On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

cloudy-day
91°
Partly Cloudy
H -° L 73°
  • cloudy-day
    91°
    Current Conditions
    Partly Cloudy. H -° L 73°
  • cloudy-day
    Today
    Partly Cloudy. H -° L 73°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day
    90°
    Tomorrow
    Chance of T-storms. H 90° L 70°
Listen
Pause
Error

News on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

    COVID19 positive test results are significantly rising. Georgia last week experienced three consecutive days of daily sharp increases and record 'positives.' Not going to spend time or precious word count here debating the 'why.' Test results LAG tests by several days, often 7-10 days, meaning that today's spikes are documentation of infection or virus spread which actually occurred a week or two ago. All but the most ardent anarchists would prefer NOT to drag this state or our nation's economy through another prolonged period of shut-down (note I did leave in an exception). Masks and other public health recommendations should not be partisan issues, yet I will again not weigh in here on the cries of 'hoax,' or intentional launch of a global pandemic to harpoon ONE political incumbent who otherwise on several other fronts make himself quite a fine target. I am going to assume that each of us has family, friends or loved ones whom we might want to protect from this dire illness. In my own case, my oldest daughter is pregnant with twins (high risk), my youngest child has asthma and a slightly compromised immune system (high risk) and my mother is both immune-compromised, living on an oxygen machine and medically fragile (high risk).  So...though I am not living the life of a shut-in, I take precautions. Shoes stay at the doorway, hand-washing to the point that my palms and backs of hands are continually red and almost chapped and whenever I am outside and about and among others...I am wearing a mask. And make no mistake. I hate them. And yet... I still wear them.  Smoking and lung disease cost me both of my paternal grandparents. Fifty plus years of smoking have my mother struggling to breathe and function in her ever-shrinking world. I held my grandfather, William C. 'Bud' Crane's hand as he painfully struggled to breathe his final breath. His face contorted in agony, his chest heaved...and his eyes and expression froze showing significant pain as he literally drowned in front of me as his lungs liquified. Is was not peaceful, nor dignified...and though I have unfortunately seen other deaths and dying, this was a horrible way to go.  Would you drink after or share dining utensils with a stranger? Would you feel comfortable dining in a restaurant where the workers/servers wore no masks, gloves, or hairnets in the preparation of your food? Would you have unprotected sex on a routine basis with many people while being in a relationship with someone you care about? Would you swap gum or spit or even a lollipop with even a friend or family member intentionally?  Here is another one...and this is particularly tricky. Would a wall along our southern border act as a BARRIER and slow the unlawful crossing of non-citizens into our sovereign nation? Okay then, pretend the potential COVID19 virus spores are illegals from Mexico. Now, if all of this common sense has you revisiting your own thinking on to mask or not to mask…  Your mask should cover your NOSE and MOUTH.  If wearing a cloth mask, please wash or rinse out after a day or two of use.  You can scowl, not smile or smile while mouthing obscenities silently to yourself while mask-wearing...and no one will know. Yes, they are inconvenient, hot, ear chaffing, sticky, unflattering and occasionally smell bad. But the masks won't likely KILL YOU. COVID19 possibly could, or worse, with you not taking common-sense precautions, YOU could assist the death of someone who means all the world to you.  And yes, it would be nice if most world leaders modeled the behavior which they are expecting. But that said, I don't see the rest of the country dipping themselves in orange bronzer or seeking out bad comb-overs either.  If a mask would prevent you from getting cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, would you likely wear it? COVID19 is none of these things, but as I know several people who have experienced the worst of both, only those in later stage cancer treatment or severe COVID19 hospitalizations have told me that there were times when they would have preferred death.  We don't need mask laws or even gubernatorial executive orders...we just need commons sense and common courtesy. If you are not alone, exercising outdoors or able to exist without breathing...then please, for those whom you do love and care about...don't be an ask...wear a mask.
  • My paternal grandmother, Mary L. Crane, imbued in me at a young age an attitude towards life which has always served me well. If you start each day willing to learn something new, you probably will.
  • Tuesday, June 9, 2020, will be an Election Day that thousands of Georgia voters may remember for years to come. Like so much else of 2020, it was an unpleasant surprise, complicated by promises to the contrary, foul weather, and in many places rank incompetence. But I digress, let's back up and come at this as the situation on the ground evolved. Following the 2018 General Election in Georgia, several legal actions were filed, with a successful few having a major and lasting impact on Georgia elections. The most significant of those came in a federal court decision from U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg, directing the state of Georgia, and the office of Georgia Secretary of State that no further elections could be held using the Direct Recording Electronic voting machines (DRE's) after December 31, 2019. Though Judge Totenberg did NOT require Georgia to move to full paper balloting as the plaintiffs were seeking, the order effectively scrapped 27,000 of the old DRE machines heading into an election year.  The Presidential Preference Primary, set for late March of 2020, typically has a turnout of between 25-35% of registered voters and advance voting was already underway, when a little something called the COVID19 pandemic was announced on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, and by Executive Order, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp issued an Emergency Order to shelter in place, closing schools, governments, and thousands of places of business statewide. The pandemic also ended in-person training on the newly selected voting equipment from Dominion Voting Systems all across the state in mid-March.  Without spending a lot of time on the finger-pointing which followed the disastrous June 9 General Primary Election Day and night, with final results still being tabulated as of this writing due to the record number of nearly 1.3 million absentee and advance votes, ballot tabulation is a local elections office responsibility, as are precinct locations and staffing, deployment of voting machines, printers and scanners and managing the actual elections process. There are 159 very able County Election Superintendents, overseen by local boards of election, as well as several dozen more Municipal Election Superintendents and registrars in larger cities.  Having spent five years in the office of Secretary of State during the administration of then SOS, Max Cleland, I can tell you that challenges with tabulating, late poll openings and extended hours, primarily once concentrated in north Fulton County suburbs, date back as far as the mid-1980s. Fulton is Georgia's most populous county, just over 100 miles long from end to end, and contains roughly 10 percent of all registered voters, but in 20 years of providing political analysis and commentary, I cannot remember an election night when Fulton County unofficial tabulation results were not the very last to be completed.  The pandemic also cost Fulton County the use of more than 40 precincts, some withdrawing only days prior to the Primary. With the average age of poll workers in Georgia being 70, prior to this election, hundreds of experienced precinct captains and poll workers followed the Governor's continuing Shelter in Place order for those medically frail or over the age of 65, and they stayed at home. This election, with brand new equipment, would also feature hundreds of lightly trained Millenials, stepping into part-time paid and volunteer roles, with hundreds also never having actually seen or touched the new equipment in person...only having YouTube videos and Zoom/Skype training sessions to prepare for this Election Day.  Add social distancing rules, on and off-again torrential rain and precincts moved without voters receiving notification and you have all the ingredients of a perfect storm to form a cluster ____.  So after the well-deserved pride and bluster of the new equipment roll-out, came the cluster and system failure on Election Day. NOW it's time to muster the resources, reinforce and schedule more training, and perhaps look at reducing some steps in the new voting process, as well as even more strongly recommending advance and absentee balloting for the November General Election. Georgia has been again held up to international ridicule, in part due to a hangover of election/alleged voter suppression reporting and opinion in 2018. The only real way to ever shake away that shadow is to run a model, efficient and well-managed election this fall. Not doing so will have negative impacts for the state and both political parties, as well as potentially causing irreparable harm to voter confidence in one of the bedrocks of our republic, the right, and the importance of each and every individual ballot and vote. This one matters too much to spend another day playing the blame game. Just fix it.
  • Racism isn't getting worse, it's getting filmed,' actor, Will Smith. It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Atlanta, following two nights of vandalism and property destruction in downtown and Buckhead to the north, as well as all across our nation., I am driving through along Marietta Street, passing CNN Center and Centennial Olympic Park. The sidewalks still hold lingering protesters, mostly young, the crowd is very diverse, and most are quietly exercising their right to peaceful assembly. There are really only two sounds permeating the area, both oddly out of place. Power drills at small businesses in almost every direction boarding up their windows, and helicopters overhead. And until the end of dusk and into nightfall, those sounds would remain loudest. On Monday, June 1, restaurants and bars across Georgia were given permission, while following a lengthy and enhanced set of sanitation guidelines to begin the process of re-opening. Roughly 46 percent of the unemployed across Georgia since mid-March are employed in the hospitality industry.  In Atlanta and elsewhere, thousands are legitimately protesting the recent and unjust deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as many more who preceded them. Following months of near quarantine and lock-down, which has the nation on edge, minority communities are disproportionately being impacted by this pandemic, with a near majority of serious cases, hospitalizations and deaths arising primarily in under-served, black and brown communities. Only nursing homes and the medically fragile are succumbing in greater numbers to this virus. And in light of little being documentable fact and with conspiracy theories run amok, some begin to believe that the virus was intended to kill black people. But after several nights of intentionally civil protests turning uncivil, with property damage, riots, and violence escalating, I will also share the observation of many protesters, media on the ground and local/state law enforcement. Most of the bad actors leading the charge of looting, defacing public property and physical assaults on police and National Guard members are not from around here. On Friday evening as 10 Atlanta police squad cars were destroyed and set ablaze, 75 were arrested. The largest cluster of zip codes among those detained hailed from Chicago. All three nights, the crowd shifted from young, diverse and casually dressed, with shorts, flip flops and tennis shoes among the majority (wearing small masks as well), to what appear to be professional agitators, frequently dressed head to toe in black, with hoodies and bandanas, wraps or masks often leaving only their eyes visible. And instead of casual footwear, military issue boots with steel toes, all the better for breaking windows and windshields. George Floyd was tragically murdered on Monday, as word spread across the nation on Tuesday, and yet we would somehow believe that Atlanta area college students and Millenials who were justifiably angered thought to hit Ebay or Amazon to order their gas masks, incendiary devices and large cans of spray paint by Wednesday via their Amazon Prime, for those tools of anarchy to arrive just in time for the first march and protests of Friday afternoon? Sunday evening, while being interviewed by WSB-TV Action News, Ambassador Andrew Young, himself a lion of the Civil Rights movement spoke supportively to the protestors, while also noting that those seeking to become catalysts for anarchy and greater unrest were both usurping their message and platform, as well as inadvertently providing crowd cover for the anarchists. As is often the case, Ambassador Young made a very salient point. In media photos and across social media, protestors with gas masks were visible, particularly after dark, and one smaller female protester, wearing a gas mask, picked up a tear gas canister, emitting tear gas, and tossed it back at local and state law enforcement who had just set off the canister, after the 9 p.m. curfew went into effect. When this ends, hopefully soon, the costs of over-time and National Guard deployment necessary to quell riots and secure safety will come due, and those costs will be substantial. As we are still in this pandemic indefinitely, with government revenues gutted at all levels, where do you think we will have to go for budget cuts?  We don't have another generation to deal with these challenges, which are both systemic and real, now is the time to put the best minds in our nation together to re-build government standards, including policing, which do not treat or protect you differently simply because of your race, culture, gender, background or income. We can do this, and it's well past time.
  • I have often heard from my parents, and even aging peers, that among the many joys of aging is the increasingly long list of items that you are told, 'You can't DO THAT anymore.' I have abided, in the main with the long list of public health and hygiene guidelines brought to the fore by this pandemic. Though I have not routinely 'sheltered in place,' I have been pretty religious about social distancing, washing hands, and more recently wearing gloves and a mask. But as we start to venture out more frequently, it appears that several of these new behavior modifications are expected to become permanent.  The Good -   Flextime/Telecommuting - The combination of potentially lower office rents and utility bills, as well as the need for significantly less central office space, with overall productivity rates not apparently harmed by a majority of employees working from home should cause employers large and small to embrace and expand teleworking and flex-time schedules post-pandemic.  Telemedicine - Bad news for everyone who enjoys reading six-month-old issues of People magazine or obscure medical trade publications, but the office part of an 'office visit' to your doctor may largely vanish. Though telemedicine visits are currently being comped and pushed by insurers and practitioners alike, I would later expect a nominal copayment as doctors still want to be compensated for their time.  Appreciation of Family - Though there may be a few new divorces in addition to the coming post-quarantine Baby Boom, this lockdown has also allowed for greater multi-generational family bonding and appreciation, facilitated by board games, long walks/talks and dinner with most family members actually seated around the same table.  The Bad -   NO contact - The French are apparently learning to do without the double-cheek kiss greeting, while the Japanese may double-down and bring back their more formal greeting bow. Human contact is critical to development, bonding, and even feelings of security for many. Without making us all Bubble Boys, regular contact may need some re-invention without becoming the enemy of virus prevention.  NO handshakes, no hugging - Admittedly, I will have trouble saying goodbye to both of these. Those who refused handshakes in years past were always suspect to me. Perhaps coincidentally when I first met Donald Trump during the early 2000s, he was a well-established germaphobe who eschewed shaking hands. Mr. Trump was then only a New York developer/hotelier with an NBC-prime time TV show, demonstrating perhaps a precursor to his later virus prevention before hydroxychloroquine.  Aversion to all public events & gatherings - Everything from school graduations to concerts and most all professional, collegiate, and high school sports, as well as the majority of religious gatherings will all be significantly impacted if this change becomes permanent. Making everything virtual and/or pay-per-view is not a realistic long term solution. This one will simply require a great deal more prayer and thoughtful consideration before many of us are actually willing to forgo Georgia football.  The Impossible -   Social Distancing - We are just over two months into this global closure/lockdown. While I have been periodically out and about throughout this time, I have noted considerable ebb and flow in social distancing spaces, the use of masks and gloves, etc... If '6 feet apart' is to be the new norm, there are several ancillary and sideline casualties including whispering, low-talking, holding hands between all but family and committed couples, and even keeping space with pets, as COVID19 is considered a low-risk biological species jumper.  Kids being kids - In whatever fashion our children return to public school, this fall or later, I am skeptical about how much we can educate or instruct kids not to be kids. Touching each other, eating off each other's plates and the positive qualities of 'sharing' have in the past been a deeply ingrained habit when around peers and other children. Though this virus is in the main of less concern regarding the young, I expect the possibility of them becoming asymptomatic carriers may become the greatest challenge we face this fall.  And as I have come to accept certain aspects of my own aging, and while smiling beneath my mask with sometimes grit teeth...I am conforming to these CDC guidelines, I also take heart in the reality that you can also remain young at heart with regular exercise, smart choices, and some practice. I'll just have to hope that also applies later to always taking along my common sense when I leave home from now on.
  • Though 9-weeks seems a world way, it is helpful to recall that our self-imposed quarantine and national lock-down was about 'flattening the curve,' to prevent an unmanageable and perhaps much the more fatal surge of COVID19 cases, overwhelming our hospitals and healthcare system during this pandemic. COVID19 testing, both public and private has ramped up considerably across the state, ranging from free drive-in testing offered by the state of Georgia and staffed by medical professionals and the National Guard, to private sector options offered by CVS, Walgreen, Emory Healthcare and others.  While a positive, false positive or a negative result may follow, those results are a specific snapshot of that testing day. Absent continued quarantine, infection is possible later that same day in an unprotected or non-hygienic environment, or from the sneeze droplets of an asymptomatic individual behind you in line at the grocery store...as social distancing spaces begin to erode and contract. The best minds in bio-science and pharmacy in the world or on this case, and collapsing typical testing timelines, but as those vaccines will later be injected into humans, we also do not want to rush a treatment or cure which might later prove to do more harm than good.  Anti-body testing shows promise, but is also rife with current tests wrongly indicating that the common cold (a different corona virus) or certain other viral strains are giving false-positive antibody test results. And on the treatment front, once fighting the virus, several drug therapies show promise, but again there is yet no silver bullet.  As each state wrangles with the assembly of its own Contact Tracing apparatus, I’d like to suggest a quick fix and a more viable solution. The U.S. Department of Commerce has already hired and is training 400,000 temporary workers (NOT A TYPO) for conducting field interviews to gather data for the U.S. Census. During a normal census year, those temps would be going door to door. The Census deadline has been extended, and most follow up work is now being conducted by phone, Email and other online methods. The as yet not entirely expended budget for our 2020 Census will be close to $16-billion, again, not a typo and for comparison purposes, prior to this pandemic, the budget for the entire state of Georgia for the next fiscal year was going to be $27-28-billion. These workers have already been hired and phone follow up for the U.S. Census is already underway. It seems a logical fit. Fear has always been among the most powerful and effective tools as a catalyst for behavior modification. The multi-million deaths projections of 8-9 weeks ago certainly had the desired effect, and most Americans stayed home...religiously.  But now, as it becomes equally important to begin the process of renewing and jump-starting our economy, it would be EQUALLY helpful to better disseminate data regarding patient recoveries and to tell and share success stories, as we have seen so effectively used in fundraising for treatments and cures of other chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson's. Americans NEED to be able to better visualize, as is now the case with both HIV and AIDS, that a COVID19 diagnosis, as with cancer, no longer means a death sentence.  As roughly 70 percent of GDP is consumer spending and behavior, it will require a major push regarding the relative safety, new sanitizing and hygiene procedures becoming pervasive and commonplace, AND stronger herd immunity as well as eventually successful treatments and a vaccine, before all Americans will again feel safe setting foot outside their front doors. We are not going to have a vaccine for fear anytime soon either, and virtually no one wants to unnecessarily risk the health and well being of a more fragile loved one. We may be in this for the long haul though and placing our seniors and the medically fragile somewhat apart from the rest of us for a time may be the only practical long-term solution as we plan for the virus and its likely return this fall.  This nation has weathered worse, and through a combination of self-sacrifice, community spirit and grit, we have almost always come together and pulled through. At least with family and your neighbors, let us all try to focus on our many commonalities, look out for and protect the weak, and take your common sense, as well as your mask, gloves and newly enhanced public hygiene habits as you begin to venture out. The curve has been flattened, now let’s reboot our economy.
  • I find it impossible to keep it from spreading thro' the whole Army in a natural way....necessity not only authorizes but seems to require the measure,' letter from General George Washington to John Hancock and the Continental Congress explaining his decision to order his chief medical officer to inoculate all troops in the Continental Army against smallpox. (source National Geographic magazine) As a young man in 1751, George Washington visits the Caribbean island of Barbados, contracting smallpox. At the time, the disease caused by the variola virus killed nearly 1 in every 2 victims. Washington was lucky, after months of fever, chills, and painful pustules covering his face and body (the pox), he emerged with a pockmarked face, but alive and with later immunity to the virus In 1775, the smallpox virus arrived in Boston, carried in by British, Hessian and Canadian troops brought in to help quell the building Colonial rebellion (Boston Tea Party and coming Declaration of Independence). The virus was devastating to soldiers and civilians alike as it swept across the burgeoning colonies. An inoculation procedure against smallpox, dating back to ancient China, was called variolation. It was considered highly controversial in the colonies, and its improper admission had resulted in the painful death from smallpox of the son of King George III, an heir to the British crown.  The treatment required an incision in a patient's arm, inserting a small dose of the live virus, large enough to trigger an immune system response, but small enough to prevent severe illness and death. A much more exacting process involving live virus is present in many modern vaccines today. Washington was now immune to smallpox, but his ragtag troops were not. The British had just brought an additional 30,000 troops to New York harbor, approximately the population of the largest city within the fledgling colonies. Washington became an advocate for variolation, even convincing his wife Martha to take the treatment in May of 1776. The opening shots of the war for American independence were not in the colony's favor. Washington and his ill-trained forces were quickly losing battle after battle, as New York City fell, and Washington escaped with a small consort of remaining troops into neighboring New Jersey. A New Jersey signer of the Declaration of Independence recanted his participation and declared his loyalty to the crown, and while Washington considered inoculating his entire Army, many colonial governments forbade the procedure. Variolation not only had a risk of death, but it would also in the best of circumstances lay the vaccinated up for a few weeks as their body fought off and developed new immunity to the infection. Finding the right/best time for attempting mass inoculation was not only a gamble but if known to the British could trigger an en-masse attack when Revolutionary forces were at their weakest. The Continental Congress ordered Army Surgeons NOT to perform variolations. Washington was hamstrung but ordered instead that all new recruits receive the procedure, hoping that by the time they were trained and battle-ready they would be fully recovered and newly immune to the pox.  As the epidemic spread, Washington took a risk and against the direction of the Continental Congress, and Governors of many colonies and their prevailing laws, he directed that all troops are to be inoculated, and by the end of 1777, nearly 40,000 soldiers had received variolation therapy. Infection rates among the troops dropped from above 20 percent to below 1 percent...while the British forces were losing thousands to the smallpox epidemic, significantly more than to the musket balls and battles with Revolutionary forces. Washington made variolation mandatory for all of his troops. For the British who were being even more devastated by the pox, it remained voluntary, and both the conscripted, Hessian and superior British forces feared the treatment which had taken the life of their monarch's son. The superior British forces were as a result decimated by smallpox, as well as typhoid fever, dysentery, and other public health threats of the day. Thousands of more British soldiers fell as victims of disease than to colonial musket balls. Later vaccines were developed, while smallpox remained a global health threat until its eradication centuries later in 1980 by another longtime Georgian, Dr. William Foege of the CDC. Tough times require tough decisions to be made. At times we simply have to step back, keep some faith, and let our leaders lead.
  • There is only one thing worse then fighting with allies, and that is fighting without them,' said British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965), during the throes of World War II. It is as clear in my mind as yesterday how quickly many divides and gaps in the American culture and psyche narrowed, tightened or closed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Fortunately, that tragedy did not occur against the backdrop of a Presidential Election year. If anything, it caused much of the nation to forget how close and controversial the result of the 2000 election was between then-Texas Governor George W. Bush and sitting Vice-President Al Gore of Tennessee. I was in Washington covering that January 20, 2001, Bush Inauguration, and you could cut the tension between the respective Bush and Gore camps and clans, sitting together on that Capitol grandstand with a knife. How soon we can, as a nation forget. As later President Bush stood amongst the rubble of the World Trade Center Towers at Ground Zero, to inspect the damage as well as recognize and spotlight the ongoing heroic work of first responders, his approval ratings soared into the low 90 percentiles. Days after the attacks, on the steps of our U.S. Capitol building, Congress gathered for remarks of resilience and then broke, impromptu and without planning into an off-key but emotionally searing rendition of ‘God Bless America.’ Flying in and out of near-empty airports on jets which on a couple of occasions gave me my own private flight crew, America seemed to be looking beyond many divisions, the major and the minor, towards unifying as one people against our common, as yet unknown enemy. We do know this time, that our enemy is an invisible, insidious and easily transmitted virus, but it also appears that many are willing to extend this battle as an overlay or reflection of this presidential contest, down to local races for school board and county commission. I will echo Mr. Churchill, if we are not our own allies, who can we look to? Our greatest trade partner, China, may have played some role in this pandemic, either in misinformation or something viler and more like a James Bond movie. Our relationships with many of our strongest G-7 allies have been tattered by new trade agreements, withdrawal from other treaties and climate accords, and generally harsh statements offered on all occasions except when meeting in person and face to face. And yet, it is our own divisions, wobbling economy and efforts to turn almost on each other which give me much more pause and concern than this virus or the new killer Asian hornet which has also recently made landfall in Seattle, most likely onboard a cruise or cargo vessel from Asia. During WWI and WWII, the first Persian Gulf War, and later 9/11, Americans were able to put aside our differences in the main and attack these battles and common enemies together. As that same former President George W. Bush reminded us recently and eloquently, public health is NOT a partisan issue. In a video call for unity, released on May 2, the younger Bush president said, 'In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants, we are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God. We rise or fall together. And we are determined to rise.” We may live in the shadow of this pandemic, without a vaccine or reliable treatment for some time. I'm not likely to agree with everything that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo or Georgia Governor Brian Kemp does, but I respect both their office and the individual in both cases, and if I can't bring some part of a solution to the table, you won't find me kibitzing about the verbiage or their leadership traits/intelligence in this space. And it was another favorite President of mine who wisely said in 1858, prior to a quite uncivil Civil War, during his pre-candidacy for the White House in a speech to Illinois Republicans, 'A house divided against itself, cannot stand.' We are still standing, but these legs feel a bit wobbly to me. Let's remember that despite a difference of opinion, political party and favorite pols, we are all in this together, and until we are on the other side of this, let's act a bit more like it. Take care out there, do not leave your common sense at home, and God bless America.
  • We are all creatures of habit. We crave routine and the expected, much as we may prefer surprises and occasional spontaneity. And though this 'new normal' is far from our normal routine, its ever-lengthening tenure is likely causing many of us, knowingly or not, to form new habits and routines.
  • There is no estimated loss of life which we should consider an acceptable number but during a pandemic, there will be loss of life. Minimizing risks, maximizing recoveries and finding viable treatments and preventative vaccines and therapies are all top priorities now for modern medicine, bio-science, pharmaceutical companies and the alphabet soup of intergovernmental health agencies across this globe. Thankfully, social distancing, virtual lockdown and self-quarantining/shelter in place orders are making more than a dent in potential infections, and generally having their desired effect. And even with testing numbers/percentages at far from desirable levels, COVID19 case numbers are plateauing, hots spots are getting a bit cooler, and the worst of the surge of infections appears close to being behind us, or at least within the next few weeks.  Just as our freedoms and movements were ratcheted down, in a series of more aggressive Emergency Orders, it will soon be time to start opening back up the spigot and America's economy. Fear and trepidation, in some respects thankfully, are expected also to remain here for some time to come.  The recovery will likely take longer than the shutdown. Six weeks ago, our nation was humming along at virtually full employment. And as of this past Friday, 22-million Americans had filed for unemployment insurance. During the Great Depression, that number was 15-million at the peak, with nearly 25-percent of the working-age population out of work for the better part of a decade, against the backdrop of a smaller national population (122-million as of the 1930 Census, slightly more than a third of our current population). Unemployment did not drop below 10 percent until the onset of WWII.  Just six weeks ago, one of the strongest sellers' markets in decades was finally bringing near full recovery of home prices to their highs prior to the financial market and real estate collapse of 2008 (12 years ago).  Just six weeks ago, the robust economy had small businesses hiring, and our beloved Delta Airlines was in midst of training nearly 10,000 new pilots and stewards it had recently hired.  Our world really can change on a dime, or in this case a microscopic virus which tells our own body to turn on itself, and which structure mirrors that of a healthy protein cell.  COVID19 has knocked us out of our boots, and there are likely a few more shoes yet to drop. But we still have to stand up, and go ahead, with caution, and strap our boots back on and walk out of the house.  Pay cuts, lay-offs, and terminations are dropping like flies from businesses large and small. The public sector, which derives its revenues from taxes and fees of all kinds of individuals and the private sector is about to see its lagging revenues and cash flows drop off a cliff. We have to begin the process of turning the spigot back on before for many it is too late. Congress moved unusually quickly for a body that takes its time walking from one side of Capitol Hill to the other. The CARES Stimulus Act is far from perfect, but it is moving billions (actually trillions) in aid to the states, major population centers and almost every sector of our economy.  But after nearly one month of no income for many, it simply is not moving FAST enough. Though LARGER small businesses are successfully receiving Payroll Protection loans and assistance, the truly smaller businesses and self-employed who occupy so much of Main Street, are likely to find their application denied or insufficient funding available.  I'm not suggesting we ignore the public health experts, throw caution to the wind or assume we have suddenly developed immunity to this horrible virus that we did not have before. However serum treatments, promising clinical trials, and new uses for several old drugs, and NOT just the treatment protocol being hawked by the President, ARE each positively impacting survival rates.  Our boots are off, and the chips are down. I don't know about you, but I'm ready to stand up and strap'em back on. These boots are made for walking and climbing, not cowering, and not for expecting the state, federal or local government to drop by, keep handing me checks and to disinfect my home and entire community. When those folks in the know tell us to proceed with caution, let's do that, but c'mon folks pretty soon it is going to be time to GO. Ready when you are.

News

  • Two suburban Denver officers were fired Friday after they took a photograph showing a chokehold in front of the memorial for Elijah McClain, who died after a confrontation with officers from the Aurora Police Department, officials said. McClain, 23, was pronounced dead on Aug. 27, 2019 -- a few days after he went into cardiac arrest following a struggle with officers from the Aurora Police Department, KUSA reported. The third officer involved resigned on Thursday, the television station reported. Police said photos they were investigating showed officers reenacting a chokehold used on McClain before he died, The Associated Press reported. “I speak for all men and women of APD we are ashamed and sickened over what we have to share with you,” Interim APD Chief Vanessa Wilson said at a news conference. According to documents released by the Aurora Police Department (APD) on Friday, the photos were texted to Officer Jason Rosenblatt, who responded with “HaHa.” Rosenblatt is one of the three officers who responded the night of McClain’s death, and Williams said he has also been fired.  The officers depicted in the photos were identified by APD as Erica Marrero, Kyle Dittrich and Jaron Jones, who resigned from the department on Thursday. Check back for more on this developing story.
  • A recently released study by the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan suggests that the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine helps lower the death rate in hospitalized coronavirus patients. An analysis of 2,541 patients hospitalized with coronavirus between March 10 and May 2, 2020, found that 13% of those treated with hydroxychloroquine died as compared to 26% who died that did not receive the drug, according to The Detroit News. The mortality rate for hospitalized patients ranges from 10% to 30% globally, while the overall in-hospital mortality for the study was 18.1%. The study, which was conducted at six hospitals within The Henry Ford Health System in Southeast Michigan, was published Thursday in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases. “The findings have been highly analyzed and peer-reviewed,” said Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of Infectious Disease for Henry Ford Health System, who co-authored the study with Henry Ford epidemiologist Dr. Samia Arshad. “We attribute our findings that differ from other studies to early treatment, and part of a combination of interventions that were done in supportive care of patients, including careful cardiac monitoring. Our dosing also differed from other studies not showing a benefit of the drug. And other studies are either not peer reviewed, have limited numbers of patients, different patient populations or other differences from our patients. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration said the drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are unlikely to be effective in treating the coronavirus. Citing reports of heart complications, the FDA said the drugs’ unproven benefits “do not outweigh the known and potential risks.” In a separate announcement, the FDA also warned doctors against prescribing the drugs in combination with remdesivir, the lone drug currently shown to help patients with COVID-19. The FDA said the anti-malaria drugs can reduce the effectiveness of remdesivir, which FDA cleared for emergency use in May. Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are frequently prescribed for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and can cause heart rhythm problems, severely low blood pressure and muscle or nerve damage. The agency reported in June that it had received nearly 390 reports of complications with the drugs, including more than 100 involving serious heart problems. Read more about the study here and here. https://www.henryford.com/news/2020/07/hydro-treatment-study https://www.ijidonline.com/article/S1201-9712(20)30534-8/fulltext The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • There are new rules in place for the holiday weekend if you plan to rent an Airbnb. The company says guests under 25 years old with fewer than three positive reviews will not be able to book an entire home close to where they live Airbnb didn’t reveal how it defines what is “close.” Airbnb said it wants to weed out any potential problems, specifically unauthorized house parties and feels this is the best way to do so. The company says it’s a nationwide policy, but it is most relevant for a handful of cities. The company says its technologies would block that guest from booking. “No one policy is going to stop all unauthorized parties. We’re also conscious that just because you’re 25 or older doesn’t mean that every single person in that group is booking for the right reasons too,” spokesperson Ben Breit told WSB-TV. Guests under 25 with at least three positive Airbnb reviews and no negative reviews won’t be subject to the restrictions. Airbnb began stepping up efforts to ban “party houses” last November after five people were shot and killed during an unauthorized party at an Airbnb rental in Orinda, California. At the time, Airbnb set up a rapid response team to deal with complaints from neighbors and started screening “high risk” bookings, such as reservations at a large home for one night. In a message to hosts, the company said reducing unauthorized parties is even more of a priority right now as states try to avoid coronavirus outbreaks. “With public health mandates in place throughout the country, we’re taking actions to support safe and responsible travel in the United States,” the company said. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • Jillian Wuestenberg, 32, and Eric Wuestenberg, 42, were charged Thursday with felonious assault after pulling a gun out on a Black mother and her children when a confrontation escalated outside a Chipotle in Michigan. Each of them had a loaded firearm and concealed pistol licenses. Deputies seized the two handguns, Sheriff Mike Bouchard said. On Thursday, the couple was arraigned and were given a $50,000 personal bond.  “As part of the bond conditions, they must turn over all firearms, not engage in any assaultive behavior, and may not leave the state,” sheriff’s officials told The Detroit News. The Detroit News first reported on the three-minute video posted online that shows part of the interaction. Takelia Hill, who is Black, told the newspaper that it happened after the white woman bumped into Hill’s teenage daughter as they were entering the fast food restaurant. The video footage [WARNING: Contains graphic language] starts after that, in the parking lot. A woman since identified as Jillian Wuestenberg is heard arguing with Hill and her daughters. Wuestenberg climbs into the vehicle, rolls down the window and says, “White people aren’t racist,” and, “I care about you,” before the vehicle she was in starts to back away. Her husband, who had led his wife to the vehicle, turns to the camera and asks, “Who ... do you think you guys are?,” using an expletive. Then, as someone is standing behind the vehicle, Jillian Wuestenberg jumps out and points a handgun in the direction of a person who’s recording. She screams at people to get away from her and her vehicle. A woman shouts, “She’s got a gun on me!” and urges someone in the parking lot to call the police. Wuestenberg then lowers the gun, climbs into the passenger seat and the vehicle drives off. Cooper, the prosecutor, told The Associated Press that her office viewed the available video and looked at the facts before filing charges. “It is an unfortunate set of circumstances that tempers run high over, basically, not much of an incident,” she said of the initial alleged spark that caused the confrontation. Bouchard said people are “picking sides” and that threatening calls were made to the sheriff’s office dispatch center after the videos were posted online. “We don’t see sides. We see facts,” he said. “There’s a lot of tension in our society, a lot of tension among folks and people with each other. I would just say this, we are asking and expect our police — and rightfully so — to deescalate every situation they possibly can, and we should be doing that. But I would say that needs to happen with us individually in our own lives and situations, that we interact with each other and deescalate those moments.” The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • The United States Geological Survey reported that a 4.9 magnitude earthquake struck this morning near Puerto Rico around 9:55 a.m. EDT. The quake was felt across the U.S. territory and is the latest in a series of tremors that began in late December and have damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes. Ángel Vázquez, who oversees the emergency management agency in Ponce, said a house collapsed in the town of Lajas. The house was empty and slated for demolition, according to Kiara Hernández, spokeswoman for Puerto Rico’s Department of Public Security. Víctor Huérfano, director of Puerto Rico’s Seismic Network, told The Associated Press that the tremor is an aftershock related to the 6.4-magnitude quake that struck in early January, killing at least one person and causing millions of dollars in damage. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • With The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race postponed this year, the Atlanta Police Department warned people against running or walking the course on the Fourth of July. APD noted in a tweet Friday that the course will not be closed to car traffic on Independence Day. With hashtags including #MyPersonalPeachtree and #APDCares, the police department said in the tweet that people should avoid running or walking the course on Saturday for safety reasons. >>Read MORE on AJC.com. [Summary]