Thursday, April 2 update

NYS update: Governor Cuomo is still in Albany, doing his One Man in a Room thing with the budget. The COVID numbers coming out of Long Island and Westchester are of increasing concern. He took this opportunity to explain to Americans that New York State is a microcosm of the rest of the country and that rural areas should not be complacent about the virus because every part of New York has reported cases, and parts of NYS “have more cows than people.” (Legit.) Lamenting the terrible problems in getting enough equipment to embattled hospitals, he said, “It is the cruelest irony that this nation is now dependent on China” for PPE. Ironically, this could also be said for New York State being dependent on a defective federal government, and pushing the irony even further, you could say the same about upstate regions being dependent on a defective state budget process. (It’s like Russian dolls.)

Cuomo’s much-praised slides have become so detail-filled lately that one hopes our enemy, the coronavirus, has not mutated so much that it has learned how to read. Everything is on the table now where finding, buying and requisitioning supplies and ventilators are concerned, including “extraordinary measures” such as sending upstate equipment to downstate hospitals. (“We know where all the ventilators are,” Cuomo says pointedly, “if push comes to shove.”)

Cuomo then had his brother on as a guest. They went on bantering for so long that I fell asleep and had a fever dream that Cuomo took all of Onondaga County’s 60 ventilators and then sent them down to Washington when he was finished with them, instead of sending them back up here as the virus really hits us. I woke up hoping that Ryan McMahon remembered to include a lot of Sharpies in his big supply order, so he could write our names on them.

Onondaga County update: It’s never a good sign when McMahon comes out in a dark suit and starts the numbers right away. He announced another death, a woman in her 60s with “significant underlying health issues” (and in fact, two mortalities were announced today with another coming after the press conference.) The statistics for today were otherwise stubbornly discouraging. This disease takes such a long time to develop, and resolve — or not resolve, in the case of critically ill patients who go on ventilators and never come off — and we could be watching and wondering about these anonymous numbers (people) for a while yet.

(On a lighter note, here’s a spotlight on the two wonderful sign language interpreters who appear at every briefing, and are almost becoming minor celebrities.)

The CE is on board with face masks for the public generally, as long as they are DIY so that medical-grade masks go to the workers who really need them. This is likely to become the new social norm nationwide any minute now anyway. As for other equipment, the $1 million supply ship is coming in and apparently prices are coming down a bit as manufacturers jump into the market. This is the bright spot. The background is that all three of Syracuse’s hospitals now have COVID-positive staff who are severely under-supplied and need to draw on the county’s stash. We’re now Buffalo a week ago. This staggered reality unfolding across the state and country challenges any illusion we ever had that we are “one nation,” “one New York,” or even “one Upstate.” We’re all in our own private time zones.

McMahon seemed unconcerned over Cuomo’s somewhat alarming language about moving equipment (not just staff and PPE) out of upstate hospitals. As in earlier briefings, he suspects Cuomo was really talking about “Downstate Upstate” hospitals, and that anything Syracuse hospitals could provide would be to come to the rescue of somewhere closer, like Albany. Parsing NYC-centric language should come naturally to us all, but it’s refreshing to see a local GOP pol actually do it in public. (McMahon also says that because of HIPAA, he can’t always get direct information from the Health Department, so he has learned to interpret Dr. Gupta’s mood and specific requests as clues as to what’s happening with community transmission.)

Every other press briefing or so, the CE seems to feel the instinctive need to occasionally reiterate core Republican principles about the non-duties of government — probably to reassure the local party that he’s not been infected with socialism. But as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no trickle-downers, at least at the county level, during pandemics. Once the urgent reality of the situation is understood and accepted, anyone with half a brain knows that the core function of government is to protect citizens in a crisis. I think we would all give the county government high marks for their dedication over the past few weeks.

But think about it: right now, who really in their right mind wouldn’t instinctively feel that the poor, the elderly and the vulnerable need special protection and services? Which of us, no matter how granola, isn’t deeply concerned about local businesses unable to function? What political principles do any of us have at the moment except “The War”? It makes you wonder how fluid everything is, and if this is one of those moments where the established ideologies and territories just melt away and re-form according to new rules of gravity.