Category Archives: Coronavirus

Economic inequality is increasing. What should be done? I don’t know.

According to a report from Oxfam, a confederation of 20 independent charitable organizations that focuses on poverty reduction, in the ten months since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, the net worth of the ten richest people in the world has increased by $540 billion. Meanwhile, they project that it could take more than a decade to reduce the number of people living poverty to pre-pandemic levels.

The report indicates that unless rising inequality is address, half a billion more people could be living on less than $5.50 a day or less in 2030, ten years after the start off the pandemic.

The report recommends a temporary wealth tax on profits made by the 32 most corporations and other super-rich entities and people. Oxfam says the half-trillion dollars the ten richest have made would, if taken from them, pay for Covid vaccination for everyone on the planet and reverse the rise in poverty cause by the pandemic.

You don’t have to be Karl Marx to shake your head at those statistics. The fact is, you’re in much better position to weather or thrive during a crisis like this than you are if you’re already financially stressed.

If you’re talking about people living on $5.50 per day, you’re not talking about welfare queens or that guy who used to use food stamps to buy food you couldn’t afford in spite of working a couple jobs. These are severely poor people who struggled to survive to begin with.

The Oxfam recommendations extend beyond any national boundaries and would require an international organization with the ability to override national taxation rules. It wouldn’t be a matter of a one-time levy. Power tends to perpetuate itself. And if we could make things a little better by unilaterally taking from billionaires, just think of how much we good we could do if we did the same to millionaires, or even to the 25% most wealthy in the world (which includes you).To set something like that up in an equitable manner that protects national sovereignty and includes checks and balances would take forever. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the other eight aren’t likely to voluntarily give up everything they’ve made in the past year and more. And no country with wealth is likely to unilaterally cede tax policy to a worldwide body that hasn’t been created and has no rules. (Yes, I know there’s the UN, but it doesn’t have the right to tax and has structural problems of its own.)

YOU are probably in the top 25% of wealthy people worldwide. Don’t argue with Cannon.

There’s more to this than just saying it has to be done and done now. How do you do it? Who has the authority, and how do you stop them from seizing vast tracts of private property or businesses?

I realize people are dying, but if you don’t answer those questions, even more people are likely to die.

In short, I don’t have the answers, beyond “this isn’t working and how do we change it?” It starts with stepping away from the normal accusations we heave at each other and a realization that to solve the problem we have to find a workable way to fund the necessary work, add controls to reduce corruption, and protect the interests of the people who’d otherwise be seen as an infinite checkbook.

If we don’t get past competing shouting about communism and murderous greed, nothing will be done. (But everyone will feel good about defending their version of mortal certainty.)

CNN reporter’s meltdown shows a stark contrast with Bruce Willis’s petulant selfishness

Yesterday, CNN reporter Sara Sidner filed a report about the impact of the Covid on people, in particular, blacks and Hispanics in Los Angeles. The report was on a family that lost both parents over an eleven-day span and had a funeral in a parking lot. At the end of the report, she broke down.

In the same city, Bruce Willis was asked to pull up the bandana that he had on while inside a Rite Aid. He refused, choosing instead to leave and not make his purchase.

Across the country, several members of the House of Representatives–all of them Republicans–refused to wear a mask, too. To absolutely no one’s surprise, several members are now positive for the Covid.

The contrast couldn’t be clearer.

Willis is well-to-do, and could easily go the rest of the pandemic without having to work. Sidner’s report was about an area in Los Angeles that’s underserved, houses people whose work generally can’t be skipped, or done at home, and who are facing much higher death tolls than typical as a result of the pandemic.

The Republican representatives are amazingly tone deaf–at the very least.

Odds are very high that you and I don’t know what it’s like in Covid ICUs, or to go to work each day in an area that puts you hip-deep in a disease that could kill you, exactly as it’s killing the people you care for. We don’t know what it’s like to have to show up day after day to a job where you’re overburdened, vastly underresourced, and where death shows up that frequently.

It’s a near certainty that mental health issues for those who care for Covid patients will be a pandemic after the pandemic.

Some may consider Sara Sidner’s meltdown unprofessional–drama for its own sake.

Given what’s happening in the world today, her reaction is not only professional, it helps bring home the emotional impact of a story most of us can only imagine.

On the other hand, Bruce Willis’s reaction shows what happens when you don’t consider things you haven’t personally experienced. It’s selfish and tone deaf and adds risk to someone whose job requires them to face elevated risk for very little money.

It’s the type of job he might’ve had to work while he was trying to start his career.

Given that it’s January 2021, there’s no looking at this outside politics. To a lot of people who consider themselves conservative, anyone paid by CNN is liberal. Willis is likely conservative and the House Republicans definitely are.

I am.

Based on those two brief slices of life, I’d much rather see the world through Sara Sidner’s eyes than Bruce Willis’s.

4K a day–that’s the Covid death toll. Because of the Capitol takeover, it’s not even news.

This week, the number of US deaths attributed to the Covid exceeded 4000 for the first time (4,112 on Thursday). There were more than 280,000 new cases–third-most in one day, behind December 11 and January 2. More almost 22 million people in this country have texted positive for Covid.

Just my luck. I have my best day ever and no one notices.

The White House task force has said their may now be a USA variant of the Covid, to go along with all the other variants. Our variant may be 50% more transmissible than than plain old Covid. And all the variants my cause an uptick in the number of false positives in Covid testing, though the risk of mutations creating a material change in overall accuracy is low.

We may have our very own Covid mutation.

Two months ago, this information would’ve shared the news spotlight. Four months ago, it would have dominated the news.

In light of this week’s attempted takeover of the US Capitol by insurrectionists inspired by President Trump, they barely registered a blip in the news cycle.

We were all too busy reacting to the sights and sounds Wednesday and the resulting turmoil and responses since then.

An attempted take-over of the Capitol, complete with a gallows, zip ties, and cries of treason are valid top stories. And follow-on stories about the 25th Amendment or impeachment, not to mention the US President being banned from most popular social media platforms, also qualify as major news stories.

And it was all avoidable. This self-inflicted, option set of events took the attention off the exploding Covid numbers and the fact that mutations seem to be coming faster than all the other bad news. Although Covid numbers would vary over time–and will likely decrease as vaccines are distributed, if you keep a 4000-case pace, that’s 120,000 deaths in a month. And more than 8.4 million cases in a month.

Figurative image of the week.

None of this information was covered to the depth it should’ve been because of the President’s selfish, ill-conceived effort to hang onto his power in spite of the Constitutional process that indicates it’s time for him to move on.

Maybe that doesn’t make a difference. Maybe the case and death numbers would’ve been exactly the same if we’d focused exclusively on them. And maybe the numbers two weeks from now would be unchanged, too.

But the fact that we have to go searching for this information shows just how massive the actions this week have been, and just how much damage has been done by the actions of the relatively small group of the President’s followers.

No, NYS isn’t going to start Covid detention camps, but it’s still a story (and shouldn’t be)

The Drudge Report has the headline near the top of its page: Covid camps? Detain disease carriers, proposed law suggests… It’s guaranteed to set your OAN-watching uncle off and make the rounds on the socials, but the bill has been introduced three times in prior years and never made it out of committee.

Implying it’s anything beyond doomed legislation isn’t fake news, but it’s irresponsible. It’s how stupid, unbelievable stories grow legs and become conspiracy theories that people believe because they fall in line with other ridiculous conspiracy theories.

The bill in question, Assembly Bill 416, allows you to be detained if you’re suspected of having the Covid or equally horrible disease (cue the theme from COPS). But it’s been introduced three times before and never got out of committee.

Governor Andrew Cuomo sending a poor New Yorker to Covid jail for sneez…never mind, being told this is a scene from the old Star Trek TV show.

Drudge’s link is to, an English-language version of a site called Russia Today, which isn’t a credible source for news or much of anything else. (I’m not linking to it, but you can Google it if you want.) Fortunately, the bill itself is available online. The article is fairly accurate in describing it, but doesn’t talk about the fact that ridiculous bills are introduced all the time in New York and all the other stays.

In the massively unlikely chance the bill becomes law, it allows the governor or a designee (including local health departments) to order the “removal or detention” of a person or group of people who carry or are suspected of carrying a disease that causes a significant risk of death to others. Detention can be at a medical facility or other facility designated by the governor or his designee, as long as regular medical care is provided and the facility meets isolation and infection prevention protocols.

There are a number of other conditions in the bill, including one calling for the release of anyone who turns out not to be infected with said grievous disease. While this bill is relevant because of the Covid, previous versions have been introduced in 2015, 2017, and 2019.

N Nick Perry believes in detention camps if you catch the Covid. No one else agrees. If it gets me out of work for a couple weeks, I’ll go.

As alarming as this legislation (introduced by N. Nick Perry [D-Brooklyn]), it’s not going to become law. Although it’s been assigned to the Health committee, it’s died there the last three times it was introduced.

It lacks any co-sponsors and there’s no Senate version. In short, it’s a piece of paper that won’t see any more actions than the last three times it was introduced.

So as much as your OAN-loving uncle wants you to believe we’re half a step away from Democrat-run Covid camps presided over by Emporer Andrew the Cuomo, we aren’t.

But Drudge is still treating this as if it were news, linking to a disreputable source that tells an income story about something that’s not currently a threat to anyone, except the staffer who had to get this ridiculous piece of unconstitutional tripe introduced.

Everyone who dies of Covid got it from someone

Imagine a movie where a bad guy has picked 100 people that our protagonist knows and says, “You have to kill one by midnight, or <unspeakable bad thing> will happen. For the next two hours, we’ll all sit in suspense as the hero does impossible things to make sure everyone lives.

We’ll put ourselves in that guy’s shoes and be one with him (or let’s say her) as she grapples with evil to make sure justice wins out.

That’s us: stopping evil and death with the swift, sure arrow of justice

And then, at the end, when the bad guy gets his justice, we’d cheer that truth, justice, and the American way have won out.

For some, it’s a popular talking point that the Covid is 99% non-lethal. That means if you get it and you infect 100 people, 1 person will die from it. Of course, you probably won’t know if your case was the actual one that caused that one person to perish. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t.

This was the scene in Ybor City, an entertainment district near Tampa, on New Year’s Eve.

The new Covid strain isn’t expected to be any more severe than the current strain, but it is up to 70 percent more transmissible. That means if you get the new strain, you’re more likely to infect more people. And if you had it before you had symptoms, it’s possible you exposed 100 people or more to it.

That means, if you go back to the movie scenario, you aren’t Jennifer Lawrence or Keanu Reeves fighting for justice. You’re the guy who set in motion a series of events that will cause one person to die. In this case, the villain isn’t charming international bandit Hans Gruber. It might be the woman in the thong doing a split on 7th Avenue. Or you. Or, for that matter, me.

Or maybe this is us, but without the John Phillips suit, imposing personality, and benefits of a classical education.

Back in March, when all of this was new, I wrote a post that included this question:

If the worst happens, do I want to spend the rest of my life wondering if I was the one who caused it?

I don’t want to be that guy. I wouldn’t want to wish that kind of thought process on anyone. But the fact remains–every single person who caught and died from Covid got it from someone.

I’ve been wrong about Coronavirus (not completely). I’m sorry.

About a week ago, I went to Lowe’s and saw a lot of people walking around without masks. I got in the car after I finished, furious.

That was the beginning of my change of thought. Not about wearing masks and doing so correctly. You’re unlikely to convince me that’s wrong. I will do so when I’m around other people going forward. I’m not doing it forever, but I don’t have an end date in mind.

I was wrong in appointing myself the mask police. I never wound up being an active asshole about it. The closest I came was telling a guy in Publix that I hoped he wasn’t infected as he walked through naked from the neck up.

My assholishness–and I am a recovering asshole–was more covert. I became Judgey McJudgerson, swiftly dispensing swift and righteous judgement of the mind on anyone who didn’t measure up to my mighty standards.

No mask? Guilty. Mask below the nose? Guilty and annoyingly passive aggressive. Gathering in groups? How dare you do something I want to do but can’t.

Worst of all, I wore my judgement as a badge of Deep Concern, which immediately trumps any silly problems you might have with my infallibly science-based view of the world.

It’s possible that my attitude has damaged relationships; time will tell on that. I hope not, but my actions, like all others, have consequences.

It’s also very likely that I’m not alone in my inflexibility. It seems to be a time for that. Wear the mask or you suck. Or Forego the mask or you’re cowering in fear. My superior worldview has spoken, dammit.

I’m right and you know it.

I wasn’t as melodramatic as the Trader Joe’s lady, but I was just as unyielding. I was flexible and brittle and the very opposite of the type of person I want to be.

Kind of like me, except for the outward display of melodrama, the hair, and the bra.

In my opinion, if you don’t mask up and socially distance, there’s an increasingly rising chance that you’ll regret that decision. You might get infected. Your loved ones might. And the range of symptoms is stupifying. If you made something like this virus up for a book or a movie, it would’ve been dismissed as contrived.

But nobody’s perfect. I don’t see the world the way you do. And if I judge you for things if or when things go south, I need to first judge myself for the phalanx of horrible decisions I’ve made in life that I was lucky enough not to pay for.

And, in spite of my protective measures–the staying in, the masking up, the social distancing–I could wind up catching this stupid thing anyway. And considering the fact that I live with someone, I could transfer it.

So I’m sorry. Not for advocating for masks, not for asking you to considering wearing them, not for stories aimed at changing your view. I’m sorry for being a judgey schmuck about it, and violating the most repeated graphic on this august website.

If you ask people to wear a mask, it should come from a place of caring, from the realization that we’re all connected, especially in this. Haughty pronouncements of mask purity will only drive more people away from that.

So please follow the guidance. But if you don’t and things go sideways, we’ll deal with that if and when the time comes. And I won’t be a schmuck about it.

Covid is a completely different experience when it happens really close to you

“So many people are dying from this and it’s a totally horrible thing, but when it happens really close to you it’s a completely different experience.”

That’s a quote from a former student of Clearwater (FL) High School music teacher Rosemary Caldwell Collins, who died from the Covid early this week. According to her family, she was fine Sunday. She died Tuesday.

In Douglas County Oregon, one person went to work sick. Later, he tested positive for the Covid. Within two weeks, seven people died and three hundred others were placed in quarantine. The article that described this didn’t indicate whether that person survived.

Until November, I didn’t know anyone who tested positive. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, that number increased substantially. Now I’m personally connected to someone who died from it.

There’s been a lot written about living in fear–and how we shouldn’t do it. But actions have consequences. Rosemary Collins caught the Covid from someone. Seven deaths have been traced back to a single person in Oregon. And those three hundred quarantined–who knows how that’ll work out?

And if you infect someone and they infect two friends and they infect two friends and so on and so on, you have the shampoo commercial from hell. It’s like multi-level marketing where you have a piece of the action for the entire tree you create.

I shared the Covid with two friends and they shared with two friends and so on and so on and so on.

It’s a different experience if it happens to you.

Even now, the odds of my catching and transferring the Covid are small. I live in a suburban-rural area north of Tampa. But the odds of my encountering someone with the disease are increasing. While the Thanksgiving bump is starting to recede in a few places, most numbers are still higher than they’ve been. And even here, it’s been cold, which means people have been inside together.

So as New Year’s approaches, don’t be afraid, but while you assume your risk is minimal, consider the impact of what might happen if you let down.

Like the woman said, when it happens really close to you, it’s a completely different experience.

Merry Christmas. And if you’re alone or depressed because of Covid adjustments today, THANK YOU!

Our daughter is in Los Angeles today. If it weren’t for the Covid, she’d probably be here. Our son just moved out to get his own place. As such, he’s not part of our bubble any more. So when he comes over, he’s gonna be outside. It kinda sucks.

Because a front was set to come through at dinner time and we’re doing everything outside this year, so we can maintain social distancing, we moved everything back a day. Today is Christmas Eve for us. Tomorrow will be Christmas Day.

Maybe your Christmas isn’t what it should be. Maybe you didn’t get the chance to get together the way you always do. Maybe you missed church or that gathering of friends that started when you got out of high school, but everyone was around at the holidays.

Maybe it’s outside. Maybe you’re missing people. Maybe you’re alone this Christmas. All because of the damn Covid.

You aren’t living in fear, cowering in case you get the sniffles. You’re doing a great and noble thing. And though you may feel alone and reduced this year, please know, your decision is appreciated.

She died while the potato chip guy walked around Publix with his mask in his hand

She died from Covid while the potato chip guy walked around Publix with his mask in his hand.

She is my wife’s friend’s sister. Just two three days before Christmas. According to a post on my wife’s friend’s Facebook page, her sister was fine on Friday. Five days later, she’s gone and what was shaping up to be a diminished Christmas just a few days ago is now shattered.

Her family probably found out about the death from a phone call, not because they were there at this woman’s side as she passed. As she got worse, they were probably home, apart, beside themselves with emotions that you can’t contain, let alone describe. The process of saying good-bye will be diminished–a drive-by or perhaps a Zoom funeral ceremony. And around that, they’ll likely be a shadow of a holiday somewhere because what else can you do?

There’s a new strain of Covid in the UK. Odds are pretty good it’s worked it way to the US. If it hasn’t, it’s inevitable that it will. It’s believed to be 70 percent more contagious than the current strain. While vaccine makers are confident the vaccine will still work, they still have to test to make sure. BioNTech, Pfizer’s partner in the first vaccine released, has said this new strain could increase the threshold for herd immunity, currently set a 60-70%. It’s unlikely 70% of Americans will take the vaccine.

Since Saturday, I’ve been to a Publix five times–four of those times, there were people walking around the store with no masks on. One guy wore his mask properly until he entered the store, when he pulled it down around his chin. The potato chip guy was at the Publix at Gunn Highway and Florida State Route 54. I stopped at the McDonald’s at 54 and the Suncoast Parkway and five of the people behind the counter were wearing their mask so it didn’t cover their nose. (I’ve generally stayed in a lot more but did some running around the past few days for Christmas. Shame on me a little, too.)

The guy in the tweet below apparently said he’d “drop” the lady working in a Barnes and Noble because she said he had to wear a mask. You can watch the rest.

This guy laid down on the floor after being asked to wear a mask in a store.

This guy, who happens to be Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, was inside at a holiday party, jumping around, dancing and singing, all without a mask on.

Meanwhile, as these patriotic Americans exercise their precious freedoms–or whatever the hell it is they’re doing–my wife’s friend’s family joins the hundreds of thousands of families mourning at least one Covid death. Given the people insisting on traveling and gathering, that number probably won’t level off for several weeks. And because so many people will pass on the vaccine, the road to normal will potentially be longer and rockier than it needs to be.

Matt Gaetz, mocking the need to wear a mask in public (or presumably, in Publix).

At this point, more people will die of this no matter what. We have the ability to reduce or increase that number. We have the ability to reduce or increase the number of people infected, the number of businesses devastated, the amount of time before things go back to normal.

This family’s grief is real. It’s not part of a conspiracy to steal your rights or kick the President out of office. It’s not fake news, a ploy to get you to sacrifice your rights and your money to the socialist horde. It’s not them trying to control your life from their little hidey hole of fear and cowardice.

It’s an open sore on their soul, a page that can never be unturned.

While the potato chip guy walked around Publix with his mask in his hand.

Giving vaccine priority to minorities isn’t preferential treatment; it’s helping the people who need it most.

The headline on Drudge seemed like it should induce anger: Race-based vax rollout, Blacks, Hispanics prioritized over whites. It led to a Daily Mail article that said states are being advised to consider ethnic minorities as critical groups for vaccination, and that half of the states are prioritizing Black and Hispanics over whites.

The CDC is even using a Social Vulnerability Index based on 15 census variables to identify communities that need support. Gasp!

Buried further down in the article, under the incendiary headlines, comes the statement that in the US, Blacks and Hispanics are three time more likely to die from the Covid than whites. A recent AP poll showed that while 53% of whites surveyed said they’ll get the vaccine, only 24% of Blacks and 34% of Hispanics said they would. Among Blacks, 40% said they wouldn’t get the vaccine. In general, immunity is required in about 70% of the population to achieve herd immunity.

Source: CDC

While they’re less likely than whites to take the vaccine, they’re also more likely to have poor access to health care and to work in jobs that can’t be done from home. A recent study from the Economic Policy Institute divided jobs into three categories: those that went away, resulting in financial insecurity; essential jobs, resulting in healthcare insecurity; and those that can be done at home (like mine), resulting in neither. Their study concentrated on blacks, saying they were far more likely to be included in the first two groups than the third. And while blacks make up 11.9% of all workers, they make up 17% of front-line workers, including 26% of public transit workers.

Blacks make up 12.5% of the US population, but 22.4% of Covid deaths are among blacks. Latinos account for 18.5% of US population, but 19.1% of Covid deaths. Blacks (11.5%) and Hispanics (19.0%) are also more likely than whites (7.5%) to lack healthcare insurance.

Put another way, in general Blacks and Hispanics have been affected by the pandemic in ways whites have not been.

Given these facts, it’s not a matter of racial preference in vaccine distribution, it’s a matter of taking care of the people affected most by the pandemic, which falls in line with the national strategy of starting with healthcare workers and residents of assisted living facilities.

This isn’t an academic exercise for me. If the vaccine is distributed this way, then I move to the end of the line, not because of my skin color, but because I’m not at risk of anything except a Montana-sized case of cabin-fever. (Montana. That sounds nice.)

I’m okay with that. I’m not thrilled with that, but vaccine distribution should be done based on risk profile. I’m just not at risk.

If we’re truly all in this together, then we need to make sure the people who need the vaccine most get it first. That means some of us aren’t going to get it until spring or possibly later. And that’s how it goes.

In a pandemic, you have to make the least awful choices. And prioritizing those more likely to die at the expense of those less likely to die is one of those choices. It’s not fair, but the pandemic hasn’t been either.