Wednesday, May 27 update

NYS update: Cuomo’s briefing in Washington today was pretty much what you’d expect — the usual “Hoocoodanode?” that the virus came from Italy, etc, interspersed with appropriate potshots at Mitch McConnell. But I was infuriated by Cuomo’s comments later in the day on MSNBC when he was asked about nursing facilities.

If I were advising a friend, I would say: You have a vulnerable person.  Best to keep them at home and not put them in a congregate facility.  Keep them in a situation where you have the most control.  That is the blunt truth.  That is what I would do with my mother.

He needs to get off the daily air. Now.

Aside from the laying of the guilt trip on struggling and grieving families, there’s this bullshit where he made it even harder for people to provide care for their family members at home.   And now consider Cuomo’s proud boasting about our ultimate control of “the numbers.”  You remember this, he hammered on it every other day back in April:  “The number is down because we brought the number down. God did not do that, fate did not do that, destiny did not do that.” But ah, when it comes to COVID running rampant through nursing homes and killing old people…  

At the end of the day, Mother Nature and God make these determinations.

I have no patience any more for my out-of-state friends who continue to worship this loser.  He is a somewhat more grownup Trump in Democratic costume.  Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for him in 2018 and don’t regret it for one second.  (Also don’t blame me, I voted YES on the Constitutional Convention — but that’s a superior-dance for another day.)

Whatever history has to say about the efficacy of shutdowns and masks, there is no question that most of New York State is on board, for better or worse. (Support for public mask wearing is an overwhelming 89% in favor, although it’s unclear what the actual question was and the context for the mask-wearing.) It will be interesting to compare the fortunes of upstate NY with those of the more lax “flyover” regions of the country. However, what people say to pollsters (and maybe even believe) and what they do are different things. We need more data about people who are not wearing masks. This information can be gathered quietly, visually and in a nonconfrontational manner. (By the way, at least one local hospital is already planning to use SwipeSense, which logs hand sanitizer use by hospital staff.)

As a joke I’ve been saying “Let’s do this all again next year, but without electricity.” Looks like we may not have to wait until next year for that…

Energy producers and distributors are quick to point out that America’s overall power usage has plummeted since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the shuttering of large commercial and industrial buildings. But those structures usually sit on the most capacious portions of an urban electrical grid, said Yury Dvorkin, assistant professor at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering. By contrast, the power infrastructure in residential areas is typically designed to accommodate heavy use in the early mornings and evenings, with hours to cool off during the day. Consumption patterns in these districts have already changed during the crisis, with demand spiking in the daytime. Overall usage is already up by an average of 7 percent in New York City apartments, and by 15 to 20 percent in homes in California.

Lastly, the Erie County Fair has been cancelled. The Erie County Fair is bigger than the New York State Fair (or at least used to be before Cuomo got obsessed with State Fair attendance records). For the love of God, just cancel the State Fair already.

Oh, and state campgrounds aren’t really open yet.

Onondaga County update: While there was still no explanation of yesterday’s apparent jump in “real” hospitalizations, today’s data appeared to paint a genuinely encouraging picture on multiple fronts. The pace of testing has not slowed, but today there were only 14 new COVID cases reported, and only three of those were community spread. This good news puzzles the health department and the CE, who are cautiously trying not to get too excited. There is more good news in that the pace of nursing-home and senior-center-driven infections seems to have slowed as well. Could the wildfire in the senior-dense areas really be slowing? (Unfortunately, there was another hospital death and three more nursing-home deaths appeared on the state’s tally.)

Reporters decided to hold McMahon’s feet to the fire today on the controversial case of a local restaurant that started allowing people to sit outside on tables with their takeout. The county health department came in and told them to stop, but this enforcement was short-lived and was reversed. What ensued today was a long and convoluted argument about the finer points of takeout etiquette, outdoor dining furniture and restaurant competitiveness. The reporter pointed out, and rightly, that other restaurants are watching this and either seeing lax enforcement or special treatment. The CE counterpointed, and rightly, that there is no real guidance on where people are required to eat their takeout food at this phase, and if a restaurant just happens to already have some tables widely scattered around as part of the landscape, well, bully for them — but they’ll also have to clean the tables now. (As long as they don’t move tables outside that weren’t already there, at least not until after Phase 2, as McMahon thinks responsible outdoor dining might be a good thing to try.)

Of course, the state has not helped any of this because guidance never seems to be issued except at the very last moment. When asked if we were already headed into the Wild West of guidance-free Phase 2, McMahon conceded that we may be “headed West.” He scoffed a bit that Sky Armory, a wedding venue, thinks it doesn’t need to enforce social distancing because they will have their own contact tracing system (!)

“We feel that we could operate a very safe environment with a group of people that inherently have the desire not to get anyone else sick,” Samolis said. “Imagine someone in your family is getting married. If you have the smallest chance of having the virus you would decide not to go. That’s the basis of our plan.”

Yeah, sounds like a plan. And not in Onondaga County, but in the CNY region (Oswego County), there’s an infuriating example of a business owner who thinks she’s entitled to make up her own rules, and a local government that doesn’t seem to know what to do about it.

“I’m doing appointment only, giving myself up to a half-hour to clean up,” said Carvey. “I ask everyone before their appointment, ‘Are you feeling well? OK. Then we can have you in here.’ Face masks are up to the individual person. I believe that’s your right to wear one or don’t wear one.”

Brilliant. So we have a countywide, countrywide, health emergency, yet nobody knows how to really make anyone do anything. CNY generally seems well-behaved in this crisis — no white men dancing around with real or toy guns, no disproportionate policing of people of color on nice days, and public officials as sober and data-driven as you could want. But as a society we are lacking in anything resembling discipline. The kinds of balanced discussions we ought to be having about caution vs. restarting, should be around the finer points of a common understanding. (A common understanding voiced by someone who is less inclined to talk about God’s will in between lame comedy skits with his brother.) When I read about business owners who are making up their own rules and public officials who don’t ever envision their police really enforcing anything, I don’t know how smoothly Phase 2 is going to go. McMahon is looking for creative solutions to get businesses up and running. There’s a difference between “creative” and “crazy,” though. People need to be called out on the crazy once in a while, particularly by leaders who want to maintain enough authority to be allowed to try their own creative solutions before the state says you can.

The church issue has still not been settled, and the local governments are still caught in a tug-of-war between Trump and Cuomo, which will come to a head this weekend. This is what seems to have been on the CE’s mind the most. He’s now at the point where he seems willing to just screw it and write the playbook. “If it’s gray, you can’t ask every time. If you keep asking and you don’t get an answer, that’s an answer, to me.”