Coronavirus gives the planet a break on Earth Day

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As we get into May we will see states begin to lift stay-at-home rules, with some restrictions. Non-essential businesses will be allowed to reopen, places like barber shops, hairdressers, spas, massage parlors, bars, restaurants and bowling alleys. People are being given the impression the worst is over here in the U.S. because the curve (as it is called) of new cases and deaths is flattening out. New York, for instance, has had less the 700 deaths for three straight days.

Interestingly, the governors lifting these restrictions expect business owners to screen their employees and customers for symptoms and that they keep social distancing rules. Just out of curiosity: How does one cut hair or administer a massage from six feet away, while wearing gloves? And bowling alleys? Who is going to clean out the finger holes in all the balls?

These lifting of stay-at-home rules will vary from state-to-state, but we will see if and how the coronavirus spreads — because it is still spreading, just not as fast as it had been — if the rate of infection and deaths spike as a result. Then when the second wave hits, sometime in late summer or fall, it will overlap the flu season which will complicate the medical system and make the coronavirus pandemic worse.

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This is where people tell me I’m being too negative, that I should hope it all works … Okay, I’m a pessimist, but I also listen to the experts, doctors, nurses and other health care workers, and scientists working on testing kits and vaccines or just studying the virus. The head of the World Health Organization (a group Donald Trump is attempting to demonize), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus just said, “Trust us, the worst is yet ahead of us.” He also said, “Easing restrictions is not the end of the epidemic in any country.”

The main roadblocks to fully opening the economy are 1: No vaccine and 2: lack of adequate testing. Governors from both parties refuted President Trump’s claim that “capability and capacity are fully sufficient to begin opening up the country totally.”

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) said Trump’s claim was “Just delusional.” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) told CNN, “To say that the governors have plenty of testing and they should get to work on testing, somehow we aren’t doing our job, is just absolutely false.” He added, “Every governor in America has been pushing and fighting and clawing to get more tests.”

Who is right about opening up the economy? Politicians looking forward to November 3, or the scientists and medical professionals studying the disease or working on the frontline of the pandemic in hospital wards and emergency rooms? Hmmm … tough question … Well, since I’m a pessimist I’m going with the doctors, nurses, health care workers and scientists.

Others, of course, are going with these other experts in … whatever it is they’re peddling. Like the Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, who told Tucker Carlson of Fox News, “There are more important things than living.” Hmmm, yeah, like what? Right there in the fucking Declaration of Independence, is the line, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It’s no accident the first of those unalienable rights is “Life.” Liberty is a close second and Happiness third. Which means my life, and those of the health care professionals and my loved ones, trump your rights to liberty and happiness. But, not even Trump knows that because he hasn’t read either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution. He just watches Fox News and takes their que.

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Just for the record: The most recognized sentence in Americana doesn’t say “…endowed by God …” or “… endowed by Jesus …” It says “…endowed by their Creator …” And my creator, given the empirical, scientific evidence available, is nature. Mom and Dad got natural one night and then Mom’s body did its natural thing and voila! January 4 … well, some years ago … the Forkes clan had their fifth child and third son.

Call it a miracle if you like, some might say it was a curse, but really it all happened quite naturally. I don’t think anyone’s referred to my birth as a blessing … Well, maybe my Godmother Jeanette, because she’s a saint.

Now, it’s important to know none of these anti-safety protests, or at least most of them, are organic, grassroots endeavors. They have been organized and led by Pro Trump 2020 organizations like FreedomWorks, and the Michigan Conservative Coalition, a Betsy DeVos group. Both organizations are very proud of the “How-to” guides to protesting they have created to start a demonstration. “Give me liberty or give me death!” Hell, by lifting the stay-at-home orders protestors can have both liberty and death and that might work out for the country come November 3.

But I digress. I was told to crawl back in my hole for suggesting that if the protestors got the virus and passed it on to their family and friends that would be Charles Darwin’s “Natural Selection” in action.

If you live in California, thank your creator for Governor Gavin Newsom and the various mayors, Eric Garcetti in Los Angeles, Sam Liccardo of San Jose, Libby Schaaf of Oakland (Dub Nation), Robert Garcia of Long Beach, London Breed of San Francisco and others; let’s include various members of the legislatures and the two senators and congressional delegation who have supported Newsom’s policies.

Just reported in the Los Angeles Times: the state is going to start testing asymptomatic people. It will start with people living or working in high risk situations. Hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, plus their families and other contacts, if there is a positive result.

Governor Gavin Newsom with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti (YouTube)

The old saying is: As California goes, so goes the nation. With good management by the various governors around the nation this will become a welcome trend. The president has abdicated his responsibility in this regard, pushing it off on the states.

Which of course means the governors out there who are sticking their heads in the sand can still pretend this pandemic isn’t ravaging their states. Getting back to the premise of this post. According to the polls 60% do not support opening the economy right now.

The governor of Georgia thinks people can practice social distancing rules while giving tattoos, cutting hair and giving massages. How does one do that when administering a massage? And what about getting a happy ending? Can’t imagine how that works if the masseuse is fully clothed, wearing a mask, face shield and surgical gloves.

Not that I’ve ever engaged in that sort of behavior … in the past 10 years … eight … It was a birthday present! Give me a break!

Anyway, all joking aside, how can reputable massage therapists do that while wearing gloves? I guess it can happen. Chiropractors are doing it, fully decked out in PPE. That’s just it, for any of these services that require person-to-person contact full PPE is required and the customers have to be wearing masks — at least.

On the other hand, everywhere on social media there are hospital workers, doctors and nurses in particular, making videos, some from the wards where they work, like this one, showing the dire consequences of COVID-19; the absolute crush of sick and dying patients, mind and body numbing 12-hour shifts, the fear that they could possibly spread the disease to their family members at home — and now they are all telling us opening up the economy sounds like the dumbest, deadliest idea the president and various governors have come up with. And some of these frontline nurses are being mocked and harassed by demonstrators.

From Brian Karem’s Facebook page

At a time when the United States has more confirmed coronavirus cases than the next four countries combined. When the national death toll is approaching 45,000 (might pass that by the time anyone reads this), the president and his allies want to loosen the restrictions on staying safe.

There are out of control hotspots in Georgia, South Dakota, Nebraska, Florida — did I miss any? Oh yeah, Las Vegas, NV. The mayor of that fine city, Carolyn Goodman, was on MSNBC with Katie Our and said closing down the city’s pride and joy, its bread and butter, was “insanity.” Mayor Goodman told Tur, “Assume everybody is a carrier. And then you start from an even slate. And tell the people what to do. And let the businesses open and competition will destroy that business if, in fact, they become evident that they have disease, they’re closed down. It’s that simple.”

The mayor was unmoved from her position when Tur reminded the mayor of the facts about the coronavirus. Just let the chips fall where they may. I just wish more of those chips had fallen in my stacks when I went to Vegas.

One of the jobs that is very essential but few talk about: janitorial staffs — Housekeeping — in the hospitals and other medical facilities dealing with COVID-19. Besides cleaning and sanitizing beds and rooms, including the emergency rooms and ICU, they have to clean up whatever “mess” patients make. Let’s be blunt: contaminated vomit and diarrhea. Can you imagine being one of these people, busy cleaning and sanitizing an ICU room after a patient dies, dealing with the stench, visible bodily fluids, and they hear someone say there needs to be a cleanup of diarrhea and before they finish that someone is asking for a cleanup of contaminated vomit.

That’s not just occasional, that’s hour-after-hour of a 12-hour shift. And because he or she is part of the house keeping staff they don’t have the same access to PPE as the doctors and nurses, although I bet the MD’s, RN’s and LPN’s do their best to help out in that regard. Tell those under-paid housekeeping workers about opening up the economy.

Most of those workers are people of color, which brings up something I’ve been missing in my posts for several weeks: COVID-19 is affecting people of color, African Americans in particular, at a much higher rate than white America. There are a lot of reasons for that, covered under the term systemic discrimination. In Louisiana 34% of the population is Black. About 70% of the coronavirus deaths are African Americans.

Lack of access is probably the main reason, inadequate or no health care coverage. It’s true COVID-19 shows no bias, but it is a fact black and brown people are being afflicted at higher rates.

What really pisses me off is the news the Veterans Affairs Department medical centers have been lying about their preparedness for this virus. Hospital workers are being told to wear the same mask for a week, that many were told to continue working even if they were showing symptoms of the coronavirus.

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The V.A. Inspector General even said in its report that the medical system had inadequate testing and protocols for COVID-19. On Wednesday morning the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie will be on MSNBC with Stephanie Ruhle at 6 a.m. PT. That’s going to be must-see TV for veterans and their loved ones. Are we safe at the V.A. hospitals and neighborhood clinics? The clinics, by the way, are even less equipped with PPE than the medical centers (hospitals).

And this just in, as reported in the Los Angeles Times: the first COVID-19 death in the U.S. didn’t occur in Kirkland, WA on February 29. The first two coronavirus deaths happened in Santa Clara, CA February 6 and 17, according to the medical examiner.

They died before the CDC expanded its testing protocols beyond those traveling from Asia. Plus, some people, at the time, thought the symptoms could be the flu. As you may recall there was next to no community testing at the time. Dr. Jeff Smith, the chief executive of Santa Clara County government, told the Times he thinks there were infections and deaths as far back as December, 2019.

It’s something, what we can learn when there is a robust testing plan. There’s still a lot of testing needed and Governor Newsom is expanding it here in the Golden State.

One little piece of business: The latest right wing, Fox News talking point going around social media is that “We’re going to crash our economy on a virus that has a 97% survival rate.” The number is derived by comparing deaths to confirmed cases. Health experts don’t know what the survival rate is because we haven’t had adequate testing. The rate of survival may even be higher than 97%. But at this time we just don’t know. The confirmed recoveries are far lower than the infected numbers.

The Earth, taken on December 24, 1968, from apollo 8 as it orbited the moon. We are, after all, one planet. (NASA/Wikipedia)

In California we have 35,843 confirmed cases with 1,320 deaths. Nationwide: 826,240 confirmed cases, 45,373 deaths and 75,519 confirmed recoveries. That’s a survival rate of 94.5%, if measured against the confirmed cases, 40% when deaths are measured against confirmed recoveries.

Regardless of what the Orange Blowhard says at his daily press rallies, stay at home. Bowling and surfing are not essential activities. Well, maybe surfing. It’s a spiritual thing. Stay at home anyway. The ocean will keep generating sets.

Which brings up this little factoid: today is Earth Day. The silver lining to this pandemic with the stay-at-home orders is that the Earth is getting a break. The air in Los Angeles looks absolutely clear. Happy Earth Day.

Keep up and compare my posts on the COVID-19 pandemic here.

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UPDATE: There was a 3.7 earthquake that hit the South Los Angeles area; Inglewood, Culver City, Playa Vista and LAX, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It caused light shaking throughout the Los Angeles basin, but the LAFD said there was no reported damage. If it had been a major quake, during this pandemic — the crisis that would create is almost unimaginable.

Top photo from the Instagram account of Dead & Co