Good Thursday morning, CivMixers. It’s a very important day for upstate thoroughbred racing fans. The 152nd Saratoga meet kicks off today.

It’s going to be a very different scene at the historic track, which typically is a significant draw for visitors to the Spa City every summer, and, as a result, generates a lot of hospitality revenue on which local businesses rely.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, there will be no fans allowed at the races this year. However, in a last-minute decision announced mere hours before the gates open, the state Gaming Commission has cleared the way for a limited number of owners to be on hand to watch their horses race during the 40-day meet.

Particularly pleased to hear the news was Saratoga Springs’ Jack Knowlton, the operating manager of Sackatoga Stable, which owns Tiz the Law, who won the Belmont and will be the favorite for the Aug. 8 Travers Stakes. He called the news “tremendous.”

Up to eight owners per horse will be allowed in to watch training and racing, and they will have to follow strict public health protocols and will be able to exercise their access rights starting tomorrow.

Also this week, NYRA announced that it would be closing the meet to out-of-town jockeys in an effort to prevent another surge of the virus in New York, which was once the epicenter of the outbreak, but thus far has. been spared the spikes that are occurring elsewhere in the nation.

Similar efforts have been implemented at tracks elsewhere in the nation. At California’s Del Mar, weekend racing has been cancelled as a result of 15 jockeys testing positive for COVID-18. Racing at the track will resume on July 24 to give officials time to get a handle on the situation.

NYRA, which runs the state’s three thoroughbred tracks, stopped racing due to the virus on March 15 at Aqueduct Racetrack. It began again on June 3 for an abbreviated Belmont Park spring/summer meet with strict protocols in place. The Saratoga meet runs until Labor Day, Sept. 7, with racing taking place Wednesday through Sunday.

NYRA has put up fencing to prevent fans from showing up with chairs and coolers and trying to watch the races from outside the track. Officials are encouraging everyone to stay away – as difficult as that may be – for the sake of their own health, and the health of others.

The forecast for Opening Day calls for cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 80s.

In non-racing news…

After several days spent weathering attacks from White House officials, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci hit back, calling recent efforts to discredit him “bizarre” and a hindrance to the government’s ability to communicate information about the coronavirus pandemic.

Fauci said he doesn’t like “conflict” and he doesn’t “like to be pitted against the president.”

Fauci’s comments came as Peter Navarro, President Donald Trump’s top trade adviser, published a brazen op-ed article in USA Today describing the nation’s top infectious disease specialist as “wrong about everything.”

The White House said that it had not approved Navarro’s article, and the president insisted he has a “good relationship” with Fauci, telling reporters “we’re all in the same team.”

California, Arizona, Texas and Florida together reported about 36,000 new coronavirus cases yesterday as restrictions aimed at combating the spread of the pandemic took hold in the United States and around the world in an unsettling sign reminiscent of the dark days of April.

As the pandemic pushes U.S. hospitals in the South and West near capacity, the urgent need for available beds has stranded patients in emergency rooms, scrambled ambulances and forced patients to relocate hundreds of miles to relieve overcrowded wards.

Scientists at England’s Rosalind Franklin Institute have taken llama antibodies — typically smaller and “more simply structured” than human antibodies — to create an “antibody cocktail” specific to the potentially lethal disease.

A new study published in The Lancet claims that declining birthrates around the world will result in the net loss of nearly 1 billions citizens from its mid-century population peak to 2100.

The U.S. experienced a record number of drug overdose deaths in 2019, according to newly released federal data, and addiction specialists warn the coronavirus pandemic has only worsened the crisis.

Black business owners are more likely to be hindered in seeking coronavirus financial aid than their white peers, a new study has found.

New York City small businesses got disproportionately fewer loans from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program than parts of the country that weren’t as hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, a city comptroller report says.

While there are some best practices that can help reduce the risk of spreading the virus, there’s still no surefire way to bring children back into classrooms safely.

Twenty-two states (including New York) and the District of Columbia sued the Education Department, claiming it broke federal law in adopting new rules for a program meant to wipe out the student loan debt of borrowers whose schools defrauded them.

The coronavirus crisis has made New Yorkers more open to the idea of homeschooling than the average American, a new poll found.

The Trump administration is reportedly considering a sweeping ban on travel to the United States by members of the Chinese Communist Party and their families – a move that would almost certainly prompt retaliation against Americans seeking to enter or remain in China and exacerbate tensions between the two nations.

Economies in Europe and the United States are still languishing as the pandemic forces cities to shut down and shoppers to stay home. But one major country is growing once again: China. It’s unclear if this turnaround is sustainable.

Body-worn camera footage from former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane showed that George Floyd was given no explanation for why he was being questioned before Lane pointed a gun and swore at him, touched him multiple times and forced him out of his vehicle into the street.

Floyd sobbed as officers initially began pulling him from the vehicle he was in, and at one point officer Derek Chauvin appears to use his knee to lean into pressure applied to Floyd’s neck. Floyd’s last words, which were not seen in a previously released transcript, were, “I can’t breathe.”

Floyd’s family filed a federal civil lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis and the police officers involved in the death of the 46-year-old Black man that ignited nationwide protests and demands for major reforms to U.S. policing.

New York City’s top uniformed police officer, Terence A. Monahan, as well as two lieutenants and a sergeant were injured yesterday in two separate incidents on the Brooklyn Bridge, including one that involved an attack with some kind of stick or pole as protesters marched nearby, officials said.

The NYPD has released photos and video footage of the suspect caught clubbing cops with a cane on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Unions representing city cops and other civil servants landed a court victory yesterday when a judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the release of certain disciplinary records under Albany’s repeal of the 50-a law.

Transit officials failed to provide names, titles and wages for “certain MTA police officers” for 2019 to the Empire Center’s SeeThroughNY database of government employee salaries, according to papers filed by the group in Manhattan Supreme Court.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a suite of six NYPD reform bills – including a ban on chokeholds – while acknowledging concerns that the new laws will make it harder for cops to do their jobs.

De Blasio rolled out his plan to curb soaring gun violence in the hardest-hit areas of Brooklyn — while purposely leaving out police officials from the press conference in favor of community leaders.

The mayor has pointed to community-based violence interrupters as a key part of his approach to addressing shootings, but top NYPD brass have been notably absent from those public discussions — a move that’s now setting off alarm bells among criminal justice experts.

The head of the New York State Troopers PBA issued a statement “demanding” that state troopers be removed from New York City “and cease any law enforcement activities within that jurisdiction.”

The New York State Sheriff’s Association is calling on state lawmakers and the governor to pass legislation aimed at protecting law enforcement.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, was released from the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore yesterday, a day after she was admitted there for a possible infection, a Supreme Court spokeswoman said.

Days after the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a defeat to Trump, clearing the way for the Manhattan district attorney to seek his tax returns, his lawyers renewed their efforts to block or at least narrow access to the records.

Trump announced a shakeup in his reelection campaign last night, saying in a social media post that campaign manager Brad Parscale has been demoted and replaced with Bill Stepien.

….This came as a new pair of polls showed Joe Biden with a widening lead over Trump with November’s election just over 100 days away.

Trump used the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office as a veritable platter for Goya products after his daughter stoked outrage by promoting the food brand on her official government Twitter account amid calls for a boycott over its CEO’s support of the president.

Trump celebrated what he calls “historic” efforts to take down an international gang, MS-13.

Much of the evidence supporting the 24-count indictment charging eight alleged MS-13 members with racketeering offenses in connection with six killings and other crimes came from wiretaps and additional evidence gathered by Nassau police and prosecutors.

Trump and U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced that federal prosecutors would seek the death penalty for the alleged leader of the Brentwood/Central Islip clique of MS-13 in the killings of two teenage girls and five others in a spate of gang violence on Long Island beginning in 2016.

Biden and former president Barack Obama were just a few of many high-power movers and shakers to have their Twitter accounts hacked yesterday in an elaborate cryptocurrency scam.

The Supreme Court approved Trump administration plans to execute a second inmate this week, rejecting by a 5-4 vote claims that dementia had left Wesley Ira Purkey unable to comprehend the reason for his punishment, therefore rendering it unconstitutional.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is being criticized for what some see as a post-coronavirus victory lap of media appearances.

NY1’s Errol Louis writes: “Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a skilled political leader, made a rare misstep by releasing a strange, quirky poster depicting his personal thoughts about how New York fought through its worst and deadliest days (so far) of the Covid-19 crisis.”

Two key state lawmakers are sharply criticizing a decision by the Cuomo administration to sharply cut state funding for substance abuse addiction treatment programs – at a time during the Covid-19 pandemic when law enforcement and health providers say drug overdoses and alcohol dependence are rising.

New York’s once-a-decade legislative redistricting process has traditionally been filled with contention, intrigue and backroom dealing. That process is beginning again, and this time will play out with new variables, including COVID-19 and uncertainty about a measure meant to make the process fairer and more transparent.

The state will begin accepting applications for one-time emergency rent relief today and continue taking applications for two weeks.

Three passengers on the same Delta Airlines flight from Atlanta, GA to Albany tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in New York, officials announced.

American Airlines is notifying about 25,000 workers that their jobs could be eliminated in October because of plunging demand for air travel, adding to the toll that the virus pandemic is taking on the airline industry.

The global coronavirus pandemic turned Zoom into a presence in millions of households. Now the videoconferencing provider is betting it will stay there for the long-haul with remote work shifting to a more enduring setup.

The killer who murdered and dismembered a tech CEO in his Manhattan apartment may have been spooked by a family member of the victim — fleeing just before she discovered the gory scene.

The victim, identified as Fahim Saleh, 33, a venture capitalist and CEO of Gokada, appears to have been murdered in a “hit,” a police source said.

One of the organizers of a nightly dance party outside the Metropolitan Detention Center federal jail in Brooklyn acknowledged in a rambling interview that he has close ties to the NXIVM sex cult — but claimed the two movements were unrelated.

The state’s ethics watchdog agency has gotten the green light from an Albany judge to investigate potentially illegal donations given to de Blasio’s since-closed not-for-profit group.

A new proposal for revamping the Brooklyn Bridge would replace the span’s wooden promenade with see-through glass.

Long Island officials were warned an accident was waiting to happen where four women were killed in a 2015 limo crash — and a suit over the wreck has revealed a “cover-up” involving an undisclosed witness, according to a lawyer involved in the case.

Lawn signs reading “#JUSTICEFORHAROLD” have gone up in the town of Kinderhook, mirroring the social media call for the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office to publicly answer the question of who assaulted a local man at a July 4th party.

The lawsuit filed by dozens of former St. Clare’s Hospital employees over the hospital’s collapsed pension fund can continue, a judge ruled.

The state attorney general’s office said that 17 online “ghost gun” suppliers have ceased selling firearms and firearms components in New York, 10 months after they were sent warning letters that they could face civil fines or criminal prosecution for violating state gun laws.

The state Department of Agriculture and Markets announced that the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York has purchased more than 1.1 million pounds of surplus food from upstate farmers as part of the state’s Nourish New York initiative designed to feed needy households upstate.

The Rensselaer County Legislature voted in favor of an independent investigation into the handling of COVID-19 in New York nursing homes.

Brown’s Beach on Saratoga Lake will be closed through at least through tomorrow due to a high bacteria count in the water.

New government guidelines recommend no more than one drink per day for both men and women. Those findings, posted to Health.gov yesterday, come during stressful times highlighted by a growing pandemic.

Photo credit: George Fazio.