Pandemic Is Not Over, Regardless Of What People Wish To Believe

Friday night I walked the railroad track that runs alongside McPike Park in Madison as the La Fête De Marquette drew thousands to the large band stage as music wafted over the neighborhood and the aroma of festival food lingered in the humid air. It was as close as I ventured to an event that had been a part of my summer routine since moving to our home on the isthmus in 2007.

Though James and I sit for dinner at outside tables and enjoy the laughter and wide-ranging conversations at cookouts and backyard gatherings I have forgone the big-screen movie magic this summer of Elvis. We wear a mask when grocery shopping or a quick hardware store run, and certainly would not wade into the throngs of closely packed people at a festival. As I looked at the dense crowd I thought of the statistic I read this week reporting only a third of the American population has received at least one booster shot.

COVID is still a real health care concern in the nation. Omicron subvariant BA.5 is racing about and infecting millions in the United States. I understand that many are simply tired of the virus and have made a conscious decision to go about their lives as if the chapter has ended. As I walked past the festival and then onwards for a longer trek in the neighborhood I thought about what might happen should another virulent variant start to spread around the nation.

The concern the public needs to be aware of is the growing number of cases of this latest variant attacking those who previously had contracted COVID. The need to mask up in buildings and movie theatres is not hard to reason, while the slow pacing of more concrete and strict orders from the CDC and governmental units is hard to fathom.

A neighbor who is a believer in science contacted public health offices in Madison and Dane County asking when they might be more vocal about the need to again mask up. It was reported the offices replied they certainly advise awareness of the virus, but would not at this time be more active in their statements.

One does have to ask, given the current fast-spreading variant, what lessons were learned over the past two years about how to deal with and stem an outbreak of disease? This past week the World Health Organization made it quite clear when stating “the virus is running freely”. While it is obvious that large percentages of the population have opted to think the virus is no longer a factor in how they conduct their lives, governments must be mindful of the mission at hand.

While many viruses tend to weaken as they mutate, others do not. Medical professionals have urged governments to be prepared regarding COVID for the “expected wave in the autumn and winter seasons”.

We need to make sure Congress understands that more funding is required so to further study COVID and ensure that the needed medical stockpiles for further outbreaks will be adequate to the needs of the nation. This year President Biden requested $22.5 billion for COVID funding, but due to partisan sniping, our elected officials were only able to appropriate half of the request.

Readers to this little place on the internet highway fully know my resolve in seeing Russian aggression pushed out of Ukraine. The massive amounts of funding to accomplish that end is a bill this nation, along with our international allies, must pay. And Congress, for the most part, has anted up. And quickly.

But that same stridency for missiles and armaments for the Eastern European war must be employed in the fight against the variants of COVID, and whatever future medical mysteries confront our people.

The festival crowd may not know or care that this pandemic continues. Our local, state, and national governments, however, must not only know about the dangers, but act accordingly for the citizens they have a responsibility to protect.

Waste In America: 82 Million Covid Doses Tossed

It was a jarring number to hear reported on the national news Monday morning.

When calculating in pharmacies, the 50 states, American territories, along with the federal agencies it was discovered that over 82 million COVID does were discarded. The time frame for the disposal was from December 2020 through mid-May this year.

To add more sting to the news that means over 11 percent of the doses the federal government distributed were ‘flushed’.

There is no way to feel anything than angst and even outright revulsion, as we know poor nations are still very much behind in their efforts to vaccinate. Once again, Americans have shown an ugly side by having so much at our disposal, and not being wise enough to act for the greater good.

I understand that with the large effort at vaccination there is an estimated amount factored in for removal from the process, given the ‘shelf life’ of the doses once opened. But also we know our nation had the means to be vaccinated and truly engage, one with another, so to stem and more firmly break the hold the virus has on our national health.

But too many willfully refused to act responsibly.

In May, it was reported our nation passed a grim number when over 1 million of our fellow citizens had died from a virus that medical professionals and scientists had alerted us about, and also asked us to help prevent spreading. At every stage of the pandemic, some first denied the existence of COVID, worked against mask mandates, and rebelled against closing or curtailing social interactions, such as schools and universities.

So I guess, in fairness, it should not have come as any surprise that many would adamantly reject a medically-proven vaccine to assist in moving our nation past a medical and economic crisis. The far less than stellar vaccine rates around the nation turned into part of the narrative we have sadly come to accept.

Yet it was a whopping number of trashed doses to learn about upon waking today. Our government did not fail to do its part starting in late December 2020 to supply the national need for shots in the arms of the populace. Scientists did not fail to continue working when new variants were detected, nor did health departments when urging citizens to be steadfast about getting boosters, too.

In the end, Americans failed each other. Tribal politics and relentless advocacy for the most baseless and absurd claims by anti-vaxxers were repeated and fed to a segment of the nation, who then simply opted out of their role as good stewards of humanity.

There is no way to hear or read “over 82 million COVID vaccine doses wasted” and not feel an empty space in our national collective soul.

Senator Ron Johnson Owes Wisconsin An Apology For Being Party To Vaccine/AIDS Lies

There are a number of weighty issues the nation needs to engage in as a war rages in Eastern Europe, medical professionals forecast a sharp increase in COVID cases this fall and into the winter, and a report that there are almost 2 open jobs waiting to be filled for every person who is employed in the nation.

Those three topics are but a sampling of what a working member of congress could be preoccupied with any hour of the day, any day of the week.

So it was most alarming to read this past week that Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson found the time to saddle alongside Todd Callender, who is a wild-eyed anti-vaccination zealot. That is a charitable characterization on my part.

During the bizarre teleconference campaign event for Johnson, Callender linked COVID vaccines as causing AIDS.

“You’ve got more than 100 doctors here, all of whom will tell you that these shots caused vaccine-induced AIDS. They purposefully gave people AIDS”.

Now, before I go one sentence further I must address in a factual way this absolute lie. Having been employed by Madison’s AIDS Network in 2003, in part to fashion the start of a program for medication adherence, I know how vital facts are to this disease. AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and is not caused by vaccines. Furthermore, AIDS is the third stage of HIV and when AIDS occurs, the immune system has been severely damaged.  PERIOD.

I also know the need for science to be respected, medical professionals heeded, and how tremendously effective medications are for ones in need, regardless of the disease up for discussion. So it was very concerning to read that once again Johnson was attempting to smear a vaccine that is proving worldwide to be a significant change-maker.

What was shocking and utterly dismaying was how Johnson gave wiggle room and oxygen to Callender’s crazy notion that maybe the coronavirus vaccines are a means of deliberately transmitting AIDS. In the video conference not once does Johnson fight back in any way on the idea that vaccines caused AIDS.

The video shows that Johnson says, “Everything you say may be true, but right now the public views the vaccines as largely safe and effective, that vaccine injuries are rare and mild. That is the narrative. That’s what the vast majority of the public accepts. So until we get a larger percentage of the population with their eyes open, to: Whoa, these vaccine injuries are real. Why? You’ve got to do step by step.”

I felt we knew Johnson’s full lack of appreciation for science when in 2010 he announced that “I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change”. He added, “It’s far more likely that it’s just sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time.”

During the COVID pandemic, however, we have been treated to Johnson’s absolute rejection of science with wildly ridiculous statements over and over again, such as suggesting that mouthwash would cure the problem.

He was not shy about suggesting that it was acceptable to lose between 1% and 3 % of the American population so to keep the economy in the nation pushing forward. That would be upwards of 3 million of our fellow citizens dying.

 “….getting coronavirus is not a death sentence except for maybe no more than 3.4 percent of our population”.

Acting with callous disregard for the citizens of the state is one thing, as with the above statement, but being a part of the spreading of absolute lies about the public vaccines in relation to AIDS requires more than moving on to the next campaign event.

It requires a full-throated and sincere apology from Ron Johnson to Wisconsin.

The vaccines have proven to be highly effective in reducing deaths and hospitalizations and it is unacceptable for a United State Senator to in any way be a party to the spreading of lies about such a life-saving measure.

Yes, Johnson is in election mode, but that does not negate his responsibility to put health care facts above whatever demographic within the Republican Party he was playing to with Callender.

It is true that many of Johnson’s past statements lacked empathy, and were just weird. But being party to the spreading of groundless and dangerous lies about the vaccine is a step into a moral hole Johnson needs to apologize for now.

And so it goes.

Common Sense Vs. Politics

An advertisement in Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal promoting sound public health caught my attention. I applaud the effort to continue to press forward with getting more people vaccinated to stem COVID-19. While the ad correctly urged an easy way to receive the shots it also presented what is wrong with our politics.

The fact that in Wisconsin there remains a need to clarify that these vaccine shots do not include a microchip or alter DNA made me put the newspaper down, and if anyone saw me, I surely just shook my head. When it comes to marketing to the anti-vaxxers no one can deny the effectiveness of partisans who used a pandemic to score points.

Meanwhile, The New York Times ran an article Sunday about the presidential election in France. The issue of Algeria, colonialism, and religion has been created by some partisans as a wedge issue in the upcoming balloting.

The legacy of Algeria has perhaps been most evident in the phrase “great replacement,” a racist conspiracy theory claiming that white Christians were being replaced by nonwhite immigrants.

Cleary the lack of critical thinking is not a local problem, as it spans the globe and presents itself in the most dreadful of ways. But wasn’t the emergence of the world wide web and countless ways to access information and gain knowledge to have lifted us all up as a global society?

So what happened where people now entertain the idea of microchips in vaccines and ‘replacement theories?

While history is replete with inaccurate information about health issues and it was only 62 years ago that our nation was actually discussing if a Catholic could be elected leader of the free world, should we not now be smarter and wiser with modern technology?

I grew up as a child hearing prognosticators speak of gadgetry akin to the world of The Jetsons, the space-age cartoon, being very possible within the coming decades. Life was going to be more advanced, the work world changed to make workers toil less, and the underlying assumption was we would be happier.

Computer chips revolutionized the world and advances, up and down the line, have allowed for everything from classrooms to space travel to speed forward with modernity. I marvel at those achievements as some of them mirror what we were told might happen as children.

But are we smarter and more able to think, reason, and use logic to not only navigate our personal lives but the larger community around us? In many aspects of our lives, such technology has been a clear asset. But how then, at the same time, do we account for what seems to be a growing segment of the world population insisting on rejecting facts and common sense, as noted in my two examples from today’s papers?

It is assumed, and I would argue correctly so, that using politics to steer our nation towards civil rights, and greater freedoms such as lowering the voting age and broadening the definition of marriage moved our nation closer to our ideals about democracy. But we have also seen the utter contempt for facts and logic used by some for partisan reasons actually grow; most recently by the willful undermining of life-saving vaccines.

The internet and the myriad ways to gain access to information and knowledge about every imaginable topic were to have lifted up humanity. In many ways, it has done that very thing. But we have also seen political forces misuse social media to create conspiracies and stir doubt as they score victories by how many they can deceive and delude.

I remain an optimist, seeing the glass half-full. But we need to be mindful that it can also be argued to be half-empty.

And so it goes.

Unity Among Americans Due To War Poses Larger Questions About Us

It is a rather sad fact. It has taken a complete breakdown in humanity due to Russian aggression against Ukraine to bring some comity to a deeply divided America.

This morning The New York Times reported above the fold a story that at first read makes for a smile. That is due to the absolute need to stand resolute with Ukraine, and also uplifting given the deeply divided nation in which we live. But if we take some time to ponder why it takes utter barbarity to bring a nation together the story is less satisfying.

After two years of political divisions and economic disruptions bolstered by an unending pandemic, many Americans say they are coming together around a common cause: support for Ukraine, a country under daily siege by Russian forces.

The rare moment of solidarity is driven, in part, by the perception of America as a steadfast global defender of freedom and democracy. Many Americans say they see a lopsided fight pitting a great power against a weaker neighbor. They see relentless images of dead families and collapsed cities. They see Ukraine’s president pleading for help.

In polls and interviews since the attack, Americans across the political spectrum said the nation had a duty to respond to President Vladimir V. Putin’s brazen invasion — even if that means feeling, at least in the short term, the pinch of high gas prices and inflation.

It is not hard to grasp why a tyrant on the loose, such as with Russian President Putin, causes such fear and loathing that it unites people in places near and far. But our entire global community has endured over two years of a deadly pandemic, and the required logic and caring nature of too many people were rejected for selfishness and utter stupidity.

This larger question about how humans act in times of high drama and crisis is one that I enjoy reading about and discussing with others. Some of the odd and harmful human reactions to current issues are the result of leaders who misuse the power of their office. When Donald Trump downplayed the impact of COVID 19, and undermined scientific avenues to forcefully address it, many of his followers forgot their role to the larger community and instead turned totally tribal.

With autocratic moves to stem the freedom of information to Russian citizens, Putin has controlled to a large degree the mindset of his nation. For now. As a result, civilians are being purposely bombed in Ukraine and Russian citizens are being fed fascist messages about purifying the human race.

These are just two headline-making stories to underscore that neglecting science and universal human values are very much a part of our lives in the 21st century. Societal wisdom, it can be correctly argued has a very long way to go to reach our collective ideals.

While Putin unites the United States and NATO with a sense of outrage and dread, I have to ask why existential risks, be they climate change, poverty, and gross inequality are often met with a mere shrug, and worse, crude and partisan tirades?

This problem of uniting people towards solutions is not just one needing attention in our nation. Multilateral institutions and leaders around the world committed to reforms provide guidance and sound policy options, but the masses never seem to consolidate in thought as we currently see as a result of Putin’s absurd militarism. With ever-deadly weapons and easier transmission of viruses, it would seem most obvious as to why we must collectively work together.

If we can only find a sense of unity when ruthless behavior and crisis land about us, it does not speak well for the pressing issues that demand a resolution to be found.

And so it goes.

Mary Nellie Parker: Hancock Woman’s Inspiration Makes For Article In Wisconsin State Journal

Mary Nellie Parker is recalled in Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal (Feb. 13th edition). The woman who was born in Waushara County and called Hancock home is being known today around the state. And for the best of reasons.

Several weeks ago, the newspaper wrote about the COVID-19 pandemic entering its third year and the challenges that presents for so many in our state. The paper wondered if we could take inspiration from earlier generations who struggled with crisis and hardship. They wanted readers to offer ideas.

My mind went at once to Mary Nellie Parker. In my researching The Hancock News for my Doty Land podcast episode about the 1918 pandemic, I came across the most touching, uplifting, and memorable news article concerning Parker. While there were many stories and accounts of locals who suffered from the virus, and then also from WWI, which was being fought at that time, it was Parker who best exemplified the human spirit in those troubling years.

Here then is the way the story looks from today’s paper. It was requested to keep the article to 250 words….I wrote tightly and came in at 249. I wish I had been able to know this woman. She surely was most remarkable.

Aaron Rodgers Deserved His Moment With Karma In Green Bay

Simply put, if a person is a high-profile figure, they must not be rewarded with expressing anti-vaccination sentiments. Novak Djokovic was such an example. Aaron Rodgers is another example.

Insulting the intelligence of state residents, and undermining vaccination efforts within the demographics that look up to and follow Rogers hurt the efforts of the medical establishment to stem COVID. We are going into our third year of the pandemic and we needed to have all folks working for the needs of the larger community.

Rodgers refused.

Karma responded.

And so it goes.

Justice Rendered: Novak Djokovic Had His Balls Handed To Him

There is not so much elation at this desk in the very early hours of Sunday as I write, as there is deep gratitude that facts, science, and law prevailed.

I have been waiting over the past hours to discover the outcome of the judge’s ruling concerning Novak Djokovic’s last-ditch attempt to stay in Australia and play tennis.  I have not shied away from stating I wished for him to be kicked out of the nation for his lies and dismal behavior.

The wait is now over.

The brash and arrogant Djokovic failed in his final attempt to stay in the nation and play in the upcoming tournament.  His unvaccinated stance and lies about his travels have cost him dearly.

Sports personalities have many people looking up to them, and as such have a responsibility that comes with fame and fortunes.  The Australian decision was correct.  It was the second visa rejection based on the fact he could very well pose a risk to public health and order.

The icing on this story is this decision cannot be appealed.

I have made it clear with the most irksome Aaron Rodgers, and others who toss intelligence aside concerning COVID, that there must be a price to pay.  In the case of Djokovic, it was clear that allowing him to stay in Australia could encourage others to refuse vaccines or disregard pandemic restrictions.

Simply put, if a person is a high-profile figure, they must not be rewarded with expressing anti-vaccination sentiments.  Today the only proper outcome that could be rendered was handed down in Australia.

And so it goes.