Good morning, it’s Friday.
It’s also World Red Cross Day, which coincides with the anniversary of the birth of Henry Dunant, a Swiss humanitarian, businessman and social activist who was born on May 8, 1828. He was the founder of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the recipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize.
Traditionally, this day is marked by blood drives, which is not possible during the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, thousands of blood drives have been cancelled – just like pretty much everything else that involves public gatherings – and as a result, the Red Cross needs blood. If you’re interested in contributing, you need to now make an appointment to do so.
Today is also Victory Day (AKA la fête de la victoire or le jour de la libération), which marks the formal acceptance by the Allies of Nazi Germany’s surrender in 1945, consequently ending World War II in Europe. It’s usually a day of celebration and remembrance with church services, ceremonies and parades…but, well, you know. There are some socially distanced events scheduled.
Today is looking downright yuck from a weather standpoint, and the same goes for much of the weekend. I’m talking rain (in the later part of the day today), and wind and temperatures in the mid-50s, according to The Weather Channel. There might even be a freak May snowstorm that kicks off tonight.
WTF, Mother Nature? You’re tired of lockdown, too? I get it. Apparently, it’s actually the fault of the polar vortex.
So snow coupled with social distancing requirements is going to make for kind of a downer of a Mother’s Day this Sunday. I hope to be sitting six feet away from my Mom in her backyard. We will bundle up. It will likely be a short visit, but worth it because it will be the first time I’ve laid eyes on her in over two months.
Of course, I won’t be able to hug her.
Honestly, I’m not sure my pandemic-bruised heart can take it.
In the headlines…
The federal government reported another 3.2 million jobless claims, bringing the total to more than 33 million in seven weeks.
The 3.2 million claims filed was the fewest since the week ended March 14, before the pandemic caused claims to spike, but still fifteen-times early March readings.
The coronavirus pandemic has gutted the so-called sharing economy. Its most valuable companies, which started the year by promising that they would soon become profitable, now say consumer demand has all but vanished. It is not likely to return anytime soon.
Detailed guidelines for reopening drafted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were blocked from publication after Trump administration officials labeled them “overly prescriptive,” particularly for communities of faith.
Trump said that the White House staff would be tested every day for the coronavirus after a military aide who has had contact with him was found to have the virus.
Analyses of government data show that the Paycheck Protection lending program, which is overseen by the Small Business Administration, allowed many of the earliest funds to go to parts of the country that were not as hard hit by the coronavirus, as well as to a small number of companies seeking millions in assistance.
New York City’s coronavirus outbreak grew so large by early March that the city became the primary source of new infections in the United States, new research reveals, as thousands of infected people traveled from the city and seeded outbreaks around the country.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended a statewide moratorium on evictions through the end of August and promised that New Yorkers won’t get booted from their homes or businesses for being unable to pay rent during the coronavirus pandemic.
The moratorium, initially set to end in late June, will now expire on Aug. 20. Cuomo did not address broader calls for rent forgiveness.
“There is no doubt a trade-off between the tenant and the landlord,” the governor said. “We are helping the landlords also, but on a human level, I don’t want to see people and their children being evicted at this time through no fault of their own.”
Cuomo indicated that the state is working on “relief from the banks for landlords also” and as well as for banks. He didn’t go into specifics but said: “We stopped the foreclosures on the landlords.”
With storefronts boarded up across the city and retailers not paying, disputes between landlords and their commercial tenants are starting to spill into the courts. Both Brooks Brothers and Gap were sued in federal court this week by landlords who said they are owed payment.
Cuomo was on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert last night, where he discussed the recent move by many governors to start reopening their states. He is concerned because the data suggests it is a significant mistake to reopen while new cases of COVID-19 are on the rise.
New York’s frontline healthcare workers have contracted the coronavirus at a rate significantly below that of the general population, according to antibody testing results.
Also on The Late Show, actor Robert De Niro seemingly took to Colbert’s suggestion that he portray Cuomo in a movie about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, saying: “He’s doing what a president should do.” (The feeling is apparently mutual).
Some nursing home advocates and elected officials said the state’s investigation into nursing homes due to their high rate of COVID-19 deaths presents a conflict of interest challenge.
The latest call for an independent investigation into Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic comes from an elected official – Village of Hempstead trustee LaMont Johnson – whose mother is stuck in a facility hit hard by COVID-19.
Gov. Phil Murphy said that 120 members of the New Jersey National Guard will be deployed to help out at the state’s long-term health care facilities, which have been overwhelmed by the coronavirus.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has asked the Department of Veterans Affairs to waive a requirement that states match federal funds for COVID-19-related construction so work can proceed at the Long Island State Veterans Home, hit hard by the virus.
Members of the New York State Nurses Association are calling on the government to give them a seat the table in deciding medical policies going forward after having been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the COVID-19 virus cripples the economy, leaving millions unemployed and many companies on life support, big businesses that have become synonymous with the world’s largest prison system are still making money.
Advocates for state prison inmates said they are outraged that prisoners are involved in making surgical masks behind bars while they themselves are only allowed to wear “make-shift” face coverings that offer little protection to their health.
The amount of atmospheric data routinely gathered by commercial airliners has dropped sharply as a result of the coronavirus, the World Meteorological Organization announced.
Frontier Airlines became the first United States carrier to announce plans to take passengers’ temperatures before boarding commercial flights, the latest effort to make travel safer as parts of the American economy continue to reopen.
Amtrak said it would require passengers to wear face coverings in stations and on trains and buses starting Monday. The coverings can be removed only when passengers are eating in designated areas, in private rooms or when seated alone or with a companion in their own pair of seats, Amtrak said.
Sensors being developed by Airbus and a California-based startup might be able to sniff out COVID-19 in an effort to help prevent its spread.
Store workers across the country are suddenly being asked to enforce the rules that govern shopping during the pandemic, a tension-filled role for which most of them have received little or no training. Tensions recently resulted in violence in at least two states.
U.S. Chinese businesses say they are especially vulnerable because of stigma related to the origin of the coronavirus in China, igniting concerns that many won’t be able to survive the shutdown. The struggle is prevalent in Manhattan’s Chinatown, where only about 15 percent of more than 270 eateries are still operating.
Education leaders are putting out plans that forecast some very big changes to what public school might look like in the coming months and even years. The complications are leading to a patchwork effect and a disconnect between levels of government in many places.
Tensions are increasingly flaring in black and Hispanic neighborhoods over officers’ enforcement of social distancing rules, leading some prominent elected officials to charge that the NYPD is engaging in a racist double standard as it struggles to shift to a public health role in the coronavirus crisis.
The state court system will make an exception to allow new filings under the Child Victims Act “in the next few weeks,” even as other non-essential filings remain frozen during the pandemic, a spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration said.
At least four Capital Region hospitals got the green-light this week to resume elective outpatient surgeries and procedures, roughly two months after the state ordered the procedures to stop amid the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 100 antibody tests, designed to tell whether a person had contracted and potentially recovered from Covid-19 in the past, are now available in the U.S. But only a few have been reviewed or deemed reliable by regulators, and high-quality tests still aren’t widely accessible. Even an accurate positive result doesn’t guarantee immunity, scientists warn.
Cuomo last month said he believed antibody testing would be a cornerstone of the economic restart, because workers who tested positive would be safe from reinfection. The WHO said on April 24 that there wasn’t sufficient evidence that the presence of antibodies indicated immunity. As such, the state backed away.
The effort to test more people for the novel coronavirus in the Capital Region got a boost yesterday, with the announcement of a new test site in Rotterdam and news of federal grants flowing to two local health centers. The developments came as the region recorded one of its highest one-day death tolls since the pandemic began.
Rural New York residents usually have to drive up to an hour away for tests because counties such as Fulton, Greene, Hamilton and Washington have no testing sites.
New York has tested more than 15,000 people for antibodies and reported results in percentages, but the methodology is unclear and comes with so many caveats that some medical experts and local government officials are questioning the utility of the results.
A recent study in Nature Medicine brings much-needed clarity, along with renewed enthusiasm, to efforts to develop and implement wide-scale antibody testing for COVID-19, finding that nearly everyone who contracts the virus eventually develops antibodies to it.
Hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug frequently promoted by Trump, neither helped nor harmed coronavirus patients at NewYork-Presbyterian Columbia University Irving Medical Center in Manhattan, researchers reported.
A New York man is facing fraud charges after he conned several people into buying stolen test kits for the coronavirus and then never gave them the results, the authorities.
Researchers have discovered a strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency and mortality rates from the novel coronavirus, a new study reveals.
More than a respiratory infection, Covid-19 wreaks havoc on many organs; inflammation and abnormal blood clotting are likely culprits.
NYC’s contact tracing effort will not be led by its Health Department, but instead by the public hospital system, Health and Hospitals, a decision that has puzzled current and former health officials, who questioned the wisdom of changing what has worked before, especially during a pandemic.
New York City might begin limiting entry at some parks to prevent overcrowding, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Three city councilmen are calling on de Blasio to fire Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Steven Banks over the agency’s failures to address homelessness that have been laid bare by the coronavirus crisis.
Controversial conservative blogger Pamela Geller says in a new lawsuit that de Blasio’s ban on public demonstrations violates her First Amendment right to protest the shut-down.
New York food banks received $25 million this week to spend on agricultural products grown in the Empire State, as upstate farmers struggle to make ends meet amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Upstate New York’s Chobani Greek Yogurt is helping put food on the table for people in need. The company is kicking off its Nourish New York initiative to help re-route New York’s surplus of agriculture products to people who need them most.
Empire State Development released a guidance earlier this week that allows golfers with disabilities or those who own a personal cart to ride and play.
Camping season at state operated facilities has been pushed back till at least June 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic – a further blow to the tourism industry in a number of upstate regions ranging from the Adirondacks and Catskills to western New York.
Dirt spread by city of Cohoes public works crews on the mayor’s Western Avenue property has a councilman calling for a state investigation and was lighting up the city’s social media circles.
Double-digit cuts in state aid and sales tax income will hit the city’s 2020 budget in June, leading to layoffs if federal aid does come in to stave off revenue declines caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Troy Mayor Patrick Madden told the City Council last night.
The Town of Colonie is anticipating at least a $7 million budget shortfall as a result of the slowed economy during the pandemic – which will mean town workers will be furloughed, Supervisor Paula Mahan said.
There has been a dramatic decrease in marital/cheating cases since the COVID pandemic began, says Patrick Anastasi, a licensed private investigator who owns East Coast Investigations in Latham.
Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive-In, the popular eatery that just opened this week using social distancing rules, said yesterday afternoon it will be closing until further notice because of problems with its phone system.
The Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation’s annual porch party, which traditionally kicks off its largest fundraiser of the year, the annual Historic Homes Tour, will be held virtually this weekend.
In a time of great uncertainty, the N.F.L.’s 2020 regular-season schedule, which was revealed last night, abounds with optimism. A full 17-week slate was released, with no obvious contingency plan in case the coronavirus pandemic prevents the season from starting on time.
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has joined the rest of the world in playing the wildly popular Nintendo Switch game “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” during the coronavirus lockdown.
In non-virus news…
The U.S. Supreme Court threw out the convictions of two allies of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal. The ruling limits the power of federal prosecutors to target state and local corruption.
In an abrupt about-face, the Justice Department said it is dropping the criminal case against Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, abandoning a prosecution that became a rallying cry for the president and his supporters in attacking the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation.
…The move was the latest example of Attorney General William P. Barr’s efforts to chisel away at the results of the Russia investigation.
Tara Reade, the former U.S. Senate staff member who has accused Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of sexually assaulting her in a Capitol corridor in 1993, has been interviewed by former Fox News and NBC anchor Megyn Kelly.
Reade told Kelly that Biden “should not be running on character,” and that she thought he should withdraw as the Democratic presidential candidate.
Reade is being represented by a prominent lawyer and political donor to Trump’s 2016 Republican campaign.
The father-son duo caught on camera sparking the confrontation that led to the shooting death of unarmed black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia were charged with murder.
New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, called for a Department of Justice investigation into Arbery’s death.
In the wake of his presidential campaign, billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg has paid $44.79 million for a Colorado ranch, according to people with knowledge of the transaction.
Advocates for survivors of sexual abuse are denouncing the Buffalo Diocese after the institution, temporarily headed by Albany Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger, moved forward with two legal filings that activists say diminish victims’ experiences and could allow the diocese to dodge consequences for decades of alleged abuse and cover-up.
Barry Farber, a popular talk radio host whose winsome Southern burr, insatiable curiosity and barbed wit sustained a nearly continuous six-decade career in broadcasting, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 90.
Photo credit: George Fazio.