Friday foibles and fumbles

Since I am struggling for a longer topic and did not want to repost an old post, here are a few foibles and fumbles for this Friday.

  • Help me understand how a person gets elected to Congress that believes in things like a Jewish laser from space is causing the wildfires? But, she must be OK in the eyes of many as she believes everything the former president says.
  • Speaking of said former president, taking a page out of deceased war hero and Senator John McCain’s op-ed a few years back, how can the actions of the former president before, leading up to and during the insurrection on a third branch of government not be viewed as “traitorous.”
  • I cite Senator McCain’s words as he called the former president’s siding with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki over the input of his own intelligence people as “traitorous.” It should be noted President Biden is getting kudos from Republican legislators for pushing back on Putin in his first call. Putin is a malevolent and deceitful person, the kind of person the former president holds in high regard as a strong leader.
  • House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy traveled to Mar-a-Largo to kiss the former president’s ring. Some may use a body part in this sentence, but let’s keep it clean. McCarthy has ranged from blaming the former president for a role in the insurrection to it is not his fault over the last twenty days. Between him, Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and, disappointingly, former UN Ambassador and SC governor Nikki Haley, groveling at the feet of the insurrectionist former president to woo his followers is rather insulting and distasteful.
  • President Biden has been a busy camper with executive orders. I am delighted he has rejoined the US into the Paris Climate Change agreement and is taking actions to help heal the planet. And, I am glad to see a president who actually considers the pandemic a problem. Mind you, it is not as important as trying to overturn a just election or inciting an insurrection which was the focus of the last president, but over 400,000 citizens dying is a problem that needs to be dealt with.
  • On a sad note, two US treasures passed away this week, Cicely Tyson and Cloris Leachman, both terrific actresses. Tyson had key roles in movies like “Sounder,” “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” to name only a few. Leachman was the consummate supporting actress, often in a comedic role. Her roles in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Young Frankenstein,” and “The Last Picture Show” were compelling.
  • Let me close with a note about collaboration. Collaboration is hard work, which is why it is not done as often as it should be. Working with others toward a common purpose is essential to gain buy-in and sustainability. As noted above, executive orders are easy to do and easy to change. Yet, they are not laws. Congress must do their job and work together to enact laws. If the US flip-flops with every new president on working with other countries, then those countries will find more predictable trading partners.

That is all I have for today. Have a great Friday and weekend. Let me know your thoughts and reactions.

Social distancing and masking up are musts, even for presidents

With US approaching 210,000 COVID-19 deaths, we learned the president and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19. I wish them well in their recovery. Their testing positive follows a day after Hope Hicks, a key White House staff member who traveled with the president tested positive.

Today, more announcements of public figures testing positive occurred. Republican Senators Mike Lee from Utah, Thom Tillis from North Carolina and Ron Johnson from Wisconsin all tested positive. Also testing positive are former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former White House staff member Kellyanne Conway, Republican Party chair Ronna McDaniel, campaign manager Bill Stepien, the president of the University of Notre Dame, and three White House reporters.

In terms of tracing, I heard the tail end of a report that some of these folks may have all been together at the announcement of SCOTUS candidate Amy Coney Barrett. The NPR report noted there was a White House lawn ceremony followed by an event indoors, neither of which followed all of the protocols needed.

This may or may not be the link, but it reminds us that we must be careful. We must avoid large gatherings, especially indoor ones, and follow social distancing and mask wearing protocols. Also, hand washing is essential.

While I am saddened that public people or any one, for that matter, gets COVID-19, what is happening to the president and people who have been near him is not a surprise. Flouting all of the requirements and choosing to not only not wear mask, but being flippant with those who do, is not conducive to cautious behavior.

To be frank, pandemics are not to be trifled with. While those who have to work in jobs that cannot be done from home are most at risk, pandemics truly know no zip code or income status. And, those who are the most fragile have the greater risk, if tested positive.

Let’s wish everyone, including the president and first lady well, but let’s also be smart and following social distancing and mask wearing protocols. Maybe, those who have not, will start to take notice. If we do not have universal compliance, the risk remains, especially as the colder weather force us more indoors.

Predicted and predictable

Nate Silver is the genius behind 538, one of the most accurate predictors of election results. 538 weights various polls based on their relative veracity. What his polls showed in 2016, after the late Comey announcement, that while the median favored Clinton winning, Trump could win within acceptable standard deviation. People focus too much on the median and not the range.

With this background, Silver said something of import recently, that many of us have said less succinctly. He said the COVID-19 contagions that are cropping in schools and colleges are both “predicted and predictable.”

When people get together without strict adherence to social distancing and mask wearing, exposure to COVID-19 will occur. And, the virus spreads exponentially, not arithmetically. This means when ten people get it, they infect ten more, who infect ten more…This is why the president was forewarned of the pandemic risk in January by US intelligence and why his misinformation and mishandling is so problematic.

Let me go further. If all people don’t wear masks, socially distance, wash hands and act with some common sense, COVID-19 will be with us much longer. I know we want to get back to normal, but managers, owners, deans, school executives, and elected officials must understand that corralling the virus cannot occur unless we all do our part. Even if a vaccine is created, a recent survey said only about 70% of Americans would take it.

This is why telling people the truth is so critical. Only then, will people follow instruction. And, sadly in the absence of truth tellers who must be supported not demeaned, conspiracy sources get listened to. As an example, measles had been eradicated in the US, until the anti-vaxxers spread their conspiracy information and now it is back.

Further, unless we have a president who tells the truth, we will not solve many problems. And, as an epidemiologist and historian said, telling the truth is mission one in dealing with a pandemic.

Relaxing shelter-at-home requirements must be done judiciously with health in mind

As Georgia governor Brian Kemp more aggressively lifted restrictions yesterday, joining other states like South Carolina, Oklahoma, etc., a concern that is not getting talked about enough is some of these same states have the worst national health care rankings. More on this below. Per two separate surveys in the past few days, 70% of Americans want the focus to be on health first, before reopening. Americans seem to get where the focus needs to be more so than some leaders.

I understand the desire to reopen more fully, but we must be smart about it. I was pleased to see the North Carolina governor Roy Cooper extend the shelter-at-home requirement for two weeks, but actually announcing a three phased plan to reopen. That is what is needed. It could be postponed if the numbers do not improve, but it is an articulated plan.

This is a state-by-state issue. The relative health of the state is important as it increases the relative risk. The Commonwealth Fund is an organization that measures the relative health of a state based on a number of factors and have been doing so for years. A link below is to the 2019 state rankings. As you think about states that are reopening sooner than others, consider the following:

The worst twelve states (and District of Columbia) for overall healthcare, from worst to twelfth worst, are as follows:
51 – Mississippi
50 – Oklahoma
49 – Texas
48 – Nevada
47 – Arkansas
46 – West Virginia
45 – Louisiana
44 – Florida
43 – Missouri
42 – Georgia
41 – South Carolina
40 – Tennessee
39 – Alabama

The Commonwealth Fund uses a robust number of variables to rank the states and is one of the more comprehensive tools. These states tend to have a higher degree of obesity (BMI greater than or equal to 30), some have a greater degree of child hood obesity, and have a greater degree of people who claim poor health. With the higher degree of obesity comes higher propensity of diabetes, although this data is inconsistently reported. Please click on the link and go through the most recent report.

Obesity and diabetes are critical factors. Data from the COVID-19 reported this week noted diabetics are not faring well when diagnosed. People with breathing difficulties – asthma, COPD, etc. also are at greater risk. It should be noted Florida ranks poorly on childhood asthma. Again, this is an underreported data point in other states.

Another key factor for poor ratings is access to health care providers and insurance. Many of these states did not expand Medicaid. Many of these states have seen more rural hospitals close than others. Many of these states have more food deserts and higher degrees of drug overdoses, alcoholism, and suicides.

I mention all of the above, as the states have varying degrees of preparedness and risk exposure. In fact, many businesses have noted they are ignoring the governor’s orders to reopen their doors. That is also telling.

I get it. I understand the desire to reopen the doors. I also know pandemic diseases spread more readily than other diseases. If we do venture out – please use social distancing and face masks. There are many restaurants who are practicing good procedures to protect the staff and customers through take out and delivery orders. Support their efforts. That is a way to invest in our economy.

And, please listen to the truthtellers, the doctors, nurses and disease scientists. Listen to the folks not patting themselves on the back or making the issue more political. Facts must trump politics. But, we should also be mindful, we are learning more about this virus with increasingly better data. Just because new data sets aside a previous notion, that is not unusual with pandemic risks. AIDs and Ebola revealed this based on their initial discoveries (AIDs was thought to impact only gay men at first, until women and heterosexuals started dying, eg).

These truthtellers understand this is an uphill climb. We must be vigilant and patient. And, judicious and humble.

https://scorecard.commonwealthfund.org/rankings/