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Capitol Bureau

Capitol Bureau correspondent Karen DeWitt reports on what is happening in Albany, and how the decisions made by lawmakers affect you. Karen reports for WXXI and New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.

She is also a regular contributor to New York Now, the statewide public television program about New York State government seen on WXXI-TV Sundays at 6:30 p.m.  

NYS Fitness Association, Facebook page

The rate of transmission of the coronavirus in New York state remains low, and all regions of the state have been in the final phase of reopening for at least a month.

But some industries have been left out of those plans and remain closed. Owners of gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and other indoor-based businesses held a news conference to ask why they aren’t allowed to reopen.

Meanwhile, 1,500 gyms in New York have filed a class-action lawsuit demanding that the state offer a reopening plan. 

Family members of nursing home residents, testifying at a legislative hearing this week, told harrowing tales of neglect and unresponsive staff and administrators while the COVID-19 pandemic raged in New York this spring. 

Virginia Wilson-Butler said her aunt Eva Johnson’s care in a Brooklyn nursing home was substandard even before the pandemic, with staff not available to feed her or change a soiled bed.  

The June 23 primary was the first in New York to allow all voters the option of casting their ballots by mail. Under an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, registered voters could cite the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason for filling out an absentee ballot.

The New York State Legislature held a hearing Tuesday on the primary elections to find out what went right and what went wrong.

Matt Ryan New York Now

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was joined in a telephone news conference Monday by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear to try to put pressure on Congress to finally resolve a stalemate over a federal aid package for cash-strapped states affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Governor Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New York doesn’t have enough money in its budget to meet a requirement in President Donald Trump’s executive order to fund $100-a-week in additional unemployment benefits.

Trump issued the executive order on Saturday. It would give unemployed Americans $400 in additional payments a week, less than the $600-a-week that expired July 31.

States, however, would have to finance one quarter of the weekly $400 payments. Trump told reporters that states have the money to do that.

The New York State Legislature on Monday held the first of two hearings on the thousands of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents.

Questions to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, focused on a controversial March 25 directive that required nursing homes to take back COVID-19 patients from hospitals.

WXXI photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that he will announce later this week on what terms schools can reopen during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

But he put the responsibility for the details back on schools, saying they need to better respond to the concerns of parents. 

Dan Clark New York Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’ll decide next week on whether schools can partially or fully reopen in September.

Meanwhile, many school districts have been busy figuring out safe ways to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, and some have already made some preliminary decisions.

Cuomo said he’s waited until early August to make a final decision because he wants the latest data available on the rate of transmission of the virus. Cuomo, speaking in mid-July, said the reopening will be guided by science.

WXXI photo

School board members in New York are concerned that they might not be able to successfully fully or partially reopen schools without an infusion of cash from the state or federal governments.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has written a letter to New York’s congressional delegation, urging them not to settle for a federal stimulus package that does not include aid to states hard hit by the coronavirus.

The plea comes as talks between House Democrats and Senate Republicans in Washington are down to the wire.

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