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Friday, April 3, 2020

Open letter to Rhode Island leaders on COVID-19 response

All Rhode Islanders need rescue
COVID-19 and Your Rights | ACLU of Florida
To Governor Raimondo, President Ruggerio, and Speaker Mattiello:

In this pandemic, we must rely on one another to stay as safe as possible and keep the worst outcomes at bay. 

When our social safety net fails working families and other vulnerable Rhode Islanders, it undermines our effective response to this emergency, our economic recovery, and the health of all in our community.

The federal government’s response has not gone far enough to protect workers. Our state response must continue to fill the gaps left by the federal stimulus response packages to support the Rhode Islanders who are losing their jobs and the disproportionately low-wage workers who are heroically keeping us fed and cared for at great risk to themselves.

This is a crisis that affects everyone – but some Rhode Islanders are far more vulnerable to economic harm than others. Low-wage workers have the least ability to work from home. 

Many low-wage workers in service industries are losing their jobs, while others risk their health every day to keep us all fed and cared for. These workers are disproportionately women and people of color. 

Survivors of domestic violence are particularly vulnerable when isolated at home, especially when the economic supports they need to leave abusive relationships are in danger at this time.

We – the undersigned community groups, labor organizations, and advocates – call on you to lead your colleagues in government to expand the resources available to working people to protect themselves, their families and their communities in this emergency, through the above following administrative and legislative measures:


Hmmmm, who should we believe?

Image may contain: 1 person

Consider it a rehearsal


Jared to the rescue?

Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner scolds states for requesting supplies from National Equipment Stockpile
Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House on April 2, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
"Senior Advisor" to the President Jared Kushner speaks during
the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in the
Brady Briefing Room at the White House on April 2, 2020,
in Washington, DC. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
Most observers were shocked at the Trump administration's latest indication that it intends to provide little assistance to states where thousands of people have contracted the coronavirus, after Jared Kushner, senior advisor and son-in-law to President Donald Trump, made his first appearance as a key member of the White House coronavirus task force Thursday evening.

Kushner revealed he had little knowledge of how the federal government works.

Kushner's perceived disdain during his remarks for state governments which have spent weeks pleading for sufficient ventilators, N95 respirators, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare providers was denounced by New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg as "dilettantism raised to the level of sociopathy."

Image may contain: 1 person, possible text that says 'Meet Jared Kushner. He got into Harvard only AFTER his dad, Charles Kushner pledged gift of $2.5 million to Harvard, to be paid annual installments of $250,000. A former official at his high school said, "There was way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard. His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted." OCCUPY DEMOCRATS'
When asked about the federal government's response to states that have requested shipments from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), Kushner—a former real estate developer with no medical background—suggested states and the residents and healthcare professionals fighting the coronavirus pandemic are not entitled to the use of the government-funded stockpile of medical equipment.


"The notion of the federal stockpile was it's supposed to be our stockpile," Kushner told the press. "It's not supposed to be state stockpiles that they then use."

Kushner did not elaborate on what the federal government might use the stockpile for if not to supply the public with the equipment in the event of a national health crisis. 


Unintended consequences

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

A local's guide to composting your next event's food waste and trashThe coronavirus pandemic is disrupting Rhode Island’s waste, recycling, and composting services and some donation services.

Used clothing and textile services have been hardest hit. The collection and sales of clothes, shoes, and household items were suspended in Massachusetts as a nonessential service, prompting the closure of retailers and related services. 

Savers thrift stores have temporarily shuttered in Rhode Island and across southern New England, hurting its nonprofit partners that sell them used items. One casualty, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island, had to layoff two-thirds of its workforce because of the financial stream it relies on from Savers.

Big Brothers Big Sisters and The Salvation Army suspended their textile and used clothing pick-up service and closed their drop-off centers.

Parking lot drop-off bins offered by The Salvation Army, Goodwill Southern New England, Big Brothers Big Sisters and others are still open and being serviced.

The “nonessential” tag in Massachusetts caused Simple Recycling to temporarily halt its curbside textile pickup in Rhode Island, where the service is offered through a partnership with municipalities such as Coventry and Middletown.


Buyer beware

Counterfeit markets can flourish during a public health crisis
Jay Kennedy, Michigan State University



Is that online order real or counterfeit? Getty Images
Rapid acceleration of coronavirus-related infections and fatalities in countries like Italy, Spain and the United States has led to widespread bans on communal activities, global restrictions on travel and an increasing reliance on virtual interactions.

The push to keep people indoors has lead to a substantial increase in e-commerce and internet-based activities, including video streaming, grocery shopping, food delivery and education. People are becoming increasingly reliant upon these services to provide life’s basic necessities – and counterfeiters are primed to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

Counterfeiters have long preyed upon consumer vulnerability in order to make a quick profit. The current coronavirus crisis will likely be no different. However, what is unique about the current crisis is the extent to which consumers are relying upon e-commerce platforms.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

There’s A Madman In The White House … And He’s Getting Worse

The Time for Preventing Even Greater Dangers from Donald Trump is Now
By Bandy X. Lee

ImageThe final death toll from coronavirus will not be the result of viral disease, but of mental disease. The greatest risk factor for disease and death — Donald Trump —is being overlooked.

If he continues in this, he will:

  • Make a deadly pandemic much worse
  • Stoke divisions between “believers” and “unbelievers” in his alternate reality:
  • Vastly augment suffering by directing widespread violence
It is not difficult for scientists to see the president has already exacerbated the coronavirus pandemic in many ways.

The reasons are psychological: He is incapable of doing what is necessary, for that would require him to face reality which includes his own emptiness and incapacity.

There is no surprise that he dismantled the infrastructure of a top program for global pandemic preparedness in the world “to save money,” only to pay for it with trillions of dollars. Those dollars won’t bring back the economy or millions of the dead.

Again, reality will not matter.

A leader who is truly convinced of his false beliefs will be far more effective at spreading those beliefs among his followers than any rational strategy.  Soon, a leader’s pathology becomes a nation’s.


If Karma REALLY exists...


For more cartoons by Ted Rall, CLICK HERE.

He knew, but did nothing

Image may contain: 1 person, possible text that says 'JUST A REMINDER that the first confirmed Cornavirus case in the U.S. was on January 20th. That's 8 weeks that Trump could have spent preparing tests, quarantine plans, respirators for hospitals, and stimulus packages... BUT CHOSE NOT TO. OCCUPY DEMOCRATS'

VIDEO: What the coronavirus does to your body that makes it so deadly

Scientists are figuring out how COVID-19 works - key to a vaccine and treatment
Benjamin Neuman, Texas A&M University-Texarkana



SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (pink dots) on a dying cell.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH
COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Coronaviruses belong to a group of viruses that infect animals, from peacocks to whales. 

They’re named for the bulb-tipped spikes that project from the virus’s surface and give the appearance of a corona surrounding it.

A coronavirus infection usually plays out one of two ways: as an infection in the lungs that includes some cases of what people would call the common cold, or as an infection in the gut that causes diarrhea. 

COVID-19 starts out in the lungs like the common cold coronaviruses, but then causes havoc with the immune system that can lead to long-term lung damage or death.

SARS-CoV-2 is genetically very similar to other human respiratory coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. However, the subtle genetic differences translate to significant differences in how readily a coronavirus infects people and how it makes them sick.

SARS-CoV-2 has all the same genetic equipment as the original SARS-CoV, which caused a global outbreak in 2003, but with around 6,000 mutations sprinkled around in the usual places where coronaviruses change. Think whole milk versus skim milk.

Compared to other human coronaviruses like MERS-CoV, which emerged in the Middle East in 2012, the new virus has customized versions of the same general equipment for invading cells and copying itself. 

However, SARS-CoV-2 has a totally different set of genes called accessories, which give this new virus a little advantage in specific situations. 

For example, MERS has a particular protein that shuts down a cell’s ability to sound the alarm about a viral intruder. SARS-CoV-2 has an unrelated gene with an as-yet unknown function in that position in its genome. Think cow milk versus almond milk.


Keeping Cats Indoors Could Blunt Adverse Effects to Wildlife

Also, indoor cats live longer - and avoid predators like coyotes, fisher cats, etc.


We keep our cats inside where it's safer for them and better for our
yard full of birds and bunnies. Photo by Will Collette
Birds alighting on driveways and baby bunnies munching on lawn grass should keep something in mind: Beware the house cat.

A new study shows that hunting by house cats can have big effects on local animal populations because they kill more prey, in a given area, than similar-sized wild predators. 

This effect is mostly concentrated relatively close to a pet cat’s home, since most of their movement was a 100-meter radius of their homes, usually encompassing a few of their neighborhood’s yards on either side.

Researchers from NC State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences collaborated with scientists and citizen scientists from six countries to collect GPS cat-tracking data and prey-capture reports from 925 pet cats, with most coming from the U.S., U.K, Australia and New Zealand.


On Feb. 3, the Army prepared a brief for the White House that pretty much predicted what we now know.

The White House ignored it and Trump publicly made contradictory claims.
Two months later, Trump finally seems to get it that COVID-19 is a serious threat to the nation. 


For more, click here

Ventilator rip-off

Taxpayers Paid Millions to Design a Low-Cost Ventilator for a Pandemic. Instead, the Company Is Selling Versions of It Overseas.
By Patricia Callahan, Sebastian Rotella and Tim Golden for ProPublica
Taxpayers Paid Millions to Design a Low-Cost Ventilator for a ...Five years ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tried to plug a crucial hole in its preparations for a global pandemic, signing a $13.8 million contract with a Pennsylvania manufacturer to create a low-cost, portable, easy-to-use ventilator that could be stockpiled for emergencies.


This past September, with the design of the new Trilogy Evo Universal finally cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, HHS ordered 10,000 of the ventilators for the Strategic National Stockpile at a cost of $3,280 each.

But as the pandemic continues to spread across the globe, there is still not a single Trilogy Evo Universal in the stockpile.

Instead last summer, soon after the FDA’s approval, the Pennsylvania company that designed the device — a subsidiary of the Dutch appliance and technology giant Royal Philips N.V. — began selling two higher-priced commercial versions of the same ventilator around the world.

“We sell to whoever calls,” said a saleswoman at a small medical-supply company on Staten Island that bought 50 Trilogy Evo ventilators from Philips in early March and last week hiked its online price from $12,495 to $17,154. “We have hundreds of orders to fill. I think America didn’t take this seriously at first, and now everyone’s frantic.”

Last Friday, President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to compel General Motors to begin mass-producing another company’s ventilator under a federal contract. 

But neither Trump nor other senior officials made any mention of the Trilogy Evo Universal. Nor did HHS officials explain why they did not force Philips to accelerate delivery of these ventilators earlier this year, when it became clear that the virus was overwhelming medical facilities around the world.

Jared Kushner Convinced Trump the Media Was Overhyping Coronavirus ...
An HHS spokeswoman told ProPublica that Philips had agreed to make the Trilogy Evo Universal ventilator “as soon as possible.” 

However, a Philips spokesman said the company has no plan to even begin production anytime this year.

Instead, Philips is negotiating with a White House team led by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to build 43,000 more complex and expensive hospital ventilators for Americans stricken by the virus.


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

VIDEO: John Oliver talks to us about COVID-19

https://youtu.be/ElIf2DBrWzU

We have a cure

No photo description available.

Let's not screw this up

Short Takes #8 on COVID-19 in Rhode Island

Grim numbers and grimmer to come
By Will Collette


At Tuesday’s daily pandemic briefing Gov. Gina Raimondo addressed the stats in a new University of Washington report. According to the Boston Globe, that report predicts 265 COVID-19 related deaths by June 10. They also set April 20 as Rhode Island’s peak.

Gov. Raimondo said the state’s modelling shows “that peak is farther out” than April 20 as well as a higher death toll.

Of course these projections are just that. Circumstances beyond our control as well as things we CAN control (like strictly adhering to social distancing coupled with the feds doing their jobs to supply test kits and medical equipment) can change those numbers.

The University of Washington report predicts a nationwide peak on April 16 and more than 90,000 dead by June.

In today’s news briefing, the Governor reiterated her warning that the UW study may be too optimistic as she announced two more deaths, bringing our current total to 10.

Help wanted


Governor Raimondo is also asking retired doctors, nurses and health care workers to step up. In New York, tens of thousands of retirees have answered a similar call from Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Over 100,000 Rhode Islanders are out of work

Before the pandemic, just under 20,000 were out of work. But as COVID-19 starts to bite hard on our economy, almost 90,000 more workers have filed for benefits.
That number is going to climb. There will be a big spike in claims when the new federal Pandemic Unemployment program for the self-employed, small businesses, independent contractors, etc. starts up. I noted in Short Takes #6 that DLT is encouraging workers who normally are not eligible for unemployment insurance to sign up for their e-mail list to get word on when to apply.
Today, according to the marketing survey firm WalletHub, Rhode Island’s economy is ranked the second highest “most vulnerable” to the economic effects of COVID-19. The only state that is deemed more vulnerable is #1 ranked Louisiana.
Well, we’ve been high on lists like that before.
Charlestown closes town beaches and parks
After yesterday’s announcement by Gov. Raimondo, Charlestown issued an order today closing Charlestown’s beaches and parks though town conservation areas are, at present, not closed. You can see this notice on the town’s unofficial/official CCA website.
Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz e-mailed me a copy earlier today.
The CCA also buried the March 28 piece they had on their website that promoted active use of town’s open spaces.
It would be nice to see the town’s official website feature all COVID-related Charlestown official news rather than see that function delegated to the CCA. After all, town hall employees are expected to come in to work every day with no option other than to use personal leave. Forget about working from home.
Since town hall is closed to residents, perhaps the website could get more attention.
Re-open Obamacare enrollment
As millions lose their jobs due to COVID-19, many are also losing their health insurance. It’s hard to think of a worst time to be uninsured than during a death-dealing pandemic.
Trump had been asked to re-start HealthCare.gov and to allow the newly unemployed to get health care under the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). Naturally, the Trump Administration refused to re-open enrollment. They say they are “exploring other options”
Instead, Trump said last week that he is totally behind a lawsuit brought by Republican attorneys general to completely abolish Obamacare.
Scott MacKay of Rhode Island’s The Public’s Radio tweeted that Sen. Jack Reed called on Trump to reopen Obamacare enrollment, noting that before the pandemic we had 28 million uncovered Americans.
Rhode Island checks won’t bounce
RI General Treasurer Seth Magaziner has secured a $150 million line of credit from Bank of America to make sure the state can pay its bills. The state has drawn $25 million on that
The Pandemic Crash has drastically cut state revenue making it likely the state would run out of money within weeks.

It's OK to feed wild birds

Here are some tips for doing it the right way
Julian AveryPennsylvania State University

motion hovering GIFMillions of Americans enjoy feeding and watching backyard birds. Many people make a point of putting food out in winter, when birds needs extra energy, and spring, when many species build nests and raise young.

As a wildlife ecologist and a birder, I know it’s important to understand how humans influence bird populations, whether feeding poses risks to wild birds, and how to engage with birds in sustainable ways.

There is still much to learn about the risks and benefits of feeding birds, particularly through large integrated national citizen science networks like Project FeederWatch. But we now have enough information to promote healthy interactions that can inspire future generations to care about conservation.

A long-term relationship

Birds have been taking advantage of human civilization for thousands of years, congregating where grains and waste are abundant. This means that people have been influencing the abundance and distribution of species for a very long time.

Studies show that providing food has myriad effects on birds’ decisions, behaviors and reproduction. One significant finding is that winter bird feeding increases individual survival rates, can encourage birds to lay eggs earlier in the year, and can also improve nestling survival.

All of these factors alter species’ future reproductive performance and can increase total bird abundance in later years. It’s not always clear how increased abundance of feeder birds impacts other species through competition, but rarer and smaller species can be excluded.
This interactive diagram, based on citizen science data, shows how North America’s top 13 feeder species fare when they compete at feeders. Credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Some real science on chloroquine

5 questions answered about a promising, problematic and unproven use for an antimalarial drug
Katherine Seley-Radtke, University of Maryland, Baltimore County


An employee in Nantong, China, checks the production of chloroquine
phosphate, an old drug for the treatment of malaria.
Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images 
An Arizona man died, and his wife was hospitalized, after taking a form of chloroquine, which President Trump has touted as an effective treatment for COVID-19

The couple decided to self-medicate with chloroquine phosphate, which they had on hand to kill parasites in their fish, after hearing the president describe the drug as a “game changer.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of NIH’s National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, quickly corrected the statement, explaining that Trump’s comments were based on anecdotes and not a controlled clinical trial.



Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. @realDonaldTrump
I am a medicinal chemist who specializes in discovery and development of antiviral drugs, and I have been actively working on coronaviruses for seven years.

However, because I am a scientist and I deal in facts and evidence-based medicine, I am concerned about the sweeping statements the president has been making regarding the use of chloroquine or the closely related hydroxychloroquine, both antimalarial drugs, as cures for COVID-19. So let’s examine the facts.


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Trump reverses himself on the pandemic and hopes no one will notice

After months of denial, Trump now says keeping US deaths to 100,000 would be a 'good job'
Pic of the MomentJust over a month after proclaiming that the number of coronavirus cases in the United States would soon "be down to close to zero," President Donald Trump said during a press briefing on the White House lawn Sunday that limiting U.S. deaths from the pandemic to between 100,000 and 200,000 people would mean his administration and the country as a whole did "a very good job."

Speaking as the death toll from the novel coronavirus climbed above 2,300 in the U.S.—which has the most confirmed cases of the virus in the world—Trump cited recent research warning that 2.2 million people in the U.S. could die from COVID-19 if the nation's government and population take no action to mitigate the threat.

"You're talking about 2.2 million deaths, 2.2 million people from this," the president said. "And so, if we can hold that down, as we're saying, to 100,000—that's a horrible number—maybe even less, but to 100,000, so we have between 100- and 200,000, we all together have done a very good job."

Trump on White House portico with giant rabbit - ABC News ...
Trump has decided to ignore the advice of his chief pandemic advisor

Critics condemned Trump's remarks as remarkably cruel and callous, particularly coming from someone who has repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus—at one point suggesting it was a "new hoax" perpetrated by the Democratic Party—and urged Americans to get back to work despite warnings from medical professionals.

"There really are no words for this level of insensitivity and inhumanity. A serial killer would be jealous," said Charles Idelson of National Nurses United in response to Trump's comments.

Trump announced Sunday that the White House is extending federal social distancing guidelines to at least April 30, a retreat from the president's insistence last week that the country could be "rarin' to go" by Easter—April 12.

Noting the president's rapidly shifting goalposts, CNN reporter Daniel Dale tweeted late Sunday, "Trump has come a long way from the 15-cases-but-we're-going-down-to-zero."

More advice from Fake Science

Image may contain: 1 person, indoor, possible text that says 'KEEP GERMS AT BAY  Germs are transferred through contact. If you don't have hand sanitizer, always keep a pot of boiling water nearby.'

From FAKE SCIENCE, Donald Trump's favorite source for science information 

Food Bank pushing hard to get food to those who need it






COVID-19 Update - All Are Welcome
at Food Bank Member Agencies 

 

The Food Bank has been working hard to distribute food to our neighbors in need through our statewide network of food pantries and meal sites. We’ve also been adapting our operations to meet the increased demand, particularly among vulnerable populations like children and seniors.

All Are Welcome
All are Welcome at Food Bank member agencies. Many Rhode Islanders are experiencing food insecurity for the first time as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. They may never have sought food assistance through our network of food pantries and meal sites.

At the member agencies of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, all are welcome - Todos Son Bienvenidos - regardless of background, including immigration status. Our priority is to provide assistance to those most in need, so please help us spread the word that our network is here to help by sharing the link to: https://rifoodbank.org/find-food/

Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs)
The Food Bank is working with RIEMA to deliver 45,000 Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs) to towns and cities across Rhode Island. Each community will receive their requested supply and issue them to individuals at the local level. The MRE kits will not be available directly to the public through the Food Bank but a supply will be delivered to member agencies in our network.

Thousands have already gone out, and we anticipate that by the end of the week nearly 75% will be distributed. We expect that we will receive more of these meals from FEMA as the crisis continues. To learn more about MREs, visit the COVID-19 Response page of our website.

Operations Update
To meet the increased need at our member agencies, the Food Bank added deliveries on Saturday. Our drivers will be making sure that shelves stay stocked with healthy, nutritious food.

In the past three weeks, we’ve distributed 2,624 Meals4Kids boxes, more than twice the number we usually give out in a whole month. Each pack contains a week’s worth of meals and snacks for kids. We continue to deliver more boxes to our member agencies so that we can meet the demand.

And we’re preparing our Senior Box distribution for April as part of our ongoing monthly Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). Each month, we provide 1,660 older adults with a box of healthy, supplemental food. Normally, these boxes are packed by volunteers, but due to COVID-19 restrictions on groups, our staff are putting them together.

Thank you!
Along with the outpouring of contributions from businesses and individuals like you, we’ve received many kind words. Here’s a quote from one of our recent donors, Janice from Riverside:

“I am proud of the effort to address so many issues relating to this emergency.  I am a long-retired nurse who is among the vulnerable population and wish I could do more.”
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Our mailing address is:
Rhode Island Community Food Bank
200 Niantic Ave
Providence, RI 02907-3150