Category Archives: Pandemic

We Had This Beat

More than one million Americans have died of complications of Covid-19. Can you wrap your arms around that number? Does it seem possible? Everyone I know has been touched by Covid one way or another. I lost my mother-in-law. And it didn’t have to be this way.

American is in many ways like Australia. As reported by the New York Times (the link is probably behind the Times’ paywall, but it is excellent and worthy of credit), both countries are English-speaking democracies with similar demographic profiles. In Australia and in the United States, the median age is thirty-eight. Roughly 86 percent of Australians live in urban areas, compared with 83 percent of Americans. Yet Australia’s Covid death rate sits at one-tenth of America’s, putting the nation of twenty-five million people (with around 7,500 deaths) near the top of global rankings in the protection of life.

The difference is in the stupidity factor. As in America is stupid and Australia is not. Americans have shown they lack trust in science and institutions, but especially in one another. When the pandemic began, 76 percent of Australians said they trusted the health care system (compared with around 34 percent of Americans), and 93 percent of Australians reported being able to get support in times of crisis from people living outside their household.

One day after learning about the new virus reported in China, Australia’s chief medical office began acting. Border, isolation, surveillance, and case tracing mechanisms were put in place. A few days later Australia reported its first Covid case. Less than 24 hours later, on Feb. 1, 2020, Australia closed its border with China, its largest trading partner. On Feb. 3, 241 Australians were evacuated from China and placed in government quarantine for 14 days.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first human transmission of the virus in the United States, President Donald J. Trump downplayed the risk. “We think it’s going to have a very good ending for us,” he said.

The Australian response to Covid was not perfect. But the contrast with America is shocking. At a time when the Australians began handing out started N95 masks, which are more protective, to workers exposed to Covid patients supplied came from federal and state stockpiles, with guidelines for how distribution should be prioritized, in America hospital executives were lining up third-party vendors for clandestine meetings in distant parking lots.

Australians lined up to get tested, wore masks without question, turned their phones into virus trackers with check-in apps, set up food services for the old, infirm, or poor in lockdowns, or offered a place to stay to women who had been trapped in their homes with abusive husbands.

The Trump-Republicans from the Oval Office on down the ranks disputed the science, made fun of those who took seriously the need to wear masks, isolate, and avoid close contact, demonstrating contempt for those who did. Their syncopates on Fox and other cable news fell right into line disparaging the depth of the crisis. The federal government refused to get involved with the setting of nationwide standards or the procurement of personal protective gear. About the only thing Trump supported that was of any value was the decision to fund the development of multiple vaccines. Perhaps he was out on the golf course the day that one was put into place. Then once the vaccines were ready, the states had to create their own programs to administer the medication.

Today more than 95 percent of Australian adults are fully vaccinated — with 85 percent of the total population having received two doses. In the United States, that figure is only 66 percent.

And if the number of fatalities due to Covid in the United States had tracked the number in Australia? That would be 100,000 souls lost. A terrible number. But far lower than the one million and rising number of deaths of Americans. Americans who were either stupid themselves or were the innocent victims of others who were stupid and did not care what havoc they caused. I count my mother-in-law among the innocents. She was a victim of a state government which failed to put into place any meaningful controls on its healthcare facilities. A state where the court system failed to protect its seniors and guarantee their basic rights. She died before her time in Florida.

Colin Powell 1937-2021

Soldier. Diplomat. Politician. America’s First African American Secretary of State. America’s First African American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Colin Powell spent a lifetime setting “firsts.”

President Biden ordered flags flown at half-staff until October 22 in remembrance of Powell, calling him “a patriot of unmatched honor and dignity.”

“Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat. He was committed to our nation’s strength and security above all,” Mr. Biden added. “Time and again, he put country before self, before party, before all else — in uniform and out — and it earned him the universal respect of the American people.”

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Bernie’s Memes

There appears to be hope for the Internet. Perhaps that means there is hope for us all.

Coming off the challenging year 2020, and considering the crisis of January 6, 2021, it is often hard to find hope anywhere. But take a look at this. The picture above is a picture of Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont who runs as an independent but caucuses with the Democrats, ran for president as a Democrat and is one of the leaders of that party’s progressive wing.

Sanders is pictured at the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States. He is alone in his folding chair, socially distanced due to the Covid pandemic, dressed in a heavy coat and oversized mittens due to the cold of the January day in Washington D.C.

Funny as the picture is by itself, what is amazing is what has been derived from it. For the few readers who might not know, a “meme,” pronounced “MEEM,” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.”

Many memes rocket around the world on the Internet in the form of a composite photograph, taking the image of a person or thing and dropping it into another photograph where it is clearly out of place.

And so we arrive at the Bernie meme. Proof that there is hope that our sense of humor has survived the trying times. Even Senator Sanders has noted his approval and plans to make use of the phenomenon to raise funds for charitable causes.

Update– CNBC is reporting that “Sen. Bernie Sanders said sales of merchandise featuring a viral image of the Vermont independent wearing mittens at the inauguration of President Biden raised a whopping $1.8 million for charities in just five days.”

And so, without further ado, a gallery of Bernie Memes, with thanks to the unknown creators.

Have a nice day.

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The Handmaid already has blood on her hands

The Daily Mail produced the wonderful graphic above to go with a story published October 3, 2020. The photo was taken on September 26 and shows the crowd gathered in the White House Rose Garden as Donald Trump introduced Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, filling the seat which became vacant upon the death on September 18 of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In its October 3 story the Mail reported that nine of the people who attended this event had, at that point, tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. As the picture demonstrates, few of the 100 or so people who attended wore face masks, and all were sitting close together. On October 9, Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, labeled this as a “Superspreader event.”

An October 5 poll report said more than 9 out of 10 Americans wear a face mask when they leave home. But that clearly does not include Donald Trump, our Covid denying superspreader-in-chief. Nor apparently does it include Amy Coney Barrett, whose nomination was rammed through the Senate on a strict partisan vote and who took her seat on October 27. America’s newest associate justice wants to be sure you can attend superspreader events too.

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The TRUMP VIRUS

There is perhaps nothing more shocking than the lies Donald Trump and his surrogates on the campaign trail tell about the administration’s disastrous response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The virus has crippled the nation and killed at this writing 230,000 Americans. For the latest in the death toll, check the site of Johns Hopkins University Medicine.

The Covid Disinformation Campaign

On March 26, 2020, Trump said, “Nobody would have ever thought a thing like this could have happened.” But the record shows he was warned repeatedly, first about the generic pandemic threat and then about this specific threat itself. You can watch his string of denials as they happened for yourself.

Trump was handed a pandemic game plan by the Obama national security team titled, “Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents.” The Obamas even staged a crisis management exercise as part of the transition. Trump ignored the drill and the plan. Trump disbanded the national security team in place to handle just this kind of crisis. Trump withdrew American epidemiologists already on the ground in China who could have provided early intelligence on the spread of the virus. Trump ignored a 2017 Pentagon report on the impact a pandemic could have on American military readiness.

How do you feel?

Frightened? Anxious? Confused? All of the above? Join the club.

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Updates and tidbits

Back from Space

SpaceX’s Dragon Demo-2 flight has ended with the successful return to earth of NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley after spending more than two months on the International Space Station. As I wrote at the time of their launch, this flight marks the return to America of the ability to send humans into space.

After the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2000, Americans who wanted to go the the ISS had to buy a seat on a Russian rocket. NASA began, during the Obama-Biden administration, what is called the “Commercial Crew” program effectively outsourcing this task to private industry. SpaceX is the first to successfully demonstrate this capability. This flight was named “Demo-2.” The first regularly contracted flight of the Crew Dragon is set to take four astronauts, three Americans and one Japanese, to the space station later this year.

As they left the capsule Behnken and Hurley thanks the SpaceX team. The SpaceX communicator said, “Thanks for riding SpaceX.” For America’s space program, a new day has begun.

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