Thursday, May 21 update

NYS update: I’m going to make a shameful confession: I don’t always watch Cuomo’s briefings lately — but when I do, I find that Youtube’s 2x playback speed, in combination with captioning, makes it much more of a breeze. Today, the governor announced that summer school would not be held in school buildings (only virtually) and provided a list of beaches that would be open for Memorial Day Weekend and — whoa, wait a second, stop, hit the reverse button. Why is Robert Mujica, state budget director, answering a question about summer camps?

Come to think of it, I have never been able to figure out why Cuomo’s associates occasionally pipe up spontaneously to answer random questions, as if they have contractual screentime. If we must have screentime for these guys, what I really would like to see is Howard Zucker having his feet held to the fire by the Albany press corps about the extreme incompetence of his health department’s handling of data reporting and nursing home orders. It is time that the press stop trying to get answers out of Cuomo, and turn their attention toward the people who seem to be actually running the day-to-day show.

Cuomo’s opponent last time around, who has so far not been openly critical of the governor’s response, now seems to be losing patience.

In other news, Rochester is in danger of losing its “Third City” status to Yonkers, according to recent data. (However, this data was gathered before the COVID outbreak, so all bets may be off if people start fleeing downstate.) Meanwhile, it appears New Yorkers all over the state are ignoring the 2020 Census in great numbers. Soon there will be nothing left of us in the official record except the scent of New York Clean on the cold dawn wind.

Even sadder, the pandemic has effectively caused New York State to ignore itself. A study of point-to-point Thruway traffic over the past few weeks finds that personal auto use on the highway has fallen off a cliff:

Canandaigua to Kingston has never been a terribly popular journey — only 16 folks took it in 2019 but it completely fell off the dataset in 2020, with 0 drivers taking it. The number of cars going from Rome to the three exits near Schenectady plummeted from 2,253 to 336. Only 70 went from Batavia to Amsterdam, down from 298. Social distancing, in other words, has not only led to a suspension in the connections between people, but to the connections between the communities that make up New York.

Onondaga County update: After announcing an additional hospital death, CE McMahon’s briefing included some now serious complaining about the nursing-home asymptomatic patients distorting the county’s hospitalization number, which officially stands now at 82 — about 40 of which are not sick people. The “real” hospitalization number — people who medically belong there — stands at 42. Going forward, it seems he will deliver this split statistic regularly, since the state doesn’t appear to be interested in the ongoing repercussions of their nursing home policies.

He also revealed an eye-opening and somewhat alarming new statistic: 44% of those tested COVID-positive in the last three days were asymptomatic. (It wasn’t clear to me if this was an Onondaga County or Central New York regional figure.) This is perhaps the reason behind the suddenly stronger warnings for everyone to keep their masks on. (The community-spread number of new cases was 20.) He also pointed out that because of the increased testing, we have probably reached a point where “new cases” is no longer a revealing metric, but percent-positive (now 6.4%) should be more descriptive of the community situation.

I’m surprised that more people who lean toward opening faster, haven’t framed it in the way McMahon did today-

Society cannot just shut down for a year. That’s not how things work. You have to find balance… We need to do things and make policies that make the public safe, but at the same time, public health isn’t just COVID-19. You have to find that balance in dealing with addiction, with mental health — there’s no way to pay for public health response if your economy is shut down for a year.

Good point, but I wasn’t enthused at how McMahon mentioned Georgia as a hopeful example of a reopening going well. It’s wayyyy too soon to say that states that reopened early “haven’t been a disaster.”

The Onondaga County wastewater testing project seems to have fallen off the radar, so I was glad to see this status update. It seems that getting the testing process off the ground (er, out of the toilet) is going well, and apparently they were able to detect COVID-19 in our wastewater.