Tuesday, May 19 update

NYS update: There is almost a sense that the emergency of the pandemic is beginning to dissolve like a bad dream that is not quite over, but you’ve started to realize that it is a dream state, even though you’re not out of it. (Or a nightmare, obviously.) This would be in line with the national experience of the 1918 pandemic. Once the worst waves hit, most people forgot about it quickly.

Likewise, the “carefully” planned statewide metrics are also collapsing, shredding apart like a box of face masks left out in the rain. It’s not so much that the citizenry is running wild as reopening starts, but that the government’s response has been so problematic, and everyone is fatigued, and the still-shuttered regions are kicking holes in the reopening requirements that seemed so impressive just a week ago. (First Buffalo, then Albany, and now Long Island.)

But the half-life of the nursing home crisis is not going to be so short. The Post-Standard ran a withering piece this morning on the state health department’s interactions with nursing homes over the past month. This agency is very good at projecting authority without taking responsibility — or even possessing the competence to back it up.

The state’s clunky fact-gathering behind the scenes contrasted with the calm, data-driven style that is on display every morning during the governor’s news conferences…

A question about in-facility deaths was added to the daily survey April 16. But it failed to ask for retroactive data. Instead, it asked operators to the number of deaths “since your last report.’’ In other words, since the previous day. The next morning, April 17, the nursing homes got another email notice. “URGENT RESPONSE REQUIRED,’’ it said. The health department needed answers to two additional questions, including: “What is the total number of residents who have died in your nursing home of Covid-19?” The email was sent at 7:03 a.m. The deadline to respond was 8:45 a.m.

Maybe the daily Cuomo show was all about style (or “substance as style”) in the beginning, and it was what we needed to focus. But if the show has become just a daily parade of slides about metrics that we all can’t or perhaps even shouldn’t maintain, coupled with defensive denials about the nursing home scandal (I think you can call it that now), maybe it’s time for the governor to make this a weekly show instead of a daily one.

Meanwhile, Buffalo has reopened, but they somehow seem to still be a little behind:

As the Erie County Department of Health moves forward with the additional antibody testing, they didn’t realize how many people were interested in getting one of those tests. 2 On Your Side asked the health department about the jammed phone lines and general availability of those antibody tests. The Erie County Department of Health officially started its antibody testing program on Tuesday. It is distinct from the antigen diagnostic test we heard about originally. This is actually a blood draw because it will look to see if your immune system in your body was exposed to COVID-19. 

Ummm… haven’t they heard that antibody tests really aren’t of very much use in determining whether or not you actually have immunity? (There’s a reason why so many of the antibody tests are available — nobody wants them. Except, apparently, in WNY, where it’s still mid-April.)

Onondaga County update: The county health department has begun to move forward with mobile community testing, focusing on communities on the north side of Syracuse that they would like to take a better look at (including immigrant neighborhoods). This is not necessarily because they are seeing a jump in cases, but because there is a suspicion that the language barrier has kept people from seeking out tests. There are also plans to test in the town of Lafayette. (I’m assuming that they are hoping that people on the Onondaga Nation will come to be tested.)

The high hospitalization number locally is supposedly due to the ongoing asymptomatic nursing-home patient backlog. I guess my flipping out over this last week was justified, because the state’s reversal on nursing home and hospital COVID policy is in fact interfering with what seemed to be a pretty good homegrown plan to deal with the problem. Now CE McMahon would like to talk to the state about changing more metrics, since it’s all the rage (he wants these asymptomatics taken off the region’s hospitalization total). However, the 19 patients in critical condition — highest number in about a month — doesn’t seem related to this issue.

The daily community spread new case number was 17 today, which is higher than the last few days, but probably doesn’t bring the seven-day running average up very much. Reportedly, the Saturday Regional Market was a social-distancing shitshow, so Dr. Gupta and the county health department went out to review the arrangements. (While the market was still going on, which is pretty impressive mobilization.) Hopefully the state Ag and Markets department, which oversees the Regional Market, will be more competent and responsive than the state DOH.