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Frontline: Covering Coronavirus in Cremona, Italy

A reporter’s emotional journey back to her homeland in Italy, now the global epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. “I never thought that I would be making a film like this in Italy,” says FRONTLINE correspondent Sasha Achilli. “I feel immensely proud of the way that the Italian doctors are doing everything they can.” Italy’s doctors, she says, are looking at how America is responding now, and finding similarities with how their own country reacted weeks ago. “Doctors [here] are saying, absolutely self-isolate and do it in the interest of yourself. But in the interests of everybody else around you and who you love. Because this is very, very real.”

Specific Numerical Claims Require a Citation

During a public health emergency involving a contagious infection, it is possible – and so it is rational – to assume that some portion of that emergency lies hidden beyond one’s immediate view. This likelihood can be described simply, in this very way: some portion of this emergency likely lies hidden beyond one’s immediate view.

It is different, however, to write that “[c]omments on social media claim that reliable sources have confirmed that there are at least three persons in the city [Whitewater] who have been diagnosed.” Unlike a matter of editorial opinion, particular reportorial claims about specific public health statistics, for example, should be identified by the professional institution that offers them (a hospital, university, a government agency, etc.).

Specific numerical claims may be true, but if made, they should be made under citation.

Daily Bread for 3.28.20

Good morning.

Saturday in Whitewater will see thunderstorms with a high of fifty-two.  Sunrise is 6:41 AM and sunset 7:17 PM, for 12h 36m 26s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 14.9% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand two hundred thirty-sixth day.

On this day in 1862, in the Battle of Glorieta Pass, Union forces stop the Confederate invasion of the New Mexico Territory.

Recommended for reading in full —

Conservative Jonathan V. Last writes COVID-19 Is Not a Black Swan. Trump Is the Black Swan (‘The problem isn’t that America couldn’t plan for a pandemic. It’s that we couldn’t plan for a president so incompetent that he failed to follow the most basic protocols for fighting a pandemic’): 

See this section from the Atlantic’s big piece on what the COVID-19 endgame is going to look like:

As my colleagues Alexis Madrigal and Robinson Meyer have reported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed and distributed a faulty test in February. Independent labs created alternatives, but were mired in bureaucracy from the FDA. In a crucial month when the American caseload shot into the tens of thousands, only hundreds of people were tested. That a biomedical powerhouse like the U.S. should so thoroughly fail to create a very simple diagnostic test was, quite literally, unimaginable. “I’m not aware of any simulations that I or others have run where we [considered] a failure of testing,” says Alexandra Phelan of Georgetown University, who works on legal and policy issues related to infectious diseases.

The testing fiasco was the original sin of America’s pandemic failure, the single flaw that undermined every other countermeasure. If the country could have accurately tracked the spread of the virus, hospitals could have executed their pandemic plans, girding themselves by allocating treatment rooms, ordering extra supplies, tagging in personnel, or assigning specific facilities to deal with COVID-19 cases. None of that happened.

Let me read the key part to you again:

“I’m not aware of any simulations that I or others have run where we [considered] a failure of testing,” says Alexandra Phelan.

People have been saying that you can’t plan for a once-in-a-century pandemic—there is no playbook for that kind of disaster.

This is not true. There is literally a playbook for pandemics.

What you can’t plan for is the possibility of a government seeing the pandemic coming and refusing to follow basic protocols for managing the crisis.

The black swan here isn’t COVID-19.

It’s Trump.

(Emphasis in original.)

Hannah Natansan reports After uproar, USDA says parents can pick up school meals without kids present:

The federal government is waiving a policy that required students to come in-person to pick up free meals during school closures, after legislators and advocates said the rule was imperiling the health and safety of children with compromised immune systems.

New guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, issued this week, allows school districts to distribute meals “to a parent or guardian to take home to their children,” according to a copy of the guidance obtained by The Washington Post.

Therapy Dog Visits Quarantined Senior Citizens Through Safety of Windows:

Feeding Children: Free breakfast and lunch for children

Originally posted 3.17.20. The Whitewater Unified School District’s website has information about feeding children, among other topics, during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Updated afternoon of 3.27.20. It’s best to visit the district link directly (https://www.wwusd.org/covid-19) as needed for any updates:

Dear Families: The District is making important changes to our meal distribution during the Wisconsin Safer at Home order.. Starting Monday, March 30, a week’s worth of meals will be distributed each Monday. This includes five breakfasts and five lunches for each child. We will not distribute meals Tuesday through Friday. We will distribute at the same locations and during the same time frame (11:00 am to 12:00 pm). These meals are available to all children in the community 18 years old and younger. Children do not need to be physically present to receive the meal. Parents, guardians, and caregivers are able to pick-up meal bags for all eligible children in the household. Anyone with a fever or respiratory symptoms should not be picking up meals. When picking up a meal, you will now need to get out of your vehicle. The meals will be placed on a table to maintain social distancing. Location and additional information is available on the District’s COVID-19 website: https://wwusd.org/covid-19.

Sincerely, Lisa Griep Food Service Supervisor

Estimadas Familias: El Distrito está haciendo cambios importantes en nuestra distribución de comidas durante la orden Wisconsin Safer at Home. A partir del lunes 30 de marzo, se distribuirán comidas de una semana cada lunes. Esto incluye cinco desayunos y cinco almuerzos para cada niño. No distribuiremos comidas de martes a viernes. Distribuiremos en los mismos lugares y durante el mismo período de tiempo (11:00 a.m. a 12:00 p.m.). Estas comidas están disponibles para todos los niños de la comunidad de 18 años o menos. Los niños no necesitan estar físicamente presentes para recibir la comida. Los padres, tutores y cuidadores pueden recoger bolsas de comida para todos los niños elegibles en el hogar. Cualquier persona con fiebre o síntomas respiratorios no debe recoger comidas. Al recoger la comida, ahora deberá salir de su vehículo. Las comidas se colocarán en una mesa para mantener el distanciamiento social. La ubicación y la información adicional están disponibles en el sitio web COVID-19 del Distrito: https://wwusd.org/covid-19.

Sinceramente, Lisa Griep Supervisora de Servicio de Alimentos

Updated morning of 3.18.20. It’s best to visit the district link directly (https://www.wwusd.org/covid-19) as needed for any updates.

While schools are closed due to COVID-19, WUSD will be providing free breakfast and lunch for children.  Meals will continue as long as the closure lasts, as long as it is deemed safe to do so.  Meals will not be provided during the original spring break week (March 23 – 27). 

Meals will be available from 11am to 12pm, Monday through Friday.  One take-home breakfast and one take-home lunch will be distributed daily during this time.

Please practice social distancing when picking up meals and thorough hand-washing with soap and water before eating the take-home meals.  Distribution of meals is available for one hour at each location.  Please wait to approach the distribution vehicle if you notice many people waiting.

Locations:

  • Whitewater High School, in circle drive
  • N. Tratt Street, along Garden Apartments
  • N. Newcomb Street, along Whitewater Woods
  • N. Walton Drive, north of W. Bloomingfield Drive
  • N. County Line Road, into Wright’s Mobile Home Park
  • Fonda Street, along Washington Elementary
  • NEW LOCATION:  Lincoln Elementary, corner of S. Prince Street and W.
Continue reading

Daily Bread for 3.27.20

Good morning.

Friday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of fifty-three with occasional afternoon showers.  Sunrise is 6:42 AM and sunset 7:16 PM, for 12h 33m 32s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 8.5% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand two hundred thirty-fifth day.

On this day in 1886, Apache warrior Geronimo surrenders to the U.S. Army, ending the main phase of the Apache Wars.

Recommended for reading in full —

Devi Shastri reports UW System estimates campuses will refund $78 million in housing, dining expenses:

The University of Wisconsin System is estimating its campuses will pay back nearly $80 million to students who left campuses as the coronavirus took hold in the state.

System leaders announced last week they would ensure students received prorated refunds for the spring 2020 semester’s housing and food payments.

Every campus in the school system has moved courses online or to a remote format through the end of the semester, with some going into the summer semester. Many have made the decision to delay or cancel commencement ceremonies as well.

Schools are still calculating the exact costs of the payback, but the UW System estimate as of Thursday was about $78 million.

The Associated Press reports Wisconsin National Guard Col. James V. Locke stripped of command duties:

The Wisconsin National Guard’s new commander has stripped a colonel of his duties.

The Guard announced Thursday that Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp relieved Col. James V. Locke of command of the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee.

The Guard said in a statement that Knapp had lost confidence in Locke, based on command climate, poor judgment and alleged misconduct. An investigation is underway.

“A decision like this is never easy to make, but it is the right thing to do and is in the best interest of the organization,” Knapp said.

A spokesman for the Guard declined to comment Thursday, citing the open investigation.

The Guard is still trying to recover after federal investigators last year revealed they had found multiple problems with how the Guard handles sexual harassment and sexual assault complaints. Most notably, the review found commanders had been opening their own internal investigations into complaints rather than referring them to Army or Air Force criminal investigators as required by federal law and Department of Defense policy.

Koalas Return Home After Surviving Australia’s Fires:

A Right – and Duty – of Protection

One does not have to be a member of the Southern Baptist tradition (as I am not) to agree with Dr. Russell Moore’s description of the obligation to care for the elderly. Moore, the president of that denomination’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, writes that God Doesn’t Want Us to Sacrifice the Old to Coronavirus:

A life in a nursing home is a life worth living. A life in a hospital quarantine ward is a life worth living. The lives of our grandparents, the lives of the disabled, the lives of the terminally ill, these are all lives worth living. We will not be able to save every life. Many will die, not only of the obviously vulnerable but also of those who are seemingly young and strong.

….

That means we must listen to medical experts, and do everything possible to avoid the catastrophe we see right now in Italy and elsewhere. We must get back to work, get the economy back on its feet, but we can only do that when doing so will not kill the vulnerable and overwhelm our hospitals, our doctors, our nurses, and our communities.

….

This pandemic will change us, change our economy, our culture, our priorities, our personal lives. That we cannot avoid. But let’s remember: One day we will tell our grandchildren how we lived, how we loved, during the Great Pandemic. Let’s respect human life in such a way that we will not be ashamed to tell them the truth.

A dark utilitarianism grips those who would cast the vulnerable aside. It is an impulse dangerous and wicked. It sweeps through parts of this beautiful country. It must be fought wherever it is found, and cannot be allowed to take hold in this beautiful city.

Daily Bread for 3.26.20

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be cloudy with a high of forty-nine.  Sunrise is 6:44 AM and sunset 7:15 PM, for 12h 30m 37s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 4% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand two hundred thirty-fourth day.

On this day in 1945, Battle of Iwo Jima ends in an American victory.

Recommended for reading in full —

Jennifer Steinhauer and Zolan Kanno-Youngs report Job Vacancies and Inexperience Mar Federal Response to Coronavirus:

Of the 75 senior positions at the Department of Homeland Security, 20 are either vacant or filled by acting officials, including Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary who recently was unable to tell a Senate committee how many respirators and protective face masks were available in the United States.

The National Park Service, which like many federal agencies is full of vacancies in key posts, tried this week to fill the job of a director for the national capital region after hordes of visitors flocked to see the cherry blossoms near the National Mall, creating a potential public health hazard as the coronavirus continues to spread.

At the Department of Veterans Affairs, workers are scrambling to order medical supplies on Amazon after its leaders, lacking experience in disaster responses, failed to prepare for the onslaught of patients at its medical centers.

Empty slots and high turnover have left parts of the federal government unprepared and ill equipped for what may be the largest public health crisis in a century, said numerous former and current federal officials and disaster experts.

Corrinne Hess and Alana Watson report Wisconsin Businesses Pivot To Help Health Care Providers During Pandemic:

While many Wisconsin businesses have closed to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, some companies have shifted gears to help hospitals and health care workers.

Health care providers across the country have reported ongoing and dire shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) including hospital gowns, face shields and respiratory N95 face masks.

Last week, the Wisconsin Hospital Association reached out to the construction trades through the state Department of Workforce Development and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce asking them to donate any unused N95 masks to their local hospital.

Dozens of smaller businesses have stepped up, too.

Family-owned company Canopies, a Milwaukee-based event rental company, would normally be booked with spring weddings and parties. But the COVID-19 pandemic halted business until owner David Hudak contacted Advocate Aurora Health.

The health care provider, which has hospitals in Illinois and throughout eastern Wisconsin, is now contracting with Canopies to provide tents to its hospitals in both states.

The tents are being used as a triage area before patients are taken into emergency rooms, Hudak said.

Educators in Arkansas Provide Meals for Kids in Need During COVID-19:

(The Whitewater Unified School District plans to update its own children’s meal program.)

No, the Country Will Not “Open” on Easter

Conservative Jonathan V. Last, writing at the Bulwark, states what should be obvious – The Country Will Not “Open” on Easter:

We talked yesterday about the benchmarks that need to be met in order to begin re-opening the economy: A clear understanding of the infected population and rate of transmission; the healthcare system at a steady-state; a rigorous and basically unlimited ability to test and process cases on-site.

But what does “re-opening” the economy look like after those goals are met?

I’ll tell you what it doesn’t look like: Millions of people who may or may not be carrying viral loads crammed on top of each other in churches on a Sunday morning just to make a rhetorical point.

….

If you move through the re-opening gradually, at each step making sure the virus isn’t breaking out again, then you build confidence as you go. Because if you think things are bad now, imagine what it will look like if we open up everything again and then have to shut it down because we lose control over the management of the virus.

The idea that America is just going to throw the doors open on a Sunday morning two weeks from now and declare “We’re Open for Business” is yet another one of Trump’s dangerous fantasies and it is irresponsible of him to have planted it in the public’s mind.

APG Was Always Going to Play a Vulture’s Role

One reads that APG, the out-of-state newspaper chain that purchased two local family papers (Janesville Gazette, Daily Jefferson County Union) is slashing the salaries of those papers’ employees.

A few remarks —

I’m not a newspaperman, and have never aspired to be one. Bloggers are modern-day pamphleteers, reviving a tradition that was robust during our founding era. Rather, I’m from a family of newspaper readers. From as far back as I can remember, there were always newspapers (and books, magazines) all over the house. Many Americans of my generation grew up respecting serious journalism – reading, pondering, and critiquing what we read.

The pandemic has hit smaller papers hard, notably alt-weeklies (the Isthmus in Madison has gone dark, and the Shepherd Express has stopped printing and is now online only. (Alternative papers rely significantly on restaurant and entertainment advertising, and those industries are disproportionately affected by the need for social distancing.) For more on the plight of alternative papers see “Total annihilation”: Coronavirus may just be the end for many alt-weeklies. What’s happening to these alternative weeklies – commendable, feisty publications – is heartbreaking.

There’s a different problem with the dailies in this part of the world. Newspapers in the area from which I write – southeastern Wisconsin – have never been especially strong. They grew worse over time – after the Great Recession, they offered weak-tea reporting. The bias to act as press agents for government was, with fewer exceptions each year, strong. Indeed, the importance of journalistic independence from government didn’t merely vanish, but came to be seen as an offense in the eyes of local notables.

The editors of two local dailies – the Daily Union and the Gazette – accelerated their own papers’ demise with happy-talk boosterism. They ran their papers into the ground. They inured others to a lesser standard. See from 3.23.20 A Newspaper’s Boosterism During a Pandemic.

In a city like Whitewater, this problem of boosterism became so acute that a city councilman (who had been on the school board for years prior, and is on the school board again) published his own ersatz online newspaper. Even while he served in office, he published countless pro-government stories, and covered his own candidacy to return to the school board.

Such men might say – as one has heard others in Whitewater say – that they are committing no conflicts of interest because they wear different hats when acting in their respective roles. It’s a laughable claim – those different hats sit on the same heads.

The failure of local newspapers to hold these officials to account has encouraged this ilk.

Now comes APG, picking at the sagging flesh of this area’s daily papers. APG likely would have done so in time – the pandemic has simply accelerated these plans. Blaming APG is like blaming a vulture for needing a meal. It’s the men and women who weakened the animal, and left it vulnerable to predation, who are truly responsible for this sad fate.

Trump Criticizes Trump

One can – rightly – despise the Chinese government as a dictatorship without – wrongly – blaming the Chinese people for a pandemic. Trump, however, is a crude bigot, and so he delights in ridiculing those of races other than his own.

Daily Bread for 3.25.20

Good morning.

Wednesday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of fifty-six.  Sunrise is 6:46 AM and sunset 7:14 PM, for 12h 27m 43s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing crescent with 1.1% of its visible disk illuminated.

Today is the one thousand two hundred thirty-third day.

On this day in 1655, Huygens discovers Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

Recommended for reading in full —

David E. Sanger, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, and Ana Swanson report Slow Response to the Coronavirus Measured in Lost Opportunity:

When Ford’s chief executive, Jim Hackett, announced on Tuesday that the carmaker would team up with General Electric to build ventilators, he tempered the good news with a note of caution: “We’re talking about early June.”

That was just one of several examples that underscored the price of the Trump administration’s slow response to evidence as early as January that the coronavirus was headed to the United States.

For the first time, it is now possible to quantify the cost of the lost weeks, as President Trump was claiming as recently as February that in a “couple of days” the number of cases in the United States “is going to be down to close to zero.”

Ford’s timeline suggested that if the administration had reacted to the acute shortage of ventilators in February, the joint effort between Ford and General Electric might have produced lifesaving equipment sometime in mid- to late April.

Tory Newmyer writes Wall Street to Trump: Don’t restart economy before stopping coronavirus spread:

President Trump is considering whether to bring the economy out of its government-induced coma in the next week or two, insisting the pain of the restrictions should not outweigh that from the coronavirus itself.

But investors, portfolio managers and economists with a front-row seat to the ongoing carnage on Wall Street and beyond aren’t so sure that scaling back social distancing is the right move. Many say the economy — and still-sliding stock market along with it — won’t begin to recover until the United States definitively turns the tide against the disease. 

“You may get a [market] bounce on the headline,” Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial Inc., tells me…Above all else it will be the empirical data that suggests the virus is receding.” 

(Emphasis in original.)

David A. Fahrenthold, Joshua Partlow, and Jonathan O’Connell report Before Trump called for reevaluating lockdowns, they [states’ orders] shuttered six of his top-earning clubs and resorts:

President Trump’s private business has shut down six of its top seven revenue-producing clubs and hotels because of restrictions meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, potentially depriving Trump’s company of millions of dollars in revenue.

Those closures come as Trump is considering easing restrictions on movement sooner than federal public health experts recommend, in the name of reducing the virus’s economic damage.

In a tweet late Sunday, Trump said the measures could be lifted as soon as March 30. “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” he wrote on Twitter.

….

Three of Trump’s hotels — in DoralChicago and Washington have outstanding loans from Deutsche Bank that originally totaled more than $300 million. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, all three reported lagging behind their peers in occupancy and revenue, struggles that the company’s representatives blamed, in one way or another, on Trump’s political rise.

(Emphasis added.)

Should We Turn Chickens into Dinosaurs?: