Wednesday, June 24 update

NYS update: Like a genie going back into his bottle for another thousand years, Governor Cuomo bid us all a fond but firm farewell last Friday as he w — no, wait.

These briefings will never really stop.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont today announced a joint incoming travel advisory that all individuals traveling from states with significant community spread of COVID-19 quarantine for a 14-day period from the time of last contact within the identified state.  This quarantine – effective midnight tonight – applies to any person arriving from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or a state with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average.  

So the rest of the nation now gets to enjoy what New York’s regions have gotten to experience for the last couple months — formulas and rolling averages and benchmarks laid down by the governor’s Top Men. Mind you, I’m not against protecting the progress we have all so painfully made in the Northeast, and I can’t say I feel bad about this move. It’s just that Cuomo stepping up to announce this at this particular moment in time — including a new set of metrics applied to other states (!) — is a rather aggressive move on his part. (Will there be a dashboard that Florida and Arizona snowbirds can check on every day?) If Trump doesn’t tweet up a storm about it tomorrow, that’s a sure sign that he’s truly distracted by the election.

You see, when other states threatened to quarantine New Yorkers several months ago, it was mostly short-term bluster, because they weren’t armed with rubrics. Because many other states don’t believe in data of any kind, much less wonky data. Cuomo’s people are probably game to create metrics on every single thing now — and while I agree with the urgency to keep the state safe, this tendency to quickly devise and disseminate new and ever more convoluted “data-driven” directives, using the TV bully pulpit, needs to be viewed with healthy skepticism as well, as there can easily be “lies, damned lies, and metrics.”

In other news: again, what’s the matter with Buffalo?

Erie County has seen an increase in the number of younger residents testing positive for Covid-19 over the past three weeks, creating concern that the state’s reopening could be impacting the spread of the coronavirus. The Western New York region also saw an uptick in Covid-19 hospitalizations Monday and Tuesday, according to state data. Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz shared new data Wednesday showing that in the past three weeks, the county has seen an unusual spike in the number of young people, including children, testing positive for the virus.

We know that red-state populations, and the politicians who use and abuse them, tend to not want to wear masks or engage in social distancing. Are we seeing evidence that “red regions” in New York are having similar, measurable problems? It’s difficult to make that case only because we don’t really have any other major urbanized/suburbanized reddish areas in the state on Buffalo’s level, to which we could compare. But WNY continues to struggle.

Onondaga County update: Things are obviously back to “new” normal again in Central New York, as CE McMahon has resumed awkward video ops with adorable newborn animals on display at the z — no, wait.

Frustrated by the governor’s changes to Phase 4 of New York’s coronavirus re-opening plan, Madison County Chairman John Becker said he’s taking a time out from a specially-appointed board that monitors Central New York’s progress... Becker said he’s going to skip participating in the conference calls for three days – to make a point. While Phase 4 was to be the fourth and final stage of the restart plan, certain businesses will still not be allowed to return, Cuomo said today. That includes gyms, movie theaters and malls like Destiny USA in Syracuse. “I don’t understand,” Becker said. “Our leaders, communities and businesses were led to believe that there were four phases to reopening. Now that does not seem to be the case. How many phases are there? Are there phases five, six, seven, eight, nine and 10?”

So it looks like we successfully avoided drama with Phase 3, but Phase 4 may come in like a lion. I noticed that McMahon is once again counseling patience to those who complain to him on his Twitter feed — “things can happen over the next few days” — but Becker has a point. When does this really stop? And what do we have to look forward to in the fall when, perhaps, a whole new set of “official” phases are decreed concerning college and school openings? (I don’t go to a gym, but it is indeed frustrating that they can take more precautions than grocery stores have to and still can’t open. I still won’t go back into a Target or Walmart if I can help it, and my Wegmans contact is still highly limited.)

Onondaga County has not been seeing the uptick in COVID positives that Erie County has seen over recent weeks. In fact, on Monday it seemed like we were tantalizingly close to “community spread zero” (only two such cases). Today’s numbers are closer to what CNY has seen in recent weeks with 16 new cases, only six being community spread. The nursing-home asymptomatics also have started to leave the hospitals, finally.

If only county officials could have some photo ops with big giant checks. That isn’t going to happen any time in the near future. Although McMahon’s proposed 4% residential energy tax finally cleared the legislature (by a vote of 10-6, not along partisan lines), Albany has followed through on its threat to cut cities’ fiscal year-end aid payments, so Syracuse itself takes a $12 million hit.

On a lighter note, and because I love to read the fine print, what are the new zoo babies to be called? The snow leopard cub is being named via contest to choose a New York State-themed name. (The CE apparently named the penguin chick after himself.)