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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Short Takes #4 on COVID-19 and Southern Rhode Island

Attention turns to guns and money
By Will Collette
Image may contain: 1 person, possible text that says 'Happy Easter Grandma'
Dear Leader reminds you this will all be over by Easter
In this on-going series, we’re looking at information and news items that may be of special interest to South County.

No confirmed cases in Charlestown

Thanks to the Boston Globe’s daily Rhode Map news e-mail (CLICK HERE to sign up), here’s how Rhode Island’s coronavirus cases break down by town and by age as of yesterday.

No confirmed cases

Charlestown, East Greenwich, Exeter, Glocester, Hopkinton, Little Compton, New Shoreham, Richmond, Tiverton, West Greenwich, and West Warwick.

Fewer than five
Barrington, Bristol,  Burrillville, Central Falls, Coventry, Cumberland, Foster, Jamestown, Johnston, Lincoln, Narragansett, Newport, North Kingstown, North Providence, North Smithfield, Portsmouth, Scituate, Smithfield, Warren, Westerly, and Woonsocket.

Five or more
Cranston (11), East Providence (8), Middletown (5), Pawtucket (5), Providence (42), South Kingstown (7), and Warwick (7).

Ages of infected people:
0-19: 6
20-29: 22
30-39: 24
40-49: 24
50-59: 28
60-69: 15
70-79: 11
80-89: 0
90 and older: 2

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Trump announced by Tweet that he has found a replacement for Dr.
Tony Fauci on the Coronavirus Taskforce
By gender, Rhode Island’s cases are evenly split between males and females. Almost everywhere else, the disease seems to hit males the hardest.

So now let’s talk about money. The third major piece of federal COVID-19 relief legislation is almost but not quite ready to go. The Senate worked out their issues, finally, and Nancy Pelosi says the House will pass the final version of the $2 TRILLION package, sending it to Dear Leader for his signature.

Help for the state

RI Senator Jack Reed worked to add a $150 billion State Stabilization Fund and says Rhode Island’s share will be $1.25 billion. Many states, including Rhode Island, are getting hammered by declines in tax revenue and increased costs. In fact, Rhode Island nearly ran out of cash (more on that below).


At least two days were wasted moving this bill when four Republican Senators - Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Rick Scott of Florida - said they found a “flaw” in the COVID-19 relief bill, namely the enhanced unemployment benefits might “disincentivize” work. 

According to Senator Lindsay Graham, nurses are "going to make $24 an hour on unemployment" and will quit their jobs to get better money.

Image result for lindsey graham memesThere are several responses to Graham's mind-boogling claim:

  1. Lindsey Graham is an asshole. How dare he disparage nurses at a time like this when thousands of nurses are putting their lives on the line to fight this pandemic. I hope the next time Graham is sick, the nurse treating him remembers what he said. 
  2. Graham is up for reelection this year and faces a strong opponent in Jaime Harrison. CLICK HERE to help Harrison beat Graham.
  3. Graham and his idiot colleagues are looking at the issue all wrong. If $24 an hour in unemployment is enough to get a nurse to quit, then maybe we’re not paying nurses well enough.
  4. Graham probably also failed to take into account that in South Carolina and Rhode Island, as in nearly every state, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits if you voluntarily quit.
  5. Finally, nurses by the thousands are answering the call to duty and coming out of retirement to help fight the pandemic. As one nurse put it, “once a nurse, always a nurse.” And Lindsey Graham is an asshole.
State checks won’t bounce – yet

As noted, the pandemic put Rhode Island in a cash crunch. With little money coming in and lots going out, the state Treasury was nearly depleted. The quickest fix was to use an arcane state Disaster Emergency Funding Board to authorize emergency borrowing to cover the state’s immediate financial need.
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Flip Filippi conducting due diligence

That Board is largely controlled by House Speaker Nick Mattiello and thus automatically subject to suspicion. Naturally, the state’s top media hound, GOP House Minority Leader Blake “Flip” Filippi tried to rouse a round of boos for action by this Board while the General Assembly is adjourned due to the pandemic.

Flip, who represents Charlestown, wants the Board reformed and wants the General Assembly to allow remote voting. All of which is well and good, except not now. Look, nobody trusts Mattiello but I doubt that even he would take the risk of misusing the Board while he is under Grand Jury scrutiny. The grand jury is currently in recess for a month due to the pandemic.

Finally, Flip may have trouble with the concept of Disaster Emergency that almost by definition something that needs a stream-lined rapid approach. Sorry if that deprives him of his all-important media grandstanding opportunities, but hey, Flip baby, tough shit.

Meanwhile, the Disaster Emergency Funding Board has approved an additional $300 million in borrowing to meet the crisis. That will hopefully hold us for a while.

Help for Non-profits

The Rhode Island Foundation and the United Way have set up a new source of funding for Rhode Island non-profits who are serving community needs due the pandemic and are in financial stress. 

There is no fixed deadline – applications are accepted on an on-going basis.

To get more information and links to application process, CLICK HERE.

Send lawyers, guns and money

Image result for guns and pandemicIn a FUBAR decision, Governor Gina Raimondo has exempted gun ranges from her emergency order that closed entertainment and recreation businesses.

She was apparently swayed by the argument of Second Amendment Coalition president Frank Saccoccio. 

He argued that with the big spike in gun-buying spurred by the pandemic, we now have lots of first-time gun owners out there who have no place to learn how to shoot safely.

He told the ProJo: “If you have somebody who goes and purchases a firearm and they want to go test it and make sure the safety features on it work, you have to have a place to utilize it.”

So gun ranges can stay open provided they follow social distancing practices such as keeping shooters apart, limiting how many can be indoors and spacing out the lines of people waiting to get in. I find that last bit pretty disturbing.

As for DEM’s shooting range in the Great Swamp management area (adjacent to Charlestown), DEM says the range will stay closed until “at least April 15” and only after DEM decides they have enough safety and public health measures in place:
At the Great Swamp Shooting Range, in addition to assuring compliance with all safety standards, DEM range safety officers provide important instruction to assist shooters on an individual basis. To assure safe firearms handling a range safety officer must be able to closely observe and actively assist shooters with basic hands-on training. To adequately supervise and assist a person who needs help learning the proper way to grip a handgun or to safely "shoulder" a long gun, a range safety officer must have latitude to approach closer than six feet.
DEM's outdoor spaces remain open to the public

Here are the rules:

• Do not visit parks, trails or other recreational areas if you feel ill or are exhibiting symptoms of illness.
• Plan a trip to a nearby park for a short, local visit since restrooms are not available at most outdoor areas.
• Maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet between persons.
• Do not gather in groups of more than 10 people.
• Follow CDC's guidance on personal hygiene prior to and during use of parks or trails. Wash your hands, carry hand sanitizer, cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs, handrails, and equipment.
• While on trails, warn other users of your presence and as they pass, and step aside to let others pass.
• Most areas, including state parks, are carry-in/carry-out for trash. DEM encourages visitors to bring water, snacks and food in reusable containers and a bag to bring your trash home.

For more information, go to RI State Parks: COVID-19 Updates