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Liberty University, Coronavirus, and the Decision to Stay Open or Close!

Dear Commons Community,

While other Virginia campuses were urging students to remain home after spring break, Liberty officials invited them to return — a decision Lynchburg’s mayor described as “reckless” — and the state’s governor urged Falwell to reconsider.  Yesterday, as Virginia’s governor issued a statewide stay-at-home order through June 10 and Liberty reported its first positive test for Covid-19, students and parents were responding with varying degrees of confusion and concern to the mixed messages they say they’ve been receiving from the university, the news media, and local governments.  As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Hundreds of Liberty students have been packing up and pulling out. Some of the most recent evacuees were alarmed by a widely circulated report in The New York Times that as many as 11 students had started exhibiting possible symptoms of Covid-19 and were being either tested or quarantined. The newspaper attributed the information to Thomas W. Eppes Jr., a local physician who it said heads the university’s student-health service. Eppes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement released late Sunday, Liberty officials sharply disputed The New York Times’s account, calling it “fake news” that gave a distorted view of what was actually happening on campus. The university broke down the numbers on its website.

Its first positive Covid-19 case was a former student athlete who lived on campus during the fall semester but had since moved home with his family, the university’s statement said.

University officials confirmed that they had asked four students who had recently been in the New York City area and who were living in campus residence halls to self-quarantine in single rooms at a former hotel the university owns two miles from campus.

“Two agreed to this self-quarantine and two opted to return to their permanent residences,” the statement said. “There were three students in close contact with these individuals, and they were also asked to self-quarantine in separate rooms in the annex, which they did.” The move was precautionary and not based on any symptoms they had exhibited, the statement said.

On Friday the university informed students that they could receive a $1,000 partial rebate of room and board if they weren’t returning to campus. The university, which had expected up to 5,000 students to take Falwell up on his invitation to return after spring break, reported last week that about 1,900 were on campus. By late Sunday, about 800 had left.

Meanwhile, the messages being sent to students were changing by the day as the fast-moving pandemic continued to crop up in more parts of the state. Any student who returns to the Liberty campus now will have to self-quarantine for two weeks at the university annex with meals and other essentials delivered, the university said.

And while the university had earlier said a few labs and aviation classes would be conducted in person, Gov. Ralph S. Northam’s statewide stay-at-home order on Monday specifically calls on higher-education institutions to halt all in-person classes and instruction. The aviation class that was still being held in person was ended as a result, a campus spokesman said. The order will remain in place until June 10, unless Northam rescinds it.

Calum Best, a student-government leader who said he’d faced a fierce backlash for speaking out against Liberty’s response to the pandemic, noted that some students had picked up on Falwell’s general disdain for media reports. As a result, he said, they’re “acting like college students who just want to hang out on campus together.” People in one of the student groups he observed from his window on Monday were sitting close together on a picnic bench, and another couple walking across the campus was holding hands, he said.

“The problem is not that [Falwell] was encouraging that conduct; he was just not doing enough to discourage it by saying blatantly false things and soft-pedaling conspiracy theories” about the pandemic, Best said.

Falwell, a strong supporter of President Trump, has accused his critics of politicizing the pandemic to attack the university.

Another senior, Ellie Richards, said she had returned home to Harrisburg, Pa., from her off-campus apartment because she feels that it’s the safest, most responsible way to finish the semester. While some students are genuinely worried about coming down with Covid-19, she said, “there’s another faction of students who think the mainstream media is spreading lies to damage Liberty’s reputation, that this is all just a political game, and that everyone’s out to get Jerry,” she said.

Falwell has denied accusations that he misled local officials about how many students would return after spring break. The mayor of Lynchburg, where Liberty is located, said she had been under the impression that the campus would be open only to international students and others who had nowhere else to go.

As colleges and universities have struggled to devise policies to respond to the quickly evolving situation, here are links to The Chronicle’s key coverage of how this worldwide health crisis is affecting campuses.

Liberty officials said that their position hadn’t changed and that local officials had objected only after reading “erroneous” news and opinion pieces.

“President Falwell never promised how many students would return,” the statement said. “He had no idea, frankly.”

Liberty is on the growing list of universities offering at least partial refunds for room and board this semester. Many other colleges are prorating housing and meal reimbursements to students based on the percentage of time left in the semester, versus Liberty’s flat $1,000 refund.

The decision to extend the credit came amid growing complaints from both students and parents. On Twitter, one father of three Liberty students called the decision to bring students back to campus, and then allow them to return home to potentially infect their grandparents, “crazy” and “irresponsible,” and said it “seems like a money grab.”

Falwell tweeted in response: “Nope, then they’ll go off to summer jobs or internships, dummy.”

A campus spokesman, Scott Lamb, said those who accuse Falwell of keeping the campus open to avoid having to refund room fees are wrong. The president, he said, has publicly stated that he invited students back “instead of running away and pushing the Covid problem off on others.”

We  are all learning, perhaps the hard way, that isolation and social distancing are the best approaches in fighting the coronavirus.

Tony


NOTE:  After this posting was made, Liberty University announced it would comply with all coronavirus guidelines issued in Virgina.

Seven Crucial Anti-Anxiety Guidelines While in Self-Quarantine?

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Dear Commons Community,

Most of us are in some state of self-quarantine these days and it is likely that we will continue to stay at home for at least another month or more.  This confinement can easily lead to anxiety and stress and if not addressed, will get worse.  The Associated Press in conjunction with One Medical has provided a set of anti-anxiety guidelines all of us can follow during our confinement.  They are simple and easy to follow.  Below is the text of these guidelines as they appeared in the AP.  There is a little plug at the end of the guidelines for One Medical.

Tony 

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Are You Following These 7 Crucial Anti-Anxiety Guidelines While in Self-Quarantine?

Between daily news headlines and state emergency declarations, it may feel hard to escape the sense of panic around COVID-19. However, stress can have a profound effect on your immune system, so it’s important for both your physical and mental health that you prioritize your self-care.

From a basic biological perspective, stress is a sign that our body is trying to keep us safe. Our sympathetic nervous system kicks into “fight or flight” mode when we feel like we may be in harm’s way or are experiencing a real or imagined threat. Physically, this can cause an increase in adrenaline, heart racing, sweating, etc, and mentally keep us hyper-aware, which can make it hard to sleep because of spiraling thoughts. While these symptoms can often be alarming, it is our body’s natural response to a perceived threat. Fortunately, we can reduce our stress and anxiety through some actions we talk about below.

1. Get enough rest.

While you may be tempted to stay up following the news, it’s more important to let your body rest. Getting adequate sleep will allow your body to perform at its very best and fend off potential viruses. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, check out these tips.

2. Keep exercising.

High levels of cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, can cause your immune system to be less effective. Exercise can help reduce elevated cortisol levels, as well as trigger the release of endorphins, boosting your overall mood and happiness. If you are choosing to practice social distancing, try skipping the gym and heading outside for a run, bike ride, or another form of exercise that doesn’t require close contact with others. If cold weather doesn’t permit this, even walking up a few flights of stairs, or having a dance party in your apartment can be helpful. Move your body!

3. Eat well.

It’s easy when stressed to let your diet slide and turn to less nutritious comfort foods. When it comes to managing your anxiety, however, a balanced diet is vital for your health. As we usually recommend, focus on eating fresh, unprocessed, whole foods in order to maintain a strong immune system.

4. Limiting alcohol and other substances.

While having a glass or two of wine might feel like a good way to take the edge off of a stressful day, alcohol in any amount can make it difficult to get restful sleep. This can also be true with other substances, like CBD and marijuana. Alcohol is also a depressant, which might lead to increased anxiety and a poor mood. Additionally, nicotine not only has a negative effect on your lungs, but can also disrupt your sleep.

5. Spend time with friends and family.

Research shows that quality time with people you care about can boost your happiness level. If you are self-quarantined or even just working remotely, try to still connect with your friends and family through video chat or phone calls. You don’t need to talk about COVID-19. In fact, maybe just talk about pleasant things! Find opportunities to laugh. Talk about books, podcasts, or even the last show you watched on Netflix.

6. Practice Mindfulness

When we get worried, stressed or anxious, we tend to breathe shallowly. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, take a few minutes to notice your breathing and even try one of these breathing techniques. Stress can also cause us to tense up. When you recognize that you are worried, stressed or anxious, try a “body scan”. Start from the top of your head and take note of any stress or tension in your muscles. Is your face pinched? Are you clenching your jaw? Are your shoulders up at your ears? Are you hunched forward? Do you feel any tension in your belly, back, legs, or feet? Go through the body, notice where you are holding your stress, and try to let it go. For guided meditations, we recommend these apps.

7. Implement a digital detox

While you will understandably want to keep up-to-date on the latest guidance from health authorities, it’s important to strike a balance between staying informed and consuming everything in your newsfeed. If endless scrolling leaves you feeling anxious and overwhelmed, it may be time to take a break and unplug. Set aside a certain part of the day specifically for news consumption and give yourself a time limit. Some social media platforms even allow you to create those boundaries within their apps.

Try the above techniques before considering medication, as most medications for anxiety disorders (usually SSRIs) often take 4-6 weeks to take effect, and may not be the best option for temporary stresses, like those caused by COVID-19. Additionally, more short-acting anti-anxiety medications like Xanax are not meant to be taken on a daily basis and can be addictive. Our hope is that by practicing self-care, engaging in activities that bring you joy, and taking a break from the news and social media, you will be able to manage your anxiety without medication. If you’re not finding these approaches to be effective, consider booking a visit so your One Medical provider can provide guidance on the best options to further address your mental health.

New York City Teachers’ Herculean Task: Moving 1.1 Million Children Online!

Dear Commons Community,

Last week was the first week that New York City’s 1.1 million students were back in session, after schools were closed for a week to transition to remote learning. And given that school will be conducted via online technology for weeks, if not through the end of the academic year, the city’s 75,000 teachers are faced with a challenge unlike anything else in their careers: holding the attention of students from ages 3 to 18, educating them in accordance with guidelines, and providing them a patina of normalcy despite not having any of the control of a classroom setting. The New York Times has an article this morning describing the Herculean Task that teachers face in trying to overcome their own concerns to provide a viable alternative to face-to-face instruction. Here is an excerpt.

“Looming over the entire enterprise is a cloud of fear and urgency. It is critical that remote learning succeeds. The alternative is that over a million children, in crucial developmental stages of their education, will be permanently set back, with no opportunity to salvage lost time.

In addition, the vast majority of New York City public school students are poor and an estimated 114,000 students are homeless. Around 75 percent of New York City public school children qualify for free or reduced-price school lunch. For many students, school was often the only place to get three hot meals a day and medical care, and even wash dirty laundry.

It has been jarring, surreal and draining, more than a dozen educators said in interviews, to adapt to a completely new way of working, with everyone forced to interact on screens, for at least part of the school day, as the statistics from the world outside get grimmer and grimmer.

By Sunday, the number of people in New York City who had died from the coronavirus was 776, out of more than 33,474 confirmed cases.

Richard A. Carranza, the schools chancellor, cautioned last week that “not everything is going to go as we plan.” Attendance figures were unclear, since schools were still collecting data from self-reporting.

A “technology gap” persisted in a system filled largely with low-income students, he noted, with 175,000 laptops, iPads and Chromebooks distributed before remote learning commenced to the estimated 300,000 students who lacked devices. An estimated 25,000 to 50,000 wireless-enabled devices are expected to be handed out in the coming weeks, according to the Department of Education.

And while Mr. Carranza urged “flexibility and patience,” he also saluted teachers, administrators, parents and students for “rising to the occasion.”

“We are literally flying the plane as we’re building the plane,” he said.

Kudos to our teachers here in New York City and around the country who are working tirelessly for their students.  As one of my students (herself a teacher in New York) at Hunter College emailed me a couple of days ago “Dr. P.  I am Zoomed out.”

Tony

New Study: Seeing the Universe through a Black Hole!

 

 

Dear Commons Community,

On Saturday, the New York Times in an article entitled, Infinite Visions Were Hiding in the First Black Hole Image’s Rings, reports that scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, believe that the light emanating from a black hole provides a window into the entire universe.   When you point a telescope at a black hole, it turns out you don’t just see the swirling sizzling doughnut of doom formed by matter falling in. You can also see the whole universe. Light from an infinite array of distant stars and galaxies can wrap around the black hole like ribbons around a maypole, again and again before coming back to your eye, or your telescope.   Here is the text of the article written by Dennis Overbye.

 “A year ago a team of radio astronomers startled the world with the first photograph of a black hole (see below), lurking like the eye of Sauron in the heart of a distant galaxy. Now it appears there was more hiding in that image than we had imagined.

Blackness of space with black marked as center of donut of orange and red gases

When you point a telescope at a black hole, it turns out you don’t just see the swirling sizzling doughnut of doom formed by matter falling in. You can also see the whole universe. Light from an infinite array of distant stars and galaxies can wrap around the black hole like ribbons around a maypole, again and again before coming back to your eye, or your telescope.

“The image of a black hole actually contains a nested series of rings,” said Michael Johnson of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, not unlike the rings that form around your bathtub drain.

Dr. Johnson was lead author of a study, describing the proposed method that would allow our telescopes to pry more secrets from the maw of any black hole, that was published in the March 18 edition of the journal Science Advances. A visualization demonstrating the individual photon rings that make up the first ever image of the supermassive black hole at galaxy M87.CreditCredit…Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

He and other authors of the paper are also members of the team operating the Event Horizon Telescope, a globe-girding network of radio telescopes that made that first image of a black hole. Their telescope saw these rings, but it didn’t have enough resolution to distinguish them, so they were blurred into a single feature.

The work, scientists with the project said, pointed toward new ways to shed light, so to speak, on the properties of black holes, particularly by adding a radio telescope in space to the existing E.H.T. network.

“This paper is, in my professional capacity, very cool!” Shep Doeleman, also of Harvard-Smithsonian and leader of the E.H.T. collaboration, said in an email.

Andrew Strominger, a Harvard theorist and co-author of the paper, said, “Understanding the intricate details of this historic experimental observation has forced theorists like myself to think about black holes in a new way.”

Black holes are potholes in eternity, so massive that they swallow even light. They were an unwelcome prediction of Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity, general relativity. It describes gravity as the warping of space-time by mass and energy. Too much in one place would cause space-time to sag without limit.

Einstein thought that was crazy, but astronomers have found that space is littered with these apocalyptic creatures. There seems to be a supermassive black hole, weighing millions or billions of times more than the Sun, lurking in the center of every galaxy.

The Event Horizon Telescope, named after the edge, the point of no return from a black hole, consisted of eight radio observatories on six mountains and four continents. All that observing power was yoked together by a technique called very-long baseline interferometry, to achieve the resolution of a telescope as big as the Earth. For 10 days in April 2017 they pointed it at the center of the giant galaxy M87 in the Virgo constellation, where there is a black hole as massive as six billion Suns belching tongues of radio fire.

The resultant image of gases heated to billions of degrees swirling around the cosmic drain matched the predictions of Einstein’s theory, as far as anyone can tell. A copy of the telescope’s vision now resides in the permanent photography collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

But the Event Horizon’s work has barely begun, Dr. Doeleman said. For one thing the scientists are trying to make a movie of the supermassive black hole in the center of our own Milky Way galaxy; a summertime attempt was recently called off because of the coronavirus pandemic.

If they could increase the size of their event horizon network by adding an antenna in space, Dr. Doeleman said, they could gain enough resolution to see individual photon rings, as they are called, turning the event horizon into “a true cosmic laboratory for testing our most fundamental theories.”

As Peter Galison of Harvard, another E.H.T. collaborator said, “As we peer into these rings, we are looking at light from all over the visible universe, we are seeing farther and farther into the past, a movie, so to speak, of the history of the visible universe.”

Dr. Johnson said there were several space radio telescopes on the drawing boards that could fit the bill. One is a Russian mission called Millimetron, which is optimistically hoping to launch in 2029. Another is the Origins Space Telescope, which has been proposed to NASA for a launch in 2035.

Dr. Johnson said astronomers don’t know the mass of the M7 black hole they revealed last year to better than 10 percent accuracy, nor do they know if and how fast it is spinning. A space mission with a radio antenna would allow them to see the ring structure and determine the M87’s mass to an accuracy of a fraction of a percent, and could estimate its spin.

All this if Einstein was right, he added. Other theories of gravity and other types of compact objects (wormholes, naked singularities, boson stars) would suggest a very different ring structure.

“So this is a way of studying exactly what lies at the centers of galaxies, in a way that we can never learn from larger scale measurements such as the orbits of stars or gas,” Dr. Johnson said.

This is impressive science!

Tony

 

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer says medical vendors were told not to supply state!

Gretchen Witmer

Dear Commons Community,

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, told radio station, WWJ-AM, on Friday that medical supply vendors informed her they’ve been told “not to send stuff” to her state amid the battle against COVID-19.  Whitmer, a Democrat, didn’t say if the orders were coming from the White House or if vendors may have been intimidated by Trump’s feud with the governor. But she did appear to link the problem to the president because she told WWJ in Detroit that she tried Thursday night to call the White House to discuss the issue.  As reported in the Huffington Post.

“She couldn’t get through to Trump, who was at the time trashing Whitmer — whom he referred to as “that young … woman governor from Michigan” — to Sean Hannity on Fox News. “We don’t like to see the complaints,” Trump said in a phone interview.

Whitmer told WWJ: “When the federal government told us that we needed to go it ourselves [on medical supplies], we started procuring every item we could get our hands on. But what I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we had  contracts are now being told not to send stuff here to Michigan.”

She added: “It’s really concerning. I reached out to the White House last night, asked for a phone call with the president, ironically at the time that all this other stuff was going on.”

Whitmer told CNN later in the day that the state’s shipments of personal protective equipment are being “canceled” or “delayed” — and sent instead to the federal government. She said it’s happening to other states as well.

Trump’s willingness to punish a state’s residents amid a pandemic over a feud with a governor appeared evident in a statement at his press briefing Friday. The president said he had instructed Vice President Mike Pence, who heads up the president’s coronavirus task force, not to call the governors of Washington or Michigan. The two states have among the highest number of coronavirus cases in the nation, and Michigan is experiencing a dramatic spike in cases from 350 a week ago to nearly 3,000 Friday.

“I say, ‘Mike, don’t call … the woman in Michigan. It doesn’t make any difference what happens,’” Trump said.

Whitmer told WWJ that she has been critical of the weak federal response to her state’s needs amid the fight against rising COVID-19 cases but that other governors have also complained about the lack of “federal preparation.” She complained earlier this week that the number of masks and gowns sent to her state by the federal government was barely enough to cover a single shift at a besieged hospital. The state hasn’t received a single ventilator despite a critical need.

“I’ve been uniquely singled out,” Whitmer said. “I don’t go into personal attacks. I don’t have time for that, I don’t have energy for that, frankly. All of our focus has to be on COVID-19 right now.”

She said she remained thankful to Pence, with whom she has a “really good working relationship.”

Trump said at his press briefing that he expects governors to be “appreciative” for any federal help.

Whitmer has asked the president for an emergency declaration in her state, which frees up funds and other aid. But the president told Hannity: “She doesn’t get it done, and we send her a lot. Now she wants a declaration of emergency, and, you know, we’ll have to make a decision on that.” He claimed, though, that he “loves” the people of Michigan, a swing state where Trump beat Hillary Clinton in 2016 by less than 11,000 votes.

Whitmer’s office could not immediately be reached by the HuffPost to provide more details on the governor’s comment about vendors. A spokesperson declined to comment further to Crain’s Detroit Business.

Michigan emergency room doctor Rob Davidson posted an angry video on Twitter before his shift Thursday defending Whitmer and attacking Trump.”

Trump is a low-life for risking innocent lives for his political vendettas.

Tony

Video: “Nessum Dorma” Sung from the Balcony in Quarantined Italy!

Dear Commons Community,

Italians quarantined due to the coronavirus pandemic have taken to singing from their rooftops and balconies to boost morale.  

Tenor Maurizio Marchini took to his balcony to serenade his neighbors in his hometown of Florence.  Marchini sings Puccini’s aria from his opera Turandot, ‘Nessun Dorma’, or ‘None shall sleep’. After the aria’s climax with a high B, Maurizio picks up his son and repeats the line Vincerò!, loosely translated is “I will overcome” or “I will win.”

Listen and feel the emotion!

Tony

Winston Churchill, Andrew Cuomo, and Donald Trump in Times of Crisis!

Dear Commons Community,

Fighting the coronavirus pandemic has evolved into a major test of governmental leadership.  It brings out the best in our leaders and maybe the worst. On Thursday morning,   Presidential historian Jon Meacham on MSNBC, was asked about leadership in times of  crisis. He responded by quoting  Winston Churchill as follows:

“There is no worse mistake in public leadership than to hold out false hopes soon to be swept away.   The . . . people can face peril or misfortune with fortitude and buoyancy, but they bitterly resent being deceived or finding that those responsible for their affairs are themselves dwelling in a fool’s paradise.”  Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War, Vol. 3 [1951]

Later on Thursday, I watched a press conference with Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York.  He has been giving them almost daily.  I am thankful that what he says is honest and consistent.  He also gives us bitter pills to swallow that hopefully will lead us out of the coronavirus crisis in our state.  I accept these pills because I believe him and what he says.

Last night, I watched Donald Trump’s press conference and it was the exact opposite,  Everything is going to be “great”  even though the United States has now more reported coronavirus cases than any other country in the world and millions of Americans are unemployed.   He criticized governors, General Motors and Ford for not doing enough. He attacked news reporters who asked him tough questions.  All in all his arrogance, ignorance, and deceptive tendencies were on full display.

I am grateful that I live in New York where our governor is trying hard to navigate us out of this crisis even though we have a president who lives in a “fool’s paradise.”

Tony

NOTE:  After  I made this post, Maureen Dowd had an opinion piece in the New York Times entitled, Let’s ‘Kick Coronavirus’s Ass’ comparing Cuomo and Trump.

 

“Science” Interview with Anthony Fauci!

Image result for fauci

Dear Commons Community,

Earlier this week, Anthony Fauci caused quite a stir when parts of an interview that appeared in Science where released. His candid comments about President Trump and the White House had many guessing that his days were numbered. Below is the entire interview. He tells it like it is.

Tony

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Science

Interview with Anthony Fauci

By Jon Cohen

Mar. 22, 2020 , 7:35 PM

Anthony Fauci, who to many watching the now-regular White House press briefings on the pandemic has become the scientific voice of reason about how to respond to the new coronavirus, runs from place to place in normal times and works long hours. Now, the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has even less time to sleep and travels at warp speed, typically racing daily from his office north of Washington, D.C., to his home in the capital, and then to the White House to gather with the Coronavirus Task Force in the Situation Room. He then usually flanks President Donald Trump addressing the media—and when he isn’t there, concerned tweets begin immediately. Shortly before he planned to head to the White House for a task force meeting today, he phoned ScienceInsider for a speedy chat. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: The first question everyone has is how are you?

A: Well, I’m sort of exhausted. But other than that, I’m good. I mean, I’m not, to my knowledge, coronavirus infected. To my knowledge, I haven’t been fired [laughs].

How are you managing to not get fired?

A: Well, that’s pretty interesting because to [Trump’s] credit, even though we disagree on some things, he listens. He goes his own way. He has his own style. But on substantive issues, he does listen to what I say.

Q: You’ve been in press conferences where things are happening that you disagree with, is that fair to say?

A: Well, I don’t disagree in the substance. It is expressed in a way that I would not express it, because it could lead to some misunderstanding about what the facts are about a given subject.

Q: You stood nearby while President Trump was in the Rose Garden shaking hands with people. You’re a doctor. You must have had a reaction like, “Sir, please don’t do that.”

A: Yes, I say that to the task force. I say that to the staff. We should not be doing that. Not only that—we should be physically separating a bit more on those press conferences. To his credit, the vice president [Mike Pence] is really pushing for physical separation of the task force [during meetings]. He keeps people out of the room—as soon as the room gets like more than 10 people or so, it’s, “Out, everybody else out, go to a different room.” So with regard to the task force, the vice president is really a bear in making sure that we don’t crowd 30 people into the Situation Room, which is always crowded. So, he’s definitely adhering to that. The situation on stage [for the press briefings] is a bit more problematic. I keep saying, “Is there any way we can get a virtual press conference?” Thus far, no. But when you’re dealing with the White House, sometimes you have to say things one, two, three, four times, and then it happens. So, I’m going to keep pushing.

Q: You’re standing there saying nobody should gather with more than 10 people and there are almost 10 people with you on the stage. And there are certainly more than 10 journalists there asking questions.

A: I know that. I’m trying my best. I cannot do the impossible.

Q: What about the travel restrictions? Trump keeps saying that the travel ban for China, which began 2 February, had a big impact on slowing the spread of the virus to the United States and that he wishes China would have told us 3 to 4 months earlier and that they were “very secretive.” (China did not immediately reveal the discovery of a new coronavirus in late December 2019, but by 10 January, Chinese researchers made the sequence of the virus public.) It just doesn’t comport with facts.

A: I know, but what do you want me to do? I mean, seriously Jon, let’s get real, what do you want me to do?

Q: Most everyone thinks that you’re doing a remarkable job, but you’re standing there as the representative of truth and facts, and things are being said that aren’t true and aren’t factual.

A: The way it happened is that after he made that statement [suggesting China could have revealed the discovery of a new coronavirus 3 to 4 months earlier], I told the appropriate people, it doesn’t comport, because 2 or 3 months earlier would have been September. The next time they sit down with him and talk about what he’s going to say, they will say, “By the way, Mr. President, be careful about this and don’t say that.” But I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down. OK, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time.

Q: You have not said China virus. (Trump frequently calls the cause of the spreading illness known as coronavirus disease 2019 a “China virus” or a “Chinese virus.”)

A: Ever.

Q: And you never will, will you?

A: No.

Q: I’m curious about some things that aren’t happening on a national scale. One is, why are shelter in place orders happening state by state? Why are we doing this sequentially? Is that a mistake?

A: No, I don’t think we could say it’s a mistake or not a mistake. There is a discussion and a delicate balance about what’s the overall impact of shutting everything down completely for an indefinite period of time. So, there’s a compromise. If you knock down the economy completely and disrupt infrastructure, you may be causing health issues, unintended consequences, for people who need to be able to get to places and can’t. You do the best you can. I’ve emphasized very emphatically at every press conference, that everybody in the country, at a minimum, should be following the fundamental guidelines. Elderly, stay out of society in self isolation. Don’t go to work if you don’t have to. Yada, yada, yada. No bars, no restaurants, no nothing. Only essential services. When you get a place like New York or Washington or California, you have got to ratchet it up. But it is felt—and it isn’t me only speaking, it’s a bunch of people who make the decisions—that if you lock down everything now, you’re going to crash the whole society. So, you do what you can do, as best as you can. Do as much physical separation as you can and ratchet it up at the places you know are at highest risk.

Q: But I heard a guy say, if you think you’re doing too much, you’re probably doing the right amount.

A: That’s me.

Q: I know it’s you. The “15 Days to Slow the Spread” campaign doesn’t mention religious gatherings. I know Pence mentioned them yesterday. But why aren’t they on the 15 days recommendations? All these other places are mentioned.

A: It was implied in no crowds of more than 10 people. But you’re right, crowds in church are important and every time I get a chance to say it, I mention it. I can’t really criticize them strongly for that at all. When you say less than 10, it makes common sense that it involves the church. I say it publicly and even the vice president has said it publicly.

Q: What happens before each press conference? What do you do as a group?

A: We’re in the task force. We sit down for an hour and a half, go over all the issues on the agenda. And then we proceed from there to an anteroom right in front of the Oval Office to talk about what are going to be the messages, what are the kind of things we’re going to want to emphasize? Then we go in to see the president, we present [our consensus] to him and somebody writes a speech. Then he gets up and ad libs on his speech. And then we’re up there to try and answer questions.

Q: At Friday’s press conference, you put your hands over your face when Trump referred to the “deep State Department” (a popular conspiracy theory). It’s even become an internet meme. Have you been criticized for what you did?

A: No comment.

Q: We’ve seen creative ideas about how to respond in other countries that we aren’t adopting. China uses thermometers at supermarkets before letting people in. Should we be considering that?

A: Yes, of course. I think the logistics of that have to be worked out. That was discussed. All these things are discussed. Not all of them are implemented. This is something that should be considered. I will bring it up at the next task force meeting and see whether there’s some sort of a logistical, bureaucratic reason why it can’t be done. The rationale for doing it is at least worth serious consideration.

Q: Big picture: We’ve had all this pandemic preparedness. Why did this fail? What went wrong?

A: I think we’ll have to wait until it is over and we look back before we can answer that. It’s almost like the fog of war. After the war is over, you then look back and say, “Wow, this plan, as great as it was, didn’t quite work once they started throwing hand grenades at us.” It really is similar to that. Obviously, testing [for the new coronavirus] is one clear issue that needs to be relooked at. Why were we not able to mobilize on a broader scale? But I don’t think we can do that right now. I think it’s premature. We really need to look forward.

Q: Right now, why do we have a travel ban on visitors from China when there are few cases in China other than imported cases? What’s the logic?

A: I’m sorry. I was just looking at two text messages, one from a governor and one from the White House. I gotta get off.

 

Fox News Host Ainsley Earhardt: People Under Lockdown ‘Can’t Get Their Nails Done’!

 

Fox News Morning Crew

Dear Commons Community,

In European history, Marie Antoinette has been vilified for supposedly saying “Let them eat cake” as peasants were starving in France in 1789.   Here in New York City,  we have our own version of Marie in the person of Fox News Host Ainsley Earhardt who complained yesterday that because of the coronavirus pandemic that has brought life in The Big Apple to a standstill, her and her friends cannot get their hair done, they cannot get manicures, and they cannot return clothes to the department stores. As reported by The Huffington Post:

Fox News continued its familiar drumbeat of downplaying dying people when a host lamented not being able to return clothes or get hair and nails done amid COVID-19 lockdowns.

“Women, all my friends are saying, you know, this is not a priority, people are dying and I realize that, but they can’t get their nails done,” said “Fox & Friends” host Ainsley Earhardt on Thursday morning.

Earhardt was talking to fellow hosts Steve Ducey and Brian Kilmead about the coronavirus, which has killed thousands around the world. A lack of testing kits and an administration downplaying the threat has contributed to the rising number of cases in the U.S.

While Earhardt began by praising countries like China and South Korea, which have taken significant steps to slow the spread, she quickly shifted to complaining about not being able to complete everyday tasks as states have told people to stay home. 

“But I was thinking, you know, we all ― I live in the city ― you can’t go back to the city,” Earhardt said. “You can, but I don’t want to because I don’t want to be around the area that’s affected the most. But I’m thinking like, all the bills that are stacking up at my apartment, you gotta think about that kind of thing. If you bought clothes before all of this happened, if you want to return it, are stores gonna waive that 30-day period where you get your money back if you need to return something?”

Fox News hosts have previously played down the threat of the coronavirus, and some have even parroted the president’s lie that the severity of that threat was a Democratic or media “hoax.” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was on Fox News earlier this week to say that old people are willing to die to protect the economy. And now Earhardt has suggested that the inability to complete some beauty routines is worth people’s concern these days.

“Y’all don’t think about this, guys ― this is not a priority ― but women have to get their hair done,” she said. “I saw someone tweet, ‘You’re gonna see what color our real hair is because our roots are gonna grow in.’ Women, all my friends are saying, you know, this is not a priority, people are dying and I realize that, but they can’t get their nails done. Businesses are closed everywhere right now, we’re in priority mode right now. It’s pharmacies and grocery stores, those are really the only places people are going now.”

As of Thursday, more than a thousand people in the U.S. have died from the disease. And in New York ― the city Earhardt refers to ― hospitals have been packed with sick people. The New York Times reported Wednesday that 13 people died in a day at just one Queens-area hospital. And if we want those numbers to go down, then Earhardt will have to wait a little longer to return those clothes.”

What an empty-headed scatterbrain!  But then again we don’t expect much more from this morning crew of bozos.

Tony

 

Our Economy is Coming Apart as 3.28 Million People Filed for Unemployment Insurance!

Dear Commons Community,

The recession is here as 3.28 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, sending a shock throughout the economy that is unlike anything Americans have experienced in recent history.

The alarming numbers, in a report released by the Labor Department yesterday, provide some of the first hard data on the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down whole swaths of American life faster than government statistics can keep track.  As reported in the New York Times: 

“Just three weeks ago, barely 200,000 people applied for jobless benefits, a historically low number. In the half-century that the government has tracked applications, the worst week ever, with 695,000 so-called initial claims, had been in 1982. As reported in the New York Times:

Yesterday’s figure of nearly 3.3 million set a grim record. “A large part of the economy just collapsed,” said Ben Herzon, executive director of IHS Markit, a business data and analytics firm.

The numbers provided only the first hint of the economic cataclysm in progress. Even comparatively optimistic forecasters expect millions more lost jobs, and with them foreclosures, evictions and bankruptcies. Thousands of businesses have closed in response to the pandemic, and many will never reopen. Some economists say the decline in gross domestic product this year could rival the worst years of the Great Depression.

And there was fresh evidence on Thursday of the relentless course of the virus itself. Cases in the United States now exceed 80,000, the most of any nation, even China and Italy, according to a New York Times database, and more than 1,000 deaths across the country have been linked to the virus.

At least 160 million people nationwide have been ordered to stay home. Many hospitals are overwhelmed, while essential protective gear is in short supply. “We are the new global epicenter of the disease,” said Dr. Sara Keller, an infectious-disease specialist at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Now all we can do is to slow the transmission as much as possible.”

And pray but only in our homes not in our churches, synagogues, temples or mosques.

Tony