Sunday, April 5 update

NYS update: I once again had to skip the actual Cuomo press conference, less for sanity reasons than for just being busy. It seems that NYC, like Syracuse, may be in a plateau zone — although their “plateau” is a hell of a lot more horrific than ours. Now the hot spots have moved out to Long Island and New Jersey, so the greater DNY region still is on the verge of drowning.

Today’s Post-Standard op-ed on the ventilator issue starts of with a mention of how Syracuse-area hospitals stood ready to help on 9/11. I remember the feelings I had when NYC suffered that catastrophe. Suddenly we really did feel like a family. Someone had hurt our big brother, and everyone felt eager to help. Then the crestfallen disbelief, and disappointment, and sadness, that we couldn’t help them because… there was nobody left to help. Everyone in the Twin Towers was dead. There wouldn’t be any emergency transports to our burn centers. The victims were just… gone.

But this isn’t quite the same situation – it’s even more hellish:

We are in no position to know if what Cuomo is requesting is a reasonable or unreasonable number. Information about the inventory, purchase and delivery of ventilators is opaque at the federal, state and local levels. For the public to understand it, all levels of government must be more transparent about what we have on hand, what the projected need is, how equipment will be allocated, and who is ultimately accountable for these decisions. In other words, we need to know how Albany plans to make sure a ventilator will be there when you, your father or your grandmother needs it.

As of this morning, Cuomo’s executive order still seemed to be missing. Nevertheless, some UNY hospitals are taking it seriously and are counting through their widow’s mites. (Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown stands ready to give up three of its 33 ventilators.) Although he claimed to know where the ventilators were in Thursday’s press conference, today Cuomo said he just wanted to be able to track them down.

And Rockland County’s CE wants to know where Cuomo is on his request to create a special containment zone on top of what Rockland already had.

Following Cuomo’s briefing, Day issued a statement asking “how in God’s name” were Cuomo and his staff unaware of his request. “Major news outlets, heavy social media coverage, along with a load of calls and emails to your office in support of this request, not to mention one of your staffers who actually saw it live,” Day said in a statement. “These responses strain credibility, and that is putting it mildly.”

Rich Azzopardi, Cuomo’s senior adviser and spokesman, called Day’s response “nonsensical.”

The containment area request encompasses a predominantly Orthodox Jewish area in Rockland. A detail which should make any alert person instinctively feel… Wow — just don’t go there.

Closer to home in Buffalo, the water is rising:

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases among seniors at the Father Baker Manor nursing home swelled from 17 to 39 Sunday. With the novel coronavirus sweeping through a population particularly susceptible to the disease, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz warned of hefty fines and possible imprisonment to non-essential businesses and individuals ignoring Governor Andrew Cuomo’s March 20 pause order.

Onondaga County update: While waiting for the 3 p.m. update to begin, I noticed a number of alerts scrolling on my Twitter ticker, concerning “possible contact alerts” relating to a few local drugstores and… crap… the Fairmount liquor store that I’d picked up an order of wine from, to bring to a family member, on Sunday the 29th. Fortunately, the possible contact dates were after Sunday, and I had opted for contact-free curbside delivery anyhow.

While unnerving to be reminded of the coronavirus actually being everywhere in the county (personally, I suspect that Fairmount, one of the densest suburbs in the county, has had community transmission for weeks), the real sign that things are getting real was the fact that there were four of these alerts on top of each other — something that hasn’t happened until now. Also a sign that things are getting real: Onondaga County has suffered its fifth fatality, the third in three days. The numbers given out today paint a picture of an infection wave that may be plateauing, and of an illness that is really grim and relentless. More hospitalized, more in ICU, no one discharged from hospital care today.

The county, after days of hinting that some kind of hammer was about to be dropped on store traffic, finally went ahead with it. The reluctance (or perhaps legal inability?) to tell the stores what to do is obvious, so what we’ve gotten is a shifting of the responsibility onto shoppers: a voluntary “shelter-in-place” for two weeks that asks people to essentially stay out of stores depending on their odd or even birth year and the day of the week. CE McMahon characterized this as “asking for more sacrifice” from the public, and the general tone of the briefing today was forceful and serious. This is the most unorthodox move that has been tried by the county so far (in fact, this may be the first order of this type in the state?), and people will either stupidly flout it, or buy into it. I don’t know if it will work, especially because the “rules” are a bit hard to remember.

But I’m not sure that is really the point: the point is to get people’s attention, by any means necessary. I’m in complete agreement with the gist of the move: “People are getting too comfortable with living with COVID-19.” Things have to get weirder before they get back to normal. (But will they ever completely get back to normal? The underlying message from CE McMahon has typically been “The sooner we succeed, the earlier things get back to normal.” Today, that message changed, very subtly, when he made reference to moving on toward “the new normal.”)

The other new news from today: Things will no longer be normal for golfers in Onondaga County, as golf courses now have been closed by executive order until April 28. (Except Green Lakes State Park’s golf course. The state, which had to approve this executive order, exempted its own courses.) It seems, from McMahon’s pointed comment that this decision was “data-driven,” that the sort of people who are addicted to golf are the sort of people who have been spreading coronavirus amongst themselves and the community. (It’s nice to know that it’s not just city kids wanting to play basketball who are being asked for “shared sacrifice.”) McMahon sounded particularly annoyed at those in more advantageous positions who haven’t lost their jobs, playing golf and stuff, and thus slowing down the return of the normal economy for those who have lost their jobs and are struggling.

“The next two weeks are big weeks. We’ll either be judged by history very well, or as a community that missed an opportunity.” Hopefully Syracuse can avoid the mistakes of its first pandemic, the second time around.