Rise and Shine: May 28, 2020

Today is Thursday, CivMixers, good morning.

It’s the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which has both an agricultural and a spiritual significance. Agriculturally it marks the all-important wheat harvest in the Land of Israel, and spiritually it commemorates the anniversary of the day when God gave the Torah to the nation of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai.

It is also, rather ironically, National Work From Home Day, which, for many of us, is the new normal as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and likely will remain that way for some time.

It’s going to be slightly less hot today, with temperatures “only” reaching the low 80s. We’ll have a mix of sun and clouds, with a chance of rain in the afternoon. Enjoy the sun while you can, to the extent that we get any, because it’s looking likely there will be more rain where that came from in the coming days.

In the headlines…

The U.S. surpassed a jarring milestone yesterday in the coronavirus pandemic: 100,000 deaths. That number is the best estimate and most assuredly an undercount. But it represents the stark reality that more Americans have died from the virus than from the Vietnam and Korea wars combined.

The pandemic is on track to be the country’s deadliest public health disaster since the 1918 flu pandemic, in which about 675,000 Americans died.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, released a video in which he expressed grief and charged that “this is a fateful milestone we should have never reached.”

Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, said hydroxychloroquine isn’t an effective treatment for Covid-19 and urged caution as Republicans and Democrats plan their conventions for later this summer.

New guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said antibody tests, used to determine if people have been infected with coronavirus in the past, may be wrong up to half the time.

A third of Americans are showing signs of clinical anxiety or depression, Census Bureau data shows, the most definitive and alarming sign yet of the psychological toll exacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

After staunchly denying U.S. allegations that the coronavirus originated from a bio-lab in its first epicenter Wuhan, Chinese researchers say they have debunked the widely reported view that the deadly virus emanated from a wet market in the city selling live animals.

China has reported two new confirmed coronavirus cases, both from abroad, and 23 asymptomatic ones, the majority of which are in Wuhan, health officials said.

In California, which has become the fourth state with at least 100,000 known infections, Gov. Gavin Newsom seems to be moving closer to handing the reins of reopening to county public health officials. The state joins Illinois, New Jersey and New York with the highest case counts.

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, defiant amid criticism that she is using the coronavirus to pursue a long-sought agenda, said she would force public school districts to spend a large portion of federal rescue funding on private school students, regardless of income.

Some educators worry the “Covid slide” could affect 2020-21 test scores and have a lasting impact on students and the city’s school system. Remote summer school may not be enough, they say.

Trump plans to sign an executive order today targeting social media companies, following Twitter’s decision Tuesday to add fact-checking footnotes to the bottom of two of his tweets about mail-in voting.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Twitter was wrong to fact-check Trump’s tweets that made the dubious claim that mail-in ballots increase voter fraud, reasoning that the social media platforms shouldn’t be the “arbiters of truth.”

The head of Twitter’s post-policing team that flagged Trump’s tweets has a history of politically charged tweets of his own.

A shift to mail voting is increasing the chances that Americans will not know the winner of November’s presidential race on election night, a scenario that is fueling worries about whether Trump will use the delay to sow doubts about the results.

Some of Trump’s most stalwart media defenders broke ranks with him yesterday, aghast at his baseless smears against the MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, whom the president has all but accused of killing a former staff member two decades ago despite a total lack of evidence.

U.S. businesses saw limited evidence of a recovery in recent weeks, with economic activity continuing to decline amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Reserve said.

Walt Disney Co. said it plans to begin reopening its Disney World theme park at reduced capacity in mid-July.

American Airlines will cut its management and administrative staff by 30 percent as the airline prepares to shrink, with demand decimated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Yes, Zoom fatigue is real.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo met with Trump at the White House yesterday morning. Cuomo said he impressed upon the president the need to “supercharge” infrastructure projects.

“It was about: How do we supercharge the reopening?” Cuomo told reporters after the White House meeting. “It was a good conversation. The president is from New York so he has a context for all the things we’re talking about.”

After that meeting, Cuomo blasted Republican lawmakers, reminding them New York pays the federal government $29 billion more every year than the state gets back and stressing that it’s high time for Washington to return the favor.

“There is no nation without the states,” the governor said during a press briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. “They tend to forget that in this town.”

The governor directed much of his fire at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, and Sen. Rick Scott, of Florida, pointing out both their states are in the bottom five when it comes to those that put the least amount of money into the federal pot.

Several of the famous billboards went dark at 9 p.m. last night, dimming the Crossroads of the World. The message: this city and its businesses need help.

Some of the largest unions in New York are calling on state lawmakers to increase taxes on the wealthy to avoid sweeping job cuts, including in the health care and education sectors.

The New York State Dental Association wrote a letter to Cuomo last week requesting he remove his emergency order only allowing dental offices to do emergency procedures.

First he blamed nursing homes, then he blamed Trump — and now Cuomo is attacking The NY Post for shining light on his widely panned state policy barring nursing homes from turning away coronavirus-positive patients, which may have fueled more than 5,000 deaths in the facilities.

The state Legislature passed a bill that would extend the Child Victims Act’s “look-back” window to August 2021, a full year later than planned when lawmakers first approved the legislation last year.

State lawmakers also passed a package of COVID-19 related bills that, among other things, reversed an old law banning public mask wearing and banned price gouging of medical supplies.

The State Senate approved a bill to extend a moratorium on evictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, rejecting Republican claims that the legislation was written so broadly as to allow many tenants to just stop paying rent. The Assembly was expected to follow suit.

The New York State Senate majority urged Cuomo to allow “school districts to safely hold high school graduations outdoors and in person in July,” saying the ceremonies would follow social distancing and public health guidelines.

Nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers say that reviving the state’s economy too quickly is more dangerous than moving slowly through a phased reopening, and 75 percent believe the state will experience a second spike of COVID-19 cases in the fall, according to a new Siena poll.

New York City is now $9 billion in the red thanks to the coronavirus shutdown, Mayor Bill de Blasio said as he once again begged for a federal bailout or help from the state.

The mayor’s declaration that he wants the option to borrow his way out of the hole — barring a multi-billion dollar coronavirus relief package from the Trump administration — led to a clarion call from fiscal watchdogs for more austerity first.

Chicago has released a 13-page list of guidelines for how its eateries can safely resume on-premises service amid the coronavirus pandemic, while de Blasio remains short on answers.

New York City’s strength comes from its ability to congregate masses of people on trading floors and in restaurants, hotels, stadiums, dance theaters and subway cars. That is also now its biggest vulnerability.

Just hours after City Hall sent in the Sheriff’s Office, at least four Borough Park, Brooklyn stores that has been operating in violation of emergency coronavirus orders were back open — and, again, packed with customers not wearing masks.

Megabus will resume its budget bus service between New York City and Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. next week, the company announced.

State Attorney General Letitia James has filed a lawsuit against a grocery wholesaler for price gouging during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Phase I of the reopening process is well underway on Long Island.

East End officials are closing beaches to out-of-town visitors after what Southampton Town’s supervisor called a “hellish” holiday weekend.

The Mid-Hudson Valley region is also in Phase I, and could move on to Phase II within two weeks.

Interest in purchasing backyard pools has shot up as temperatures have soared and people accept the reality their original summer plans, like sleep away camps or water-side vacations, are off.

COVID-19 has meant boom times for bottle recyclers. With many supermarkets shuttering their bottle return bins, people are seeking out specialized redemption centers and beverage stores to cash in on their empties.

Hospitals in the Capital Region would receive nearly $100 million in additional federal funding annually due to a provision tucked in the more than 1,800-page relief bill passed by the House on May 15.

Despite impending revenue losses and furloughs, Saratoga County leadership is looking to spend $50,000 to what it says is “promote” a section of the county website that gives guidance to businesses on reopening during the pandemic.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s Executive Committee held its quarterly meeting yesterday morning for the first time via a video conference and approved measures going forward regarding the 2020-21 scholastic year.

The National Lacrosse League, which had an Albany franchise for four years in the early 2000s, may be interested in playing some games in the Times Union Center again.

CBS News is the latest casualty amid the COVID-19 pandemic after announcing job losses of 75 staff members.

In non-virus news….

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is asking the governor to deploy the Minnesota National Guard to help with the response to the George Floyd protests, according to an official with the mayor’s office.

…Hundreds of protesters poured into the Minneapolis streets for a second night, with officers using tear gas and firing rubber bullets into the crowds.

In tweets, Trump said he has directed the FBI and Department of Justice to look into Floyd’s death, and promised that justice would be served.

Peter Manfredonia, the University of Connecticut senior suspected of two murders, was captured by police in Maryland last night after five days on the lam, authorities said.

SpaceX and NASA will need to wait for their historic launch to the International Space Station after inclement weather postponed the first crewed flight of the Dragon yesterday.

…The president had hoped to watch the first launch of NASA astronauts into orbit from the United States in nearly a decade.

China’s legislature approved a resolution to impose national-security laws on Hong Kong, overriding the territory’s partial autonomy in a bid to quash anti-Beijing protests that have challenged Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

More than 140 years after Thomas Edison and his assistants conducted their first successful experiments with a carbon-filament lamp in a vacuum, the company he helped to found — General Electric — has sold its lighting business.

New York City’s former subway chief, Andy Byford, won’t be returning to New York City after all. Instead he is going back to London where his transit career began.

A New Jersey Superior Court judge who asked a woman if she had closed her legs to try to prevent a sexual assault has been ordered removed from the bench by the state’s highest court, which concluded his behavior made it “inconceivable” that he could ever handle cases of domestic violence or sexual assault.

Challenger Matt Toporowski outraised Albany County District Attorney David Soares by a near 2:1 margin, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.

Officials in Rensselaer County are warning young people against participating in a “large” competition at the former Fort Orange Paper Co. property in Castleton that was apparently advertised to teens in a mass text, saying those found on the private property could face trespassing charges.

RIP Larry Kramer, the noted writer whose raucous, antagonistic campaign for an all-out response to the AIDS crisis helped shift national health policy in the 1980s and ’90s, who died yesterday morning in Manhattan at the age of 84.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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