Thursday, April 23 update

NYS update: Before getting to the big news about the statewide antibody survey, let’s just say that Cuomo’s “big announcement” about nursing homes today was pretty useless. While families, unable to visit their loved ones, continue to be sent in circles trying to get information, they’re supposed to be happy that the nursing homes “might” face fines or closures (at some unspecified point in the future) for not releasing the information they’re supposed to release. Well, that’s sure helpful. (And now the nursing homes are throwing the blame back on the state.)

As for the antibody results… from a lay person’s point of view, they are not very surprising numbers. No one expected the upstate sample to be anywhere near the downstate one in terms of apparent exposure to COVID. What makes me nervous about the testing itself, though, is that we know so little about what having antibodies really means. Does it prove you are immune? Does it mean you might even still be potentially infectious? Nobody knows. Yet now, here we have “good data” that plainly divides New Yorkers into stark categories. Region and race are now mixed up with measures of public health. Will various populations be seen as “clean and safe” because they have antibodies, or will they be seen as “dirty and dangerous” (because they might still be transmissible because we just don’t know yet?) “A little learning is a dangerous thing.”

JAMA has published clearer data on actual New York City COVID patients: Presenting Characteristics, Comorbidities, and Outcomes Among 5700 Patients Hospitalized With COVID-19 in the New York City Area.

Outcomes were assessed for 2634 patients who were discharged or had died at the study end point. During hospitalization, 373 patients (14.2%) (median age, 68 years [IQR, 56-78]; 33.5% female) were treated in the intensive care unit care, 320 (12.2%) received invasive mechanical ventilation, 81 (3.2%) were treated with kidney replacement therapy, and 553 (21%) died. Mortality for those requiring mechanical ventilation was 88.1%. 

But there’s also been anecdotal information that the upstate COVID experience perhaps hasn’t been the same as NYC’s:

On a more cheerful note, stay tuned for the SUNY Hunger Games, coming to an e-sports arena near you!

Each college is invited to put forward two teams of students to compete in “Fortnite” by Epic Games, “Super Smash Bros Ultimate” by Nintendo, or “Rocket League” by Psyonix. The tournament is free and can be completed entirely online. Of the $20,000 prize pool, Chancellor Johnson committed $10,000 and co-sponsor Extreme Networks committed $10,000. The top prize for each game is $2,000, which will be donated to the student emergency fund at the winners’ respective school. There will also be a $5,000 grand prize given to the SUNY campus with the best overall score. 

Onondaga County update: There was an additional death reported today, bringing the county total to 23. (Interestingly, the pattern of COVID being more deadly to males does not seem to be in evidence locally, as the male-female ratio of deaths seems equal or even skewing female now.)

Mayor Walsh was today’s guest to give an update on the economic development team and answer questions. (A City of Syracuse press conference will take place tomorrow.) One of those questions was about the Route 81 project, which has… completely fallen by the wayside, predictably. It’s now being seen as a future massive economic stimulus construction project — but that assumes that the powers that be above us will once again do old-fashioned things like funding stimulus projects. (I, personally, think that the rotting viaducts of 81 will still be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World taught to schoolchildren circa 3000 A.D.)

The testing campaign in the senior living centers continues to result in an elevated positive rate for the county, including an encouraging number of “contact and affiliation” cases. (More contact and affiliation cases equals less wild, untraced community spread.) These numbers make CE McMahon “excited.” I’m half expecting him to come on stage tomorrow proclaiming that he loves the smell of reagents on the morning. The state antibody testing didn’t come up until the end of the briefing, and even then the reporter asked it almost as an afterthought. The CE did not have much to say about it, not surprisingly since antibody testing is not one of his favored metrics.

The inter-county restart talks are continuing and now the county health departments have all conversed. As they anticipate continuing to meet throughout the weekend, it seems they may be able to present a plan to the governor’s office early next week.