COVID-19 DIARY – BACK IN THE GAME – PART II

Coronavirus live updates: US marks deadliest day since pandemic began - ABC  News

December 10

Dr Anthony Fauci was quoted saying in the lead up to Christmas, “For the first time in more than 30 years, I’m not spending the Christmas holidays with my daughters.”

The 79 year-old Director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases would most likely talk to them via Zoom along with his wife of 35 years.

The advice he had for his fellow Americans was to do the same.

Ten people inside during the holidays he felt was likely too many and a surge in numbers from Thanksgiving gatherings would only start to reach their heights as we entered the longer holiday period of Christmas and New Years.

Speaking to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo he advised, “We could start to see things start to get really bad in the middle of January, not only for New York state but for any state or city. [That] could be a really dark time for us.

Hospital admissions had soared over 70 per cent in the previous two weeks with ICU availability at less than ten per cent in the state. In Southern California it was 4.2%.

In areas where ICU wards were at less than 15% California Governor Gavin Newsom had issued stay at home orders.

America had set a new record for COVID-19 hospitalisations in December with more than 109,000 patients with 21,200 of them in Intensive Care.

The New York Times calculated that hospitals that serve more than 100 million Americans were at 15 per cent ICU capacity – no more.

On the 10th of December, the World Health Organisation reported in the United States of American there had been 14,972,356 with a daily increase of 216,360. There had been 283,994 deaths with a daily increase of 2,552.

December 11

Close to three million kits of the Pfizer vaccine were getting ready to roll out of the Pfizer vaccine.

The CDC Director Robert Redfield advised on the same day that daily deaths in America in the coming weeks were set to exceed total fatalities from the attack on Pearl Harbour or September 11, 2001.

December 12

The American Food and Drug Administration gave approval for the Pfizer vaccine to be used in the United States late Friday there.

California Governor Gavin Newsom advised more than 300,000 doses were coming to his state.

Experts warned the vaccine would not affect the rising American death toll from COVID-19 for the next couple of months at least.

US Launches Coronavirus Vaccine Distribution, First Inoculations Possibly  Monday | Voice of America - English

December 13

Sunday.

More than 184,000 vials left a Pfizer manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan on trucks bound for air freight across the country. United Parcel Service and FedEx planes would take off from Lansing and Grand Rapids to hubs in Louisville and Memphis from where the vaccines were loaded onto planes and trucks to go to the first 145 of 636 vaccine staging areas across America.

Planes, trucks and ultracold boxes: Pfizer preps massive COVID-19 vaccine  distribution effort | FiercePharma

It was hoped 2.9 million doses would be given by the end of the year with health care workers and the elderley the first in line to receive a jab.

Stephen Hahn, the Commissioner of the F.D.A. said it was possible 20 million Americans could receive both jabs by the end of the month.

Moncef Slaoui, the chief adviser to the government’s vaccine development, told “Fox News Sunday” that 100 million Americans might be vaccinated by the end of March. 

Slaoui advised that the U.S. needed to acquire herd immunity from the virus to halt transmission and that would mean 75-80% of the population had to be immunised. Some polling showed only half of Americans were keen to get the vaccine, others put the number at a quarter. Let’s hope the latter were more accurate.

It was hoped three quarters of the country would have been vaccinated by the May or June.

United States Pfizer vaccine shipments begin after emergency authorisation  - ABC News

Even as relief was in sight, the reality of the situation was still pronounced as numbers skyrockteted.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy whose state had suffered so much in March and April advised, “The next six to eight weeks are going to be hell.

Shipments were being dispersed to 145 distribution sites on Monday, 425 on Tuesday and the remaining 66 on Wednesday. Each state is receiving an amount of doses based on their adult population.

The vaccine is transported using containers with dry ice and GPS sensors to ensure shipment stays 94 degrees below zero.

Meet Sandra Lindsay, the first US person to get COVID-19 vaccine - Business  Insider

December 15

Twenty seven year old Intensive Care nurse Sarah Lindsay became the first American to receive a COVID-19 Pfizer BioNTech jab.

She received it at the Long Island Jewish Medical Centre in Queens, New York City.

Part of the Northwell Health System which has treated 100,000 COVID patients since the pandemic began.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo watched via live stream and told the veteran nurse after, “Sandra, you didn’t even flinch.”

It didn’t feel any different than taking any other vaccine,” she replied.

I feel hopeful today, relieved. I feel like healing is coming. I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history. I want to instil public confidence that the vaccine is safe,” she said.

On the reluctance of some to get vaccinated Governor Cuomo said, “We just have to do it. The vaccine doesn’t work if it’s in the vial.

Lindsay is a nurse. An intensive care nurse. She’s a New York ICU nurse.

She has been a hero for a long time.

Now she’s a symbol.

COVID-19 Memory Project- Sandra Lindsay Interview - YouTube

A symbol of hope, a symbol of the nurses who have borne the brunt of this terrible disease and risked everything, not just their lives but the lives of their loved ones who battling this disease.

They’ve seen death on a scale most war veterans have not.

They’ve gotten sick.

Some have died.

Some are fighting right now to be paid out after their health has deteriorated and they can no longer work.

Minorities per capita have gotten the brunt of this disease and it is minorities who per capita not without reason are wary of government administered vaccines.

Nurse Sandra Lindsay represents that too.

She also represents the best of us.

Thank you Nurse Lindsay and God bless.

Meet Sandra Lindsay, the first US person to get COVID-19 vaccine - Business  Insider

There were other stories across the country as reported by The Washington Post.

I just lost my 27th patient today,” said Louisville physician Valerie Briones-Pryor. “So the vaccine I took today was for her family and for the other 26 I lost.”

African American emergency medicine physician Sylvia Owusu-Ansah in Pittsburgh took her jab.

“There is a skepticism there that is not unwarranted,” she said, referencing the seed of distrust among Black Americans about experimental medicine — planted with the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, in which Black men in the study were left untreated. “Basically, if I can do it, they can do it.”

African American nurse, who works in a COVID ward, Mia Yepez got her jab in Jefferson saying, “We want to be able to stop the many admissions.

The Chief Medical Officer Robert Hart at her place of work, Ochsner Medical Center, described Yepez as, “She is in the middle of it day in and day out.

President Walter M. Kimbrough of Dillard University and President C. Reynold Verret of Xavier University, both historically black colleges of the state, both said publically they were happy to get vaccinated.

Hope': Burned out health workers buoyed by vaccine

Anesthesiologist Raymond Pla was the only black staff member of the George Washington University Hospital to be vaccinated Monday.

His message, “If you want the funerals from the covid-19 infection to slow down and stop, you got to get the vaccine.

Deni Kamper on Twitter: "The @UPS truck carrying the COVID-19 vaccine  arrived at UofL Hospital. @WLKY… "

UPS driver Byron Bishop pulled his truck up to the University of Louisville Hospital greeted by applause and an elbow bump from the Governor of the state Andy Beshear.

It’s humbling being a part of this vaccine process, because it’s going to save a lot of lives,” said the driver.

Referring back to the date that Kentucky recorded their first COVID-19 cases, the Governor told this was the best, “The best I’ve felt since March 6. Today is the day we start winning the war against covid.”

He told a story about a close friend who had lost his mother to the virus and had to quarantine for two weeks unable to grieve with the rest of his family. Just one more devastating story from the pandemic.

The vaccine will liberate our workforce, the people who are really working, taking care of patients, from worrying about whether they face a death sentence from accidentally getting infected,” said David Lubarsky, chief executive of the University of California at Davis health system.

The United States of America would breach 300,000 dead on the 17th of December reporting 301,536 deaths with a daily increase of 2,942.

Days before the U.S. reached 300,000 dead Dr Fauci had said, “The numbers are staggering — the most impactful respiratory pandemic that we have experienced in over 102 years, since the iconic 1918 Spanish flu.

It took four months for America to reach 100,000 dead and it was now believed a further 100,000 could die in the following six weeks.

Leon Kelly, the coroner of El Paso County in Colorado and the Deputy Medical Director of its health department had seen a lot of death in the past few months.

It can certainly feel like you’re standing on the beach and sandbagging a tsunami,” said Kelly.

To me it represents an extraordinary failure in our response. To think, now we can just absorb in our country 3,000 deaths a day as though it were just business as usual. It just represents a moral failing,said John Hopkins health researcher Jennifer Nuzzo.

Multimedia: The State of Biopreparedness: Lessons for Leaders, Proposals  for Progress

Jennifer Nuzzo was not wrong, none of this was good enough or justified. President Trump has blood on his hands and always will. That in my opinion is and always will remain his biggest crime. That and any of his allies, enablers and supporters.

On the 15th of December the World Health Organisation reported there had been 72,467,704 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 507,504.

There had been 1,620,942 deaths globally with a daily increase of 8,797.

In Australia there had been 28,039 confirmed cases with a daily increase of eight. There had been 908 deaths.

In Canada there had been 460,743 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,891. There had been 13,431 deaths with a daily increase of 81.

In the United Kingdom there had been 1,869,670 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 20,263. There had been 64,402 deaths with a daily increase of 232.

In India there had been 9,906,165 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 22,065. There had been 143,709 deaths with a daily increase of 354.

In the United States of America there had been 16,041,095 with a daily increase of 180,420. There had been 296,840 deaths with a daily increase of 1,434.

But this was not just a day of doom and gloom. All the days of December showed death. Showed heartbreaking loss.

December 15 was a day of hope too. A vaccine being distributed against in just nine short months after COVID-19 rapidly spread across the world and changed our lives forever.

A miracle performed by scientists.

Delivered to our greatest heroes and our most vulnerable.

First doctor in US receives coronavirus vaccine: 'I went in today feeling  very hopeful' | Coronavirus | The Guardian

Back in Queens at the Long Island Jewish Medical Centre, the second person to receive a shot was Yves Duroseau, the emergency medicine chair at Manhattan’s Lennox Hill Hospital.

Like nurse Lindsay before him, he got the needle from Michelle Chester, the Director of Employee Health Services for Northwell Health.

“Ready?” Chester asked him.

“Please,” he replied.

“Let’s do this.” she said.

Duroseau had lost an uncle to COVID and had another family member in hospital fighting the disease.

-Lloyd Marken

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

SPOTLIGHT: NOT JUST ONE OF THE YEAR’S BEST PICTURES BUT AN EMOTIONALLY RIVETING STORY

The Boston Globe was founded in 1872 by six Boston businessmen and by the 1890s Wikipedia tells me it was a stronghold with an editorial staff dominated by Irish Catholics. Wikipedia also tells me Tom Winship succeeded his father as editor in 1964 and transformed The Boston Globe from a local paper into regional paper of national distinction. When he stepped down as editor in 1984 it had won not just its first Pulitzer Prize during his twenty year reign but a dozen. From 1993 until 2013 The Boston Globe was owned by The New York Times. In the 1990s it launched an online website which has regularly been ranked as one of the ten best newspaper websites in the country. The quality of their digital work can be seen for example here in this piece. It is a prestigious publication with a storied history, something Boston can be proud of. There are several shots in Spotlight with The Boston Globe marquee; a little romanticism is shown not just for The Globe but for print journalism in general.

This is not a tale about regular journos doing the regular beat to hit that print deadline every day. Spotlight is a specialised team of veteran and talented reporters who are given sometimes months to unearth the specifics of the story. When they pull the lever it needs to be good and it needs to be right because litigation lawyers for the paper have to be ready to stand firm. They are good and they do get it right and in doing so they make the world a better place. They are able to do this type of long form investigative journalism due to the deep coffers of major broadsheets. Coffers that are getting smaller in the digital age it should be noted. In 2001 the team started work on their biggest story, the covering up of sexual abuse of children by the Catholic Church in Boston. As the story broke the scope of it has increased to a global crisis for the Church and its faithful. As Spotlight reporter Michael Rezendez has been quoted by People magazine as saying “Even though I was a lapsed Catholic, I still considered myself a Catholic and thought that one possibly, some day, I would go back to being a practising Catholic. But after this experience, I found it impossible to do that – or even think about doing that. What we discovered was just too shattering.”

The Spotlight team is led by their editor Walter “Robby” Robinson portrayed by Michael Keaton who carries tremendous gravitas as an elder statesmen in this film that it is hard to believe this guy was Beetlejuice. I’ve spent my lifetime watching this man and even in something like Duplicity or Batman he brought such energy to his performance. Not here, here he is quiet and he carries the movie – Mark Ruffalo is not the star. Speaking of Mark, he’s terrific as Michael Rezendes the type of role you might have handed to a young Michael Keaton both professionally determined and yet often radiating a certain swagger. Brian d’Arcy James, predominantly a stage actor, plays Ben Bradlee Jr. who uncovers some interesting facts in old archives before realising uneasily that former perpetrators might be living close to his house. Rachel McAdams one of the most talented young actresses working today plays Sacha Pfeiffer who is the journalist who gets the brunt of the interviews with actual victims. A personal viewpoint of the abuse is never really shown. We meet the victims as adults hurting but determined to tell their story and we see them from the perspective of the journalists who are moved by their stories but have to be professional and have to discern what is true. The reporters confide in each other as the story begins to make them confront their own beliefs, heritage and feelings.

Many years ago a very wise man came to my house with a DVD to watch called The Station Agent. It was reflective of his taste and of many experiences where my best friend introduced me to great films I had never heard of. Director Tom McCarthy has been a filmmaker I have followed ever since. In that film he dealt with broken people discovering they could love again and have a place in the world. One character was getting over the death of a child and McCarthy was spellbinding in the way that he would cause greater effect by underplaying everything and showing wise restraint. That wonderful gift is on display here in a film that deals with something very painful.

Demographics have changed in Boston as they have throughout the rest of America but for the purposes of popular culture there is something distinctly Irish Catholic about Boston, MA. You can imagine then the trauma at the heart of an old respected local broadsheet staffed predominantly by Irish Catholics unearthing the first real proof of the Catholic Church’s cover up of abusive priests. It is arguably two great big Boston institutions at war with each other and there are several small meeting room scenes where old Boston guys sit down and talk about what to do with the kind of polished charm that makes one uneasy. Michael Keaton is riveting in these moments.

Sidenote: Many years ago Keaton starred in another journalism ensemble The Paper, one of those good dramedies Ron Howard did so well back in the day, which was about the daily beat of a regular journalist but also carried this film’s romantic idealism for the good, good journalism could do. Film Critic Roger Ebert who always considered himself a journalist first and foremost loved that movie. I think he would’ve loved this one too and Roger I miss you, I miss your thoughts and your wonderful words about movies even when I disagreed with you.

Films like this make a splash at awards season but often can struggle to find a wide audience. They get labelled ‘Important’, ‘Well Made’ with a ‘Terrific Ensemble Cast’ but people may hesitate to know if the film will involve them or worse be too confronting. Yes Spotlight is well made and about something important boasting an All Star Ensemble. However it is so much more, it’s terribly moving as the victims tell their stories and also as various forces seek to turn around our heroes. The crowd I saw it with on a Tuesday night was visibly moved . At the end we got up without a sound and left the cinema quietly and solemnly. Like we were leaving Church.

-Lloyd Marken