When Coronavirus Hits Home

Our hometown of Wichita largely locked down at the moment, a response to the increase in coronavirus that followed a brief unlocking, and that’s unsettling enough. Worse yet, we’ve learned that we’re in the most infected part of town.
The 67203 zip code is a nice area, comprised mostly of the picturesque Riverside neighborhood and the adjacent historic Delano district, and the folks here are mostly friendly and don’t deserve this. We attribute the high infection rate to facts that it’s in heart of the city, and that Riverside’s many parks and art museum and botanical garden as well as Delano’s popular nightspots draw many visitors from all around the city. Also, people here tend to socialize with their neighbors more than in other parts of town.
These are usually selling points for the area, but not during a coronavirus epidemic. Suddenly it’s better to be of those boring suburbs no ventures into except to deliver packages and nobody even knows his neighbors.
There’s not much to do about it except to stay at home as much as possible and wear a face mask when forced to venture outside. We’ve already been doing that for what seems an eternity, and try to be even more strict about it until given an all-clear signal by the local health officials. At this point we’re willing toke our chances, but we don’t want to put any of our nice neighbors at risk.

— Bud Norman

The Coronavirus Briefs Reboot

President Donald Trump resumed his coronavirus press briefings on Tuesday after a two month hiatus, and it was strikingly different from his previous shows. It probably won’t get the boffo ratings that Trump boasted about before, but at least it will get better reviews.
The first round of coronavirus press briefings were the most compellingly bizarre spectacles this side of Netflix’ “The Tiger King.” They featured up to two hours of Trump angrily berating reporters for their questions, pushing his top health experts away from the podium to contradict what they were saying, and making extravagant promises that everything was under control and America would soon be roaring back to business. He stopped doing it after extemporaneously saying to a live nationwide audience that perhaps covid patients should be injected with bleach or other household disinfectants, and well-deserved and widespread ridicule ensued. Trump said the briefings were a waste of time because of how the fake news media twisted his words to make him look bad, but reports indicated that Trump’s most trusted advisors persuaded him was the live-on-air that was dragging his poll numbers down.
This time Trump mostly stuck to the script during a taut thirty minutes at the podium, and he struck a very different tone. He freely admitted that “It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better,” which is very uncharacteristic of man who prefers to talk about how everything’s great and it’s going to get so much better your head will spin, and he added “That’s something I don’t like saying about things, but that’s the way it is.”
He also urged Americans to wear face masks while in public, despite his long resistance to doing so himself. He once again boasted of the extensive testing that’s being done in America, although he recently told a rally crowd he’d asked health officials “to slow the testing down, please” and has proposed cutting funding for the tests. All in a surprisingly somber voice and civil demeanor, with no castigation of the reporters and none of his insult comic shtick about Democrats, but it remains to be seen how long her can keep that up.
Trump had some trouble answering questions about his infrequent mask-wearing while in public, but the only big gaffe came in response to an off-topic question about Ghislaine Maxwell, who currently in jail facing charges that she groomed underage to have sex with notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who officials say committed suicide in federal prison after being convicted of rape and other sex crimes. “I wish her well,” Trump said, admitting that he Maxwell and Epstein from frequent encounters on the Palm Beach, Florida, social circuit. Trump ordinarily dismisses anyone he knows who is in trouble as people he hardly knows, but in the case of Maxwell there’s too much photographic proof of the friendship, and we guess he didn’t want to seem a fair weather friend.
Trump’s longtime association with Epstein and Maxwell wasn’t much of a problem when he was running against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, whose hound dog of an ex-president also had close ties to the couple, but this time around the Democratic nominee isn’t named Clinton. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden might choose to take the high road and not exploit the Trump-Epstein-Maxwell relationship, but not everyone opposed to Trump will be quite so polite. Expect “I wish her well” to become a widely seen internet “meme.”
What matters more is what Trump does to slow the spread of the virus, and on Tuesday he didn’t lay out any specific plan. At least he didn’t exude improbable optimism and make extravagant promises, and we suppose that’s a start.

— Bud Norman

Holding Steady in Changing Winds

The state of Mississippi has removed a confederate symbol from its flag, the state of Oklahoma has voted to expand Medicaid coverage, Kansans are mostly willing to go along with mandatory face masks, and the latest polling also shows that such reliably Republican states as Georgia and North Carolina and Texas are up for grabs in the next presidential election. This should be frightening to President Donald Trump, but he’s still stubbornly defending the confederacy, trying to undo “Obamacare” and leave millions uninsured during a pandemic, and refusing to be seen in a face mask.
Trump has an undying faith in his gut instincts about public opinion, which made him a reality television star and somehow got him elected to the presidency despite losing the popular vote by some three million ballots, but his reelection strategy strikes us as counter-intuitive.
If the great state of Mississippi — or “Mississippi Goddamn,” as the great jazz singer Nina Simone called it — is abandoning the confederal cause, and so is the NASCAR stock car racing circuit and the Navy and Marines, we think that at long last the confederacy truly is a lost cause. There seems to be an emerging social consensus that black lives matter, and despite the sporadic violence that’s come of it Trump’s 1968-era “law and order” message isn’t playing well in 2020..
We had our clearly stated ideological objections to “Obamacare” when it barely won congressional approval and was signed into law, and to such big government programs in general, but at the moment even Oklahomans are wanting to expand health insurance to their fellow citizens. Trump promised to not only repeal “Obamacare” but replace it with something that would cover everybody at a greatly reduced cost, but he hasn’t announced it after three and a half years in office, and once again he seems out of step with these crazy times.
We hate wearing face masks as much as the next guy, and will miss the erotic frisson of full facial nudity, but the know-it-all experts say it will help us from getting infected and infecting others, so we’re willing to put up with it for a while. Even here in Kansas most of our fellow live-free-or-die citizens seem to agree, and we think there’s a chance the Democrats might pick up their firste Senate seat since the Great Depression. Trump moved the Republican convention from North Carolina to Florida because of face mask and social distancing rules, but Florida’s seen a very scary spike in coronavirus cases and now has similar rules, and Trump once again seems behind the news cycle.
Trump is still promising that the coronavirus will magically disappear, the economy will once again roar, and that America’s race problems can be “very quickly and easily solved,” but he only has four months to pull that off. Trump’s gut instincts not withstanding, it seems a risky strategy for reelection

— Bud Norman

Better Not to Know

President Donald Trump made another trip to a swing state factory that manufactures face masks on Thursday, once again declining to wear a face mask, and as usual he said some interesting things to the assembled media. He continued to brag about all the coronavirus testing that’s going on, but also said that testing “might be overrated, it is overrated,” and then mused it could even be the reason the United States has so many coronavirus cases.
“And don’t forget, we have more cases than anybody in the world. But why? Because we do more testing,” Trump said. “When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases.”
Which leads us to wonder why Trump is so often exaggerating the amount of testing that’s going on. If we weren’t doing any testing at all, Trump’s reasoning suggests, we wouldn’t have any cases at all and everyone could go back to work and resume drinking in crowded bars and the economy would again be robust by Election Day
Although don’t have any more medical credentials than Trump, we think it possible that we’d still have many hundreds of thousands of coronavirus causes but not know about it. That might suit Trump’s political purposes, for now, but eventually everyone in the country will know someone in increasing pile of corpses, and in the long run he’d be better off finding to actually stop coronavirus infections.
To do that Trump will need the help of the most excellent medically credentialed people in government and academia and the private sector, but they keep saying gloomy things that don’t jibe with Trump’s upbeat rhetoric. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s most respected infectious disease expert since President Ronald Reagan’s administration, told a Senate committee this week that schools might not be able to open in the fall, and Trump told the press “That is not an acceptable answer.” On Thursday Dr. Rick Bright, until recently in charge of the government’s effort to find a coronavirus vaccine, criticized Trump’s response to the coronavirus before a Senate committee, warning of the “darkest winter and quoted another official saying “We’re in deep shit,” so Trump dismissed him as somebody he never even met but heard bad things about and a “disgruntled employee” bent on revenge for a well-earned demotion.
Somehow we are not reassured that the president didn’t know the man he had in charge of finding a vaccine for America’s greatest public health problem in more than a century, or that he demoted him based on what he’d heard from some people. Bright was demoted after publicly disagreeing with Trump’s endorsement of hydrochloroquine as a cure for coronavirus, which Trump and his media allies touted until studies came in showing it does more harm than good, and hydroxychloroquine faded from the news, at one point supplanted by Trump’s suggestion that infections of household disinfectants might work on coronavirus patients, but Trump was back sticking to his claims on Thursday.
At this point, we’re inclined to stop the reading the news. If we did, perhaps our president wouldn’t be saying and doing such stupid things.

— Bud Norman