Sunday, July 12, 2020

Trump, DeSantis Are Putting Our Kids' Lives At Risk To Help POTUS Get Reelected

COMMENTS FROM FLORIDA GOVERNOR Ron DeSantis this past week, as he continues to insist that schools should reopen amid rising cases of coronavirus in his state, are simply absurd, plain and simple.

DeSantis insisted that if certain businesses were allowed to open, including "big box" stores, that schools should have no problem doing so as well.

"If fast food and Walmart and Home Depot...if all that is essential, then educating our kids is absolutely essential," DeSantis insisted on Thursday.

There are two big problems with his comments. First, no one is saying educating children isn't an essential service. Of course kids need to be schooled — but do they need to be in a building in order to do that?

Ideally, yes, that should be how things go. But in the midst of a deadly pandemic, where nearly 140,000 Americans have already died from COVID-19 so far, limiting the further spread of the pandemic should be the first goal. Opening schools will invariably result in its further spread, in Florida and in any other state that reopens without implementing important rules and precautions.

The second problem with DeSantis's comments is that he makes a presumption of safety in those stores. Reading his words, you'd think the places he described are safe while open. That's hardly the case.

Across the country, big box stores are actually seeing coronavirus spread to workers (and likely to customers as a result), sometimes ending in deaths. Two workers in a Walmart in Chicago died; two more died in one in Colorado; a Costco employee died in Texas; a single Walmart store in Massachusetts saw at least 80 employees get infected; Target stores and other big box places have also reported numerous employees getting sick.

And while the examples listed above might not sound too daunting, consider this: they are just a small handful of cases I was able to find, in a short two-minute Google search, all occurring before May 1 of this year. Undoubtedly, more have gotten sick, and possibly died, since that time.

There is another consideration that has to be made about DeSantis calling for schools to reopen: comparing them to big box stores is a false equivalency. A person might go to one of those stores once a week for one, maybe two hours at a time (or at least, they should be going no more than that amount of time), but a student in a school goes to classes five days a week, for a period of several hours per day. The chances for spread are much higher for a kid than they are for anyone shopping at a big box store, if schools are reopened in the fall.

The notion that schools must reopen at this time, and indeed with as few guidelines in place as possible, is of course wholly political. It's an attempt to demonstrate a return to normalcy, that everything is fine, all to help President Donald Trump win a second term in office

How would that work, exactly? If the disease is still a problem in the fall, the president likely reasons, it will be seen as a failure on his part.

Which, of course, it is. But most Americans already understand that he's failed, in big ways, to lead during this crisis. Had he acted just one week earlier in March, for example, issuing out social distancing guidelines in the first few days of that month instead of toward the middle of it, a majority of deaths seen in this country so far could have been avoided

Not wanting to take responsibility for how coronavirus has spread under his watch, Trump is instead banking on Americans having short-term memory loss — that, if schools (and businesses, for that matter) reopen this fall, like they were before March, everything will be "back to normal," and he'll be seen as succeeding during this pandemic.

That idea, however, makes our nation's children guinea pigs for election year experiment. It should disgust every single American with a conscience.

It isn't as though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention isn't trying its best to allow schools to reopen, if local communities determine it's what they want to do. The CDC has even provided a set of guidelines for how to do so, to ensure student and faculty safety.

Those guidelines are too restrictive for Trump, however, who blasted them last week in a tweet insisting they needed to go away, threatening to remove federal funding toward schools that dared to implement them. 

Again, this is all in the name of him getting the country back to a way of being before the crisis began, so that he can take a victory lap come October and November.

The problem is, that victory won't come about, especially if schools don't take cautious measures to protect our kids this fall. Some students will die, in fact, especially if Trump gets his way, and the CDC measures are indeed rolled back.

Featured image credit: The White House/Flickr

Friday, July 3, 2020

It's Not Just Washington That Needs To Change Its Team's Name...

THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE team from Washington D.C. — whose name will be avoided as much as possible in this blog post — announced on Friday, along with the support from the league itself, that it will begin a "review" of the team's name, for being offensive to Native Americans and Indigenous People in the United States.

The pressure from Nike, FedEx, Pepsi, and other corporations seems to be the driving force behind the review.

For some, the writing is on the wall — a name change is inevitable.

From The Washington Post:
The team offered few details of what the review will entail, but one person familiar with the discussions between team owner Daniel Snyder, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and other league officials said that the review is expected to result in a new team name.

“You know where this leads," the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "They’re working on that process [of changing the name]. It will end with a new name. Dan has been listening to different people over the last number of weeks.”
This is a change that was needed decades ago. No group of people should be a mascot; what's more, to use a known derogatory term as that mascot name is doubly wrong.

This isn't just a "polite" thing to do. There are real-world implications and harms caused by such names existing. The use of Native American names and imagery as mascots causes damage in two ways, to two different groups of people, according to the American Psychological Association

Directly, it is discriminatory and causes psychological harm to Native American children. Such use of mascots "establishes an unwelcome and oftentimes hostile learning environment for American Indian students that affirms negative images/stereotypes that are promoted in mainstream society," the APA says.

Indirectly, it establishes and reinforces those stereotypes, too, to students who are not Native American. Mascots undermine "the educational experiences of members of all communities — especially those who have had little or no contact with indigenous peoples," says the APA. "The symbols, images, and mascots teach non-Indian children that it's acceptable to participate in culturally abusive behavior and perpetuate inaccurate misconceptions about American Indian culture." 

With these thoughts in mind, it's not just the team from Washington D.C. that needs to consider a name change — local school districts, too, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, need to halt the use of Indigenous People's names or imagery as team names.

There are really no more excuses to resist doing so. It was wrong then, and it's wrong now.

Featured image credit: Rich McFadden/Joint Base San Antonio 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Predicting Next Week's COVID Death Numbers — The Final Death Toll Will Be Trump's Legacy

TRYING TO UNDERSTAND CORONAVIRUS and how it behaves has proved difficult, even for the experts. Knowing how the disease works and what practices are best to prevent its spread has been hard to figure out.

But we do know that social distancing measures have proven to be effective. Wear a mask — wash your hands, often — stay six feet away from other people, if you have to venture out at all — and limit your travel to only necessary trips outside of the home.

Unfortunately, with many states relaxing their social distancing rules (either on purpose, like Florida and Texas have, or by judicial decree, as what happened in Wisconsin), the disease looks to be making a strong comeback. People aren't following social distancing rules that are advised by the CDC. Coronavirus hasn't disappeared, but many Americans, nevertheless, are acting like it has.

Disturbingly, we're now seeing cases go up to their highest levels ever. On Friday, the U.S. surpassed 40,000 new cases in a single day for the first time ever. With more than 127,000 deaths so far in the U.S. (as of Friday night), invariably this means that number will go up even higher in the next coming weeks.

How much higher is impossible to know for sure. But we can make an educated guess, based off of two different weeks of the crisis so far.

From April 1 to 7, there were 30,133.3 cases of coronavirus identified per day. From that number, nine days later (from April 10 to 16), we witnessed 2,228.1 American deaths on average.

So we can say that, for every case that was identified, there were 0.07394 deaths that happened. That number may seem weird at first glance, but stick with me here: it becomes important for our equation later on.

More recently, from June 9 to 15, there were less cases, about 21,825.1 on the average day during that time. Again, we look nine days later (June 18 to 24), and witness 598.1 deaths per day during those dates.

From that, we can say, for every case we saw, there were 0.02740 deaths.

Now, those numbers give us a way to sort of predict a range of what to expect within the next couple of weeks, because we have the 7-day average for the past week. That number is 33,244.3 new cases of coronavirus being identified per day (from June 19 to 25).

So, we can take those weird numbers from above, and multiply it by that number, to create a range, an idea of what we can expect, in terms of deaths per day from coronavirus, from June 28 to July 2.

Between those dates, we should prepare for between 910 deaths per day at the very low end, to 2,458 deaths per day at the high end.

Looking objectively, that's a very wide range. But even at the low-end estimate, it's a 52 percent increase from the devastating loss of life we've seen just over the past seven days.

Truthfully, the number will likely be on the lower end of things, for a couple of reasons. One, treatment of the disease is getting better. Doctors know better than to use drugs like hydroxychloroquine now, and they've studied the effects of ventilators, too, to know when it's appropriate (and when it's not necessary) to use those types of instruments. There's also promise about a steroid medication that has shown real results in treatment for patients who are seriously ill.

If we take the average of the extremes in that range, we come up with around 1,684 deaths per day during the end of June/beginning of July. I'm willing to bet, though, that it will be lower than that number, around 1,300 to 1,500 deaths per day over the June 28 to July 2 period.

But, is that really something to celebrate? Of course not. Why am I writing a huge blog post, then, trying to predict what the death numbers will be next week? To highlight just how awful things still are, and how a lack in federal leadership on coronavirus has mucked things up in a serious way.

President Donald Trump has not provided any plan for combating the disease, other than to say he did a good job (which, he did not). He urged people to protest against stay-at-home orders, and gloated about it when states began to reopen. 

The disease didn't go away. But the president has called this a success, nevertheless.

From June 28 to July 2, if between 9,000 to 10,00 Americans die during that time, as I'm predicting, it will be nothing short of a travesty. We'll be above 135,000 deaths overall in the country by the end of that seven-day period, and possibly above 140,000 deaths.

Other nations have demonstrated they're capable of eradicating the disease. So why haven't we? It's entirely Trump's fault. He didn't lead; he just watched as the United States saw more of its own people die.

And more will, of course, unless new actions are taken. One model suggests that, based on what we're seeing now, another 60,000 Americans will die from COVID-19 by the time we reach October. I'm hoping to God those numbers are wrong.


I'm sick and tired of writing about this disease. But mostly, I'm sick and tired of seeing how our nation, supposedly the best in the world, is failing so badly at handling it.

Our nation is a joke. Other countries are barring us from traveling to them.

In short, we must always remember that this will be Donald Trump's legacy. He did nothing to stop the disease, did nothing to prepare for its impending arrival in February, and barely did anything at all, other than continually make false claims at press conferences, once the disease was here. Hell, he even encouraged others to engage in actions that probably spread it more.

This madness has to stop. Unfortunately, all signs point to more damage being wrought by the time we can remove him from office.

Featured image credit: BagoGames/Flickr