Rise and Shine: May 5, 2020

Happy Cino de Mayo! (Also known as Tuesday, for those of you who aren’t interested in the cultural thing).

Technically speaking, this is an annual celebration observed to commemorate the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. It is NOT, as many believe might think, Mexican Independence Day, which is Sept. 16.

It’s actually more popular in the U.S. than in Mexico.

Here Cinco de Mayo is associated with the celebration of Mexican-American culture. The tradition of observing this day started in California in 1863. It gained traction nationally in the 1980s thanks to advertising campaigns by beer and wine companies.

Today, Cinco de Mayo generates beer sales on par with the Super Bowl. Usually, revelers mark the occasion with parades, parties, mariachi music, Mexican folk dancing and traditional foods such as tacos and mole poblano. Some of the largest festivals are held in Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston.

Not this year, of course. You can, however, still get some deals on Mexican food – to go or delivery.

There will be sunny to partly cloudy skies today, with temperatures in the high 50s.

In the headlines…

As President Trump presses for states to reopen their economies, his administration is privately projecting a steady rise in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths over the next several weeks.

…The daily death toll will reach about 3,000 on June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times, a 70 percent increase from the current number of about 1,750.

More than a quarter of a million people world-wide have died from the new coronavirus, a milestone in the pandemic, as several hard-hit countries took steps toward reopening.

As governments around the world consider how to monitor new coronavirus outbreaks while reopening their societies, many are starting to bet on smartphone apps to help stanch the pandemic. Their decisions on which technologies to use are highlighting some uncomfortable tradeoffs between protecting privacy and public health.

At least a dozen countries — including Germany, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Lithuania, France, Nigeria and Lebanon — began to ease weeks of restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of the contagion. In many places, that looked a lot like a real-time experiment in figuring out how to live with the virus.

International stock markets rose today, buoyed by optimism about the easing of restrictions on economic activity in parts of the U.S. and Europe.

As the U.S. government tries to stave off economic collapse, the Treasury Department plans to borrow $3 trillion over three months — nearly twice the total amount of debt it took on last year.

The U.S. Senate reopened yesterday in a Capitol largely shuttered by the coronavirus, but prospects for quick action on a new aid package are uncertain with a deepening debate over how best to confront the deadly pandemic and its economic devastation. The House is staying away due to ongoing health concerns.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, reiterated that it is unlikely that the coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, despite recent remarks from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump.

Citing the “extraordinary crisis” of the coronavirus, the interior secretary relaxed the rules so the president could hold a Fox News interview in one of the nation’s most hallowed spaces: The Lincoln Memorial.

Trump’s executive order last week requiring meat processing plants to stay open to ward off shortages may not be a cure-all for the food industry segment that has been hardest hit by coronavirus outbreaks. Tyson Foods said during an investor call that U.S. hog processing capacity had dropped by 50 percent.

Costco said it will be limiting customers to just three packages of meat per shopper, while Kroger supermarkets posted an alert on the meat section of its website warning that it may have limited inventory “due to high demand.”

Living without broadband has gone from a mild inconvenience to a near impossibility as the nation fights an unprecedented public health crisis.

More than $8 billion has been pledged by world leaders (not the U.S.) to help develop a coronavirus vaccine and fund research into the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

U.S. regulators pulled back a decision that allowed scores of coronavirus blood tests to hit the market without first providing proof that they worked.

…The Food and Drug Administration said it took the action because some sellers have made false claims about the tests and their accuracy.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented a soft blueprint for how New York State’s economy might begin to restart, a set of criteria that will determine which regions allow what sectors to reopen and when.

The entire state will be locked down through May 15, when the governor’s current stay-at-home order expires.

New York City and its suburbs, which are still besieged by the virus, may be the last places to start returning to some semblance of normal, Cuomo suggested.

Once a complex set of public health requirements are met, Cuomo’s plan would first allow construction and manufacturing and some retail stores to reopen for curbside pickup, similar to California, after May 15.

The effect of Phase One would be evaluated after two weeks. If indicators are still positive, state officials said, the second phase of reopening would include professional services, more retailers and real estate firms, among others, perhaps as soon as the end of May.

Phase 3 would be restaurants, bars and hotels, followed by a fourth, and final, phase that would include attractions like cinemas and theaters – including Broadway, a powerful financial force in New York City.

It’s likely the restart for most businesses won’t begin until Memorial Day weekend or later, according to the phased plan Cuomo has laid out.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who also has a four-phase plan for re-opening California, announced that some retail stores across the state can reopen with modifications as early as Friday amid growing pressure to ease the stay-at-home order that has cratered the economy.

California has become the first state to borrow money ($348 million) from the federal government so it can continue paying out rising claims for unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic.

Missouri reported the highest number of new coronavirus cases in one day yesterday – the same day that the state reopened for some businesses.

State Senate and Assembly leaders abruptly announced last week they are working on joint public hearings that will discuss the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on small businesses and minority communities. But the chambers have not released details on how or when the hearings will take place.

New York isn’t broke, as Cuomo likes to say. But with revenue plunging, without further help, it might have to make spending cuts quickly and dramatically — $10 billion or more. Or raise taxes.

Faced with 20,000 coronavirus deaths and counting, the nation’s nursing homes are pushing back against a potential flood of lawsuits with a sweeping lobbying effort to get states to grant them emergency protection from claims of inadequate care.

New York City is storing dead bodies in refrigerated trucks set up in a Brooklyn parking lot as it grapples with a growing number of corpses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Fifteen kids in New York City have been hospitalized with a rare, life-threatening inflammatory syndrome “potentially associated with COVID-19,” health officials said in an alert last night.

…Many of the children, ages 2 to 15, have shown symptoms associated with toxic shock or Kawasaki disease, a rare illness in children that involves inflammation of the blood vessels, including coronary arteries, the city’s health department said.

As New York City bars and restaurants continue to struggle financially because of the coronavirus pandemic, elected officials at the city and state levels are looking at a variety of legislative measures to limit the pain.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD commissioner Dermot Shea both said they were troubled by video showing anti-crime cops using force during an apparent social distancing enforcement.

The city’s largest police union is demanding cops get “out of the social distancing enforcement business,” while slamming New York pols for “releasing criminals,” “discouraging proactive policing,” and leaving subways “in chaos.”

New York City is expanding its burial-assistance program as the number of families seeking help to cover funeral expenses has climbed during the coronavirus pandemic. The maximum amount of grant money available to help a low-income New Yorker pay for funeral costs has increased from $900 to $1,700.

The upstate medical cavalry is coming to relieve shell-shocked and exhausted New York City nurses who’ve been battling the coronavirus pandemic for weeks, under a new program set up by the nurses’ union.

On the front line of the city’s battle against the pandemic, bus drivers are struggling to come to terms with their role as essential workers.

MTA workers were seen cleaning around a homeless man sprawled out on a subway car at East 96th Street, and the agency says that’s just standard operating procedure despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Crime in the Big Apple remained up through the first four months of the year — despite a stark decline over the last six weeks as the pandemic coronavirus has helped deter criminals.

The reopening of the popular Paycheck Protection Program, which was recently infused with more federal money after large companies had scooped up many of the initial cash, has already approved twice as many loans for New York small businesses than were processed in the first round.

One of the biggest challenges facing educators since schools shut down in mid-March and transitioned to distance learning has been figuring out how to reach immigrant and refugee students for whom English is not their first language.

Even with threatened layoffs of about 40 cops and 33 firefighters, Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy warned the city would also need to make deep cuts to other departments unless federal aid is restored and could go bankrupt by the end of the year.

City officials estimate that without federal aid, Albany could be facing a $17 million to $20 million shortfall this year – a reality that will force layoffs in every department. Cuts will begin this week.

Albany County officials released new fatality and hospitalization data that confirmed what many already suspected: COVID-19 is having a disproportionate impact on the county’s black residents.

A member of Rensselaer County District Attorney Mary Pat Donnelly’s staff has tested positive for coronavirus, prompting the closure of the county courthouse until Wednesday.

State Sen. James Tedisco is urging Cuomo to allow high school seniors to celebrate their graduation at drive-in movie theaters.

Cuomo’s former top aide Joseph Percoco — convicted of taking more than $300,000 in bribes — asked a judge to release him to home confinement due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Just as the weather begins to really feel like Spring, a Capital Region summer staple is reopening. Guptill’s Ice Cream in Cohoes is open for takeout only.

The Dave Matthews Band canceled its summer tour, including their July 10 and July 11 shows scheduled for the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

In (mostly) non-virus news…

The secretary of the U.S. Senate declined former VP Joe Biden’s request to release any records pertaining to an allegation of sexual assault against him by former aide Tara Reade.

Trump said he thinks Biden “owes” it to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to select her as his running mate.

Warren said that Biden’s response to the sexual assault allegation levied against him by a former aide was “credible and convincing.”

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a leading voice in the 2018 effort to push fellow Democratic Senator Al Franken out of office after several women accused him of touching them and making them feel uncomfortable, will headline a national “Women for Biden” call hosted by Biden’s campaign for president on Thursday.

The U.S. Supreme Court made history by holding its first teleconference oral argument, which went off relatively smoothly, and its orderly round of questioning was enough to entice Justice Clarence Thomas, who usually asks none.

Pulitzer Prizes were awarded to news organizations that delved into corruption, law enforcement and the legacy of racism in the United States, recognizing journalists’ examinations of inequality and other societal ills. The New York Times led all outlets with three prizes.

A Long Island judge who pleaded guilty in a drunk driving incident — and who was accused of using his position to try to avoid consequences — has resigned, officials announced.

The state’s largest teachers’ union has won a lawsuit in which two teachers, one from Long Island and another from upstate, sought refunds of dues or fees they had paid prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus decision.

Murder hornets, which could be a serious threat to the nation’s honey industry, are not yet on the East Coast.

New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray’s $1 billion “ThriveNYC” mental-health program has failed to keep city students out of psych wards — and advocates are demanding something that actually works.

The chairman of NBC News, Andrew Lack, will depart his role at the end of May, NBC Universal said, an abrupt end to the tenure of an executive whose tenacity and ability to withstand turmoil made for a long career in the fickle television news business.

St. Rose senior Julia Gargano has made it to the Top 10 of “American Idol,” the live competition show that strives to find the next big name in music.

Don Shula, the longtime Miami Dolphins coach and architect of the only perfect season in NFL history, died at his South Florida home yesterday morning, according to the team. He was 90.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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