COVID-19 DIARY – THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE

US election 2020: Election Day shadowed by threats of legal challenges

November 03

It was Wednesday the 3rd of November in Australia when the U.S. election took place on the other side of the world.

In Australia there is growing interest in U.S. elections, since America entered the Pacific war and with its allies turn the tide of war, Australia has taken a great interest in America and forged a partnership with it and other nations.

As a kid who loved the movies America captured my imagination with its culture and aspirations. Since blogging I have come to know some Americans and admire them.

1980s Lower Manhattan Skyline At Night Photograph by Vintage Images

I was angry and heartbroken when the towers fell, angry and heartbroken again when the bombs dropped on Baghdad and have made it a point to support Australians of those wars.

Of course I couldn’t imagine Ballbag winning in 2016, my heroes were President Roosevelt (both of them), President Truman, President Eisenhower, President Kennedy, President Ford, President Reagan, President Clinton and President Obama. Politicians like Senator John McCain and John Kerry.

But I got it.

Ballbag was a moment of great disappointment but the hyperbole in 2016 struck me as odd, surely he would get a good team around him. It wasn’t like it was the end of the world.

….

Well.

It’s no secret I am angry, appalled and vitrolic about my disdain for Ballbag on this blog. If you support him you may not want to read the rest of this post and that is fine by me.

Heading into the U.S. election I watched the 60 Minutes interview with President-elect Joe Biden and Ballbag.

I am always angered by Ballbag’s demeanour and disrespect to others. But also how his followers espouse him as a tough guy when he so often acts like a little bitch and toddles at the first sign of a challenging question.

Planet America on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation was still covering the election. As Ballbag sang one of his standards, that case numbers were going up because we were testing the best. Well testing was up by 13 per cent and case numbers were up by 51 per cent. Do the maths Ballbag.

Over 69 million Americans had already voted and 46 million of those by mail in votes. Chas Licciardello also advised that if Democrats won either North Carolina, Florida or Arizona they’d be looking good. The Republicans would need all three.

Heading into the U.S. election I mentioned it to a family member my concern that Ballbag may once again surprise despite recent changes to polling.

Despite a Planet America episode interviewing a election analyst Dave Wasserman who discussed the changes that had been made to increase accuracy of polling since 2016.

I hate being right sometimes.

That episode also pointed out how COVID cases were on the rise as well hospitalisations but at least hospitals had not been overrun yet and that was good news in terms of keeping the death rates down.

I would say that John Oliver maybe summed up my thoughts best in the closing moments of the 2nd of November episode of his show Last Week Tonight.

I would urge anyone to listen from the 16th minute, Oliver speaks for five minutes at that point and sums up succinctly what has occurred under President Trump during COVID-19.

Highlighting how Ballbag doesn’t care about anybody else certainly not our brave health care workers who have done so much when Trump has done so little (hell fuck that! – he’s done damage), noted how the numbers don’t stack up – case in point America has four times the population of Germany who sure as hell had its fair share of cases and yet America has 17 times the number of cases as Germany and also mentioned the personal toll of the pandemic.

Never forget America, never forget any of us.

I won’t.

I didn’t give much thought to mirages on election days as Florida swung to Trump I was shocked and appalled. Ohio followed which was the state that decided the 2008 elections. Arizona being called for Biden by Fox News didn’t even get my attention.

Checking the New York Times election page I left work at 6pm to find that Biden may lose Pennsylvania with commentary about the fracking fracas from the debate being the turning point.

I wondered after all those dead Americans that Trump didn’t care about, an opportunity had been missed to give him his marching orders. Fake news worked both ways.

I could deny it now but I really did think something was really wrong in the country.

With talk of civil strife I did suggest maybe it was time to burn it down. Not in the sense that I wanted rioting or people to get hurt and not in the sense that I wanted anybody on either side to just hate and protest each other. But just in the sense if that is where we were surely the system and the culture needed radical reform and that could only come from real action.

Even with hindsight it seems there is still some truth to this.

US presidential election: New York skyline lit up to mark Election Day |  South China Morning Post

Just like in 2016 despite which ever candidate claims victory, they inherit a nation divided. I believe most of us are sick of that. That division is not just present in America but throughout the West and here in Australia.

When Prime Minister Scott Morrison was elected last year, lefty commentators up in their glass tower commented on television in the wee small hours on how Australians just didn’t get it having denied the opposition a win for their ideas. My first thought was maybe you guys didn’t get it, after all the people had spoken and they’d said that dog won’t hunt.

I like to think that the majority of us agree on the big things, you only have to see how many conservative governments give bailouts and fund major programs. That progressives mostly espouse traditional family and religious values.

As a young Senator once said in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention,

“There is not a liberal America and a conservative America —

there is the United States of America.

There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.

The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats.

But I’ve got news for them, too:

We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States.

We coach Little League in the Blue States, and, yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States.

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

At home during dinner I watched special election night episode of Planet America on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

President Trump at 2:30am in the morning in America claimed “We were getting ready to win this election – frankly we did the election. This is a major fraud on our nation. We want all voting to stop.”

One week in an America riven by politics and the plague - New Haven Register

With that the endgame of Trump’s efforts to undermine postal voting during a global pandemic (with anybody with a scrap of thought for the lives of Americans would have promoted) was now out in the open for all to see and it was pretty scary and it was only going to get scarier.

Former Vice President Joe Biden perhaps to avoid the mistakes of the 2000 election came out before that to say that while the results were not in he was confident Americans would ultimately choose him.

Going off the votes as they currently stood I was pretty worried. I went to the gym after dinner and watching the news on the TV screens in the gym America woke up to the next morning and there was hopeful new numbers coming out of Michigan and Wisconsin.

I actually thought about the movie Moneyball and Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane working out in the gym and listening to the results of the baseball game while he did it.

Nevada was still in play and as time went on Pennsylvania and even Georgia would come into play as more postal votes were counted.

Arizona while called by some news outlets was still in play too.

While I worked out I listened to The Rewatchables podcast cover The American President. I was slightly moved as they recalled the idealism and reverence that we used to have for politics at least in the movies and how things that were said about elections back then are oddly prescient now. 

We need to know the difference between the sand and the water.

On the 3rd of November, 2020 the World Health Organisation reported there had been 9,108,353 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States of America with a daily increase of 75,888. There had been 229,442 American deaths with a daily increase of 444.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS – PART IX

Australian States Close Borders as COVID-19 Threat Intensifies | Voice of  America - English

November 03

Just hours before Queenslanders went to the polls Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk announced that travel would be allowed between New South Wales and Queensland with the exception of greater Sydney from 1am 03NOV2020.

Despite opening up thousands of people to travel Daniel Cschwind, CEO of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council seemed non-plussed advising that tourism business from Sydney was normally worth $3 billion a year.

If the cynics amongst us thought Palaszczuk was playing politics on the eve of an election she firmly denied it. 

I have accepted her [Dr Jeannette Young’s] recommendations to me lock, stock and barrel. I am honest with the people of Queensland, that is what I said I would do,” she said.

The Premier held firm about putting health concerns above economic ones.

When you have a virus that is out of control your economy is locked down. There was one or two cases in Victoria, the virus got out of control and the whole state was locked down and we saw 700 deaths — I do not want to see 700 deaths in Queensland,” she said.

To read the ABC coverage it certainly seemed to indicate that the Qld Premier would get no boost from her decision with the QANTAS CEO and Tourism Vendors being asked to offer their two cents all of which was negative. 

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young was more concerned with stopping the spread of the disease. 

I have reviewed the situation in NSW and prior to yesterday they had four LGAs [local government areas] in Sydney that had had cases of community transmission that NSW was unable to link to any known clusters, which means that they have transmission and they don’t know where it is coming from,” she said.

People travelling from rural New South Wales into Queensland through Sydney would not be able to enter for 14 days. Queenslanders who landed in Sydney airport could travel onto rural New South Wales as long as they didn’t stop in Sydney.

When asked about opening up fully to the southern state Dr Young advised, “I will always give advice to make sure that Queenslanders are kept as safe as they can possibly be kept safe. Anything could happen, but also there’s a strong possibility that we’ll be open because NSW is getting on top of these cases,” she said.

We have always said as a national cabinet we have an aspiration that families can be reunited around Christmas time, but once again anything can happen so we need to monitor community transmission,” Premier Palaszczuk advised.

That week there had been two positive sewerage tests of COVID-19 in Ipswich and Brisbane’s bay area urging Dr Young to tell people, “There is a concern, that we may have virus circulating and the best way to deal with that is to come forward and be tested.

In Queensland on the 30th of October there had been 1,325 cases, 6 deaths, 1,421,147 tests carried out since the pandemic began. I was three of those tests. There were ten active cases in the state.

In New South Wales on the 30th of October there had been 4,228 cases, 55 deaths and 3,042,039 tests carried out. There were 71 active cases and one person was in Intensive Care.

On the 3rd of November the World Health Organisation reported there had been 27,602 confirmed cases with a daily increase of seven. There had been 907 Australian deaths.

The NSW-Victoria border is reopening after the coronavirus shutdown —  here's what to expect - ABC News

November 04

Wednesday Premier Gladys Berejiklian put her money with her mouth was and announced a plan to open the border with Victoria 1 minute past midnight on the 23rd of November, 2020.

Berejiklian has closed the borders to Victoria with great regret on the 8th of July.

They may have, because of the lockdown, actually gone down a path of having eliminated it at this point in time. Come a minute past midnight on November 23, there will be free movement between NSW and Victoria,” Premier Berejiklian said.

There were nine new cases in New South Wales, three local and six in hotel quarantine having returned from overseas. More than 17,000 tests were carried out in the state.

Victoria had gone five days with out a new case of COVID-19. There had been 20,345 COVID-19 cases and 819 deaths in the state.

The Australian Capital Territory followed suit with NSW in regards to Victoria.

“Waiting a full two weeks before making changes will allow enough time for ACT Health to assess the impact of restrictions and ensures the ACT is consistent with NSW,” ACT Health Minister Rachel-Stephen Smith said.

The Premier of NSW wouldn’t be opening her border if she didn’t have confidence Victorians could maintain the low numbers,” advised Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

However, he urged Victorians not to be in too much of a hurry to leave their own state.

“Don’t go to Sydney for Christmas for summer holidays. We have lots of places here you can visit,” he said.

Victoria has never closed its borders to residents from other states.

On the 4th of November the World Health Organisation reported there had been 27,610 confirmed cases with a daily increase of eight. The death toll remained 907 Australian deaths.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – WELL YOU’VE HEARD OF ME NOW

Qld Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk speaking to the media in Brisbane in  February, 2015 - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

October 31

The Queensland State Election was held on Saturday. A third of voters turned out on the day, the rest had either voted via post or through pre-polling. This was unprecedented. If the election was a referendum on how Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk had handled COVID-19 then it was a resounding affirmation of her policies. Fifty two seats were won by the Labour party, 34 by the Liberal National Party and 7 going to independents and smaller parties.

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington had done well given we were in the middle of a crisis to win so many seats but was replaced within days of losing the election.

Many years ago I had been working in government walking past somebody being interviewed outside the executive building. A colleague mentioned that it was the Opposition Leader Anastacia Palaszczuk.

I’d never heard of her.

Within a year she had won an unlikely victory in a election called in a calculating move by the LNP over summer 2015. No one had expected her to win and nobody knew how she would fare.

She won again in October 2017 and now again in October 2020. State elections will now run every four years at the end of October. If she sees out this current term she will become the second longest serving Labour Premier in the state and the fourth overall.

That is if nobody knifes her or her political fortunes do not radically change.

I guess what I’m saying is the unlikely leader with the hard to spell name has become a figurehead in her party and a Premier who has done the job when history threw down a moment for her to meet.

I had not heard of her then.

Now everybody knows Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk.

A lovely smile for Sunday. | Sean connery, Lovely smile, Photo

As I watched the state election unfold that night on the TV a piece of news came in that Sir Sean Connery had passed away at the age of 90.

A lot has been written about Sir Sean in recent days. I won’t have much to add except that I enjoyed his work. I watched The Russia House for the first time upon hearing of his passing and I thought it was really wonderful. I think Connery liked roles like that particularly in his later years. He’s very vulnerable in The Russia House and very real. Then you see him in something like The Rock or The Hunt for the Red October and you think what a movie star. But going back and looking at some of his work like the early James Bonds or even A Bridge Too Far or The Untouchables it is amazing even in the big films in star roles he always seems so flesh and blood. It is with no small delight that I look back and think that Connery became a bigger star later in life and a sex symbol for the fact that he was real and always played it so.

Vale Sir Sean Connery.

November 01

On the 1st of November the World Health Organisation reported there had been 46,067,515 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally with a daily increase of 518,856.

There had been 1,196,274 deaths globally with a daily increase of 7,046.

In Australia there had been 27,590 confirmed cases with a daily increase of eight. There had been 907 deaths.

In Canada there had been 231,999 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,457. There had been On the 29th of October with a daily increase of 28 deaths the country had recorded more than 10,000 Canadian deaths due to COVID-19 at 10,001. On the 1st of November there had been 10,110 deaths with a daily increase of 36.

In the United Kingdom on the 1st of November the country reported there had now been more than 1 million reported cases. There had been 1,011,664 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 21,915. There had been 46,555 deaths with a daily increase of 326.

In India there had been 8,184,082 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 46,963. There had been 122,111 deaths with a daily increase of 470.

In the United States of America on the 26th of July there had been a record of new daily cases – 74,235.

On the 25th of October there was a new record of new daily cases – 82,630.

On the 31st of October a new record of daily cases – 89,048.

I remember my father talking back in July of 60-70,000 new daily cases in the country with real dismay and a little fear.

Now on the 1st of November there had been 8,952,086 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 99,356. There had been 228,185 deaths with a daily increase of 1,007.

During the news coverage there was talk about how smoothly and peaceful the election was carried out in the state as thoughts turned to the upcoming U.S. election which was fraught with anxiety.

How sadly true those thoughts would prove.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – WORLD TEACHER’S DAY

QCT2

 

October 30

The Queensland College of Teachers held their TEACHX Awards on Thursday night the 30th of October, 2020 digitally via video conference with some live components and some taped components. The next day was World Teacher’s Day. 

The previous year we had held the event in Customs House.

Last year I had been tapped to accompany the former chair of the Board of Teacher Registration (QCT’s predecessor) Miss Merline Muldoon last year. Miss Muldoon had just become the award eponym for the Innovation in Teaching category. She shared war stories with the finalists of the category. Long retired their individual experiences remained the same – their passion for education shared.

On that night as each Finalist received their certificate and each winner gave a short speech there was a feeling in the air that is hard to explain but contained good will, pride and optimism for the education of students across the state. It may be hard to quantify how such events elevate the profession but if you were there on the night you were left in no doubt that they do.

With COVID the challenge was always going to be how to create as much of this in a new setting without human contact.

I still remember 2019 winners Principal Andrew Peach speaking about education or the touching moment when Norah Parsons won – a teacher who had given so much to the mining community of Moura.

Last year I had been introduced by my manager in front of the finalists as the one who wrote half of their stories – a proud and rewarding moment for me.

I had been honoured to wait on Miss Muldoon.

This year I sat at my desk and listened to the ceremony on headphones.

The ceremony went well I believe and hopefully the teachers and their schools got something out of it. The nominees, finalists and winners were as deserving as any other year. 

 

 

Afterwards I was very kindly invited to go out with the rest of the team and celebrate the completion of all of our hard work. We had a little champagne at the Regatta and toasted each other and what we had achieved as a team.

Last year the TEACHX Awards, rebranded significantly by some very hard working and talented colleagues and with the media releases prepared by me and my manger, received unprecedented media coverage. 

At the time it was discussed that this would be highly unlikely to be repeated two years running due to the Awards being held in the final week of the Queensland State elections. 

Then COVID-19 happened and one result of the that was the shrinking of media offices in the country.

Despite this and due to the sterling efforts of my manager there was a lot of coverage in the press.

Of the teachers I interviewed.

Media Sponsor The Courier Mail wrote a large article about the Awards and all Finalists.

Quest Newspapers also covered the Award Categories and Finalists and highlighted five Logan teachers Ping Ding, Donald Cameron, Sophie Gruhl, Margaret Sherrington and Michael King. It also covered Cameron Lynch and Gavin Jones. I had interviewed Ping Ding, Donald CameronGavin Jones and Cameron Lynch.  

The Sunshine Coast Daily wrote an article about teachers Chantelle Amson and Alexandra Calligaris.

The Daily Mercury published an article on Clermont teacher Carly Bell.

The Morning Bulletin did an article on Ron Armstrong who runs the boarding of students at The Cathedral College.

CQ News also did an article on Ron Armstrong.

The Queensland Times wrote an article of Ipswich teacher Jodi Audoss.

Finalist Ben Habermehl was interviewed on ABC Breakfast Radio Brisbane by Craig Zonca and Loretta Ryan. 

Breakfast – Breakfast – ABC Radio

Finalist Donald Cameron was interviewed on ABC Breakfast Radio Brisbane by Craig Zonca and Loretta Ryan which is linked below.

How sports psychology could help your teenager excel in final exams – Breakfast – ABC Radio

A message from the Director of the Queensland College of Teachers was also published in The Courier Mail and can be found on the QCT’s website too.

Finally I will share one final story about one special teacher. 

My manager wrote about a shortlisted nominee 82 year-old teacher Dell Rathbone, she then interviewed Dell and wrote about her as a Finalist.

She won in the Outstanding Contribution to Teaching category on the night of 2020 TEACHX Awards.

Then no doubt with some help from my manager, Dell Rathbone was featured on the national television program The Project. To have shared Dell Rathbone’s story with such a wide audience is such a wonderful thing to have happened. 

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – STAYING THE COURSE

Coronavirus Australia news: 'Now is the time to open up,' says Daniel  Andrews after Victoria records zero new cases - ABC News

 

October 26

Monday.

For the first time since June 9, the state of Victoria recorded no new daily cases of COVID-19. And no deaths from the virus.

The day before Premier Daniel Andrews had pumped the brakes on lowering restrictions following new cases in Melbourne’s north including seven mystery cases.

Once again Sky News commentators had a pink fit about the Labor Premier saying how could he do this. 

I don’t know… maybe because he didn’t want people to get sick and die and have to stay in lock-down any longer than they had to?

Maybe that. 

The Premier reported 14,024 tests including 3,196 in those communities had been carried out in the past 24 hours and 1,157 just that morning.  

The Federal Government had been agitating for Melbourne re-opening.

“We’ve seen Victoria have a process where they have reached the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer’s target of under 10 cases a day on a rolling average, they’ve reached their own target of under five cases a day. If they do believe in their contact tracing system, then there is no reason not to move to the next stage and to do so today,” Chief Health Minister Greg Hunt had said pointing out that the state government who had endured the longest lockdown in Australia had given themselves a higher target in hopes of stabilising the spread of the virus in the community, more so than the federal government. 

The 14 day rolling average of cases in Melbourne was 3.6 and in regional Victoria 0.2.

The tests had all come back negative.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation was quick to report the economics of it all. 

It told us the Commsec State of the States Report had cultural powerhouse Victoria from second to third in the economic ranking of states. 

That consumer spending was so low that Victoria had gone from second to fifth in the Retail Trade category.

Unemployment in the quarter was 6.7 per cent.

The Victorian Shadow Treasurer Louise Staley pointed out, “We’re behind Tasmania and the ACT and it’s driven by collapse in business investment and this unemployment.” 

Which you know is related to…. oh yeah – a pandemic!

Maybe Tasmania being the best performing economy in the country for the third month in a row had something to do with the fact they had not had one case of coronavirus for 75 days.  

Which I’m sure these pundits were aware of but they seemed to fail to make the connection that one leads to the other not the other way around. 

So Premier Daniel Andrews fronted the media for his daily press conference and presented different statistics that hold far more importance for him, for me for anyone who values human life.

There were 91 active cases across the state and there were zero new cases. It seemed his voice cracked a little as he advised it had been 139 days ago since that had happened. 

There were seven Victorians in hospital and he was pleased to say none of them were in intensive care. 

There had been over 3 million tests in Victoria and over 14,000 since yesterday.

Can you imagine, lockdown, testing, mandatory wearing of masks. In the UK I’m being told about people testing positive in schools and year levels going home. Has anybody actually ever been in a school? One positive case here and a whole school locks down.

There were six health care workers with active cases of COVID-19. The Premier wished them well and thanked them and their colleagues for their service.

There were now just four active cases in residential aged care and the vulnerability and loss of the elderly was highlighted by the Premier.

The Premier announced the following of lowering restrictions for Melbournians who had been in stage 3 lockdown since 09JUL2020 and Stage 4 since 02AUG2020 would lift come 11:59pm Tuesday 27OCT2020.

Covid-19 soars in Australia's Victoria despite second Melbourne lockdown

The four essentials reasons to leave home were gone. You could leave your house for any reason.

You could leave your house for any reason.

….

My how the world has changed. 

Retail businesses would re-open, hospitality venues could seat patrons subject to density quotas. 

More than two households could catch up outside but with a limit of 10 not including babies. 

From Wednesday beauty and tattoo parlours could re-open if masks were worn by all. 

Outdoor contact sports for 18 and under will start-up again as will non-contact sport for adults. PT, Fitness and Dance classes could be held outdoors with ten people. Outdoor pools could have 50 people depending on density. 

Libraries, community venues would be open for outdoor events as well as entertainment venues within limits.

Faith communities could hold outdoor ceremonies for up to 20 people plus the people running the service. Indoor could have ten people.

Weddings could have 10 people and funerals up to 20. 

Masks would remain mandatory and people will still be encouraged to work from home where possible.

Years 8 to 10 had returned to the classrooms that Monday with one student Turker Cakal noting, “They had enough of me, I’ve been home too long.

Now is the time to open up. Now is the time to congratulate every single Victorian for staying the course,” Andrews said.

There were reports of cars honking at school pick-up as the announcement was listened in car radios. People cried.

Premier Andrews advised he would provide clear instructions on how home visits would be conducted on Tuesday. 

He did warn, “We must understand, all of us — the most dangerous environment for the spread of this virus is in your home. When you have visitors, you let your guard down, and they go back to their house, they have visitors and all of a sudden there are chains of transmission that spread silently.

From the Premier’s prepared statement he advised further changed for November 8 as regional Victoria and Melbourne became whole. 

The “ring of steel” around Melbourne was on track to be removed 11:59pm Sunday the 8th of November.

“The state will be one again,” Mr Andrews said.

Australia has a contentious history of curfews — will one help Melbourne  beat coronavirus? - ABC News

The capacity of pubs and restaurants will increase, with up to 40 inside and 70 outside.

Religious gatherings will expand with up 20 people and a faith leader indoors, and 50 outside.

Gyms and indoor fitness will be able to reopen – with some strict safety precautions in place.

And because Melburnians will have well and truly earnt a holiday, accommodation will also reopen.

The border between the city and the rest of our state will also fall away.

I know personally – deeply – just how much this will mean for thousands of Victorians who haven’t been able to see loved ones for far too long. 

It will mean families are whole again. Our state is whole again.

In relation to the testing blitz and pumping the brakes Andrews said, “We took the time to wait to make sure we did not have widespread community transmission in the northern suburbs. It was worth waiting to be absolutely confident, to be sure that our team had their arms around those positive cases and fundamental control of the outbreak, and that is exactly what these numbers show us.

The Premier pointed out that the freedom and stability that had been reached was fragile and the responsibility of all Victorians to protect and accordingly he acknowledged it was the achievement of every Victorian and deflected any praise suggested for him as the leader of his state through this tremendous crisis.

Fundamentally this belongs to every Victorian.

But it is not over, this virus is not going away – it is going to continue to be a feature of our lives. It is going to be of our lives every day until a vaccine turns up.

These are big steps, we’ve all given a lot. I’m so proud and impressed and humbled by by the contribution that so many Victorian families have made, so many Victorian businesses have made. If this is to mean something then we have to take our COVID responsibilities to stay safe and to stay open, to stay safe and to stay connected – we have to take those responsibilities seriously.”

“There cannot be bending of rules, they cannot be people on an endless search for loopholes. We are all in this together and just as we have stayed the course and yes we have stayed apart but remain fundamentally connected as a strong and united state we have to be vigilant in the weeks and months to come. Until a vaccine comes – there’s no normal there’s only COVID normal.”

So much has been given to build this precious thing and all of us need to make sure we honour it and value it and protect it in all the chances that we make every single day.

I could not be prouder than I am today to lead a state that has shown the courage and compassion and the character to get this job done.

“But it not yet absolutely finished. Only a vaccine can give us the ultimate protection against this so we need to be proud today, we need to be optimistic, we need to be confident but we also need to be COVID safe and I’m very confident that is exactly what Victorians will do.” 

A zero case number today is not the same as a vaccine against this. We all need to keep our guard up. We all need to be very careful about how we safeguard this precious thing that we have built as a Victorian community because we have stayed the course.

“Because we haven’t been pushed by the loudest voices in our community into making irresponsible choices. The decisions we’ve made have given us the number that we have got today, all of us, the sacrifices we’ve made and now we just need to lock that in by making smart choices for the future.”

In March at the beginning of lockdown Premier Andrews had remarked that you can’t have mates around to get on the beers. 

A reporter asked him in the press conference, “Can I confirm you are saying we can finally on the beers?”.

Andrews wryly replied, “I might go a little higher up the shelf.”

This was a great day for all Victorians, they had endured, they had triumphed. However fleeting, this victory was hard earned and their own.

My condolences. My thanks. My admiration.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – THERE’S A THIRD WAVE COMING

Georgia Rep. Vernon Jones on crowd-surfing at a Macon Trump rally |  firstcoastnews.com

 October 18

From the 13th of September I had started going back to my gym late at night, often spending an hour on the bike but this had been unpredictable. Once my secondment ended on the 12th of October I began to more regularly and consistently get there during the week.

For the month of September I went eight times and for the month of October and November I went 9 times each. Occasionally I worked out on the treadmill and did weights but mostly I would do an hour on the bike. My weight fluctuates but I weighed 114 kgs the first time I went and I have been consistently getting around 110kgs since October. 

Hardly a lifestyle change but I have been enjoying exercising more regularly. I have been warned by my GP that changes need to be made in terms of my weight, blood pressure and cholesterol. Apparently I’m high risk of a heart attack in the next five years so it’s the least I could do.

I certainly pursued a better work life balance.

As I worked on my health, the world kind of went to shit. Second and third waves abounded and the US prepared to hold their Presidential election and we also had the state elections here in Queensland. 

On the 18th of October the World Health Organisation reported globally there had been 39,689,767 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 413,315.

There had been 1,109,960 deaths globally with a daily increase of 6,193.

WHO 11DEC2020

In Australia there had been 27,383 confirmed cases with a daily increase of twelve. There had been 904 deaths.

WHO Australia 11DEC2020

In Canada there had been 194,106 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 2,374. There had been 9,722 deaths with a daily increase of 23. On the 15th of of October Canada had suffered their largest daily increase of cases – 4,042.

WHO Canada 11DEC2020

In the United Kingdom there had been 705,432 confirmed new cases with a daily increase of 16,171. There had been 43,579 deaths with a daily increase of 150. On the 5th of October they suffered the largest daily increase of new cases in the country of 22,961. On the 22nd of October this record would be surpassed with 26,687 new cases reported that day.

WHO UK 11DEC2020

In India there had been 7,494,551 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 61,871. There had been 114,031 death with a daily increase of 1,033. On the 3rd of October the tragic figure of 100,000 Indians dying from COVID-19 had been reached. 100,842.

WHO India 11DEC2020

In the United States of America there had been 7,966,729 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 69,834. There had been 217,071 deaths with a daily increase of 998. 

WHO USA 11DEC2020

There were a few things that grabbed my attention over the rest of the month in the lead-up to the U.S. election.

On the 18th of October John Oliver did an episode Last Week Tonight centred around World Health Organisation. Their achievements, their limits, their flaws and the fact that Ballbag had given notice that the most powerful country was withdrawing from the organisation that eliminated smallpox and also during a global pandemic.

October 19

Monday. Pre-poll voting started in Queensland which I did in the afternoon having been ill earlier that day.

I was one of 100,000 early voters who voted that day. To put that in context about 820,000 voters turned out on election day itself.

1,210,000 Queenslanders did pre-poll voting, 10,000 more than the local council elections that were held in March and up from 740,000 who did in the 2017 Queensland State Election. 900,000 postal votes were issued by the Electoral Commission Queensland.

October 21

A favourite of mine David Letterman returned to Australian screens on Netflix with season 3 of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. The show has proven a mixed bag, fans of Letterman’s acerbic wit don’t know what to make of him fawning over Kim Kardashian, the gentle kinder and yes older Dave make you miss that smart alec Hoosier but what remains is someone with a fervent curiosity who wants you to see the whole individual. I also enjoy watching Dave now in his 70s find ways to relate to people younger than him simply through curiosity and common ground. Maybe some interviews go on too long but I still think this is a good show, that David Letterman is a national treasure and has a way of getting to things in an interview that others may have missed.

There were four episodes, the weakest is Kim Kardashian, she’s enjoying being at the height of her powers, the audience is packed with her crowd and she’s maybe ready to have one over Letterman but she gets him to open up and talk about the time she was robbed and show that there is always a human being at the centre of a headline and lest we forget it. His goal and her vulnerability is admirable.

The interview with Robert Downey Jr is polished with some Hollywood flair. RDJ is on and ready to have a laugh but also talk about his past. It’s the closest to what we might have expected, The Late Show but longer and on location with an entertaining star.

The one with Lizzo is great in watching how the two connect to each other and talk careers and families. A highlight is Lizzo telling Dave not to be so hard on himself with his rapping.

But the greatest episode is easily the one with Dave Chappelle. an artistic and witty figure who is arguably the greatest stand-up comedian working today. Dave probes him here but it is Chappelle who makes the show so special in light of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter. I absolutely agree with everything he says about community, about how we are all victims of prejudice but some more often than others and how we have to all come together to fix our problems. The people of Yellow Springs, Ohio should be proud of themselves too. They take care of each other, such communities are special.

October 22

It’s fascinating to look back at an episode of Planet America on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. In which they pointed out that in many states postal votes were as 40% of turn-out and also indicated that Democrat voters were twice as likely to have voted via the post. Not a surprise given that Ballbag downplays the threat of COVID-19 and urges his supporters that the long established practice of postal voting, which would be the most ideal and safest way to carry out the election during a pandemic where thousands of Americans have died and hundreds of thousands have gotten sick, is more likely to lead to voter fraud.

I will admit I didn’t recall too much of this nor hear much about the mirage of votes. When the results started coming in on Election Day this previous commentary did not come to mind. I was just too shocked by the results even though it backed up my nerves that Ballbag was still in the race despite polling. Speaking of Trafalgar polling called it for Trump which is covered in this episode too.

Ballbag’s niece, a trained psychologist and author Dr Mary Trump was interviewed as well on the show. Her discussion of the lack of respect that Ballbag has for COVID-19, for media, for the lives of others and for the office and how as a result he should not be shown the respect that the office deserves certainly rang true for me.

The show also covered the accusations of Hunter Biden.

October 24

Planet America covered the next election debate between candidates. It also covered how teh third wave was occurring in America. The first wave predominantly occurred in coastal states, the second wave occurred more in the south and centre. The third wave was taking off across all of the country which was hardly a surprise when the country was led as Dr Fauci pointed out by someone who held a party with major leaders with no COVID precautions which led to the President getting himself sick as well as major players in the government. They can’t protect themselves why would they protect the average citizen.

Democrat Vernon Jones from the Georgia House of Representatives spoke eloquently about his support of Ballbag, advising of laws and funding business that have helped African-Americans. He compared prison reform carried out by Trump and contrasted it with the crime bill which President-elect Joe Biden supported. He spoke of President Obama post retirement going to Martha’s Vineyard rather than say Chicago. No real talk of President Obama’s early work in Chicago. I didn’t agree with everything he said but at least he articulated another perspective very well.

October 25

On the 25th of October the World Health Organisation reported there had been globally 42,643,811 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with a daily increase of 481,597.

There had been 1,150,317 deaths globally with a daily increase of 6,097.

In Australia there had been 27,499 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 15. There had been 905 death.

In Canada there had been 211,732 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 2,584. There had been 9,888 Canadian deaths with a daily increase of 26.

In the United Kingdom there had been 854,015 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 23,012. There had been 44,745 deaths with a daily increase of 174.

In India there had been 7,864,811 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 50,129. There had been 118,534 deaths with a daily increase of 578. My brother in law, a man I call my brother from another mother is Indian. His family still lives there. His Uncle passed away. We caught up and went up to Maleny for Capriccio’s pizza. He spoke of a sweet good natured man who had worked hard and always been kind and warm to his family particularly children. A good man, gone too soon. One loss amongst many. One story repeated over 118,000 times and counting.

In the United States of America there had been 8,403,121 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 82,630. There had been 222,507 deaths with a daily increase of 943.

Things were getting worse as the northern hemisphere headed towards winter. All we could do was pray and try to help however we could.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO SCHOOL COMMUNITY AND OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO TEACHING FINALISTS FOR 2020 TEACHX AWARDS AVAILABLE AT QUEENSLAND COLLEGE OF TEACHERS

QCT2

October 13

The TEACHX Awards are held annually by the Queensland College of Teachers to recognise some great teachers in our community and to elevate the profession.

In the year of COVID-19, the need for teachers to be flexible, hard working, innovative and dedicated to the education of students was on display more than ever.

The QCT received close to 400 nominations of which 74 nominees were shortlisted.

In each of the six awards categories there were five finalists.

Out of those 30 teachers I personally interviewed 15 of them and drafted 14 media releases.

These are their stories.

Outstanding Contribution to School Community

Chantelle AmsonChantelle teachers at the Nambour Special School and if Mohammed won’t come to the moutain, well Chantelle brings the mountain to her students. An incredibly dedicated teacher she has created two major events at her school and is part of the school’s choir named Sing, Sign, Sway which participates with mainstream schools in a Chorale Spectacular every second year. The two major events at NSS are a Market Day (the school’s fair) and Gold Pass Day where and this is for real, they set up a water park on the school oval including a massive slide. For some of the students this is the first time they are able to experience something like this. Chantelle Amson leads a school, a community in making this happen. She does not do it by herself but it happens because she sought to do it. Just another example of the amazing teachers who were Finalists.

Ron ArmstrongWhen the zombie apocalypse occurs you might want to look up Ron Armstrong. Growing up on a dairy farm he spent 3 hours a day commuting to school and as a teenager he played rugby league and competed in track and field at state level. As an adult he learned martial arts and became a Muay Thai instructor, climbing instructor and archery instructor. Having been a teacher most of his working life he has also worked in corrective services, employment services, ran a school in Papua New Guinea and had a book of poetry published. For well over a decade he has been involved in the boarding of students and been called upon for his expertise. When COVID hit, he and his team worked hard liaising with various agencies to meet safety requirements and be one of the first in the state to open up their school’s boarding facilities.

Carly BellIn a town of about 3,000 people, Clermont teacher Carly Bell makes a difference. Having moved there sixteen years ago she has boosted numbers of students from the town going onto university and she has been heavily involved in community activities. She became the first female rugby league player from the town to play for the Queensland side. Talking to her gave me a wonderful insight into the appeal of living in Clermont and the idea that in such a community you get out what you put in.

Outstanding Contribution to Teaching

Ping DingA teacher with a remarkable story of growing up during the Cultural Revolution in China. Her entire generation valued education and made the most of their chances to pursue it. As an immigrant to Australia she has overcome language and cultural difference to build one of the state’s largest Chinese language departments. She continues to grow ties between Chinese and Australian school students. Like all these teachers, despite such accomplishments she is very self-effacing.

John AllowaySeventy-two year old John Alloway is the bedrock of the Iggy Park and larger Townsville community. He’s been teaching since 1978 and was part of a push to get Catholic students and state school students to compete together in the brotherhood of sports. He worked twenty years for the North Queensland Cowboys part time tapping him into the innovations of professional sport while he remained Head of Sport at Iggy Park. A lifelong athlete he pedals to school, has shins that put most of us to shame, and can be found lifting weights during the day but when he talks about building the confidence of young students regardless of their athletic ability it touches something in your heart. This is a teacher in the most important sense of the word. Interestingly enough he worked odd jobs after school before deciding to consider going to night school. My own father had a similar experience and so I found something familiar in Alloway’s experiences.

John AloizosWas a wonderful man to speak to about his background growing up in a migrant family and how it gives him insight into the students at his own school where English is not their first language. He has been involved in many projects and been a heads of department often over the years, but a current program where he recruits students to be part of the school’s Stage Crew taking care of all the AV needs for school and external productions is what we mainly discussed. Many of these students are shy and withdrawn, they become proficient, confident and self-reliant as a Stage Crew member. A small measure of John’s impact and maybe the most important one.

It will always remain an honour to have interviewed these wonderful teachers.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – EXCELLENT LEADERSHIP IN LEARNING AND TEACHING AND INNOVATION IN TEACHING FINALISTS FOR 2020 TEACHX AWARDS AVAILABLE AT QUEENSLAND COLLEGE OF TEACHERS

QCT2

October 13

The TEACHX Awards are held annually by the Queensland College of Teachers to recognise some great teachers in our community and to elevate the profession.

In the year of COVID-19, the need for teachers to be flexible, hard working, innovative and dedicated to the education of students was on display more than ever.

The QCT received close to 400 nominations of which 74 nominees were shortlisted.

In each of the six awards categories there were five finalists.

Out of those 30 teachers I personally interviewed 15 of them and drafted 14 media releases.

These are their stories.

Excellence Leadership in Learning and Teaching

Donald CameronDonald Cameron was a lovely teacher to talk to, he is highly intelligent and can break down big concepts centred around the way the brain works that make it highly relatable and practical. He was fascinating to listen to and has contributed to the mindfulness of teachers and students at his school.

Keith GrahamKeith Graham has the distinction of being the second person I have interviewed twice. I interview him in early 2019 for QCT when he received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM). Our conversation then covered the positive role sport can play in the development of young people. Now we discussed the International Baccalaureate Program, dived deeper into his early years, his role as a Principal and ideas around leadership and building school communities. Graham is a first rate speaker, articulate and concise but also expansive on his points. It’s a dream to interview him but the best part is clearly hearing his passion as an educator and building up people of all ages to reach their best potential.

Ben HabermehlIt was great to chat Ben, an extremely dedicated maths teacher who has made a significant difference to the maths department at his school and the students who learn there. His school, Yeronga State High School partnered with Griffith University in the research project Y Connect which saw artists engaging students in maths through movement with tremendous results particularly with many students whose first language is not English.

Innovation in Teaching

Gavin JonesGavin Jones like every other teacher I interviewed was wonderful to speak to. An arts teacher who set up the second remote pilot course for high school students in Australia and the first in Queensland. Jones who obtained his Commercial Pilots Licence in the early 1990s, has put his school on the map with the program. He was full of amusing stories and we discussed the impact that teachers can make in a student’s life.

Cameron LynchHave you heard of eSports? Well I hadn’t. But it is a growing billion dollar industry of video game tournaments where players are paid to compete professionally. More importantly the industry employs many to market, plan, run such tournaments in a range of specialities with universities offering scholarships, running tournaments, putting together teams and teaching skills for the sector. Thanks to Cameron Lynch students in his high school are doing the same building inroads to tertiary study and industry careers. A teacher with a vast array of experience and great dedication, it was magic listening to him recall a moment coming out of COVID where two of his students reached the grand final of an eSports tournament and they arranged 100 socially distanced peers to cheer them on in the school’s auditorium.

It will always remain an honour to have interviewed these wonderful teachers.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – EXCELLENCE IN BEGINNING TO TEACH AND EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING FINALISTS FOR 2020 TEACHX AWARDS AVAILABLE AT QUEENSLAND COLLEGE OF TEACHERS

QCT2

October 13

The TEACHX Awards are held annually by the Queensland College of Teachers to recognise some great teachers in our community and to elevate the profession.

In the year of COVID-19, the need for teachers to be flexible, hard working, innovative and dedicated to the education of students was on display more than ever.

The QCT received close to 400 nominations of which 74 nominees were shortlisted.

In each of the six awards categories there were five finalists.

Out of those 30 teachers I personally interviewed 15 of them and drafted 14 media releases.

These are their stories.

Excellence in Beginning to Teach

Peita BatesI happened to drive up to Maryborough a handful of days before I interviewed two finalists from Maryborough State High School. It is a beautiful town but both teachers I spoke to were eloquent of the challenges that Maryborough students face and that even on the coast 3 hours from Brisbane the community can become isolated like many regional towns. Peita is a former business consultant who in her short time as a teacher had already made great strides for her students becoming part of a school audit of the school as a Registered Training Organisation. She set up computer coding as a language program at the school and a Roboacademy. In the year of COVID she created the Game On challenge for students to design a game around the theme of connection. Along with Cecilia Kovacic, Peita Bates is a great advocate for her students, her school and her town.

Alexandra CalligarisAllie is a whip-smart innovative and perceptive teacher who has already made a big impact in her chosen career. We spoke about the difference a teacher can make in a student’s approach to life and how she has structured subjects to be engaging and contemporary whether it be how geospatial tech could be used to survive a zombie apocalypse or about podcasting. She created a Year 9 elective which aims to cross curriculum with excellent results. As a teacher, Calligaris has already left her mark but she is only getting started.

Excellence in Teaching

Jodi AudossIt was an honour to speak to Jodi Audoss. Jodi had worked in early childhood for many years before becoming a school teacher. A brain bleed saw her leave the profession and gradually with great effort and resilience work her way back to being a full time teacher. She now works with students with disabilities to reach their full potential alongside their peers. She has a lifetime of insight and an unwavering passion for the individual development of young students at a critical time in their education. She is a very special teacher and individual.

Cecilia KovacicCecilia Kovacic who also teaches at Maryborough State High School and spoke with great passion about creating employment opportunities for students in the town through several initiatives including trade training and the FraserPop Pop Culture Festival which drew 15,000 people in 2019 which she co-created. She was full of pride for the resilience and flexibility her students had shown as COVID forced them to change plans for the festival. My manager wrote the piece on Cecilia.

It will always remain an honour to have interviewed these wonderful teachers.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – ALL GOOD THINGS COME TO AN END

October 11

There is not a lot to say here.

My secondment working for the media team came to an end Friday the 9th of October. The following monday I returned to regular work in administration. I find the work of both rewarding for different reasons.

The secondment is not the hardest thing I have ever done but I am also not the man I used to be.

I like to think I worked hard and did everything I could to tell the stories of some wonderful teachers and to support of team of individuals I was very honoured to be a part.

In my experience you don’t regret the things you did as much as the things you didn’t do and that is certainly true here.

Perhaps as a result I was always going to have to be pulled away from the job.

It was a difficult year due to COVID but also other matters and so my goal was to stand up and be counted.

In the closing days as I worked to some final deadlines and felt fatigue I even played this video on Youtube to gee myself up with the amazing Rocky score from Bill Conti and Australian Rugby League Legend Wally Lewis going the distance.

 

So I don’t have a lot to cover about COVID-19 this week but I will check in on the usual stats.

On the 11th of October the World Health Organisation reported there had been Globally 37,185,844 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with a daily increase of 373,669. There had been 1,072,974 deaths globally with a daily increase of 5,805.

In Australia there had been 27,244 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 15. There had been 897 deaths.

In Canada there had been 178,117 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 2,558. There had been 9,585 deaths with a daily increase of 28.

In the United Kingdom there had been 590,848 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 15,165. There had been 42,760 deaths with a daily increase of 81.

In India there had been 7,053,806 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 74,383. There had been 108,334 deaths with a daily increase of 918. The numbers in India were trending down but still tragically high.

In the United States of America there had been 7,583,748 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 57,828. There had been 212,229 deaths with a daily increase of 918. The same amount of deaths reported in India that day.

Sunday night I awoke, went to Capriccios Pizza at Maleny and had the best pizza in the world and shared ice cream and waffles for dessert. I drove back home, went to the gym and started back at work the next morning.

I am an extremely lucky and blessed man.

-Lloyd Marken