Monthly Archives: November 2020

COVID Is Not Only Real – It’s Too Real

Workers in El Paso, Texas, move coronavirus victims from refrigerated trailers into the main morgue on Monday, November 23. El Paso County has seen a surge in coronavirus cases over the last month, and inmates have been recruited to help the shorthanded, overworked staff. Ivan Pierre Aguirre/Reuters (CNN.com)

I’ve worked in healthcare and have seen many people die, but I’ve never seen anything like this. People in stacked body bags, filling refrigerated trucks because the morgue is full. This is the type of thing that happens when weapons of mass destruction are used in wartime. It should not happen in 21st century American cities, especially since the recommendations–masks, social distancing, staying home, and hand-washing–could have prevented this.

COVID-19 has infected 13,723,671 Americans as I write this, which is over 4 percent of the entire population of the United States. Today there are 5,377,420 Americans who are currently infected. Some of those people may have mild or no symptoms. Others may suffer neurological or pulmonary problems for the rest of their life and. Unfortunately, 273,160 Americans have already died. Even those who have not contracted the disease have suffered loss of jobs, businesses, and homes.

Projections are that the numbers will rise in three weeks because of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings. Between Christmas and New Years, deaths from those infections are expected to peak.

I”ve never before seen a “hoax” that is this deadly.

Pardon Me?

I’ll never understand politics.

On one hand, the president pardoned Michael Flynn and the Thanksgiving turkey.

On the other, the Justice Department is in a hurry to execute five federal inmates before the inauguration. They have proposed that prisoners incarcerated in a state that does not allow capital punishment be moved to a state which does.

The approved pharmaceuticals for death by lethal injection are no longer sold for that purpose. Pentobarbitol has been used, which apparently kills by rapidly filling the lings with fluid–in effect drowning the convicted with their own bodily fluids. This sounds like a particularly nasty way to die, but federal judges, including the supreme court approve of its use.

To expedite the deaths of federal prisoners, the federal government is proposing [Click for link]:

  • Firing squad
  • Electrocution
  • Poison gas

So far, no word on the status of the guillotine, hanging, burning at the stake, or drawing and quartering, all of which were traditionally carried out in public. (In England and Europe, beheading was reserved for nobility.)

Perhaps if federal prisoners claimed that their religious beliefs required them to self-identify as a turkey, they might have a chance.

Supreme Court 5-4 Ruling

I’ve been pondering the recent ruling by the US Supreme Court siding with religious groups’ desire to bypass the COVID-19 restrictions and allow people to attend church rather than to maintain social distancing.

I’m a church goer, although for some time now I’ve been attending Mass via a video since I’m at high risk for COVID infection. Therefore, in fairness, I admit to somewhat of a bias. Not a significant one, but a bias nevertheless. Therefore, accept these as my personal opinions.

First, from a constitutional standpoint, I look to the preamble:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

I personally believe that a rampant pandemic is a real and present danger to domestic Tranquility and the general Welfare. Infecting 100,000 people and killing 1,000 people every day does not seem to help secure our Posterity. Finally, a common defence is necessary for any danger, such as a pandemic, not merely military threats. I believe the founding fathers wrote what they meant.

Incidentally, the oft-spoken of separation of church and state is somewhat different than many believe. The First Amendment to the US Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This places a restriction on Congress. Given that America fought for independence from Great Britain, which had the Church of England as its official religion, the founders did not want the same situation here. In this situation, I don’t see Congress as having had any involvement.

From a religious standpoint, I have at least three problems:

  1. Jesus was a healer. His disciples became healers. During the Antonine Plague of 165-180 AD, early Christians, who cared for their ill, had a higher survival rate than non-Christians who did not.
  2. Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were amazed at Him.” (Mark 12:17)
  3. Gathering for prayer is important, but there are other ways to pray. Jesus taught, “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6: 6)

I do not claim to be an expert on either Scripture or the law, but I do know how to think, and these are my thoughts.

The Other Thanksgiving Thing

Thanksgiving. The day in which we spend three hours preparing for dinner, twenty minutes for everybody to eat, and then three hours to clean up.

But wait, as they say on television, there’s more.

In my house, after Thanksgiving dinner is over and the guests (we always used to have guests) have left, the other tradition to kick off the Holiday Season is observed.

When no one is looking, I go down into the basement, to the far corner which was once the fruit cellar. Many of you may never seen a traditional fruit cellar. There are shelves, which originally held the Mason jars of home-canned fruits and vegetables. Underneath, is a small section where no concrete floor exists. Instead, there is a 3′ x 3′ patch of soil that was once used to store home-grown potatoes and carrots in the fall so they would remain fresh over the winter.

No one ever thinks to reach behind the patch of soil, which is just as well, because it is a perfect hiding place. I get down on my knees and prop the flashlight just right so I can see under the shelf. In the very back, where no one ever looks, is the target of my search.

I reach back and wrap my fingers around it and pull it out into the light. I unwrap the multiple layers of ancient cloth, then tin foil (Yes, tin, not modern aluminum) until its multicolored splendor is visible.

It is THE fruitcake that my family has been passing from one to another for generations untold. When my great grandmother gave it to me, she pulled me and whispered that her grandmother swore that it dates back to the days of King Arthur. If looking at it doesn’t convince you, the smell should, even though all fruitcakes smell the same.

I turn it over in my hands and ponder, “To whom should I gift it to this Christmas?”

Presidential Confusion

I don’t know what all the kerfuffle is about in Washington, DC. The Democratic candidate claims he won, while the Republican candidate claims he won. How silly. We all know that my good friend, Buford Thorndyke won by a landslide, even though all the votes had to be write-in.

President Select Thorndyke ran on a solid platform. The platform was 10 by 12 feet and constructed of state-of-the-art composite board, made from recycled milk bottles. With such a solid, attractive, and eco-friendly platform, the other candidates did not stand a chance.

Most importantly, Buford pledged to keep his campaign promises, which include:

  • Golfing whenever possible, weather permitting.
  • Visiting only friendly countries to shower them with gifts. This will encourage all the other countries to start being friendly with us, so they can get free goodies, too.
  • Ensuring that every desk in Congress will be equipped with a poo-poo cushion, a joy buzzer, and a case of Silly String to keep Senators and Representatives too busy to pass silly laws.
  • Appointing the most obnoxious politicians as ambassadors to faraway countries, then losing the paperwork so they can’t come back.

He made many more promises, of course. In any case, it’s no wonder that he won by a landslide. We will be in good hands.

COVID-19 Update 11/14/2020

I had planned a different topic for today, but the increase in COVID-19 cases is too important to wait as the number of cases has jumped. The number of deaths has not increased at the same rate, but there are factors beyond number of cases.

  • Many COVID-19 cases require that the patient receive the high level of care available only in Intensive Care Units (ICUs). In some places we have already exceeded the number of ICU beds and ICU rooms have become double occupancy. In other cases, patients who have suffered a heart attack are moved out of the Cardiac Care Unit so that those beds can be used for COVID-19 patients.
  • Hospital staff is at risk, not only for being infected, but also from physical, mental, or emotional burnout. Dealing with patients who had not taken proper precautions and are now dying is especially hard. Imagine watching someone die as they say, “I wish I would have known,” or, “I wish I had been more careful.”
  • Personal Protective Equipment has been adequate, but as demand increases, the supply may not keep up.

My personal fear is that some people will relax because of the good news regarding vaccines. Unfortunately, the logistics of manufacturing 700 million doses, delivering them while frozen, and administering two doses to everyone takes time. Unfortunately, immunity is not instantaneous and the patient remains susceptible during the time between injection and the body producing its own antibodies.

Some people are anti-vaccine. If there are side effects, additional people may be concerned enough to also avoid the vaccine. A significant portion of the population must be willing to be vaccinated; herd immunity after the 19th century has been achieved by a majority of the population being vaccinated, not by a majority surviving the disease.

So where are we?

Daily deaths still vary depending on day of the week, which is probably due to some paperwork not being filed on weekends. However, there is a significant upward trend over the last few weeks and a moderate increase in the trend line. As ICU beds are filled and some patients shunted to normal beds, this bears watching.

Daily new cases show a significant increase since mid-October, which is also reflected in the trend line.

I get my data from Worldometer, so it’s no surprise that their graph is similar.

Anecdotally, there seem to be more superspreader events, for a variety of reasons. People are weary of the isolation and some do not believe the pandemic is real. Now that the election season is over, I suspect that the main events may be family holiday celebrations.

So, the same advice still holds:

  • Wash your hands
  • Wear a mask
  • Stay at home
  • Maintain social distancing
  • Avoid touching your face

Veterans’ Day

I’m a veteran.

Veterans’ Day was originally called Armistice Day. Fighting ceased in the “Great War,” which we now call World War One, at the 11th hour of the 11th Day of the 11th month. I have to wonder why they couldn’t do it immediately–how many other lives were lost waiting for 11:00?

Being a veteran changes people. When I came back from Southwest Asia, I was different. I didn’t notice it, but everyone else did, so it took a while for me to be willing to adjust to the new normal. Years later, I’m still working on it. I think I’m making progress.

I was in logistics, meaning I supported the warriors–the heroes. I spent time in combat areas, but I was never directly engaged in combat. Nevertheless, to this day, I tend to be hyperalert. I dream about still being in uniform. I also jump at any loud or surprising noises. My coworkers know that when they speak to me, at the first syllable, I’ll jump.

I came back without any combat induced physical injury. However, I was affected in other ways. I attended too many memorial services; the inverted rifle, boots, helmet, and dog tags at the front of the chapel were real. Often, there were more than one set. Each represented a real son, daughter, spouse, or parent that would not be coming home. I cannot describe the impact of those on me, but it affects me to this day.

Being a veteran changed me in other ways–good ways. I know what it means to be part of something much larger and more important than myself. I know the meaning of honor, courage, and commitment. I was blessed to learn these priceless lessons.

When I returned to the states and someone thanked me for my service, at first I didn’t know what to say. Over time, I realized that for me there was only one honest and appropriate response.

“It was an honor.”