Monday, April 20 update

USA update: Georgia’s governor opts for short-term gain over long-term pain. Also, we have now reached peak oil… storage:

US oil futures were down below $0 a barrel, their worst level since NYMEX opened oil futures trading in 1983. Monday’s plunge comes after prices hit an 18-year low last week as markets realized that record output cuts agreed by OPEC, Russia and other producers aren’t nearly enough to offset the loss in demand.

Tomorrow might be a great day to go fill up your tank, but freakish developments like this probably only mean that a year from now, things will be even more scary. This is reminding me of the collapse of the mark after WWI, and how the French used to cross into Germany to gorge themselves on cheap pastries. Will China be buying up our oil now, or will we be paying them to take it?

NYS update: Now that the daily data really does look favorable, Cuomo can relax a bit and attend to lording it over De Blasio in earnest. Not that I don’t welcome the topic he brought up today — the crying need to attend to NYC’s people in public housing. (Even people who aren’t necessarily living in public housing there, have got it really rough.) I’m of course wondering if those in Syracuse public housing will someday be beneficiaries of Cuomo’s hopes for “change that we could normally never do unless you had this situation.” But I fear the horrible stories from NYC aren’t over yet, so who could argue with a targeted approach?

And at last, upstate hospitals and their need to resume elective surgeries are on Cuomo’s radar, although today he seemed to want to redistribute the financial blow of COVID away from the schools (which yesterday were looking at 50% decrease, according to the governor) and toward the public hospitals and the counties. (Wait, the counties were going to get money?)

Onondaga County update: The local hospitals are itching to put their best faces forward to the state, and today’s kickoff guest at the county briefing was the head of St. Joe’s (“not a doctor,” as he reminded us) who gave a short overview of how very ready they are to resume elective surgeries. Although admitting they did not have unlimited PPE, all other bases were covered: expandable bed capacities in case of future COVID trouble, negative-pressure facilities, rapid testing for prospective surgery customers, ample ventilators. The Syracuse hospitals are ready to go in, coach — just give them a chance!

Also as promised yesterday, the seven CNY counties had at least a visual presence at the briefing in the form of a new poster with a map and curve graph. The map was colored green (incidentally, McMahon’s 2019 campaign color), so as not to scare anyone with red or blue. (Also, Centralnewyorkia resembles Abe Lincoln on a Zamboni, as anything does whenever Herkimer County is involved. Some things never do change.) This data was barely discussed, however, until someone in the press pool wondered about the integrity of the test data coming from all the rural counties that didn’t have anywhere near the robust testing facilities that Onondaga County had managed to put together. No good answer on that. Also, there hasn’t been any one big meeting of the counties yet – “conversations today, conversations tomorrow, conversations all week.”

Today, the county executive tossed back a few questions — about the very imminent end of the “voluntary shelter in place” (the alternating dates thing, set to expire tomorrow), which clearly he doesn’t want to give up on; about where the extra testing kits for seven counties are going to be sourced from (“We’re special in Onondaga, you know that”); and passing on an opportunity to criticize the state about their apparently still crappy enforcement of nursing home transparency.

The real indicator that we are living in strange times, however, came when the nuts and bolts of a local economic restart were discussed. McMahon envisions a future where social distancing inspectors are as much a part of county oversight of local business establishments as are food inspectors. Indeed, right now the county’s food inspectors are doing COVID work — repurposed to join the strained ranks of the county health department, doing contact tracing. And so we now live in a world, at least here in CNY, where a Republican official says, with a straight face, “It’s easier to regulate businesses than people… businesses are saying to me, ‘Regulate us’!”

And this is occurring against a backdrop where I’ve heard some Democratic voices getting really enthusiastic about antibody testing as The Answer — issuing immunity certificates (and new opportunities) to the clean, and somehow magically getting society up and running, and back to the good old global way of doing things, with elaborate centralized monitoring networks run by cutting-edge corporations. (The antibody testing solicitation in Syracuse occurred yesterday at the James Street Wegmans and a Price Chopper on Erie Boulevard, relatively close to the city. It is unknown if the state testing squad will return for more.)

“Who is going to pay for it?” asked a reporter (about the proactive testing, the social distancing inspectors, the new normal). The answer: “We are — Onondaga County.”

Wow. We’re really not in Kansas any more.