Tuesday, March 31, 2020

“U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Top 3,100 as Three-Quarters of the Population Are Told to Stay Home” (Democracy Now)

“The coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the globe with nearly 38,000 known deaths and close to 800,000 confirmed cases. In the U.S., the death toll has topped 3,100, meaning more Americans have now died from COVID-19 than from the 9/11 terror attacks. Nearly 520 of those deaths were reported Monday — the highest number in a single day so far.

“Three-quarters of American residents are now under stay-at home-orders, as people in at least 31 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have been told by officials to stay home except for necessities or if they provide essential services. Some states have resisted such moves, though, including Missouri, where Governor Mike Parson has denied pleas from across the state’s medical community to issue a stay-at-home order, even as the state’s coronavirus cases recently topped 1,000. Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., enacted their own shelter-in-place orders Monday, with D.C. and Maryland residents subject to hefty fines and even imprisonment for violating the strict measures.

“Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, said Monday another coronavirus outbreak in the fall is likely, but that the nation would be better equipped to handle it.

Trump Alleges Lack of COVID-19 Tests No Longer an Issue as Governors Denounce Shortage of Medical Supplies:

“On Monday, Trump boasted that 1 million people in the U.S. have been tested for coronavirus — weeks after he vowed to hit that number within days. In a conference call with governors, Trump suggested there was no longer a problem with a lack of test kits despite repeated calls for more tests around the country. Montana Governor Steve Bullock said his state was one day away from running out of tests. Other governors, including J.B. Pritzker of Illinois and Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan, have called out the administration’s handling of the crisis and the severe shortages in medical equipment and personal protective equipment. Trump has also boasted about the government’s ability to produce ventilators and said the U.S. would be able to send a surplus to other nations in need.

“During an interview on Fox & [Fiends] Monday, Trump celebrated the fact that the $2.2 trillion stimulus package left out provisions by Democrats in earlier versions of the bill that would have expanded voting access. [He stated]: 'If you look at before and after, the things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.’…" (Democracy Now). 

Monday, March 30, 2020

Hope in These Uncertain Times (from Brain Pickings by Maria Popova)

“To be human is to be a miracle of evolution conscious of its own miraculousness — a consciousness beautiful and bittersweet, for we have paid for it with a parallel awareness not only of our fundamental improbability but of our staggering fragility, of how physiologically precarious our survival is and how psychologically vulnerable our sanity. To make that awareness bearable, we have evolved a singular faculty that might just be the crowning miracle of our consciousness: hope.

“Hope — and the wise, effective action that can spring from it — is the counterweight to the heavy sense of our own fragility. It is a continual negotiation between optimism and despair, a continual negation of cynicism and naïveté. We hope precisely because we are aware that terrible outcomes are always possible and often probable, but that the choices we make can impact the outcomes.

“How to harness that uniquely human paradox in living more empowered lives in even the most vulnerable-making circumstances is what the great humanistic philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm (March 23, 1900–March 18, 1980) explores in the 1968 gem The Revolution of Hope: Toward a Humanized Technologywritten in an era when both hope and fear were at a global high, by a German Jew who had narrowly escaped a dismal fate by taking refuge first in Switzerland and then in America when the Nazis seized power.

In a sentiment he would later develop in contemplating the superior alternative to the parallel lazinesses of optimism and pessimism, Fromm writes: Hope is a decisive element in any attempt to bring about social change in the direction of greater aliveness, awareness, and reason. But the nature of hope is often misunderstood and confused with attitudes that have nothing to do with hope and in fact are the very opposite.’

“Half a century before the physicist Brian Greene made his poetic case for our sense of mortality as the wellspring of meaning in our ephemeral lives, Fromm argues that our capacity for hope — which has furnished the greatest achievements of our species — is rooted in our vulnerable self-consciousness. Writing well before Ursula K. Le Guin’s brilliant unsexing of the universal pronoun, Fromm (and all of his contemporaries and predecessors, male and female, trapped in the linguistic convention of their time) may be forgiven for using man as shorthand for the generalized human being:

“‘Man, lacking the instinctual equipment of the animal, is not as well equipped for flight or for attack as animals are. He does not ‘know’ infallibly, as the salmon knows where to return to the river in order to spawn its young and as many birds know where to go south in the winter and where to return in the summer. His decisions are not made for him by instinct. He has to make them. He is faced with alternatives and there is a risk of failure in every decision he makes. The price that man pays for consciousness is insecurity. He can stand his insecurity by being aware and accepting the human condition, and by the hope that he will not fail even though he has no guarantee for success. He has no certainty; the only certain prediction he can make is: I shall die.

What makes us human is not the fact of that elemental vulnerability, which we share with all other living creatures, but the awareness of that fact — the way existential uncertainty worms the consciousness capable of grasping it. But in that singular fragility lies, also, our singular resilience as thinking, feeling animals capable of foresight and of intelligent, sensitive decision-making along the vectors of that foresight.

“Fromm writes: Man is born as a freak of nature, being within nature and yet transcending it. He has to find principles of action and decision making which replace the principles of instinct. He has to have a frame of orientation that permits him to organize a consistent picture of the world as a condition for consistent actions. He has to fight not only against the dangers of dying, starving, and being hurt, but also against another danger that is specifically human: that of becoming insane. In other words, he has to protect himself not only against the danger of losing his life but also against the danger of losing his mind. The human being, born under the conditions described here, would indeed go mad if he did not find a frame of reference which permitted him to feel at home in the world in some form and to escape the experience of utter helplessness, disorientation, and uprootedness. There are many ways in which man can find a solution to the task of staying alive and of remaining sane. Some are better than others and some are worse. By ‘better’ is meant a way conducive to greater strength, clarity, joy, independence; and by ‘worse’ the very opposite. But more important than finding the better solution is finding some solution that is viable.

“‘As we navigate our own uncertain times together, may a thousand flowers of sanity bloom, each valid so long as it is viable in buoying the human spirit it animates. And may we remember the myriad terrors and uncertainties preceding our own, which have served as unexpected awakenings from some of our most perilous civilizational slumbers.’…

“[According to Fromm], ‘Only through full awareness of the danger to life can this potential be mobilized for action capable of bringing about drastic changes in our way of organizing society… One cannot think in terms of percentages or probabilities as long as there is a real possibility — even a slight one — that life will prevail.’…”

The above article is from Brain Pickings by Maria Popova. For newsletters, subscribe here — it's free.

The “Hope Anchor” was given to me by Fr. Andrew Guljas who was my favorite teacher and dear friend at Notre Dame High School in Niles, Illinois. It was the plaque that hung in his room where we had many conversations. He gave it to me five years after I graduated; just before he left for Chile in 1974.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

“Trump was aware of the danger from the coronavirus – but a lack of leadership has created an emergency of epic proportions” by Ed Pilkington and Tom McCarthy

“When the definitive history of the coronavirus pandemic is written, the date 20 January 2020 is certain to feature prominently. It was on that day that a 35-year-old man in Washington state, recently returned from visiting family in Wuhan in China, became the first person in the US to be 
diagnosed with the virus.

“On the very same day, 5,000 miles away in Asia, the first confirmed case of Covid-19 was reported in South Korea. The confluence was striking, but there the similarities ended.

“In the two months since that fateful day, the responses to coronavirus displayed by the US and South Korea have been polar opposites.

“One country acted swiftly and aggressively to detect and isolate the virus, and by doing so has largely contained the crisis. The other country dithered and procrastinated, became mired in chaos and confusion, was distracted by the individual whims of its leader, and is now confronted by a health emergency of daunting proportions.

“Within a week of its first confirmed case, South Korea’s disease control agency had summoned 20 private companies to the medical equivalent of a war-planning summit and told them to develop a test for the virus at lightning speed. A week after that, the first diagnostic test was approved and went into battle, identifying infected individuals who could then be quarantined to halt the advance of the disease.

“Some 357,896 tests later, the country has more or less won the coronavirus war. On Friday only 91 new cases were reported in a country of more than 50 million.

“The US response tells a different story. Two days after the first diagnosis in Washington state, Donald Trump went on air on CNBC and bragged: 'We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming from China. It’s going to be just fine.'

“A week after that, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion article by two former top health policy officials within the Trump administration under the headline Act Now to Prevent an American Epidemic. Luciana Borio and Scott Gottlieb laid out a menu of what had to be done instantly to avert a massive health disaster.

“Top of their to-do list: work with private industry to develop an ‘easy-to-use, rapid diagnostic test’ – in other words, just what South Korea was doing.

“It was not until 29 February, more than a month after the Journal article and almost six weeks after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the country that the Trump administration put that advice into practice. Laboratories and hospitals would finally be allowed to conduct their own Covid-19 tests to speed up the process.

“Those missing four to six weeks are likely to go down in the definitive history as a cautionary tale of the potentially devastating consequences of failed political leadership. Today, [139,459] cases have been confirmed across the US, pushing the nation to the top of the world’s coronavirus league table – above even China.

“More than a quarter of those cases are in New York City, now a global center of the coronavirus pandemic, with New Orleans also raising alarm. Nationally, [2,425] people have died. [Globally, 33,900+ people have died, thus far. There have been 721,500+ cases].

“Most worryingly, the curve of cases continues to rise precipitously, with no sign of the plateau that has spared South Korea. ‘The US response will be studied for generations as a textbook example of a disastrous, failed effort,’ Ron Klain, who spearheaded the fight against Ebola in 2014, told a Georgetown university panel recently. ‘What’s happened in Washington has been a fiasco of incredible proportions.’…” (The Guardian, March 28). 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

A Letter to trump about the Necessity of Social Distancing from Over 800,000 Doctors

Click on the letter to enlarge it.

“We’re now entering the most dangerous phase of the Trump presidency”—Peter Wehner

“For his entire adult life, and for his entire presidency, Donald Trump has created his own alternate reality, complete with his own alternate set of facts. He has shown himself to be erratic, impulsive, narcissistic, vindictive, cruel, mendacious, and devoid of empathy. None of that is new.
“But we’re now entering the most dangerous phase of the Trump presidency. The pain and hardship that the United States is only beginning to experience stem from a crisis that the president is utterly unsuited to deal with, either intellectually or temperamentally. When things were going relatively well, the nation could more easily absorb the costs of Trump’s psychological and moral distortions and disfigurements. But those days are behind us. The coronavirus pandemic has created the conditions that can catalyze a destructive set of responses from an individual with Trump’s characterological defects and disordered personality.
“We are now in the early phase of a medical and economic tempest unmatched in most of our lifetimes. There’s too much information we don’t have. We don’t know the full severity of the pandemic, or whether a state like New York is a harbinger or an outlier. But we have enough information to know this virus is rapidly transmissible and lethal.
“The qualities we most need in a president during this crisis are calmness, wisdom, and reassurance; a command of the facts and the ability to communicate them well; and the capacity to think about the medium and long term while carefully weighing competing options and conflicting needs. We need a leader who can persuade the public to act in ways that are difficult but necessary, who can focus like a laser beam on a problem for a sustained period of time, and who will listen to—and, when necessary, defer to—experts who know far more than he does. We need a president who can draw the nation together rather than drive it apart, who excels at the intricate work of governing, and who works well with elected officials at every level. We need a chief executive whose judgment is not just sound, but exceptional.
“There are some 325 million people in America, and it’s hard to think of more than a handful who are more lacking in these qualities than Donald Trump.
“But we need to consider something else, which is that the coronavirus pandemic may lead to a rapid and even more worrisome psychological and emotional deterioration in the commander in chief. This is not a certainty, but it’s a possibility we need to be prepared for.
“Here’s how this might play out; to some extent, it already has.
“Let’s start with what we know. Someone with Trump’s psychological makeup, when faced with facts and events that are unpleasant, that he perceives as a threat to his self-image and public standing, simply denies them. We saw that repeatedly during the early part of the pandemic, when the president was giving false reassurance and spreading false information one day after another.
“After a few days in which he was willing to acknowledge the scope and scale of this crisis—he declared himself a ‘wartime president’—he has now regressed to type, once again becoming a fountain of misinformation. At a press conference yesterday, he declared that he ‘would love to have the country opened up, and just raring to go, by Easter,’ which is less than three weeks away, a goal that top epidemiologists and health professionals believe would be catastrophic.
“‘I think it’s possible. Why not?’ he said with a shrug during a town hall hosted by Fox News later in the day. (Why Easter? He explained, ‘I just thought it was a beautiful time, a beautiful timeline.’) He said this as New York City’s case count is doubling every three days and the U.S. case count is now setting the pace for the world.
“As one person who consults with the Trump White House on the coronavirus response put it to me, ‘He has chosen to imagine the worst is behind us when the worst is clearly ahead of us.’
“After listening to the president’s nearly-two-hour briefing on Monday—in which, among other things, Trump declared, “If it were up to the doctors, they may say … ‘Let’s shut down the entire world.’ … This could create a much bigger problem than the problem that you start off with’—a former White House adviser who has worked on past pandemics told me, ‘This fool will bring the death of thousands needlessly. We have mobilized as a country to shut things down for a time, despite the difficulty. We can work our way back to a semblance of normality if we hold out and let the health system make it through the worst of it.’ He added, ‘But now our own president is undoing all that work and preaching recklessness. Rather than lead us in taking on a difficult challenge, he is dragging us toward failure and suffering. Beyond belief.’”
“Yes and no. The thing to understand about Donald Trump is that putting others before self is not something he can do, even temporarily. His attempts to convey facts that don’t serve his perceived self-interest or to express empathy are forced, scripted, and always short-lived, since such reactions are alien to him.
“This president does not have the capacity to listen to, synthesize, and internalize information that does not immediately serve his greatest needs: praise, fealty, adoration. ‘He finds it intolerable when those things are missing,’ a clinical psychologist told me. ‘Praise, applause, and accolades seem to calm him and boost his confidence. There’s no room for that now, and so he’s growing irritable and needing to create some way to get some positive attention.’
“She added that the pandemic and its economic fallout ‘overwhelm Trump’s capacity to understand, are outside of his ability to internalize and process, and [are] beyond his frustration tolerance. He is neither curious nor interested; facts are tossed aside when inconvenient or [when they] contradict his parallel reality, and people are disposable unless they serve him in some way.’
“It’s useful here to recall that Trump’s success as a politician has been built on his ability to impose his will and narrative on others, to use his experience on a reality-television show and his skill as a con man to shape public impressions in his favor, even—or perhaps, especially—if those impressions are at odds with reality. He convinced a good chunk of the country that he is a wildly successful businessman and knows more about campaign finance, the Islamic State, the courts, the visa system, trade, taxes, the debt, renewable energy, infrastructure, borders, and drones than anyone else.
“But in this instance, Trump isn’t facing a political problem he can easily spin his way out of. He’s facing a lethal virus. It doesn’t give a damn what Donald Trump thinks of it or tweets about it. Spin and lies about COVID-19, including that it will soon magically disappear, as Trump claimed it would, don’t work. In fact, they have the opposite effect. Misinformation will cause the virus to increase its deadly spread.
“So as the crisis deepens—as the body count increases, hospitals are overwhelmed, and the economy contracts, perhaps dramatically—it’s reasonable to assume that the president will reach for the tools he has used throughout his life: duplicity and denial. He will not allow facts that are at odds with his narrative to pierce his magnetic field of deception.
“But what happens to Trump psychologically and emotionally when things don’t turn around in the time period he wants? What happens if the tricks that have allowed him to walk away from scandal after scandal don’t work quite so well, if the doors of escape are bolted shut, and if it dawns on even some of his supporters—people who will watch family members, friends, and neighbors contract the disease, some number of whom will die—that no matter what Trump says, he can’t alter this epidemiological reality?

“All of this would likely enrage him, and feed his paranoia.
“As the health-care and economic crises worsen, Trump’s hallmarks will be even more fully on display. The president will create new scapegoats. He’ll blame governors for whatever bad news befalls their states. He’ll berate reporters who ask questions that portray him in a less-than-favorable light. He’ll demand even more cult like coverage from outlets such as Fox News. Because he doesn’t tolerate relationships that are characterized by disagreement or absence of obeisance, before long we’ll see key people removed or silenced when they try to counter a Trump-centered narrative. He’ll try to find shiny objects to divert our attention from his failures.
“All of these things are from a playbook the president has used a thousand times. Perhaps they’ll succeed again. But there’s something distinct about this moment, compared with every other moment in the Trump presidency, that could prove to be utterly disorienting and unsettling for the president. Hush-money payments won’t make COVID-19 go away. He cannot distract people from the global pandemic. He can’t wait it out until the next news cycle, because the next news cycle will also be about the pandemic. He can’t easily create another narrative, because he is often sharing the stage with scientists who will not lie on his behalf.
“The president will try to blame someone else—but in this case the ‘someone else’ is a virus, not a Mexican immigrant or a reporter with a disability, not a Muslim or a Clinton, not a dead war hero or a family of a fallen soldier, not a special counsel or an NFL player who kneels for the national anthem. He will try to use this crisis to pit one party against the other—but the virus will kill both Republicans and Democrats. He will try to create an alternate story to distract people from an inconvenient truth—but in this case, the public is too afraid, the story is too big, and the carnage will be too great to be distracted from it.
“America will make it to the other side of this crisis, as it has after every other crisis. But the struggle will be a good deal harder, and the human cost a good deal higher, because we elected as president a man who is so damaged and so broken in so many ways.”

PETER WEHNER is a contributing writer at The Atlantic, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and Egan visiting professor at Duke University. He writes widely on political, cultural, religious, and national-security issues, and he is the author of The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Here are precautions to take whether you shop in-store or online for groceries (from Consumer Reports)

“With experts saying people should avoid crowded places because of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, how should you handle grocery shopping? One option people are turning to is grocery delivery services.

“Grocery- and meal-delivery services are seeing huge spikes in business. Instacart, the largest grocery-delivery company, reported record customer demand in the past week. Competitors FreshDirect and Shipt said they also were seeing big surges in orders, as did Amazon, owner of grocery delivery services Amazon Fresh and Amazon Prime Now.

“‘For older people and those with underlying health conditions—the group that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends stay home—I would highly recommend using a grocery delivery service,’ says Jim Rogers, CR’s director of food safety research and testing. 

“But whether you buy groceries online or in stores, there are some simple steps you can take to try to limit your exposure to coronavirus, and they’re not so different from what CR recommends you typically do. Be sure to:

“Wash nonporous containers. The FDA says there's no current evidence to support the transmission of the virus from food packaging. But if you're concerned, it can't hurt to wipe down non-porous containers like glass or cans with disinfectant wipes. 

“If that's not practical, wash your hands well after putting away all packaging, including paper boxes and bags. ‘It all comes down to hand hygiene,’ says Liz Garman, a spokesperson for the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology in Arlington, Va. It also doesn't hurt to wash your hands after opening the containers and using their contents.

“‘But if you use a pasta box a few days after you get it, there is little likelihood that the virus could still be live on the box and cause an infection,’ says Eike Steinmann, a virologist at Ruhr-Universitat Bochum in Germany who has studied how long viruses live on different surfaces.

“One preliminary study found that the coronavirus responsible for the current pandemic doesn't survive on cardboard longer than 24 hours. Results of the study, conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and other experts, were published on March 17 in a letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.  

“Wash your hands, counter, and other surfaces you’ve touched. Do this after you've put away the groceries. Keep in mind that using a disinfectant isn't necessary unless you’re sharing a space with someone who is exhibiting signs of respiratory illness or has been exposed to the virus.

“Wash produce with soap and water. Because COVID-19 is from a family of viruses very likely deactivated by contact with soap and water, washing your fruit and vegetables with soap and water should eliminate any live virus, says Rogers. What's more, rubbing fruit and vegetables under running water—and scrubbing those with hard skins— can help remove pesticides. 

“But Rogers says there's no data to show that COVID-19 is spread by consuming food. ‘The risk of getting the virus from your food is considered low,’ he says.

“For hard-skinned produce, scrub skins or peels with a soft-bristled vegetable brush, using dish or hand soap and warm water. For other types of produce, including leafy greens, soak in soapy water for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse thoroughly.

“Other steps may not make much difference. For instance, buying frozen vegetables rather than fresh under the assumption that they’re packed in a more sanitary way is not an approach that has been backed up by evidence, says Rogers.

If You’re Getting Your Groceries Delivered

“Even if a grocery store or warehouse is thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis, the delivery person needs to take the same precautions to prevent the spread of a virus to you. Among the six services in our review of grocery delivery services, AmazonFresh, Amazon Prime Now, Instacart, and Shipt employ independent contractors for deliveries.

“Instacart has begun offering up to 14 days of pay to all shoppers—including independent contractors—sidelined by coronavirus, plus sick pay to its part-time in-store shoppers. FreshDirect and Peapod delivery personnel are company employees; and Walmart, which wasn't part of our ratings, uses DoorDash for deliveries.

“While those companies might recommend that deliverers wash their hands often, practice other hygiene measures, and stay home when they’re feeling sick, they can’t monitor whether drivers are actually taking those precautions, says Erin Hatton, an associate professor of sociology and a labor scholar at the University of Buffalo. ‘And without paid sick leave, workers are going to try to push through as much as they can,’ Hatton says.

So follow these steps when ordering deliveries

“Avoid a direct hand-off. Arrange to have the items delivered to your doorstep or a place nearby instead. Instacart added that option last week; other companies have a way to indicate special delivery instructions on their order forms. FreshDirect says its drivers will no longer bring groceries into a home.

Tip electronically. One benefit of ordering deliveries online or via an app is that you don’t have to hand the delivery person money. Opportunities to tip the delivery person are included in most of the delivery apps and online ordering systems.

“Order earlier than you usually do. Though it's not a safety issue, you may find that in the midst of higher demand you have to wait longer. FreshDirect, for instance, mentions on its home page that delivery times are filling up faster than usual. Amazon Prime Now, which chiefly delivers from Whole Foods, also mentions that ‘availability may be limited,’ though it’s not clear whether that means delivery times are limited, items are limited, or both. (An Amazon representative didn't respond to a CR request for comment.)

If You’re Picking Up Prepacked Groceries

“The steps are basically the same for this option as for delivery. If you’ve ordered and are merely having someone put the groceries in your car in a parking lot—an option at about 3,000 Walmart locations nationwide—consider opening your car door yourself rather than having the person bringing the items to your car touch the handle. And if you can tip on a supermarket’s app, do so rather than handing over cash. (Walmart’s employees aren’t permitted to take tips.)

If You're Buying Groceries in a Store

“A key way to prevent the virus’s spread is to stay 6 feet away from other people. The CDC notes that's generally the distance within which people pick up coronavirus droplets through the air from a cough or sneeze. Such ‘social distancing is a good strategy in any situation outside the home, Rogers says.

Other ideas

“-Go shopping at a time that’s less busy. If you type in the store’s name and location in Google search, a box often will pop up showing when foot traffic there is highest. -Take germicide with you. Use it to wipe your hands and the cart before and after you shop. -Use a credit or debit card. That way, you don’t have to hand over bills or receive change. Also, use your own pen to sign receipts. If you can, use a virtual payment system like Apple Pay so that you don't have to open your wallet at all.”

Editor’s Note: This article, originally published on March 9, 2020, was updated to clarify our advice on how to handle produce and food packaging, as well as to include news on Instantcart's delivery service and how long coronaviruses live on cardboard.

Are You Shopping at Costco During This Pandemic? Buyer Beware

“Workers at Costco warehouses across the US have been testing positive for COVID-19, according to bulletins seen by BuzzFeed News, and their colleagues say the retail giant is not being transparent about how they are informing staff or taking the proper precautions to prevent further spread.

“Costco, which is the second-largest retailer in the world behind Walmart, has become a vital resource for millions of Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. Lines continue to stretch around buildings and parking lots as record numbers of people purchase goods at one of the company’s nearly 550 warehouses.

“Its 163,000 full- and part-time US employees, like scores of other grocery store and food retail workers, have now been deemed essential, but some say their employer has not been giving them the proper training, protection, or compensation to work in what is now a high-risk environment, especially now that their colleagues are testing positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“Over the past few weeks, dozens of Costco workers have told BuzzFeed News they’ve been handling products and interacting with hundreds of customers per day without proper social distancing or gear. In at least five locations, employees told BuzzFeed News that management had informed staff that a coworker had tested positive by posting letters in places inaccessible to customers, often in the break room.

“At a fifth store, in Colorado, an employee said they did not have a notice posted, but found out about two positive coronavirus cases through word of mouth. These employees say their stores did not close for deep cleaning, nor were shoppers notified, and feel that managers tried to ‘hide’ or downplay the situation...

“Costco did not return BuzzFeed News’ request for comment. However, the company has maintained in internal messages that it is following federal safety guidelines, prioritizing the health and safety of its staff and members, and is allowing workers to take unpaid sick leave if they are showing symptoms, are high-risk, or are concerned about endangering their families. However, many employees live paycheck to paycheck or are part-time workers who can’t afford to miss days and not get paid. As a result, employees say they and their coworkers have been coming into work, even if they are not feeling well.

“On Monday, CEO Craig Jelinek said in an internal email that ‘all full-time, part-time, and limited part-time hourly Costco employees in the US and Puerto Rico will receive an additional $2 per hour for hours worked during the five weeks of March 2 through April 5, 2020.’

“…Costco employees across the US have told BuzzFeed News that social distancing is not being upheld in their stores, which they say are logging record numbers of shoppers every day.

“Steffanie Strathdee, an infectious disease epidemiologist and global health expert at the University of California, San Diego, said there need to be stronger guidelines on a broader scale for companies that are now considered essential services. Otherwise, places we very much rely on, like grocery stores, can end up becoming ‘an incubator.’

“‘Paid sick leave is incredibly important. If a worker is pressured to come back to work after they have been exposed or showing symptoms, that’s wrong,’ she said. ‘People need to be notified when they are working with an infected person because of all the people they are putting in harm’s way. We are about to become the world’s epicenter [for COVID-19] and we need to take it seriously. The longer we allow policies to be lax, the more contagious it becomes.’” 

For the complete article from BuzzFeed News, click here.

Thursday, March 26, 2020



Hobby Lobby Refuses to Close Stores Because “The Lord Put Three Profound Words” into CEO David Green’s “Prayer Warrior” Wife’s “Heart”

“While all other responsible people have put their life on hold, Hobby Lobby stores are still open in states that will allow it. The chain, owned by the evangelical Green family, is refusing to shut down no matter how much harm they could be creating for their employees and customers.

“According to a letter posted on Reddit, sent by CEO David Green to all employees and dated March 19, everyone is simply told they may have to ‘tighten their belts’ during this pandemic.

“Of course, Green won’t have to worry about tightening his belt. The billionaire has enough money to pay for the Museum of the Bible and the fake artifacts inside. It’s everyone who works for him who stand to suffer.

“That letter also includes what I assume is meant to be ‘inspiration’ in the form of a voice that his wife heard in her heart:
“‘In my family, Barbara is the prayer warrior. Today, that title takes on such a different meaning than I ever imagined before because we are at war with this latest virusIn her quiet prayer time this past week, the Lord put on Barbara’s heart three profound words to remind us that He’s in control. Guide, Guard, and Groom. We serve a God who will Guide us through this storm, who will Guard us as we travel to places never seen before, and who, as a result of this experience, will Groom us to be better than we could have ever thought possible before now.’
“Great. Everyone’s going to be fine because Barbara had a [hallucinatory] dream. The only press release on the store’s website regarding the outbreak offers nothing but simple information about how the store is coping with COVID-19: ‘More frequent store cleanings.’ That’s about it. Employees who show symptoms will be asked to self-quarantine at home, though there’s no mention of people who carry the virus without showing symptoms, and no mention of whether employees will be on paid leave.

“While the store may be closed in states where governors have mandated it, the chain appears to be open everywhere else, creating the possibility that dozens of people may be shopping there at once. Unlike grocery stores, it’s hard to make the case that yarn and glitter are essential products in a time of crisis.
“Rather than being proactive and safe, they’re being reactive and irresponsible. It’s not surprising, either. This is the same chain that refused to provide comprehensive health insurance for employees because that might allow them to obtain birth control.
“They care about greed and God. They don’t care about their employees, and they don’t care about the communities their stores are located in. If the virus spreads because they’re not taking proper precautions, at least they’ll make a few more bucks in the process.
“Hobby Lobby did not respond to a request for comment for this article. Nor have they responded to anyone questioning their decision on Facebook.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

According to Texas Lt. Governor, Dan Patrick, Grandparents Would Be Willing to Die to Save the Economy

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said on Fox News Monday night that "lots of" grandparents would be willing to die in order to save the economy for their grandchildren.

What they're saying: "No one reached out to me and said, as a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren? And if that's the exchange, I'm all in," Patrick said on air.

"I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country like me — I have six grandchildren — that's what we all care about. ... And I want to live smart and see through this, but I don't want the whole country to be sacrificed. And that's what I see," he added.

The big picture: Patrick's comments come shortly after President Trump's press briefing on Monday where he said the economy will be reactivated soon as the administration plans to ease social distancing initiatives. Public health officials have strongly urged for continuing the efforts (from Axios).

A Review of Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about the Coronavirus (NY Times)

“AS THE CORONAVIRUS continues to spread across the globe, the news is coming at a fast and furious pace. But don’t let the volume send you into a panic about your health and that of your loved ones. 'The mantra is, ‘Keep calm and carry on,' said Dr. Marguerite Neill, an infectious disease expert at Brown University.

“Here’s a list of frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak and its symptoms.

“What symptoms should I look out for?

“Symptoms of this infection include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. The illness causes lung lesions and pneumonia. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are not normally among the first symptoms. Patients may also exhibit gastrointestinal problems or diarrhea. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days. In some cases, people who had appeared stable rapidly
deteriorated in the second week; anyone infected needs careful monitoring.

“What should I do if I feel sick?

“If you think you’re sick as a result of the novel coronavirus, you can help safeguard your loved ones and community by staying at home, except to get medical care. The current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you call a medical professional if you notice symptoms...

“Call your doctor or health professional before you go. That will help him or her prepare for your visit and prevent the spread of the virus to other people in the office. Be sure to wear a mask when you go to the doctor’s office, and when you’re around other people. If you cannot find a mask, you can create a makeshift one from a cloth or T-shirt. The C.D.C. also suggests that you avoid public transportation, ride-sharing services and taxis, and that you separate yourself from other people and animals in your home as soon as possible. That means not letting anyone enter your room and, ideally, not sharing bathrooms. Others should stay more than six feet away from you and avoid any surface you might have coughed on or touched, including doorknobs, plates, cups and towels. Many state health departments have set up hotlines for people who want more information, but long wait times have been reported. Eventually, specific coronavirus testing centers may be set up.

“What if someone in my family gets sick?

“Follow the same steps listed above if you think your children or anyone else in your household may be infected. Both the coronavirus and influenza are most dangerous to people who are over 65 or have chronic illnesses or a weak immune system. Children infected with the new coronavirus tend to have mild or no symptoms, and it is unclear how easily they transmit the disease to teenagers or adults.

“How does this compare with the flu?

“The coronavirus seems to be more deadly than seasonal flu and almost as contagious. Early estimates of the coronavirus death rate from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak, have been around 2 percent, while the seasonal flu, on average, kills about 0.1 percent of people who become infected. By contrast, the 1918 flu had an unusually high fatality rate, greater than 2 percent. Because it was so contagious, that flu killed tens of millions of people.

“How does the virus spread?

“The new coronavirus seems to spread very easily, especially in confined spaces like homes, hospitals, churches and cruise ships. It appears to spread through droplets in the air and on surfaces from a cough or sneeze. Whether a surface looks dirty or clean is irrelevant. If an
infected person coughs and a droplet lands on a surface, a person who then touches that surface could pick it up. A study of other coronaviruses found that they remained on metal, glass and plastic for two hours to nine days. But there is good news: The virus is relatively easy to destroy using any simple disinfectant or bleach. [Note]: droplets can sit on the surfaces of latex gloves. Some experts suggest wearing cloth or leather gloves that absorb droplets and are bulky enough to discourage you from touching your face. [Of course, they would need to be disinfected often].

“Will the virus disappear in the summer?

“That is still unknown. This is a new virus, and everyone is believed to be susceptible. Flu transmission decreases in hot weather every year, and the SARS coronavirus emerged in winter and was eliminated by the following June. But SARS was beaten by aggressive containment measures, not by the weather. The four mild coronaviruses that cause common colds still circulate in warm weather and cause ‘summer colds.’ In the 1918 and 2009 flu pandemics, there was a second wave in the fall.

“Is there a cure? What about a vaccine?

“There is no approved antiviral drug for the coronavirus [at this time], though several are being tested. For now, doctors can recommend only the usual remedies for any viral illness: rest, medicine to reduce pain and fever, and fluids to avoid dehydration. Coronavirus patients with pneumonia may also need
oxygen, and a ventilator if breathing trouble worsens. Some patients who appear to be doing well have a ‘crash’ in the second week of their illness. An experimental vaccine for the coronavirus may be ready for testing in humans within a few months. But even if it is approved, it will take much longer, at least a year, before it is available for widespread use. In the meantime, experts are urging people and their children to get a flu shot.

“My partner/friend/parent/child is very worried. How serious is this?

“This virus can be deadly. There’s a reason government officials and medical experts across the world are issuing strong warnings. About 80 percent of victims will recover without any need for hospitalization. [There are] cases categorized as ‘mild,’ included those with ‘mild pneumonia,’ meaning there is fluid in the lungs but not seriously enough to require supplemental oxygen or intensive care. Other categories are ‘severe,’ which means oxygen or ventilation is required, and ‘critical,’ which means lung or organ failure. It is important to keep these distinctions in mind, both to avoid unnecessary panic and to get a clear picture of the likelihood of transmission.
‘Many people are now panicking, and some actually are exaggerating the risks,’ according to Dr. Jin Dong-Yan, a virology expert at the University of Hong Kong.

“OK. Then why are experts so concerned?

“Unlike other, more mild coronaviruses, this one causes many deaths.
It is unclear how many completely symptom-free cases there are because some people test positive a day or two before developing symptoms. The World Health Organization believes that only about 1 percent of cases never develop a fever or any other symptoms.

New York Times