More Notes From a COVID-19 Epicenter: Fighting This Thing Alone–Together

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COVID-19; image courtesy of state.gov.

Events are moving very rapidly. Less than a week after I published my post about life in self-quarantine in an epicenter of the pandemic, far more Americans are in similar situations—some in mandatory lockdown, which I suspect will arrive in my community soon. (Update: we’re now in mandatory lockdown.)

In my previous post, I described being in a hard-hit area with a local hospital whose CEO was profoundly worried about running out of ventilators for patients and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for hospital staff. When staff members become ill, obviously, there’s no one to treat patients.

Our community arranged a teleconference for residents to hear from all the relevant local, county, and state officials, as well as our member of Congress. Both my husband and I felt good about what we’d heard. These people knew what they were doing. They were competent and dedicated, and would do whatever was humanly possible to keep us safe.

One person who wasn’t on the call was the hospital CEO.

Today we learned that he has tested positive for COVID-19. Just days before, he’d been at another meeting with all the folks above. So possibly, the entire entourage whom we’re depending upon may now be harboring the disease. This concept takes a little getting used to— and much deep breathing.

Now our governor has taken over these local operations. The governors have been the unsung heroes of this pandemic—from Jay Inslee in Washington state to Mario Cuomo in New York.

They’ve struggled to gain the attention of a President who just weeks ago was declaring the pandemic a “hoax” perpetrated by the Democrats to oust him from office. We lost valuable time while he lived in denial/conspiracy land, bolstered by his friends on Fox TV.

But faced with a free fall in the only indicator he seems to care about, the stock market, Trump has finally awakened and declared himself a “Wartime President.” And then he went missing in action before our eyes. “Mr President,” the exhausted governors pleaded “we desperately need federal help.” His response: “Find your own ventilators. We’re not a shipping clerk.”

It’s so ironic that the President many of us have worried has shown dictatorial tendencies—who has, in fact, declared that as president he has the right to do whatever he wants—is now being so reluctant to use the power he has for the greater good.

The New York Times observed “Mixed Signals From President Sow Confusion.” First he said he would invoke the Defense Production Act, which dates to the Korean War and “grants the president extraordinary powers to force American industries to ensure the availability of critical equipment.”

The very next day, he made his “We’re not a shipping clerk” comment. Apparently, some business leaders who didn’t like the idea of being “forced” to do anything got his ear. But will they do enough, quickly enough, to provide the vital protective equipment to ensure that our health care workers aren’t decimated, and that enough  life-saving respirators are on hand so that those working won’t have to perform triage to determine who gets one and who’s left to die–as is currently the case in Italy?

Meanwhile, in Italy, the total death rate reached 3405 on Thursday, exceeding that of China at its highest, according to an article in Bloomberg. The next day, Bloomberg reported 627 deaths, “the highest daily toll since outbreak hit.”

The Prime Minister is weighing even greater restrictions than those covered by the current “near-total lockdown,” Bloomberg reports. “The decision depends on factors including the spread of infections and the fact that many Italians aren’t respecting the rules, the official said.”

And this is happening in northern Italy, which has more and better hospitals than the southern part of the country—and has been overwhelmed. If the virus spreads south, it could be disastrous. The second article cited provides information about Spain, the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands.

I am also getting reports about India from my fellow blogger, the Controversial Indian, who provides her thoughts daily from what she calls “house arrest.” She observed on Day 19 that she is suspicious of the low number of cases reported to date—236—and says “the government still refuses to acknowledge that there is any community transmission of the disease in the country.” There’s also very little testing.

You’ve seen the curve of increased cases in Italy? Our curve bears an eerie resemblance to that one, and experts report that at the speed at which the cases are multiplying, we have about two weeks before we’ll be facing comparable conditions.

That’s why it’s so important to try to “flatten the curve” of the incidence of infection by having us remain in our homes. At this point, the number of confirmed cases in the US has climbed to more than 17,000. The lack of adequate testing suggests that number is considerably higher.

Dear Readers:

It appears that more of you have begun to take these events seriously. But if you are still tempted to disregard this threat, please reconsider. I get that the pandemic is affecting various parts of the country differently, but this nasty virus knows how to cross state lines—big time.

And as a country, we have varying degrees of quality and quantity in the health care services and facilities we can access. If New York City, one of the nation’s foremost medical meccas, can be approaching the breaking point, I fear the Italian analogy will be appropriate. Other areas will be hard hit and won’t have the resources and expertise they’ll need.

So I am speaking to you, the Spring Break Invulnerables yukking it up on Florida beaches, oblivious to the threat.

And to you, those who didn’t think twice about going to a large wedding in Brooklyn, NY, that had to be broken up by the police.

And to you, the Self-Styled Immortal Boomer Parents who are in the “most vulnerable” category, but refuse to adapt while their 30-something children scream at them and weep at their heedlessness: “Don’t take that cruise!” Why are you going out to dinner again?” (See The Atlantic article, Convincing Boomer Parents to Take the Coronavirus Seriously.)

And to you, bloggers who have expressed disdain at the “stupidity” of people who are going like sheep into their homes as requested—or ordered.

As I and many others have pointed out, we are all interconnected and interdependent. We are in for a rough period unlike anything we’ve seen in the US in our lifetimes.

We will get through this, but we’ll do it more quickly and with fewer casualties if we’re willing to put up with the dramatic changes to our daily lives that the experts insist are essential.

One more thing. A friend forwarded to me a video of a lecture on the coronavirus for health professionals, which was given by Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, an infectious diseases specialist at the Santa Barbara (CA) Cottage Hospital.

I found the 1-hour lecture fascinating. One tidbit that I felt important to convey here is Dr. Fitzgibbons’ suggestion, based on findings, that the distance the virus can travel through sneezes or coughs is closer to 13 feet, rather than the 6 feet we’re currently told to observe in social distancing.

For now, social distancing must be our mantra.

There’s a cute little public service announcement made by Max Brooks and his father, the comedian Mel Brooks, age 93. Max is visiting his dad while standing outside his home, talking through the closed window. “If I get the coronavirus, I’ll probably be ok,” he tells us. “But if I give it to him, he can give it to Carl Reiner, who can give it to Dick Van Dyke…and before I know it, I could wipe out a whole generation of comedic legends.”

The PSA concludes with Mel nodding his head in agreement, knocking on the window, and telling his son: “Now go home.”

Very good advice for us all.

And in accord with my ongoing belief that we must keep laughing, I bring you the wise words on social distancing from Pluto, a four-legged. (Also courtesy of my friend Fran Kaufman; thank you, Fran!)

Note: Pluto doesn’t mean to offend with his straight talk; I hope you’ll keep that in mind.

Annie

Continue reading “More Notes From a COVID-19 Epicenter: Fighting This Thing Alone–Together”

How Bernie Sanders Can Rise From Politician to Statesman

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Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org.

Republican Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio defied a state Supreme Court decision and cancelled his state’s primary election on March 17, citing “health concerns.” Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, whom I greatly respect, said he’s been working with DeWine, knows him well, and is confident that his decision was based on the right reason: the desire to protect the health and safety of the people of his state.

So although there’s plenty of political shenanigans around, the Ohio primary cancellation doesn’t seem to have been one of them. That’s the good part.

The bad part is that DeWine’s decision sets a dangerous precedent—as historian Michael Beschloss confirmed on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show. When we get into the business of cancelling elections, we’re entering new territory fraught with negative implications for our democracy, which has been suffering mightily in the past several years.

The coronavirus has demonstrated that we are all interconnected and interdependent: We’ll have to work together to get through this pandemic that is threatening us now—and to deal with the unprecedented dilemmas it is posing.

Based on nearly all sources, who now include a recalcitrant President Trump (!), the pandemic will surely worsen over the next several months. Louisiana and Georgia have already postponed their primaries. It seems to be time to consider how important the remaining primaries are to our democratic process.

There is only one person who should make that decision: Bernie Sanders. 

As of March 18, he faces a nearly insurmountable delegate deficit. Former Vice President Joe Biden has won 1165 delegates; Sanders’ tally is 880. The odds of his success are slim to none. After losing the primaries in Illinois, Florida, and Arizona by large percentages, Bernie is now “reassessing his campaign,” according to current reports. 

If he decides that it is irresponsible to continue seeking delegates through the primaries because people’s lives will be at risk going to vote in primaries that won’t change the outcome—and suspends his campaign—he will be demonstrating a degree of reality-based unselfishness that will earn him a solid place in history. 

In contrast, if he continues to campaign in whatever way he can, he will divert Biden from focusing his sole attention on President Trump’s massive failures, delay whatever reconciliation is possible between his supporters and Biden, and increase the chances that the most inept and harmful president ever may somehow win another four years. 

Bernie’s place in history may then be as the spoiler who increased the possibilities of our democracy failing. I’m sure that is not the legacy he wishes. He has committed to voting for and campaigning for Biden, stating that defeating President Trump is the most important issue.

He can still play an active role in pursuing his ideas and ideals; he has already moved Biden to the left on education. But I hope he realizes that the primaries—and Biden’s increasingly large victories—have demonstrated that this is a center-left country.

Based on all the votes cast in the primaries to date, it’s now time for the battle of ideas among Democrats to cease in order to form a cohesive strategy to defeat Trump, hold the House, and retake the Senate.

Biden recognizes where he must be to forge what has so far been a winning coalition. If Bernie pushes too far, he risks validating those among his supporters who will refuse to vote for Biden because they view him as too much a part of the “corrupt establishment.”

I hope, therefore, that Bernie will soon announce the suspension of his campaign and devote his energies to ensuring that the Senate passes substantive legislation that will provide immediate and ongoing assistance to Americans in need due to the impact of the coronavirus. 

And I hope that along the way, he will be able to convince many (most?) of his supporters that their vote for the man he calls “my friend Joe” is right and necessary. 

We have Republicans in the Senate today sounding like Socialists (shhhhhh!), saying they’re ready to send dollars to the public. 

We have a public that, after decades of accepting the Republicans’ fraying of the safety net, finally realizes due to the absence of good management and wise decision-making how very important the federal government is. 

(With regard to the above point, I urge you to read this extremely important article in the Washington Post by Stuart Stevens, a now contrite Republican consultant, on the damage his party has wreaked on this nation, leading inevitably to our current crisis.) 

In the midst of the horror we’re experiencing, if Bernie now declares he’ll no longer participate in the primaries, he can take pride in the role he’s played in changing people’s views. He just hasn’t succeeded to the point that they’re ready for his revolution.

Annie