Sunday, May 24 update

NYS update: New York State campgrounds will be open again starting this week, per the governor’s order. This is one of the few things Cuomo announced today that might have an actual impact on (some) ordinary New Yorkers. The reopening of training camps for sports franchises, not so much, since ordinary people still can’t go to the games. We were once again exhorted to “think big” about moving New York forward. Because “too many small businesses have closed,” we apparently need the help of Big Giant Heads.

I got into a brief Twitter conversation about the makeup of the “regional control rooms.” There has been some grumbling about how CNY’s “regional control” group won’t talk to the media. I’m not real convinced these people do anything much more than Zoom about daily stats and try to figure out workarounds for whatever bright ideas Cuomo has each day. Josh thinks the makeup of the “control room” is terrible and I asked why.

I think the chaos predated the regional control room group appointments, however, and I’m still not convinced these people actually do anything meaningful as a group. However, I’d take a bunch of county executives and county managers, and mayors (and ex-mayors) any day over the “blue ribbon panels” that Cuomo has rounded up. My question: Who in the CNY community has the requisite authority to create a critical mass of public assent for self-designed solutions? At the end of the day you still have to convince duly elected leaders to carry out the solutions.

Onondaga County update: There will be no briefings until Tuesday, and no updates at all on Monday, as the health department is taking a much-deserved day off. Saturday’s briefing was rather upbeat. Community spread is still being watched, but does not appear to be a concern — though exhortations to maintain social distancing remained stronger than usual; the asymptomatic-positive percentage is now up to 53% of new cases on a 3-day average. Although three more residents died in hospitals on Saturday (including a 102-year-old woman whose father died in the 1918 pandemic), the “real” hospitalization number is down dramatically to 28, with 17 of those in critical condition. This figure excludes a whopping 51 “parked” nursing home residents — those who are not sick enough to be hospitalized, but can’t be released by the hospitals.

The good news about the nursing home parking issue is that CE McMahon talked to Cuomo himself about it, as part of a conference call between the governor and the CEs of the large counties. So, the state has been definitively made aware of how this issue is skewing the hospitalization metrics, and will be allowing local officials to handle this by working out suitable alternative arrangements. Unfortunately, it seems that Onondaga County doesn’t quite have this logistically worked out yet with a COVID-designated nursing facility, but they expect to have this figured out soon. (We might hear Cuomo mentioning this in one of his briefings next week – that is, if he cares to mention anything nursing home-related ever again, which he may not…)

McMahon also highlighted the reopening of Oneida Shores and the Rosamond Gifford Zoo; apparently the zoo is the first one in the state to reopen, and other zoos are asking ours for guidance. Supposedly, all has been going well with the social distancing measures. (In any case, we won’t really know until the end of this coming week if anything has gone horribly wrong.)

The social distancing freeze is continuing to melt. I was out and about today (Sunday) and ran into some people on a forest trail. I reached for my mask, and carried it in my hand to show that I came in peace. We both shrugged it off and just stayed ten feet apart as we passed. As time goes by, people are losing their fear of encountering others, particularly outside — which could backfire, depending on how much we don’t know about the virus. But I think the smarter people are avoiding indoor gatherings, and the smartest ones are also avoiding big-box stores.

A programming note: I will probably doing less of the “daily updates” after the coming week and hopefully revisiting distinct topics. One of the reasons why I started doing the updates was to create a chronology of actions taken in Onondaga County during the pandemic, for future reference. As the county moves through the reopening phases, and toward answering the bigger questions (how to turn schools and colleges back on, for example), it will be more worthwhile focusing on the big picture.