Rise and Shine: May 6, 2020

Good morning, CivMixers, and welcome to Wednesday.

It’s National Nurses Day, which kicks off National Nurses Week – an appreciation of health care professionals that has taken on a whole new dimension as we continue to battle the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Worth noting: The week ends on May 12th, which is the birthday of Florence Nightingale, a British social reformer and statistician who is recognized as the founder of modern nursing.

The history of this week dates back to the 1950s, but it wasn’t until 1982 that then-President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation designating a “National Recognition Day for Nurses” to be May 6.

If you happen to be a nurse, well, thank you, first of all. Second, there are a number deals out there today on various food and beverage items that you might want to take advantage of. If you’re not a nurse, but looking for some way to express your appreciation, here are some ideas.

There’s a frost advisory in place through 8 a.m. this morning. Hopefully the last weekend of warm weather didn’t over-encourage too many gardeners out there. We are in for a mostly cloudy day with highs in the high 50s, according to The Weather Channel.

In the headlines…

Vice President Mike Pence revealed conversations about scaling back the administration’s coronavirus task force perhaps around Memorial Day at the end of the month even as the virus spreads. Officials said that advisers like Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx would remain on board.

President Donald Trump confirmed the discussions during a trip to Arizona, saying the government was considering setting up a new group focused on “safety and opening.” They are unfolding amid concerns by some health experts about a second outbreak of the virus as states increasingly relax economic restrictions.

Trump said that “some” coronavirus deaths are possible in the country as states begin lifting social distancing restrictions, but added: “We can’t sit in the house for the next three years.”

“I’m not saying anything is perfect, and yes will some people be affected? Yes,” Trump said during a visit to a face mask-producing facility in Arizona. “Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon.”

The near doubling of coronavirus death predictions in a closely followed model this week underscores a frustrating reality for officials weighing how and when to reopen society: Many basic facts about the new coronavirus remain unknown.

As the confirmed U.S. death toll from the new coronavirus grew to more than 71,000, new data showed the pandemic’s devastating impact on nursing homes. New York state alone has recorded at least 4,813 confirmed and presumed deaths related to the coronavirus at nursing homes and adult-care facilities.

Take the New York metropolitan area’s progress against the coronavirus out of the equation and the numbers show the rest of the U.S. is moving in the wrong direction, with the known infection rate rising even as states move to lift their lockdowns.

The country is still in the firm grip of a pandemic with little hope of release. For every indication of improvement in controlling the virus, new outbreaks have emerged elsewhere, leaving the nation stuck in a steady, unrelenting march of deaths and infections.

Israel, whose aggressive response to the coronavirus has held its fatality rate to a fraction of those of the U.S. and other hard-hit nations, is readying a nationwide serological test of 100,000 citizens to see how widely the virus has spread across its population and how vulnerable it may be to a new wave of the contagion.

The scientist whose advice prompted Boris Johnson to lock down Britain resigned from his government advisory position last night after it was revealed he broke social distancing rules to meet his married lover.

Europe’s earliest known coronavirus case may have surfaced in late December.

With the U.S. Senate back in session, masked lawmakers, hushed corridors and socially distanced news conferences and hearings gave an eerie feel to the Capitol Hill routine.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he disagreed with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to decline the Trump administration’s offer to provide Congress with rapid-results coronavirus testing.

Pelosi pressed ahead with the next coronavirus aid, a sweeping package that is expected to be unveiled soon even as the House stays closed while the Senate reopens in the pandemic.

Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Wyoming are not epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet these four states scored big this spring when Congress pumped out direct federal aid, while the two hardest-hit states, New York and New Jersey, got comparatively little given the vast numbers of cases and deaths they have seen.

More than $5 billion in federal funding is headed to 90 New York hospitals that were hot spots for coronavirus care, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo blasted the federal government for the continued stalemate on funding state and local governments in the next stimulus bill, calling on officials to put politics aside as thousands die from the coronavirus pandemic.

The entire New York delegation to the House — including all Democrats and Republicans — urged congressional leaders in a letter to pass additional financial aid to state and local governments, including small municipalities.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio ripped Trump for saying in an exclusive interview that states such as New York should not rely on federal bailouts over the coronavirus pandemic.

A federal judge has reinstated New York’s Democratic presidential primary, ruling that the state’s decision to cancel the contest amid the coronavirus pandemic unconstitutionally “deprived” millions of residents of “the right to vote.”

The order came in response to a lawsuit filed by the former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who sought to undo the state Board of Elections’ decision in late April to cancel the June 23 contest due to health and safety worries and the fact that the results would not change the primary’s outcome.

Former presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Yang didn’t ask for their names to be taken off the ballot when they dropped out, hoping to collect votes that would entitle them to delegates at the convention, where they could use their clout to sway party policy.

When asked about the ruling on CNN by his younger brother, the anchor Chris Cuomo, Gov. Cuomo said: “Yes, right now, by a judge’s determination” the primary is back on. But he also said the decision could be appealed.

A volunteer force headed by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, led a fumbling hunt for medical supplies as the pandemic kicked into high gear, leaving health care professionals scrambling for protection.

A federal scientist who says he was ousted from his job amid a dispute over an unproven coronavirus treatment pushed by Trump said that top administration officials repeatedly pressured him to steer millions of dollars in contracts to the clients of a well-connected consultant.

Regeneron says it plans to begin human studies of its antibody “cocktail” treatment as early as next month. The company, which has a campus in East Greenbush, says it’s working to scale up manufacturing.

The University of Rochester Medical Center and Rochester Regional Health are collaborating on a new clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Wendy’s is limiting menu items, including its signature fresh-beef hamburgers, at some locations as closures of coronavirus-hit meat plants start to squeeze restaurant supplies.

Beyond Meat Inc. said sales of its plant-based products more than doubled in the latest quarter, boosted by increased demand from its partners and retailers stocking up on the alternative meats as food supply chains faced disruptions because of the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. airlines are collectively burning more than $10 billion in cash a month and averaging fewer than two dozen passengers per domestic flight because of the coronavirus pandemic, industry trade group Airlines for America said in prepared testimony seen by Reuters ahead of a U.S. Senate hearing today.

Airbnb Inc. said it is slashing 1,900 jobs, or a quarter of its workforce, and cutting investments in noncore operations, as the home-sharing giant predicted the coronavirus pandemic would change its business even after more people start traveling again.

Peloton, which last year endured a rocky initial public offering and a widely mocked holiday ad, is emerging as a potential winner of the quarantine economy. While gyms, boutique studios and personal trainers have been sidelined, home workout systems are thriving.

A Gallup poll found a majority of American adults working from home would prefer to continue doing so “as much as possible” after the pandemic.

Remote learning could replace the practice of a teacher standing in front of a classroom instructing students in the post-coronavirus area, Cuomo suggested while announcing a partnership with the Gates Foundation to “reimagine” education in the post-COVID era.

“The old model of everybody goes and sits in a classroom and the teacher is in front of that classroom and teaches that class and you do that all across the city, all across the state, all these buildings, all these physical classrooms,” Cuomo said during a press briefing in New York City. “Why? With all the technology you have?”

The move immediately sparked backlash from education advocates critical of the Gates Foundation’s role in developing the Common Core standards and linking teacher evaluations to student test scores.

NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza urged fellow leaders last month to “never waste a good crisis,” as he pushed for them to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 20,000 New Yorkers as an opportunity to overhaul the education system.

As New York prepares to reopen its economy, some upstate factories that have been operating during the coronavirus outbreak have lessons to share on how to keep workers safe.

As parts of upstate New York look forward to a May 15 goal of re-opening a select number of industries, business owners will have to work together and with the state to ensure a smooth return to work, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said during a virtual panel discussion.

New York’s upstate county leaders are raising questions about Cuomo’s reopening plan, including whether certain requirements — such as hiring 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents — can be met. They’re proposing an alternate regional approach.

Tens of thousands of New Yorkers whose unemployment insurance applications have been approved, but not paid out, could be stuck on one last step. They need to go back online or call to certify each week, according to the NYS Department of Labor.

Some civil rights lawyers fear that social distancing rules could be used as an excuse to curtail free speech.

Joe Percoco, a former top Cuomo aide who was convicted on corruption charges in 2018, this week became the latest high-profile inmate at FCI Otisville to raise concerns about the federal Bureau of Prison’s process for releasing prisoners to home confinement amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Sen. James Skoufis says he has recovered from COVID-19, the disease that infected him in late April.

A nurse working the front lines of the coronavirus battle at New York City hospitals says “black lives don’t matter here” — and “gross negligence and complete medical mismanagement” are causing patients to die, according to a disturbing new video.

While no precise data is available, at least 32 grocery workers have died of Covid-19 across the U.S., according to estimates by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, though large chains aren’t reporting infection data. At least 4,687 have tested positive for the virus or missed work because they have self-quarantined.

Justice advocates sharply criticized Cuomo’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in prisons, and implored him to substantially increase his release of state prisoners and test every inmate for COVID-19.

New York City’s subway system shut down for the first time in 115 years early this morning for an unprecedented planned nightly closure to disinfect trains — and to clear out a homeless population who’ve been sheltering underground during the coronavirus crisis.

Cuomo acknowledged that simple physics will make it difficult to socially distance on subway trains and keep the coronavirus from spreading again when the Big Apple comes back to life after the pandemic.

A man working at Amazon’s massive Staten Island warehouse has died of COVID-19 amid national attention over the giant online retailer’s handling of coronavirus protection for its employees, labor advocates said.

New York City health officials warned parents of a serious multisystem inflammatory condition potentially associated with Covid-19 that has been observed in 15 hospitalized children.

…No children are known to have died so far, but several have ended up in intensive care with mysterious symptoms that include enlarged coronary arteries.

Two new studies offer compelling evidence that children can transmit the virus. Neither proved it, but the evidence was strong enough to suggest that schools should be kept closed for now, many epidemiologists who were not involved in the research said.

Grim and disturbing videos show at least 20 bodies wrapped in black bags carted out of the Harlem Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation over the last month during the coronavirus pandemic and piled into medical examiner vans and refrigerator trucks. But state data indicates only five COVID-19 deaths there.

The state disclosed 1,050 Long Island nursing home residents have died from COVID-19, nearly 70 percent more than previously reported, as the state faces scrutiny over how it has protected vulnerable residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state had previously given data on deaths that it acknowledged were inconsistent, with only some nursing homes reporting deaths of people who were presumed to have the virus as well as

The state Department of Health began an investigation last month of the Teresian House nursing home in Albany, where more than 100 cases of COVID-19 among residents and staff have been detected and at least 14 infected residents have died.confirmed cases.

Former Gov. George Pataki is calling for an independent investigation into the Cuomo’s administration over the handling of COVID-19 in nursing homes across the Empire State.

The financially challenged Metropolitan Opera is furloughing 41 administrative employees, nearly 20 percent of its full-time staff, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

With gyms closed amid the pandemic lockdown, and as the weather turns warm, more and more people are turning to bikes as a way to get some exercise and to get out of the house. For bike shops, it’s brought a boom in both sales and calls for tune-ups and overhauls.

The parade of people congregating in the doorway of La Fiesta in Clifton Park, seeking a taste of Mexico to mark Tuesday’s Cinco de Mayo holiday, resulted in a call to the police, a town official said.

Staying at home with time to spare, residents are taking full advantage of the biennial curbside bulk waste pick-up – with larger than normal loads of yard waste and other household items destined for disposal.

The long-planned $750,000 renovation of the interior of the Burden Iron Works Museum is up in the air while the museum waits to see if the coronavirus pandemic – and the fiscal problems it is causing – will disrupt delivery of $500,000 in state funding that will pay for two-thirds of the work.
In non-virus news…

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, was admitted to the hospital for nonsurgical treatment of a gallbladder condition after a gallstone caused an infection but plans to participate in court proceedings from there, the Supreme Court announced.

The court said Justice Ginsburg was resting comfortably at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and that the gallbladder condition was benign. She is expected to be in the hospital for one to two days, the court said. She will be working remotely.

In its second argument conducted by conference call, the Supreme Court considered a knotty First Amendment question: May the government require the foreign affiliates of groups receiving federal money to fight AIDS abroad to adopt policies opposing prostitution?

State officials are investigating allegations of sexual misconduct and related cover-ups at NBC News — and have interviewed potential witnesses including Megyn Kelly.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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