Friday, June 26 update

NYS update: Did Texas actually help New York out with anything three months ago during the ventilator crisis? I don’t remember, but the governor is going to make sure that everyone knows that New York, though tough, is full of love for its fellow states. They will have to submit to a humiliating lecture first, of course, because New York is also smart and has no COVID-related skeletons in its closet. Welcome to our family, Texans and Floridians. Father Knows Best.

However, the federal courts don’t think so and have started poking some holes in those all-important phase rules.

U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe issued a preliminary injunction Friday blocking New York from enforcing its prior cap, which limited religious institutions to 25% of their capacity in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening process and 33% in Phase 4. Instead, religious facilities will face the same 50% indoor capacity limit that restaurants and businesses currently face in New York. Sharpe also barred the state from enforcing any capacity limit on outdoor gatherings. It wasn’t immediately clear Friday whether his ruling applied to all outdoor events or only religious services.

I don’t know what Cuomo’s game is with the State Fair and why he hasn’t just cancelled it already. I can’t imagine what needs to be looked at over the next two weeks that we don’t already know. His obsession with State Fair head counts and duration is already well known. Dude. I’m a CNY’er and the State Fair is the closest thing we have to a religion, and I’m not brokenhearted if we can’t have it this year. I don’t know anybody who is.

There is a story in the North Country (Gouverneur) I’ve been following for a few days — a sad one, but hopefully one that can take the Black Lives Matter discussion in its own direction up there. A teen named Treyanna Summerville died after years of abuse by her mother, and her high school friends and black community members want to know why child services never took their reports seriously. But there seems to be a certain squeamishness among whites about turning the protest over her death into a “BLM thing.”

Gouverneur is 87 percent white, and last year made national news after a 10 year-old black girl was violently assaulted by two white classmates on a school bus. Baxtron says much of people’s resistance to come out on Saturday—comes down to fear. “Why would they not come out? You know. If they’re afraid of the backlash of those who have a problem with the title of Black Lives Matter? If they’re afraid of how they’re going to be judged when they come out? And they pray or they speak on behalf of this young lady? Then they need to get right with themselves.”

After a lot of back and forth with organizers of Saturday’s march, Emily Burgess, Treyanna’s friend, decided she wants to be there. Treyanna’s brother Isiah Samuels also plans to attend. When defining what justice for Treyanna would mean, Emily Burgess and Baxtron use nearly the exact same words—they want to hold authorities who failed Treyanna accountable. “I want the police to understand that when they picked her up and took her home they were taking her back to a hostile environment.” It’s just the boundaries of that hostile environment—where they begin and where they end—that the two might see differently.

How about turning it into a Black Girls Matter event? That would make it the town’s own unique contribution to the movement. (Also: Growing up black in the Adirondacks.)

Onondaga County update: On my way in to work today I saw quite a few Phase 4 celebratory yard signs posted outside of restaurants and businesses — “Welcome back! We missed you!” Today’s county briefing was not a victory lap but was pretty meaty, and you know they mean business when Dr. Gupta is waiting on stage.

As usual, the stats: Thirty-eight hospitalized, of which only 25 are actually sick (that’s 13 people waiting to go back to nursing homes). Eight in the ICU. No deaths today. Sixteen new cases, with four community spread. Going forward, there will be a new metric reported — “community spread infection rate,” which as of now stands at 0.3%. 2,121 regional tests for the week. (Much like the governor is obsessed with saying no one knew the virus was coming from Italy — long after it’s necessary to be obsessed — the CE was sure to remind everyone that we are killing the mandated 775 tests per week, yo.)

McMahon reported that an uptick in Onondaga County’s new positives this week was indeed related to Champlain Valley Specialties in Oswego, and that this major outbreak (now thought to be contained) consisted of 59% of the county’s new positives this week. This was a segue for his new executive order announcement: local businesses are going to be required to give their employee rosters to the health department if any of their staff tests positive. This is so possible contacts can be urged to come in for tests (they won’t be required to be tested). It’s also to keep facility-based outbreaks from skewing future data and clouding the all-important community spread metric. (“We’ve built up an infrastructure so we can live with the virus.”)

When asked about the virus crisis in Florida and Texas etc., McMahon seemed reluctant to jump on the horror bandwagon. He pointed out that back when the county only had resources to test symptomatic people, our positive rate was more than 8% (some of the “hot states” have been around 10%). If hot states are only able to test sick people, that’s what the numbers are going to look like, though they could certainly get worse and in any case, the swamped ICU’s are the real indicator of disaster.

(There’s a lot of talk about pool testing now, as a way to deal with a massive multi-state outbreak — but that’s only necessary because so many states’ health infrastructures and political climates are so terrible. The pool testing strategy may produce quicker results, but does not do much to build up and season a robust and responsive public health infrastructure that is stronger than politics.)

That said, the CE issued a firm call for continued mask-wearing and social distancing and warned against people getting too comfortable. As he is typically reluctant to lecture, this actually counts as a strong statement from him. Dr. Gupta was doing a bit more than this when it was her turn — characterizing the virus as “clever and aggressive” and warning that it was highly variable in how it presented in young vs. old. I should think that the county health officials are just as weirded out as Cuomo is lately with what seems to be going on unchecked in the current hot states, making for more of a willingness to be vivid. (“So you’re tired of social distancing — but the virus is not tired of you.”)

The CE is still being wussy about getting tested himself, but revealed that one of his kids had to have a test as part of a doctor visit and that, since the kid was negative, well whew, that is a pretty good indicator he doesn’t have it either, right? I sympathize with any possible squeamishness about getting tested and finding out you’re asymptomatic, because that would Complicate Things, but this is going to continue to be a running gag. (And if all of us, eventually, wind up being swabbed in order to make that weekly goal, this might eventually become controversial. Just sayin’.)