Saturday, April 25 update

NYS update: According to the state budget office, the early ’20s are going to suck big time.

According to a statement by the state Division of Budget, New York state’s economy will lose $243 billion over the course of the full recovery, which is equal to 14 percent of the state’s Gross Domestic Product. Recovery to “pre-COVID level” would take three years, to the first quarter of 2023, the review said. Budget agency officials also said the $10.1 billion in spending reductions from the levels proposed in the Executive Budget include an $8.2 billion reduction in  “aid-to-localities,” which includes funds for health care, K-12 schools, and higher education as well as support for local governments.

So, the paucity of ideas from Albany for Upstate will now definitively be joined by a paucity of cash. Shocker. Let’s move on. (It’s all we can do.)

The centerpiece of Cuomo’s briefing today was a large expansion of state permissions and criteria for COVID testing. (Just testing; not much today on how tracing will be done.) There will be antibody testing for frontline health care workers — all downstate, as you would logically expect. Again, the unclear advantage of having antibodies might very well prove less comforting to frontline workers. (Who gets laid off from hospitals when layoffs become necessary? We are edging closer to Golden Tickets.)

New York’s health care workers and first responders truly need all the help they can get. (Warning: this story is very tragic.)

Someone in the press pool finally got through with a question about how internal-regional openings (like, maybe, CNY’s) are supposed to coordinate with the Northeastia plan.

The whole discussion is premature, but it’s something we’re working through right now. We’re working with the (multi-state) coalition, we’re working with regional coalitions, and we will marry the two. Not marry them … they’ll be engaged for a period of time.

I think the governor has been thinking too hard about his daughter’s boyfriend lately and maybe that’s why he’s so heavy on the nuptial metaphors.

Onondaga County update: As implied by Cuomo’s announcement today about expanded testing, the county health departments and local health care providers (hospitals, physicians) are no longer are the only COVID testing operations in town. This means that the “tests administered” daily stat will no longer be given, as it is not going to be really trackable any more. Although the county finally did get a report from the HHS-backed Walmart facility, only positive results are reported, not total number of tests. With testing being thrown open officially to the private sector, there’s no way for the county to definitively track how many tests are being given. Now the mission of the counties is to build their own tracing armies, which will be difficult and expensive (but this has been on the agenda here for at least a week already).

Onondaga County officials should feel very proud of everything they have accomplished to this point. This government got their people tested, and a lot of other people too, and was able to get to the point of taking the fight directly to the density centers (senior living) before the state was able to get their act together on the nursing home testing. Now the fight is also being taken underground.

The first wastewater samples were collected this week in what is believed to be the only effort in Upstate New York to detect the virus in wastewater. The project, undertaken by scientists from all three Syracuse universities, could help the county detect and stamp out hidden virus hotspots as the economy begins to reopen.

“Detecting the coronavirus in wastewater would tell us approximately how bad one area was over another, independent of nasal swab testing that’s done in the clinic,” said Hyatt Green, a SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry microbiologist involved in the study. “If we restart the economy in one particular area and we see an uptick in the virus in wastewater, then maybe we need to slow down a little.”

County officials could use the data to target education and testing campaigns, said David Larsen, the Syracuse University public health professor heading up the research team.

According to CE McMahon, speaking at today’s briefing, the project will require at least 10-14 days of sampling for an initial reading — which the county is racing to get done while there is still measurable virus in the community, since the data will be needed to help manage any future outbreaks later this fall.

Predictably, McMahon also sees Cuomo’s remarks this morning about upstate regions to be a non-story, since anything that outsiders would come up here for would have appropriate social distancing measures in place at the businesses. It’s true that CNY has no direct connections to other states (and it’s doubtful if some NYC residents would even be able to find Syracuse on a map, much less want to drive five hours for a haircut). But it does happen to be directly connected to the entirety of Upstate. (This is why “North, south, east, west” is a frequent catchphrase during the daily briefings.) “We’ll work through these questions, they’re all legitimate points.”

No new deaths were announced today, and hospitalizations and critical cases continue to decrease. No county briefing will be held tomorrow, as county staff (except for the health department) are “taking a half day.”