News: COVID-19 Mortality (and of choosing our role models more carefully)

We are at a point in the global coronavirus pandemic where the US leads the world in cases and deaths, yet also wants to resume business as usual because other countries have. (My country is like a small child that hasn’t done its homework, but wants to go out to play, like other children who actually DID their homework and chores can! If we want to be like countries that do testing, WE SHOULD DO TESTING!) COVID-19 prevention measures were intended to “buy time” for our governments, institutions, and business leaders to develop tests and contact tracing plans, but that time was largely squandered…

Despite polls showing that most Americans would prefer not to risk it, there is lots of promotion of other countries that implemented business-as-usual approaches.

The promotion of Sweden as a role model is especially alarming if you look at this data from John Hopkins Medicine & University’s Coronavirus Resource Center’s Mortality Page:

I have friend in both Sweden and the Netherlands, and seeing their countries, that have moderately sane governments and actual health systems do EVEN WORSE than we are doing as a percentage of the population, inspires pity, NOT an urge to be more like them.

NO. Just… NO.

I want us to be like South Korea (0.52 per 100k), or Taiwan (0.03 per 100k), or Japan (0.63 per 100k), or if you really need European examples, Denmark (9.68 per 100k) or Germany (9.92 per 100k). While both of those European examples are vastly higher than my preferred potential role models, they are still waaaaaay better than our rate, and may be more “achievable” as goals in the short term, if we think of ourselves as being in the ‘slower to figure things out’ group of nations that needs just to figure out how to get out of the double-digits.

We can learn from their COVID-19 management on the economic front, too!!

This item about Denmark from this New York Times opinion piece notes that Sweden seems to be held up as a model, but Denmark has 1/3 of their deaths AND a better economy. Plus, they are poised to bounce back, because they devoted their relief funds to keeping workers in place:

As a share of G.D.P., Denmark’s coronavirus relief spending is a bit less than America’s, but it seems more effective at protecting the population.

The upshot is that Denmark staggered through the pandemic with employees still on the payroll and still paying rent. As the economy sputters back to life, Danish companies are in a position to bounce back quickly without the cost of having to rehire workers.

“We can be up and running in a week, back where we were,” explained Peter Lykke Nielsen, a negotiator for unionized workers at hamburger chains.

– McDonald’s Workers in Denmark Pity Us, by Nicholas Kristof

There are objections within Sweden to the Swedish approach as well (see any number of articles, including Swedish scientists call for evidence-based policy on COVID-19 from way back in early April).

I didn’t need to be reminded to be skeptical of recommendations in the news, after our wave of ‘die for the economy’ messages, but thanks to the data, I am reminded.

Music: Rap Tribute to Gov. Whitmer

This brief earworm keeps getting stuck in my head. It’s CUTE!

GmacCash – Big Gretch (OfficialAudio) Prod. By Primo Beats (on YouTube).

There aren’t enough governors receiving rap tributes, to be honest. Perhaps they have only recently started to get press at a level the public can appreciate, as some of them demonstrate much needed leadership during our current global crisis.

(Note: Buffs are a particular model of Cartier sunglasses , which the artist hopes to gift to the Governor. Thanks, Internet!)

News: Culinary Kindness in the Age of Pandemic

At a New York relief kitchen, urgency meets empathy as immigrants create thousands of meals a day

At 5:30 a.m. in the kind of godforsaken industrial crevice of Queens where mob bodies are probably buried, Daniel Dorado recently waited in a line of mostly undocumented restaurant workers before the opening of Restaurant Depot, a wholesaler like Costco on steroids available only to the industry.

Feeding people who need food is meaningful social work, and the Migrant Kitchen NYC is doing it in a socially responsible way: producing thousands of meals daily for healthcare workers and people who are ‘food insecure,’ while paying the workers properly (“They pay wages of $20 to $25 an hour in their kitchen, Jaber said, and with the four other kitchens pooled 40 largely undocumented workers from Make The Road, a civil rights group…”), AND ensuring that any gig workers delivering to homebound folks are also fairly compensated (“Migrant Kitchen’s attention to empathy and generosity operates even at the courier level: Its DoorDash deliveries are filed so that the couriers get $35 per trip.”). It’s meaningful work being done in a meaningful way.

They are cooking serious dishes with foodie love:

The containers would soon be packed with sumptuous entrees: citrus garlic salmon with Cuban black beans and coconut herb rice, or moussaka-stuffed zucchini with dirty rice and beans, or mojo chicken with chimichurri and roasted potatoes with grilled shishito peppers.

And the kitchen is nut-free and halal, to look after a wide range of clients with care.

Dorado put it succinctly: “It’s pure New York. Every kitchen I’ve ever worked in this city has been a mini U.N.”

News: Historic Kindness in the Time of Pandemics

This article got me misty this morning: it describes a wave of Irish donations to help Native Americans currently suffering in the pandemic in remembrance & thanks for a generous donation made by the Choctaw during the famine in Ireland in the 1840s:

“Ireland has never forgotten the Choctaws’ generosity. The tribe had endured a forced 600-mile trek that left thousands dead from hunger, cold and disease, and then impoverishment in Oklahoma, yet somehow rustled up $170 – which today translates to $5,350 – to help the Irish.”

Irish support for Native American Covid-19 relief highlights historic bond

The list of recent donors reads like an Irish phone book. Aisling Ní Chuimín, Shane Ó Leary, Sean Gibbons, Kevin Boyle, Kevin Keane, Clare Quinn, Eamonn McDonald, on and on down a GoFundMe page that by Friday had raised $3.15m of a $5m goal.

I support several charities that feed people already, and so this theme – EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE ENOUGH FOOD – is close to my heart.

Depending on when you read this, the campaign may be over, but I already had donated (thanks to a great local journalist I follow on Twitter, who has a great heart), and want to post the link so you can also, if it’s still timely. The official non-profit sponsor is the Rural Utah Project Education Fund.

Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund organized by Ethel Branch

The Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation are extreme food deserts with only 13 grocery stores on Navajo to serve some 180,000 people and only 3 small grocery marts on Hopi to serve some 3,000 people. These communities also have high numbers of elderly, diabetic, asthmatic, and cancer-afflicted (i.e., high risk) individuals.

News: Economy vs. Living

“And what I said when I was with you that night, there are more important things than living. And that’s saving this country for my children and my grandchildren and saving this country for all of us,” Patrick said Monday night.

-Texas Lt. Gov. D. Partick, quoted by NBC news, April 21, 2020

This quote would sound fitting during a movie involving an alien and/or military invasion by a murderous, long-time foe to get people to fight a defensive war; it sounds ill-fitting as a rallying cry to go out to sell things and shop.

Yes, I do write dystopian fiction now and then, but our current timeline is giving me a real run for my money. What will qualify as dystopian after this?

On the role of government in society

I’m very interested in a quote from New York Governor Cuomo earlier this week:

“I believe this has been transformative for a generation,” he says. “Think about when was the last time government was this vital. I don’t know, maybe in a war? World War II, when government had to mobilize overnight? But literally for decades you haven’t seen government this essential to human life. Literally. And government has to work and it has to work well, and it’s not for the faint of heart. And people want government to perform. And government is making decisions every day that affect their lives and they deserve the best government. They’re paying for it, they deserve it. And they deserve competence and expertise and smarts and for government to be doing creative things and learning like we doing here today.”

-Gov. Cuomo

Coronavirus US live: Cuomo says ‘government essential to human life’ – as it happened

I grew up in a working class family in San Francisco (back when SF was more diverse in all ways, and especially economically), and I perceived government as a social good: it ensured we have schools, hospitals, water/power/sewage services, paved roads, minimum wages, food safety, the right to know what is in our foods and medicines, and certain safety standards and protections for our rights and freedoms provided through public courts. It ensured the existence of the military, and my family has MANY veterans; it ensured that veterans get services in return for their service. Fire departments, police departments, public parks, the coastal commission, the right to vote on issues of local importance… Having a government of/for/by the people seemed like such an OBVIOUSLY good thing!

Governments of/for/by the people don’t do everything right. Wars, selective enforcement of justice/freedoms/punishments, unequal opportunities, the legalization of various forms of corruption , the persecution of minority groups, the slide from justice for people to favoritism for in-groups who can create a cycle of self-enrichment… There are lots of flaws.

Somehow, during my lifetime, corporate broadcast media (and their wealthy owners) provided a narrative something like, ‘the government just takes your money.’ While praising first responders (licensed and often funded by a government service), our school system (same), our veterans (government employees), and emblems of our nation, they have argued for something close to market anarchy. And government has been an obstacle to that (thankfully, though not as well as it could).

But, YES: now we are in a time of global pandemic, and we see what capable governments can do (I’m looking at you, South Korea and New Zealand!), and how much it matters to have a government acting for the collective good.

Good governing is STILL POSSIBLE. It is still an option.

News: University/Hospital Healthcare Worker Goodness in the Time of Pandemics

The University of California’s San Francisco hospital and university (UCSF) are sending a team to help out the Navajo Nation. UCSF is a top-ranked hospital, and where I go for care – I’m so proud of them for going to provide their expertise.

UCSF Health Care Workers to Serve in Navajo Nation

A team of UC San Francisco health care workers – seven physicians and 14 nurses – is traveling to Arizona and New Mexico on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, to begin a one month voluntary assignment providing urgently needed health care support for patients in the Navajo Nation, at the request of UCSF’s colleagues in the Navajo Nation.

This trip isn’t a one-off: UCSF has a program offering two-year fellowships to provide medical care in underserved communities. The program is diverse enough that it has alumni who can help in their own communities as well!

Forty-nine health care workers in Navajo Nation are current fellows or alumni of the fellowship. Twenty-five of them are Navajo themselves.  

How cool is that?

So yes, UCSF sent a volunteer team to NYC also, which gives me the warm fuzzies, but THIS fills my eyes with hearts and stars.

News: State Kindness in the time of Pandemics

I haven’t mentioned it before, but my home state has also participated in supporting not only New York, but other states that need ventilators by loaning out 500 to those states that need them.

Early last month, the San Francisco Chronicle’s article, California lending 500 ventilators to distribute to hardest-hit states by Alexei Koseff (April 6, 2020), had some good quotes about states doing right by each other, including a report on Oregon’s loan of 140 ventilators to NYC, and Washington’s return of those it borrowed from the federal government.

The quotes I like are:

“I wish I could solve that for everybody, and to the extent we can, we will,” Newsom said. “This is the state of California. We have an abundant mind-set and we’re a well-resourced state.”

I like the implication that, because we do well, we SHOULD use our position to help others. (The article notes that our early prevention efforts have been successful enough for us to step in for the later-acting states.)


“We’re Americans, first and foremost,” he said. “As a nation-state, we can do certain things, where we can punch above our weight. We carry a big weight. But to the extent that other Americans need our support, our largesse, to the extent that we have the resources, we’re going to be there for as many people as we possibly can.”

This acknowledges our size and strengths – we are a state with a bigger economy than the UK, India, or France the last time I checked (2018 in Business Insider and currently in Wikipedia’s Economy of California article), and this gives us the opportunity to be a force for good.

The world needs more forces for good.