SYRACUSE, NY (WSYR-TV) — You remember March, right? We were itching for those signs that spring was around the corner, the Tipp Hill Shamrock Run, the St. Patrick’s Parade, the ACC Tournament, and March Madness.
Well, we experienced March Madness, but not quite what we had hoped. Instead of Jim Boeheim talking about SU’s next tourney opponents, we were watching Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon or Gov. Andrew Cuomo talking about flattening the curve.
Businesses and schools were closed, we were all urged to stay home, surgeries were cancelled as hospitals braced for a flood of COVID-19 patients and we ran out of toilet paper.
But Central New York did what was asked. We flattened the curve.
Flattening the Curve
Here’s a look at the number of active COVID-19 cases in Onondaga and Oneida Counties from when we had our first reports until Tuesday, September 13. Both counties peaked in early June and have been steadily declining.
Clearing Hospital Space
“Flattening the curve” is to prevent a lot of people from getting sick at one time and overwhelming the hospitals and their ability to take care for COVID-19 patients and people who need care for other serious illnesses or injuries. Cancelling elective surgeries opened hundreds of beds in the region. Thankfully, most weren’t needed. Onondaga County never had more than 85 people hospitalized and Oneida county peaked at 54.
But some of our neighbors who caught the virus, did not survived.
The fallout from the COVID-19 lockdown is still with us. When restaurants, bars, movie theaters, offices, factories, and other businesses closed, it flattened the curved but unemployment skyrocketed. The system that has been in place since the Great Depression to help workers out of work collapsed under the weight. The phone system and computer system at the state’s unemployment offices crashed under the crush of calls.
NewsChannel 9 heard from hundreds of viewers who could not get through to file a claim or cut off mid-application, or who never got a call back to verify their claim.
Avalanche of Claims
This is what you were up against in filing an unemployment claim. Almost 400,000 New Yorkers filed claims for the week ending April 11. That same week in 2019 12,434 were filed. Even during the so-called Great Recession, labor department resources were not overwhelmed like they were in April this year.
As New York brought down the number of active cases, new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, the state slowly started opening back up. Jobless claims in New York for the week ending Sept. 5 stood at 65,273, still more than 4.5 times the jobless claims filed before the pandemic.
Though fewer people are filing new claims for jobless benefits, many New Yorkers remain out of work.
The state unemployment rate jumped to 15.3% in April and has pretty much stayed there.
For comparison, we have added last year’s unemployment rate and 2010’s rates, when the state was still suffering from the joblessness caused by the 2009 recession.
And it’s not just private-sector workers who have lost jobs. Some of the very people who worked through the crisis in various government agencies have lost or will soon lose their jobs, or face reductions through furloughs.
Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon says the county will suffer the budgetary impact of COVID-19 for a few more years.
When businesses close, people don’t shop, dine out, or stay in hotels. That means sales tax revenues plummet. McMahon says the county is short more than $29 million in its 2020 budget. That includes loss of tax revenues and increased expenses related to fighting COVID-19.
To close the budget gap, the county dipped into its reserves, has left 460 positions vacant through normal attrition or early retirement, and is considering layoffs. An agreement reached recently between the county and its labor union means the originally planned 250 layoffs will be reduced depending on how many workers take voluntary furloughs or how much the county can save by placing workers on involuntary furloughs.
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