July 13, 2020 – News and Info You May Have Missed

Stories of covid-19

So, how is the battle against the Novel Cornavirus going? According to the data, as of yesterday at 2:12 PM, it’s going just GREAT if you are trying to kill off a lot of people in the U.S. Sometimes I wonder if that isn’t the point of Trump’s inaction. Maybe he wins the election by reducing the electorate!?!? Seems a really odd strategy but…geez…weirder things have happened, eh?

Here’s a couple of graphics I grabbed yesterday. First, this one comes from the Harvard Global Health Institute, and you can check out the current data yourself by following the link or just clicking on the map.

This map shows, county by county, the risk levels for each. The redder the county, the higher the risk. In this way the Harvard Global Health Institute folks are trying to answer the question: How severe is the pandemic where you live?

Just a glance of the map tells us a couple of things. First, it’s much less risky to be in the Northeast and the Rocky Mountain region. Not a good idea at all to plan vacation travel to Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas or Alabama. Each of these states – as whole – are in the red (highest) risk level category.

The scond thing this tells us, because all of the these states are in the “sunbelt” in the midst of summer, the Novel Coronavirus is not being slowed by the outside temperature. You’ll remember this was one of the theories being floated by Trump a few months ago based on a Department of Homeland Security study, which was not peer reviewed. This is a great illustration of why good data matters and, even more, a good process needs to be used to get to the data. By the way, what IS the status of that study? Was it ever completed? Has it been reviewed? After Trump put it out there as yet another one of his “creative” solutions to the virus, it seems to have disappeared…you know…like the virus… in the sunlight, after you drink a gallon of Lysol, and take a few hydroxychloriquine.

I have one more graphic, this one from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation in Washington State. These are the folks who have been trying to project the number of deaths from the pandemic in the U.S. See below for their latest projection. They are now projecting over 200,000 deaths by November 1. Again, check it out for yourself at the link or by clicking on the graphic.

November 1 – in case you’ve forgotten, this is only two days before the General Election on November 3rd. Please, don’t forget…either this number and to vote.


news and info you may have missed

Maureen Dowd has not exactly been friendly to Joe Biden. She has called him out on some of the faux pas and bad choices he has made over the years. She has a realistic view of who he is. And she has a realistic view of who Trump is. Her column in Satuday’s NY Times is worth reading.

Also worth reading is Ashley Parker and Robert Costa’s piece in the Saturday’s Washington Post. The growing movement of Republicans working against Trump’s reelection seems to be gaining some traction.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of the public radio show On The Media. The July 10th show, 40 Acres, is particularly interesting and informative with regard to housing discrimination and the eviction crisis in the United States. Generally I’m pretty well informed but I do not know much about real estate, financing, and “redlining.” Listening to this show, though, gave me a much better understanding of all of these.

Jo, a regular reader from out West, sent me this great piece from NPR. She and I have worked in the field of sexuality education. She found this story from NPR and passed it on to me, knowing of that part of my professional background. The title of the article says a lot doesn’t it? Starting A COVID-19 ‘Social Bubble’? How Safe Sex Communication Skills Can Help.

Judy, a reader from really far out West, also sent me a piece about the disparties in enforcing stay-at-home emergency orders by Honolulu Police. The Hawai`i Public Radio describes Micronesians, Samoans, and Blacks have been disproportionately cited for violations. Violations in Hawai`i carry some pretty tough penalties – up to $5,000 in fines and a year in jail. However, Hawai`i also has a large homeless population which has further complicated the issue.


Bob dylan, DJ

Another regular reader, Mike, reminded me that Bob Dylan had a radio show on satellite radio back in the early 2000’s. It was called “Theme Time Radio Hour.” I don’t remember if it was on XM Radio or Sirius (before they were joined up and became SiriusXM). I’m inclined to think it was XM Radio because I remember listening to the show a few times and the only subscription I had at that time was to XM.

I found if you open the archive website link in Google Chrome, there will be a player that opens with it to allow you to listen to the show. Firefox may require you to download a player first. If the link above does not open in Chrome, you can cut and paste this link into your Chrome browser: https://www.themetimeradio.com/

The theme for the very first episode was Weather so it featured weather realated music from all genres. Dylan featured music by a wide variety of performers: Muddy Waters, Jimmie Davis, Joe Jones, Dean Martin, Sister Rosetta Tharp, Jimi Hendrix, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, and one of my all time favorites, Fats Domino.

The show was on for three seasons. Seems like some good Summer time listening!


chickenman – episode 80

Ms. Helfinger continues her breakdown and her visit with the psychiatrist. However, she flips the couch on him!

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom

July 1, 2020 – Truth in an Age of Untrustworthiness

A Note from the Past

Early in the morning on March 14, 2020 I could not sleep. I was doing a two-day strategy planning session in Jackson, Mississippi and I was to start the second day later in the morning. I had made the decision to start the drive home immediately at the close of the session instead of waiting until the next day, Sunday the 15th, to start after a good night’s sleep.

Why the change in plans?

The day before, Friday, March 13, the COVID-19 natioanl pandemic emergency had been declared. Since I couldn’t sleep, I wrote the following blog that I never posted. Still, it inspired me, two days later, to begin daily blogging. First as Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place (for 77 straight days) and now as The Daily Drivel. Today marks 108 consecutive days of posting a blog. Before you now it, it will be 110!

I’ve been taking in and sitting with all the news over the past couple of days about COVID-19. When I sat down to write today’s blog, I accidently clicked on the “Drafts” section and this unsent blog popped up. I began to read it and had a terrible, sinking feeling. At this point I want to quip something funny like one of the famous sayings from Yogi Berra, specifically, “It’s deja vu all over again.” However, it isn’t funny. It is tragic. March 13th is nearly four months ago but, folks, we are right back there like in some kind of cruel Groundhog Day but without Bill Murray to make us laugh about it.

I’ve decided to run that blog today unedited and in its entirety. Bear in mind it was written the morning after the declaration of national emergency. Mississippi, where I was working, would have its first reported case of coronavirus later that day. None of us were expected to be sheltering-in-place more than two weeks. Who could have imagined we’d be in the place we are today with 2.6 million Americans confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nearly 130,000 dead?

I know this is going to sound nonsensical but I wish it were not still March 14, 2020. The only difference, it seems, is that I’m writing from my office at home and not the Hampton Inn Downtown Jackson.


Truth in an Age of Untrustworthiness

Today, March 14, 2020, two opposite things are true: Life goes on as normal and nothing about life is normal.

I’m writing this from Jackson, Mississippi where I finish up some work with a really terrific client today. What is normal about today is that I’m doing work I often do. I have done strategy planning sessions with many organizations. There is nothing new in this work for me. It is part of my normal life.

However, nothing about how I am doing this work this time is normal. Because of the spread of the coronavirus we are: practicing social distancing (keeping six feet away from one another), regular hand washing and sanitizing, trying to keep our hands away from our faces, and wiping down every surface we can in our meeting spaces a couple of times each day. Notice I said “meeting spaces.”

The only meeting rooms available to us were too small to accommodate all 15-17 people seated at a distance of six feet apart (an appropriate social distance). The group was divided into two – one meeting in a small conference room in my hotel and the other meeting in a small conference room at the organization’s offices. Using Zoom videoconferencing we are able to work together from our separate locations. It worked, but nothing was normal about it.

I know. Some of you reading this will see this as an over reaction on my part and that of my client. I’m okay with that. Actually, we had some fun with the “abundance of caution” here as well. I get it. During uncertain times when we are feeling a bit shaken, humor is an important resource. What I don’t get are the people who see the coronavirus thing as a big joke or even a hoax. I know. This is America, the land of the free where we are all entitled to our own thoughts, beliefs, and speech – no matter how ill informed, damaging, or hurtful they may be. If it were not for this freedom, I couldn’t be writing this post.

Here’s the problem though. We live in an age of untrustworthiness. As Americans, we have been lied to by many different people – too many of them in leadership – in the past and present. Some have invented conspiracy theories and outright hoaxes.

  • Some have lied because they erroneously believed they were serving a greater good by being less than candid.
  • Some are pathological liars.
  • Some are innocent, ignorant, and well intended – but pass on things they’ve heard from a “reliable source” but which is still neither reliable nor true.
  • Some are just plain evil and use lies to create chaos and confusion to their own benefit.

Be careful about “who” you read into what you just read. The “who” is all of us. Though some of you will believe I’m referring to a particular leader or groups of leaders and some will believe I’m referring to the media. Nope.

I don’t always appreciate how addiction to ratings and revenue often drives the media to make meaningless stories important and sensational stories even more sensational. Nonetheless, I believe they have, on the whole, tried to do more good than harm with their reporting of the Novel Coronavirus. Even in the media there are bad actors who hold to political loyalties and party lines rather than the truth. I believe the media has been trying to get our attention long enough to focus on a real threat while others would prefer to distract us from it.

The reason for a lie never really matters because the damage of the lie is still the same. It sows mistrust, lack of confidence, and we find ourselves living in an age of untrustworthiness.

My professional field is leadership not public health. However, I have spent the majority of my career working on matters related to public health. I’ve had the privilege of working with local, county, and state public health departments around the United States, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and major health and medical research universities. When it comes to matters of public health, I do not listen to our leaders or the media but directly to the people from the public health world. Sometimes, of course, leaders or the media may be channels by which public health messages get out so it is impossible to avoid them altogether. As good consumers, though, it is our obligation to pull back the curtain on leaders and the media to assess the quality of the information they are passing on.

We are in a moment when the clear, factual voice of public health is still struggling to be heard through the political rhetoric. In this moment, I believe the truth is to be found in what public health people are trying to tell us. If they could get through to us, here is what I believe they’d want us to hear:

  • We have a much bigger problem than we’ve been led to believe because too little is being done too late. The coronavirus did not just “pop up” in the past few weeks as some leaders would have us believe. Our leaders have known about it and its potential as a very serious threat since early January. They were warned by the epidemiologists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on January 21 that cases of the virus were expected in the United States and globally. Still, our leaders put out information that was less than candid about the risk. In what may be the race of our lives, the coronavirus had a nearly 10 week head start on us and we have just barely left the starting blocks.
  • Infections are growing exponentially which means far more of us will become sick and die than what we ever imagined. The mathematicians have worked out the numbers for us. Epidemiologists tell us that the number of coronavirus cases doubles ever six days at its current rate of growth. If it continues at that rate, we will hit 1 million cases in the U.S. by the end of April. Two weeks later, by the middle of May, we will have 4 million cases. The mortality rates for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may as low as 3% to 5% but recent re-estimations of death rates published on March 12 show they may be as high as 15%, even 20%. More fun with math…Do you know how many American’s died of the Spanish Flu in 1918-1919? The final toll is estimated at 675,000. How does this compare with the potential death toll for COVID-19? You can do the math yourself to come up with the truly frightening number of deaths which could result from COVID-19. Remember, the Spanish Flu first appeared in the United States in January 1918 in Kansas. It came in two waves, with the second more deadly than the first.

Tell me, please. Are we simply picking up where we left off on March 14th? It seems so.


The return of weird al wednesday

So, weirdly, people really liked Weird Al Wednesday last week. So much so that Mike, a regular reader from here in Maryland, sent me this wonderful performance by Weird Al when he did a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR. Enjoy!


chickenman – episode 74

Chickenman continues his flight across the Atlantic Ocean all the while confusing and befuddling an airline pilot who spots the Wonderful Weekend Warrior on his trek.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom

June 30, 2020 – Sources & Resources

Today is a mash-up day. I’ve put together a list of interesting reads and places to visit over the Independence Day holiday. These should give you something to do so you can stay inside, or away from people, and remain safe.

Yesterday, during an interview on National Public Radio (NPR), I heard Tom Frieden (former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) say that right now we need to be practicing the three W’s:

  • Wear a mask
  • Wash your hands
  • Watch your distance

I really appreciate the clarity of the message. Seems simple enough, eh?

sources and resources on current events

Recently I’ve been reading a daily newsletter that comes into my email from Popular Information. Judd Legum, the guy who writes it, is a former political researcher. His writing is clear and his research seems to be pretty good as well. However, this is not his first rodeo, as you will see when you read about him. Recently, Legum and Popular Information have doggedly on the trail of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook for their consistent failure to monitor hate speech. Today this article came out about how Facebook has been losing advertising dollars from many companies (approaching 250) for both the failure and their reticence to correct the problem. In the spirit of full disclosure…I hate Facebook for all the reason Legum spells out and more.

In the realm of politics, there are several interesting thing to examine over the holiday break. First, this whole thing with Russia and the bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan is big and getting bigger. The New York Times is reporting that Trump did learn about it in the Presidential Daily Briefing back in February. Then, Fox News seems to be putting out a story that GOP operatives may be trying to force Trump to leave the race. Interesting, huh? Not sure what to make of it but I did find this video that provides some context for the issue. Finally, with regard to the Presidential race, there is was an interesting article in The Guardian a few weeks ago by Art Cullen, Pulitzer Prizing journalist and editor of The Storm Lake Times, a family-run local newspaper in Storm Lake, Iowa. In The Guardian article Cullen argues that Midwesterns are doubting Trump putting his re-election at risk.

As the general election draws nearer, I’m finding myself drawn to websites and resources that give me more information than opinion. Here are several I’m finding useful:

  • Snopes.com – I use Scopes.com to investigate the latest thing I’ve heard before I decide to believe it.
  • Politifact.com – Politifact.com does something similar to Snopes.com except it focuses specifically on politics.
  • AllSides.com – In a previous blog I also featured AllSides.com because it gives you the news from the left, the center, and the right in an effort to ferret out the media bias.
  • RealClearPolitics.com – RealClearPolitics.com is a great site to visit for information on the latest political poles and the stories behind the polls.

tough conversations

There are at least four resources to help you have the challenging conversations you need to have with people in your life on issues such as race, politics, mask wearing, conspiracy theories, etc.

Talking About Race is a new resource from the National Museum of African American History & Culture at the Smithsonian. The website is designed to provide information and guidance on how to have conversations about race with one another. It is well done and offers resources for teachers, parents or caregivers, and anyone who is committed to equity.

There are three groups that are trying to bring people together across ideological divides to have important and courageous conversations. I’ll let their websites speak for themselves:

stories of covid-19

Three items related to COVID-19 have caught my interest recently.

First, there was a very good article today on the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Tracker. It was created last January by a PhD student at Johns Hopkins University. Data from the tracker are used extensively by many media outlets for following the progression of COVID-19 around the world. The story of the tracker is very interesting and gives some additional insight on how to use it.

Second, as story from NPR gives us good advice for using masks for outdoor activity. I know there…there is some debate about whether you even need a mask for outdoor exercise. Check out the article to learn more.

Third, earlier today Anthony Fauci (of the National Institutes of Health) warned that the U.S. is not in control of the Novel Coronavirus outbreak and the number of cases could rise to 100,000 per day. That’s not good news. In that same meeting, Senator Lamar Alexander chastised Trump for not wearing a mask at least some of the time.


chickenman – episode 73

Chickenman is on his way across the Atlantic Ocean…yellow raincoat and all!

Meteor watch day

Today, the last day of June, is Meteor Watch Day. Seems like a great day to go out on Perry Como’s “Catch a Falling Star.”

Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom

June 19, 2020 – Juneteenth & the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Today is June 19, 2020, also known as Juneteenth. In my June 18th blog (which got posted late due to a technical glitch) I wrote about Juneteenth, provided several links to excellent resources about the holiday and focused on the anthem which is associated with it, Lift Every Voice and Sing.

This date is also significant for something that happened 99 years later, on June 19, 1964. After a 54-day filibuster, the United States Senate passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by a vote of 73 to 27. The House passed the legislation by a vote of 290 to 130. President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law on July 2, 1964.

President Kennedy had pushed hard for the passage of the Civil Right Act in the Fall of 1963. When he died by assassination in November 1963, President Johnson took up the cause of its passage and moved quickly on it. On March 26, 1964 the Senate debated the bill. On that day Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X both showed up to watch the debate. The two men met for less than a minute. It was the first and only time the two would ever meet.

Despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 fifty-six years ago, there has not been the progress made that was hoped. Today, however, there is some hope that an inclusive, just, and equitable society will finally emerge.


stories of covid-19

There is no good news on the Novel Coronavirus front today.

We are approaching 120k in the number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States. Today, at this moment, we stand at 118,695 deaths. Over the weekend it is likely we’ll hit the mark. IHME is now projecting over 200,000 deaths by October 1.

Dr. Anthony Fauci told The Washington Post that we are still in the first wave of the pandemic. He explains it this way:

The one that we’ve been dealing with over the last few months has been what’s called “mitigation,” namely to, in a very dramatic way, separate the virus from people by the so-called “physical separation” of one person who might be infected from another. That’s the reason why we talk about the distances of physical separation, wearing of a mask, washing hands to interrupt that interaction between the virus and society that has been successful to help contain the onslaught which we’ve unfortunately experienced, which has been very severe, with now 120,000 deaths . . . in 2 million cases in the United States, which is extraordinary. That you would consider a wave.

How do you go from one wave and not have another wave going? Well, first of all, unfortunately for us, we still are in the first wave because even though there’s variability throughout the country, where some places like New York City are going very nicely down, staying down so that they can start to reopen, simultaneously, we’re seeing in certain states an increase in cases and even now an increase in some of the states of hospitalization. What that directly is related to is complicated. It’s a combination of testing more, but not explained completely by testing more, because some of the states really do have a real increase in the percent of the tests that are positive.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, The Washington Post, June 18, 2020

The World Health Organization is reporting that the pandemic has entered a “new and dangerous phase” and the pandemic appears to be accelerating. Yesterday (Thursday) 150,000 new cases were reported worldwide, a new one-day record. Almost half of the new cases are in the Americas.

Just ahead of Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma scheduled for tomorrow night, the state reported a surge in new Novel Coronavirus cases. Yesterday (Thursday) 450 new cases in a single day were reported, which outdistanced the previous one day total 259 by nearly 200. Tulsa had 82 new cases and Oklahoma City saw an increase of 80 cases.

Despite this and warnings from public health officials, Trump is forging ahead with the rally. In do so, he also adds fuel to the country’s other pandemic – racism and discrimination. There are protests planned for the rally and Trump has responded by saying that:

“Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis,” 

Trump, USA Today, June 19, 2020

When you read the full article, be sure to read the response to this threat by William Kristol, former editor of The Weekly Standard.

God help us all. God save us from the Stupid (having or showing a great lack of common sense) and the Ignorant (lacking knowledge, information, or awareness about a particular thing.)


salsa friday

One of our favorite performers is Carlos Vives, who, like Clemencia, is a native Colombian. Anytime he has been on tour in the DC area over the past several years, we’ve been in the audience. Of course, live shows may not be around for a while so we are becoming content with recorded music and music videos. Carlos Vives is best known for the revival of villanato, a nearly lost style of Colombian folk music. Don’t imagine it to be anything like American “roots” folk music. In this recent release, Vives is performing with Rubén Blades a very danceable salsa. Enjoy! It’s a great way to dance into the weekend!


chickenman – episode 63

The Hummer, the Crowned Prince of Wordless Silly Songs, is still on the loose. The Winged Warrior is hot on the trail…kind of…if he can only get into his chicken suit.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep striving for justice, peace, and health for all.

Tom

Day 66 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Today I was in service to Clemencia…and I loved it! It was a wonderfully refreshing and fun day to do nothing but help her.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020 – Live to Blog from a Better Place

#alonetogether – just the two of us!

Now, don’t read too much into the line above. By “a better place” I don’t mean in the sense of I’ve “gone on to a better place.” I’m just saying that I got out of the right side of the bed this morning. I was disappointed to see that none of this has been a really bad dream but, hey, it is what it is, right? And so it goes.


A Day in Service

Today I decided that I wouldn’t do any of my own work. Instead, I decided to give Clemencia a hand with her fledgling business.

Clemencia – Headshot #1

In January 2018 Clemencia started volunteering at our local library to teach Spanish classes to people in the community. She had been teaching “dental Spanish” to students at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry where she had taught classes and conducted oral health research for 20 years. The group at the school started quite informally about four years. A group of dental students had expressed interest in the language because they were seeing more Spanish speaking children and parents in the clinics.

That first experience with the dental students sent Clemencia down a path she had never anticipated following. She went back to school – after two doctorates, I thought she was a bit nuts. She enrolled in an online course through her alma mater – Arizona State University – to learn how to teach languages. Then it was a couple of online courses with universities in Spain and along the way she picked up many hours and certificates in teaching English as a Second Language and Spanish as a Second Language.

When she finally felt confident enough in her skills, she ventured into the public realm of Spanish instruction. That brings us back to January 2018. The night of the first class was very cold here in Maryland. She was quite sure no one would be there so she asked me to go with her so she wouldn’t have to sit alone in the room throughout the evening. She was shocked…and delighted…when nine people showed up for her first class. I was not shocked at all.

Clemencia – Headshot #2

Since that time, her classes have grown steadily, as has her passion for teaching Spanish. Her retirement dream was to teach for Prince George’s Community College at their Laurel center (only about five minutes from our house). More specifically, she wanted to teach adults and seniors. She reached out to the community college and they, in fact, did have an opening at the Laurel campus for a Spanish teacher for that group.

This past January she started her second year of teaching at the Laurel library and was preparing for her first year of teaching for the community college. She finally started her classes with the college in February and had two weeks of classes then…you…know…what…happened.

After the shock of COVID-19 passed Clemencia began to think about what had previously been unthinkable to her: teaching groups online. She contacted all of her students from both the library (which was also closed) and the college and asked if they’d be interested in online classes. All but two decided they would join her online group classes.

Now, nearly 10 weeks later, Clemencia has become on online teaching pro! Her students have become quite proficient at using Zoom and are loving the classes.

A few weeks ago it became clear that the “new normal” was not going to make it easy for groups to gather for classes again. Clemencia began to consider whether her teaching could actually become a career that paid a little bit. She had been excited about the community college position because it actually did pay some which helps in retirement.

Clemencia – Headshot #3

As long as I’ve known Clemencia she had been a studier and a decider. She does her research, gathers facts, and then, without waffling, make a decision. When she does decide to go all in, she goes all in. That’s exactly how we got to today and ¡Charlemos con Clemencia! (Let’s chat with Clemencia). After weeks of planning, she took the leap.

Clemencia is not as comfortable with technology as I am so she asked if I could help her with a website, setting up a payment system, putting together an online registration form, etc., etc. Because I will do pretty much anything she asks, I agreed.

Today I was in service to Clemencia…and I loved it! It was a wonderfully refreshing and fun day to do nothing but this. I tried to pull together all the things she needs to register students in her inaugural Summer Session – which is barely a month away. I can’t show you the website yet – it is still under review by mi jefe (my boss). However, I did use a few of the new website headshots in the blog. Plus, I have permission to share this video we shot using Zoom. Enjoy!

Clemencia Vargas explains how the classes work at Charlemos con Clemencia

In reality…

My friend Cynthia in Washington State sent me a link to an article today that is pretty disturbing. Researcher’s at the University of Washington are beginning to calculate the death rate for COVID-19. Here’s what they have learned:

A new study suggests the number of Americans who will die after contracting the novel coronavirus is likely to more than triple by the end of the year, even if current social distancing habits continue for months on end.

The study, conducted by the Comparative Health Outcomes, Policy and Economics Institute at the University of Washington’s School of Pharmacy, found that 1.3 percent of those who show symptoms of COVID-19 die, an infection fatality rate that is 13 times higher than a bad influenza season.

“COVID-19 infection is deadlier than flu — we can put that debate to rest,” said Anirban Basu, a health economist at the University of Washington who authored the study.

Reid Wilson, The Hill, May 19, 2020

Good thing it’s not as serious as the flu, eh?

Oh, man, just give me some Chickenman!


The Adventures of Chickenman

Episode 35 – The Invisible Fearless Foul is still…well…invisible despite a rigorous regimen of aspirin. (Gee, maybe he should try Clorox, or Lysol, or hydroxichloriquine.) Anyway, he has to take a pass on saving the country. Wow, sounds like a lot of other folks today!


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep hoping Chickenman becomes visible again…maybe he knows what to do with this mess!

Tom

Day 60 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Even though she was wearing a mask, I knew there was a lot of lip-pointing going on. She was signalling me to be careful around them and to alert me when they were committing any quarantine faux pas.

Thursday, May 14, 2020 – Live to…WHAT? 60 Days and I’m still doing this? It was only supposed to be 14!

#alonetogether

Sixty days! 60! Six-zero! LX! It was still Winter when we entered into sheltering-in-place and now we are halfway through Spring. In barely a month we’ll be starting Summer. This is bizarre! Truly, truly bizarre!


Don’t Mess with Her!

There are Trump’s lockdown orders. Yeah, right! Only until you get bored or need a Big Mac and, hey, I don’t need a mask!

There are Governor Hogan’s lockdown orders. Pretty serious and, you know what, we will shut you down if you try to mess with them. But, you know, we’re going to loosen them up a bit now so, be good…please. (Yeah, right, Larry. You have a lot more faith in Stupid People than I do.)

And then…there are Clemencia’s lockdown orders. Don’t try it…don’t even think about it…you will live without pizza.

Clemencia scared the bejeezus out of three young men who came to our home today. The first was an HVAC technician who came to do the semi-annual check on our system to make sure it was ready for the Summer. Yeah…the Summer…since we’re going to be in the house all Summer. The HVAC technician told us exactly what we knew he would tell us. Our system was old and needed replacement.

We shocked him by agreeing with him. He shocked us by having the salespeople at our house before we could get that sentence. They must have been parked around the corner.

This is the first time anyone has been in our home since early March and Clemencia was ready for them. We were masked up. They were masked up. She made sure they did not open or close any doors. She made sure they knew we expected them to keep at least six feet away from us. She was ready with a spray bottle of disinfectant for anything they touched.

Even though she was wearing a mask, I knew there was a lot of lip-pointing going on. She was signalling me to be careful around them and to alert me when they were committing any quarantine faux pas.

The first guy crossed her when he failed to keep his mask up over his nose. She had to remind him a couple of time to pull it up. After the second time, all she had to do was lip-point and he’d apologize and pull it it. Such fun to watch! The second two guys crossed her by staying too long. Unfortunately for them, the sales meeting took forever due to a glitch in their credit approval system.

Clemencia’s student knew she is very nice and formidable – something our visitor’s learned today.

Clemencia stepped away from a Spanish class at one point to motion to me…from behind them…to move them along. When “somebody” didn’t quite get what she was motioning about, she finally spoke up and said, “This is taking way too long for people like us who are at high risk.” That scared them, though it didn’t speed things up much because the things prolonging the visit were out of their control. Still, from that point on, they were aware that she could come back through the door at any minute and that would be it.

Three times after that they said something like, “We can take care of all of this later over the phone. We don’t want your wife to have to come back out.” Then, I seized the moment to become sinister and speak in a slow, spooky tone.

“Oh, no, no, no. I insist. Stay. Please. She wants you to stay…really. We don’t want to have to do all of this later over the phone. Oh, no, not at all! Let’s get it done while you still can…I mean, while you are still here. It will be fine…just fine,” then I chortled and smiled my best creepy smile. That seemed to help sharpen their focus on their task.

We finally got the deal done and we actually got a good deal. Let’s just say that in this scenario, I got to be the “good cop,” and Clemencia got to be the “bad cop.” She loved it!

When the two left, they assured her that they already had alerted the installation crew (which will be here at 8:30 AM tomorrow morning) about the house rules. Very wise, very wise, indeed!

We haven’t had so much fun in…oh…about eight weeks! And, they learned a few things about physical distancing, mask wearing, and a behaviors that need to go with staying safe in the time of COVID-19. They even learned not to mess with a woman empowered by the truth of public health. For my part, I may have debunked one or two COVID-19 conspiracy theories.

I sometimes refer to Clemencis as “Ms. CDC” because, for as long as I’ve known her, she has approached infection control and all things public health from a strictly Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standard. When she came to the DC area from Arizona it was to work with the Epidemic Intelligence Service. She leapt at that opportunity because she, and many others, saw the CDC as setting the “gold standard” in public health at that time.

That experience profoundly impacted her and it is what informs her insights today regarding COVID-19. So far, she is batting one thousand. She predicted COVID-19 to be bad, and it has been. She pushed and prodded me to buy more beans than I thought we’d ever need in a lifetime and an extra bundle of toilet paper at BJ’s Warehouse in early February. And I’m thankful we did. Her instincts have been spot-on about this thing and I listen very carefully to her counsel. I even do my best to follow it though I’ve not been perfect.

We learned this evening that we have a bit more time to spend in our home. The Prince George’s County Executive announced tonight that we will be sheltering in place at least through June 1 – even though many other parts of the state are opening up…at least just a little.

In addition to monitoring our health and COVID-19 behavior, Clemencia kindly lets me tell some stories about her in this blog. I feel very fortunate to be spending this lockdown with her. If we both make it through this without contracting the virus, it will be because of her.


Lessons from Mom for COVID-19

In my blog on Monday I invited people to send in pieces of wisdom they received from their mom’s in the past which now may prove to be useful during the pandemic. Thank you to everyone who sent me items.

I asked people to also let me know if they were sons or daughters as I wanted to see if Clemencia’s assessment might have been correct – that my list was more likely to be what son’s heard than what daughter’s heard. After reviewing the list of entries I think she might be right. All respondents were daughters. See what you think:

  • Always use the bathroom before leaving home. (Afterall, who knows what germs lurk in public restrooms these days!)
  • Don’t ever cut your bangs by yourself again!
  • Make sure you have clean underwear on.
  • Don’t talk to strangers.
  • Respect your elders.
  • Stop talking.
  • Don’t speak unless asked.
  • Be good to yourself, and in turn you can be good for others.

I wasn’t sure about the advice about clean underwear. Then, I remembered the blog I wrote recently about a question that is puzzling the scientific world. You know the one…does flatulence spread COVID-19? If underwear is the hiney’s mask, then, yes, this one does make sense. Again, thanks to everyone who contributed!


The Adventures of Chickenman

In Episode 29 Chickenman has an unfortunate incident with the Chicken Dissolver in the Chicken Cave.


A Different Side of Chris Mann

I’ve shared several of Chris Mann’s very funny music videos that he has created from his home, all related to COVID-19. This is one that is not funny but very touching. Enjoy and share – especially with someone you know who is on the frontline for us.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and keep doing everything you can to stay safe. The country may be “re-opening,” but Coronavirus has never stopped working.

Tom

Day 57 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

All this to say, Dr. Swan is not a wacko. Still, flatulence as a carrier for Coronavirus…I don’t know…sounds like some weird idea Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum would come up with.

Monday, May 11, 2020 – Live to Blog in a Well Ventilated Room

#alonetogether

There are so many things we don’t know about COVID-19…yet. Some things we are learning are quite serious. Other things…well, you be the judge.

Does Passing Gas Spread COVID-19?

Catching up on episodes of The Late Show with Stephen Cobert over the weekend I learned of some new scientific research on the spread of COVID-19 which could have serious implications for all of us who love beans. According to Cobert, scientists in Australia have been studying whether the Coronavirus can be spread through flatulence.

I wasn’t sure whether that was an actual thing or if it was part of the comedian’s schtick for the night. Turns out the New York Post reported on April 20th that Dr. Norman Swan said in his podcast that people may pass COVID-19 when they pass gas. When you navigate to the New York Post site in the link above, be sure to watch the brief video so you can hear Dr. Swan make his case personally.

Dr. Swan, it turns out, is nearly the counterpart in Australia to Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN here in the U.S. Gupta is a neurosurgeon in Atlanta who actually does practice medicine, performs surgery, and teaches at Emory University School of Medicine. If you’ve been following Dr. Gupta during the COVID-19 pandemic, his coverage and reporting has been some of the best. He is my “go to” guy on television for information when Drs. Fauci, Birx, and Redfield are nowhere in sight. Dr. Swan is a medical journalist though it does not appear he is currently practicing medicine.

All this to say, Dr. Swan is not a wacko. Still, flatulence as a carrier for COVID-19…I don’t know. Sounds like some weird idea Winthrop Dijkstra-Baum would come up with.

When I am filled with uncertainty I go to the source of all knowledge – Google, not Winthrop, to be clear. I asked Google to search for answers to a question worded exactly like this: “Does passing gas spread coronavirus?” Here’s some of what came up in the search:

USA Today: Fact check: We know about coughs and sneezes. But can coronavirus spread through farts?

Forbes: Can Farts Transmit COVID-19 Coronavirus? Here Is What Is Being Said

The Sun: Load of Guff? Doctor says coronavirus could be spreading through farts – but experts aren’t so sure

The Jarkarta Post: Smelly and dangerous? Scientist, doctors on whether farts transmit COVID-19

I hope you took a few minutes to look through some of those articles. Really, it was an education at so many levels and in so many ways.

So, does passing gas also pass the COVID-19? There was some research conducted and reported in the British Medical Journal back in 2001. It had to do with passing gas into petri dishes, really. I think you’ll have no problem sniffing out the article. Once you open the link above (or the next one) just scroll down the page and keep your eyes open for Hot Air? Ironically, the research presents a compelling case for why wearing a face mask helps prevent the spread of the COVID-19. Because, you see, in the case of flatulence, our pants are also masks. If you know people who really can’t understand the value of wearing a mask, share this article with them…seriously…maybe they’ll get it then.

Of course, these days, whenever we need a lift from the news, we just turn our ears and hearts to the music of “Frozen.” Enjoy!


The Adventures of Chickenman

Rhyme is running crampant in Midland City and the call goes out to the Fearless Foul for help.

In Reality…

We know far less about COVID-19 than we think we do. For months millions, if not billions, of dollars have been invested in learning its origins, how it spreads, and what it does to the human body. While we have learned much, there is still much we do not know.

Yes, we had some fun with the question of whether it COVID-19 can be spread through flatulence. The truth is nobody really knows for sure. Just when we think we have a handle on the virus, we learn something new. So, as ridiculous as it sounds, and as much fun as Cobert and other comedians have had with the topic, the most honest response is to check the box “Unknown” for right now.

In the meantime, there is some really disturbing news about COVID-19 that is being reported. On Sunday The Washington Post reported that doctors continue to discover new ways COVID-19 attacks the body.

Today, there is widespread recognition the novel coronavirus is far more unpredictable than a simple respiratory virus. Often it attacks the lungs, but it can also strike anywhere from the brain to the toes. Many doctors are focused on treating the inflammatory reactions it triggers and its capacity to cause blood clots, even as they struggle to help patients breathe.

Lenny Bernstein and Ariana Eunjung Cha, The Washington Post, Sunday, May 10, 2020

Despite the occasional therapeutic diversion into the absurb, let us never lose sight of the fact that this is a real disease that is killing many people. On February 29 the first COVID-19 death was reported in the United States. In the 72 days since there have been (up to this very minute) 80,238 more deaths.

That is 8,023 people per week; 1,114 per day; and 46 people per hour. Think about it…people in the U.S. are dying from COVID-19 at a rate nearing 1 per minute. And we still don’t know how and why it is they are dying. We though we knew…it was respiratory. But now…is it circulatory? Or it something else altogether?

This is why I believe we are in this for the long haul. We still know too little. For this reason, it still makes sense to do things that protect ourselves and others: keep physical distance, wash our hands, don’t touch our faces, cough into our elbows, and wear a mask anytime we leave the house. None of that seems so onerous does it if it means we help save lives?


Lessons from Mom Needed

I’ve been getting a few responses to the question I posed yesterday: What lessons have you heard from your mother in the past that are now good lessons for staying safe in a pandemic? You can respond by leaving a comment on this blog below, you can respond to the posting on LinkedIn or Facebook, or you can follow this link to a Mother’s Lessons for Being Safe in a Pandemic (a Google Form) where you can answer the question. Later this week I’ll share (anonymously) what I’m getting from folks.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing your mask, and, remember, your pants are a mask for your hiney.

Tom

Day 53 – Stories of COVID-19 and Sheltering-In-Place

Fingerpointing is like failing to understand why we have a headache all the while we repeatedly hit ourselves over the head.

Thursday, May 7, 2020 – Live to Blog from the Edge

#alonetogether

I woke up this morning with insanity on my mind. No, I didn’t say I was insane…only that it was on my mind. Of course, why wouldn’t it be on my mind? These are crazy times, man, crazy! On the other you hand…


You May Be Right, I May Be Crazy But I Just May Be The Lunatic You Are Looking For

Now THAT is a classic Billy Joel song, is it not? I found the “official video” of it on YouTube and it is at least as fun to watch as the song is to hear. You’ve got to love Joel’s hair, glasses, tennis shoes…his whole outfit really. Take a look and then we’ll get back to insanity:

So, why is insanity on my mind? Because I thought I had awakened in 1984…not the year, the book. George Orwell’s book 1984, published in 1949, is a post-World War II dystopian view of the world. At various times it has been banned (even in the United States), hailed as one of the best books in the history of world literature, and even viewed as a prophecy for the world to come. Whatever you think of it, it is a fascinating story.

In 1984, I am the shadowy figure interrogating and torturing Winston Smith, played by my friend Leonard. This photo appeard in Dramatics magazine (October 1971).

(Non sequitur alert!) In high school I was a member of the International Thespian Society. I credit our drama coach, Ms. Bacon, and the Society for giving me my love of theatre and the opportunity to break out of my introversion. Some now may regret that they did this for me, to be sure. It seems I got a lot of “heavy” roles in high school theatre: Dr. Chumley who has kindly Elwood P. Dowd hospitalized in Harvey; a righteous serial murderer in Dr. Cook’s Garden; and a brutal inquisitor, O’Brien, in 1984.

Look, ever since the 2016 election many people have been trying to draw a comparison with 1984. I’m not going there. All I’m saying is that the world portrayed by Orwell in his book was an insane place and it was allowed to become that way. It is a shocking story because it seems incomprehensible that it could ever happen in civil society.

The most insane aspect of the story had to do with the reframing of language to mean its opposite through “Newspeak.” That is “new speak” not “news speak,” just to be clear in this age of “fake news.” No where was this more clearly seen than in the names of the government’s four agencies:

  • Ministry of Peace – which waged war and provided for the defense of the country;
  • Ministry of Plenty – which dealt with the economic welfare of the country and its people – who were living with rationing and starvation;
  • Ministry of Love – which assured law and order through torture and brainwashing; and
  • Ministry of Truth – which melded news, entertainment, education, and art into propoganda.

There was no Ministry of Health in Orwell’s 1984. If there were, I wonder what it’s mandate would have been? Assuming Orwell used the same convention as he did in naming the other four ministries, it would not be about health at all. Quite the opposite.

Frankly, I awoke this morning wondering if our public health system isn’t devolving into an Orwellian Ministry of Health. I do not say this to offend the many friends, colleagues, and clients I have who work in public health. In fact, I may be saying aloud what many of them are already thinking.

Clemencia and I have worked in the public health sector many years. We believe in public health and know what it can do when it is allowed to work, especially in the midst of a health crisis. We admire and appreciate the efforts of Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx, and Robert Redfield. As we have watched them during the torturous Coronavirus Task Force updates we can see they share our pain and agony. Despite their valiant efforts to communicate accurate public health information to us, I fear the devolution continues.

Why do I fear this? Because I believe we are seeing evidence of it in this moment. Think about it a moment. If public health had won the day:

You may say, “Tom, you are crazy. The public health system has not devolved, it is just marginalized.” Well, whoopy ding fine! And marginalization is just a step toward devolution and devolution leads to irrelevance.

Marginalization or devolution, who is to blame? Some blame the CDC and the public health system itself. Others blame the Trump Administration. Still others blame Congress. In truth, there is a lot of blame to go around and all of us are really good at finger pointing, eh?

You know the problem with finger pointing, right? When we do point a finger at others, there are three fingers pointing back us (remember, the thumb is not a finger). We get so busy with finger pointing that we lose sight of our own responsibility.

Fingerpointing is like failing to understand why we have a headache all the while we repeatedly hit ourselves over the head.

If the devolution of our public health system is to stop, it is on us to step up and make a difference.

Or, you may be right. I may be crazy. Maybe it is just marginalization. But if I’m right and it is devolution, could I just be the lunatic you are looking for?


The View from Jeff

Jeff explains: I think the lettuce wrapped hamburger trend is actually funded by the laundry detergent industry

The Adventures of Chickenman

In Episode 22 Chickeman and the Maternal Marauder visit Clyde Crushman in and effor to reconcile the criminal with the Winged Warrior, who put him behind bars.


Stay safe, be well, keep calm, keep washing your hands, keep wearing you mask, keep physical distance, and especially keep away from Stupid People – because all are good public health practices.

Tom