Thursday, May 14 update

NYS update: Cuomo was back in Syracuse today — I was going to say “announce CNY’s Phase 1 opening,” but he didn’t really do that — a Powerpoint was flashed showing all seven of our metrics in green, and that was it. No matter — it’s great to have that out of the way.

He also talked about PPE needing to be manufactured in-state, which would be great, if Albany wasn’t responsible for putting together any “deals.” A modest grant ($3 million) has been put up toward this purpose. (This seems like an awfully familiar type of amount, reserved for stuff he doesn’t lie awake at nights thinking about.) He also seemed to hint that cancelling the State Fair was not a done deal. (Which is nuts. I haven’t talked to a single person who’d want to go, and going to the Fair if you live in Syracuse is the law.)

Things are not going so well elsewhere in the state. Much like you dread the fact that more child abuse is happening behind closed doors these days, broken towns and cities are only getting more broken under the stress of the crisis. Let’s face, there isn’t a city in New York that hasn’t been broken for a while — but when their governments are really broken, it’s grim to contemplate.

Ogdensburg City Councilor Michael B. Powers said Tuesday that Mr. Skelly had gone to City Hall on Monday night after the council’s online meeting had been postponed by the City Clerk Cathy Jock. Mr. Skelly was pounding on the door and demanding he be let in, frightening the three employees in the building who called the police, Mr. Powers said. Mr. Skelly said he had gone to City Hall to talk to Ms. Jock and was told by Ogdensburg Police Chief Andrew D. Kennedy that he could not go inside.

Things didn’t get better.

In New York City, things got ugly at the height of the virus wave between the health department and the NYPD over mask supplies, and the repercussions continue:

Meanwhile, work is continuing on the Empire State Trail in this county, including on the median of busy Erie Boulevard. Someday it will, uh, connect New York to itself, or something.

Onondaga County update: Mayor Walsh and CE McMahon had a joint appearance outside of Upstate Hospital this morning as they waited for Cuomo to arrive, to congratulate the hospital workers. One of the great blessings of this particular moment in time is that the city and county are not at loggerheads with each other. This was some years in coming, and not just to do with these two; but if city-county relations had not been functional, I really don’t think that we would done anywhere near as well as we have done during the pandemic. (Incidentally this is the only time I’ve seen McMahon at a photo op during this whole seven or eight weeks. Other CE’s throughout the state are eager to be shown out and about, but apparently McMahon is just always holed up in his office all day with a phone in each hand and a calculator.)

Today’s county briefing was pretty long, and all business. “A new chapter is in front of us” was the only note of celebration at getting to Phase 1, then it was straight into the numbers (two more seniors have passed away, and today’s community spread number yielded, by my calculation, a 7-day average of 14.7, which is down). Businesses which are eligible to open tomorrow have to file a plan with the state at this website and then… cities and counties have to police it, somehow, in ways that the CE was as yet unable to announce because they are putting that airplane together in the air and all. The county will have a local helpline for businesses next week, which may also double as a complaints line for the public if businesses are going rogue.

Although the “Regional Control Room” sounds sexy, it really isn’t. They meet daily and “communicate with the state about how we are and where we are” and “we’re just a bunch of government leaders together.” I’m kind of disappointed by this. Someday, when World War III finally happens and we’re doing all this shelter-in-place again — but without electricity and running water — I wanted to be able to tune in my shortwave radio and pick up a voice saying “This is Regional Control…” But no, it’s just a bunch of business and labor types and county heads who may one day (in a “new twist” per McMahon) work on economic recovery issues.

Looking ahead, it was noted that a future county unit for investigation and enforcement of safety plans might be made up of people who already have experience doing this for restaurant inspections, or the district attorney’s office may supply people skilled at this kind of oversight. I think that window grades for businesses (like NYC does for restaurants) might be a good way to instill confidence, as long as the inspections are real and businesses don’t get tipped off ahead of time. McMahon also said that businesses would be encouraged to be sensitive to the needs of any vulnerable workers and not drag them back to work if they can work at home.

The reporters are always interested to get the county executive on the record talking about on enforcement. McMahon often comes off as a wet noodle on enforcement, but maybe he’s just keeping his options open and doesn’t want to get boxed in too early. Some of the reporters seem to get downright anxious trying to lead him into hypothetical situations where yes, goddamn, by all means he will call in the sheriff to lay the smack down. I laughed out loud at this today when he said, about one of these possible bad businesses gone wild: “Maybe they will need a clarification.” (You could either read that as a total wimp statement or a completely deadpan Don Corleone threat, which is why I found it funny. It’s probably more in the middle of those, but it’s fun to imagine it the latter way.)

One of the key business types that has to be monitored carefully are high-risk ones like outpatient surgery clinics and dentists. I got an e-mail from my dentist’s office this week advising of everything that patients will have to do when they go in for appointments now. It makes a Wegmans run seem like a naked frolic in the fields. Stay in your car, call the office to tell them you’re there, get masked and temperature-gunned, led quickly down the hall to the treatment room where your friendly staff will be in spacesuits, etc. Makes me want to skip my next dentist appointment even more than usual…