IUY Weekly Journal: #45 May 23 – 29, 2020

       Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, May 23 through Friday, May 29, 2020  [#45]

“100,000 + George Floyd”

The Week’s Most Notable

And now there are three U.S. crises: COVID-19, the economy, racism/violence. These three crises have in some way touched everybody. This doesn’t happen very often; usually some group, region, or class escapes – but not this time. This was a week when the three crises found unusually stark representation: The milestone 100,000 dead by COVID-19, 40 million unemployed (about 25% of the workforce), and the video-recorded death of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minneapolis, which touched off protest/rebellion/riot/violence in cities across the country. It is not realistic to be optimistic about this summer. While everybody wants the return of some kind of normality – less threat from COVID-19, going back to work, relaxed shopping, enjoying entertainment in crowds, not worrying about racism and inequality – none of these are realistic. In fact, to fill out the negative picture, add: A record hot summer, severe forest fires, a very active hurricane season, food and unemployment riots, and probably things as yet unconsidered.

Nevertheless, we persist. One step at a time, we do what we can, and any other cliché that helps. There is a focus – work to keep ourselves and the country together so we can vote five months from now.

Saturday, May 23

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 1,666,823; Deaths – 98,678

[Election 2020] Biden Wins Hawaii Primary – Biden 63%, Sanders 37%. The balloting was entirely by mail.

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IUY Weekly Journal #44 May 16 – 22, 2020

       Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, May 16 through Friday, May 22, 2020 [#44]

“Identified by Masks”

The Week’s Most Notable

Some people call them the battlefront of the culture wars. Others call them “PPE as fashion statement.” Trump seems to conflate them with a lack of masculinity. Some simply call them “a mask.” Doctors and nurses shake their heads and wonder how wearing a medical mask became a political issue. Thanks largely to Trump, masks are now emblematic; people have been assaulted for wearing them. In some parts of the country not wearing a mask is considered noble resistance. They are emblematic of a second great failure to deal with COVID-19. The first failure was to not start mitigation efforts (social distancing, etc.) as soon as possible. The second failure is happening now – too many states are reopening their economy without a workable plan. Among other things, too many people are unclear about what to do. For example, should they wear masks? Some states require them. Other states don’t even mention them. Most states recommend them for certain circumstances. Meanwhile, learning from experience, epidemiological experts say masks are important for this virus, which transmits primarily through the air as droplets from breathing, talking, coughing, singing, and so forth.

Saturday, May 16

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 1,347,000; Deaths – 89,370

[Election 2020] Obama’s Televised Nationwide Commencement Speech – Presidents always do commencement speeches; they don’t often use the speeches to launch a critique of current administrations. Trump’s escalating attacks (“Obamagate”) seem to have crossed a line for Obama, provoking him to say, “Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy – that’s how little kids think. Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way – which is why things are so screwed up.” Obama will not be on the sidelines during this campaign season.

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IUY Weekly Journal #43 May 9 – 15, 2020

 Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, May 9 through Friday, May 15, 2020 [#43]

“Distract and Divide”

The Week’s Most Notable

It’s probably a valid assumption that most Americans want to – safely – get out of the house, go back to work, even go back to school, and try to piece together what may be our “new normal lives.” Unfortunately, toward that end the events of the week offered only a confusing mishmash: The Trump-GOP seems intent on steering us away from dealing on a national basis with the COVID-19 crisis. Trump has begun splitting with Dr. Fauci. The White House was caught manipulating CDC guidelines. In general, they seem happier in suppressing reality and applying political pressure than in dealing with the fact that the U.S. still has the worst record on COVID-19 in the world. Meanwhile, we the people are stuck with whatever our state can do, which is a mixed bag.

Adding to the flurry of mixed signals, the Senate GOP seems to prefer paralysis to stimulating the economy. That meant the Democratic House passed a new $3 trillion relief bill into thin air. Meanwhile, in a panic about his slipping reelection, Trump seems to have cobbled together a strategy – making Baghdad Bob-style pronouncements, promoting anti-science, muzzling the CDC, firing Inspectors General, unleashing Attorney General Barr (current travesty, the Gen. Flynn case), and revealing the unbelievable, dog-whistle, amorphous thing called Obamagate. None of this is confidence inspiring.

Saturday, May 9

[Coronavirus] U.S. COVID-19 Totals: Deaths – 77,180, Cases – 1,310,000, Hospitalizations – 143,762

[Coronavirus] South Korea Again Closes Bars – President Moon Jae-in disclosed that a single individual visiting a number of bars in Seoul had infected several districts, forcing another closing of bars and the quarantining of many people. South Korea has long been considered one of the leaders in management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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    EVENT    
 

A quick reminder, we have a regular monthly meeting this coming Wednesday, May 13 at 6:30 PM This will be an online Zoom meeting. If you wish to participate, please reply on this message (if you haven’t already done so) and we will send you the link for the Zoom meeting.

An agenda is copied below. We’ll be looking for suggestions on how to operate during the
conditions of lockdown or partial COVID-19 restrictions. Of course, the Montana primary, June 2, is also on the docket.

Looking forward to seeing you on Zoom,
Nelson and Dixie

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IUY Weekly Journal – #42 May 2 – 8, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, May 2 through Friday, May 8, 2020 [#42]

“Reopening Goes Viral”

The Week’s Most Notable

It’s the stupid economy. This was to be the big week for the White House, shifting from focus on the coronavirus to the “Reopening of America” and resurrection of the economy. The administration used suppression of experts, strategic silence, and Trump’s inimitable brand of contradictory hyperbole to make the issue of COVID-19 begin to appear diminished if not anathema. However, COVID-19 did not cooperate, as rising death rates and poll numbers showed Americans are still very much focused on the effects of the virus. Overall, it was a week of profoundly mixed signals.

It’s a small event but notable. Last Wednesday was National Nurses Day. Trump hosted some nurses in the Oval Office. One, Sophie Thomas, had the temerity to say, “PPE has been sporadic.” Trump jumped in, “Sporadic for you, but not sporadic for a lot of other people. I have heard we have a tremendous supply to almost all places.” Ms. Thomas is president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and hears from nurses on the front lines all day. Who you gonna believe? That may be the coming struggle in a nutshell. Do you believe reports from the 50 states and the people working to deal with the medical crisis or the economic crisis, who usually report on a lack of resources and the lack of a coordinated national plan? Or do you believe Trump administration reports, especially Trump himself, who usually see things like this: “We’ve loaded up the hospitals with things to take care of people. We’ve ensured a ventilator for every patient who needs one. The testing and the masks and all of the things, we’ve solved every problem. We solved it quickly.” This illustrates the nub of vindictive mendacity in the emerging propaganda war.

Saturday, May 2

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Crisis: Deaths – 64,943; Cases – 1,133,000; Hospitalizations – 123,860

[Coronavirus] Research: U.S. Death Toll Underestimated – An analysis of federal data by the Yale School of Public Health found the death toll due to COVID-19 to be approximately 1.5 times the official number. Through the first two weeks of April they found an estimated 37,100 excess deaths beyond normal for the period, and 13,500 more than the official figures for COVID-19 related deaths.

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IUY Monthly Meeting – Wed May 13, 2020

    EVENT      

Indivisibles,

Doubtful that anyone’s forgotten completely, but it’s not surprising if the upcoming Montana primary (June 2) isn’t at the tippy-top of consciousness. We have a regular monthly meeting coming up:

IUY Monthly Meeting Wednesday, May 13, 6:30 PM – online, via Zoom.
If you are interested in attending, just reply to this email and will send you the web access  before the meeting.

 
The meeting gives us a perfect opportunity to review the primaries – who’s running for what, and who the candidates are. [A reminder: check out our apodcastrunsthroughit.com for in-depth interviews of candidates.] It’s also an opportunity to, shall we say clear the fuzz of isolation, and put our heads back together despite the unprecedented vortex of crisis.. There’s obviously a lot to talk about, and while nobody expects a catharsis, it might be helpful to put some context around the incessant items of news and existential disruption. We could also talk about how Park County and Montana are doing, which is exceptionally well and the potential political implications. We’ll also be talking about – given that public and face-to-face political activity is unavailable – what kind of projects we can do over the summer as a lead up to the final lap into the November elections.

Looking forward to seeing you and hearing you.
Nelson and Dixie

PS: Zoom is easy; don’t be intimidated by any technical challenge. If you can operate a computer with sound capability and run a browser, you can use Zoom. It’s also improved security quite a bit.
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IUY Weekly Journal #41 April 25 – May 1, 2020

       Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, April 25 through Friday, May 1, 2020 [#41]

“Coronavirus Mayday”

The Week’s Most Notable

Now opening 30 states! The week was filled with statements for and against re-opening states from the COVID-19 induced coma. Soon to be irrelevant (and now possibly infected) gun-toting protesters stormed the Michigan state house. Medical experts galore warned that we’ re not ready – not enough full-service testing capability and no policy to guide it. The White House and much of the GOP want to stop talking about the coronavirus and instead focus on the “economic recovery.” Yet the economy seems headed into an already burning dumpster. All of this looks like a formula for cacophony, confusion, and more coronavirus outbreaks. Give us the merry month of May to see what happens.

Saturday, April 25

[Coronavirus] U.S. Cases: 938,154; Deaths: 53,755; Hospitalizations: 93,270

[Coronavirus] White House Briefings Halted – Following the disastrous “inject disinfectant” briefing of last Thursday, the daily Trump show was cut short on Friday and canceled altogether Saturday. The daily Trump show is over.  However, as the week progressed Trump was unable to stay out of the limelight and the White House arranged other types of semi-coronavirus-related appearances.

[Coronavirus] WHO Warns There Is No Evidence People Cannot Be Reinfected – One of the most significant unknowns about COVID-19 is the degree of immunization, if any, from having had an infection. Some viruses produce a very high degree of immunization that can last for years. Other viruses have weak and/or short-term immunization. Although studies are underway, this critical aspect of COVID-19 is a missing piece in the ability to determine the return of epidemic levels of infection.

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IUY Weekly Journal #40 April 18 – 24, 2020

       Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, April 18 through Friday, April 24, 2020 [#40]

The Week’s Most Notable

The grimmest tug of war: control the virus vs. reopen the economy. While it is clear there is a fateful dynamic between coronavirus mitigation (school and business closings, social distancing, testing) and the desire to reopen economies because of the increasing economic damage, by the end of the week it’s apparent that in the United States every approach will be tried – simultaneously – from complete lockdown to complete reopening of a state’s economy. As many as 12 states have already reopened or are planning to end restrictions, most of them on some kind of phased-in conditional basis. This is what scientists call a “natural experiment,” unfortunately one with life-and-death consequences. Most epidemiologists say that few states have met the criteria (14-day case decline, adequate testing regime, effective contact tracing) to safely reopen their economies. The likely result of reopening under the wrong circumstances will be local and regional spikes in cases, and a stubborn persistence of crisis-level cases and deaths.

COVID-19: One wave is not goodbye. An unfortunate corollary of the desire to get back to work and reopen economies is a belief that the pandemic wave is ebbing and will be “insignificant” (according to Trump) by mid-summer. The overwhelming consensus of epidemiologists is that the U.S., much less the world, has not reached the top of the first wave and, secondly, there will be more waves, especially this fall. This is a novel coronavirus, which means human immune systems have never seen it before, meaning the virus will continue to spread, including through the summer. AND in the fall the usual flu epidemic will add to the pressure on healthcare systems.

Saturday, April 18

[Coronavirus] Total U.S. Cases: 702,714 Deaths: 36,296

[Coronavirus] Anti-lockdown Protests – Crowds up to 300 appeared at several state capitals (Michigan, Texas, Maryland, Ohio, and Wisconsin). Considering the encouragement from Trump and right-wing media, the turnout was modest and tentative at best. Polls continue to show that about 60-80% of Americans support continued lockdown efforts. Although protests continued early in the week, plans by more than a dozen states to begin reopening seems to have deflated the proto–movement.

[Coronavirus] Contaminated CDC Tests Delayed Initial Coronavirus Testing – According to the FDA and other sources the rollout of active-virus testing, especially in California and Washington, was delayed by weeks because of contaminated production (tens of thousands of tests). This will certainly be an important consideration in the eventual investigation of the faltering U.S. response to the crisis.

[Coronavirus-Economy] Nieman Marcus to File for Bankruptcy – It is likely to be the first well-known brand to collapse in the coronavirus economic crisis. It will close 69 stores and furlough 14,000 employees.

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Weekly Journal – #39 April 11 – 17, 2020

The Week of Saturday, April 11 through Friday, April 17, 2020 [#39]

The Week’s Most Notable:

This week marked the beginning of public protest on coronavirus mitigation, expressing the views of those in denial and/or defiance of public health restrictions.  To the casual observer, most of these gatherings to spray each other with protest seem to be candidates for the Darwin Award; that is, any problem they represent will be self-removing by COVID-19 infection. That may ultimately be true, but the glib putdown doesn’t capture the potential seriousness of their protests.

According to reports, there seem to be two approximate types of protester: Those saturated with the Trump-GOP freedom-Kool-Aid and those truly shaken by the economic crisis, many of them small business owners. They believe the prevalent travel, shopping, school, and distance restrictions are devastating the economy – and unnecessary. Most governors and epidemiologists would agree about the economy, but disagree about the necessity of restrictions. Ironically, many protesters cite lower-than-expected death rates as evidence of overreaction, missing the point that the death rates are lower because of the stringent restrictions. Even Trump recognized that if we did nothing there might be a million or more deaths, which would also destroy the economy.

For now, the protests are tiny, the cause all but absurd, and they do not represent the 60% to 80% who believe in the medical science and the need for social distancing. But what happens 4 to 6 months from now when the real pain of mass unemployment and a staggering economy produce hunger, bankruptcy, anger, and despair? By then there may be millions who want to protest and Trump will still be inciting riot. Much will depend on the ability of governors (and hopefully Congress) to cobble together a meaningful testing regime, fund enough relief, and manage expertise to weave their way out of the dual crises before a social explosion occurs.

Calls for coronavirus testing grew louder this week. From doctors to corporate execs, from non-right-wing media to congresspeople the phrase was “testing, testing, testing.” Recognition is growing that the way out of the “control the spread vs open the economy” bottleneck is to use testing – viral (who’s sick) and serum (who’s had it). The tests, combined with tracking infected people, make it possible to reopen the economy without unleashing more rounds of infection. It’s an approach several countries, notably Germany, have demonstrated. Unfortunately, Trump and Republican leaders, especially governors, quietly ignore testing; they don’t want the bad news testing often brings. Testing numbers in the U.S. are actually declining per capita. In the coming weeks, watch what dominates the narrative – an aggressive nationwide testing regime, or skip the testing and open up.

Saturday, April 11

[Coronavirus] U.S. Cases: 522,800; Deaths: 20,400 – Remember these figures do not include cases or deaths that were not tested or occurred outside of hospitals, i.e., the real numbers are higher.

[Coronavirus] First Time in U.S. History All 50 States Under Federal Emergency – Declaring a state under federal emergency makes them eligible for specific FEMA and other federal funds, so largely a no-brainer. On the other hand, 10 states still have not declared shelter-in-place (lockdown) orders.

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Weekly Journal #38 April 4 – 10, 2020

The Week of Saturday, April 4 through Friday, April 10, 2020 [#38]

The Week’s Most Notable:

This was the week the U.S. attained an unfortunate world leadership: The most coronavirus cases (500,000+), and most coronavirus deaths (20,000+). The numbers will continue to go up and the U.S. position is not likely to change. Despite being the world’s richest nation, the U.S. has the world’s worst record among developed countries in trying to control the effects of the pandemic. While some examination of that fact has begun, one day there will be a serious reckoning.

This was also the week when voices across the right-wing media clamored loudly for a “rapid reopening of the country,” meaning that restrictions associated with coronavirus mitigation, especially the closing of businesses and various stay-at-home orders, should be relaxed or dropped altogether by May 1. Most did not include the important qualifier “as soon as possible” and spoke as if the crisis will pass in April. Trump echoed the Fox News chorus through midweek, before walking it back by adding “as soon as possible” by the end of the week. Meanwhile the voices of the medical profession said firmly that until we have (1) testing to demonstrate real control of the virus (2) a minimum 14-day period of no new infections, and (3) contact tracing, any “reopening” of the economy risks more waves of infection.

Saturday, April 4

[Coronavirus] U.S. Cases: 306,000 Deaths: 8,100

[Coronavirus] CDC Begins Antibody Testing – Antibody or serum tests determine who has had the coronavirus illness, which provides guidance as to when, where, and who is eligible to rejoin public life. It’s important to note that the CDC is just beginning its testing. Months are needed for testing and production, especially since systematic testing will require tens of millions of tests plus the equipment and personnel to conduct them. The Trump administration recently declared that the U.S. has enough tests and tried to scale back funding, although this stance has also been somewhat reversed.

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