Is the healthcare “free market” working for you?

Journalist Jon Walker published a new piece for The American Prospect titled, “A Guide to the Nightmare of Getting Health Insurance in a Pandemic,” which detailed the absurdity of the U.S. system.

Walker paints a picture of a healthcare system that is perhaps “not working” for those who need it most:

EXvlBH9XQAMHkOl

 

Posted in Coronavirus, Health Care, Trump, trumpcare, Uncategorized, Zeldin | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Rampant Asymptomatic COVID-19 in a Homeless Shelter

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 8.57.06 PM

I have previously written about “the forgotten” and why Coronavirus infection in these populations affects us all.  I am talking about people in prisons, people in nursing homes and people in homeless shelters.  Outbreaks of COVID-19 in these populations do not remain contained. They spill into the general population by way of prison wardens, nursing home staff and the homeless populate not only the shelters but also the subways and parks.  A similar situation is the captive population on a cruise ship.

To give an idea of the scope of the problem, in the US, 567 715 people were homeless on a single night in January 2019.

In March, 2020, the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) tested all comers from a single large homeless shelter in Boston (excluding those that were already known to have the virus):

Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Residents of a Large Homeless Shelter in Boston

JAMA. Published online April 27, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.6887
147/408 (36.0%) had a positive PCR test, and 87.8% of them were asymptomatic.
The authors correctly conclude that PCR testing of all asymptomatic shelter residents should be performed when an individual with COVID-19 is identified in the same shelter.
The same reasoning applies to outbreaks in prisons, in nursing homes and on cruise ships!

 

Posted in Coronavirus, Health Care, Poverty, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is the East End ‘Open for Business’ as Usual?

Screen Shot 2020-05-12 at 9.48.17 AM

Gurney’s Inn, long an iconic resort on Long Island’s eastern tip at Montauk (June 5, 2013) Credit: Doug Kuntz

Some East End resorts are planning to open soon. Contrary to some assertions that misinterpret Governor Cuomo’s Executive Orders, resorts are NOT ‘essential businesses’.

Governor Cuomo’s economic recovery policy defines ‘essential infrastructure’ accommodation. This is distinct from seasonal resorts. Please see the following PDF link from the governor’s Empire State Development office, which explains in greater detail what the executive order means in terms of ‘essential business’ and gives guidelines about how essential businesses must operate: https://esd.ny.gov/sites/default/files/ESD_EssentialEmployerFAQ_033120.pdf

Item #6 of the document defines an essential business:

“6. An Essential Business is any business providing products or services that are required to maintain the health, welfare, and safety of the citizens of New York State.” That could include accommodations that provide housing to healthcare workers, COVID-positive individuals who are quarantined, and other vital services.

Our East End resorts are not contributing to the “health, welfare and safety” of New Yorkers. In fact, our local resorts, while critical to our local economy, actually put a substantial burden on our local healthcare systems, even without the added stress of a pandemic, and clearly (and logically) fall squarely within the governor’s phased reopening approach. Hotels and restaurants are in Phase 3 of his plan.

According to Suffolk County’s website (5/10/2020) we are not yet even ready to start Phase 1, as we fulfill only 4 out of 7 reopening requirements.

https://dashboards.suffolkcountyny.gov/app/main#dashboards/5eb5950d3ab83817803ffe49?h=false&t=false&l=false&r=true&volatile=true

Here is some more information from Governor Cuomo:

On 4/28, Governor Cuomo was asked whether Saratoga Race Course could reopen. He referred to it as “an attractive nuisance” and stated that it would bring people into the region, hampering local COVID-19 mitigation efforts. According to CBS Channel 2, ‘The governor explained the concept of “attractive nuisance,” saying regions cannot begin opening up businesses that draw hundreds of people from other areas.’ A video of his statements appear in CBS’s link: https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2020/04/28/coronavirus-covid-19-new-york-state-reopening-andrew-cuomo/

In order to open our resort economy in a responsible manner, what sorts of health and safety plans will be required to be implemented (following federal, state, county & town protocols) to protect staff, guests, first responders, and the community at large? Who has input in developing and vetting local plans? Will proposed and adopted plans be made public? Some considerations should include the following:

  1. When resorts do open, how will management know if a guest is positive? What sort of guest screening will the resort employ? Will temperatures be taken upon check-in, at the very least?(What happens if a guest tests positive at a resort? Will they be quarantined at that resort?)
  2. Frequently, seasonal resort staff live in dormitory-style housing (either on- or off-site) with multiple employees per bedroom, with no opportunity to isolate. Will staff be tested regularly? What happens when an employee tests positive? How and where will they be quarantined in that instance? Will there be a ‘duty to report’ for employees and employers?

 

Local resorts should not be allowed to reopen before a plan is in place that includes testing, contact tracing, and quarantine, especially for businesses that attract large numbers of people from outside our area, be they, guests or employees.

Good policy is driven by good data, and here we face another challenge. The way that COVID cases are reported out by our local hospital, for instance, uses a person’s permanent address as a reporting data point. If a resort guest or employee is hospitalized, it is not shown as a Montauk, or East Hampton statistic, but rather is added to the tally of whatever state and municipality is listed on the patient’s i.d. This makes it difficult to quantify the burden that is placed on local healthcare resources.

We cannot value our economic interests above the safety of our community. I know that our town officials are well-aware of the dedication of our local volunteer first responders. I don’t know if they are aware that a large number of those volunteers are high-risk for COVID disease; often, the most active members of our ambulance corps, for instance, are retirees. To put this group – and the rest of our community – at added risk due to a precipitous opening of our seasonal businesses would be unfortunate.

 

Jessica James (Montauk)

Posted in Coronavirus, Health Care, public health, Town Board, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Voting in the Pandemic Era: Safety First.

As the officers of the Southampton Town Democratic Committee, we wanted to share some thoughts about the controversial decision to cancel the New York State Presidential Primary. We understand that there are Democrats who wished the primary to go forward so that their chosen delegates would have more of a say in the development of the Party Platform. However, there are many circumstances that argue in favor of the decision to cancel the primary.

New York State is constitutionally prohibited from automatically mailing absentee ballots directly to voters. That translates into an onerous process requiring many hands to send out applications, check the applications when returned for validity and then mail out the actual ballots. So, this is a two-step process. Approximately 600,000 applications will be mailed in Suffolk County alone and then, depending on how many completed applications are received back at the Board of Elections, hundreds of thousands of ballots will have to be processed and mailed.

Once ballots are returned, they would be clocked-in, sorted and finally opened after election day, June 23rd. Furthermore, since Suffolk County does not have scanners to do this work, hundreds of thousands of ballots in Suffolk County will have to be read and tabulated by hand at a time when the Board of Elections does not have a full complement of  employees and social distancing rules are in effect.

We do not want any voters to feel disenfranchised, but the reality is that there is no contest for the Democratic candidate for President. This is not the same as canceling the Presidential election on November 3rd. While the party platform is a worthy aspirational statement of our ideals, it has no teeth unless we elect more Democrats to every branch of government who will then have the power to implement those values. Similarly, the United States Constitution is just a piece of paper, unless there is the political will in this country to enforce it. We have already seen tremendous erosion of the rule of law in the past four years. Instead, let us focus on getting our candidates elected.

This is not politics as usual. This is politics in the midst of a life-threatening pandemic. It makes ultimate sense for us to put safety, health and the well-being of our voters and election workers first.

Gordon Herr, Chair, Southampton Town Democratic Committee

Robin Long, 1st Vice-Chair

Andrea Klausner, 2nd Vice-Chair

 

Posted in Coronavirus, Fair elections, Health Care, Southampton, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Zeldin’s Anti-Vaxxer Donor

Screen Shot 2020-01-18 at 10.28.07 AM

Zeldin’s Anti-Vaxxer Donor Joins Reopen Protests, Opposes Any Future COVID-19 Vaccine

Does Lee Zeldin agree with risking New Yorkers lives?

As Governor Cuomo prepares a statewide plan to reopen safely, Lee Zeldin donor and staunch anti-vaccine advocate Rita Palma joined calls to press Governor Cuomo to end the state’s stay-at-home order early. This comes as COVID continues to ravage New York and especially Long Island where the death toll now exceeds 3,000 with over 70,000 positive cases and rising.

Zeldin’s donor not only attended the dangerous, unpopular protests, but she expressed her total opposition to any future COVID-19 vaccine. In a recent feature, the New York Times pointed out that Palma’s anti-public health rhetoric “could further harm the country’s response to the pandemic.”

Zeldin received $2,000 in contributions from Palma last year alone. And it’s clear why: Zeldin voted against supporting efforts to fight vaccine misinformation last year. And he has not disowned the anti-vaccination movement nor the protests to reopen the state against the advice of health experts.

“While Long Islanders grapple with the ongoing public health and economic crisis, Lee Zeldin’s donor was busy ignoring social distancing guidelines and encouraging New Yorkers to take dangerous public health risks,” said DCCC Spokesperson Christine Bennett. “Given the Congressman’s vote against fighting vaccine misinformation, constituents deserve to know where Zeldin stands on risking New Yorkers lives.”

For Immediate Release: May 11, 2020.  Christine Bennett.

 

See previous posts on anti-vaxxers:

https://resistancesuffolk.blog/2020/01/05/anti-science-movements/

https://resistancesuffolk.blog/2020/01/18/debunking-anti-vaxxers/

Posted in Coronavirus, Health Care, science, Uncategorized, vaccines, Zeldin | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

encorecommunityservices

We are all in this together.

Screen Shot 2020-05-08 at 4.36.04 PM

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_54vSLh3wG/?igshid=hu1p227frbfv

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Law and Order: not for Zeldin and Flynn

Screen Shot 2020-05-07 at 7.09.19 PM
Remember when Republicans were known as the “law and order” party?
Seems like a million years ago.
Let’s recap the saga of Mike Flynn:
  • November 2016: Trump announces Flynn as his incoming national security advisor.
  • December 2016: Flynn secretly talks to the Russian ambassador.
  • January 2017: Flynn tells the FBI he didn’t talk to the Russian ambassador.
  • February 2017: Flynn is fired by President Trump. Trump: “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.”
  • December 2017: Flynn pleads guilty to a felony, saying he “willfully and knowingly” made “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to the FBI.
  • 2018-2019: Flynn’s sentencing is repeatedly delayed…
  • April 2020: Lee Zeldin says he’d be “honored” and “proud” to serve with Flynn.
And finally, today: Donald Trump’s Attorney General drops the charges to which Flynn had already pleaded guilty. And Lee Zeldin celebrates on Twitter.
Unbelievable.
Equally unbelievable is Lee Zeldin’s defense and support of Flynn.
This is unacceptable behavior for a Member of Congress.
This is not the rule of the law.
This is not how a democracy is supposed to work.
If you break the law, you should get prosecuted. If you’re convicted or plead guilty, you should incur punishment. No matter how powerful your friends are.
Posted in Courts, perry gershon, Trump, Uncategorized, Zeldin | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Ignorance is Not Bliss

Appeared as Letter to the Editor, The East Hampton Star, May 7

Can Only Hope
East Hampton
May 4, 2020

To The Star:

By downplaying Covid-19 when it was spreading across China and Europe, Donald Trump wasted valuable time that the federal government could have used to create a strategic plan for dealing with what was surely coming our way. Instead, Trump maintained the virus would just disappear, “like a miracle.” He dug this country into a deep hole, then flung the shovel away, leaving states and cities to dig themselves out.

After years of “I alone can fix it,” suddenly now it’s “I take no responsibility at all.” Trump is a complete fraud. How did we get here? With the help of a cohort of Republicans, including Lee Zeldin, who have never had the courage to call Trump out for his countless failings and transgressions.

In November, we can only hope voters choose candidates who take seriously the awesome responsibility of leading and representing the people of this country.

Sincerely,

CAROL DEISTLER

Posted in 2020 elections, democrats, GOP, Trump, Trump atrocities, Uncategorized, Zeldin | 2 Comments

We Got to Work Together

“Being different is cool”  – a lesson from kids in Germantown, PA.

A truly powerful video relevant to our current times (click on the image to see the musical video):

Screen Shot 2020-05-05 at 10.35.56 AM

Recognized by the United Nations for Extraordinary Public Service

 

“On the Other Side of the Fence” is a touching documentary about a musical (by the same name) that was created to foster empathy and partnership between children from two Philadelphia schools for over 30 years.

Posted in Health Care, mental health, Pre-existing Conditions, Religion & tolerance, Trump, Uncategorized, Zeldin | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Visiting New York City

I have not been in the city since late February 2020. Much has changed.  It is now a ghost town.  Nobody rides the subway and there are no cabs.  On the bright side, there are plenty of parking spaces and little traffic.

A walk down East 86th street was depressing.  Over 3-4 blocks, there were numerous store closures, some temporary and others for good. There was retail space for rent or lease. There was a plea for donations via a Go-Fund-Me website from a restaurant called “Little Frog” addressed to it’s loyal customers.  Here are pictures taken on the evening of May 1st:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

You have to ask how long it will take to recover?  How many stores will go under? What will happen to real estate prices?  What will happen to jobs?

The city is definitely schizophrenic.  Less than 24 hours later on a beautiful spring Saturday, everyone it seems was out in Central Park.  Not much social distancing here.  With or without masks, there were picnics, frisbees, pick up basketball, and couples kissing!   Cyclists and joggers crowded the Central Park loop road.  Your usual spring weekend in the park.  There were so many people that 2 of them actually bumped into me by accident!  I have a sneaky feeling that the Coronavirus will be happy to spread again. And I wonder how many of these folks will visit the beaches in the Hamptons on a hot summer weekend.

IMG_6754IMG_6753

Posted in Coronavirus, economy, Health Care, long island, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

COVID is Much Much Worse than the Flu

I am still getting questions about whether COVID is any worse than the annual flu (even from my family).  The simple answer is YES, IT IS MUCH WORSE!
There are a number of recent posts and on-line articles discussing the reasons and I have posted on this site, previously.
Christopher Ingraham writes on May 2, 2020 in WaPo, based on data from Jeremy Samuel Faust, an emergency room physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School.
“If we measure flu mortality the same way we count COVID-19 deaths, the picture becomes very stark.” Flu deaths are “inflated statistical estimates” and COVID-19 deaths are “actual numbers.” Rather than comparing apples and oranges, one must compare apples to apples.  One must start with the number of directly confirmed flu deaths, which the CDC tracks on an annual basis. In the past seven flu seasons, going back to 2013, that tally fluctuated between 3,448 and 15,620 flu deaths:
Screen Shot 2020-05-02 at 2.56.43 PM

Note that these numbers are very different from the CDC’s final official flu death estimates. For 2018-2019, for instance, the 7,172 confirmed flu deaths translated to a final estimate of between 26,339 and 52,664 deaths. That’s because the CDC plugs the confirmed deaths into a model to adjust for what epidemiologists believe is a severe undercount.

 

Then lets add a bar for this season’s non-adjusted and directly observed COVID-19 deaths, which stand at 63,259:

Screen Shot 2020-05-02 at 2.56.55 PM

There are not likely to be many more flu deaths, as we are past the worst of the flu season. But COVID-19 mortality continues to rise at a rate of about 2,000 deaths per day.

Using an apples-to-apples comparison, we can say that the coronavirus has already killed eight times as many people as the flu in 2019-2020.

 

The coronavirus, Faust writes, “is not anything like the flu: It is much, much worse.”

Here are some other related articles and stories:
Posted in Coronavirus, Health Care, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lee Zeldin is Congratulating Himself

Screen Shot 2020-05-01 at 9.51.57 PM

Lee Zeldin is congratulating himself and claiming he steered 257 million in Federal funding to Suffolk county, money allocated through the CARES act for Coronavirus assistance.

I looked at the numbers to check whether this was a fair allocation of funds and how the CARES funds were allocated in the first place.

  CARES $$ Population Total COVID cases* COVID cases/100K*
USA 150,000,000,000 (100%) 328,200,000 (100%) 1,030,487 (100%) 314
Suffolk 257,670,000 (1.72%) 1,477,000 (0.45%) 32,724 (3.2%) 2209
Nassau 236,790,000 (1.57%) 1,357,000 (0.41%) 35,085 (3.4%) 2584

* based on reports from end of April

First, although Suffolk and Nassau counties are flashpoints of the current COVID-19 outbreak with few other counties anywhere in the USA rivaling the numbers of cases per 100K population, neither county is getting the dollar amount reflecting that.  Going by total COVID cases, they should be getting about 3.2-3.4% of the CARES dollars, but they are actually only getting about half of that.

So why is Lee Zeldin bragging about this? Is he perhaps suggesting that as the president’s friend and big supporter, he has procured a special deal for us? The numbers tell a different story: Long Island is getting squeezed.

Second, part of the problem is the method by which allocation was calculated:

“Allocation is by population, … each state is guaranteed at least $1.25 billion even if its population share would otherwise indicate a lesser amount.” https://taxfoundation.org/federal-coronavirus-aid-to-states-under-cares-act/

This obviously skews the money allocation to the less populous states which are mainly red states.

“Local governments with populations of 500,000 or more (like Suffolk and Nassau) are also eligible for aid, a provision responsible for much of the confusion. Localities are permitted to claim 45 percent of the amount allocated for their population, while the state retains the other 55 percent as it also serves that population. The state also retains 100 percent of the amount allocated to populations not within a locality of 500,000 or more.” https://taxfoundation.org/federal-coronavirus-aid-to-states-under-cares-act/

The executive branch and the US Treasury Dep., in particular, are running this show.  And allocations are determined by their formula.  It is unclear to me how Lee Zeldin can claim any bragging rights for the money allocated to Suffolk county.

Should we not insist on having a congressional representative who actually fights for his constituents? Instead, we have a Trump imitator who all too often uses tragedy to promote himself and his political campaign.

What goes much further in my book is when credit is received from others and in particular from Democratic leaders. Here is an example from the East Hampton Star:

Mr. Steve Bellone, the Suffolk County Executive (a democrat) explained that The Municipal Liquidity Facility gives counties the ability to do short-term borrowing to address cash flow issues caused by revenue almost completely drying up because of the wholesale shutdown of certain parts of our economy.  Previously, a county must have had at least two million residents, which Suffolk county does not, to qualify for the Municipal Liquidity Facility.  So Bellone wrote a letter to Steve Mnuchin.

Mr. Bellone credited Senator Charles Schumer and Rep. Lee Zeldin with persuasive advocacy for Suffolk. Mr. Schumer “literally walked the letter into Steven Mnuchin’s office,” he said of his letter to the Treasury Secretary and spoke with Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve. Mr. Zeldin lobbied President Trump and Mr. Mnuchin, Mr. Bellone said, “and the congressman put me on the phone, set up a call with the Treasury secretary and himself so I could make the case directly about why Suffolk County needs this and why this is so important.”

 

Posted in Coronavirus, Health Care, Trump, Uncategorized, Zeldin | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Suffolk “BOE” Commissioner Must Resign

Screen Shot 2020-04-30 at 2.44.36 PMBy law, Lalota can’t run the BOE while running for office

Submitted by Jacquelyn Gavron

Following is testimony presented to the Legislature during its public hearing on an Independent Office of Inspector General for Suffolk County, proposed in response to pervasive corruption and conviction of County officials and to the tragic death of 8-year old Thomas Valva, whose death raises questions of possible misconduct and mismanagement by County departments.   (Statement Delivered to Suffolk County Legislature, April 28, 2020)

“Good afternoon.  My name is Jacquelyn Gavron and I’m here to support the new Office of Inspector General, whose intent is to “identify and eradicate fraud, waste, abuse and corruption…to protect public integrity of government… and to safeguard the use of taxpayer dollars.” It is critical that election integrity be part of this effort. That’s why I’m informing you of a potential violation of NYS Election Law that requires your immediate attention.

“Nicholas Lalota, who was nominated and confirmed as Suffolk County Board of Elections Commissioner in January 2015 (and again in 2019), is running as Republican candidate for NYS Senate District 8 (Babylon Beacon). (Also see 2/20/20 announcement of candidacy.)

“On February 24, 2020 Commissioner Lalota announced he would take a leave of absence as of March 30, 2020. (Newsday, 2/23/20).

“However, under  NYS Election Law section 3-200 (6), Commissioner Lalota was required to resign his office. That section provides:

6. An election commissioner shall not be a candidate for any elective office which he would not be entitled to hold under the provisions of this article, unless he has ceased by resignation or otherwise, to be commissioner prior to his nomination or designation therefor. Otherwise such nomina­tion or designation shall be null and void.

“As the Board of Elections has ruled in Formal Opinion 1983, Opinion #4, 6/7/83 , a commissioner “must resign prior to the filing of his nominating or designating petitions.”  A leave of absence does not satisfy the statute’s requirement that a commissioner has “ceased  . . .  to be commissioner . . .”  While on a leave of absence, Commissioner Lalota still remains in office and retains control. In fact, he is still listed on the BOE website as the Republican Commissioner.

“In Lalota’s case, the apparent violation of sec. 3-200(6) is particularly disturbing because he is running for office in the same county over whose elections he has control.

“It would be egregious for any commissioner, Democrat or Republican, to stay in office in violation of the law, but it’s particularly outrageous for Lalota, around whom questions have swirled.

In 2018, Commissioner Lalota suspended walk-in absentee ballots, prompting County Executive Steve Bellone to write “a letter to the state Board of Elections. . .asking it to investigate the Suffolk BOE because the new policy was “disenfranchising voters.” (Newsday)

“And since 2017 Commissioner Lalota has been a part-time student at the [Maurice A. Deane] School of Law at Hofstra while earning a $144,000 salary for his full-time job as commissioner. According to Hofstra’s website,  “. . . part-time classes . . . meet five days a week so that law school can be completed in four years.” Yet an 18-month audit by the Suffolk County Comptroller was unable to verify Commissioner Lalota’s time and attendance records.

The public is depending on your leadership [SC Legislature] and that of Suffolk County Executive Bellone, to ensure fair and safe elections, to protect public integrity of government, and to safeguard the use of taxpayer dollars.

“Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.”

NOTE: Many thanks to Amy Turner for her invaluable assistance.

Posted in Fair elections, GOP, long island, Uncategorized, Zeldin | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When the Forgotten Remain Forgotten, no one is Secure

Screen Shot 2020-04-26 at 3.44.25 PM

The Covid-19 pandemic is putting the deepening class divide in America into stark relief.

Four new classes are emerging.

The Remotes: These are professional, managerial, and technical workers – an estimated 35% of the workforce – who are putting in long hours at their laptops, Zooming into conferences, scanning electronic documents, and collecting about the same pay as before the crisis. Many are bored or anxious, but they’re well off compared to the three other classes.

The Essentials: They’re about 30% of workers, including nurses, homecare and childcare workers, farm workers, food processors, truck drivers, warehouse and transit workers, drugstore employees, sanitation workers, police officers, firefighters, and the military. Too many Essentials lack adequate protective gear, paid sick leave, health insurance, and childcare, which is especially important now that schools are shuttered. They also deserve hazard pay. Their vulnerability is generating a wave of worker activism at businesses such as Instacart, Amazon, Walmart, and Whole Foods. Mass-transit workers are organizing work stoppages. Trump’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has the legal authority to require private employers provide essential workers with protective gear. Don’t hold your breath.

The Unpaid: They’re an even larger group than the unemployed – whose ranks could soon reach 25%, the same as in the Great Depression. Some of the unpaid are furloughed or have used up their paid leave. So far in this crisis, 43% of adults report they or someone in their household has lost jobs or pay, according to the Pew Research Center. An estimated 9.2 million have lost their employer-provided health insurance. Many of these jobs had been in personal services that can’t be done remotely, such as retail, restaurant, and hospitality work. But as consumers rein in spending, layoffs are spreading to news organizations, tech companies, and consumer-goods manufacturers. The unpaid most need cash to feed their families and pay the rent. Fewer than half say they have enough emergency funds to cover three months of expenses, according to a survey conducted this month by Pew. So far, government has failed them, too. Checks mailed out by the Treasury last week are a pittance. Extra benefits could help, but unemployment offices are so overwhelmed with claims that they can’t get money out the door. Loans to small businesses have gone largely to big, well-connected businesses, with banks collecting fat fees. On Wednesday, Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said he is opposed to any further federal aid to state and local governments, suggesting states declare bankruptcy instead. Which means even less money for unemployment insurance, Medicaid, and everything else the unpaid need. The resulting desperation is fueling demands to “reopen the economy” long before it’s safe. If it comes down to a choice between risking one’s health and putting food on the table, many will take the latter.

The Forgotten: This group includes everyone for whom social distancing is nearly impossible because they’re packed tightly into places most Americans don’t see: prisons, jails for undocumented immigrants, camps for migrant farmworkers, Native American reservations, homeless shelters, and nursing homes. While much of New York City is sheltering at home, for example, more than 17,000 men and women, many already in poor health, are sleeping in roughly 100 shelters for single adults. All such places are becoming hotspots for the virus. These people need safe spaces with proper medical care, adequate social distancing, testing for the virus and isolation of those who have contracted it. Few are getting any of this. Not surprisingly, the Essentials, the Unpaid, and the Forgotten are disproportionately poor, black, and Latino and they are disproportionately becoming infected. An Associated Press breakdown of available state and local data showed close to 33% of those who have died from Covid-19 are African American, despite representing only 14% of the total population in areas surveyed. The Navajo Nation already has lost more people to coronavirus than have 13 states. Four of the 10 largest-known sources of infection in the United States have been correctional facilities. These three groups aren’t getting what they need to survive this crisis because they don’t have lobbyists and political action committees to do their bidding in Washington or state capitals.

The Remotes among us should be concerned, and not just because of the unfairness of the Covid-19 class divide. If the Essentials aren’t sufficiently protected, the Unpaid are forced back to work earlier than is safe, and if the Forgotten remain forgotten, no one is secure. Covid-19 will continue to spread sickness and death for months, if not years to come.

This Tuesday, April 28 at 11 a.m. Pacific Time/2 p.m. Eastern Time, I’ll be having a live discussion with Stacey Abrams about the future of the Democratic Party and voting rights in the age of coronavirus. You can tune in here.

Stay Safe, Robert Reich, Inequality Media P.S.

D. Posnett:  Note for D. Trump and L. Zeldin: best to consider all of these 4 groups when attempting to rebuild the economy.  Just one sick group with rampant COVID-19 will bring us all down.  Viruses don’t really care about who you are.  Celebrity or a jailbird, homeless or a billionaire, it’s all the same to them.

Posted in Coronavirus, economics, economy, Health Care, jobs, Labor, long island, Poverty, Trump, Uncategorized, Zeldin | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How We Got Here

How We Got Here

The media has accurately reported how President Trump’s mismanagement of COVID-19 has exacerbated this global health crisis. But Trump’s damage to our public health goes back to the beginning of his administration — and for Congressman Lee Zeldin and the rest of the Republican Party, their culpability starts much earlier.

It begins with the universal Republican vow to eliminate the Affordable Care Act and is compounded by their ideological orthodoxy to starve every federal agency of funding, including those agencies that are charged with public health. Like every Republican, this was the platform Zeldin ran on in 2014, and this is how he has voted as a member of Congress.

But these dual GOP missions — repeal the ACA and reduce the size of government — have directly contributed to the disastrous federal response to this crisis.

The ACA, while primarily concerned with health insurance access and patient protections, also focused on public health issues through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2010, the ACA established the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) at the CDC. It supported a public health mission that included the “early detection of and response to health threats.”

The GOP could not repeal the ACA while Obama was president, but once they took over the House after the 2010 election, largely on the strength of campaigning against the ACA, they worked hard to consistently weaken it, including weakening the PPHF. Then, in 2017, with the inauguration of Trump and complete control of the federal government, they went full-steam ahead to repeal the ACA and reduce the size of all federal agencies. The CDC and the PPHF were no exception.

In early 2018, Trump signed the budget bill that cut the PPHF by $1 billion over 10 years. Later, in 2018, Trump eliminated the global health security office within the National Security Council and made further cuts to public health programs by diverting money from the CDC and the National Institutes of Health for his policy to detain migrant children. Public health experts at the time warned that such drastic moves would harm the country’s ability to respond to and contain outbreaks of disease.

Trump and Zeldin are now working overtime to bury this history. To deflect blame, Trump insists that his name be stamped on the stimulus checks being mailed to desperate Americans. In a similar vein, Zeldin recently announced how he alone got much-needed medical equipment rushed to Suffolk County.

They would like you to forget how we got here.

Barbara Weber-Floyd

Westhampton Beach

Posted in ACA, Coronavirus, GOP, Health Care, Trump, Uncategorized, Zeldin | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Labradoodle dog breeder heads HHS response to the coronavirus

Submitted by Peggy Backman:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-hhschief-speci/special-report-former-labradoodle-breeder-tapped-to-lead-u-s-pandemic-task-force-idUSKCN2243CE

 

Letters from an American (April 22nd, 2020)

I’m going to start tonight with an important story that slipped under the radar on a day when one outrageous performance after another grabbed headlines.

On its surface, the story doesn’t seem terribly important. A number of congressional committees have asked the Office of Personnel Management for updates on how the OPM is handling working conditions for federal employees during the coronavirus crisis. OPM is declining to answer the requests. “It has always been difficult to get information from this administration, but the refusal to provide Congress with a basic briefing during a pandemic is especially egregious,” said a Democratic Senate aide to Politico reporter Daniel Lippman. “We’ve never been denied a briefing like this before.”

But the story is actually very significant. The OPM oversees the 2 million workers in the federal government. In mid-February, after Republican Senators acquitted him in his impeachment trial, Trump set out to purge the federal workforce of civil servants, whom he sees as “snakes,” and replace them with political appointees loyal to him.

To head the Presidential Personnel Office, which recruits candidates for the executive branch, Trump brought in John McEntee, who had been fired from a former position in the White House by former chief of staff, John Kelly, over a security clearance. On March 17, McEntee forced the director of the Office of Personnel Management, Dale Cabaniss, who had significant personnel experience, to resign. Michael Rigas, formerly of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, took his place. (Phew. I know… but this is going somewhere important.)

The change from Cabaniss to Rigas at the head of OPM transpired just as the novel coronavirus pandemic hit the nation hard.

Rigas has said he believes the 1883 Pendleton Act is unconstitutional. Congress passed the Pendleton Act, also known as the Civil Service Act, after a mentally-ill office seeker shot President James Garfield in 1881. Until then, government positions had been handed out to political loyalists, regardless of their capacity to do the job, but the assassination created a public outcry. Charles Guiteau shot Garfield with the expectation that, once elevated to the presidency, Garfield’s vice president would give Guiteau the position his delusions made him think he deserved. The assassination built momentum behind the idea that government should be non-partisan, and that positions should be filled by people actually equipped to do the job. This sentiment has ruled the nation ever since.

Non-partisan civil service has proved a blessing to the nation in two ways. First of all, over time, as more and more positions came under the act, the government got much more efficient. Second, a non-partisan corps of officials has kept the nation stable since they give their loyalty to the country’s government, rather than to any particular president. Administrations come and go, but government bureaucrats keep the nation on an even keel.

Now, Rigas, the man at the head of the federal government’s 2 million workers, wants to get rid of that system and make all employees of the executive branch political appointees, loyal not to the country but to Trump. Rigas is working with McEntee at the PPO. As of a few weeks ago, agencies now have to submit job openings to the PPO to see if they have anyone they want in the position before they can submit their own choice for it. PPO is filling positions with keen regard for their loyalty: recently it has hired four college seniors to become administration officials.

OPM is the office that is refusing to tell Congress what it’s up to.

Today offered some guesses. Dr. Rick Bright, the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, claimed that he was let go from his job for crossing Trump. BARDA is charged with protecting us from pandemic influenza and emerging infectious diseases (EID) and Bright is a specialist in those areas. He headed the federal agency developing a coronavirus vaccine, and refused to use the agency’s significant budget to promote hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug Trump has been pushing as a treatment for the coronavirus. Bright was transferred to a less central position at the National Institutes of Health, but has refused to resign his position at BARDA.

Bright and his lawyers say his removal is retaliation and that he will be filing a whistleblower complaint. “I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” he said in a statement. “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”

Bright’s defense of science over politics got a boost with Tuesday’s news that hydroxychloroquine is not only ineffective against Covid-19, but possibly worsens the outcome for those who take it. A study of 368 patients at Veterans Affairs showed that those given the drug were more likely to die than those who weren’t. After much hyping of the drug, Laura Ingraham and other Fox News Channel personalities have suddenly gone quiet on it. Trump, who hailed the drug as a “game-changer” but who has stopped talking about it lately, said he did not know of the bad report, “but we’ll be looking at it.”

Demanding loyalty to Trump is about cementing the power of the president, and service to that power means he will sacrifice his loyalists whenever necessary to protect himself. People are noting that Trump tossed Georgia Governor Brian Kemp under the bus today over Kemp’s reopening of certain Georgia businesses against the advice of public health officials. After a week of calling for states to reopen, Trump told reporters that he “disagree[s] strongly” with Kemp’s decision to start that process.

But Kemp and Trump have clashed before—Trump wanted Kemp to appoint key Trump supporter Doug Collins to the Senate seat that Kemp gave to Kelly Loeffler (now in trouble for insider trading)—so it’s not a huge surprise that Trump hung Kemp out to dry.

Today’s more significant underbussing was that of Alex Azar, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, who was skewered in a piece in the Wall Street Journal for what appears to have been extraordinarily inept handling of the coronavirus crisis. My guess is that he is shortly going to be out of a job, taking the blame for the White House’s poor response to the pandemic.

Considering that Trump’s OPM wants to remove qualified civil servants from the government in favor of political cronies, the piece of the Azar story that has attracted the most outrage is ironic. Azar tapped a key aide with little experience or education in public health, management, or medicine to head up the response of Health and Human Services to the coronavirus crisis.

Before going to work for Azar, the aide, Brian Harrison, was a dog breeder who specialized in labradoodles.

 

 

Notes:

McEntee: https://www.axios.com/johnny-mcentee-white-house-d1c29eee-8b0a-4c4d-8ba4-9355f3c27f4f.html

Cabaniss resigns: https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/17/opm-chief-resigns-134541

PPO and OPM: https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/21/democrats-blast-trump-federal-workers-coronavirus-199026

Bright: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/22/us/coronavirus-live-coverage.html

https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2020/04/22/business/ap-us-virus-outbreak-hhs-whistleblower.html

https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/22/politics/rick-bright-barda-trump-coronavirus/index.html

https://www.thedailybeast.com/study-of-hydroxychloroquine-trump-promoted-coronavirus-drug-finds-more-deaths

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/22/business/media/virus-fox-news-hydroxychloroquine.html

Kemp: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/trump-reverses-course-says-too-soon-georgia-reopen-n1190061

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/22/trump-kemp-georgia-reopen-coronavirus-202117

If you liked this post from Letters from an American, why not share it?

 

Posted in Coronavirus, Health Care, Trump, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I am Pissed off!

Screen Shot 2020-04-23 at 1.25.38 PM
From Perry Gershon:
I am pissed off!
The Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, said yesterday that state and local governments should declare bankruptcy if they find themselves in a financial hole due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Is he serious?
How in the world do we fight this crisis and bring jobs back if state and local governments are declaring bankruptcy?
Governor Cuomo called out what McConnell said as “offensive”, and “one of the saddest, really dumb comments of all time.” Exactly right.
Mitch McConnell is competing with Donald Trump to be the poster child for demonizing and politicizing a national health crisis.
But what I am really pissed off about is the complete and total silence from Lee Zeldin. Again and again and again, this guy never fights for us. Never!
Even his Republican colleague on Long Island, Peter King said the comments were “shameful and indefensible” and called McConnell the “Marie Antoinette of the Senate.”
But nothing from Zeldin. Nothing.
Nothing but his usual silence in the face of the most extreme in his own party.
Let me be clear, the money the states and local governments are asking for would go to our fire fighters, police officers, EMTs, and healthcare workers.
HEALTHCARE WORKERS!  This is who Zeldin will not fight for.
Folks, we need to defeat Lee Zeldin.
Perry
Posted in Coronavirus, Health Care, perry gershon, Peter King, Trump, Uncategorized, Zeldin | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Fast is the Coronavirus spreading?

Rt is a key measure of how fast the virus is spreading. It’s the average number of people who become infected by an infected and infectious person. Rt = 1 means one infected person infects one other person on average. If Rt is above 1.0, the virus will spread quickly or logarithmically.  For example, if Rt = 2, the progression of infected persons from that one index case goes 1,2,4,8,16,32,64,128,256,…etc.  When Rt is below 1.0, the total number of infected persons will start to decrease.

https://rt.live/ is a really cool site that tracks the Rt number, by State, and over time.

Here are some examples, but you really should go to the website and look for yourself.

These are the current data for every state in the Union. In green are the states with Rt  below 1.  In red are the states with Rt above 1:

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 1.42.48 PM

This was 3 weeks ago:

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 1.44.38 PM

This is current and highlights the states without stay-at-home (shelter in place) orders:

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 1.48.11 PM

Rt numbers over time per state:

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 1.45.11 PM

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 1.45.21 PM

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 1.45.44 PM

You can also superimpose these curves with the curves of new cases:

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 1.59.03 PM

Persistent low Rt numbers as in the case of New York since early April, seems to correlate with “flattening of the curve” of new cases.  The reverse also holds true in some states like Ohio where a recent uptick of the  Rt number between April 12-19 corresponds with increased numbers of new cases and no flattening of the curve.

I signed up on https://rt.live/ to get updates by email and twitter.  I recommend that all those making COVID-19 related decisions, whether nationally or locally, follow these data carefully. They may provide a guide for cautiously reversing stay-at-home orders in some locations.

Please remember: our health and our economy are one and the same.

 

 

Posted in Coronavirus, Health Care, Trump, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

#Votebymail

Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 12.41.40 PM

The 2020 election season moves onward and, across America, people have been asked to either put their health at risk thanks to this pandemic—or not vote.

That’s completely inexcusable. In this time of crisis, we have to protect our health AND protect our democracy.

As New Yorkers, and especially as Long Islanders, we know exactly how important this is.

The solution is simple: nationwide #votebymail.

Sign the petition: urge Congress to take action on vote-by-mail right now.

There is no good reason to delay taking action. Not one.

Voting by mail is safe, secure, and proven. It would allow Americans to exercise their most fundamental democratic rights, all while helping flatten this pandemic’s infection curve by staying home.

This is critical for vulnerable populations – our seniors, Americans with compromised immune systems, workers who have lost their health care – Americans who deserve a voice and a vote, no matter what. Vote-by-mail is also critical for heroes on the front lines – doctors, nurses, biomedical researchers – who shouldn’t be asked to leave work to stand in line at polling places.

Unfortunately, this has become a partisan fight. Donald Trump has even suggested that he’d prefer having fewer voters vote:

“They had levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

A president of the United States… actually downplaying our civic duty. Unbelievable. And you can bet that Rep. Lee Zeldin is doing nothing to stand up for democracy.

Congress must act immediately to require states to make voting from home easier and to provide the funds to make it happen. In Congress, I will always put democracy first.

Perry Gershon

Posted in 2020 elections, Coronavirus, Uncategorized, voting by mail | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Finally, Biden speaks out

Screen Shot 2020-04-20 at 8.11.46 PM

 

Watch the video on YouTube!

The Trump agenda:

  • Let’s make America poor again.
  • Let’s make America sick again.
  • Let’s make America jobless again.
  • Let’s make America the laughing stock of the world.
  • Let’s make America powerless again.  (Putin’s goal!)

 

 

Posted in Biden, Coronavirus, Health Care, Trump, Uncategorized, Zeldin | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment