Monday, July 20 update

NYS update: There hasn’t been a lot of clear movement in New York State on the COVID front for the past 10 days or so. The story is still all about the rest of the U.S. being a disaster where COVID response is concerned, and everyone suffering from a lack of lab capacity. Testing turnaround is now back to March and April delays in much of the state. About the only thing we have going for us is that masking and social distancing hasn’t been thrown out the window here.

The New York Times last week released a hotly discussed map that purports to show exactly where people are more likely to wear masks than not, based on a large survey. It seems to be breaking down by zip code (?) and I admit I don’t really understand the methodology. According to this map, Upstate cities are doing very well with mask-wearing, but even most rural areas in the state are doing relatively well.

I remember that exceedingly effective social distancing commercial (the one with the bouncing ping pong ball) that was commissioned by the state of Ohio. “Effective” though it may have been, it apparently had little effect on Ohioans if this map is to be believed. We hear so much about how Upstate cities are “flyover,” but even Buffalo, even the North Country is doing better on masking. Even though it’s a “mandate” here, there isn’t any real enforcement. What’s happened is that mask-wearing has reached critical mass as a social norm in the Northeast and it hasn’t elsewhere.

Cuomo, who allegedly doesn’t want to run for president, apparently wants to extend the borders of New York State so he can stay governor and still have a national influence. He went to Savannah today for a photo op, but when asked if he would quarantine after returning, said he’s an essential worker so he doesn’t have to. I wonder what gym and spa owners think of this after they have been told “no, you can’t reopen” over and over again while Cuomo can actually fly down to a hot state and not have to miss a beat. The powerful are not like you and me.

Or are they?

“Twice convicted by unanimous juries for abusing his powerful state office to enrich himself, Sheldon Silver will now finally report to prison to begin serving a sentence that can begin to repair the harm his conduct caused to the people of this District and to their trust in local government,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in a statement.  In addressing the court, Silver expressed remorse. “I want to be clear: What I did was wrong,” he said. “Let me just say I am very sorry.”

The worm sure does turn. Maybe in ten years, when this cruel revolution is over, it will be a felony for elected leaders to foist their bad poster art upon the public.

Onondaga County update: Briefings continue to be held on Mondays and Thursdays. Monday’s briefing wasn’t very interesting, but last Thursday the CE came out ready to roll with lots of new granular figures. What wasn’t usual at this briefing was that actual circumstances of actual spread were now given. Some weeks ago, Dr. Gupta came out with some fictionalized stories of how spread was occurring, but these were the real deal:

Close contact to a friend visiting from out of state — no mask. Family funeral in a neighboring county, which then led to multiple positive cases. Exposed at a Fourth of July party. Exposed at a Fifth of July party. Travel — Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, Massachusetts. Exposed via an employee. Exposed at a graduation party. Had lunch with someone in a breakroom in close proximity, while not wearing a mask.

While the squeamishness over telling these stories now appears past, McMahon still doesn’t want to get into specifics about which school districts had problem parties (like it wasn’t Westhill and West Genesee, come on); and while reporters seemed to want him to get tough on a Fayetteville sports coach who tested positive after an unauthorized off-school coaching session, he didn’t bite.

The “top story” of the Thursday county briefing, however, was the news that the county is considering spending its own money on rapid testing in preparation for the fall. Today (Monday), it was noted that the county does plan to buy its own rapid testing equipment and that it might arrive in 2-3 weeks. This can’t be cheap for the county, but it seems that McMahon is committed to ensuring that CNY stays open for business and probably sees it as a business investment.

I also can’t help wondering if the current crisis is being seen as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to dig CNY out of a hole. I don’t have any evidence to lead me to think that our local leaders are that forward-thinking, and no one has a crystal ball. But if you take to heart the concept that what you do today has an impact three weeks from now, why wouldn’t it be true projected even farther out? (In other words, how long can a virtuous spiral be drawn out?)

I’m not sure if any amount of forward thinking or planning can fill the fiscal hole, though. This tweet from the CE yesterday got a lot of local attention.

The reporters today were all over this looking for follow-up quotes. One thing I like about McMahon is that he doesn’t tweet off the cuff and then dance around it later — nope, he was eager to clarify.

It’s an absolute joke. It’s a dereliction of duty. I understand this process. In my own previous world I was the chairman of the legislature, so I was in charge of that branch of government. When you are the boss of a legislative body, you do not just represent a district or a state. [McConnell] is essentially a national leader, and we have a national crisis. So he needs to do his job, and recognize that in previous stimuluses, they said “We’ll get to local governments — we want to see how bad this is going to be on local governments before we commit to a process or a number.” Okay. We’ve gone through all this. It is bad. We need help.

I don’t even understand this — he has states that have senators up for election. I don’t know how he thinks his incumbent senator [in Montana], who’s in a tough race, can go to his local government and say “We’re not going to help you.”… So it’s mind-boggling to me on many fronts. I think we’re being used as a bargaining chip. It’s not me being used as a bargaining chip, it is my workforce. I have people who are working very hard to fight this pandemic and to put ourselves in a position for success… They’re still just in denial that state and local governments need help.

We are not saying, “We have a $100 million hole, give us $100 million.” We could say that, but we have held back hiring 300 positions, almost 10 percent of our workforce. I could have filled all those spots, and that would have been 300 people who are paying in to this economy, but I didn’t do that. I realized that we had to cut our own way to the bone so we had the moral argument to go to the federal government and say “Help us.” So his initial plan is a joke. Enough… I’ve been pretty bipartisan over the years and I will speak truth to power in this process. I haven’t really second-guessed those executives at the higher level. I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt with intention because I understand what they’re going through. But this is just ridiculous at this point. This isn’t a time where you pick and choose where you want to help out related to a 100-year pandemic. We need help, you told us to shut down, we did. Help us. Republicans don’t believe in unfunded mandates. Leader McConnell knows this.

There aren’t any Republicans in Washington any more, County Executive McMahon. There are only zombies occupying their animated political corpses. You’re on your own. Believe it.