Good Thursday morning, CivMixers.
If you happen to have been paying attention to the night sky of late, you might have noticed that the moon is looking extra large. It is, in fact, the week of the last full “supermoon” of 2020, and it peaks this morning.
According to a press release from NASA, this is the last in a series of four supermoons – a term “coined by the astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 (that) refers to either a new or full Moon that occurs within 90 percent of perigee, its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.”
Today is also Vesak, which celebrates Buddha’s birth, along with his enlightenment and death in some traditions. The holiday has been officially celebrated since 1950, when the World Fellowship of Buddhists formalized it as Buddha’s birthday.
It’s shaping up to be a lovely spring day, with temperatures in the mid-60s and mostly sunny skies, according to The Weather Channel.
In the headlines…
President Trump paid tribute to the nation’s nurses by scolding one of them in the Oval Office for pointing out that U.S. hospitals have faced shortages in protective gear during the coronavirus pandemic.
Confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. passed 1.21 million, as the White House shifted the mission of its pandemic task force and various states and countries moved ahead with reopening plans.
A set of detailed documents created by the nation’s top disease investigators meant to give step-by-step advice to local leaders deciding when and how to reopen public places such as mass transit, day care centers and restaurants during the still-raging pandemic has been shelved by the Trump administration.
Trump’s cure-can’t-be-worse-than-the-disease logic is clear: As bad as the virus may be, the cost of the virtual national lockdown has grown too high.
Trump described the coronavirus pandemic as the worst attack the US has ever endured, calling it worse than Pearl Harbor or 9/11.
Government figures due tomorrow will undoubtedly show that job losses in April were the worst ever. But they could provide key hints about the recovery.
With the economy paralyzed by business closures, the unemployment rate likely jumped to at least 16 percent – from just 4.4 percent in March – and employers cut a stunning 21 million or more jobs in April, economists have forecast, according to data provider FactSet.
The majority of recently hospitalized coronavirus patients in New York are people who have followed the precaution of staying home, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, calling it “shocking” that 66 percent of new coronavirus hospitalizations are people who are either retired or unemployed and not commuting to work on a regular basis.
Only 17 percent of the patients were working, compared with 37 percent who were retired and 46% who were unemployed, the survey said. Sixty-six percent of patients said they were at home before they were admitted to the hospital, compared with 18 percent who had been in nursing homes, 4 percent from assisted-living facilities and less than 1 percent from prisons.
…Despite the twist, Cuomo doubled down on his calls for social-distancing and personal responsibility, especially as hospitalizations and deaths continue to trend in the right direction.
A majority of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut residents think it is too soon to reopen their states and said officials should instead prioritize curbing the spread of the coronavirus, according to new polling.
As Europe and the U.S. loosen their lockdowns against the coronavirus, health experts are expressing growing dread over what they say is an all-but-certain second wave of deaths and infections that could force governments to clamp back down.
Relations between the U.S. and China, strained for years, have deteriorated at a rapid clip in recent months due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving the two nations with fewer shared interests and a growing list of conflicts.
The European Commission released projections that Europe’s economy will shrink by 7.4 percent this year. A top official told residents of the European Union, first formed in the aftermath of the Second World War, to expect the “deepest economic recession in its history.”
There was no sign of a second wave of coronavirus infections in Germany as the first reliable data on the effects of lifting the lockdown emerged on Tuesday.
Millions of Italians went back to the office this week. But with schools and day care closed and grandparents at risk, many feel the coronavirus has upended their futures as working parents.
Home schooling, the new parental chore brought about by coronavirus lockdowns, is being handled disproportionately by women, according to a new poll by Morning Consult for The New York Times, though fathers don’t necessarily agree.
As the Defense Department negotiates its way through the coronavirus pandemic and its fallout, military entrance processing stations are working with new guidance when it comes to bringing COVID-19 survivors into the services, and a past diagnosis could bar survivors from joining up.
U.S. Senate Republicans are citing renewed budget-deficit fears as they pump the brakes on more coronavirus-aid spending, putting them at odds with Trump’s push for tax cuts and an infrastructure package on top of roughly $3 trillion of funds approved so far.
COVID-19 patients placed on ventilators have shown significantly reduced death rates when given blood-thinning medication, a new study conducted by Mount Sinai Health System found.
A sizable portion of the nearly $3 million pledged to the fund-raising site set up for the Navajo Nation’s coronavirus battle has come from Ireland, the organizers said.
In the frantic race for a coronavirus cure, scientists have turned to an unusual savior: a mocha-colored llama named Winter.
…Winter was simply the lucky llama chosen by researchers in Belgium, where she lives, to participate in a series of virus studies involving both SARS and MERS.
According to a new study published in the journal Cell this week by an international team of researchers, antibodies found in the blood of llamas were able to stave off COVID infections.
MGM Resorts International said some of its 63,000 furloughed workers could be laid off starting Aug. 31 amid a murky outlook for the closed U.S. casino industry.
Separate lawsuits in California and Texas contend that egg producers or supermarkets charged excessive, illegal prices for eggs amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Cuomo is leaning on tech billionaires to rebuild New York after the coronavirus — a reminder of how the mega-rich are consolidating their power and expanding their influence even as they offer to help respond to the pandemic.
Cuomo announced that former Google CEO and Chairman Eric Schmidt will chair a commission tasked with “reimagining” the state’s relationship with technology post-pandemic.
…The 15-member commission will draw on tough lessons from New York’s coronavirus response to drive innovation within the state’s operations, Cuomo said, adding: “On a larger scale, how do we really use technology in the economy of tomorrow, and that’s the lesson we’re all learning.”
Schmidt appeared briefly by webcast to say he would focus on issues such as telehealth, remote learning and expanding broadband access.
Cuomo also said Michael Dowling, chief executive of nonprofit health-care network Northwell Health, will take on the task of improving health services in the state, as part of the new team.
The state Board of Elections is appealing a federal court ruling requiring New York to hold a Democratic primary for president during the coronavirus pandemic.
…The appeal comes a day after the June 23 primary was reinstated by U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan, who said canceling it would be unconstitutional and deprive withdrawn presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang of proper representation at the Democratic convention.
A month after ordering nursing homes to take coronavirus patients, the state Health Department is finally — and quietly — providing them with much-needed tests for residents.
Major League Baseball expects to offer a return-to-play proposal to the MLB Players Association within a week, as teams have begun to encourage players to prepare for a “spring” training that could begin in mid-June and a season that could start in early July, sources familiar with the discussions told ESPN.
…The obstacles to returning to play, though, remain significant. The numbers of Americans contracting and dying from the coronavirus are going up in a few areas where MLB wants to open.
New York City is running on financial fumes, Mayor Bill de Blasio said as he warned he may have to furlough or layoff municipal employees — including the selfless workers who stood firm on the front lines in the coronavirus crisis.
Lawmakers took aim at the budget for one of de Blasio’s most cherished projects, the controversial ThriveNYC mental health initiative run by First Lasy Chirlane McCray, as they looked for ways to save the summer youth employment program that the mayor proposed canceling.
De Blasio has it “all wrong” in charging the NYPD with policing social distancing, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said, arguing that the plan will set back all gains made in cop-community relations.
Manhattan’s American Museum of Natural History announced it will lay off dozens of staffers and furlough hundreds more, in response to the dramatic loss of revenue from the coronavirus pandemic.
To shelter in place, New Yorkers have ramped up online ordering, and apartment building porters and doormen are working hard to keep up.
JetBlue airlines will have three New York-themed passenger jets buzz the Big Apple with a low-altitude flyover today in an airborne salute to city healthcare workers battling the coronavirus, the company announced.
As counties continue to grapple with Cuomo’s proposed plan to reopen the state regionally, officials are expressing doubt and confusion about whether the plan is feasible and if the state is providing enough guidance.
Cuomo defended his re-opening metrics, saying they are “reasonable” and come from reliable experts.
When asked if the next stimulus package would include aid to both state and local governments, Albany-area Democrat Rep. Paul Tonko said he is optimistic.
A greenhouse in Madison County has become a hotbed for coronavirus, with 128 workers becoming ill with the virus, local officials said. The situation led the number of Madison County residents who currently have COVID-19 to shoot up from 51 on Friday to 124 by Tuesday morning.
…Cuomo at his daily briefing likened the spread of COVID-19 at Green Empire Farms in Oneida to the outbreaks at meat-packaging plants across the country.
New York’s policy concerning the opening of privately owned campgrounds and RV parks during the COVID-19 pandemic remains a picture of inconsistency and confusion.
Several Capital Region supermarkets and big box stores are limiting sales of beef, pork and poultry due to pandemic-related supply chain disruptions and slowdowns in major Midwest slaughterhouses. While farmers are producing plenty of cows, pigs and chickens, they can’t get them into the stores fast enough due to the backups.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which in March forced New York schools to close and provide food and instruction remotely, has sent local districts into a financial tailspin.
High schools around the Capital Region have been quietly working with drive-in theaters in an attempt to plan alternative graduation ceremonies for their seniors amid the coronavirus shutdown.
In an effort to bridge a potential $16 million budget gap, the city of Saratoga Springs’ Commissioner of Finance is seeking to furlough employees immediately.
Health experts on Long Island are launching a virtual program aimed at keeping people from gaining weight during the lockdown — dubbed the “quarantine 15” – noting that people who are obese are at greater risk from COVID-19.
The Hampton Jitney is restarting “limited” service for “essential travel” today. All passengers will be required to wear face masks, and rides will operate with reduced capacity, according to its site.
More than 400 City of Rochester employees will be impacted by furloughs, job-shares and cuts caused by financial consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a gathering near twilight, nurses and staff from St. Peter’s Health Partners lined the streets outside of two of the network’s acute care campuses – St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany and Samaritan Hospital in Troy – for the dual “Be A Light” candlelighting ceremony.
The Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, which includes the Dutchmen, the Amsterdam Mohawks and the Glens Falls Dragons, became the latest sporting victim of the coronavirus pandemic, canceling its entire season.
After more than seven weeks under a state order limiting restaurants to takeout service, Capital Region operators finally have at least a general idea of when they again may begin to welcome customers back to their dining rooms: mid- to late June. Though what restrictions they’ll be under remains unclear.
A mysterious wave of nasty illnesses among people who went to the Sundance Film Festival this year has led to speculation over whether it was coronavirus that made attendees sick.
In non-virus news…
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returned home yesterday after a one-day hospital stay for a gallbladder infection.
The U.S. Education Department finalized campus sexual assault rules that bolster the rights of the accused, reduce legal liabilities for schools and colleges, and narrow the scope of cases schools will be required to investigate.
Sinclair Broadcasting agreed to a record $48 million civil penalty to settle federal probes relating to its failed bid to take over Tribune Media Co. and other alleged missteps.
The Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre will repay the state of Mississippi $1.1 million in speaking fees for appearances that he has never made, money that should have gone to needy families but was misspent by public officials, the state auditor said.
Wildfires raging in the Florida Panhandle have forced nearly 500 people to evacuate from their homes, authorities said.
The state Gaming Commission has made limited progress in implementing recommendations issued by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office that concerned whether animal safety rules were being followed in New York’s horse racing industry.
The ridge running along Middletown Road and Weaver Avenue in Waterford continues to deteriorate.
The city of Schenectady once again faces tough decisions and potential litigation over its sidewalk improvement program after the contractor hired to make repairs to curbs, streets an sidewalks requested an additional $250,000 if the city opts out of the contract because of their higher-than-expected costs.
The Rensselaer County woman who was found dead in a wooded area nearly two years ago had rat poison in her system, authorities said, and her death is now being investigated as a homicide.
Actor Tom Cruise is actually going to film a movie in space, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed.
Photo credit: George Fazio.