Thank Goodness It’s Friday, (AKA: T.G.I.F.), huh CivMixers!?!?

Today got away from me, by a lot. So…let’s jump right in, shall we?

1) Going into the weekend, the U.S. is rapidly heading towards the terrifying milestone of 200,000 COVID-related deaths. As of this morning, we had 198,886 deaths from COVID. Currently, we are leading the world in confirmed cases, with 6.7 million – and counting.

Americans are succumbing to the virus at a pace of approximately 790 deaths per day. At that rate, it should be just under 1.5 days before we reach that milestone.

President Donald Trump is rejecting accusations that he mishandled the pandemic from the start and publicly downplayed the danger of the virus. Much of the backlash has increased since a tape was released that caught Trump speaking candidly to veteran reporter Bob Woodward and admitting that yes, indeed, COVID is deadly.

A former CDC director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, says Trump rejected science for the past seven months, which is why we are rapidly approaching this deadly marker.

Frieden warned that the things that Trump is counting on – like herd immunity or a quick and massive vaccine distribution – are unlikely to occur. He cautions that a vaccine with tremendous distribution abilities or immunity to the virus is far off, and herd immunity is thus far unproven.

Trump denies lying to the public, though during the significant months of the pandemic, he claimed the Democrats were spreading a hoax about the severity of the disease. He also spent months fighting with his own health experts and arguing against mask mandates.

Trump was still claiming that COVID would simply go away on its own as recently as July. He refused to declare a national emergency. He pushed Republican governors to re-open their states early in April and May, just as the epidemic was picking up steam there.

Though over 700 deaths per day is an unacceptable rate, the death rate has declined drastically from the peak when we were well over four digits succumbing per day.

2) Today, federal prosecutors announced that they had identified six people alleged to have bribed Amazon contractors and employees to get a competitive edge on the marketplace. The six allegedly acted as consultants and worked with third-party sellers to get removed products back up for sale.

The six are accused of paying 10 others associated with the online retail giant over $100,000 in bribes to restore the previously removed products or services. According to the U.S. attorney’s office, this type of crime truly hurts the American public, putting inferior and possibly dangerous products into the marketplace.

The charges are conspiracy to access a protected computer, conspiracy to commit commercial bribery, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and other various violations. The six charged are Rohit Kadimisetty, Northridge, CA; Nishad Kunju, India; Kristen Leccese, NYC, NY; Joseph Nilsen, NYC, NY; Hadis Nuhanoviv, Acworth, GA; and Ephraim Rosenburg, Brooklyn, NY.

Authorities say that Kunju started in the conspiracy as an Amazon employee, but left and became one of the “consultants.” Amazon in a statement said these were acts were limited to a small number of now-former employees, and there are systems in place to catch this sort of fraudulent behavior.

The six are scheduled to appear in a federal court on Oct. 15 in Seattle, WA. They could face up to five years behind bars if found guilty of commercial bribery, and 20 on wire fraud charges.

3) Ah, New Yorkers, do you remember a decade ago when the plastic bag ban was a big debate? Oh wait, that was March. It has been a loooooong year.

The original bag ban was supposed to be implemented on March 1, but the DEC was forced to suspend any enforcement as a result of a lawsuit filed by Long Island-based Poly-Pak Industries that challenged the legality of both the ban and the regulations attached to it that were promulgated by the DEC>

A judge threw out the regulations, but upheld the statute itself. And the DEC was required to give New Yorkers 30 days notice before starting enforcement. The state did so today, saying the ban will be in effect on Oct. 19.

Under the statute, all plastics bags are illegal – even reusable bags made of out plastic, which the majority currently on the market are. So either bring your cloth or string or hemp bags – or already purchased plastic reusables – to the store, or prepared to spend a nickel apiece for paper.

4) Anyone who will be in the Schenectady area tomorrow, Sat. Sept. 19, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., should be aware that 890 Westbound will have lane closures between Exit 7 and Exit 6. Only one lane in the three-lane highway will be open during that period.

The closures are taking place to allow for much-needed repair to the pavement. The state DOT asks people to pull over and drive slowly, putting out a reminder that all fines will be doubled if you are caught speeding in a work zone.

5) In Schoharie County, the State Police have made five arrests for drug charges through their marijuana eradication detail.

All were charged with both the growing and unlawful possession of marijuana. The five arrested were Edward Cook, Town of Wright; William J. Coyne, Jr., Town of Summit; Jonathan L. Pitt, Town of Schoharie; Beverly Sisco, Town of Summit; and Caroline E. Warner, Town of Richmondville.

All five were issued appearance tickets and released, with a date to appear in court. That date was not released.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!! Until Monday:

Stay steady, stay strong, stay safe.

Stay woke.

Photo credit: George Fazio.