NYC Is Set to Be State’s Only Region on Lockdown After Next Week

New York City is set to be the only region of the state on lockdown after next week.

Long Island and the Mid-Hudson regions are on a trajectory to reopen, provided they see deaths continue to decline and meet contact-tracing targets, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday at a virus briefing. In anticipation, construction preparation can begin in those two regions.

With those areas, nine of 10 New York regions will have begun phased-in restarts, after more than seven weeks on lockdown. New York City still has met only four of the state’s seven reopening metrics, due largely to a lack of capacity at the city’s hospitals. It also must continue to build up its number of tracers, according to state data.

“We said deliberately at the beginning of this, it’s going to be one standard that is data driven, there’s no politics here, and safe is safe,” Cuomo said. “What’s safe for your health in New York City. I’m not going to put your life at more risk or less risk than a life in Buffalo. It doesn’t work that way.”

New York state had 356,458 cases of the new coronavirus as of May 20, with more than half from New York City. Both the state and city are on a path to recovery, with fewer hospitalizations, but some metrics in the city have been slower to improve than those in regions less hit by Covid-19.

Saying the city had made major progress in its fight, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday unveiled a new set of metrics, in the form of charts showing the decrease in the city’s numbers of respiratory-illness patients hospitalized and in public hospital intensive care units. The city is moving toward a first phase of reopening, focusing on construction, wholesale distribution and curbside retail by the middle of June, the mayor said.

While de Blasio’s metrics are in line with Cuomo’s, it’s the state metrics that New York City must meet before reopening, the governor said. New York City had 27% of total hospital beds and 28% of intensive-care beds available as of May 21, below the 30% state thresholds, which are based on guidelines by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s not up to the local officials, it’s a statewide decision across the board,” Cuomo said.

New York state reported 109 deaths on May 21, for a total of 23,192. At the outbreak’s peak in April, the state was reporting more than 700 fatalities daily.

— With assistance by Henry Goldman

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Stockpiling Germaphobes Ignite Unlikely Boom: Appliances

In the coronavirus era, stuck-at-home Americans are loading up on more than just bread makers. Take Peter Camardella, the 63-year-old owner of a small appliance store in Pelham, New York. He couldn’t find a deep freezer for his own daughter after his shop sold out.

“Customers have bought one, and they already have two or three,” Camardella said. “Many buyers are afraid of food shortages.”

Even as personal spending in the U.S. plunged the most on record amid stay-at-home orders, people bought all kinds of appliances. Sales from March 15 to April 11 rose for about 70% of the 88 subcategories for home and kitchen goods tracked by market researcher NPD Group. Some of the gains were just staggering, including electric pasta makers (462%), soda machines (283%), handheld cleaning devices (284%), water filtration machines (152%) and air purifiers (144%). The much-written-about baking trend also showed up, with purchases of those bread makers surging more than sixfold.

Lockdown life has forced people to rethink their homes, as they have morphed into spaces where schooling, working, exercising, inventory-stockpiling and germ avoidance are new, high-stakes activities. If history is a guide, that won’t change when the world returns to some semblance of normal, according to Ian Bell, a researcher with Euromonitor International. After Brexit and the Cape Town water shortage, people didn’t fall back into a “psychology of abundance” once the crisis passed, he said in a recent presentation. That portends a major shift toward appliances, including adding more space for refrigeration and food storage. 

“It won’t be business as usual,” Bell said. 

The phenomenon is global, with regional differences. In countries where people ate out a lot, like Singapore, there are now more pots and pans to clean, thus new interest in dishwashers. In places where domestic help was common, such as Brazil, the practice has ended due to social distancing, leading to a boom in cleaning devices.

The appliance industry is poised to respond because wellness-certified designs and high-tech features, like voice activation, were already in the innovation pipeline, said Seattle-based kitchen and bath designer Paula Kennedy. “It’s amazing, some of the sci-fi things they come up with,” said Kennedy, who’s been drawn to luxury appliances for her clients from Sub-Zero, Wolf and Electrolux.

21,495 in U.S.Most new cases today

-15% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-1.​082 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-4.​8% Global GDP Tracker (annualized), April

Washing machines with sanitizing cycles and Samsung’s touchscreen refrigerators are primed to go mainstream quicker with the added attention on home hygiene in the coronavirus era. For consumers stockpiling food, a fridge or freezer will be able to alert them when items are about to expire or need to be reordered, Kennedy said. 

There are also bathroom exhaust fans equipped with germ-killing LED lights from Wisconsin-based Broan-NuTone. Consumers can reduce the use of towels, which can spread germs, with hand dryers from U.K.-based Dyson, or full-body models from Spain’s Valiryo Technologies. Even motion-triggered faucets, so hard to turn on in public restrooms, may find traction in the new multi-functional, post-pandemic home.

“If we listen to consumers there's a whole lot of new need being created," said Joe Derochowski, a home industry analyst NPD. “This is when stress creates great innovation.”

Even big-ticket items are selling amid surging unemployment. In March, sales in the large-appliance category, which includes washers, ovens and fridges, rose almost 6% from a year ago, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. That bucked declines in January and February. 

One reason for the gains is that due to social distancing people are shunning appliance repairs—something they would normally do to save money in an economic downturn. That’s pushed more people to splurge on new dishwashers and refrigerators, according to Jill Notini, a spokeswoman for the AHAM. 

A move away from repairs helped Whirlpool Corp. eke out a small gain in North American sales in the first quarter, while markets in Europe, Middle East and Africa fell a combined 12%. “The demand decline in the United States is clearly not as pronounced as in China and Italy,” Chief Executive Officer Marc Bitzer said on a conference call with analysts.

Deep freezers have done especially well, with sales up 45% versus a year ago, according to AHAM data. Most models at the websites of Home Depot and were sold out at the time of writing this story.

The trend appears far from over. Fears over meat shortages spurred another surge in freezer storage, according to Whitney Welch, a spokeswoman for GE Appliances. The company, a unit of Qingdao-based Haier Group since 2017, continues to see higher demand. 

“People are using their appliances more than ever,” Welch said. “They are spending more time with their families under one roof cooking, cleaning and storing food.”

For Camardella, the shop owner who sold about 40 deep freezers before running out, there’s no relief in sight. He's tried to place orders through a buyer's cooperative only to have delivery dates pushed back. But he said that hasn’t stopped his customers from pulling out their wallets. 

“People have been buying refrigerator-freezer combos just to get the freezer.”


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New York Democrats Ordered by Judge to Reinstate Primary

The New York primary election is back on track after a federal judge ordered state Democratic officials to reinstate the vote on June 23 in response to Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s challenge to its cancellation.

Numerous states rescheduled their presidential primary elections due to Covid-19 but New York is violating voters’ constitutional rights by having canceled the primary, U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres said in an order on Tuesday.

Yang and a group of candidates seeking to represent him at the party’s national convention sued in late April to block the state from canceling the election and to reinstate the vote. State officials removed 10 Democratic presidential candidates, including Yang, who had qualified to be on the ballot but suspended their campaigns or were no longer seeking nomination, leaving only Joe Biden eligible to collect delegates, according to Yang’s lawsuit.

Former presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Yang didn’t ask for their names to be taken off the ballot when they dropped out, hoping to collect votes that would entitle them to delegates at the convention, where they could use their clout to sway party policy. Candidates who receive at least 15% of the vote in a congressional district and 15% of the vote statewide can send delegates to the convention, under the New York Democratic Party’s selection rules.

Removing all but one candidate from the ballot and calling off the primary means Yang and others “will be deprived of the opportunity to compete for delegate slots and shape the course of events at the convention and voters will lose the chance to express their support for delegates who share their views,” Torres said. “The loss of these First Amendment rights is a heavy hardship.”

Torres ordered the names of presidential and delegate candidates who were qualified as of April 26 to be restored to the ballot.

Representatives of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office and the Board of Elections didn’t immediately respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment on the ruling. Lawyers representing Yang in the case also didn’t immediately respond to emails.

— With assistance by Bob Van Voris

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Instacart To Hire Additional 250,000 Full-service Shoppers

Instacart is among the few companies that are on a hiring spree in the U.S. amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The delivery start-up said it plans to hire an additional 250,000 ‘full-service shoppers’ to meet the surge in customer demand for grocery delivery during COVID-19. The company said that the hiring in an effort to ‘get back’ to same-day delivery across its platform.

Instacart treats full-service shoppers as independent contractors. In March, the company announced plans to hire 300,000 additional full-service shoppers to help meet increased customer demand. The latest hiring is in addition to the previous announcement.

Instacart said that the new hiring will be focused specifically on the areas with the highest demand currently, including regions in California, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and Toronto.

In places where Instacart has enough workers to meet customer demand, it will reintroduce waitlists for applications to ensure it is balancing the number of workers it brings on in each region with customer demand in that area.

Instacart said that its workers will soon have access to a daily, in-app wellness check to help determine if they have any COVID-19 related symptoms.

Instacart will offer up to 14 days of pay for any full-service shopper or part-time employee, including in-store shopper, shift lead, site manager, or Instacart Care agent, who is diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in individual mandatory isolation or quarantine.

The company had introduced a bonus payment for its employees that were initially offered for hours worked through April 15.
The company is now extending the bonuses for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. Bonuses will be decided based on the number of hours worked and will range from $25 to $200 monthly.

Further, Instacart is providing personal protective equipment to all active workers, The Company is distributing tens of thousands of health and safety kits each week that includes a face mask and hand sanitizer.

Among other companies that are currently hiring, Amazon said in mid-March that it is creating 100,000 new full and part-time positions across the U.S. to meet the surge in demand from people relying on its service following the coronavirus outbreak. The new job openings will be in Amazon’s fulfillment centers and its delivery network.

Walmart said in late March that it plans to hire 150,000 employees to fill roles across its supply chain, including in distribution and fulfillment centers.

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