Thursday, April 16 update

USA update: All hail Midwestia.

Seven Midwestern governors announced today that they will band together to decide when and how they will reopen their economies following the peak of the novel coronavirus while avoiding a resurgence.  Indiana will join Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois and Kentucky to jointly make decisions about when and how to safely reopen the Midwestern states.

NYS update: In Northeastia, now we’re on hold until May 15. (My mid-June camping vacation is looking ever more doubtful, but I hardly feel singled out.) When Cuomo says “looking at a regional reopening” I am never quite sure what he really means; I suspect he means the Northeastian region (which probably won’t functionally include Upstate New York either) and not the state’s own regions. We now also have an actual policy on the mandatory mask conditions.

Effective at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 17, 2020 any individual who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face-covering shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or cloth face-covering when in a public place and unable to maintain, or when not maintaining, social distance.

The shrieking of the moms will be deafening, but no one in Albany will personally be taking any of those calls I’m sure.

Rochester has got problems, not just from the virus but from fifty-year-old wounds that have never healed. A spontaneous street vigil has caused great controversy. (Something similar involving a playground crowd was a topic in Syracuse earlier this week, with the exact same reasoning given for tolerance by the police — except those reasons were explained here by a white male mayor rather than a black female one, which is why they seemed to go over with much less controversy in Syracuse.)

There is a new Siena Poll of statewide business owners on their future outlook, which is dark, but perhaps not as dark as would be supposed.

How is the business outlook up in arguably the remotest corner of New York, the Thousand Islands? Kind of chipper.

Once self-isolation finally is over, Corey Fram says the region’s tourism industry will be ready for people to hop in their cars and drive up to the north country for a getaway this summer… This would be the time he’d be gearing up for the summer season by looking to increase the staff to as many as 45 employees. And he decided not to open just for take-out meals. Instead, the restaurant is getting spruced up with a paint job and some other projects.  “A lot of people are very negative. It doesn’t help anything,” he said. “I still think summer is going to be very busy.”

Onondaga County update: Kind of grim. Hearing about five COVID deaths in one day has the surprising impact of a load of bricks, when usually you just hear about one or none. CE McMahon had on his dark suit, as he often does when delivering bad news (or maybe it just seems that way), and his manner of delivery of the daily stats seemed to prompt one news outlet ask how exactly he usually hears about the daily death toll. (The answer: typically he is informed as they happen, one by one; but today he was told about all five at once.)

There was other disheartening news. One of the latest deaths was an African American, the first for the county. Two of the deaths were people who “just got very sick,” with no known underlying health issues. And now even the daily “Hang tough, Elbridge!” battle cry is done with: the town now has two cases. Only the Onondaga Nation, apparently, has no cases now. (It’s nice to read the Facebook comments cheering them on. I just hope they really are okay.) The “key curves” of the data are just staggering on at the same parallel each day, not going up or down.

(By the way, sorry not sorry that any and all voices out there, even the deplorable ones, screamed loud enough so that those aren’t our local ventilators now being shipped out on a national tour.)

The need to strike a balance between two fears — “fear of the virus and fear of economic ruin” — was the forward-looking message of the day. The logistical message was about a new term, “affiliations,” which has made its debut in the briefings this week. This seems to denote contact cases of unknown transmission (i.e., you were at a party or facility and people who were there got sick, but unable to trace it to a vector person), and they are focusing on nursing homes and apparently one particular (unidentified) “apartment residence,” which was said pretty delicately.

The press corps are generally on McMahon’s side in all this, but you could tell they’re getting a bit antsy for some money quotes about Trump: “What do you hope to hear from the President?” Personally, I would just say, Fuck Washington, everyone there is beyond useless, ask me about something actually important, so I was glad to hear McMahon skip to the real potatoes here and talk about Greater Onondaga, or Central Newyorkia if you will — the county, the city (“the mayor and I have a special relationship”), Oneida, Madison, Cayuga and all the lands near by. They have been talking amongst themselves. They intend to present a regional reopening plan to Cuomo at the right time. And I will have the popcorn ready for that.

When asked about the possibility of local companies doing their own private testing of employees, McMahon sounded doubtful, pointing out that without controlled, continued social distancing, testing is only a snapshot in time and won’t help in the tracing of any future (and perhaps inevitable) resurgence hotspots.

I think McMahon was really hoping to keep the county well above any high water marks of the tsunami by working hard and smart, and it’s so far been comforting to see that Syracuse has escaped the worst problems being seen in the Buffalo and Rochester areas. But definitely now the specter of having to preside helplessly over nursing home deaths is occurring to him and to the rest of us. You just feel the dread in the pit of the stomach. (No, not us. We’re different. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.) I just have a completely new respect for local New York government (not just first responders) during all this. The amount of casual piss they are expected to deal with, streaming down from Washington and Albany, simply transcends party and ideology at this point. The country is completely, absolutely broken, and they are the ones building the lifeboat (and maybe the new world) out of spit and paper clips, while the national media continues to play with pretty pebbles on a shore about to disappear forever.

(The end of today’s briefing was a shout-out to Harrison Bakery. Because we all know that the West Side is the Best Side.)