Day 1158 – Trump Refuses to Use the DPA

If you’re one of the few people who stayed away from news over the weekend, a lot happened, most of it centered around the devastating coronavirus pandemic.

New York City is now the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, with over 10,000 cases, while New York State has 15,000.  New York City hospitals are filling to capacity and officials are quickly preparing overflow locations, including the Javits Center in Manhattan.  ICU beds are the main concern as critical cases begin to outnumber the beds and ventilators on hand.  Governors and mayors from several states pleaded with Trump this weekend to use the already-authorized Defense Protection Act to conscript large corporations into making crucial medical equipment and ventilators but Trump has thus far refused.  And the USA is STILL short on tests, looking more and more like we are on the trajectory of Italy rather than South Korea. California is testing at a rate of 300 per million residents, while tiny South Korea is twenty times ahead.

Dutchess County recorded its first coronavirus death this weekend, and testing facilities are being set up at the Dutchess Stadium in Poughkeepsie (appointment needed) as well as drive thru sites in Fishkill and Kingston (doctor note needed).  

Trump continues to speak daily to the media in long, rambling monologues that offer little new, useful or truthful information and instead seem to serve as opportunities for him to defend his prior decisions and boast about fictional accomplishments.  It’s such a circus that Rachel Maddow on Friday called on the media to stop broadcasting the pressers live and instead only show edited versions that contain anything accurate or useful.  But so far, no network has taken her advice.

It was also announced over the weekend that Republican Senator Rand Paul had tested positive for Covid-19.  After the test was administered, Paul opted to continue his normal routine rather than self-isolate, going to a luncheon and working out in the Senate gym before receiving his positive result–which was a wildly reckless and selfish path to take.  God only knows how many others Paul infected.  Last year, after a fight with a neighbor, Paul had surgery to remove part of a lung so he is at increased risk of complications from the coronavirus.  Also testing positive was disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, now in prison.

Senate Majority Leader McConnell spent yesterday cobbling together a coronavirus stimulus bill that would give the Trump administration carte blanche to disperse billions in aid to large corporations, which was obviously a non-starter for Democrats.  And because Rand Paul and a few other Republicans were in isolation, McConnell didn’t have enough votes to pass the bill.  Democrats asserted that taxpayer money should first be used to bail out people, not corporations.  As NY Times columnist Paul Krugman tweeted:

“One cardinal rule for policy is NOT to give a deeply corrupt administration discretionary power to reward friends and punish enemies. Sure enough, the Senate bill tries to enable vast corruption with nothing for workers, of course. R’s will say–after  months of delaying response–that we must act NOW NOW NOW. But aid to health care urgent; aid to laid-off workers urgent; aid to corporations can wait a bit for a decent bill.”

It would be profoundly irresponsible to give the corrupt Trump regime, notably Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, the power to grant aid and loans to anyone they wanted, including Trump properties, without oversight or accountability. McConnell really wanted to pass something before close of business last night, but could not, and tried to pin the failure on Democrats rather than on the craven corporatist agenda of the GOP, but social media wasn’t buying it.  Like so many other Republicans, McConnell was worried about the plunging stock market rather than our devastated fellow Americans.

Please call Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand and let them know we want the federal government to bail out people first, not corporations.  And we want Trump to use the DPA to conscript corporations to make urgent medical equipment.  Also feel free to let them know that you will never forgive nor forget Trump and his cabinet for lying and fiddling while New York City hospitals were overwhelmed.  The only “hoax” in this scenario is Trump’s competence.

Senator Schumer: (202) 224-6542

Senator Gillibrand: (202) 224-4451

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

 

Day 1155 – Incompetent And Impotent

As expected, the number of coronavirus cases continued to skyrocket yesterday.  In New York City the number more than doubled from 1,871 Wednesday to 3,954 Thursday, partly because more tests were becoming available, though still not nearly enough.  The Washington Post reported there were 14,000 cases in the USA as of last night.  Hospitals in New York City say they have two to three weeks of supplies on hand and are desperately trying to source more so they don’t run out.  Doctors in Boston are literally running out of protective gear and asking citizens if they have 3-D printers that might help them.  The White House continued to lie during their daily Covid-19 presser Thursday, saying that masks were coming, that gear was on the way, that tests were finally available.  But they clearly were not, at least on any meaningful scale.  Imagine a week from now when the case load has tripled.  Disaster.  All because of the incompetent and impotent Trump regime.  Trump’s job and the job of his HHS is to direct medical resources in a time of medical crisis, yet Trump flippantly said, “We are not shipping clerks.”  Trump’s refusal to acknowledge or respond to the crisis when it first emerged and his inability to manage a competent federal response now could amount to the most consequential failure in presidential history.

Meanwhile California issued a state-wide order for all citizens to stay at home except for essential tasks and emergencies.  California Governor Newsom wrote in a note to the White House that his experts predict as many as 56% of Californians, equaling 25.5 million people, could contract the virus.  (It’s not clear if that prediction took into account social distancing.)  If the worst case happened, at least 250,000 people would die, roughly 5 million would need hospitalization and 1.3 million would need ICU care.  These are staggering numbers that would crush the hospital system and perhaps dramatically increase the mortality rate above the observed rate in other nations of 1-3%.  Governor Cuomo has not yet instituted a formal stay-at-home policy, but many of our citizens are socially distancing in the same way, so we can only hope it bends the outbreak curve to produce a better outcome than the prediction in California.

The House coronavirus bill passed by the Senate on Wednesday was signed into law yesterday, offering paid sick leave, layoff benefits, and free testing.  The Senate yesterday released a follow-on coronavirus stimulus bill that aimed to send $1,200 directly to every American with income less than 75k last year, and also provided payments to small businesses, loans to devastated industries, and financial support for the healthcare industry.  Here’s a great summary of their bill from the Washington Post:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/19/trump-coronavirus-economic-plan-stimulus/

The most galling news to break yesterday was a report that North Carolina Senator Richard Burr and Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler sold stocks in the days and weeks after a closed briefing on the coronavirus pandemic on January 24th.  Burr’s sales included large positions in Wyndham Hotels and Extended Stay Resorts.  Burr then told a private meeting of wealthy constituents that the virus could be as contagious as the Spanish Flu and could crush business travel.  Senator Loeffler is one of the wealthiest members of the Senate, married to the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, and their stock sales started the day of the briefing, though she insisted to the media that she has no control over her portfolio.  So it was just a lucky coincidence, right?  Both Senators continued to insist to the public that the coronavirus was being handled by the Trump team and was nothing to worry about.  Leoffler tweeted this on Feb 28th, long after selling millions in stocks:

“Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on the #coronavirus readiness. Here’s the truth: @realDonaldTrump & his administration are doing a great job working to keep Americans healthy & safe.”

It takes some gall to suddenly sell a bunch of stocks to avoid a pending market wipeout and then accuse others of hyping a crisis and misleading the public.  Both of these Senators should resign (and there were probably others who did the same thing), but they won’t because they are morally bankrupt and belong to a party that has become a soulless shell of its former self.  It’s not clear if their actions were illegal, but it is very clear that their actions were unethical and a betrayal of our citizens.  Public servants who put their own private interests before the health and safety of their constituents are despicable and undeserving of public office.  But this is who the feckless Republican party has become under a corrupt, lying president.  Favors for the wealthy insiders and the privileged, crumbs for everyone else.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his (corrupt) ass out of office.”

Have a safe weekend.

Day 1154 – Preventable Shortage

The coronavirus rages on.  The number of new cases in New York City exploded from 814 on Tuesday to 1,871 on Wednesday.  Senior citizens have been the most at risk but younger people make up a surprisingly large number of cases, so young people should not ignore or dismiss the potentially severe consequences of infection.  Also, two members of congress yesterday announced they had tested positive for Covid-19.  European virus epicenter Italy experienced a record 475 deaths yesterday.  Experts suggest we could be two weeks behind Italy, especially if we don’t adhere to strict social distancing.  The most critical issue facing America now is medical equipment.  We know we will likely have thousands of critically ill people in America within two weeks, and particularly in New York, yet our hospitals are already running out of masks and protective gear.  Some hospitals are sending people to hardware and hobby stores to try to cobble together make-shift protective equipment in the absence of new supplies.  The shortage is an outrage, and it’s due in part to the late response by our federal government to this crisis.  We should have mobilized these resources a month ago, but Trump was too busy trying to look good and “own the libs” by dismissing the risks and calling the virus a hoax.  

Meanwhile, the financial markets continue to go down.  The DJIA dropped another 6.3% yesterday as investors tried to grasp the longer-term consequences of an economic shutdown.  The market is now at a lower level than when Trump took office, three years of gains erased.  The Senate passed the House’s initial coronavirus aid package, sending it to Trump for a signature.  Another package is already being discussed in Congress.  Meanwhile, the European Central Bank announced a 850-billion Euro support package, which was welcome news.  This pandemic is clearly going to be extremely painful for the many Americans who live paycheck to paycheck, as well as small business owners whose income will suddenly stop.  We need to keep pressure on our leaders to find ways to support our financially devastated neighbors.

On the political front it was rumored yesterday that Bernie Sanders was considering ending his bid for the presidency, but his spokespeople denied the rumor.  Reporters noticed, however, that the “donate” button had been removed from his campaign website, which suggested to them that he was just waiting for the right moment to bow out.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Stay safe.

Day 1153 – Massive Stimulus Needed

The number of Covid-19 cases continued to rise in New York City and State yesterday, a daily confirmation that we are about 10 days behind Italy in the number of cases we can expect.  In response, NYC Mayor de Blasio hinted yesterday that he may require stronger “shelter in place” restrictions for New York City to keep people from gathering, asking all but essential workers to stay at home except for food buying and solitary exercise.  San Francisco just instituted a similar policy.

Trump yesterday admitted for the first time that we were in the midst of a crisis that will require huge government support, and his Treasury czar Mnuchin admitted that the unemployment rate could rise as high as 20% before the crisis begins to ebb if the government doesn’t act quickly and decisively.  The Trump regime was suggesting an $850 billion initial stimulus including direct payments to citizens, but additional rounds of stimulus would almost certainly be needed.  The stock market rallied on the news, but was trending down again in overnight markets.

Trump continues to deny that he knew anything about the dissolution of the White House pandemic team in 2018, but a video surfaced yesterday of Trump at a press briefing in 2018 explaining that he was getting rid of the pandemic unit because they sat around and cost money while doing nothing, and if something happened, he knew who they were and could call them.  It was a grotesquely irresponsible blunder.  There was also reporting yesterday that Trump’s slow response was, in part, due to advise he got from Jared Kushner, who believed that the coronavirus threat was being unfairly hyped by the “liberal” media.

Meanwhile, we are still waiting for the delivery and proliferation of test kits, and supplies like masks and gloves are in short supply on the medical front lines.  We need a WWII-style initiative to ramp up production of essentials and we can only hope that the right people in the right places are mobilizing.

Yesterday was also a primary day in three states, and Joe Biden was again the big winner.  Biden won all three–Illinois, Arizona, Florida–emerging with a strong delegate count advantage over Bernie Sanders.  TV pundits last night suggested that the rest of the primary process will likely be a formality and Biden will be the nominee, his dual challenge now to court Sanders voters while attacking Trump.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his [incompetent] ass out of office.”

 

 

Day 1152 – Shutting America Down

The stock market had its biggest single day point drop and second worst percentage drop (Black Monday is still #1) yesterday.  Much of the drop came as investors began to realize how badly our economy is going to get hammered by the coronavirus outbreak, and some of the drop occurred when Trump started speaking at a press conference.  His words instantly sent the market down, and the selling picked up speed when he mentioned that the outbreak may not be over until July or August.

It’s a horrible thing to consider.  A veritable shutdown of society for four or five months.  Just yesterday the governors of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut required all gyms, casinos, bars, nightclubs, theaters, cinemas, and restaurants to close, while bars and restaurants can continue to sell food for takeout and delivery.  Grocery stores and pharmacies can remain open.  And San Francisco called for all residents to “shelter in place” for three weeks, a similar but slightly more restrictive regime.  These local shutdowns are the only way to slow the spread of the virus and allow the healthcare system to catch up and treat those affected while determining who is a carrier.  Some are calling for Trump to implement a similar nation-wide shutdown, as Italy has done, but so far he as balked. Meanwhile, we are still way behind when it comes to testing but a massive effort to create more tests seems about to come to fruition, will millions of tests apparently about to be delivered and many more on the way.

Another casualty of the coronavirus was today’s Democratic primary.  Several states postponed the scheduled vote including the state of Ohio, whose reps said they didn’t want their citizens to have to choose between democracy and personal health.  We have to be vigilant and make sure these primaries happen at first opportunity.  We don’t want them to fall victim to bad-faith Republican dirty tricks or political maneuvers.

Our area was one of the first to be affected, and it will take some time for our state to get a handle on the outbreak, but we should also be among the first states to recover, especially now that Governor Cuomo has taken bold steps to shut things down despite inaction and confusion in Washington.  Congress has been considering a monthly cash payment to all citizens for the duration of the shutdown to defray lost income, but there is still going to be a lot of pain and hardship in our area.  This would be a great time to email or text your neighbors and ask if anyone needs help or just needs somebody to vent to.

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

 

Day 1151 – Reduce Your Contact

Americans are finally waking up to the true scope of the coronavirus outbreak after a weekend of sobering news. Cases continue to rise and states are now taking actions that seem drastic yet entirely appropriate if we are going to keep the outbreak from spreading unchecked.  New York City is closing all of its schools for at least a month and all bars and eat-in restaurants will close on Tuesday, serving take-out and delivery only.  Theaters, nightclubs and cinemas will also be closed.  And these measures make sense.  The only tool we have to keep the spread from skyrocketing is “social distancing” or “physical distancing,” meaning keeping ourselves isolated from other people as much as possible to limit the possibility of contagion.  It’s like a very painful cultural reboot.

By slowing the spread of the virus, we buy time.  Time for hospitals to ramp up their supplies and find extra capacity.  Time for testing to become widespread and robust.  Time for anti-viral treatments to be developed.  And we keep the hospital system from becoming overwhelmed.  Consider the case of Ireland, whose population is 4.8 million.  If a quarter of their citizens get the virus, which is what many experts say could happen, that’s 1.2 million cases.  Of those, 20% would need hospitalization, or 240,000.  And of those, a quarter (or 5% of 1.2 million) would need care in an ICU, or roughly 60,000 Irish citizens.  Yet Ireland has less than 300 ICU beds.  So over 59,000 could potentially die if the virus went unchecked there.

In the United States, our system is a bit deeper.  We have as many as 64,000 general ICU beds and another 50,000 specialized ICU beds.  But if a quarter of our population became infected with Covid-19, that would be 83-million people.  And 20% would need hospitalization, which is 16.6-million.  And a quarter of those cases would need an ICU, which is 4.1-million.  That’s 36 patients for every ICU bed–not taking into account the other emergencies that happen in daily life.  So if the virus spreads rapidly without any societal counter-measures, a worst-case scenario could have millions of Americans dying in a relatively short period of time.  It all goes back to the exponential growth of unchecked viral outbreak.  A week ago, when the number of known cases in the United States was 1,000, we posted this graphic:

CoronaSpread1

As of last night, we were at 3,847 known cases.  So thanks to increased testing we find that we are now at least at day 12 of that chart–but experts say we could be at day 36 or 42 because testing is far less than it should be and there are still more cases undetected than detected.  And that’s why social distancing is so important to do NOW.  Here’s a great graphic on the effects of social distancing from @evokerr on Twitter:

Image

Social distancing is manageable for some, but extremely difficult and painful–if not disastrous–for others.  Small business owners and food service proprietors who depend on retail foot traffic are going to lose a lot of money.  Hourly employees who can’t go to work are going to have no income.  Giant industries like travel and tourism are going to suffer.  And people in essential jobs like health care, pharmacy, waste disposal, grocery, trucking & supply chain will have to protect themselves on the job.  We’ll need to reach out to our neighbors and find ways to pitch in and help those around us in the safest way possible.  Remember: the more social distancing we do NOW the faster the crisis will pass and the fewer of our friends and neighbors will get sick. Always be asking, “how can I do this with the least amount of human contact.”  And wash your hands, thoroughly and often.  

We’ll also need to urge our elected reps to pass laws helping those most in need.  As usual, we can expect push-back from Republicans on any bill designed to help the most vulnerable of our citizens.  The stimulus bill recently negotiated between Speaker Pelosi and the Trump regime exempted large employers from paid sick leave and let employers with less than 50 employees seek an exemption because heartless Republicans insisted and the Democrats decided something was better than nothing in a time of crisis.  We have to do better.

As we confront the coronavirus together, let’s keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.’

 

Day 1148 – Where Are The Tests??

In line with yesterday’s blog prediction, Governor Cuomo announced a New York State ban on social gatherings of more than 500 people to slow the spread of Covid-19, and Mayor de Blasio declared a state of emergency in New York City.  Around the same time, the NHL and MLS suspended their sports seasons, and major cultural institutions in New York City, including all Broadway theaters, the Met Museum, the Met Opera and Carnegie Hall, suspended their operations for at least two weeks, and probably longer.  Ohio Health Department Director Amy Acton said evidence of community spread indicates that 1% of Ohioans currently carry the coronavirus despite only 5 having tested positive so far. So approximately 117,000 people are infected if she’s right!  Regardless of the precise number, officials are facing the reality that the outbreak is likely far worse in every state than we thought.

There are also coronavirus cases in our district and many school systems have been closed as of today so be sure to check on the status of schools, government offices, workplaces, etc. before you leave home.  

The stock market yesterday had its worst one-day selloff in history, dropping 10% on fears that the Trump administration had bungled the Covid-19 response and in anticipation of major financial disruptions as large parts of our economy–travel, tourism, entertainment, sports, culture–shut down.  The markets are now down roughly 25% from their peak only weeks ago, and the 8 largest one-day drops in market history have all occurred during Trump’s reign. Trump’s shockingly inadequate Oval Office address the previous night seemed to be the catalyst for yesterday’s market blowout as social media continued to hammer home how few virus tests we’ve administered compared with the rest of the world. When will virus tests be widely available? Why weren’t tests in the pipeline much sooner?  Other countries have drive-thru testing centers by now, why don’t we?  The answers are still not forthcoming.  A public health expert called the Trump response “an unmitigated disaster,” noting that “we have had a much worse response than Iran, than Italy, than China and South Korea.”

In the midst of the market selloff, candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders gave televised speeches on how our nation should be responding to the pandemic.  Biden, the front-runner, was instantly praised on social media and cable news for being calm, clear and authoritative, displaying a presidential tone that has been sorely missing for three-plus years in the White House.  If nothing else, the coronavirus crisis seems to be a clarifying political moment.  The contrast between incompetent Trump and level-headed Democratic challengers couldn’t be any clearer.  Susan Glasser in the New Yorker wrote an article titled “A President Unequal To The Moment” discussing this point:

Crises clarify. The bigger the crisis, the more the clarity, which is why the incompetence, dishonesty, and sheer callousness of the Trump Presidency have been clearer in recent days than ever before. As the coronavirus, as of Wednesday an official pandemic, spreads, the lives of Americans depend on the decisions made—or not made, as the case may be—by a President uniquely ill-suited to command in this type of public-health catastrophe. In that sense, the last few weeks may well have been the most clarifying of Donald Trump’s Presidency.

Full article here:

https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/a-president-unequal-to-the-moment

If any of you still doubt the seriousness of this epidemic, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State–hardest hit by the virus thus far–put it this way:  for ignoring the warnings and refusing to comply with social distancing, “The penalty is you might be killing your granddad.” Covid-19 is at least ten times more deadly than the flu, and it hits older citizens the hardest.  Here’s a graph of the death rates in South Korea by age:

flu vs south korea covid death rates

This outbreak will get worse before it gets better, but what we do TODAY will determine how bad it gets.  What we do TODAY will determine if our hospitals get overwhelmed and force our doctors to choose who gets a life-saving respirator and who doesn’t.  Don’t let the Fox Propaganda network or Russian bots fool you.  This isn’t a hoax, it’s deadly serious, especially for older Americans.  So wash your hands, often, and stay away from public gatherings whenever possible.  Work from home if you can.  

Keep resisting Trump and keep working to “vote his ass out of office.”

Have a safe and restful weekend.