Rise and Shine: May 13, 2020

Good Wednesday morning, CivMixers.

It’s National Third Shift Workers Day, which kind of also translates into another day to celebrate essential workers, since the folks who are traditionally working the so-called “graveyard shift” tend to be tending the sick in hospitals and nursing homes, keeping people safe on the streets of our communities, and running mass transit.

The Wednesday in National Nurses Week is also set aside to acknowledge the special work of school nurses. Since they – like all others in the education field – are not currently able to work in schools at the moment, perhaps take a moment to give them a special shout-out of recognition, if you get a chance.

There’s another freeze warning in effect through 9 a.m. WHAT IS WITH THE COLD WEATHER ALREADY STOP IT PLEASE FOR ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY.

Sorry, I digress.

Anyway, today we’re looking at mostly sunny skies and temperatures just shy of 60 degrees, according to The Weather Channel. That’s not too terrible. I’ll take it.

In the headlines…

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled a fresh $3 trillion coronavirus aid package, bulging with another $1,200 for individuals, $200 billion in hazard pay for essential workers and a nearly 10-figure rescue line for hard-hit cities and states like New York.

The more than $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act, also would expand unemployment assistance, boost food stamps, increase emergency grants to small businesses trying to weather the COVID-19 pandemic that has slammed the economy and upended daily life in the U.S.

The legislation, which provides funding for state and local governments, coronavirus testing, and a new round of direct payments to Americans, would be the largest relief package in history. It. sets up an immediate clash with the Senate, where Republican leaders have said another round of emergency funding is not yet needed.

Democrats plan to force a vote on the HEROES Act Friday, even though the GOP-controlled Senate has made it clear the measure is DOA in its chamber.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Cuomo claims that New York state needs $61 billion in federal relief funding to cover what it is currently paying to confront coronavirus. That’s twice the number he said would be needed just a few days ago.

That amount is necessary, Cuomo said, to avoid enacting 20 percent cuts to schools, local governments and hospitals.

Dr. Anthony Fauci warned a Senate panel that easing stay-at-home restrictions must be done carefully and treatments and vaccines are likely eventually, but not before school starts in the fall.

Fauci specifically said it was a “bridge too far” for schools to expect a vaccine or widely available treatment for Covid-19 by the time students return to campuses in the fall, though he expressed optimism a vaccine would be developed in the next year or two.

“If certain areas prematurely open up, my concern is we might see spikes that turn into outbreaks,” Fauci said. “The consequences could be serious. Even in states that reopen with a deliberate pace…there is no doubt that when you pull back on mitigation, you will see some cases reappear.”

The discourse at the hearing, before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, contrasted with the victorious tone that President Trump has taken in news conferences, when he has frequently exaggerated the adequacy of the country’s testing and has emphasized the imminent need for the country to reopen.

The 23-school California State University system will primarily remain in a virtual learning model this fall as the country continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, raising questions about the ability for member schools to field athletic teams for the rest of 2020.

As New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stresses a soft reopening in June — and other regions of the country barrel back into a modified sense of normalcy — LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the county board of supervisors that its stay-at-home order would remain in place for three more months.

San Francisco-based Twitter will allow all of its 5,000 employees to work from home permanently, even after the emergency coronavirus measures that forced workers out of its offices are lifted, the company confirmed.

Companies are wondering whether it’s worth continuing to spend as much money on Manhattan’s exorbitant commercial rents. They are also mindful that public health considerations might make the packed workplaces of the recent past less viable.

Big advertisers from General Motors to PepsiCo to General Mills are seeking to walk back spending commitments they made to broadcast and cable networks, a dynamic that is testing the industry’s five-decade-old way of doing business.

Trump backed Elon Musk, tweeting that Tesla should be allowed to return to production despite California’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Beijing now appears to be stalling international efforts to find the source of the virus amid an escalating U.S. push to blame China for the pandemic, according to interviews with dozens of health experts and officials.

New clusters of coronavirus infections cropped up in parts of the Middle East and Asia after authorities loosened lockdowns. Confirmed cases surpassed 4.25 million globally yesterday, with more than 1.36 million in the U.S., according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Even as the state moves toward reopening parts of its economy, health officials are still investigating a rare inflammatory syndrome apparently linked to COVID-19 that has infected at least 100 children and killed three of them, Cuomo said.

The illness presents similarly to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome. Symptoms include prolonged fever, abdominal pain, trouble breathing and a change in skin color. Infants can have difficulty feeding and become too sick to drink fluids.

Cuomo proposed a new law that aims to prevent corporations from receiving excess funds as a result of COVID-19. According to the governor, the “Americans First Law” would block corporations from receiving a government bailout unless they rehire the same number of workers they employed prior to the pandemic.

A federal judge has ordered Cuomo to feature live American Sign Language interpretation at his daily coronavirus briefings that are broadcast on cable television networks and live-streamed on the internet.

An independent probe is needed to get to the bottom of what role Cuomo’s policies played in the coronavirus deaths of more than 5,300 New York nursing home residents, a chorus of lawmakers led by Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried said.

Cuomo said that nursing home staff that refuse to comply with a new rule ordering biweekly coronavirus testing “shouldn’t work” in that facility.

Reopening is not happening fast enough for Assemblyman Mike LePerti, and some struggling Long Island small business owners who are demanding Cuomo let the state get back to work.

The Capital Region is one step closer to meeting the seven benchmarks needed to begin a phased reopening of the local economy, Cuomo announced during a briefing in the Southern Tier.

The mounting COVID-19 nursing home deaths in the Capital Region is the single data point preventing the area from re-opening its economy. Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said he was asking the state to not count those deaths in the region’s tally in order to allow a phased reopening under the state’s plan.

The State University of New York has told officials at its 64 campuses to prepare for lean times in the fall. “We know what a tough situation the state is facing, and we thought it was prudent, given that, to start to do some scenario planning,” SUNY Chief Operating Officer Robert Megna said.

Toll revenues have plummeted 36 percent on the New York State Thruway from an “unprecedented” drop in traffic, including 48 percent fewer vehicles using the interstate from March 8 through the end of April, Executive Director Matt Driscoll said during a telephonic meeting of the Thruway Authority board.

Sales tax revenues collected by New York City and other local governments plunged 24 percent last month compared to April 2019 amid the state lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, according to figures released by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

Rep. Paul Tonko wrote a scathing letter to the head of the FCC, claiming that the agency is denying New York state potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in broadband expansion funding amid the coronavirus pandemic that has exposed gaping holes in the ability of people to work and study online in the Capital Region.

Coronavirus stats released yesterday provided a fresh reminder that New York City has a long way to go before life will return to any semblance of normalcy. During the 24 hours ending Monday at 6 p.m., 181 New Yorkers lost their lives, bringing the staggering death toll to 20,237.

The city is weighing a mix of online learning and in-class instruction for the expected September reopening of schools, de Blasio said.

De Blasio made nearly $2 million in hirings or promotions in the last several weeks — all while threatening to lay off or furlough front-line workers because of a budget hole caused by the crisis.

Democratic operative Lis Smith savaged her former boss, de Blasio, over his municipal coronavirus response, while offering effusive praise for Cuomo’s leadership amid the public health crisis.

Police made 125 arrests related to the coronavirus pandemic in New York City since the lockdown began, not including violations of social distancing rules, according to figures released by the New York Police Department.

Nine out of 10 people arrested for coronavirus-related incidents in New York City were people of color, the data show.

The city’s five district attorneys offices aren’t prosecuting most social distancing-related arrests, officials said.

Members of New York’s Orthodox Jewish community, which was hit hard by the virus, are donating plasma in droves after recovering from Covid-19.

New York City has not recorded a single pedestrian death since before the state implemented strict coronavirus restrictions that kept residents largely at home.

NYC is poised to put a cap on fees charged by food delivery companies like GrubHub for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak and beyond.

New York hospitals have started to resume urgent medical procedures that were put on hold amid the coronavirus crisis — but some hospitals say they are now scrambling to deal with the backlog.

NYC’s parks are facing big cuts – just when residents need them most.

NYC streets could transform into sidewalk cafes to give patrons more space when restaurants and bars reopen as coronavirus restrictions are lifted.

NYC & Company is forming a coalition to figure out how to get tourists back to New York City once the coronavirus pandemic is over.

Here’s what some prominent New Yorkers miss about the city, which has been transformed by the virus.

The Broadway League confirmed that theaters will remain dark for an additional three months, though industry insiders anticipate the reopening date remaining in flux, possibly until early 2021.

Broadway actor Nick Cordero has awoken from the medically induced coma he entered amid coronavirus complications more than a month ago, his wife, Amanda Kloots, announced.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said there’s a chance the region could reopen this weekend or the following week in light of the progress made in meeting the state’s seven metrics for a phased reopening.

A group of local business leaders and elected officials have formed the Warren County Economic Recovery Task Force to plan a safe reopening of the county’s tourism and hospitality industry centered in Lake George.

High school and college seniors in the Capital Region are demanding “real graduations” rather than virtual events some have proposed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Using a virtual hiring process driven by the coronavirus pandemic, Spectrum is looking to hire more than 1,500 people in New York to fill customer service jobs.

Jaime Cain, legal advisor to the New York Capital Region Apartment Association, said members are reporting between 45 percent and 50 percent of tenants have not paid rent for May, double the figure for April, when 25% of renters didn’t pay. Average delinquency in any given month is around 5 percent, Cain said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Saratoga Springs has canceled its recreation department’s summer schedule of camps and programs.

With the fate of Saratoga Race Course’s summer meet in question, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors’ racing committee debated if it should sign onto a letter to urge Cuomo to approve plans for the horses to run this spring without fans at Belmont Park.

Leaders with the Saratoga County Racing Committee are asking Cuomo to allow racing at Belmont to take place without fans.

Watervliet Mayor Charles Patricelli confirmed the city looking at potentially furloughing or even eliminating the city’s police chief position.

Jericho Drive-In will be showing movies again starting Friday.

In non-virus news…

Trump’s lawyers asked the U.S. Supreme Court to quash congressional and criminal subpoenas seeking financial records from his bankers and accountants, as long-simmering controversies over the president’s private business affairs came into focus ahead of the full blaze of the presidential campaign.

Trump this week called the death of Ahmaud Arbery a sad and horrible thing, and said he awaits the results of investigations into the shooting death of the unarmed black jogger by two white men in Georgia.

A federal judge is delaying an immediate decision on a Justice Department request to abandon the prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, saying that he will allow time for outside parties to challenge the government’s position.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has joined one of the joint policy committees Joe Biden has created with the Bernie Sanders, according to the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

Ocasio-Cortez was knocked off the Working Families Party’s ballot line after the left-leaning party failed to collect enough signatures (15) to make the Democratic socialist incumbent its standard bearer.

…Ocasio-Cortez was found to have only 13 valid signatures after her petitions were challenged by lawyers for one of her opponents in the Democratic primary, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former anchorwoman for CNBC.

More than two dozen rest stops on New York’s 570-mile Thruway are on track to getting a $450 million facelift, as the state highway system approved the roadway’s first major redevelopment plan in 30 years.

The former head of the city correction officers’ union, Norman Seabrook, doesn’t deserve a new trial because of fraud allegations against prosecutors’ star witness — because the jury knew he had been a liar his entire life, prosecutors said in court papers.

The new “Excelsior” license plates, a design chosen by New Yorkers as part of a contest, need to be replaced because they’re too reflective.

Hackers have attacked the Web site of top showbiz attorney Allen Grubman, demanding $21 million while threatening to reveal personal details of his clients including Elton John, Lady Gaga and Barbra Streisand.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s mega-hit, zeitgeist-tapping, precedent-breaking, Broadway smash “Hamilton” will land on Disney Plus just in time for our Nation’s birthday.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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