Five Things That Happened While You Were Out: Aug. 27, 2020

You know what, CivMixers? I could really use some good news. I mean GOOD NEWS, not like “oh yeah, that’s nice,” but “HOLY CRAP THAT’S AMAZING!!!”

Multiple exclamation point good news. That’s what I need. Sadly, it’s in short supply these days. If you’ve got some, perhaps you’d be willing to share? Otherwise, let’s just get on with the general gloom and doom of the daily 5 Things.

1) Hurricane Laura made landfall as one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S., ploughing into Louisiana with a fury and making her way northward while leaving a path of death and destruction in her wake.

The storm came ashore after midnight as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing 150-mile-an-hour winds and a major storm surge out of the Gulf. She weakened as she moved inland, but still maintained strong winds and heavy rain, and also the potential to spawn tornadoes.

Four deaths have thus far been tied to Laura in Louisiana, including a 14-year-old girl in Leesville, La. who was killed when a tree fell on her family’s home.

Laura is expected to diminish to a tropical depression while passing through Arkansas this evening or overnight.

2) The nation’s first department store chain – Lord & Taylor – is shutting the doors of all its stores, officially going out of business after 200 years of operation.

This isn’t a huge surprise, I mean, Lord & Taylor had already filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and started liquidating 19 of its 38 remaining stores. It was only a matter of time before we go to this point.

Department stores have been going the way of the Dodo for some time now, as people increasingly gravitated toward shopping online. And the pandemic did nothing to improve the situation, hastening the demise of a growing number of upscale retailers.

But this is something of a reversal for Lord & Taylor, which did initially say just a few shot weeks ago that it planned to keep some stores up and running. And also, it’s a piece of New York history that is fading away, as the company opened its flagship store in Manhattan in 1826.

And, for the record, this is the second time that the Albany area is losing its Lord & Taylor – though clearly this time, it’s gone for good.

3) Schools at all levels – from pre-K and elementary through college – have been struggling to figure out how to safely reopen amid the ongoing pandemic.

There have been a lot of headlines lately about schools that had been planning to allow some sort of return to in-person instruction being forced to walk those plans back in the face of mounting infection rates.

Colleges, in particular, have been taking it on the chin in this area, as students have not been terribly assiduous in following the public health protocols (mask wearing, social distancing etc.) necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Colleges across the nation have reprimanded students (evicting them from housing, suspended them) to demonstrate that they are indeed not kidding when it comes to keeping people safe.

There’s also the added challenge of quarantining students who are returning to campus and making sure that their needs are met, which isn’t going too well at some institutions – like, say, NYU, which has been the focus of a lot of unwanted and negative attention for failing to provide sufficient food to kids who are stuck in their dorm rooms for two weeks.

Education officials have been looking to government for guidance and receiving mixed messages. Today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo weighed in, saying that universities in New York will be required to move to remote learning for a two-week period if the campus sees a spike in coronavirus cases.

“They must go to remote learning for two weeks, and then we’ll reassess in consultation with the local health department,” the governor said. “We should anticipate large clusters when you have large crowds of people. Be prepared for it, get ahead of it.”

4) The CDC appears to be changing course yet again on the question of COVID-19 testing, now saying that tests “may be considered” for anyone exposed despite new guidance that suggested people without symptoms might not need one.

Medical groups and some lawmakers – including Cuomo, who accused the CDC of playing politics at the behest of the president – raised concern about the new guidance, saying that early and widespread testing of people without symptoms can help contain the outbreak in the U.S.

“Everyone who needs a COVID-19 test, can get a test,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement released last last night. “Everyone who wants a test does not necessarily need a test; the key is to engage the needed public health community in the decision with the appropriate follow-up action.”

5) Here’s a story that is basically the worst nightmare of anyone who spends a fair bit of time outdoors come to life. A 19-year-old girl named Rachel Smith spent the night in a tree – IN A TREE! – after encountering a mamma bear and her cubs while running on a trail in the Ha-De-Ron-Dah Wilderness Area.

The mamma bear was not at all happy, and Smith knew she wasn’t likely going to be able to outrun an angry ursine mother in full-on protective mode. So she did the next best thing and climbed a tree, with the intention of sitting there until the coast was definitely clear.

Unfortunately, mamma was not in the mood to play. She stuck around until after dark. Smith didn’t have her phone with her, and so when it became light out, she climbed down the tree and found her way out of the woods.

A search party was out looking for Smith, who had worried her family when she didn’t come home and presumed she was missing – not treed by an angry bear. Smith ran into a member of that search party, who gave her a ride home.

This is a happy ending story, thankfully. But there are a lot of bears out there. We’ve been encroaching on their territory for years now, and some of them have grown too used to us, and also our food. Try to avoid these animals whenever possible. They are not overgrown dogs, but rather large and potentially dangerous…well, bears, that deserve respect.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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