5 Things That Happened While You Were Out: May 29, 2020

TGIF, CivMixers! For a short week, it was a long one! Sorry for the SNAFU with yesterday’s 5 Things, it was a long day for everyone involved in news and reporting, and I forgot to follow up with Liz to make sure my post went up. It shouldn’t happen again, my sincerest apologies.

(Editor’s note: Heather is being kind; it was my fault, not hers).

Here’s the encapsulated version of what you would have seen had it posted: 1) Peter Manfredonia in custody, being brought back to Connecticut; 2) US DOE sets trans students’ rights back a decade; 3) Confusion on New York’s Phase II re-openings; 4) Albany Water Department begins inspecting and flushing hydrants; 5) Alive at Five is canceled, but there will be live performances on its Facebook page Thursdays 5 -6 p.m.

There, you’re all caught up!!

It seems like we missed the best part of spring and got mostly rain before shooting right into the heat and humidity that is the hallmark of upstate summer.

Luckily this weekend should be more relaxed. That is mainly because the National Weather Service is predicting thunderstorms for tonight, which will cool things down considerably. But they could get nasty. Wherever you are, please be aware of the warnings and weather in your area and stay safe.

As far as COVID updates go, the regional dashboard is looking the same, only New York City is waiting to start Phase I of the reopening process. In his briefing today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested that June 8 could be the date the Big Apple finally moves forward.

Meanwhile, five upstate regions were cleared to enter Phase II today: Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and Southern Tier.

That is the majority of the state outside of Western NY, NYC, and the Capital District.

The COVID-19 death toll statewide yesterday was 67 – the lowest one-day death total in more than two months.

Let’s move onto today’s major headlines, shall we?

1) Derek Michael Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck until he ran out of the air and died, has been arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said the investigation into Floyd’s death is ongoing, and he anticipates charges will be brought against the three other officers who were at the scene.

Included in the evidence for the case are videos from body cameras and a cell phone, many witnesses statements, the medical examiner’s preliminary report, and expert testimony. The complaint states that Floyd’s death was caused by Chauvin’s performance of an “eminently dangerous” action.

If convicted, Chauvin faces up to 25 years behind bars for third-degree murder and a maximum of 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.

According to the Hennepin County medical examiner’s preliminary autopsy report, there was no evidence of “traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.” Floyd’s underlying health issues, combined with any potential substances in his body and the police restraints, all combined to cause his death.

Chauvin and three additional officers had detained Floyd after he allegedly spent counterfeit money at a nearby convenience store. The criminal complaint states that for a total of 8 minutes and 46 seconds, Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck. For 2 minutes and 53 seconds of that, Floyd was unresponsive.

After days of protests and riots in reaction to the incident, with the participants begging for just for Floyd, Gov. Tim Walz is pleading for order and peace.

Also today CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, producer Bill Kirkos, and photojournalist Leonel Mendez were all arrested on air during a live broadcast while clearly stating they were journalists. They have been released, but the Minnesota State Police said they had to have their identities as journalists confirmed.

To help quell the protests, over 500 members of the MN National Guard were mobilized to several locations throughout the area. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey condemned the violence, saying looting and rioting are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

The outrage caused by Floyd’s death is also national, with demonstrations taking place in Ohio, New York, Denver, Phoenix, and Memphis.

President Donald Trump condemned the riots on Twitter, adding: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter, meanwhile, continued its PSAs on the president’s often inaccurate tweets, adding a warning label on one in particular because it “glorifies violence.”

2) Trump announced today his administration is ending America’s longstanding relationship with the World Health Organization due to its handling of the global novel coronavirus pandemic. The president reiterated his claims that the WHO has not been transparent about its relationship with China.

This has been a long time coming. Last month, Trump announced he would withhold funds from the WHO, even though most of that money is appropriated by Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called these threats not only dangerous, but also illegal.

The president also attacked Chinese officials, stating they ignored the obligation they had to report to the WHO about the initial COVID outbreak in Wuhan. To be clear, the WHO has no authority to compel or force any government to report any medical information or to allow them access to any medical or research facility.

China has continuously denied that it willfully concealed any vital information about its initial outbreak. The WHO says that they took immediate action when the explosion in Wuhan hit the status of the epidemic.

Trump also announced that due to the recent national security law published by China, the U.S. would today begin walking back all agreements with Hong Kong because its special status in question.

3) As mentioned above, the five regions that are approved to move to Phase II of reopening are: Central New York, Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, North Country, and Southern Tier. Cuomo today released guidelines for the following non-essential businesses that will be allowed to re-open:

  • Auto Dealerships/Rentals
  • Barbershops
  • Commercial Buildings
  • General Retail *exceptions apply.
  • Hair Salons
  • Real Estate
  • Retail Rental, Repair, and Cleaning

Any business that qualifies for Phase II reopening is required to read and affirm the guidelines on the governor’s NY Forward website and must have a safety plan in place for both customers and staff.

Below are the businesses that are specifically required to remain closed:

  • Malls – indoor, common portions of retail shopping malls with 100,000 or more square feet of retail space available for lease; but any store with its entrance may open
  • Dine-in and on-premise restaurant or bar service, excluding take-out or delivery
  • Large gathering/event venues,
  • Gyms, fitness centers, and exercise classes (in-person)
  • Video lottery and casino gaming facilities
  • Movie theaters(excluding drive-ins)
  • Places of public amusement

4) Shawn Young, a Citizen Action of New York member, is one of the organizers of a socially distanced rally that is taking place tomorrow in Albany’s Townsend Park 1 p.m. to show solidarity with those protesting Floyd’s death.

Across the Capital Region, many – including members of law enforcement – are condemning the Minneapolis Police Officer’s actions. According to the rally’s organizers, those in power need to see that people are paying attention and standing in solidarity across the nation, despite the ongoing pandemic.

If you attend, please bring a mask, wear it and abide by all social distancing guidelines.

5) As mentioned earlier, severe weather is heading our way. Please pay attention to all alerts and keep yourself where you can be safe and mindful of your surroundings. Check out the latest warnings here.

I personally will be at the rally tomorrow. I hope to see many of you there. Other than that, enjoy your weekend, have a safe and happy one.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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