At this time on this day, nineteen years ago, people throughout America were huddled with their loved ones, glued to the TV as the devastation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks continued to unfold. It was the beginning of what would be the new norm for the next few weeks, even as some begged for the coverage to be taken off the air.
At this point that fateful day, both of the Twin Towers had collapsed, sealing the fate of thousands and putting an exclamation point on what is still the worst terrorist attack ever to occur on U.S. soil. For my generation, (I was 18), it was a day that would shape the way we entered adulthood. We had our teen years shaped by Columbine, and our college years were shaped by 9/11.
It is crazy to think that there are kids entering college who were not alive when the towers fell. I know that those of us who were old enough to understand what was happening that day will Never Forget.
A quick update on yesterday’s second thing that happened while you were out – there have been additional sightings of the missing tiger, but photo evudence. Until there is a picture or the tiger is caught, it will remain the Schrödinger’s cat of crazy stuff that is happening in 2020.
On to today’s 5 Things.
1) Following up on another recent headline I covered here, the House Intelligence Committee announced it will broaden its investigation into the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis. This was spurred by a recent whistleblower complaint alleging both abuse of power and the improper politicization of the department.
The initial investigation began over the summer with a probe into reports of improper actions by DHS agents responding to protests in Portland, Oregon. Committee Chair Adam Schiff said that due to the report filed by former undersecretary of I & A Brian Murphy, they will be looking into the many reported issues within the department.
The Committee has summoned Murphy to appear for deposition on Sept. 21 and is gathering documents and transcripts of interviews from the DHS I & A. Murphy not only outlined a system of holding back information or framing it to match the Trump administration’s views, but also alleges ill-treatment and a transfer when he spoke up against the behavior.
2) Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is finding himself once again publicly disagreeing with the president over the pandemic.
Fauci said the country is not, in fact, turning a corner in the fight against COVID-19, despite Trump’s claim to the contrary. He predicted that things won’t return to some semblance of normal until late next year, and while there may be a viable vaccine in the coming months, it will take some time to produce and distribute, en masse.
Fauci also took a swipe at Trump’s recent admission that he knowingly and willfully downplayed COVID to try and avoid a panic, saying that downplaying a threat is never a good thing.
He warned that the fall and winter will be difficult and that there will be steps forward and back. Fauci even addressed the recent campaign gatherings by Trump and warned that anyone who was at an outdoor rally without a mask is still at risk. Even outside, crowds are high-risk gatherings – especially unmasked ones.
3) Yesterday, the state Labor Department announced it will begin distributing the additional $300 a week from the enhanced lost wages program through FEMA. Up to 2.5 million unemployed New Yorkers may be eligible for the additional funds.
Approximately 2 million individuals are pre-qualified because they have indicated that their unemployment is directly tied to COVID-19. Most should have received an email or text message alerting them to this information today, and payments will begin next week.
Some people may have to provide DOL with further information to determine their eligibility. If you are among them, you are asked to call (833) 491-0632 or go to the NYS DOL website.
They do ask that if you received word that you were pre-approved for the payment not to call in with questions about it so that representatives are available to help those who need to provide more documentation.
4) One of the best things about being an upstates is getting to experience fall foliage up close and personal. When the weather starts getting cooler and the days start being noticeably shorter, we know that it is fall. There is little in this life as gorgeous as a drive down a heavily wooded street, and seeing the oranges, reds, and yellows pop against a clear blue sky.
For those of you who love to leaf peep but need a little guidance about where to see peak foliage and when, never fear. The state has released its Fall Foliage Report, so you can keep an eye on how far along each of the counties trees are and ensure you don’t miss the big moment.
According to the report, there is already some color change occurring throughout the Adirondacks (20 percent predicted by the end of this weekend). In the Capital District, most counties are sitting between 10 and 15 percent. Meanwhile, right now, Central NY and the Hudson Valley are sitting on the lower end of the scale, with about 5 percent to 10 percent color change predicted.
5) Albany County Executive Dan McCoy this morning addressed SUNY Albany’s announcement of a COVID spike in its student bodu. He stressed that this is the time when we can stop the cluster from igniting a spread.
The university hit 40 cases last night, 31 of those were reported within the past 24 hours. This cluster has been traced back to two spots – the athletic department and a Pine Hills neighborhood off-campus residence. If they cannot put a stop to the spread, UAlbany has said they will have to shut the campus down.
McCoy pleaded for students to continue to help by giving all information as to where they were in the days leading up to diagnosis. UAlbany and Albany County DOH are partnering in the investigation and working to keep the students isolated and quarantined. They reissued the safety guidelines of social distancing and mask mandates, stressing that refusal to comply will lead to disciplinary actions up to suspension or dismissal.
They are not kidding around, with six students being suspended so far and five removed completely.
All athletics have been suspended indefinitely, and there will be increased testing among the student-athlete population.
Stay steady, stay strong, stay safe.
Photo credit: George Fazio.