Rise and Shine: May 11, 2020

Good Monday morning, CivMixers.

It’s Lag BaOmer, a minor Jewish holiday that marks the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, a Mishnaic sage and leading disciple of Rabbi Akiva in the 2nd century, and the day on which he revealed the deepest secrets of Kabbalah in the form of the Zohar, which is a landmark text of Jewish mysticism.

It’s also the day that the plague that killed Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 disciples came to an end. It falls on the 33rd day of the 49-day semi-mourning period between Passover and Shavuot, and gives people a day off from that mourning (even ending it altogether for some).

It’s traditionally a day of haircuts, weddings and picnics and, most notably, bonfires.

On a non-religious note, it’s also National Eat What You Want Day, which translates into: Still on coronavirus lockdown.

On the weather front, we’re on a freeze watch for much of the region through 9 a.m. after an unseasonably cold weekend that included, depending on where you live, snow. This was not good news for farmers and amateur gardeners. It also added to the kibosh that the pandemic already put on Mother’s Day, which was marked by a lot of social distancing and virtual flower giving. (The daily news briefing became a family affair yesterday for the Cuomos as the governor invited his mother, Matilda, to participate via video conference).

Today, we’re looking at showers in the morning and thunderstorms developing in the afternoon, with temperatures in the mid-50s, according to The Weather Channel.

In the headlines…

There were nearly 80,000 deaths and more than 1.3 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. as of yesterday, according to the John Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, the virus has killed more than 282,000 people and infected almost 4.1 million.

A man in Wuhan, China has tested positive for coronavirus — the first new case in more than a month in the city at the epicenter of the global pandemic. Local health officials said the patient had previously been asymptomatic, the National Health Commission reported.

Shanghai Disneyland welcomed visitors for the first time since January, becoming one of the highest profile tourist spots to reopen as China reboots parts of its economy that were shut down by the coronavirus.

The Trump administration is planning to issue a warning that hackers tied to the Chinese government are attempting to pilfer information from U.S. researchers working on the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

The Trump administration is racing to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus inside the White House, as some senior officials believe that the disease is already spreading rapidly through the warren of cramped offices that make up the three floors of the West Wing.

Despite some mixed reports on this, Vice President Mike Pence is not planning to enter self-quarantine after his press secretary tested positive for coronavirus on Friday and plans to be at the White House today, his office said.

President Donald Trump confirmed on Friday that Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive for the virus. The President said that Miller has not come into contact with him but noted that she has been in contact with Pence.

The vice president has repeatedly tested negative for the deadly contagion, including yesterday, and is not in quarantine, but he will be limiting his exposure to others on the advice of medical experts, an official said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci decided not to bend the rules by showing up in person for a U.S. Senate hearing set for tomorrow on the government’s response to the pandemic after initially vowing to do so despite being exposed to the staffer who has tested positive for the virus.

White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett predicted the unemployment rate could rise above 20 percent and the worst job losses would come in “May or June” because of the coronavirus pandemic.

New Yorkers are filing more and more for pandemic unemployment relief, a federally funded program that has seen the bulk of backlogs for those seeking jobless payments.

Factory furloughs across the U.S. are becoming permanent closings, a sign of the heavy damage the coronavirus pandemic and shutdowns are exerting on the industrial economy.

JCPenney is reportedly preparing to file for bankruptcy as early as next week, though no final decision has been made.

House Democrats are pushing to complete their next coronavirus-aid proposal this week in the face of deepening economic gloom, but talks with the White House and the Republican-controlled Senate are on ice over disagreements over the pace and content of the next package.

Leaders of the New York state Legislature say they are waiting to see what Congress does before they develop plans for their own lawmaking session. And they said tax hikes are on the table if additional aid to deal with the coronavirus pandemic isn’t forthcoming from Washington.

A rapid-result nasal swab test for coronavirus received emergency approval late Friday, the Food and Drug Administration said, in the latest step in efforts to increase screening for the virus.

The physical effects of Covid-19 can take weeks to fully recover from, and some might see permanent effects.

A top pandemic doctor, Jeffrey Shaman, predicted that coronavirus cases will spike dramatically in coming weeks as states reopen without implementing track, trace and isolate protocols to help limit the spread of the disease.

Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics is getting increasingly worried states are taking a large gamble by reopening businesses too quickly. He warns a spark in new coronavirus infections would send the economy further into tailspin — especially since there’s no vaccine.

Australia announced a three-stage plan to reopen the economy, which includes a focus on tourism. But the airline industry is in a tailspin as a result of the pandemic, with no firm recovery in sight.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that Britain would soon impose a mandatory quarantine on travelers arriving in the country by air to try to avert a new wave of coronavirus infections, signaling how cautious the country will be in relaxing its seven-week lockdown.

The factors that made New York City one of the hardest hit on the planet — its density, mass transit and tourism — complicate its return to normalcy. A full re-opening is a long way off.

For many black families, mourning coronavirus deaths brings an added burden as they wonder whether racial bias may have played a role.

Federal health regulators are reportedly developing guidelines for reopening nursing homes, proposing steps that would allow visitors to return to facilities that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic despite lockdowns.

Half of New Jersey’s Covid-19 fatalities are linked to nursing homes. Nowhere has the devastation been starker than at one built for members of the military.

The coronavirus has likely already killed more than 5 percent of the state’s nursing-home population, according to the latest figures from New York’s Health Department.

New York is instituting new rules for nursing homes in an effort to protect what Gov. Andrew Cuomo called “a congregation of vulnerable people” – in other words, those in nursing homes.

Hospitals cannot release patients to nursing homes in New York unless the patient tests negative for the virus, Cuomo said.

…The governor’s announcement is a reversal of sorts from a March order by the state’s health department requiring nursing home to accept recovering patients.

Nursing home workers must be tested for coronavirus twice a week under new rules laid out by Cuomo, and those that fail to meet the requirements intended to stem infections will lose their operating licenses.

New York may have as many as 85 cases of children presenting with a new pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome likely linked to COVID-19 – and two more children may have died of the condition.

…State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said a team of health experts will evaluate the information for each of those cases.

NYC will send an alert describing the symptoms to one million parents of public school students and urge them to seek health care if their children show any signs.

Cuomo signed an executive order this week extending his legal authority to push back the state’s May 15 “NY ON PAUSE” deadline, but stopped short of moving the date, according to Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa.

There was a lot of initial confusion about Cuomo’s order, and his spokesperson, Rich Azzopardi, had to apologize for publicizing less-than-accurate information.

Cuomo said that 521 people were hospitalized with the disease on Saturday and 207 died of it. The hospitalization figure, he said, “takes us right back to where we started this hellish journey.”

Cuomo tamped down expectations of coronavirus immunity as the medical community continues to raise concerns about antibody tests.

The federal government may be using veterans as test subjects for an ineffective and potentially dangerous coronavirus treatment, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warned.

After decades of struggle to prove they are sustainable businesses, small farms seem to be flourishing, while factory farms, in many cases, find themselves too big to pivot.

The New York Police Department is preparing for a jump in crime when New York City reopens businesses and eases restrictions on social gatherings after earlier measures led to a steep drop in arrests.

The lawyer who became the coronavirus ‘patient zero’ in Westchester said in a new interview that, when doctors first examined him, there was “no mention” of the deadly illness that has since infected more than 335,000 in the state.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and rock star Billy Idol promised a crackdown against trucks and buses that stand with their engines running a few weeks before the pandemic — but budget cuts prompted by the pandemic will delay implementation of a new NYPD anti-idling enforcement effort.

De Blasio said the NYPD would work to fix any racial disparities in social-distancing summonses after newly released police data showed 81 percent of the people who received the violations are black or Hispanic.

The Big Apple will soon have 2,300 “social-distancing ambassadors” telling people to stay apart and wear masks to avoid escalating tensions with cops.

Nine protesters pushing for the Empire State to reopen from its coronavirus lockdown were busted Saturday afternoon outside City Hall, for not obeying social distancing guidelines.

The last patients have been discharged from the Central Park field hospital run by Samaritan’s Purse, the evangelical organization led by the Rev. Franklin Graham. Its white tents will soon be dismantled and sent to new makeshift coronavirus wards as far away as Ecuador and Alaska.

For the first time in two months, there were no new hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Albany County in the past 24 hours.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said “back of the envelope math” shows the end of June as the estimated timeline to reopen the county.

Sean McCarthy, who has run the Blush Gentleman’s Club in Commack, LI since 1997, filed suit against Cuomo over his executive orders shuttering non-essential businesses amid the pandemic.

The local residents hit hardest economically by the coronavirus shutdown are likely to be younger and poorer, with children in their homes but no four-year college degree, according to a new Times Union-Siena College Research Institute poll.

Paul Vasquez, the California man who was propelled to internet fame after posting a viral video of his reaction to a double rainbow, died on Saturday. He was 57.

In non-virus news…

A Georgia prosecutor who recused himself from the Ahmaud Arbery case waited to bow out until after he told cops the killing was “justifiable homicide,” and sent them a five-point letter outlining why the suspects should not be charged.

Georgia’s attorney general asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the handling of the killing of Arbery, a black man who authorities say died at the hands of two white men as he ran through a neighborhood.

Fears of the Asian “murder hornet” could spark the slaughter of millions of innocent bees and wasps, experts say.

A bookkeeper who fatally clubbed a Long Island woman in 1983 for rejecting him — a crime so heinous that it made the front page of The NY Post — is about to be sprung from prison, enraging her kin.

Rapper Nick Blixky was discovered fatally shot on a Brooklyn street last night, cops said. Blixky, who was born as Nickalus Thompson, was found on Winthrop Street in Prospect Lefferts Gardens at around 9:30 p.m. after suffering gunshot wounds to his torso, according to police.

A Clifton Park man faces multiple felony and misdemeanor charges after an incident Friday that spurred an Amber Alert.

Major rebuilding of a collapsed hillside would be needed before a Waterford couple could return to their house which hangs on the edge of a cliff, a town leader said.

RIP, Little Richard.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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