New York Declares State of Emergency After Finding Polio Virus in Wastewater

New York declared a state of emergency Friday after detecting polio virus in Long Island wastewater. The discovery in Nassau County, Long Island, signals a more extensive virus spread within the state’s population.

In July, Rockland County confirmed the first case of polio in the United States since 1993. The county is less than 50 miles from New York City. Officials began testing waters in surrounding counties shortly after and found the virus in Orange and Sullivan counties’ wastewater.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T Basset warns that one observed case of the paralytic disease usually signals hundreds of asymptomatic infected individuals. Even if an infected individual is asymptomatic, they may be contagious for days to weeks.

“Based on earlier polio outbreaks, New Yorkers should know that for every one case of paralytic polio observed, there may be hundreds of other people infected.”

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Polio is highly contagious. If infected, most people will have mild or no symptoms. A smaller percentage of infected individuals may develop more severe symptoms that affect the brain and spinal cord. According to the state’s health department, “New Yorkers should know that paralysis is the most severe symptom associated with polio because it can lead to permanent disability and death.”

The World Health Organization states that one in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis. Among the most vulnerable are children under five, who comprise a large percentage of the infected population.

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed an executive order Friday to expand the medical personnel who can administer the vaccine. EMS workers, midwives and pharmacists will be able to vaccinate individuals. Health care providers will also need to send immunization data to the New York State Department of Health so that officials can determine which counties are at the most risk and have the highest vaccine demand.

Officials are urging the public to vaccinate if they have not already done so. Dr. Basset told the public Friday, “do not wait to vaccinate” and “on polio, we simply cannot roll the dice.”

“If you or your child are unvaccinated or not up to date with vaccinations, the risk of paralytic disease is real.”

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Children can be vaccinated if they are two months or older. The statewide polio vaccination rate sits at around 79%. The counties with contaminated wastewater all had lower rates of vaccinations, and the confirmed case in July was in an unvaccinated adult.

Polio spreads through person-to-person contact. In the 1940s, polio disabled an average of more than 35,000 individuals and caused 15,000 cases of paralysis a year. Due to a widespread vaccine campaign beginning in 1955, polio cases fell to less than 100 in the 1960s.

People most susceptible to infection are those who never had the polio vaccine, who never completed the vaccine regimen or those who will be traveling to areas that could put them at a high risk of catching the virus.

50 Million Americans Under Flash Flood Warnings As Tropical Storm Elsa Moves Up East Coast

Tropical Storm Elsa is currently heading north along the East Coast of the US, and is expected to impact all major cities along the way. More than 50 million Americans woke up to flash flood warnings as severe weather conditions have already begun to impact a majority of the coast. 

The center of the storm is projected to go over Dover, Delaware early Friday morning and will make its way towards Boston by the afternoon, according to meteorologist Robert Shackelford. The storm has already caused tornados, multiple injuries, and at least one death in Florida and Georgia this week. 

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In New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was pre-positioning crews and equipment yesterday all throughout Long Island, where the storm is forecast to be the most intense. 

The MTA will also be banning all empty tractor-trailers and tandem trucks from its seven bridges and two tunnels until at least noon on Friday. This ban is due to heavy wind gusts and rain which could cause larger vehicles to be more susceptible to tipping over. 

The National Hurricane Center announced that the storm is currently moving at a rate of 25 mph and has hit a maximum sustained wind speed of 50 mph. Much of the Northeast is expected to see 2 to 4 inches of rainfall by the weekend. 

Once Elsa’s center passes by a given area, residents can still expect to see heavy rainfall and high wind speeds on the outskirts. 

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Some tornadoes were also reported across northern Florida and southeastern Georgia on Wednesday. An EF-2 tornado caused multiple injuries and damage at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Kings Bay, Georgia. 

“Thankfully, there was no loss of life here last night. This tornado that came through could have been a lot worse,” base commanding officer Capt. Chester Parks told local media outlets. 

Parks said that a tornado impacted by the southside of the navy base ended up moving north, hitting the base of an RV park on the way. Twelve recreational vehicles were damaged and nine people were transported to the navy base for medical treatment. 

Elsa initially hit Florida earlier this week, and caused the most damage in both the sunshine state and Georgia. The entire storm system touched down this Wednesday along the Gulf Coast in Taylor County, Florida. 

“Winds starting howling in the middle of the night, and rain starting pounding the windows. Never seen anything like this before in my life,” said Johnathan Riches who was staying at a motel in Cedar Key, Florida when the storm hit.

Miami Florida

Popular East Coast Weekend Getaways

If you’re living on the East Coast and constantly craving a get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, there’s a whole world of options for potential places to go that don’t have to occupy more than 48 hours of your life. The concept of a weekend getaway allows us to go on vacation without spending nearly as much money as we would on a more extended break, and also doesn’t require us to use any of our precious PTO or sick days. So where should you go this weekend? 

If you crave the excitement and flashy lights of a Las Vegas casino, then look no further than Atlantic City, New Jersey. Widely considered to be the “Vegas of the east,” Atlantic City offers all the flashy lights, cameras, and action of its west coast counterpart. Within the past few years Atlantic City has undergone extensive redevelopments to cater to a more sophisticated clientele, however, the beaches, boardwalk and casinos maintain the classic AC charm that many of us have grown to love. 

The New Jersey Transit system also allows for easy train travel for individuals from Pennsylvania, New York or other parts of Jersey. Once arrived, travelers can choose between a myriad of highly-rated seafood establishments and steak houses. Resort and spa deals help emulate a relaxing weekend in paradise for visitors, while casinos will give that AC energy that most are looking for. 

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Cape Cod, Massachusetts 

Since summer is right around the corner, Cape Cod is next up on the list. Cape Cod, Massachusetts is the epitome of beach town postcard views and “fun in the sun” energy, all year round. Even during the winter months, the city thrives with travelers who enjoy their many famous golf courses, wineries/bars, and whale watching excursions; which are typically the most successful in the winter months when whales are migrating through the area. 

Lighthouses and a series of intimate Inn’s surrounded by the town’s most famous seafood establishments give the town an old-school beach vibe. If you’re from Boston, there’s plenty of public transport options for you to get to the boardwalk promptly. If you’re from New York, you may want to consider a three-day weekend, as getting there could take up to five hours via public transport. 

Long Island, New York is a popular getaway for anyone working in surrounding metropolitan areas because of how many different towns and activities there are to do. Out east, there’s the Hamptons and Long Island’s wine country which will give any adult a little taste of west coast napa valley life on a weekend budget. The Long Island Railroad allows for easy travel coming into the island as well as travelling around it if you’re feeling a more nomadic experience. 

Long Island is known for its diverse range of food establishments to eat at, and the pizza and bagels are just as famously good as they are in New York City. Speaking of, unless you’re coming in from the city of course, NYC is just a short train ride away for exploration, the LIRR will even bring you right to Penn Station in the heart of Manhattan. 

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Lake Champlain, Vermont 

Vermont may not seem like it would be a top priority in terms of weekend destinations, however, unless you’ve already been don’t knock it until you try it. Burlington, to be more specific, is just over three hours from the city of Boston, and has direct one hour flights from NYC, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C., allowing for easy access. The city is known as a biking town when the weather allows, as the Lake Champlain Bikeway surrounds the entire perimeter of Lake Champlain, giving some of the most incredible views. 

In addition, Burlington is the home of famous ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s, so feel free to take a factory tour while you’re visiting and reward yourself after a long bike ride around the lake with a pint of your favorite flavor. Like every other option on this list, Burlington is also home to a whole slew of fancy restaurants and comfortable/affordable hotels.

Finally, the furthest getaway spot on our list goes to Miami, Florida.While Miami is more than just a simple drive for those of us on the northern end of the East Coast, a two hour flight really isn’t that bad if it means spending time on a warm white sandy beach. Besides a year-long sunny climate and landscape beach views, Miami is one of the most social cities in America. They have a buzzing nightlife, accompanied by famous restaurants and hotels, including the Versailles Restaurant Cuban Cuisine in Little Havana, Joe’s Stone Crab seafood restaurant, and  La Mar by Gaston Acurio, which is most famous for it’s instagram-worthy waterfront view.


Gov. Cuomo Proposes Anti-Discrimination Regulations

In the wake of an explosive report from Newsday detailing an extensive practice of discrimination against homebuyers of color on Long Island, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed new regulations meant to address this problem. Yesterday, the governor announced rules that would require real estate agents to give a disclosure about fair housing and the New York State Human Rights Law to prospective clients and display this information at offices and open houses. Additionally, the proposed rules would require organizations that offer fair housing education classes to record instructional settings and keep the video for a year in response to allegations that these classes are not taken seriously in the industry.

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While imposing regulations on private industries is always a controversial decision, many people who work in the real estate industry welcome the rule change. For instance, Jay Christiana, president of the Greater Capital Association of Realtors, said, “Anything that is going to be fair in housing, I certainly don’t have an issue with.” However, as demonstrated by the lengthy Newsday exposé, many New York real estate agents are fairly entrenched in their practices when dealing with clients, and as such may take issue with the addition of new rules.

Newsday’s story sent shockwaves throughout the entire local real estate industry, as the discriminatory practices recorded by the newspaper’s staff shocked the island. Some in the industry suggested the story made the problem seem worse than it is; though Christiana supports the proposed anti-discrimination regulations, he said “Most people are highly ethical in our business — it’s always for the few that we’re enacting these new laws.” It should be noted that the subjects in the Newsday investigation likely violated New York law by steering clients towards communities of similar racial makeup, and Cuomo’s proposed regulations would just make it easier for the government to enforce housing laws that are already on the books.

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The new rules are set to go into effect after a public comment period lasting 60 days. Assuming the rules are not revised in response to the public comments, the regulations would take effect in a little more than two months. In a prepared statement, Cuomo said, “Housing discrimination is completely unacceptable and it’s also against the law. New York State is taking immediate action to help ensure renters and homeowners are protected from any and all discriminatory actions when it comes to safe, accessible housing.”

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Newsday Finds Widespread Racial Discrimination Among Long Island Realtors

A major three-year investigation by Newsday has revealed a widespread, systemic practice of racial discrimination against Hispanic, Asian, and Black Long Island homebuyers. Newsday characterized the investigation, which involved 240 hours of secret recordings, 25 trained undercover testers, and tests of 93 real estate agents, as one of the most extensive investigations they’ve ever conducted. According to the report, black buyers face disadvantages roughly half the time they enlist brokers, and other minorities also faced disadvantages but a lower rates. In order to ensure widespread access to the information, Newsday opted to remove their website’s paywall for this article, which the newspaper described as “essential and groundbreaking.”

According to the detailed and lengthy report, “house hunting in one of the nation’s most segregated suburbs poses substantial risks of discrimination.” For this project, the newspaper used a paired-testing approach in which they sent undercover testers with hidden cameras to 93 agents on Long Island to determine whether their experiences differed on the basis of race, with testers of different races claiming similar financial situations and housing requests. On Long Island, which is home to 2.8 million people, divisions exist along lines of race, class, and politics, and Newsday’s investigation highlights how a discriminatory real estate industry perpetuates this separation, disadvantaging people of color.

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The investigation featured tests conducted on all parts of Long Island, in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties, and found that Black homebuyers received different treatment 49% of the time, Hispanic homebuyers 39% of the time, and Asian homebuyers 19% of the time. Additionally, the report claims that real-estate brokerages steered white prospective homebuyers towards majority-white neighborhoods and encouraged minorities to seek housing in neighborhoods with high minority populations. One real estate agent, for instance, told a black customer that Brentwood has “the nicest people,” but the same agent advised a white customer to “do some research on the gang-related events in that area for safety.”

While the results of the investigation are not comprehensive enough to prove legal wrongdoing, they form a body of evidence that provides a general understanding of the extent of racial discrimination in Long Island housing, opening the door to potential future legal action against the offending parties. 

The investigators also found that real estate agents engage in other forms of discrimination. For example, agents commonly refused to provide home tours or house listings to minority testers unless they met financial requirements that weren’t imposed on white testers. Real estate agents had a tendency to choose places like Merrick, which has an 80% white population, for white customers. Additionally, the real estate agents demonstrated a pattern of sharing information about racial, ethnic, or religious demographics of different communities with white customers but not with minority customers. In these cases, the agents in question violated fair housing standards, which prohibit agents from discussing the racial makeup of communities when selling houses if doing so is meant to “steer” prospective homebuyers towards communities with similar racial characteristics. One agent, for instance, warned a white tester about Huntington, saying “You don’t want to go there. It’s a mixed neighborhood.”

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The investigation was comprehensive, covering areas where 83 percent of Long Island’s population live, from poor areas to wealthy ones like the Hamptons. Although real estate agents and brokers are bound by law to follow fair housing practices, many of the individuals who were subjects in the investigation clearly failed to do so in Newsday’s account. The newspaper also sent reporters to classes where fair housing standards were taught to real estate professionals, and described these classes as “shockingly thin in content.” Upon learning about being treated differently on the basis of race, one tester described the news as “pretty outrageous and, of course, offensive.” Overall, the investigation focused on twelve of the most popular real estate brands on the island, and find that only two of the firms showed no evidence of disparity in treatment along racial lines. Before publishing the report, Newsday informed the firms in question that they had been subjects of an investigation and shared their results, offering them a chance to review the evidence, respond, and take appropriate action. While the results of the investigation are not comprehensive enough to prove legal wrongdoing, they form a body of evidence that provides a general understanding of the extent of racial discrimination in Long Island housing, opening the door to potential future legal action against the offending parties. 


Uber’s New Helicopter Service Is The First Step To A World Of “Air Taxi’s”

If you live in the New York City/Long Island area, then you surely understand the struggle that is getting to JFK. No matter what time you leave your house, there always seems to be a mess of traffic and congestion at every terminal. If you live in Manhattan you need to plan your airline commute hours in advance.

As of the past few years, ride-sharing apps and services have been the main source of transportation for New York City residents, especially when it comes to getting to their terminals on time. Uber, being one of the most popular, is widely praised on its Uber Pool feature that allows cheaper shared rides amongst different people travelling to the same location or locations within the same proximity as each other. However, the 9 year old company wanted to up their game even further, so they created Uber Copter, which is exactly as awesome as it sounds. 

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At the beginning of the summer Uber announced it’s helicopter transport system for its Uber Rewards Members exclusively, and now, as of October 3rd, it’s available to the general public, no membership required. As of right now, the only location that this specific ride-calling service can be used for is for getting to JFK airport, and you have to be in Manhattan to call for it. The total time spent getting to JFK is supposed to be no more than eight minutes in the air, and depending on how high demand the day is, it’ll cost between $200 – $225, which also includes regular Uber car service to get to the helipad locations. This major addition to the Uber personal transport system is one big step towards a greater goal of including tons of means of transportation that can be called using the app. Uber also intends on adding bikes and scooter to its app, and is in the preliminary phases of testing self-driving cars, however, after a fatal accident during the initial testing period, Uber is putting that idea on hold. 

Uber Copter may or may not save you time depending on how far you are from a helipad location. One user claimed it took them 70 minutes to get from their office in Midtown Manhattan to get to JFK because they had to take multiple car services to get to both helipads. Uber has said that travel times will begin to decrease as they run the service more and gain greater access to more heliports throughout the city. As of right now the helicopters are only leaving from a single helipad located near the Staten Island Ferry port. As they further develop Uber Copter, they will also continue to build Uber Air, which is the big picture business service Uber is attempting to provide. 

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“Uber saw the service as a way to work on Uber Air, the company’s upcoming electric air taxi service. We’ve built Uber Copter to provide us with insight and real-world experience as we continue to lay the foundation for Uber Air. We plan to launch Uber Air in Los Angeles, Dallas and Melbourne, Australia in 2023,” said a company spokesperson to Engadget Online Magazine

Uber has already partnered with multiple aircraft businesses in an attempt to work out all the specifics that would come from creating a totally new and innovative air taxi service. The company has also already debuted a prototype of the aircraft they would want to use that they built with the aircraft company Bell. 

“These aircraft use four vertical fans for lift and a separate propeller for forward thrust. They’ll be able to carry four passengers plus a pilot up to 60 miles on a single battery charge at speeds in excess of 150 MPH. These aircraft are likely to begin flight tests next year in the skies over Dallas, Los Angeles, and Melbourne,” according to Engadget

Uber Copter is just step one in a much larger plan for Uber to take to the sky, currently multiple companies are in a race to see who can get their transport services to take to the sky. Uber has accomplished the feat of being the first to offer helicopter personal call service transport, so maybe Uber Air is closer than we think.