NYS update: The New York story of the day isn’t the big cities, nor even the terrible (and perhaps uncounted) death toll in NYC. It’s the ominous signs that the more rural parts of the state are edging toward a forest fire where this virus is concerned. This is exactly what observers of the U.S. at large are most concerned about — the precarious position of the red states — and, as Cuomo aptly said earlier this week, New York State is the United States in microcosm. We have it all: megacity density, medium cities, suburbs and small towns — and deeply red, deeply suspicious pockets where people absolutely aren’t taking this pandemic seriously.
St. Lawrence County has been on my radar peripherally for a few days after I saw a map of cases by county. What the heck was going on up there? It couldn’t be the return of spring-breaking students from SLU, SUNY Potsdam or Clarkson – they’d been cut loose weeks ago. Now it seems that their deceptively modest case load is doubling at an alarming rate. And today, the local authorities (such as they are — St. Lawrence has no county executive) frantically are trying to catch up to what most of the rest of the state has been doing, instituting an immediate travel ban. As of today, St. Lawrence County has 70 cases. It’s a very large county with a relatively small population, but something doesn’t seem right.
“We are finding difficulty with the isolation process and with the quarantining process,” Ms. McGuire said. “We have people who do not want to maintain, who will not give the contacts that we need to do all of the tracing . . . so we do need to have the public know that this is a serious process.”
I have relatives in neighboring Jefferson County. They’re Trump voters, laid-back, easygoing, hardworking, not really into MAGA or the worst of Trump’s excesses, but don’t trust libruls at all and live up north for a reason — because it’s safe from a world they don’t have any patience for. I’m getting worried about what happens to them. And also worried for regional hospital centers like Syracuse, which will be expected to take their overflow patients. It seems like a slow-motion disaster in the making, something that won’t make the nightly news because a lot of the vulnerable people up there will die quietly in their rundown old houses.
In other news, Cuomo has completely disassociated himself (and the National Guard) from his executive-order-that-wasn’t; now, the National Guard will not be involved, just the state’s new hospital coalition. (Amazingly, last weekend’s upstate-downstate unpleasantness has registered on the national media radar – not in the Times, of course.)
Onondaga County update: A sixth death was announced, the fifth in a week. A jump in hospitalizations. Today’s briefing from the CE was mostly treading water, although he seemed more willing to divulge the kind of details that the press have been clamoring for — demographics of the deceased (all Caucasian, four of them male), types of scenarios that have been proven to cause community transmission (people going in to work sick, kids being allowed on playdates, adult children visiting Mom and Dad). A new set of maps were released, showing cases per 10,000 people. The Town of Pompey, the type of exurb where big houses and Christian GOP families are known to go hand in hand, has the worst stats among the towns. In the city of Syracuse, it’s 13207, which encompasses both the desirable Strathmore neighborhood and the Valley. (Nothing is happening in Elbridge because, well, nothing ever happens in Elbridge.)
The goal of the game is to reason, beg, cajole, shame, and data-drive everyone into social distancing compliance for at least the next two weeks. Madison County next door has signed on to the new alternate-day shopping initiative, but it may be that the less collegiate rural counties (like Cayuga and Cortland) may be dragging their feet in joining? It’s so strange how the reluctance to take things seriously, the “that’s not happening here,” manifests itself on a micro level.