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Friday, October 16, 2020

Short Takes: Rhode Island’s on-going struggle with the pandemic

State’s numbers worsen though not as bad as much of the rest of the country

By Will Collette

First, please be sure to get your flu shot - this year, you will be really screwed if you get the flu AND COVID-19. You really don't want that.

Because Rhode Island COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise, Gov. Gina Raimondo is ramping up restrictions. 

She has frozen the state’s re-opening plan until we get a grip on the numbers and is instituting new restrictions though she has vowed no renewal of lock-downs.

Dan McGowan of the Boston Globe reported in his daily e-mail on Rhode Island news that our daily test positive rate is at 2.7% (not good). Our death toll has risen to 1,147.

Looking at current case rates in South County, Narragansett is the highest with 482 cases per 100,000 and Westerly with 88 per 100,000. 

Narragansett’s numbers are the worst in the state, more than double the next worse, Central Falls, which has 217 per 100,000. You may recall that early in the summer, Narragansett was the most aggressive town to resist the governor’s order about masks and social distancing at the beach.

The current state average is 120/100,000. The current infection rate needs to be less than 100 per 100,000 for schools to re-open for in-person learning.

Gina blames small gatherings for the dangerous turn in our numbers, rather than her order to re-open schools or some of the outrageous conduct of college students. She has ruled out closing schools, restaurants or businesses, although she has ordered those businesses with “break rooms” to shut them down for 90 days.

Meanwhile, we remain banned from staying for more than 24 hours in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York or New Jersey, probably for quite a while. I guess that’s OK for those of us who plan to follow Dr. Anthony Fauci’s advice to skip the big Thanksgiving family dinner.

Birx makes a useless visit to Rhode Island

Dr. Deborah Birx of Trump’s hibernating Coronavirus Taskforce visited Rhode Island on October 8 as part of the Trump Administration’s effort to convince Americans that the Big Orange has everything under control. 

Birx was once a respected authority on infectious disease for her work on HIV/AIDS, but that was before she became Trump’s beard for the lack of any national strategy to deal with this global pandemic.

Due largely to her failure to tell Trump things he didn’t want to hear, the US has the highest case rate and death toll in the world. 

History will also mark her as the one who carried the biggest knife to castrate the CDC.

But putting all that aside, Birx had a nice chat with Governor Raimondo and complimented the hell out of her for Rhode Island’s coronavirus response. I guess she learned from her service to the Dear Leader the best way to deal with head-strong elected officials is to feed them large doses of bullshit praise.

At URI, Birx seemed to overlook the awful behavior of partying students, especially the frat boys, saying instead that she was more concerned about small gatherings – I guess that’s where Gina got her current priority (see above).

Birx was in Rhode Island rather than doing her job in Washington because Trump has decided to give up on the coronavirus fight, choosing instead to listen to his now favorite quack Dr. Scott Atlas. Atlas believes we should allow the virus to infect as many people as possible so we achieve a level of “herd immunity.”

Herd immunity is a real thing – it occurs when a large majority in a population have anti-body resistance to a disease. It’s the way vaccinations ended smallpox and polio and how mumps, measles and whooping cough were almost eradicated until “anti-vaxxers” reduced the number of those vaccinated.

However, to get Americans up to herd immunity for coronavisur – without a vaccine – would mean 75% or more Americans would need to catch COVID-19 and form natural anti-bodies. 

But reach herd immunity levels, based on probable COVID death rates, anywhere from 2 to 6 MILLION Americans would die. Until we have a safe and effective vaccine being given to the vast majority of Americans, following Trump and Scott Atlas is like embracing a viral holocaust.

And Dr. Deborah Birx doesn’t say a peep and sticks to her new role as traveling cheerleader.

It’s the economy, stupid

Trump may believe we can either ignore COVID-19, or better, let everybody get it, in order to begin to heal an economy in tatters, but it actually works the other way around. We are not going to have a clear path to economic recovery until we get this pandemic under control.

States that have followed the Trump doctrine have sickened and killed their citizens by the thousands and still have trashed-out economies.

This country may lose most of its restaurant, travel and entertainment industries because the Trump Virus is still raging.

Approximately 8 million Americans fell into poverty after the $600 pandemic unemployment benefit  bump expired. Senate Majority Leader Moscow Mitch McConnell refused to allow replacement legislation to come to a vote even though House Democrats passed the HEROS Bill more than five months ago.

In the current edition of the weekly South County Independent, there are two pieces on struggling non-profits trying to cope. The Jonnycake Center has just gotten their retail store for donated goods re-opened. The Independent also reported how the Courthouse Center for the Arts was saved from closure by a groundswell of individual donations.

Mystic Aquarium was about to crash and sink on the rocks, despite their aggressive efforts to stay somewhat operational. Even after partially re-opening, attendance revenue hasn’t been enough to cover overhead for the on-going care of over 5,000 sea creatures. Attendance provided 80% of the Aquarium’s revenue.

On September 21, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced a $7 million state loan to help the Aquarium re-structure its finances. The Aquarium is hopeful this will put the popular institution back on track for the long-term.

Struggling RI oyster farmers will get $1.7 million in help from the US Department of Agriculture, according to Senator Jack Reed. They will use this funding to grow more oysters and some of those critters will be dispersed into Narragansett Bay and the south coast (including Charlestown) to aid in cleaning those waters.

In Charlestown, our latest unemployment rate is an historic 13.2%. Even though Charlestown has a budget surplus as well as options to put Charlestown’s unemployed to work, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance which controls the town is more focused on using town money for shady land deals with cronies.

And finally…

Rhode Island drivers continue to catch a break from the DMV on their expiring documents – licenses, registrations, learner permits, disabled parking tags, etc. The deadline to renew these documents has been extended into November. CHECK HERE for the status of DMV’s policy on those vital records. CLICK HERE for a list of transactions you can do on-line or by mail.

DEM will end its weekly Mosquito advisories this week. For years, DEM has advised Rhode Islanders about the presence of mosquito-borne diseases, especially West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Rhode Island caught a major break this year and had only 1 finding of EEE and none of West Nile. No human cases were reported.

The only infected mosquito they trapped was caught in Chapman Swamp in Westerly. The mosquito population was greatly suppressed this year because of our extreme drought. More people staying indoors due to COVID-19 may also have been a factor

We usually have widespread findings of infected mosquitos along with human illnesses and some deaths.