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Monday, April 6, 2020

Recognizing reality would help

When confronting the coronavirus, tough isn't enough
Susanna Lee, Georgetown University

Deadspin on Twitter: "Donald Trump acts like a tough guy, but he's ...When Donald Trump was running for president, he cultivated a tough-guy persona: tough on immigration, tough on crime and tough on America’s adversaries.

He never admitted having made a single mistake, nor did he ever apologize. Question him and face his wrath.

As COVID-19 cases multiply daily in the U.S., Trump’s approach has remained largely unchanged.

He demanded that state governors show him personal appreciation before requesting masks and ventilators. 

When a reporter asked what he would say to Americans who were scared by the virus, Trump retorted that the question was “nasty” and that the journalist was “terrible.” And when asked if there would be enough ventilators for patients who needed them, he simply sneered, “Don’t be a cutie pie.”

Many Americans may have become accustomed to – or have even reveled in – Trump’s penchant for cruel digs, bellicose rhetoric and self-absorption. His supporters see him as someone who’s in their corner, excoriating political opponents and fighting on their behalf.

But a virus is a different sort of enemy. It doesn’t discriminate between who’s tough and who isn’t. You can’t threaten it, humiliate it or dispatch it with a drone strike.

And if history is any guide, Americans will want more than one-note tough guys to lead them through the pandemic. We saw this play out during the Great Depression, when a certain sort of cultural archetype fell out of favor – and a different one emerged.

Ike understood

Image may contain: 1 person, possible text that says '"Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well." CCHC ~Dwight Eisenhower~ IMPEACH TRUMP'

RI Community Food Bank needs your help

COVID-19 Update - Food Bank Responds to Increased Demand
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Rhode Island Community Food Bank has anticipated seeing an increased demand at food pantries and meal sites throughout the state.

We’re Distributing More Food
Last week, we distributed 350,000 pounds of food – that’s 100,000 pounds more
than our normal weekly total. For the month of March, we dispersed 39% more food than we had at this same time last year. Our drivers have been delivering more frequently and added Saturdays to their routes. (Click on the graphic above to expand it.)

We’re also transporting food to sites outside of our existing network of 168 member agencies. Working with FEMA and the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency, the Food Bank has been dropping off truckloads of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs) to cities and towns in need of additional food assistance. Together, we’re able to reach people who maybe not have a nearby food pantry or, like many seniors affected by this crisis, are unable to leave their homes.

We’re Hearing from More People in Need
On our website and via phone and email, we are receiving increased requests
from people asking where they can find food so we expect the number of new visitors to pantries will continue to grow. Many of these contacts are from people who recently became unemployed and have never before sought food assistance. They often express fear and concern as we and our member agencies work with them to access food in their community.

We Miss Our Volunteers
We’re managing this additional work without our normal corps of volunteers who sort and pack food. We sincerely miss their support. Staff members have been stepping up to fill in the gap and we couldn’t be more thankful for their dedication and commitment. We look forward to having our volunteers back when this crisis is over.

We Are Essential
The Food Bank and its pantries have been declared essential services by the Governor so we will remain operational even while nonessential businesses close. And we rely on you now more than ever to continue this critical work.
Food Bank Member Agencies in the News
Our network of food pantries and meal sites have been adapting to respond to the need in their communities while keeping staff, volunteers and guests safe. Here are several examples that have been highlighted recently in the local media. Click on the agency name to read their story.
Northern RI Food Pantry in Cumberland
Dr. Martin Luther King Center in Newport
Progreso Latino in Central Falls
Jonnycake Center of Westerly
East Greenwich Interfaith Food Cupboard
WARM Center in Westerly 
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Our mailing address is:
Rhode Island Community Food Bank
200 Niantic Ave
Providence, RI 02907-3150

Short Takes #9 on Rhode Island’s war with COVID-19

As the toll mounts, Rhode Island ramps up testing
By Will Collette

Rhode Island’s death toll continues to rise – at 27 as of today – as more frail elderly in nursing homes succumb. 

We’re close to 1,100 confirmed cases for the state – Charlestown’s number remains at less than 5.

But those numbers will rise dramatically as the state gets more drive-thru test sites up and running.

That’s a good thing because we need an honest and clear picture of how the pandemic has spread through Rhode Island so we can make more informed decisions.

The latest mass testing will take place in the Twin Rivers parking lot where CVS Minute Clinic staff will administer a new, faster test that can produce results in 5 minutes if you test positive and 15 minutes if you test clear. Remember: you need an APPOINTMENT to get tested, but the criteria has been loosened to open testing to any feeling ill.

CLICK HERE to pre-register on-line for the CVS site.

Call your doctor or the closest urgent care center to get set up for testing.

The state has also set up three field hospitals to prepare for the anticipated surge of patients needing hospitalization. They have the capacity for 1000+ sick people. 

Sites are: the Rhode Island Convention Center and two vacant buildings: a former Citizens Bank building on Sockanosset Cross Road in Cranston and a former Lowe’s at Quonset.

Money, money, money

There’s good news and bad news on the money front. The good news is that the RI Department of Labor and Training will start taking applications tomorrow (Tuesday) from workers who normally don’t qualify for benefits, such as the self-employed and gig workers.

CLICK HERE for DLT’s home page that leads with links to programs for workers seeking help due to COVID-19 job loss.

Chances are that signing up will not be quick and effortless, but this program – fought for by Congressional Democrats against strong Republican push-back – will provide needed relief to many workers often left out.

The bad news is obstructionist tactics by banks to the new “Paycheck Protection Program,” a part of the CARES Act that was supposed to give forgivable loans to businesses with fewer than 500 workers to prevent worker lay-offs. The program had its official launch last Friday.

Banks have been turning away business applicants for a variety of reasons, such as restricting loans to only those businesses with existing account or forcing applicants to buy other bank services in order to be considered.

State Treasurer Seth Magaziner wrote to all banks and credit unions in Rhode Island to tell them to knock it off.

“This is unacceptable,” Magaziner wrote.
“I am concerned that, during the roll out of the PPP program (Friday), many Rhode Island SBA lenders indicated that they would only process PPP applications for their pre-existing customers.
“At least one SBA lender indicated that it would only process PPP applications for pre-existing customers with other active credit products, effectively denying small businesses that have no debt access to this vital program and using the program as leverage to cross-sell other products.”
“Locally, institutions such as Citizens Bank held off participating, at least initially, while banks such as The Washington Trust Co. and Centreville Bank were processing applications.”
More closures of Rhode Island nature sites

For lack of other outdoor activities, people have flocked to the state’s many outdoor recreation sites. But the influx of visitors opened up new potential vectors for coronavirus infections.

The state and some towns (e.g. Narragansett) led the way by closing down parks and beaches. Others like Charlestown followed behind.

The RI Nature Conservancy has closed down all of its preserves, including several in Charlestown.

Now the US Fish and Wildlife service has closed one of its National Wildlife Refuges -  the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge in Middletown.

The ProJo reports that the “Audubon Society of Rhode Island has kept its lands open and the Rhode Island Land Trust Council also has not adopted an across-the-board closure.

Ninigret NWR here in Charlestown and Trustom Pond in South Kingstown remain open but the USFWS is monitoring the number of visitors and their behavior.

The Charlestown land Trust seems to be ignoring COVID-19. Their website touts the planned opening of their farmers’ market on June 26, a 10K run on June 13 and a “summer party” at the Nordic Lounge on July 23. Good luck with all that. Sure would be nice if this was all over by June, but I’m not betting on it.

Filippi grabs his share of the spotlight

sea cucumber GIF
This is a pearlfish, a bottom feeder. And this is what it does all day.
This is a great time to be Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi, Charlestown’s peripatetic rep who just loves  to get himself mentioned in news reports. 

As the only state Republican used by the media for any counter-point to Gov. Raimondo or the General Assembly leaders, he gets quoted on all manner of subjects.

For instance, because of the pandemic and its economic impact on Rhode Island and the state’s budget, he saysI don’t think anything is going to escape the hatchet.” He also says that he might even support raising taxes, though given his past history, I’ll believe that when I see it.

One major concern for Flip is the upcoming elections, starting with the process of getting on the ballot and then campaigning. In addition to his talent at drawing media attention, Flip is also known for his door-knocking skill where he can turn on his charm.

This starts in June when candidates have to officially declare and then to a short time frame in July to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Sez Flip: “I’m concerned about people being able to get on the ballot when you can’t really interact, you can’t go knock on doors and get signatures.”

“The bread and butter of politics is knocking on people’s door in this state, as it should be, and I just don’t know that we’re going to be able to be doing that,” Filippi says, so candidates will need to be “really smart and crafty with online messaging, mail messaging, to get their word out.”

Most of Westerly is not covered by Gov. Raimondo’s checkpoint for out of state visitors.

States Mandate Quarantines, Set Up Checkpoints to Limit Cross ...
David Collins of the New London Day reported that nearly all of Westerly is outside of the area where cars with out of state licenses are stopped and logged as part of RI’s coronavirus prevention measures.

Collins points out that the Route One checkpoint is north of Westerly Airport so most visitors staying in Westerly don’t need to pass it. The Route 95 checkpoint is at Exit 3 so visitors heading for Watch Hill or the beaches can just get off at Exits 1 and 2.

I’ve driven past the Route One checkpoint several times going to and from CVS. I saw very little activity except a couple of times where a trooper chased and stopped out of state drivers who blew past the checkpoint.

Collins said a soldier at one of the checkpoints told him most cars were just passing through Rhode Island and the early-arriving summer residents had already gotten here before the checkpoints went up
Electric Boat head tests positive

The Day, published out of New London and one of our best local newspapers, reports Kevin Graney, CEO of Electric Boat, has tested positive for COVID-19. Graney told the Day his symptoms have been mild but he is listening to medical advice and staying home.

He also told the Day EB’s Groton shipyard has six confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Local businesses pitch in to help

By Andy MarlettePensacola News Journal
Grey Sail Brewing recently opened a new distillery in Westerly. The March Grand Opening didn’t happen. However, Grey Sail decided that rather than produce vodka and bourbon, they would switch to making hand sanitizer.

Most of their production is being donated to institutions and groups that have to have a lot of direct contact with the public.

They are making a small part of their production available to the public for a suggested donation of $3 a bottle (hey, imagine how much they could get on EBay). Visit their website or call them at 401.212.7592 BEFORE visiting them at 63 Canal Street, Westerly.

My nephew says that his employer, a high-tech company in South Kingstown, is using its bank of 3-D printers to crank out PPEs.

I’m sure there are many other unheralded efforts by individuals and businesses to help each other make it through this crisis. It takes empathy, ingenuity and a degree of patriotism. If more of us do it, maybe it will rub off on the White House, though probably not.

ImageA piece of news you may have missed

Former Rhode Island Governor and US Senator Lincoln Chafee has announced an end to his nearly invisible campaign for President as a Libertarian (sorry, Flip – but here’s your chance to replace him).

Chafee’s statement repeatedly mentions COVID-19 but doesn’t exactly name that (or any other reason) for deciding to drop out of the race. He does say he made the decision “after a tremendous amount of thought.”

His mother died a couple of weeks ago at age 93. 

Chafee left Rhode Island a year ago and moved to Wyoming where he apparently has an anvil, some bolt-cutters, a hammer, a jack and a grinding wheel.

Pandemic coverage in Progressive Charlestown

To date, we’ve run close to 150 pieces tagged “pandemic” in Progressive Charlestown. They run the gamut from cartoons and videos to political commentary to solid, science-based articles on key aspects of the COVID-19 onslaught.

Here is a listing of serious, science-based articles we have published that address the health and scientific questions many of us want answered on COVID-19. Includes self-help posts. I’ve left off political commentary pieces and exposes on Trump’s scandalous mishandling of the crisis:

Should you keep taking your blood pressure meds or ibuprofen?

When they talk about “exponential growth,” what that means:

Local environmental and recycling programs suspended due to pandemic:

This is the first Progressive Charlestown posting on COVID-19, January 27, covering the chances of you getting it:

To see ALL postings on COVID-19, click on “Pandemic.”

To prevent tick encounters, where you dump your leaves matters

Raking leaves out to the yard edge may increase tick numbers there
Entomological Society of America

Image result for ticks under leavesIf you cleared fallen leaves from your lawn last fall, did you deposit them along the edge of your lawn, where grass meets woods? 

If you did, you might have unwittingly created an ideal habitat for blacklegged ticks.

In areas of the United States where ticks that carry Lyme disease-causing bacteria are prevalent, residential properties often intermingle with forested areas, and ticks thrive in the "edge habitats" where lawn and woods meet. 

While many homeowners heed the advice to clear their lawns of fallen leaves in autumn to avoid creating tick-friendly habitat in high-use areas, a new study on tick abundance in leaf litter says raking or blowing leaves just out to the forest edge is not enough.

Who is stealing millions of face masks. Spoiler: it’s NOT health care workers

Mark Sumner, Daily Kos Staff

Image may contain: 1 person, textOn a runway in China, French officials were preparing to load pallets of much-needed masks and other protective gear, but minutes later those masks took off for the United States after unnamed Americans pulled out wads of cash on the tarmac to buy the supplies away from the French. 

One day later, a shipment of 200,000 masks and other gear on its way to Germany was “confiscated” as it passed through Bangkok, Thailand. The German government called the actions “modern piracy.” 

And in the port of New York, 3 million masks purchased for the state of Massachusetts were taken away by an unnamed federal agency. In seizing the supplies, the government employed what state officials described as “force majeure” to breach existing contracts and carry off the goods.

But in Washington D.C., Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that the federal government is not a “shipping clerk” for the states, and both he and son-in-law Jared Kushner have made it clear that the federal stockpile of masks, ventilators, and other gear is just that—a federal stockpile. States be damned. 

Who is buying these supplies? And what the hell are they doing with them?

The astounding statement that the contents of the national stockpile don’t belong to the states, seems exactly like the sort of statement that would have raised a thousand conservative conspiracy theories had it been voiced by Barack Obama. But it’s not as if there aren’t some items being dispersed. 

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Brown University political scientist on COVID-19 and the future of American politics

The crux of it: Do you want this guy to be leading the country in a time of crisis?
Brown University

Image may contain: 1 person, textThe spread of COVID-19 and the efforts to contain it have upended every aspect of American society, including the political landscape.

Before the global health crisis, the Democratic presidential primary dominated news feeds in the United States, Democrats seemed deeply divided over whether to elect Joe Biden, generally considered a moderate, or Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist. Now, primary election news has taken a distant backseat to COVID-19 coverage, and Biden’s delegate lead has convinced most pundits that he is very likely to win the nomination, barring unforeseen circumstances.

But how has the spread of coronavirus reshaped the narrative of the election, and how might the crisis influence President Donald Trump’s re-election chances in November? Elections aside, how have American politics shaped the ways in which citizens are affected by the pandemic?

Wendy Schiller, chair of the Department of Political Science at Brown University, answered these questions and more on a recent episode of Trending Globally, a podcast hosted by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown. 

The conversation, hosted by Trending Globally producer Dan Richards, was recorded on Wednesday, March 18. Lightly adapted excerpts from the conversation are included below, along with audio of the full podcast episode.


Wartime presidents

Image may contain: 1 person, text

By the numbers

‪U.S. #coronavirus update:‬

‪As of 4/3, 3pm ET:‬

‪▪️302,641 #COVID19 confirmed cases‬
‪▪️8,232 deaths‬
‪▪️Crude Fatality Rate at 2.7%‬

Covid-19 and your medications

Should you keep taking your blood pressure medication and ibuprofen?
By Derek Lowe 1 April, 2020

Managing High Blood Pressure Medications | American Heart AssociationOne of the questions that shows up often in the comments to the various Covid-19 posts here (especially this one) and very often in my own emails is whether people who are taking hypertension medications should alter their drug therapy based on the coronavirus epidemic. 

Most of those questions are specifically about ACE inhibitors (all the -pril drugs) or angiotensin receptor blockers (all the -sartan ones). The advice given here starts out with, as usual, I Am Not a Physician, but points out that no professional society has yet recommended doing changing such a treatment regimen.

Today there’s a review of the field of all the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) drugs and their possible interactions with the viral epidemic in the New England Journal of Medicine (open access article), and I wanted to highlight it as the most recent word on the subject. 

Here’s the key take-away: “Until further data are available, we think that RAAS inhibitors should be continued in patients in otherwise stable condition who are at risk for, being evaluated for, or with Covid-19” 

Aspirin takes another hit

An aspirin a day does not keep dementia at bay
American Academy of Neurology

Daily aspirin shows no benefit for healthy older adults | National ...Taking a low-dose aspirin once a day does not reduce the risk of thinking and memory problems caused by mild cognitive impairment or probable Alzheimer's disease, nor does it slow the rate of cognitive decline, according to a large study published in the March 25, 2020, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Aspirin has anti-inflammatory properties and also thins the blood. For years, doctors have been prescribing low-dose aspirin for some people to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke. 

However, there are also possible risks to taking aspirin, including bleeding in the brain, so guidance from a doctor is important.

Because aspirin can be beneficial to the heart, researchers have hypothesized, and smaller previous studies have suggested, that it may also be beneficial to the brain, possibly reducing the risk of dementia by reducing inflammation, minimizing small clots or by preventing the narrowing of blood vessels within the brain.

Who Lives and Who Dies

Experts Race to Set Rules For Deciding 
By Jyoti Madhusoodanan

Image may contain: one or more people and people standing, possible text that says 'HAVE YOU SEEN MY RATINGS?'With the fast-spreading SARS-CoV-2 virus overwhelming hospitals and leaving crucial life-saving equipment in short supply, doctors and other health care providers in Italy, Spain, and possibly elsewhere, have had to make grim, battlefield decisions over who gets a ventilator or an intensive-care bed, and who does not. 

Or, put more fundamentally: who lives, and who dies. 

It’s a bleak scenario that other nations, including the U.S., may soon face. 

Even as tents, soccer fields, and unused buildings are being converted to makeshift hospitals to accommodate the surge of Covid-19 patients, current modeling suggests that in many U.S. cities, health care resources could soon be exhausted as the number of critically ill patients swells.

In some areas, shortages are already apparent, and should they find themselves facing similar moments of triage, where a decision must be made as to who gets a life-saving piece of equipment and who does not, American health care providers — and their counterparts around the globe — currently have an imperfect collection of ethical guidelines, most of them never really tested in the real-world, to inform them.

“These discussions have never gotten beyond the abstract before,” said professor emerita of emergency medicine and bioethicist Jean Abbott of the University of Colorado. “We had some warning with SARS and concerns with H1N1, but it never hit the fan anywhere near the extent it is now.”

Saturday, April 4, 2020

In the Name of Profit and Greed, Billionaire Class Declares: 'Back to Work!'

We must put public health over all other concerns.

Silent Film Dance GIF by Charlie ChaplinDick Kovacevich, former CEO of Wells Fargo bank, thinks most Americans should return to work in April, urging that we “gradually bring those people back and see what happens”.

Lloyd Blankfein, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, whose net worth is $1.1bn, recommends “those with a lower risk of the diseases return to work” within a “very few weeks”.

Tom Galisano, founder of Paychex, whose net worth is $2.8bn, believes “the damages of keeping the economy closed could be worse than losing a few more people … You’re picking the better of two evils.”

Donald Trump is concerned that a prolonged lockdown might harm his chances of reelection. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem,” he said last week. On Sunday he backed off his Easter back-to-work deadline, saying social distancing guidelines would remain in place until the end of April.