Wednesday, April 22 update

NYS update: “Test and trace” was the theme of Cuomo’s briefing today. A bit old-newsy for us hicks up in the sticks, but understandably, the situation in New York City is a very different one when it comes to stamping out hotspots. Up here, density exists in very few contexts, especially when all of the college students are gone. But down there, well, you could need… gosh… maybe almost a billion dollars to pay for all the public health interventions required.

Mike Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies have committed organizational support and technical assistance to help build and execute this new program. The contact tracing program will be done in coordination with the downstate region as well as New Jersey and Connecticut and will serve as an important resource to gather best practices and as a model that can be replicated across the nation. There has never been a contact tracing program implemented at this scale either in New York or anywhere in the United States.

Bloomberg has committed $10.5 million to this campaign.

The governor is getting annoyed at the chorus of honking that follows his every move:

“Go take a job as an essential worker, do it tomorrow,” he said. “There are people hiring. You can get a job as an essential worker so now you can go to work and be an essential worker and you’re not going to kill anyone.”

Meanwhile, today is Earth Day and the Department of Environmental Conservation’s 50th birthday. The DEC’s first online-only hunter education course is drawing large numbers of signups. Hopefully people aren’t worried about their pantries. When things die down a bit, there will be an assessment of which state agencies have failed and which have thrived during the chaos. My impression of the DEC during this crisis is that morale at the agency is high and that recent leadership changes within the organization met with ranger approval. Here’s an overview of what rangers are doing to contribute to COVID efforts. (Aside from DEC, it will be interesting to see how OPHRP handles the upcoming outdoor season.)

Onondaga County update: Aggressive COVID testing is now taking place in those senior facilities that aren’t overseen by the state (ie, assisted living and independent living places), and today’s increased positive case count (up 28 from yesterday, after hundreds of tests completed) can be seen as a harvest rather than a cause for dread. At least four of the positive cases were “asymptomatic affiliations,” the type of virus infection that is the target of this new “hunting” phase. (As for the Trump-backed Walmart-Quest lab set up in the East Syracuse parking lot, they have yet to report their results to the county, prompting a nag call.) When asked by a reporter, the CE admitted that they have relaxed the formal quarantine requirement for these asymptomatic senior-home employees they’ve found. This seems risky, but I suspect it was necessary to get some of the employees to agree to testing. (Hopefully the health department is still following up on them with the daily calls.)

McMahon does not see the newly announced, downstate-centric, Bloomberg-backed tracing effort to be coming up here any time soon, and doesn’t seem to care, pointing out that there likely aren’t enough human resources to send it up here. And: “We’re never going to outsource our public health responsibility in this county. We’re always going to be doing it.”

The now-expired alternate-day social distancing plan was briefly touched on again as a “technique and tactic” to get community attention that did its job.

We’re not relaxing social distancing… we’re suggesting that you know how to do more yourself. You don’t need me to tell you how to do more each week. You know the threat… you probably know of or have heard of someone who is in the hospital. You can do that. I have every confidence that we will do that, and we’ll do even more for this next week moving forward.

Lastly, a similar situation to the recent spontaneous gathering of mourners in Rochester which caused controversy (or “controversy” there) over how it was handled: A popular local high school senior was killed in a car accident yesterday, and there are rumors of a student vigil forming. (This high school, incidentally, happens to be in the CE’s home neighborhood, as well as near my neighborhood.) The county has asked parents and the school district to discourage the gathering, but has supplied the district with masks, in case students spontaneously show up on high school grounds today.

In other county news, the free milk is flowing in Syracuse as in other places, and it appears to be getting to food banks and organizations that serve the disadvantaged, and not just bored suburbanites looking for ice cream.