Rise and Shine: May 18, 2020

Good Monday morning, CivMixers.

Today is National HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, observed annually to recognize the many volunteers, community members, health professionals, and scientists working together to develop a vaccine to prevent HIV.

It is also, according to the NIH, an opportunity to educate communities about the importance of preventive HIV vaccine research, which notes: “A safe and effective preventive HIV vaccine is key to ending the HIV pandemic.”

I don’t want to be the skunk at the garden party here, but HIV has been around a long time and there’s still no preventative vaccine. There is, however, an effective treatment protocol and some very good means of prevention. So, I’m going to choose to look at the bright side there, while remaining hopeful about vaccines in general.

It’s also one week from Memorial Day, which is the official kickoff of summer, traditionally speaking. This past weekend was something of a test of how that’s going to go, from a social distancing standpoint.

Let’s just say that the results were…mixed, at best.

It’s clear as the weather warms and the economy starts to slowly re-open that the whole social distancing thing is a fairly significant challenge for a lot of lockdown-weary New Yorkers. And that’s part of the reason why New York City’s own beaches won’t be open for Memorial Day, even as the state has decided to act in concert with its neighbors and open its own shoreline.

Of course, it’s tough to keep an entire beach closed. And Mother Nature made things extra difficult by sending us a fairly glorious weekend, weather-wise.

Today, we’re looking at showers in the morning and clouds for the rest of the afternoon, with temperatures in the high 60s.

In the headlines…

China’s senior medical adviser is already raising alarms about the “big challenge” of a possible second wave of infections, which will remain a serious concern until a coronavirus vaccine can become widely available.

Dr. Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese government’s senior medical adviser and the public face of the country’s fight against Covid-19, also confirmed that local authorities in Wuhan, the city where the novel coronavirus was first reported in December, had suppressed key details about the magnitude of the initial outbreak.

The United States and other nation members of the World Health Organization will hold a virtual meeting today where a key question will be whether there will be a call for an investigation of China’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Australia’s foreign minister insists a motion that has won support from more than 120 countries will pave the way for an impartial, independent and comprehensive investigation into the handling of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Though President Trump has claimed that the U.S.’ economic difficulties in the midst of coronavirus will quickly disappear, Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell warned that a full recovery from the damage done by the pandemic may not happen until the end of 2021.

“It’s going to take a while for us to get back,” Powell said in a rare television interview on CBS News’s “60 Minutes” program. “The economy will recover. It may take a while…It could stretch through the end of next year. We really don’t know.”

In a virtual commencement speech to college graduates, former President Barack Obama criticized the handling of the coronavirus pandemic without mentioning Trump by name, just a week after privately critiquing the administration’s response to the Covid-19 crisis.

Trump slammed Obama as “grossly incompetent” and called former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential contender, “corrupt” even as the coronavirus death toll neared 90,000.

In a telephone appearance during a televised charity golf exhibition yesterday, Trump enthusiastically supported the return of live sports events during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sports fans are longing to return to the stands, but health experts say stadiums are one of the highest-risk areas for coronavirus transmission.

Obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes are part of the reason for more severe COVID-19 illness in Americans who contract coronavirus, U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services said.

The House late last Friday passed the HEROES Act by a vote of 208-199. The sweeping $3 trillion legislation was dismissed by Senate Republicans with Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, deriding it as a “big laundry list of pet priorities.”

The Wall Street Journal: “The policy question is why taxpayers in Florida and other well-managed states should pay higher taxes to rescue an Albany political class that refuses to restrain its tax-and-spend governance.”

Auto makers and their vast network of parts suppliers are determined to get back to work. But like businesses across the country, they are facing both complications and costs around worker safety and depressed customer demand.

California’s governor and San Francisco’s mayor worked together to act early in confronting the COVID threat, and kept the death toll relatively low. For Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, it was a different story, and 27,000 New Yorkers have died so far.

New York’s new coronavirus-era partnerships with Bloomberg LP founder Michael Bloomberg, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and former Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt have prompted criticism that Cuomo is giving outsize power to moneyed executives and circumventing government institutions.

Some popular Mexico tourist destinations — including Cancun and Tulum — reportedly plan to reopen to international travelers by the beginning of June.

Some of the largest consulting firms, including McKinsey & Co. and Boston Consulting Group, are pushing back start dates for some of their newest hires.

Queens resident Jack McMorrow, 14, awoke in agony last month with heart failure. His case may help doctors understand a frightening new affliction in children linked to the coronavirus.

The costs of the coronavirus shutdown, economic and otherwise, have driven many people to the breaking point. But governors are increasingly worried about the costs of reopening, too.

Cuomo got a coronavirus test during his daily news briefing, saying “it is so fast and so easy that even the governor can take this test.”

Cuomo introduced Dr. Elizabeth DuFort, decked in full personal protective equipment, including a gown, gloves and mask, who put a long swab, known as a nasopharyngeal swab, deep into his nose for about five seconds.

Cuomo had previously expressed resistance to being tested for COVID, which has hit New York harder than any state. He argued that he had not been displaying symptoms, nor had he been directly exposed to anyone who has tested positive.

Cuomo said New York has 700 testing centers, enough to cover all corners of the state.

“There is no reason why you should not get the test,” the governor said, calling on anyone with symptoms to get a test as soon as possible.

Any person who would return to work during phase one of the state’s reopening process is now eligible for a COVID-19 test, Cuomo said.

MTA Chairman Pat Foye, who tested positive for coronavirus in late March, this weekend donated his plasma in an effort to treat other agency employees who have contracted the disease.

A Seattle-area coronavirus testing program backed by billionaire Bill Gates was reportedly halted by the federal government last week due to operating without the proper approval.

Governments and drugmakers are weighing how to roll out coronavirus vaccines, including reserving the first batches for health-care workers, as several shots race to early leads. Of more than 100 vaccines in development globally, at least eight have started testing in humans.

Europe, the continent that helped lead a backlash against Silicon Valley’s appetite for personal data, is increasingly aligning itself with technology built by Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to blaze a path out of the coronavirus pandemic.

Facing at least a $10 billion deficit amid a pandemic that has crippled New York’s economy, Cuomo has not proposed furloughs or layoffs in the state workforce, even as tens of thousands of government employees have been directed to work from home — including many with sharply reduced job duties.

Cuomo addressed the state’s early response to the coronavirus outbreak and said “nobody” should be prosecuted for the those who died, noting that “older people” were most vulnerable.

Cuomo is launching a new effort meant to address mental health suffering and stresses amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has upended school, work and life since March.

Summer camps have become a battleground for upstate reopening wars — with fearful locals and anxious operators in limbo awaiting direction on if and how they can open amid the coronavirus crisis.

Republican state Senators Rob Ortt and Chris Jacobs said with the coronavirus emergency appearing to be on the down slope, it’s time for lawmakers to return to the state Capitol.

Eric Adams is now in week eight of a coronavirus-inspired lifestyle change: He’s living in his Brooklyn Borough Hall workspace so he can hit the ground running shortly after sunrise each morning.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on unproven coronavirus treatments and cures that the senator said are on the rise.

The New York City hospitals that serve the city’s poorest patients are facing financial ruin after being on the front lines in the U.S. fight against the coronavirus.

Driving in New York City during the pandemic feels post-apocalyptic due to the lack of traffic on the streets.

Practicing social distancing on the Long Island Rail Road after most of the railroad’s 300,000 weekday riders return to work will require rethinking the rush hour as commuters know it, transit experts said.

De Blasio threatened to have authorities set up fences at beaches if New Yorkers ignore social-distancing guidelines at the city’s sandy shores.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s spokeswoman criticized de Blasio’s decision to keep New York City’s beaches closed for Memorial Day, while other Long Island elected leaders worried about a wave of people flooding Nassau and Suffolk beaches that will open in time for the holiday weekend.

New York City will reduce its ferry service beginning today amid falling ridership and budget cuts caused by the new coronavirus pandemic.

Drive-in movies opened for the first time this weekend around New York, and people flocked to attend, grateful to have something to do outside their own homes.

As businesses across the country remain shuttered, movie theater marquees offer jokes and advice to those wandering by.

Starting in March, as the coronavirus outbreak here began, parts of the city emptied out, with many leaving from New York’s wealthiest neighborhoods. Mail-forwarding requests show where a number of them went.

Roughly 5 percent of residents — or about 420,000 people — left the city between March 1 and May 1. In the city’s very wealthiest blocks, residential population decreased by 40 percent or more, while the rest of the city saw comparably modest changes.

CUNY colleges, bracing for deep budget cuts, have begun announcing plans to eliminate the jobs of hundreds—possibly thousands—of adjunct instructors and contingent employees, putting thousands of classes at risk of being canceled.

The city university system’s 18 colleges have until May 29 to notify thousands of adjuncts whether they will be rehired next year. At least one CUNY college has already signaled it plans to lay off hundreds.

The emptying out of college campuses around the state and nation is especially painful in places that have leaned on universities to lure well-paying jobs and industry to communities that might otherwise lack both – including Ithaca, NY.

Tens of thousands of people are backing a five-point safety plan that they hope the NYC Department of Education will implement before requiring students and staff to return to school buildings.

New Yorkers of the Jewish faith may be able to celebrate the major holiday of Shavuot in synagogue — albeit in a limited capacity with social distancing — during coronavirus pandemic.

Out-of-state nurses brought to Manhattan to fight the coronavirus say they found hellish conditions at the city-run adult-care center on Roosevelt Island — from patients with horrific bed sores to feces-smeared walls.

De Blasio went on the defensive when grilled about the nearly 200 percent spike in city shootings last week.

Following a dramatic increase in demand during stay-at-home orders, Instacart’s personal shopper ranks in New York City alone have swelled to more than 14,000 since March, according to company officials, an increase of more than 150 percent.

The state court system has expanded its virtual operations to allow defendants jailed on felony charges the right to have preliminary hearings where their attorneys can question evidence and argue for their client’s release.

The Buffalo and Albany areas could soon start reopening from coronavirus shutdowns after Cuomo’s administration made a major shift Sunday in the way it calculates its COVID-19 benchmarks.

The Capital Region is ready to start Phase 1 of reopening with manufacturing, construction and curbside retail businesses to open up this week as soon as more contract tracers are identified.

Safety pledges will be required and four-day work weeks are being considered under a reopening plan outlined Saturday by Albany County Executive Dan McCoy.

Cuomo on Saturday granted approval for car racing and horse tracks to re-open June 1 across the state, including at the Saratoga Race Course, as long as there are no fans present.

The announcement was welcome – and relatively good news – for both Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County, officials of which have said they would prefer to have summer racing without fans to having no racing at all because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

With fans not allowed at the race tracks in person for the time being, they can instead watch on a live stream and place their wagers online.

The blood bank that supplies all of New York City’s public hospitals — as well as nearly 200 private hospitals throughout the state and in parts of New Jersey — is stocked with only enough donations to last the region one or two days.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said she will give up the remainder of her $135,403 salary for the year as the city faces a possible $17.9 million budget hole due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

A Kingston, NY barber who defied Cuomo’s lockdown order and continued cutting hair on the side was released after being hospitalized with Covid-19, and remains unapologetic, though he’s under investigation.

The New York Philharmonic hasn’t performed together in concert since mid-March—but that hasn’t stopped its musicians from finding an audience.

In non-virus news…

China’s commerce ministry says it will take “all necessary measures” in response to new U.S. restrictions on Chinese tech giant Huawei’s ability to use American technology, calling the measures an abuse of state power and a violation of market principles.

The State Department watchdog whom Trump fired last Friday had been looking into whether Secretary Mike Pompeo had ordered a staffer to perform personal errands including walking his dog, making dinner reservations and grabbing dry cleaning.

A Florida judge granted Giants corner DeAndre Baker release from jail on $200,000 bail but said Baker cannot leave the state at this time. Baker also has been told stay away from the Giants’ virtual meetings for the time being and focus on his legal issues.

Nevada Rep. Steven Horsford, the state’s first black State Senate Majority Leader, admitted to an on-again-off-again relationship with a woman he met while she was serving as an intern in then-Senator Harry Reid’s office more than a decade ago.

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez still hasn’t paid a 7-year-old tax bill leftover from a failed business venture.

An internal investigation prompted by a sexual harassment complaint triggered Schenectady Superintendent of Schools Larry Spring’s sudden resignation in March.

Most controlled substance providers meet requirements for proper disposal of the drugs, but the method of tossing the substances is not always environmentally friendly, according to a review by the state Comptroller’s Office.

Some folks were without power Saturday morning as a result of high winds that tore through the area Friday.

The National Weather Service has confirmed that a tornado touched down in Wilton on Friday evening.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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