5 Things That Happened While You Were Out: Sept. 2, 2020

Another Wednesday (almost) come and gone. It’s downright fallish out there today…is that even a word?

Also, a number of you have reached out with your own personal sourdough trials and tribulations. And one of you – you know you who are – confessed to disliking sourdough. Actually, I think the word “hate” might have been employed.

To be clear, I do not endorse this selective prejudice against certain types of breads. Sourdough is delicious – when someone else makes it. I just can’t keep a starter alive is all.

Perhaps this is devolving into a bad place…let’s get onto something more uplifting, like the news. (Hahahahahahaha).

1) According to the CDC, a coronavirus vaccine could be ready to be distributed by states as soon as late October.

Public health officials in all 50 states and five large cities have been notified that they should prepare to distribute said vaccine to health care workers and other high-risk groups. This is going to be a major undertaking that eventually entails vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans – assuming they agree to get the inoculations, which is a whole other discussion.

Of course, because this is the silly season, the possibility of a vaccine rollout this late in the fall has sparked concerns that the Trump administration is seeking to rush distribution, or perhaps even raise false hopes about the possibility, in advance of the Nov. 3 election.

If you’re interest in the fine print, the documents sent to public health officials can be read here, here and here.

2) Speaking of the election, a new CNN poll shows Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holds an 8 percentage point lead over Republican President Donald Trump in the wake of the national conventions held by both major parties.

Fifty-one percent of registered voters said they support Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, while Trump and Vice President Pence garnered the support of 43 percent of respondents.

The Democrats’ lead has doubled since a similar poll was conducted in mid-August, in which Biden had 50 percent support compared with Trump’s 46 percent.

3) Here’s a story that going to definitely get under the skin of many of the state’s bar and restaurant owners – especially those who have been cited, fined and/or shut down entirely by the State Liquor Authority for failing to adhere to public health protocols designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

According to the TU’s Steve Barnes, SLA board members appeared to break the very rules they have been so heavily enforcing when they met today without wearing masks and without adhering to the six-foot social distancing requirement.

During the board meeting, which was streamed live, members voted to impose penalties totaling tens of thousands of dollars, with at least one licensee given a $1,500 fine because employees failed to wear masks.

The SLA’s vigilance, which an extension of the governor’s desire to try to keep New York’s infection rate low, has caused a lot of consternation in the hospitality industry, which is struggling to recover amid ever-changing guidance – or lack thereof – from the state.

Things have gotten so bad that a group of state senators last week publicly called out the SLA for its “exorbitant” fines, and urged the agency to try to work with businesses to help them stay afloat during this difficult time.

4) A double-whammy of bad news today from the travel industry, which was hit hard by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic and has thus far failed to recover as passengers just don’t seem all that interested in returning to the friendly skies – or rails.

United Airlines said it plans to cut 16,370 staff as part of efforts to halve its domestic workforce. These are involuntary furloughs, which means workers can be called back if demand resumes, and they are short of the 36,000 potential job losses the airline warned in July were possible.

Also today, Amtrak said it is poised to cut just over 2,000 employees, furloughing about 1,950 agreement team members while approximately 100 management positions will be involuntary separated over the coming weeks.

Amtrak conducted a review of its fiscal 2021 operating plan and planned service levels for next year, and the recovery has been slower than expected.

Amtrak received more than $1 billion in aid from the CARES Act, which Congress passed in March. At the time, ridership was down by 90 percent and the system had reduced routes.

5) Breathe easy, Bethlehem residents….literally. The state of emergency declared in the town after a rail car at the SABIC Innovative Chemicals facility began leaking chemicals, spurring fears of mass evacuation, is now over.

The leaking styrene could have resulted in an explosion or fire given the right circumstances. But a combination of cool weather and a quick reaction helped contain the threat. While relatively rare, styrene fires and large explosions have occurred in other parts of the country and overseas over the years.

The TU reports that SABIC executive Scott Danzey offered a “deep apology” on behalf of the company for the impact that yesterday’s incident may have had on the community, adding: “We’re going to take a look at any other cars we have and make sure that there is no further threat.”

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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