5 Things That Happened While You Were Out: Aug. 21, 2020

Hey CivMixers, TGIF!! I hope everyone had a good week and that you are all able to carry that over to the weekend.

Some people decidedly did not have a good week. Some college students, for example, are in quarantine on campuses across the country, and apparently the meals being served to them in isolation are not terribly appetizing. Watermelon chicken salad? That really should NOT be a thing.

In the ongoing college admissions scandal case, ex-star of Full House and Fuller House, Lori Loughlin was sentenced today to two months in prison. Mossimo Giannulli, her husband, was scheduled to five months.

Let’s not forget the wildfires in California are raging, growing, and destroying acreage, causing thousands of people to be evacuated. As they blaze, fires are setting records in 15 Western states.

Also, the infamous Golden State Killer, who was finally nabbed after years of living under the radar when DNA in a genetic tracing online program flagged one of his relatives, was sentenced to serve life in prison with no possibility of parole.

On the plus side, fact-checking of the DNC found that participants basically stuck to the facts. How refreshing in today’s overheated political climate!

And now, onto the 5 Things:

1) According to top financial experts, the economic recovery is slowing as the pandemic continues.

According to figures released by the U.S. Labor Department yesterday 1.1 million new state unemployment insurance benefits have been filed – 135,000 more than last week, which superseded all expectations. It was expected that new unemployment filings would remain under a million.

Self-employed applicants are counted separately, and they also rose from last week, totaling 543,000.

According to Ethan Harris, a top global economist employed by Bank of America, the stakes riding on elected officials in D.C. to get a new stimulus deal are possibly higher than ever before. Every week that goes by lacking meaningful legislation will only lengthen the current mini-recession, he said.

Experts say that the economy could be heading to a double-dip – or “W” – recession. This is what it called when the economy doesn’t fully recover before it begins backsliding again. A “V” recovery, where the economy quickly recovers, is looking less possible every day.

Bank of America also weighed in on the timeline for finding a vaccine, which they think is basically impossible prior to the second quarter of 20201 due to the high risks of development and manufacturing.

Likely the economy has slowed and not turned yet because people have money they saved from the last stimulus package. However, experts predict those funds will run out by the end of the month.

2) As the coronavirus pandemic continues and the November election draws ever closer, more people are concerned about how they will be able to vote and whether their vote, once cast, will be counted. The alarm recently sounded over the USPS ability to deliver mail on time and accurately is not helping. Now, a new study has found that in-person voting may not be as dangerous as some originally thought.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama in her DNC speech this past Monday said that the key is voting early and in person whenever possible. She said it is likely that we will stand in long lines, and should prepare by dressing appropriately, wearing masks and taking meals to see us through. Whatever happens, she said, make sure those votes get cast.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and top health expert in the U.S., addressed the issue last week. He said that if it is done carefully, and all health protocols are followed, there is no reason that voting in person should cause a rise in COVID infections.

However, he stressed that anyone who is compromised in any way should vote by mail, which, by the way, has been successfully occurring for years – heck, even the president himself has done it!

Of course, these days, Donald Trump is very down on voting by mail, predicting widespread fraud before any ballots have even been cast.

Election officials across the country are making plans for health protocols like barriers, PPE for workers, cleaning equipment, and sanitizing products readily available, and of course, masks and social distancing will be employed.

Another challenge is finding adequate polling locations. However, the peer-reviewed study published in this month’s American Journal of Public Health that studied the in-person voting done in April in Wisconsin showed that there was no increase in COVID infections related to those who were at the polls. It concluded that in-person voting is a low-risk activity.

However, a May 11 study, not peer-reviewed, came to many different conclusions, suggesting there was indeed a significant rise in infection at some of those same polling places. Either we need MORE polling places to reduce density, or people should be encouraged to vote by mail whenever possible. Perhaps both.

3) Though you may not want to hear this – the Climate Prediction Center is saying that a fall with warmer temperatures than average is likely to follow this hot and humid summer. According to the CPC, the warm fall is expected mainly in the Northeast and Southwest.

Meteorology defines fall as a period of September, October, and November. The CPC is an arm of the National Weather Service and gives the odds for a warmer fall ranges between 50 to 60 percent, a normal fall is 33 percent and a cool fall is around 20 percent possible.

This is also just an average – a few days warmer than usual could account for the likely trend, with plenty of those bracing and chilly autumn days we so love here in upstate.

This summer has been one of the warmest in New York history, with it coming in fourth on the list for Syracuse and third for Buffalo.

4) In Troy, a rally occurred both in front of the Troy Police Department and at the mayor’s office a man entered the building to ask for a complaint form and was than arrested for trespassing.

Kenneth Zeoli is the leader of a group known as the Coalition for Barker Park. Recently, the city has removed benches from the park, citing COVID concerns. However, the coalition believes the city is using the pandemic to remove the benches as a way to prevent people from drinking and using drugs in the park.

Chairs have spontaneously been set up in the park and continuously taken down, which is why Zeoli wanted a complaint form. He says he has been asking for one all week, but has been stymied by the police, who refused to even answer his questions.

The police said Zeoli was asked to leave the building multiple times and refused to do so. According to Zeoli, he was forced out of the building and arrested. Zeoli says he was told he was being charged for disorderly conduct but was charged for trespassing in a public building.

Zeoli also claims he was told he will be arrested on site if he returns to the police department. In claims strenuously denied by the police, Zeoli says he was forcibly removed from the building, thrown down stairs, and refused medical attention.

Police officials insisted that as long as demonstrators are peaceful and don’t interfere with regular operations, they can stay. They also confirmed there was an arrest made when someone attempted to drive into the protestors.

5) In Schenectady County, guidelines were released today to allow gyms and fitness centers to begin opening again as of Monday.

Before reopening, all facilities have to meet state guidelines and have an inspection by Schenectady DOH before opening or immediately after.

One of the requirements in the guidelines is that businesses must create a safety plan and have a completed electronic affirmation on file. So far, these guidelines include gyms and fitness centers in hotels, offices, universities, standalone buildings, and Group fitness class centers.

If any Schenectady County business owner has questions about the guidelines on fitness centers/gyms, please call (518) 386-2818 ext 9258.

Stay steady, stay strong, stay safe.

Stay woke.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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