Rise and Shine: May 29, 2020

TGIF, CivMixers.

I don’t usually say that. I think it’s a little trite, to be honest. But yesterday was a veritable BEAR of a day. And I forgot to do “5 Things.” Mea Culpa. I’m sorry. Won’t happen again.

We’re coming to the tail end of another month – the third since this pandemic really began in earnest. And things are starting to get back to some version of normal, whatever that means, with the five regions of the state that went first in the reopening looking now at moving into Phase II.

What does that mean? Well, apparently ALL office jobs are now included, to the extent that businesses and their employees are willing to start going back in. Many have simply chosen to keep work-from-home policies in place for the foreseeable future.

Also new: Limited barber shop and hair salon service.

However, it’s not all going to happen as fast as some local leaders and business owners might like. During an interview with WAMC, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will turn over two weeks of COVID-19 data to experts who will review it and determine whether the regions can move forward.

Local leaders in some of the five regions — Finger Lakes (including Rochester), Mohawk Valley (including Utica), North Country, Central New York and the Southern Tier — had been told by state officials as recently as Wednesday to prepare for the second phase to begin Friday.

Chemung County Executive Chris Moss, a Republican who ran for lieutenant governor in 2014, said he is still telling Phase II businesses they can open today, regardless of Cuomo’s comments.

So, that ought to be interesting.

It’s possible that the review process will go quickly, and reopening for Phase II could begin by tomorrow. There’s a lot of confusion about the process.

Cuomo also yesterday threw his weight behind businesses eager to stop the spread of the coronavirus by signing an executive order authorizing them to deny entry to any customer who doesn’t wear a mask or other face covering.

Less than half of Brooklynites are wearing masks to stop the spread of the coronavirus, comedian Chris Rock estimated in his guest appearance at Cuomo’s press briefing, along with actress Rosie Perez, saying it’s seen by some as a “status symbol” to go bare-faced.

As New Yorkers get ready for a long summer defined by the need to keep six-feet apart and wear masks in public, New York City is tapping an army of such ambassadors to help make that a reality. The municipality has built a team of 2,300 employees to fill the slots.

Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin said during his daily briefing yesterday that the “community spread” of the novel coronavirus is coming to an end and questioned how effective masks and face coverings are – an opinion that is counter to current federal and state health department guidance.

Mask enforcement is left to officials at the local level, and that’s where it becomes problematic.

But wait. Before we get too deep into the news here…it’s going to be hot again, with temperatures in the mid-80s and a chance of thunderstorms developing in the afternoon. And then things are going to get a little weird, with the thermometer dropping like a stone into the 60s over the weekend.

OK, in the headlines…

President Trump early today threatened to “get the job done right” to control the violent Minneapolis protests if the city’s mayor doesn’t “get his act together.”

Crowds of angry protesters forced cops to evacuate a Minneapolis police precinct as it was set on fire late yesterday – the third night of demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for charges against the Minneapolis cops involved in the death of Floyd, saying he was “horrified” by the video that showed him being “murdered in broad daylight.”

Crowds of demonstrators clashed with cops in Lower Manhattan yesterday during a protest against Floyd’s police-involved death. At least 70 people were arrested.

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea took to Twitter to call Floyd’s killing “deeply disturbing” and “wrong.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Floyd’s killing “frightening” and said it was absolutely a “criminal case.”

Derek Chauvin, the white Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck, opened fire on two people during his 19-year career and had nearly 20 complaints and two letters of reprimand filed against him.

Seven people were shot in Louisville, Kentucky last night as protests broke out over the shooting death of EMT Breonna Taylor during a botched raid earlier this month.

Trump signed an executive order targeting social media companies, days after Twitter called two of his tweets “potentially misleading.” He said the move was to “defend free speech from one of the gravest dangers it has faced in American history.”

The president said the tech companies have “unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter” a large sphere of human interaction. “They have points of view,” he said.

Depending on how the order is carried out, it poses the potential for wide-ranging consequences for a much broader segment of the Internet beyond just the social media giants, potentially affecting every website, app or service where users congregate online with new liability for the content on their platform.

Legal observers described the action as “political theater,” arguing that it’s potentially unconstitutional and does not change existing federal law and will have no bearing on federal courts.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said he stands by the company’s decision to fact-check two tweets by Trump, even as it has attracted intense criticism by Trump and his allies.

The company also slapped a “public interest notice” on a tweet from Trump about the riots in Minnesota, saying it violated its rules regarding the glorifying of violence.

…But Twitter did not take the tweet down, saying it was in the public’s interest that the message remain accessible.

COVID-19 infections and deaths are rising in more than a dozen states, as they are in countries around the world, an ominous sign that the pandemic may be entering a new phase.

Despite the masks and lockdowns and social distancing requirements, thousands in the NYC metro area are still getting sick.

….But NYC is no longer the epicenter of the nation’s virus outbreak.

The first confirmed coronavirus infections in Europe and the U.S., discovered in January, did not ignite the epidemics that followed, according to a close analysis of hundreds of viral genomes. Instead, the outbreaks plaguing much of the West began weeks later, the study concluded.

Trump said that U.S. officials are forecasting a “slightly enhanced” hurricane season in coming months, creating new challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.

The CDC issued sweeping new recommendations on the safest way for American employers to reopen their offices and, at the same time, prevent the spread of the coronavirus among their employees.

Organizers have canceled the Boston Marathon for the first time in its history, bowing to the social distancing requirements of the coronavirus outbreak and ending a 124-year run that had persisted through two World Wars, a volcanic eruption and even another pandemic.

The number of workers receiving unemployment benefits fell for the first time since February and new weekly claims continued to ease, offering evidence that layoffs related to the coronavirus pandemic are slowing.

The House approved a bipartisan bill that would loosen requirements on hundreds of billions of dollars in small-business loans, responding to concerns from employers struggling to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic. The Senate is hoping for quick action on the measure.

How quickly consumers start spending will determine how quickly the economy recovers from a coronavirus-induced recession, New York’s top banker said.

Some Americans who haven’t received their stimulus payments yet may receive them in the form of a debit card, but New Yorkers who have already received the card are raising concerns that the envelope could easily pass for junk mail that’s normally tossed aside.

For millions of Americans left out of work by the coronavirus pandemic, government assistance has been a lifeline preventing a plunge into poverty, hunger and financial ruin. This summer, that lifeline could snap.

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, the 2016 Democratic vice presidential candidate, and his wife Anne have tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, he announced.

Democrats in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives accused Republicans of keeping a lawmaker’s positive coronavirus test a secret to avoid political embarrassment, even at the risk of exposing their Democratic colleagues.

UPS is adding “peak” surcharges for companies that have been inundating its delivery network with many more packages and oversize items during the coronavirus pandemic, an unprecedented move to manage a summer flood of shipments and higher costs.

A new federal program to connect hungry families with boxes of fresh food from farmers has launched in New York, but demand is outstripping supply, even as distributors package tens of thousands of boxes.

Cancer patients infected with the new coronavirus are dying at significantly higher rates than Covid-19 patients in the general population, a new study suggests.

As municipalities across New York begin the harsh work of trimming their payrolls, Cuomo said he is hopeful the state can avoid layoffs or furloughs.

Republicans are calling for curtailing the emergency powers that Cuomo has wielded to change more than 250 laws amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The state Legislature has refused to take up de Blasio’s request to allow New York City to borrow $7 billion to address a massive shortfall triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

Cuomo said said New York City has not met the thresholds needed to begin the first phase of reopening, even as regions of upstate are moving toward the second phase of restarting their economies after being shut down more than two months ago.

De Blasio released a plan for reopening New York City, but it was nothing more than a vague rehash of the state’s guidelines issued weeks ago — and with no firm dates.

New York City officials have begun using electronic monitoring to speed the release of defendants from jails during the coronavirus pandemic, the first time the technology has been used for people awaiting trial there.

The pandemic has significantly altered the 2021 New York City mayor’s race.

Some day and overnight camp programs in other states are still up and running despite the coronavirus pandemic. (But thus far, New York hasn’t made a decision about the fate of camp this summer).

The Department of Education official overseeing the city’s school admissions debate reportedly is sending his child to a highly selective and disproportionately white Manhattan middle school.

The New York City Council voted overwhelmingly to replace all mentions of “alien” in city documents, regulations and local laws with “noncitizen” – a move that critics derided as political correctness run amok.

Last year’s measles outbreak in New York City was significantly impacted by parents who refused to vaccinate their children and those who made their kids participate in ill-advised “measles parties,” a new study has found.

Trump announced that the federal government was providing $60.9 million to build the Purple Line bus rapid transit route from downtown Albany, along the Washington and Western avenue corridor, to the University at Albany, SUNY Polytechnic Institute and Crossgates Mall.

A surge in nursing home death data reported to Albany County caused a significant jump in the county’s death toll from COVID-19.

A Niskayuna man who stole trade secrets from General Electric pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court yesterday.

The sports calendar will be crowded once the pro leagues find a way to safely operate within the shadow of COVID-19. Major League Baseball is used to having its early-season games overlap with the NHL and NBA postseason, but in July and August?

An appeals court determined that a state Supreme Court justice erred when he ruled last year that a business landlord properly terminated Sonic’s lease for a location in Clifton Park.

A real estate development company that owns several residential properties in the Stockade wants to convert the once-thriving Stockade Inn boutique hotel and restaurant into apartments and professional office space, according to plans submitted to the city’s development office.

According to a Facebook post, Peck’s Arcade as a restaurant is officially closed as of Monday (6/1). Its space, which will be modified, is being taken over by Donna’s Italian.

“The Power Broker,” a biography by Robert Caro, has become a must-have prop for numerous politicians and reporters appearing on camera from home.

A high school sports policy in Connecticut that allows transgender students to participate in athletics based on their gender identity violates federal law and could cost the state federal education funding, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has found.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has issued a “late season muddy trails advisory for the Adirondacks,” urging hikers to avoid high elevation trails, especially in the High Peaks, until further notice.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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