Rise and Shine: May 15, 2020

Good Friday morning, CivMixers, let the un-PAUSing begin!

A number of other states are also starting to re-open today, including Louisiana and Oregon, and many others have already done so.

Also worth noting: It’s Peace Officers Memorial Day, which happens to fall at the end of Police Week. (For clarity’s sake, the term “peace officer” can vary from state to state, but it usually means a position that carries a badge, has the power to arrest, and also carries a firearm).

It’s actually going to be HOT today, with temperatures potentially hitting 80 degrees, according to The Weather Channel. Unfortunately, we’re also in for cloudy skies and potentially severe thunderstorms in the afternoon.

The weekend – the first unPAUSEd weekend ! – is shaping up to be not too bad, with cloudy skies and temperatures in the low-to-mid 70s.

In the headlines…

Speaker Nancy Pelosi was projecting confidence yesterday that the House will pass Democrats’ massive coronavirus relief bill today, even as she and her leadership team were still working to secure the votes.

…Some progressive Democrats are unhappy with the $3 trillion HEROES Act, saying it’s skewed toward corporate interests and doesn’t do enough to help working people.

The lawmakers behind the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund rolled out a bill that would create a similar financial rescue fund for essential workers who suffer or die from the coronavirus pandemic.

Republican Long Island Rep. Pete King said he plans to buck party lines and vote in favor of the $3 trillion coronavirus relief package proposed by House Democrats.

The Cuomo administration is preparing to reveal how it will cull more than $10 billion in spending, and local officials and budget hawks have theories — but no certainty — about how and where the ax will fall.

The federal government’s ousted vaccine czar, Dr. Richard Bright, told lawmakers that the country is “in deep s–t” and severely unprepared for more coronavirus fallout because top Trump administration officials ignored his early warnings and then retaliated against him for sounding the alarm.

President Trump says his administration did have a plan to deal with the coronavirus pandemic — and his press secretary yesterday flashed a previously unknown playbook called the “Pandemic Crisis Action Plan” to prove it.

A burgeoning insider trading investigation scrutinizing members of the U.S. Senate led the chairman of its Intelligence Committee, Sen. Richard Burr, to step down abruptly after FBI agents seized his cellphone seeking evidence related to stock sales he made before the coronavirus pandemic crashed global markets.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned doctors about the rare, coronavirus-linked inflammatory condition affecting children.

With hundreds of millions of people still seeking advice on resuming their lives safely, the CDC issued a scant six pages of recommendations to guide schools, businesses, day-care facilities and others into the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

The FDA is cautioning the public about the reliability of a widely used rapid test for the coronavirus, which has been promoted by the Trump administration.

The test, used by the White House to screen its staff, could miss infections up to 48 percent of the time, according to a study by researchers at N.Y.U. Langone Health.

The WHO has warned coronavirus “may never go away” and that mankind will have to learn to live with the disease in the same way it adjusted to HIV.

A bioengineering team from Harvard and MIT is designing a face mask that glows when it comes in contact with COVID-19.

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine claims COVID-19-infected cats are capable of transmitting the disease within the species but not to humans.

A leaked database from a Chinese military-run university suggests the country may have at least 640,000 COVID-19 cases — a figure substantially higher than Beijing’s dubious claim that it has seen just 80,000 coronavirus infections.

Nearly three million new unemployment claims brought the two-month total to more than 36 million, even with some still frustrated in seeking benefits.

…Still, unemployment filings have declined since an initial surge in layoffs drove claims up to a weekly peak of nearly 7 million at the end of March. In 43 states, unemployment applications fell last week.

Nearly 300,000 people filed for unemployment in the tri-state area last week as the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow. In New York, where about 200,000 people filed claims in the week that ended May 9, more than $7.4 billion in unemployment benefits have been paid out since the beginning of March.

Two weeks into the reopening of Texas, coronavirus cases are climbing. New outbreaks still crop up.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said that thousands of city employees, including himself, will be furloughed for eight days this year to help close what is expected to be a $226 million budget gap caused by the coronavirus.

Chicago’s Cook County has surpassed Queens as the county with the most reported coronavirus cases in the United States, according to a report and the latest available public data.

New Jersey’s beaches will be re-opened in time for Memorial Day — albeit with some restrictions, Garden State Gov. Phil Murphy announced.

Anderson Cooper last night defended CNN for having 17-year-old Greta Thunberg appear alongside a lineup of coronavirus experts in a network town hall.

Despite facing his fiercest primary challenge in some time and his Bronx-Westchester district being home to New York’s first coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle, Rep. Eliot Engel hasn’t set foot in the Empire State since at least March 27.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended his state disaster emergency through June 13, though state regions may still begin phase 1 of reopening if they meet required criteria.

Cuomo urged people to remain cautious as some businesses are allowed to open their doors for the first time in two months. “Phased reopening does not mean the problem has gone away,” he said, adding that decisions about reopening should be made “in a calibrated way.”

The Capital Region will not be eligible to begin reopening until at least May 27 – despite assurance from local officials that the eight counties could open as soon as next week, a top Cuomo aide said.

After nearly two months of shutdown, Long Island has yet to meet the state’s seven guidelines needed for a wide-scale reopening, with hospital deaths and new hospitalizations too high.

Bipartisan calls for probes of Cuomo’s widely-criticized policies towards nursing homes amid the coronavirus are “gratuitous politics,” the governor said.

The transfer of recovering coronavirus patients to nursing homes compounded broader vulnerabilities at the facilities, including low levels of staffing and limited access to protective gear and testing, which made them weak spots in New York’s fight against the pandemic.

“I think as a long-term strategy, you can’t replace face-to-face education,” Jim Malatras, chair of the governor’s Reimagining Education initiative, said. “I think there’s an important social connection between an educator and your student.”

Suffolk County Community College plans to freeze full time student tuition at $5,470 for county residents and reduce spending by $7 million in response to the financial hardship the coronavirus shutdown has created for Long Islanders, college officials said.

Many of those unable to pay monthly rent or mortgage payments are at the mercy of the state and federal governments as the potential for mass evictions looms when the pandemic subsides.

New York Surrogate’s courts, where estates and wills are handled, are bracing for a flood of coronavirus-related cases amid the pandemic — and will begin allowing some to go forward next week, officials announced.

His own mother was among the coronavirus victims, and now NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer wants to get to the bottom of how the pandemic ravaged the city they called home. He’s launching an investigation into New York’s COVID-19 response and preparedness.

Even as Elmhurst Hospital in Queens faced “apocalyptic” conditions, 3,500 beds were free in other New York hospitals, some no more than 20 minutes away.

NYT Editorial Board member Mara Gay details her own battle with Covid-19, which left her, a 33-year-old runner, gasping for breath as she continues to recover.

Doctors have reported a flurry of stroke cases in Covid-19 patients — including a healthy 27-year-old emergency medical technician in Queens. After a month in the hospital, he is learning to walk again.

Even if they get the green light to reopen soon, most of the city’s bars and bistros won’t be able to pay their bills without a full house, a new survey says.

MTA chairman Pat Foye said the agency is considering a form of “Ticketmaster technology” that would require riders to book a slot on subway trains to ensure there’s enough space to social distance underground.

Almost half of New York City residents plan to avoid mass transit when coronavirus lockdowns begin to ease off, according to a new survey.

At a time when many restaurateurs in the city say they may be forced to close because of the health crisis, others are hitting the “start” button, believing they can successfully forge ahead despite the challenging operational and economic climate.

The new coronavirus has upended the complex system for getting a seat at New York City’s selective public schools, injecting extra anxiety into an already fraught competition.

The head of New York City’s public hospitals, Dr. Michael Katz, pushed to keep the city open in early March. Now Mayor Bill de Blasio has put him in charge of contact tracing, deepening a rift with the Health Department.

A heated comment made nearly two months ago during a feud by two of de Blasio’s top officials has suddenly handed the mayor an opportunity to get rid of a commissioner that sources say is among his least liked.

“I need to understand what happened here. I am concerned about it,” de Blasio said during his daily press briefing when he was asked about the callous comments made by Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “It obviously raises real concerns for me.”

The New York State Nurses Association fired a union rep for calling a Mount Sinai nurse who sounded the alarm about an inadequate supply of personal protective equipment a “piece of s–t” and telling her to “shut the f–k up.”

A top transit union official blasted de Blasio’s “epic failure” to address subway homelessness, saying the coronavirus pandemic had brought New York City’s inadequate response “into extreme clarity.”

A state appellate court unanimously ruled that Upper East Side Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright should not be booted from the Democratic and Working Families parties ballot lines just because she failed to file a cover sheet with her paperwork amid a pandemic.

The state attorney general’s office has issued more than 1,685 cease and desist orders during the coronavirus pandemic to businesses accused of price gouging, labor issues, violating passenger transportation rules or marketing products as cures for COVID-19.

Former state Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. says his life is in grave danger due to the coronavirus pandemic and wants a judge to let him out of prison early, according to court papers.

For the smallest urban school districts, fiscal disaster looms as they prepare to absorb state aid cuts and approve proposed 2020-21 budgets next week to send to the voters.

Starting on Monday, May 18, the sale of flavored vape products will be illegal in New York State, as well as the sale of all tobacco products in pharmacies.

Wegmans says prices are increasing for some products as its costs have gone up during the coronavirus pandemic.

A dozen Schenectady County correction officers at the county jail and three sheriff’s deputies recently tested positive for the coronavirus antibody, Sheriff Dominic Dagostino said.

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said four more residents died overnight from COVID-19, including the youngest death so far in the county, a man in his 20s.

The City of Albany is facing a $17.9 million revenue shortfall that could result in dozens of layoffs if the city doesn’t receive additional federal aid, city officials said this week.

The rift in Saratoga County government is growing.

The Illium Cafe & Bistro, open on Monument Square in Troy since fall 2010, is permanently closed after having served an estimated 750,000 meals.

Disney Theatrical Productions said that its stage adaptation of “Frozen” will not reopen on Broadway once the pandemic eases, making the musical the first to be felled by the current crisis.

In non-virus news…

A federal appeals court in Virginia revived a lawsuit accusing Trump of violating the Constitution by profiting from his Washington hotel, a decision that will most likely lead the Justice Department to appeal to the Supreme Court to keep the plaintiffs from gathering evidence in the case.

The first wave of long-promised negative ads from the Trump campaign began this week, flooding Facebook pages and TV screens in swing states with harsh messages that make unfounded inferences about former Vice President Joe Biden’s mental state and paint him as too friendly to the Chinese government.

Trump has embarked on an aggressive new drive to rewrite the narrative of the Russia investigation by making dark and unsubstantiated accusations that former President Barack Obama masterminded a sinister plot to bring him down.

Capping a day in which he appeared with two Democratic women in the running to be his vice president, Biden Jr. said he didn’t remember Tara Reade, the woman who has accused him of sexual assault, and that Americans “probably shouldn’t vote for me” if they believe the accusation, which he has strenuously denied.

The ransom demand for the secret files of a cyber-attacked lawyer to A-list stars has doubled to $42 million — as the hackers now threaten to reveal “dirty laundry” on Trump in just a week if they are not paid in full.

A judge has dismissed the criminal case against an Albany County jail officer charged with sexually assaulting two female inmates in the lock-up.

It turns out the Town of Berne might not have a planning board.

Author Laura Morton is selling her $1.1 million Stillwater estate, Deer Run.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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