Friday, April 10 update

NYS update: Cuomo has pronounced Upstate New York “flattened” (you don’t say) and the hospitalization curve coming out of New York City is relieving and encouraging. As Italian mayors know, however, it’s too soon to declare victory. (“How much longer?” “Until the end of the month.” “Madonna!“)

“We hope that we have seen the worst… We don’t know because the infection rate is purely in our control. We are in control of how many people die. It is a consequence of the actions that we take. We will determine how many people live and die.”

(Now, I completely understood the context of his comments, but aiiieeee, some of these sentences are going to be eagerly devoured by moronic conspiracy theorists across the land.)

New York State now has more COVID-19 cases than any country on the planet, it’s said… but really, what is a country?

California this week declared its independence from the federal government’s feeble efforts to fight Covid-19 — and perhaps from a bit more…  Speaking on MSNBC, Governor Gavin Newsom said that he would use the bulk purchasing power of California “as a nation-state” to acquire the hospital supplies that the federal government has failed to provide.

It is a really cruel aspect of this disease that, in taking so long to unfold in its victims, we’re already hoping to “move on” and talk about iPhone tracking apps and economic restarts — when today we also have very sad scenes of pine coffins being stacked next to each other in trenches on Hart Island, and people keep dying at home, with families unable to hold proper funerals. A National Guard unit from Niagara Falls is trying to help collect bodies.

In addition to a day shift, service members have begun helping man a night shift, as well. The house calls aren’t necessarily always for those who have died of complications of covid-19. Guardsmen like Bellina are also helping recover those who die in other circumstances, such as an apparent suicide where she helped retrieve a man’s remains on one of her most difficult days. “That was very hard to see,” she said.

And for the living, conditions are outrageously terrible in Queens. We live and die in different worlds.

For thousands of people, life has been reduced to the dimensions of tiny rented rooms. Ms. Begum, the former nanny from Bangladesh, said she was riddled with fear. She spends her days compulsively cleaning the apartment’s bathroom and steering clear of her ailing roommates. The landlord has been demanding April rent and threatening eviction. For succor, Ms. Begum turns to the Quran she keeps beside her bed. “I am praying every day,” she said. “Praying that the coronavirus leaves America.”

Closer to home, Dutchess County executive Marc Molinaro (Cuomo’s gubernatorial opponent, if you’ve forgotten) today lost his father to the coronavirus.

Onondaga County update: Despite an eighth death reported today, there were new signs that something positive is happening with the numbers, as for the first time the amount of cases designated as “recoveries” was more than the rate of new positive cases. Everyone around the state seems to be making up their metrics as they go along, but this one seems as valid as any. CNY Central has an interview with a Tully man who was hospitalized in severe condition and almost had to be put on a ventilator; he’s recovering now at home.

The big news is that SUNY Upstate Hospital now not only has its long-awaited test lab running — capable of administering 100-150 tests per day with 24-hour turnaround — but they now have capacity to rapid-test their own employees and inpatients. Once again, Central New York seems like a great place to sit all this out. In recent days, CE McMahon has been having to defend the County’s policy of only testing symptomatic people, bemoaning the lack of tests for everyone (“Buy me 467,000 tests and we’ll shut it down for a week and test everyone”). It seems that in Ithaca, anyone who thinks they’ve been exposed to a COVID-positive person can have a test. More cases are being reported in Cayuga and Madison counties because those counties are actually doing tests now.

The Queens story referenced above, with its dreadful view of how immigrants and communities of color are suffering disproportionately from the virus, makes one wonder about why Onondaga County’s ethnic breakdown of the sickest patients (22 white, 11 black, 4+ “other”) is the opposite. Is it because Syracuse is one of the most segregated cities in the country? We know, after all, that this disease came into New York City (and probably Central New York) from Europe, at a time when everyone was paying attention to China. It was brought in by the (relative) elite. Nobody on the South Side brought this stuff in. Is it just that we don’t have subways and not enough white people ride buses? Whatever the reason, let us be thankful our story is different — for the time being.

Speaking of China, this is a story which I dearly hope local people remember as world events threaten to ramp up in the years to come. Early in February, when the virus was ravaging China, a Chinese student came into my office at work despondent, wanting to talk. (This was around the time I decided to quietly buy some extra TP…) Some weeks later, shortly before everything closed down, he came in to the office wearing an N95 mask to make sure we understood how serious the virus was and to urge us to buy masks of our own on eBay, insisting on showing us where we could get some. Whatever the cynical appraisals of the Chinese government sending moth-eaten PPE to our shores, the Chinese people themselves really do care and want to help.

Quote of the day from McMahon’s briefing: an off-the-cuff comment in the course of answering a question about the purchasing of supplies. In addition to mentioning that Onondaga County had passed up additional chances to buy ventilators and instead sent these leads to the state, he expressed disappointment with the state of the market for buying non-defective masks and other PPE: “We’re not going to wire somebody in Mexico half a million dollars like they want us to.” (Who is “they,” I wonder — the state, or the Feds?) Growing more exasperated: “After all this, if there is not a manufacturer of PPE or N95 masks to be found in America, shame on America’s entrepreneurs. Our country will learn a very big lesson from this.”