Monday, July 6 update

NYS update: The state DOH released its self-exoneration report on nursing homes today, the upshot being that “it was the nursing home employees that brought the disease in, not infected nursing home residents.”   Interestingly, the word “tested” appears only seven times in this document, and this is what the state offers as proof that it was the employees who were infected first and not the residents:

Between May 20, 2020 and June 16, 2020, following Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order mandating twice-weekly staff testing resulted in approximately 9,000 staff tested positive.  That means that out of approximately 158,000 nursing home employees in the state, approximately 37,500 nursing home staff were presumed or confirmed positive for COVID-19— or one out of every four workers were infected.

But Onondaga County began aggressively testing in whatever senior living facilities they could (since access to nursing homes was denied to them) by at least April 22 — about a month before the period of time on which the DOH bases their data for this report.  Although Onondaga was not granularly breaking down test results at that time as they do now, on April 22 they reported 28 positives with only four of them being “affiliated cases.” Were senior living facilities very different from nursing homes in their character?  Perhaps, but the truth is that as quickly as this virus was moving, you probably cannot back-formulate your data-driven hypothesis only from May 20 — especially since many of the nursing home patients with COVID might well have already died!  Unaddressed in the DOH report was the horrible communication process with the nursing homes and local communities, the slowness to test comprehensively in nursing homes, and the slowness in re-examining the March 25 policy. If DOH is basing their conclusions on “data supplied by nursing homes under penalty of perjury” covering the period March-May… we should ask to see this data. (Basically, what this “report” seems to be is more of a theory being advanced by NYSDOH rather than a supported conclusion…)

Of course, I’m sure the state probably isn’t even conscious of the fact that Onondaga County’s health department charged ahead trying to get the true picture of what was happening inside senior facilities a month before the state made an attempt.  (And that was the whole point of the daily updates here, by the way:  to be able to reconstruct in the future what happened during the COVID crisis on a daily basis in “the provinces.”)

In a surprise, the DOH report did not wind up with “And nobody told us that the virus was coming from Italy, not from China“… but of course Cuomo made sure to mention that today. However, this paranoid display is a strong contender for Top 10 Slides of the Pandemic — something out of a fever dream Fantasia sequence playing in the governor’s mind?

In other news, the State Fair was finally, mercifully cancelled, making 2020 the first time since WWII that it will not be held. Why did Cuomo wait so long? Possibly because, despite his cheery dismissal of the idea that there is anything specifically going backward in New York State (“We’re doing great on the rolling 7-day average”), he very likely has been looking at Central New York’s daily positives average, which have been creeping slowly upward, and his experts have probably concluded that the rest of the state which are in latter stages of reopening are probably headed that way too.

But why is that happening?

Onondaga County update: CE McMahon is proving to be quite good at Twitter. He’s actually like the complete opposite of Donald Trump: timely, informative, responsive, and he has learned not to get into scraps with all the Camerons out there. On days when there are no briefings, he can be expected to post the day’s numbers breakdown, often around 3 p.m. When asked about the “high” positive percentage rates for CNY yesterday:

This was covered in today’s briefing at some length, including today’s uptick in hospitalizations, which was attributed to the hot and humid weather having respiratory effects on COVID patients (this assessment was made by doctors from more than one hospital, according to McMahon). These were not ICU hospitalizations, as the ICU number is down, and there were no deaths to report.

Cuomo has been talking tough on enforcement of mask-wearing and how the burden is on local governments. Out in the provinces, the practical concerns are about the nonexistent legal framework for enforcing these rules, especially against big-box stories that are telling their employees not to attempt to stop non-mask-wearers from shopping.

We have enough information that suggests that some of the [big-box store employees] are being coached not to address the issue, and we think that they should at least ask somebody to wear a mask and offer it. We’ll give them the masks. It’s all gray. This thing has never been tested in court with these executive orders related to mask-wearing. We believe that people need to wear them, and if some of our big-box retailers don’t work with us on that, we’ll go to the next level… I get everyone likes to talk about enforcement, but these are not legally tested processes, how many of these orders came.

McMahon mentioned that a new mobile testing strategy is coming, and I suspect it will have something to do with younger people, as this national infection trend is happening here as well.

Meanwhile, the Last Chance for Change people are still marching, not having reached the end of their 40 days yet. (A good read).

The group has almost fallen apart several times. They’ve had to manage personalities, conflicts and differing visions. Several organizers have been kicked out of the inner circle… On June 10, Day 10, the heat index reached 96 degrees. Chaplin doubled over and threw up in the grass. A few hours before the protest, Bloodworth’s cousin was killed. Then five gunshots rang out. The shots came from the housing complex a block away, and no one was injured. Still, it rattled the protesters and organizers. A quarter of protesters surveyed had lost a close friend or family member to gun violence.

On Day 15, a fight broke out among some of the marchers. Some organizers and protesters had to step in to break it up. Shortly afterward, six Syracuse police officers arrived. No one was arrested or injured. The next day, Chaplin apologized to the group, calling it a family dispute.

I know some people will read this story and think, “Well, these people aren’t really going to get anywhere.” That’s because this is not a flashy, shiny, easy story about “marches” for the TV cameras with cute signs and hats. This is the stuff that either kills a group or makes it very powerful. To think that there was ever a time when people believed that Saturday showboating on the Mall was going to change anything.