By Robert A. Vella

A notice at the grocery store checkout stand caught my attention.  It informed customers of limits being imposed on the quantity of specific products which could be purchased at any given time.  The list of products included hand sanitizers, disinfectants, protective face masks, bottled water, and several other items.  The checkout clerk informed me that the list would be expanded in coming weeks to prevent consumer hoarding of other products including nonperishable food items.  I was quite surprised, and asked:  “You mean people are panicking already?”  “Yes,” she answered rather assertively.

On the drive home, I saw a bold black-and-white sign posted on a someone’s front yard that read:


Washington state is ground zero for the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.  Although the number of victims here is small compared to China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy, the effect on everyday life is nevertheless palpable.  Some people are definitely overreacting.  Others are inexplicably angry at the news media for focusing so much attention on it.  Many are angry at President Trump for obstructing the necessary response from medical science.  Some are blissfully unaware or are acting as if the pandemic doesn’t exist.  Nearly everyone is worried, however.  I can see it in their faces.

People are beginning to stay home from work and not sending their children to school.  Except for grocery stores, I’m seeing a lot of empty parking lots at restaurants, shops, churches, and other public places.  People are also reacting instinctively, by walking away, whenever they see someone cough or sneeze.  But, this asocial behavior doesn’t come easy for such social creatures as us humans.  Take away our communal lifestyles, and we’re little more than lonely, frightened animals.

Before getting to today’s news stories, I’d like to comment on the reaction to Elizabeth Warren dropping out of the Democratic presidential race.  The consensus perspective offered by selected political pundits (predominantly female) on cable news shows (e.g. MSNBC) asserts that America is not yet ready for a woman president because of persistent sexism and misogyny in the country.  That such bias still exists, I have no doubt.  However, that wasn’t the reason for Warren’s unsuccessful candidacy in my opinion.  These pundits largely ignored the flaws in her campaign strategy as well as the mistakes she made during the debates.

In the beginning, I thought Warren was by far the best Democratic candidate for president.  She is highly educated and intelligent, very policy oriented, passionate about what she’s fighting for, compassionate towards people, and is generally a good debater.  These traits were obviously appealing to voters because she had a commanding lead in opinion polls up until this year when the first caucuses and primary elections were held.  By that time, however, Warren had already fallen irreversibly behind.

Strategy:  Warren set an ideological course for her campaign in between the neoliberalism of centrists (i.e. Joe Biden and others) and the progressivism of populists (i.e. Bernie Sanders).  In a highly polarized cultural and political environment as exists in America today, such moderation is neither here nor there nor does it generate sustained excitement.  That Biden and Bernie emerged from the pack of candidates is no surprise because they represented the greatest contrast.

Warren also focused too much on women’s issues.  Not that this isn’t extremely important, but because the messaging is too demographically narrow.  Had Barack Obama been as focused on racial issues, he might not have became president.  Instead, his campaign was the epitome of inclusiveness.  Even Donald Trump, who we now know as the antithesis of inclusivity, pitched his Make America Great Again message quite successfully.

Mistakes:  Although all candidates make mistakes in their campaigns, Warren made one glaring mistake last year in the debates when she flippantly ignored questions concerning how she would pay for her healthcare plan.  I immediately noticed the error, reported it on this blog, and expected it to erode her support – which it subsequently did.  Even though Sanders has also struggled to provide substantive answers, he at least hasn’t evaded the question.  Warren has since tried to repair the damage, but the image of an elusive candidate was burned into the public psyche.

I’m very disappointed because I think America can elect and desperately needs a woman president.  Is the road more difficult than a man’s?  Yes, of course it is.  But, such difficulties didn’t stop John F. Kennedy from becoming the nation’s first Catholic president nor Obama from becoming the nation’s first black president.  Warren would’ve been a great president.


From:  Coronavirus latest: As infections near 100,000, WHO says ‘this is not a drill’

WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday that although public health authorities across the globe have the ability to successfully combat the spread of the virus, the organization is concerned that in some countries the level of political commitment does not match the threat level.

“This is not a drill. This is not the time to give up. This is not a time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops. Countries have been planning for scenarios like this for decades. Now is the time to act on those plans,” Tedros said. “This epidemic can be pushed back, but only with a collective, coordinated and comprehensive approach that engages tche entire machinery of government.”

From:  Coronavirus is closing schools, forcing working families to choose between their children and their income

Working families are at risk of bearing more of the brunt of the fallout from the coronavirus epidemic as school closures threaten to upend daily life.

According to a new United Nations report, nearly 300 million students worldwide are currently affected by the educational disruptions. While school closures were just a few weeks ago limited to China, a national shutdown has hit Italy, and some closures have started in the United States, with parents told to brace for more.

From:  Survey of Nation’s Frontline Registered Nurses Shows Hospitals Unprepared For COVID-19 [emphasis by The Secular Jurist]

A nationwide survey National Nurses United (NNU) conducted of registered nurses, the country’s frontline health care staff, reveals that the vast majority of United States hospitals and health care facilities are unprepared to handle and contain cases of COVID-19. The results were shared at a press conference held Thursday by NNU, the country’s largest union and professional association of registered nurses.

On Wednesday, NNU petitioned the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to adopt an emergency temporary standard to protect health care workers, patients, and the public. Currently, no enforceable OSHA infectious diseases standard exists nationally.

And in recent days, NNU has heard discussion about the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) weakening its current guidance even further, including recommending surgical masks instead of respirators for nurses providing care to patients with COVID-19. NNU is opposed to these changes.


Deborah Burger, RN and an NNU president, read a statement by a quarantined Northern California Kaiser Permanente nurse who cared for a confirmed COVID-19 patient and has become symptomatic, but has run into numerous delays in getting tested for COVID-19. When her physician and the county health department agreed she should be tested, the CDC at first refused, saying that since she was wearing PPE, she couldn’t have the virus.

From:  Cruise ship with thousands awaits test results as coronavirus continues spreading around the country

The Grand Princess, which was returning to San Francisco after a two-week cruise to Hawaii, remained offshore and in limbo at the request of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). About 100 people were expected to be tested, among them 11 passengers and 10 crew members who have shown potential signs of covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Results were expected Friday.

The fraught situation was the latest in an outbreak marked by confusion and uncertainty. As the U.S. death toll rose to 12 on Thursday and the virus spread to new states — including three cases in Montgomery County, Md. — the stock market again plunged. Congress passed an $8.3 billion emergency spending bill aimed at helping the nation wrestle with the growing crisis.

From:  China has made eating wild animals illegal after the coronavirus outbreak. But ending the trade won’t be easy

A strict ban on the consumption and farming of wild animals is being rolled out across China in the wake of the deadly coronavirus epidemic, which is believed to have started at a wildlife market in Wuhan.

Although it is unclear which animal transferred the virus to humans — bat, snake and pangolin have all been suggested — China has acknowledged it needs to bring its lucrative wildlife industry under control if it is to prevent another outbreak.

From:  Iran coronavirus: Bodies ‘pile up’ in morgue as country feels strain of coronavirus

Dozens of bodies sheathed in black bags line the floor of an Iranian morgue, while workers in protective suits and masks busily walk among them.

It’s unclear which, if any, of the people whose bodies lie in the morgue were infected with the coronavirus gripping the country, in this footage from inside Qom’s Behesht-e Masoumeh morgue.

And here lies a huge problem for Iran, which is one of the worst-hit countries outside China, with more than 3,500 people infected and at least 107 dead from the virus, according to officials.

Other news

From:  Facebook decides to take down Trump 2020 campaign’s ‘census’ ads

SAN FRANCISCO, March 6 (Reuters) – Facebook Inc on Thursday removed ads by President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign that asked users to fill out an “Official 2020 Congressional District Census” because the ads violate the company’s policy against misinformation on the government’s census.

The ads, which come from the pages of the Republican president and Vice President Mike Pence, link to a survey on an official campaign website and then to a page asking for donations.

From:  ‘Flood the Streets’: ICE Targets Sanctuary Cities With Increased Surveillance

Intensifying its enforcement in so-called sanctuary cities across the country, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has begun 24-hour-a-day surveillance operations around the homes and workplaces of undocumented immigrants. The agency plans to deploy hundreds of additional officers in unmarked cars in the coming weeks to increase arrests in cities where local law enforcement agencies do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

ICE leadership has requested at least 500 special agents who normally conduct long-term investigations into dangerous criminals and traffickers to join the enhanced arrest campaign rolling out in sanctuary cities, according to an internal email reviewed by The New York Times.

From:  Federal court blocks third-country asylum rule for some ‘metered’ migrants

A federal appeals court Thursday blocked one of the Trump administration’s most stringent asylum restrictions from applying to people who arrived at the border before the rule was supposed to start but were forced to wait.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco lifted a stay and barred a particular group of asylum-seekers from being subjected to a policy that would block U.S. asylum for migrants who had not sought protection first in a country through which they traveled on their journey to the border.

The group comprises migrants who went to the border and sought to seek asylum before the rule’s effective date in mid-July but who were forced to wait until after that date to present themselves at ports of entry.

From:  Judge cites Barr’s ‘misleading’ statements in ordering review of Mueller report redactions

A federal judge in Washington sharply criticized Attorney General William P. Barr on Thursday for a “lack of candor,” questioning the truthfulness of the nation’s top law enforcement official in his handling of last year’s report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, overseeing a lawsuit brought by EPIC, a watchdog group, and BuzzFeed News, said he saw serious discrepancies between Barr’s public statements about Mueller’s findings and the public, partially redacted version of that report detailing the special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Because of those discrepancies, Walton ruled, the judge would conduct an independent review of Mueller’s full report to see whether the Justice Department’s redactions were appropriate.

4 thoughts on “Anecdotes from a Pandemic: How coronavirus is affecting everyday life in Washington state

  1. I agree with you on Elizabeth Warren’s mistakes.

    I could have enthusiastically supported her. But she has been a tad too ideological, and not sufficiently concerned with the pragmatics of how to implement such new policies.

    Liked by 1 person

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