Friday, May 8 update

NYS update: I got to wondering if other counties were experiencing the same “miscount” issue with nursing home deaths that our CE brought up in the Onondaga County briefing yesterday afternoon. In Buffalo there are telltale signs of murkiness as well:

County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Friday that 55% of all confirmed Covid-19 deaths involved nursing home residents — and that number may understate the nursing home death toll. The percentage cited by Poloncarz includes nursing home residents who contracted the illness while living in nursing homes but who ultimately died in hospitals.

I honestly think most who are aware of the crunky state health department numbers have given up trying to figure it out. Ignorance is bliss, which is why Cuomo could so confidently say at today’s press availability,

You tell me how we behave today, I will tell you the rate of infection three days from now. I’ll tell you the number of people who will walk into a hospital in seven days or ten days. It is that clear, cause and effect. That’s also liberating. Finally, our destiny, our future is in our hands… I’m more of a show me the facts and the numbers kind of guy…We know what happens when you are factual and evidence-based and make decisions on the numbers. You know, part of this is math. It’s just numbers. It’s like an equation. You can punch in to a computer the hospitalization rate, the infection rate, the testing rate, the antibody rate, and see what will happen if I increase activity by 15%.

Tell that to the folks on the ground who are struggling to make sense of the reporting and testing being done by your state health department in the nursing homes and in the communities. (There are a lot of them; see this litany of confusion experienced by counties in the Capital region.)

The only thing of note brought up in Cuomo’s remarks today was that the public was told about the perhaps COVID-related pediatric inflammatory syndrome that has shown up in small numbers in Europe and now New York. Parents were advised to watch out for a list of specific symptoms. Scary stuff, if it is indeed COVID-related.

(Quote of the day: “Upstate is dramatically different [in infection rate] — it’s like a different state.”)

Onondaga County update: CE McMahon does not seem to feel in control of destiny this week, if his frustrated comments over the state’s communication regarding nursing homes and testing are an indication. Although it seems he has decided to run with the 60 deaths figure (now 65, as three hospitalized people and two in nursing homes have died since yesterday), some of his comments during his briefing hinted that he never really got a firm answer from the state about it over the last 24 hours. The county has received no information from the state about who the nursing home victims were or when they died. This guy does not show emotion very often, but when questioned further about communication with the state health department on these figures, he was obviously stone cold pissed at Albany. (The less he says, the more pissed he is.)

Although new community spread cases are staying within a certain bound this week, this was a major topic of the Q&A, as the county had to release a huge public contact alert based on the movements of one single person who went store-hopping all last weekend in Liverpool and later tested positive. Although they were wearing a mask, this case demonstrates how one infected person can keep a team of contact tracers extremely busy. (This is the third time in two weeks that the East Syracuse Walmart has been named in a contact alert. Just don’t go there, folks.) The reporters seem antsy that McMahon does not want to pound the lectern like an Italian mayor about this sort of thing.

The good news today is that 300 contact tracers will become a reality and they will receive training from Johns Hopkins University — Dr. Gupta’s alma mater. I guess this means that we’re not getting our contract tracers from the Bloomberg effort (and at this point, it isn’t it wise to avoid state enterprises as much as possible? Just my own opinion.) (Update: this is in fact part of the Bloomberg program.) A shared services model between Onondaga County and the other Central counties is being explored. (Madison County, not too long ago, was actually looking into outsourcing its 911 call center to Onondaga.) The contact tracers would be “lent out” to the other counties, and be directed by the other counties’ health commissioners as needed.

The Pizza Fritte phenomenon also came up, mainly because nobody feels comfortable about wine slushies being sold to people in cars this weekend. It would be great if community testing could be done at this burgeoning event, but unfortunately there is no way to register the people as test subjects to create an accurate, trackable “well-oiled testing machine.”

Not mentioned in the briefing is a new “business reopening toolkit” unveiled by Centerstate CEO today. (Seems very useful but perhaps TL;DR for many small business owners.)