Letter From Home “State Street Without People” 3/19/20

I have been watching the oil markets, and local gasoline prices, and decided that late tonight it would be a good time to fill up our car. We have not been driving, as of late, given the pandemic situation, but it goes without saying that having a full tank in the car just in case something happens is a wise move.  In fact, we have not been out and about other than neighborhood walks since Monday afternoon.

As James and I left our driveway and traveled along the streets there was one word that came to mind. Surreal.

There were so few cars on the streets it felt like back home in a small town. Almost all the businesses are shut,  the bars and restaurants dark, one of the large Walgreen stores closed because not so far away there is an even larger one, and that’s the one which remains open for people to do their business.

As we drove along I noticed some service stations had gasoline for $1.87 and I saw even one BP station selling gas for $1.79.  The prices are low but it goes without saying there are not a lot of places to be driving.  Unless you’re going for Sunday type drives.

Which I think will be coming back as people will want to get out and do something and just traveling out into the country and going somewhere might come back into fashion. Something that our parents and grandparents used to do and relish on the weekends back when they were raising families.  There will be no stops for chats with friends or popping in for dinner anywhere but the traveling and sightseeing might just feel good after being homebound.

Just a couple of blocks from our home, as we left our driveway and decided which direction to proceed, I heard the train whistle off in the distance and soon the flashing red lights of the tracks ahead of us were beckoning.  We came to a stop but we could have easily passed in front of the train and made it without any problem.  But why?  We put the window down and listened to the rumble of the train.  It seems quaint, and perhaps old fashioned to say such an event was rather fun.  I put an arm out the window and made the down motion which the conductor saw.  He waved and let a long horn blast out into the foggy night.  About 35 cars passed on the tracks and then I lost count.

After getting our tank full (while wearing plastic gloves and then discarding them) we proceeded up East Washington and around Capitol Square.  I saw exactly two people, both of them were homeless and hunkered down in a position near one of the benches. But other than that there was nothing to be seen.  Every business was dark.  It was desolate looking.

But it was looking down State Street, from the Capitol towards the University of Wisconsin, that stunned me.  There was nothing on the street to be seen. Not a bus,  Not a person, or biker.  The entire street was nothing like I have ever before seen.  

It was surreal.

I know there are countless scenes around the nation which can vie with what we saw tonight, and many more to be racked up as he head into the worst of this pandemic.  But if we can find the train whistle and a friendly conductor we will make it through this time.

History Of Trump’s Words About Covid-19

Lets read Trump’s own words about the coronavirus. From his own mouth…and all can be found on video and news reports.

January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.”

February 2: “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China.”

February 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA… Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”

February 25: “CDC and my Administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus.”

February 25: “I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away… They have studied it. They know very much. In fact, we’re very close to a vaccine.”

February 26: “The 15 (cases in the US) within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.”

February 26: “We’re going very substantially down, not up.”

February 27: “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”

February 28: “We’re ordering a lot of supplies. We’re ordering a lot of, uh, elements that frankly we wouldn’t be ordering unless it was something like this. But we’re ordering a lot of different elements of medical.”

March 2: “You take a solid flu vaccine, you don’t think that could have an impact, or much of an impact, on corona?”

March 2: “A lot of things are happening, a lot of very exciting things are happening and they’re happening very rapidly.”

March 4: “If we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work, but they get better.”

March 5: “I NEVER said people that are feeling sick should go to work.”

March 5: “The United States… has, as of now, only 129 cases… and 11 deaths. We are working very hard to keep these numbers as low as possible!”

March 6: “I think we’re doing a really good job in this country at keeping it down… a tremendous job at keeping it down.”

March 6: “Anybody right now, and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test. They’re there. And the tests are beautiful…. the tests are all perfect like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect. Right? This was not as perfect as that but pretty good.”

March 6: “I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it… Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”

March 6: “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”

March 8: “We have a perfectly coordinated and fine-tuned plan at the White House for our attack on CoronaVirus.”

March 9: “This blindsided the world.”

March 9: “The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant.”

March 10: “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

March 13: National Emergency Declaration

Unemployment Claims Numbers Daunting, Keep Them Quiet “For Now’

In an email sent Wednesday, the Labor Department instructed state officials to only “provide information using generalities to describe claims levels (very high, large increase)” until the department releases the total number of national claims next Thursday.

The request is just one more example of Trump working to disrupt and deflect the severity of this colossal and most grave crisis in our nation.

The email, which was shared with The New York Times, noted that the reports were monitored closely by financial markets and should, therefore, remain embargoed. “States should not provide numeric values to the public,” wrote Gay Gilbert, the administrator of the department’s Office of Employment Insurance.

On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin warned lawmakers that unemployment could rocket to 20%.

The Labor Department’s report Thursday on applications for unemployment insurance during the week ending last Saturday showed a jump of 33% as 70,000 more people filed for jobless benefits compared with the prior week, led by California, Washington state and Nevada.

And it wasn’t until this week that many employers began to send workers home in response to widespread lockdown orders for restaurants, bars and other venues where people congregate in large numbers, and millions of Americans began to shelter in place.

The staying quiet request prompted at least one governor’s office, according to The New York Times to seek an opinion from the state attorney general about whether they had to temporarily withhold the information.

In another state, lawmakers got a preview of the staggering numbers that are being withheld for the moment. In a private conference call Thursday with elected officials and union leaders, a top Pennsylvania labor official was blunt about the depth of the economic crisis, according to someone on the call.

Robert O’Brien, the state’s deputy secretary of labor and industry, said the government had been overwhelmed by a flood of unemployment insurance claims — 180,000 just in the last few days. He said that was far more than the state usually gets in a whole month.

The situation may be even more dire in Washington, the first epicenter of the contagion in the U.S. State officials there would only say they are seeing an “even more dramatic increase this week” after unemployment claims soared 150 percent last week from the week before.

Queen Elizabeth Rallies Nation In Pandemic Crisis

The morning papers in Britain have a common theme.  Queen Elizabeth’s message to the British public to “come together to work as one” amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The full message reads:

“As Philip and I arrive at Windsor today, we know that many individuals and families across the United Kingdom, and around the world, are entering a period of great concern and uncertainty.

“We are all being advised to change our normal routines and regular patterns of life for the greater good of the communities we live in and, in particular, to protect the most vulnerable within them.

“At times such as these, I am reminded that our nation’s history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal.

“We are enormously thankful for the expertise and commitment of our scientists, medical practitioners and emergency and public services; but now more than any time in our recent past, we all have a vitally important part to play as individuals – today and in the coming days, weeks and months.

“Many of us will need to find new ways of staying in touch with each other and making sure that loved ones are safe. I am certain we are up to that challenge.

“You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part.”

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U.S. Looking Like Third-World Country, Bandanas For Health Masks

The coronavirus equipment and supply shortages are getting so acute in our nation that the Centers for Disease Control has made a pretty shocking suggestion to medical workers.  If your hospital runs out of N95 masks, which can filter out the coronavirus, use bandanas and scarves instead.

Say what!

The CDC acknowledges that the recommendation isn’t exactly up to the usual standard of care for a nation that is known to have high standards in our medical facilities.  Well, thanks for that heads up!  Hospitals already are running low on the proper masks, with some reporting they have just three days’ worth left.  And now even swabs so to take cultures!

One Georgia hospital has workers in a conference room cutting up surgical sheeting and sewing it onto N95 masks to make the masks last longer. (If N95 masks get soiled, they are supposed to be discarded. This way, the surgical sheeting covering it will get dirty and can be thrown away instead.)   Yikes!  Or yuck!

The lack of protection for health care workers is a national disgrace, as is the pending shortages of ventilators for patients, as well as hospital beds.

The manner in which this entire virus outbreak in the United States has been handled by the Trump Administration has been a complete disaster.  From not allowing for the World Health Organization to provide test kits, to Trump undermining the severity of the health crisis by calling it “a hoax”, and budgeting for severe cuts to the very agencies within government that work to either prevent, or deal, with health emergencies, there is no end to the damage caused by this White House.

That is not a partisan statement, but one of verifiable facts.  To make these offensive actions of Trump even starker, and in light of the meltdown that is now engulfing every sector of the United States, is Trump’s own statement that he knew all along this virus would be a pandemic.

Historians will spend many years looking back on the muddled messages and missed opportunities of the past three months while Trump moved from dismissing the coronavirus as a few cases that would soon be “under control” to his revisionist announcement on Monday that he had known all along that a pandemic was on the way.  (Trump, of course, has no more knowledge of this virus than he has with any other policy that has crossed his desk.  He is not educated.)

The reason for some shortages within the health care system, in the long view, can be explained.

Prestige Ameritech, for example, owns a limited number of machines that assemble, sew and shape the masks. A decade ago, it ramped up production in response to the swine flu outbreak by buying more machines and hiring 150 new workers.

“We made a really big mistake,” Bowen says of that decision. It took about four months to build the new machines, which are as long as a school bus and cost as much as $1 million.  By the time they were ready, the swine flu crisis had ended, demand vaporized, and Prestige Ameritech almost went bankrupt.

But when this White House saw the train coming down the tracks out of China, and South Korea, and across Europe with whistles blowing, alerting all to the crisis afoot, and still did nothing but blame the press for ‘panic reporting’ and claiming Democrats were politicizing it, then we have every reason to blame Trump and this most incompetent White House.  And we also have to add all those Trump supporters who made their ditto remarks on social media.

Whatever lingo Trump wants to use for his campaign slogan there is no credible way he can utter again his mantra from 2016.  It was racist, xenophobic and awful then.  Now it is just sad and pathetic.

As is his time in office.

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House Vote In 2020, Pandemic Vote In 1918

This is info that would be fun for your kids or grandkids to know.

It does not now appear that the House will ‘work from home’ as the technology is not up to the required standards. Presently the Senate is working on the massive $1 trillion package and House Democrats and Republicans will canvass their membership to see if the bill has enough support to pass.

If that happens in the affirmative the House could try to pass the package by unanimous consent, and allow lawmakers to put in the Congressional Record how they would’ve voted if they were present. This is standard operating procedure should a lawmaker miss a vote. This would then serve as the “vote count” — or historical record — for the $1-trillion plus package.

If any member objects to the unanimous consent or calls for a quorum, they’d have to bring back the majority of the House — 216 lawmakers.

It should be noted that the country was governed on a voice vote during the 1918 flu pandemic.