Wednesday, April 1 update

NYS update: Today’s major news takeaway from Cuomo’s briefing was that, unfortunately, every single model that the state cares to look at points to the end of April as the end of our medical ordeal (maybe). Doesn’t matter if we run around outside naked or if we hide under our beds: the date is always the same. He got tough again by shutting down NYC playgrounds (something which was done in the state parks already). He also got philosophical.

As a society, beyond just this immediate situation, we should start looking forward to understand how this experience is going to change us, or how it should change us. Because this is going to be transformative on a personal basis, on a social basis, on a systems basis. We’re never going to be the same again. We’re not going to forget what happened here. When do we get back to normal? I don’t think we get back to normal. I think we get to a new normal. Our challenge is to make sure that transformation and change is positive and not negative… Why don’t we have medical supplies made in this country? Why are we shopping in China for basic medical supplies?

At this point, the irony is falling out of the skies like cartoon anvils each day. “New normal,” huh. Is this the same “new normal” that was sold to millions of New York citizens over the last forty years? You can either let your jaw drop to the floor in disbelief, or cautiously feel a sense of relief and vindication — that, wow, maybe somebody down there finally gets it, maybe the slightest inkling of realization is really beginning to seep in, that maybe it wasn’t the greatest idea in the world to economically abandon your own people and your own territory — the part of your state that had the factories, that had the workers, that had the inventors, that had the industrial researchers, that had the farms, that had everything you would have needed in this crisis right now. That maybe it was stupid to treat it like a burden when it was really a treasure.

Cuomo seemed chipper about the secret budget process, the details of which came through this evening and still includes the “old normal” trashing of Medicaid. Getting over normality is hard.

Onondaga County update: The daily 3 p.m. update has settled into a pattern, where CE McMahon brings on someone new for a very brief opening statement on a relevant topic (today, it was about our patriotic, state-riotic duty to complete the Census), and then “the numbers,” followed by What Happens When You Test Positive, which is always the same each day. This repetition is probably meant to reassure the nervous, and the nervous are getting nervous enough to call up the Health Department and yell at them, which makes McMahon very annoyed. Usually, Dr. Gupta then comes on to explain and re-explain What Happens When You Recover (the criteria by which one comes off isolation or quarantine). Each day there is also at least one Kids, Don’t Make Me Come Up There feature (today it was about Centro joyriders) and/or Mean Tweets, then Question Time, and of course, the Good News of the Day.

The numbers are opaque from a “flattening the curve” standpoint, but pretty clear on the human toll — there are fourteen people in the local hospitals in critical condition, which is terrible news. We seem to be stumbling toward thickest part of the fog here in CNY. At least our creepy-but-useful phone tracking grade is a solid B, which unfortunately is not what is going on in western New York at the moment.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m making fun of the daily show – on the contrary, I think the Onondaga County crew is knocking it out of the park with their communications. I am pretty impressed at how McMahon refuses to criticize local companies for putting out their own internal releases about positive employees, which is what has been producing the nasty calls from the public to the Health Department, and puts him in the position of having to explain the county’s contact tracing process every single damn day. There’s never an air of “why are you making my life difficult” in these briefings, and that’s very helpful.

I’m usually impatient for Question Time, not because I think the reporters always have great questions (they’re just trying to write vivid stories out of the same basic message every day), but because everything that Cuomo is ruminating about in terms of changing business-as-usual, everything that’s being discussed about inter-hospital and inter-regional cooperation, is also up for debate here on the local level. What should Syracuse and Onondaga County be in the future? Is there a greater CNY that has its natural capital here? Should upstate New York really be considered a monolith any more? (I for one, am growing increasingly shocked at the yawning differences between WNY and CNY during this crisis, on different levels.)

It’s refreshing to look past the immediate crisis in the Q&A sessions and think about these issues. The 21st century is not going to look like what we thought it would, just a few short weeks ago.