Rise and Shine: May 4, 2020

Good Monday morning, CivMixers.

May the Fourth be With You.

Yes, it’s Star Wars Day, which mostly a commercial thing, and also a social media thing. But it’s still kinda fun, for those of us who grew up on the franchise.

It’s also Teacher Appreciation Week, which is a little more on the serious side, given what folks are going through right now.

After an insanely glorious weekend of warmth and sun, which strained social distancing requirements to the max, we’re in for clouds and wind today. Wind gusts could be between 20 and 30 mph, or perhaps even higher, this afternoon, according to The Weather Channel. The high temperature will flirt with 60 degrees.

In the headlines…

President Trump predicted last night that the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the country may reach as high as 100,000 in the United States, far higher than he had forecast just weeks ago, even as he pressed states to begin reopening the shuttered economy.

The rate of new coronavirus infections across New York remained flat, and hospitalizations fell to their lowest number in a month, but there was also bad news Saturday — deaths in the past 24 hours climbed to 299, an “obnoxiously” high number, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the five boroughs neared 170,000 yesterday — hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city must remain on high alert for a possible “boomerang.”

The Big Apple will have 30,000 city-made 3D-printed coronavirus test kits by Friday — and will pump out 50,000 each week to help contain the pandemic’s spread, de Blasio said.

Cuomo announced the results of the state’s completed antibody testing study, showing 12.3 percent of the population have COVID-19 antibodies. The survey developed a baseline infection rate by testing 15,000 people at grocery stores and community centers across the state over the past two weeks.

The coronavirus pandemic continued to show signs of waning across New York, but Cuomo warned that easing up on social distancing, staying home and other safe practices could lead to a new surge.

U.S. officials believe China covered up the extent of the coronavirus outbreak — and how contagious the disease is — to stock up on medical supplies needed to respond to it, intelligence documents show.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “enormous evidence” exists indicating the coronavirus pandemic began in a lab in Wuhan, China and that the ruling Communist Party did everything it could to keep the outbreak under wraps.

The U.S. had its deadliest day on record due to the coronavirus as states across the country begin to ease restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus, according to data published by the World Health Organization.

The president’s chief adviser on immigration, Stephen Miller, had long tried to halt migration based on public health, without success. Then came the coronavirus.

Vice President Mike Pence signaled that he regretted not wearing a face covering during a visit to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota last week.

During Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholders’ meeting — Warren Buffett’s annual “Woodstock for Capitalists,” conducted virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic — his words often betrayed a deep sense of concern about the immediate future. That should be a warning to all investors and policymakers.

Stock futures fell early this morning as traders weighed the reopening of the economy along with brewing tensions between China and the U.S.

Tourism Economics, a data and consulting firm, predicts global travel demand won’t resume its normal pace until 2023. When tourists do finally return, they will face a changed landscape that incorporates social distancing and other measures to calm residual fears over COVID-19.

White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the Trump Administration was taking a “pause” on pushing Congress for additional coronavirus relief packages as Trump’s senior advisers await the economic impact of nearly $3 trillion in stimulus dollars that have been approved by Congress so far.

Lobbyists for business groups, labor unions and nonprofit associations are shifting into high gear as Congress considers what could be a final round of aid to combat the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

The marquee loan program for small businesses struggling to survive the coronavirus pandemic – the Paycheck Protection Program – has exhausted more than half of its funding in one week.

Trump said he won’t support another round of coronavirus stimulus legislation unless it includes a payroll tax cut, a measure that has muted support among lawmakers in Congress.

A dispute among native populations over $8 billion in federal coronavirus relief has delayed aid to tribes that are among the hardest-hit by Covid-19.

J. Crew is expected to file for bankruptcy protection as soon as today. It would be the first major retailer to fall during the coronavirus pandemic, though other big industry names including Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penney are likewise struggling with the devastating toll of mass shutdowns.

The National Rifle Association has laid off dozens of employees, canceled its national convention and scuttled fundraising, membership and shooting events that normally would be key to rallying its base in an election year.

The growing presence of anti-vaxxers at protests across the country worries public health experts who fear that their messaging could harm the United States’ ability to turn a corner following the pandemic if Americans do not accept a future vaccine.

Anti-viral drug remdesivir, which was approved last Friday for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration, is expected to be available to treat coronavirus patients as early as this week.

Researchers are investigating whether a common blood-plasma product used in treating immune-system disorders could also be effective in coronavirus patients and potentially shape future trials of new treatments specific to Covid-19.

The Food and Drug Administration has cleared for emergency use an antibody test from diagnostics giant Roche Holding, the company said, a move that could add significant capacity to efforts to determine the wider spread of Covid-19.

Trump predicted that a Covid-19 vaccine would be ready by the end of 2020.

U.S. regulators and state officials are finding a significant number of imported N95-style masks fall short of certification standards, complicating the response to the coronavirus crisis and potentially putting some front-line workers at greater risk.

As the nation edges away from lockdown and people once again share public spaces in the middle of a pandemic, wearing a face mask — or refusing to — has become a flash point in a moment when civic rules are being rewritten, seemingly on the fly.

New York is joining forces with six northeast states to purchase personal protective equipment and other medical supplies, Cuomo announced.

The partnership – including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts and Rhode Island – will help the states procure and distribute PPE, tests, ventilators and other supplies without bidding against one another, Cuomo said.

While competing with other states to purchase PPE during the height of the virus outbreak, New York spent at least $2 billion on medical equipment and supplies – sometimes shelling out 15 times the normal amount for gear in order to outbid other states and overcome price gouging.

New York will require all hospitals to build a 90-day supply of personal protective equipment to prepare for another outbreak after states dealt with widespread equipment shortages while battling the coronavirus.

Crying on the job, especially in politics, used to be considered a liability. Not anymore.

In the two months since Cuomo declared a state of emergency on March 7, he has invoked the powers of his office to issue more than 25 executive orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The expansive orders have made hundreds of temporary but sweeping changes to state laws.

The state is investigating more than 2,500 nursing home complaints launched while the coronavirus has run roughshod over the facilities, the Health Department revealed — as Cuomo threatened to prosecute homes that under-report COVID-19 tolls.

Cuomo said that K-12 schools and colleges will remain closed for the rest of the academic year across New York, and they will continue to provide distance learning. The governor said decisions on whether in-person summer schools can open will be made by the end of May.

As authorities weigh decisions about when to begin letting some businesses reopen, New York City’s ability to revive its economy hinges on whether millions of daily commuters will return to a public transit network that they are persuaded can provide safe and reliable service.

New Yorkers with no better place to go keep riding and sleeping on otherwise empty trains, stirring public health fears and prompting a nightly shutdown for cleaning.

Two dead homeless men were found on Big Apple subway trains in less than 12 hours over the weekend — alarming workers as the MTA continues to struggle with vagrants in the system amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Cuomo was hands on during a tour Saturday of the coronavirus subway car cleaning operation at a MTA maintenance facility in Queens — taking a stab at blasting the bug himself with a spray of disinfectant.

Advocates for essential city workers are demanding the municipal employees killed by the coronavirus receive full, line-of-duty death benefits — even if it’s unclear whether they contracted the contagion on the clock or on their own.

The NYPD dished out dozens of summonses for lax social-distancing in city parks on Saturday as cooped-up New Yorkers emerged from coronavirus quarantine to soak up the sun, Commissioner Dermot Shea said.

Sun-filled Long Island state parks and beaches beckoned to the quarantined crowds on Saturday, prompting several to stop accepting visitors by midmorning. But government officials and authorities said most Long Islanders were practicing social distancing on the warm spring weekend.

From New York to Los Angeles, tenant groups are encouraging millions of renters to withhold May rent, which landlords warn would be devastating.

From the city’s many therapist-client relationships — now taking place on Zoom and FaceTime sessions — a new concern has emerged: mitigating the emotional toll on mental health professionals, who must confront virus-oriented anxiety at work and in their personal lives.

Vast swaths of upstate are largely untouched by the pandemic, and some residents are more worried about the economy than about their health.

The cancellation of New York’s June 23 presidential primary will likely lead to lower turnout in elections still taking place on that date, experts say, and progressive insurgents fear it will hurt their campaigns.

The state Department of Agriculture and Markets and Department of Health provided additional details on the distribution of the $25 million Nourish New York initiative, which aims to quickly reroute surplus agricultural products to the populations who need them most through the state’s network of food banks.

The coronavirus is impacting meat supplies across the country, and some local grocery stores are limiting the number of packages customers can buy.

A state group representing New York physicians is urging people to go to doctors’ offices for crucial medical care amid the pandemic — while a major health provider e-mailed its patients with the same message, too.

State corrections officials, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, said they will begin releasing incarcerated women who are pregnant or postpartum, if they have not committed a violent felony or sex offense and are within six months of release.

Students at more than 25 U.S. universities are filing lawsuits against their schools demanding partial refunds on tuition and campus fees, saying they’re not getting the caliber of education they were promised.

As small business owners trudge through the economic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, the town of Bethlehem has launched a new initiative to support their local entrepreneurs.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh will furlough 104 city employees until the end of July, saving the city between $240,000 and $360,000.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown says the city alone is facing a $15 million budget shortfall.

Piers Morgan announced that he fears he has the coronavirus.

In non-virus news…

Former Vice President Joe Biden has hinted that he might serve only one term if he wins the White House this fall. That would set up a woman – should he choose one as a running mate, as promised – as the front-runner for 2024 and perhaps define the Democratic agenda for the next decade.

Biden has overwhelmingly won a Democratic presidential primary in Kansas that the state party conducted exclusively by mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A house on Middletown Road in Waterford is now on the edge of a precipice after the hillside it looks out over gave way late afternoon yesterday.

The so-called “murder hornet” has arrived in the U.S.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (AKA Prince Harry and Meghan Markle) spoke with their journalist friends for a tell-all biography that discusses their dramatic departure from the British royal family and their new life as commoners.

Sam Lloyd, a longtime television and film actor who appeared in the television shows “Scrubs” and “Desperate Housewives,” died last week at the Barlow Respiratory Hospital in Los Angeles. He was 56. The cause was complications of lung cancer, his family said.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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