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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

COVID-19 short takes #1 for Progressive Charlestown readers

Here’s a collection of COVID-19 information that may be of special interest to our readers
By Will Collette

Image result for thank you to health workers COVID-19We all respond to crisis in our own ways. Since we are dealing with a pandemic illness for which there are no vaccines or treatments, we all need information to know what’s best to do.

I have been posting authoritative science pieces that help expand understanding of the challenge as well as practical tips. This article contains information I gleaned from from multiple sources  that may be of particular interest to us in South County.

Rhode Island is #1. 

The WalletHub surveying service rates the state as the “Most Aggressive” in the US for dealing with the crisis. I have not been a fan of Gina Raimondo, but she deserves credit for leadership through this crisis. She has been clear, factual and practical. My wife Cathy commented that all she needed to add was Gov. Joe Garrahy’s flannel shirt and she’d be perfect. That “flannel shirt” reference dates us: Garrahy was famous for leading RI through the aftermath of the Blizzard of ’74 appearing frequently on TV wearing the now iconic flannel shirt.

Image result for gina raimondo flannel shirt
Rhode Island Presidential Primary postponed

The primary was to be held April 28, but has now been bumped back to June 2. There’s a high probability the state will make it easier to vote by mail, but as of today, the rule for RI absentee voting is that you need an excuse.

No utility shut-offs. 

The RI Public Utility Commission has issued an emergency order banning shut-off due to unpaid utility bills at least until April 15 for all residential customers.

Ibuprofen is not the right stuff for COVID-19

The World Health Organization warns that using anti-inflammatory drugs, especially ibuprofen (brand name Advil®) to treat the symptoms of COVID-19 can make those symptoms worse. Instead, they recommend using “paracetamol” which is better known in the US under the brand name Tylenol® and generic name acetaminophen.

Hand sanitizer is NOT deadly to pets

There’s the usual internet crap going around such as the idea that hand sanitizer contains ethylene glycol, an antifreeze ingredient, that is deadly to cats and dogs. debunked this misinformation, noting that hand sanitizers don’t contain this ingredient. Check the label for yourself. You should use healthy skepticism when dealing with anything you read on the internet - including Progressive Charlestown - and check sources. There are lots of phony, counterfeit and even dangerous things being promoted or sold on-line to deal with COVID-19.

Image result for ddon't flush sinfectant wipesDon’t flush disinfectant wipes, even if they are labelled “flushable.” 

DEM warns that they cause problems for ALL waste disposal systems, including our ubiquitous Charlestown septic systems.

South County and Westerly Hospitals on the front line

Last week, South County Hospital had a walk-in patient who was eventually tested and found positive for COVID-19. The hospital put out a statement repeating nationwide instructions that if you are experiencing symptoms (e.g. dry cough, fever, difficulty breathing), DON'T just show up at your doctor’s office or the ER. CALL FIRST so you can be safely and methodically treated. For its part, Westerly Hospital wants to set up southern RI’s first drive-thru testing.

Are all Rhode Island workers eligible for state or federal benefits if they lose work due to coronavirus? 

Many RI workers WILL qualify for immediate financial help (CLICK HERE for a great WPRI piece with links to where to get help). However, many other workers are probably not going to qualify unless or until rules change. Among those presently on their own: the self-employed, sole proprietors, independent contractors, anyone working off the books and undocumented workers. If anything breaks on this front, Progressive Charlestown will cover it.

RI Driver’s License Renewals

If your license is due to expire on March 31 or earlier, you have another month to get renewed (April 30). If things continue as they are, I am guessing they will extend it again (and again). I renewed my license last fall at the AAA office in the Salt Pond shopping center. What used to take 15 minutes then took two hours of standing and waiting in a crowd. Can’t imagine what it’s like now.

Income tax deadlines. 

The feds have postponed the payment deadline of your 2019 federal income tax by 90 days. However, they still expect you to FILE your tax return by April 15. If you want to file for a 6-month extension on filing your return or are expecting a refund, you must file by April 15. The only COVID-10 news I found on the RI Division of Taxation website was a notice that their tax e-filing program has been having problems related to high volume due to coronavirus.

Summer people are coming back early

It’s a toss-up whether this is good news or bad news, but apparently there are lots of non-residents coming back to Rhode Island’s coastal towns (including Charlestown). They are apparently using their Rhode Island summer houses as a refuge against coronavirus. This report by Alex Nunes of Rhode Island’s public radio discusses this early migration.

Amazon limits its focus

If you are counting on Amazon to replace shopping for all your everyday needs, you should know they’ve refocused their priorities on “household staples, medical supplies and other high-demand products” even though many of those items (especially paper goods) are out of stock. Amazon is working its people hard, though they just bumped up wages from $15 to $17 an hour. While the full scope of Amazon’s policy is not clear, they do seem determined to supplying households with what they need to cope (and that includes pets).

Speaking of internet e-commerce

Rhode Island’s wingnut Dope Tank, the Center for Freedom and Prosperity (and puppy dogs, kittens and coffee milk) adds its “important” contribution to the coronavirus discussion. They suggest Rhode Island should suspend the sales tax on goods bought on-line because that will facilitate social distancing, allowing people to buy from Amazon and others for cheaper. So classically Republican: faced with any social problem, the answer is to cut taxes.