis if the federal government doesn’t come through with additional aid.

That’s all for today, guys! Enjoy your hot hump day evening, and see you tomorrow.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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