Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Lamont orders Vote By Mail for 2020 primary

Today Gov. Ned Lamont issued an executive order allowing registered voters to vote by mail in the August 11th state and presidential primary.

The primary was scheduled for April 28, then postponed to June 2, and finally firmly placed on August 11. The Democratic National Convention begins on August 17, so the results of our primary will most likely award delegates at the convention.

Sec. of State Denise Merrill has said each registered voter will receive an application in the mail with a post-paid return envelope. After completing and returning the application, eligible voters will receive a ballot with a post-paid envelope in time for the election. Also, Merrill directed each town to have a secure dropbox available in a prominent location so voters can drop off their ballots in person without exposing themselves to public polling place workers.

Here is the link for a PDF file of the Governor's executive order.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Covid-19 stuff

I had my annual physical ten days ago. My doctor's office has been trying to keep semi-open during this pandemic, so I was able to get an appointment during their reduced business hours of 10AM-2PM.

I told him how sick I'd been in mid-January with a suspected flu that was exceptionally rough on my lungs. I remember thinking as I was having a coughing fit and unable to clear my throat, "This is how people die from the flu!"

So I asked if I could get a Corona antibody test. Since I'd just had blood work, he called the lab and asked them to run a test on my remaining samples. He explained that they keep the blood available for five or so days afterwards in case more tests are needed.

I got the results back after the weekend. Negative for antibodies. Which means I simply had the flu.

I was oddly disappointed.

I'd been hoping for antibodies on the assumption that it may (no proof yet) protect me from re-infection.

And I was a bit miffed because I had the flu shot for this season. But I did read soon after I was sick that the shot, which was formulated months earlier based on what scientists think MAY be the flu threat, only covered two of the four strains that the Connecticut DPH website said were active here when I got sick. So I had a 50-50 chance of flu, and I hit the odds.

In other Covid news, here in Milford we've had 573 confirmed cases of Corona, with 68 fatalities. That's roughly a 12% fatality rate!

I don't know why we're having such a terrible time with this disease, when so many other towns and cities in Connecticut are experiencing much lower fatality rates, anywhere from 8% to 4%. But, it could just be a statistical anomaly.

Which is precisely why everyone has been screaming for more widespread testing! THIS is the sort of thing that will assist doctors and epidemiologists in battling the spread of Covid-19.

In other news, the Marmalade Ass in DC has started taking hydrochloroquine on his own. Apparently he's worried he may have been exposed, and he's hoping somehow he was correct about the drug's efficacy, although there's absolutely NO peer-reviewed studies that support this conclusion.

In my opinion, only GOOD things can happen when a morbidly obese man in his 70s takes a drug with widely known and dangerous side effects to ineffectually battle a disease which specifically targets people with his pre-existing conditions.

In fact, I think his doctors should double or triple his dose! You know, just to be sure.

Today at Walgreens we found 50-count boxes of masks for $30, so we bought one. The way we look at it, after the nation partially reopens over the next few weeks, there is likely going to be a second, even BIGGER wave of infections.

We want to make sure we're in a good position to survive other people's stupidity. After all, we wouldn't want all those Karens to miss their hair appointments!

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

The Time For Vote By Mail Is Now

Secretary of State Denise Merrill is pushing for a universal vote by mail option in Connecticut. This is something that's been LONG overdue, but I'm pleased that the idea is finally getting some traction.
"Connecticut has the most restrictive absentee ballot laws in the country, and the coronavirus has exposed how that restrictiveness can threaten our democracy," said Secretary Merrill. "The legislature can and should fix this permanently when they come into session in the summer by removing the most restrictive language from the statute."
Legally it looks like there is ample justification already in Connecticut law to make this possible, with one tiny exception. In a recent op-ed, Merrill stated the following:
In today’s situation, that more restrictive language in the statute makes it more difficult for people to get a ballot to mail in the face of the fear of a global pandemic. The Constitution reads “due to sickness” while the statute reads due to “his or her illness.” Those three words, “his or her,” in the statute but not in the Constitution, are the reason why we cannot vote by mail this November if we want to avoid polling places and a possible fall wave of the coronavirus.

The legislature can fix this for the short term very easily when they meet this summer to vote on budget adjustments and coronavirus relief. All they have to do is remove the words “his or her” from the statute 9-135, so that the language of the statute matches the language of the Constitution.
This seems easily doable, with the exception of the most vocal Trump supporters who will absolutely claim that this will lead to massive voter fraud. Which is a bullshit argument, for these following reasons:

1) Voting by mail has been successfully used for many decades by soldiers stationed overseas. There have been very, very few instances of fraud; and pretty much any time a vote was found to be questionable, it was usually because of an honest mistake and not part of a huge conspiracy.

2) If it was SO goddamned easy to manipulate an election through voter fraud, don't you think the powerful right-wing groups funding most of the bullshit tactics of Trump fans wouldn't enthusiastically engage in making sure there were MILLIONS of fake votes for their candidates? They wouldn't hesitate even one nano-second before creating a voting fraud cabal designed to take advantage of whatever imaginary voting loophole the conspiracy nuts think exists!

3) The main reason conservatives hate voting by mail is that it will ensure a much higher participation in elections. And THAT is their biggest fear! Why do you think so many red states are closing polling places in urban areas and enacting draconian voter I.D. laws? Because making it difficult or impossible for minorities to vote will only help their candidates. Republicans don't want anything resembling a fair election because they will get crushed! This is why Mitch McConnell refuses to allow a vote on the bill to protect election security. McConnell would rather have foreign interference and foreign hacking in our elections if it helps keep his party in power.

And it will be much easier to vote, and will actually save voters time and money:
Secretary Merrill previously announced that all voters will be receiving applications for absentee ballots; those applications will explain the law in light of this interpretation of 9-135. As previously announced, the Office of the Secretary will pay for the postage for the applications, their return, the ballots, and the ballots' return, so that absentee ballots can be used without cost to the voters or the towns.

This is obviously the way to go. I look forward to seeing this happen.

Monday, April 27, 2020

COVID-19 Update

April 27th

Milford CT

Total confirmed cases: 443

Total confirmed deaths: 44

Fatality Rate: 10%

This is no bullshit.

If you get sick from COVID-19, you have a significant chance of dying!

Be smart.

Be safe.

Mask up and glove up.

And stay the fuck home!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Serial killer on the loose

I'm so tired of idiot conservatives going around saying COVID-19 is "basically the same as the flu"!

Today is April 20th. So far in Connecticut we've had 1,331 COVID-related deaths. It's up over 200 from the previous day.

For comparison, during the 2017-18 flu season, which was a particularly bad one, there were a total of merely 184 flu-related deaths here in Connecticut. We had more than that YESTERDAY alone!

And this pandemic is FAR from over! It's nothing like the flu.

Here in Milford, we've had 31 deaths, up 5 from yesterday. Just think about that. Five people who were alive in my little city yesterday are now gone.

Yet, today in many places around the country, conservatives held public rallies AGAINST the measures that are designed to keep people safe and alive.

This is insane!

Why are people so fucking stupid? Can they not comprehend that by suddenly pretending the pandemic is over will actually cause it to last MUCH LONGER? Instead of gradually easing restrictions as testing data shows a marked decrease in new cases, they want to throw open the floodgates and let life return to "normal" right away.

As if "normal" is something that we'll just magically get back to.

So, we'll probably have a minimum of six more months of necessary isolation before we can even think about restarting the economy. Which probably would have been half that if people would just LISTEN TO THE DOCTORS INSTEAD OF WACKY POLITICIANS!!!

Imagine if we reacted to these deaths as if they were caused by a serial killer instead of a virus. People would hide in their homes and take every available precaution to ensure their health and safety until the danger passed.

But our complete and total lack of leadership on the Federal level has guaranteed that this pandemic will last much longer and kill many more people than it should have, had it been handled properly from the start.

Actually, we DO have a serial killer on the loose.

His name is Donald J. Trump.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Sticking with the routine

Saturday morning, April 11th.

Day before Easter. We have nothing planned for observance. It's basically just another day for us.

The pandemic seems to be somewhat flattening out here in Connecticut. Which basically means the daily number of new cases has stopped increasing exponentially. It doesn't mean that this is anywhere near over. People are still going to get sick, and every day the total number of cases will continue to rise. We're still months away from even considering relaxing any of the current restrictions.

Our trip to Spain and Andorra scheduled for May 22nd is canceled. We knew it was going to happen, but we had to wait for Norwegian Air to cancel our flight in order to qualify for a refund. Otherwise, if we'd canceled our trip we would have only been eligible for a credit.

Basically, I'd rather have the refund because I'm worried Norwegian may file Chapter 11 and leave us high and dry. So hopefully they'll get us the refund soon. AirBnb allowed us to cancel with no penalty. They are refunding our deposits also.

Of course, our April trip to DC was canceled weeks ago. Amtrak gave us a full refund, and the pre-paid hotel is similarly going to give us our money back.

Now the only trip we still have planned this year is July 4th in Montreal. I figure there's not more than a 1-in-3 chance we'll still be able to go, but both our airfares and AirBnb are fully refundable if we cancel by June 18th. I'm sure the Montreal Jazz Festival scheduled for that week will either be greatly limited or rescheduled/canceled.

Work is still going reasonably well. Being dispatched from home and only running critical service calls means that I may only have to go out a couple times a week. But we're an essential service company, so we'll be fully employed for the duration.

We are taking every precaution when we go shopping once a week. We may stock up next time and get two weeks worth of groceries to avoid unnecessary exposures. Especially considering the supermarket we use has had a bunch of new cases recently!

The stress of this pandemic is starting to show. The fear of getting sick actually makes it harder to sleep. Every day I do a personal inventory to see how my health is. We're still going on daily walks, while using all necessary protection. I'm getting tired of the smell of alcohol and sanitizer!

The coming week will tell us a lot about where we're headed. Trump as usual will be clamoring to open the economy as soon as possible, probably causing a second wave of infections and another cycle of illness. But we'll also start hearing about some results of the latest viral treatments, and hopefully we'll get something that will slow or eliminate new infections.

Anyway, we're sticking with our new routine. It's basically life during wartime. We're all in the same bunker.

And something tells me that while we may return to some semblance of normalcy, we'll never get back to what we were just a few months ago.

Things will be different now.

Monday, April 06, 2020

The story of isolation so far

Today is Monday, April 6th.

This is a brief account of our life right now. It's by no means complete, but just some notes to reflect on this moment in history.

The oncoming COVID-19 crisis was apparent by the end of February. China had already shut down Wuhan and other cities, and reports of deaths from the virus had been coming across the news feed since January.

At first glance this seemed like nothing we haven't seen before. SARS and MERS seemed similar in that people, especially Asians, were wearing masks in public, especially in enclosed areas like on planes or in subways. Everyone assumed we'd get through this with common sense measures.

But COVID is different. It is MUCH more virulent, and incredibly easy to catch. Plus, it may infect a large percentage of people who, unknown to them, are shedding large amounts of the virus. A longish incubation period also helped spread the disease.

It really helped that Trump constantly underplayed the serious nature of the epidemic (it wasn't even acknowledged to be a pandemic until way too late). First it was a minor threat. Then a Democratic hoax. Then a two-week "time-out" was all that was needed.

By the time Trump and his cronies publicly acknowledged the seriousness of the disease, it had already spread beyond simple containment. This is a clear case of criminal negligence and dereliction of duty. But this matter will be addressed at a later date; if we survive this.

The very first instance of the virus affecting me was when I decided on March 3rd to get a haircut, since it was becoming apparent that soon we would have voluntary or involuntary isolation. It was a couple weeks before I usually get a haircut, but I'm glad I did.

The company I work for started changing policies right around that time. By the following Friday (March 13th) it was announced that on Monday only essential personnel would be allowed to come into work. Because my job is deemed essential by the state (I repair and maintain radio systems for first responders) I would no longer have to start my day at headquarters, but only go there to pick up parts or equipment.

So I am dispatched from home only in the event of emergency service, or if there is schedule maintenance at unmanned locations. For instance, we had yearly maintenance at a local town's radio system. Several sites are unmanned (if you ever noticed those little buildings at the base of cell towers, that's often where our equipment is stored) so I was allowed to service them. But at the main Police Dept. headquarters I was told to stay away until after the pandemic is over.

The weekend of the 14th and 15th was when Joyce and I started wearing gloves when shopping. It took another week or so for us to start wearing masks. Which we only have a handful of; two N95 masks and a half-dozen hospital masks, all left over from several years ago.

Fortunately we had plenty of hand sanitizer before this started. Also, I found a pint of 90% rubbing alcohol in the medicine chest, and also a quart of pure industrial alcohol in the basement. I filled a spray bottle with alcohol and placed bottles of sanitizer in our coat pockets and vehicles. And we had four or five boxes of rubber gloves from years of various projects laying around, so we're in good shape so far. Additionally, we have an old fashioned mercury thermometer and a fingertip oxygen/pulse monitor so we can set a baseline of our temperatures and oxygen metabolism while we're healthy.

And because my wife is such a resourceful bargain shopper, we began this ordeal with around 60 rolls of toilet paper. We still have about 30 left, but finally local stores are stocking them again in limited supplies, so every time we shop we pick up a couple rolls.

We're trying to keep social distancing wherever we go. In stores we try to get in and out quickly, and for the most part only essential trips. We haven't seen any friends since the 15th, except for a couple walks when they were at least six feet away.

Today, April 6th, there are signs that here in Connecticut we may be reaching the peak of new infections soon. That will only be a preliminary starting point on the road to normalcy. That is, if things every become normal again! Once new infections start to taper off, there will still be a need to isolate for at LEAST another month or two. My fear is that people will hear about infections going down and assume they can get back to their previous lifestyles, which includes public gatherings and a decrease in our current ultra-hygenic activities.

The 1918 flu pandemic occurred in at least two distinct waves. Once in winter/spring of early 1918, then again in August/September. Which proves that warm weather doesn't necessarily defeat flu virus. This could happen to us if we return to our previous habits too soon.

We have a trip to Spain planned for May 22nd. (UPDATE: It's the AirBnb deposits back, still waiting on Air Norwegian) So far the airline hasn't canceled our flight. There are encouraging signs from Spain that they have passed the peak. But still, it's not apparent when they will return to more or less "normal" life. We won't get a refund from the airline or our AirBnb unless they cancel, so we're stuck waiting it out. It's looking like we'll end up canceling, or they will. But this is a minor inconvenience compared to the thousands who are in hospitals fighting for their lives. We'll get over it if we have to cancel.

We DON'T know if we'll get over COVID-19 if we get sick.

And right now, that's the thing that matters.

More updates to follow...

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

On The Frontline In The War Against COVID-19

An ER Doctor wrote about a typical day dealing with this terrible pandemic.
Follow him on Twitter here: Craig Spencer MD MPH


Many of you asked what it was like in the ER right now. I want to share a bit with you.

A Day in the Life of an ER Doc - A Brief Dispatch from the #COVID19 Frontline:

Wake up at 6:30am. Priority is making a big pot of coffee for the whole day, because the place by the hospital is closed. The Starbucks too. It's all closed.

On the walk, it feels like Sunday. No one is out. Might be the freezing rain. Or it's early. Regardless, that's good.

Walk in for your 8am shift: Immediately struck by how the calm of the early morning city streets is immediately transformed. The bright fluorescent lights of the ER reflect off everyone's protective goggles. There is a cacophony of coughing. You stop. Mask up. Walk in.

You take signout from the previous team, but nearly every patient is the same, young & old:

Cough, shortness of breath, fever.

They are really worried about one patient. Very short of breath, on the maximum amount of oxygen we can give, but still breathing fast.

You immediately assess this patient. It's clear what this is, and what needs to happen. You have a long and honest discussion with the patient and family over the phone. It's best to put her on life support now, before things get much worse. You're getting set up for that, but...

You're notified of another really sick patient coming in. You rush over. They're also extremely sick, vomiting. They need to be put on life support as well. You bring them back. Two patients, in rooms right next to each other, both getting a breathing tube. It's not even 10am yet

For the rest of your shift, nearly every hour, you get paged:

Stat notification: Very sick patient, short of breath, fever. Oxygen 88%.

Stat notification: Low blood pressure, short of breath, low oxygen.

Stat notification: Low oxygen, can't breath. Fever.

All day...

Sometime in the afternoon you recognize you haven't drank any water. You're afraid to take off the mask. It's the only thing that protects you. Surely you can last a little longer - in West Africa during Ebola, you spent hours in a hot suit without water. One more patient...

By late afternoon, you need to eat. Restaurant across the street is closed. Right, everything is closed. But thankfully the hospital cafeteria is open. You grab something, wash your hands (twice), cautiously take off your mask, & eat as fast as you can. Go back. Mask up. Walk in.

Nearly everyone you see today is the same. We assume everyone is #COVIDー19. We wear gowns, goggles, and masks at every encounter. All day. It's the only way to be safe. Where did all the heart attacks and appendicitis patients go? Its all COVID.

When your shift ends, you sign out to the oncoming team. It's all #COVIDー19. Over the past week, we've all learned the signs - low oxygen, lymphopenia, elevated D-dimer.

You share concerns of friends throughout the city without PPE. Hospitals running out of ventilators.

Before you leave, you wipe EVERYTHING down. Your phone. Your badge. Your wallet. Your coffee mug. All of it. Drown it in bleach. Everything in a bag. Take no chances.

Sure you got it all??? Wipe is down again. Can't be too careful.

You walk out and take off your mask. You feel naked and exposed. It's still raining, but you want to walk home. Feels safer than the subway or bus, plus you need to decompress.

The streets are empty. This feels nothing like what is happening inside. Maybe people don't know???

You get home. You strip in the hallway (it's ok, your neighbors know what you do). Everything in a bag. Your wife tries to keep your toddler away, but she hasn't seen you in days, so it's really hard. Run to the shower. Rinse it all away. Never happier. Time for family.

You reflect on the fact that it's really hard to understand how bad this is - and how bad its going to be - if all you see are empty streets.

Hospitals are nearing capacity. We are running out of ventilators. Ambulance sirens don't stop.

Everyone we see today was infected a week ago, or more. The numbers will undoubtedly skyrocket overnight, as they have every night the past few days. More will come to the ER. More will be stat notifications. More will be put on a ventilator.

We were too late to stop this virus. Full stop. But we can slow it's spread. The virus can't infect those it never meets. Stay inside. Social distancing is the only thing that will save us now. I don't care as much about the economic impact as I do about our ability to save lives

You might hear people saying it isn't real. It is.

You might hear people saying it isn't bad. It is.

You might hear people saying it can't take you down. It can.

I survived Ebola. I fear #COVIDー19.

Do your part. Stay home. Stay safe.

And every day I'll come to work for you

You can follow him on Twitter here: Craig Spencer MD MPH.

Note: This thread is related to #Coronavirus #COVID19

Follow the World Health Organization's instructions to reduce your risk of infection:

1/ Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
2/ When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue - throw issue away immediately and wash hands.
3/ Avoid close contact with anyone that has fever and cough.

Craig Spencer MD MPH@Craig_A_SpencerDirector of Global Health in Emergency Medicine @ColumbiaMed/@NYPhospital and Faculty in Forced Migration & Health @ColumbiaMSPH | @MSF_USA BoD |#Ebola survivorMar. 24, 2020

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

My Coronavirus playlist

In addition to the REM song in my previous post, here's some other songs to help you enjoy your social distancing/isolation/quarantine. I'll probably add to it as I think of new songs. In some cases I'm just picking the song based on the title alone.

Okay this is an obvious choice:
Hey Nineteen - Steely Dan

Here's one that is definitely appropriate if you enjoy bars and clubs:
Ghost Town - The Specials

Going along with the undercurrent of apocalyptic social change and basic survival:
Life During Wartime - Talking Heads

Yeah, this was an easy one:
Waiting for the End of the World - Elvis Costello

Although it's about Pompeii being destroyed by Vesuvius, it kind of goes along with the impeding apocalyptic feel of today's situation.
Cities in Dust - Siouxsie And The Banshees

Another obvious one. It's widely known as the theme from "Jackass", but it's called Corona, so...
Corona - Minutemen

...more to come...

Sunday, March 15, 2020

It's the end of the world as we know it

Yes, the world as we know it is ending.

We are all about to embark on a weird, dangerous voyage through a viral nightmare.

And if or when we come out on the other side, the world will be forever changed.

Our behaviors will change.

Our fears and hopes will change.

Our former feelings of security will change.

The future will smell of low-grade anxiety and lemon-scented hand sanitizer.

It's the end of the world as we know it...

...and I don't feel fine about it.

But here we are.

Welcome to the new reality.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Sunday Night Music Club v.53

David Byrne of the Talking Heads performed a well-known hit from his work with the band.

The performance was on Saturday Night yesterday (2/29/2020) and it was the same as when I saw American Utopia in January at the Hudson Theater in NY. The show ended in early February but immediately after the run they announced a return engagement starting in September.

It was a terrific show, entertaining and captivating, and loads of fun! If you can't make it to the live performance, I'd recommend a viewing of the 1982 concert film "Stop Making Sense", which for my money is the best concert film ever made.

Here's Once in a Lifetime on SNL:
EDIT: They took down the video. Hopefully they'll release it again, and I'll link it below.

Monday, February 03, 2020

2020 Primary Calendar

Today is the day of the long-anticipated Iowa caucuses.

So I thought I'd better put up my quadrannual (I just made up that word) Presidential Primary Calendar!

I'm still checking dates and places, and I've largely omitted any Republican contests since Trump obviously has the Republican party locked down to within an inch of its life.

Here is it. Mistakes are likely, and all mine.
February 2020
3 Mon. Iowa caucuses
11 Tue. New Hampshire primaries
22 Sat. Nevada Democratic caucuses
29 Sat. South Carolina Democratic primary

March 2020

Alabama primaries
American Samoa Democratic caucus
Arkansas primaries
California primaries
Colorado primaries
Maine primaries
Massachusetts primaries
Minnesota primaries
North Carolina primaries*
Oklahoma primaries
Tennessee primaries
Texas primaries
Utah primaries
Vermont primaries*
Virginia Democratic primary
Democrats Abroad primary

10 Tue. Idaho primaries*
Michigan primaries
Mississippi primaries
Missouri primaries
North Dakota Democratic caucuses
Washington primaries

12 Thu. Virgin Islands Republican caucus*

14 Sat. Northern Marianas Democratic convention

17 Tue. Arizona Democratic primary
Florida primaries
Illinois primaries
Ohio primaries

24 Tue. American Samoa Republican caucus*
Georgia primaries

29 Sun. Puerto Rico Democratic primary

April 2020

4 Sat. Alaska Democratic primary
Hawaii Democratic primary
Louisiana primaries*
Wyoming Democratic caucuses

7 Tue. Wisconsin primaries

28 Tue. Connecticut primaries
Delaware primaries*
Maryland primaries
New York primaries
Pennsylvania primaries
Rhode Island primaries

May 2020

2 Sat. Guam Democratic caucus
Kansas Democratic primary

5 Tue.
Indiana primaries*

12 Tue. Nebraska primaries
West Virginia primaries

19 Tue. Kentucky Democratic primary
Oregon primaries

June 2020

2 Tue. District of Columbia primaries
Montana primaries
New Jersey primaries*
New Mexico primaries
South Dakota primaries*

6 Sat. Virgin Islands Democratic caucuses

July 2020
13-16 Mon. Democratic National Convention

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Impeached President Tries to Start War

Trump has been impeached, so to throw off the spotlight he ordered the assassination of a demonstrably bad guy; but since this bad guy was like the number two guy in Iran (a nation we currently aren't at war with) they are understandably pissed.

In the few days after the event, Trump has taken a more war-like stance, by threatening total war if Iran strikes back in any way. Along with threatening to destroy historic and cultural sites in Iran, which by definition is a war crime.

My fear is that there will be one or more attacks on Trump properties, which will send Dear Leader completely over the edge and result in launching nukes. And the Republicans have ensured nobody will stop this mad man, so we'll soon be dealing with a post-apocalyptic hellscape because Trump is a douchebag.

Hell of a time to be alive! (currently 8pm EST on Jan. 7th 2020...I can't tell you if we'll be here tomorrow)