Is Donald Trump really demanding to be praised before sending Michigan COVID-19 aid? It sure looks that way.

I like our “woman governor” here in Michigan. I think that, given the hand she’s been dealt, she’s been doing a good job for the citizens of the state. I do wonder, however, how much better things might be for us right now if she’d spent a little more of her time over the course of this crisis stroking Donald Trump’s fragile ego, instead of focusing on frivolous things like the health and wellbeing of her constituents. As Trump said yesterday, he encouraged Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the White House coronavirus task force, not to engage with Governor Whitmer, who he referred to as “the woman in Michigan,” as she didn’t appropriately praise his effective and masterful leadership over the course of the pandemic. “If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” Donald Trump told reporters. Here, for the unbelieving, is the video.

According to Whitmer, this outrageous behavior on the part of the President is having a very real impact on our ability as a state to respond to the exponentially growing needs of those suffering from COVID-19. Following is an excerpt from news radio WJR.

…”What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts — They’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan,” Whitmer said live on air. “It’s really concerning, I reached out to the White House last night and asked for a phone call with the president, ironically at the time this stuff was going on.”

The other stuff was Trump speaking with Sean Hannity on FOX News about Whitmer, a Democrat who has said very pointed things about the federal government’s lack of coordinated response to the coronavirus crisis. Trump said of Whitmer, “She is a new governor, and it’s not been pleasant… “We’ve had a big problem with the young — a woman governor. You know who I’m talking about — from Michigan. We don’t like to see the complaints.”

Michigan’s request for disaster assistance has not yet been approved by the White House, and Trump told Hannity he’s still weighing it.

“She doesn’t get it done, and we send her a lot. Now, she wants a declaration of emergency, and, you know, we’ll have to make a decision on that. But Michigan is a very important state. I love the people of Michigan”…

“I’ve been uniquely singled out,” Whitmer went on to say. “I don’t go into personal attacks, I don’t have time for that, I don’t have energy for that, frankly. All of our focus has to be on COVID-19.”

She, of course, is right. No one, during a time of unimaginable crisis like this, should be forced to publicly lavish praise upon an elected official. It’s not surprising that this is happening, though. As you may recall, this was predicted. Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan warned us during Trump’s impeachment trial that, if we didn’t remove him from office for attempting to coerce the Ukrainian government into opening a bogus investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden, we could well see something like this happen. Remember how she said that an emboldened Donald Trump might attempt to use a domestic disaster to elicit statements of support from our governors? Well, here we are.

As for why Donald Trump has it in for Whitmer, I suspect it’s largely due to the fact that, last weekend, she said on national television that “lives will be lost because we weren’t prepared.” She was merely speaking the truth. We were unprepared for this. And people are dying. But Donald Trump clearly took it as a personal attack. Whitmer, for what it’s worth, was respectful in her comments at the time. She even said that she’d be grateful if he helped us acquire the ventilators we so desperately needed. Whitmer said, “I feel like we are making some progress, but if the federal government is able to procure some ventilators, and ship them to Michigan, we will be incredibly grateful.” But, of course, those ventilators from the federal stockpile never came. And, according to Whitmer, as you just read above, private companies have been instructed not to ship ventilators to Michigan. [If it turns out that the Trump administration did indeed intercede to stop shipments to Michigan, one hopes that it comes up in his criminal trial after the all of this is over.]

But, yeah, Whitmer wasn’t happy with the federal government, and she said so. That, by the way, is her job. She’s supposed to advocate for us, and that means calling out the federal government when they refuse to offer any significant help in the face of a pandemic… It’s kind of what we pay taxes for.

And this is federal problem. I know I’ve said it before, but Whitmer, and her fellow governors, were not privy to the the classified intelligence briefings that Donald Trump was receiving on the coronavirus outbreak back in January and February. They didn’t know the extent to which our medical infrastructure would be effected. They weren’t the ones receiving tactical advice concerning the necessity to stockpile things like medical masks and ventilators. They just knew, from our President, that everything was “very much under control.” [That, by they way, is an exact a quote from Donald Trump. On February 24, he said, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA… Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”]

Donald Trump may not like to hear it, but it’s true — had he acted quickly when he first got word in January, we would not be in the fix we’re now in, where we’re talking about the possibility that doctors in Michigan might have to deny care to the elderly because of we don’t have enough ventilators to go around. With two months lead time, Michigan hospitals could have met this massive public health crisis properly outfitted, but Donald Trump chose to downplay the severity of coronavirus for months, instead of treating it like the legitimate public health crisis that it is. And now our hospitals in Michigan are trying to do the best they can with the 1,000 ventilators they have.

So, how does Donald Trump respond to this massive failure on the part of his administration? He looks for scapegoats, and apparently he’s decided to attack everyone from the Obama administration, which left office over three years ago, to the entire country of China, while also talking glowingly of his own accomplishments. And the governors of America figure prominently is this ‘it’s everyone’s fault but mine‘ narrative. When they offer statements of fact, saying, for instance, that they’re not receiving federal assistance, they’re met with comments like those above, and quotes like this one from Trump — “(They) shouldn’t be blaming the Federal Government for their own shortcomings.”

Here’s another example of Trump coming after Whitmer yesterday.

So, yeah, Trump is taking the opportunity during this crisis, with 112,468 Americans now infected, and 1,895 already dead, to shit on the Governor of Michigan, and blame us for not being better prepared, in spite of the fact that we’d received no warnings from the federal government to do so. One just hopes the people of Michigan keep this in mind come November, when it comes time to vote for the next president of the United States. As former Obama staffer Ben Rhodes just said on Twitter, “It will be GREAT when Michigan ends the Trump presidency.” We put him in the White House, and it’s on us to take him back out.

One last thing. Maybe Whitmer played this right after all. She’s reporting this morning that we just today received our first “112,800 N95 masks… from the strategic national stockpile.” And Donald Trump just approved our disaster declaration. Maybe more people should try standing up to our trifling, orange despot.

update: the Biden campaign just released an absolutely devastating ad about Donald Trump’s reluctance to work with states that don’t “treat (him) well.”

Posted in Health, Michigan, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Brix is lying when she says that hospitals aren’t debating changes in DNR policies

Rare is the person who can both exist in Donald Trump’s orbit and retain his or her dignity. For every Anthony Fauci, there are probably several hundred Deborah Birxes — people who, for whatever reason, have chosen to take the path of least resistance, and sublimate themselves before Donald Trump. In the case of Brix, a legitimate doctor who once served as our nation’s Global AIDS Coordinator, one imagines that she’s made a deal with the devil, having come to accept that, in order to get a seat at the table in Donald Trump’s White House, one has to constantly debase oneself in front of our incredibly fragile, insecure, and narcissistic president. I’m sure, at some level, the calculus makes sense to her. She likely thinks that if, like yesterday, she goes out on the White House lawn and talks at length about how “attentive to the scientific literature, the details, and the data” Trump is, and his incredible “ability to analyze and integrate data,” that maybe, when it comes time to talk him out of reopening the economy on Easter over the objections of the entire scientific community, that he might actually listen to her. That’s never how it works out, though. Everyone who plays this game, regardless of how good their intentions, always comes out the other end, their legacy in tatters, with absolutely nothing to show for it. [Ask Rex Tillerson.]

Today, Brix did more lying for Donald Trump, saying in response to questions about the American citizens who will invariably die when we max out our ventilator capacity, “there is no situation in the U.S. that warrants that kind of discussion.” That, however, simply isn’t true. And we know it… Here, before we get to that, are the two clips of Brix noted above.

First, we now know that there are over 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States. [This, by the way, assuming we can trust the numbers being reported in other nations, makes us the world leader when to comes to the disease’s proliferation.] Second, we know that the number of confirmed cases has been doubling every two days, as testing is just now starting to be done in earnest, despite the claims from the administration weeks ago that everyone who needed a test was getting one. Third, we know that some 20% of those diagnosed with COVID-19 are requiring hospitalization, and that most of those need some kind of breathing assistance. According to reporting by NBC News, “13.8 percent (of those diagnosed) had severe disease, including respiratory problems, and 6.1 percent had critical illness, including respiratory failure.” And, fourth, we know that, when all of this started we only had about 62,000 ventilators in use in the United States, with somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 additional units being held in reserve by the federal government.

So, let’s say, for the sake of argument, that one million people come down with COVID-19 by the time that this is done. [That’s a pretty low estimate based on where we are already, and what current models are projecting.] That would mean that some 13.8% would have severe respiratory disease. That’s 138,000 — which is more than double the total number of ventilators in the United States.

Here in Michigan, we can see it playing out already. We’ve been told from public health professionals that we have roughly 1,000 ventilators in the entire state. And, as of today, we have over 3,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state. Furthermore, we’re already maxing out our ventilator capacity at Belmont and Henry Ford hospitals. [They’re currently sending cases to U-M, but, with the cases growing in Washtenaw County, one imagines it’s just a matter of time before options become more limited.]

Earlier today, as you may have seen, a memo was leaked from Henry Ford Health System in which administrators attempted to explain how they may have to make decisions as to who will receive care, ventilator access, etc, and who will not. “Patients who have the best chance of getting better are our first priority,” the memo said. “Patients will be evaluated for the best plan of care and dying patients will be provided comfort care.” This, of course, shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Of course our hospitals are considering this. They, just as well as you and I, can see the trajectory of the infection curve, and they know we have limited resources with which to meet that need. So, yes, Dr. Brix, people in the medical field are talking about this. This administration has left them no choice. [Donald Trump could have called for more ventilators to have been made two months ago, but he waiting until today.] They’re wondering what to do when the last ventilators are taken, and how they transition into a scenario where they no longer try to save the lives of those who “code,” but instead just move that patient’s ventilator to the next person waiting, and just provide palliative care to the elderly, as the young have a better chance of surviving.

This was going to be a longer post. Look for Part-II tomorrow.

Posted in Health, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 49 Comments

How to handle groceries and wash produce in the age of COVID-19

Our friend Lynne just left a comment here, alerting us to the existence of a video, made by Grand Rapids-based family practitioner, Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, about how one should handle groceries in the era of COVID-19. I thought that I’d move it up here, to the front page, as it seems like a message that everyone should hear. Given that recent studies have shown that coronavirus can live on some surfaces, like plastic and stainless steel, for up to three days, it is incredibility important that we pay attention to what VanWingen is saying here. So please watch and share, OK?

As VanWingen says, “This all seems a bit time consuming, but, in truth, these days people do have a bit more time on their hands… (so) let’s be methodical and be safe, and not take any chances.”

[See also the Washington Post’s “Don’t panic about shopping, getting delivery or accepting packages.”]

Posted in Food, Health, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

“I don’t know what I can do to save people anymore.” A Michigan ER nurse, saying that “life and death” decisions are being made right now because of capacity and resource issues, begs people to “stay home” in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

As of right now, Michigan is one of the top five states in the country with regard to diagnosed COVID-19 cases. According to today’s numbers, we now have nearly 2,300 confirmed cases, and 43 people here in our state have died as a result of the virus. And, as predicted, it’s beginning to take its toll on our emergency care infrastructure, which is being pushed far beyond its limits.

Here, to give you an idea of what’s going on in some of our Michigan hospitals, is a social media post from an emergency room nurse in Novi by the name of Mary MacDonald. It’s sobering stuff. MacDonald paints a bleak picture — one in which nurses are being assigned single surgical masks, and told to make them work for the duration — one in which, for lack of resources, life and death decisions are already being made on behalf of patients. To give you a concrete example, MacDonald says that, during a shift yesterday in Southfield, one of her patients was put on the hospital’s very last available ventilator. The implication, of course, being that the next patient in need of one may not be able to receive treatment. And we know this is happening elsewhere. Yesterday, it was reported that Beaumont hospitals were also approaching ventilator capacity. [The Big 3 are coming forward to assist in the manufacture of ventilators, but they’re still some time away, regardless of what Donald Trump may say. And, as of right now, we only have approximately 1,000 in the entire state.]

“It’s getting to the point now that it’s going to be just like Italy. We intubated, from 10:00 PM last night to this morning, we intubated two of my patients within a half-hour. And upwards of 10 patients were put on ventilators. My patient took the last ventilator available in the hospital,” MacDonald says in her video. She goes on to add, “Normally, if a patient was to pass away, it would be because we tried everything that we could, we did everything that we could, we had all the resources and all the people that we needed to help save this patient’s life, and it was just their time. And now we aren’t giving the patient the time to choose whether it’s their time or not. We’re choosing for them.”

I don’t mention any of this to scare you. I’m not trying to be sensationalistic about what’s happening. I think it’s important that we remain calm about this. But, at the same time, people need to know that, when people like this ER nurse urge us to stay home, and disengage from others, they do so for a very a legitimate reason. Our hospitals are being hit by a tsunami right now, and it’s our duty to give them a fighting chance by staying inside, keeping away from others, and slowing the spread of this deadly disease. Our front-line heath care workers are putting their lives on the line right now, at this very minute, and we owe it to them to do everything in our power to shelter-in-place and stay as healthy as we possibly can. I know it might seem like it to a lot of you, given what you’re seeing outside your window right now, but this is deadly fucking serious. This is literally life and death. This is an incredibly virulent virus, and, when you’re out, you’re helping spread it. So, please, if you can, stay in.

Posted in Health, Michigan, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 76 Comments

Documenting Ypsilanti in the time of COVID-19

Back in 2017, I got the idea that we should designate a weekend to collectively documenting our lives in Ypsilanti. I called the initiative #DocumentYpsi, and the results were pretty awesome. In fact, I was 100% committed, given the response, to make sure that it became an annual thing. But, like so many other things, I just forgot about it… until today… when I got word from my friend Kim Clarke that she wants to do something similar in conjunction with the Ypsilanti Historical Society, where she serves on the archive advisory board. Specifically, she wants to be sure that the archive accurately reflects what life in Ypsilanti was like during the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020. So, with that in mind, I’ve asked her to join me for a virtual beer to discuss what she has in mind, and how readers of this site might be able to help.

MARK: If you’re cool with it, I was thinking that we could start by talking about your day job, mining the U-M historical archives… You’ve been spending a lot of time these last several years, digging through archival materials, and I’m curious as to how it’s informed your perspective on the present… I mean, do you ever consider what someone doing your job 100 years from now might find themselves struggling to understand?

KIM: I spend a good deal of time at the Bentley Historical Archives. My job is managing a narrative website called the U-M Heritage Project, where we research and develop stories about the people and events that have shaped the institution through the years. The Bentley has terrific resources, both in terms of archival documents and images. We couldn’t do our site without the Bentley’s materials.

But, as I suspect is the case with anyone who does historical research, I always want to know more about daily life and the everyday person. I bet the archivists at the Bentley feel the same way.

So, for example, if the president of the university bans automobiles on campus because too many accidents are occuring, what did students think about that? That happened in 1925, when cars and traffic management were still a bit of a novelty. We can look at the Michigan Daily archives for some student insights. But wouldn’t it be great to have diaries from students, or letters home saying, “Hey, Dad, come and get the roadster, because I can’t have it on campus anymore.”

And there are definitely letters, scrapbooks and journals in the archives. I’m just greedy and want more.

MARK: I’m curious what you found in the U-M archives about the flu of 1918, assuming you’ve looked. Was there much?

KIM: I confess I have not done a deep dive into the 1918 epidemic. I know from others’ work that it crippled the campus and Ann Arbor. The epidemic coincided with America’s entry into the Great War, and students were allowed to join what was known as the Student Army Training Corps. It was similar to today’s ROTC programs. Just as the flu was spreading, SATC recruits were housed in the Michigan Union, which was new and had yet to open the public. We know now that infection disease and close quarters are a deadly mix. So when the flu hit Ann Arbor, 57 SATC recruits died.

President Harry Hutchins ordered all students and faculty to wear masks, and you can find one of those masks at the Bentley in a student scrapbook. Large gatherings were banned throughout the city. Enrico Caruso was scheduled to perform at Hill Auditorium, and was forced to cancel.

[Caption from the Bentley: “All U-M faculty and students were ordered to wear face masks in the fall of 1918 during a global influenza outbreak post-World War I. U-M student Alfred Wilkinson Wilson kept his in a scrapbook now housed at the Bentley, along with the mask’s directions for use. Influenza and pneumonia killed more than 15,000 people in Michigan between October 1918 and April 1919, with the highest death rate among people in their 20s.”]

MARK: I think, because of cell phones, the pervasiveness of camera technology, and our selfie-centric culture, there’s a sense that everything is being recorded, and that the job of future historians is going to be relatively easy with regard to what you’re talking about. I suspect, however, the opposite may be true. The glut of material, I’m thinking, could be absolutely impossible to wade through.

KIM: There is a glut. But at the same time, if the photos – and the texts and the emails and the emojis – never leave your phone, tomorrow’s historians will never know about them.

MARK: Oh, I’m just assuming that everything I do online has been captured by someone. I doubt they’re well-intentioned people looking out for future historians and sociologists, though. More likely, they’re people like Mark Zuckerberg, looking to monetize it. Still, though, I suspect that, if humanity exists into the future, it’ll be out there, and our ancestors, for a price, will be able to find out every cringeworthy Lifetime movie we ever watched, and every sexualy-suggestive emoji we ever sent. I guess that’s one good thing to be said for extinction.

KIM: Right. We’re going to see a lot of bad photos of what people had for dinner. I guess culinary historians will appreciate it.

MARK: So, what made you think, “We need to document what’s going on right now in Ypsilanti”?

KIM: I went for a walk around town this past Saturday (March 21) and was struck by all the handmade signs taped to storefronts. Owners saying they were closed, or cutting back hours, or working online only. It was pretty heartbreaking, but at the same time, so many of the signs had such grace. The Enchanted Florist had a beautiful sign. So did Unicorn Feed and Supply. These are businesses that are closing their doors and who knows if and when they will re-open. And still, the owners were thanking customers, encouraging good health, and looking ahead. I just thought: We need to capture this. And you don’t have to be a business owner to have had your world turned upside down right now.

MARK: And then you ran the idea by the folks at the Historical Society?

KIM: Yes. I reached out to Bill Nickels, who is president of the Ypsilanti Historical Society, and asked what he thought about creating a visual archive and asking people to share their photos. He liked the idea and so here we are. I created a Facebook group and hope people will show what’s happening in their world during this crazy time. I also hope it might be a way for people to connect, because life is pretty isolated right now.

MARK: Both you and he are to be commended. I seem to recall a time, not long ago, when I heard that people were trying to get their local historical archives to start Occupy Wall Street collections to no avail. I think the sense back then was that it wasn’t the place of archives to get involved in the present. Or at least that’s the sense I got, having talked with a friend who is an archivist in New York City. He, by the way, was successful in getting his institution to archive materials from both the Women’s March and Occupy Wall Street, but it took some doing… The role of a local history archive in the present is an interesting one to debate.

KIM: Exactly. National stories and movements will be recorded from many angles by different entities. But capturing local events often is in the hands of citizens, particularly with the demise of local newspapers. So I hope people will approach this as if it is 2120 and their grandchildren are wondering what the coronavirus epidemic of 2020 was like in Ypsilanti. Let’s provide a snapshot for them.

MARK: What kind of response have you gotten thus far from the community? Anything that you weren’t expecting?

KIM: About 90 people have joined the group so far, and I hope it grows. Folks have shared pictures from around town – a pretty desolate town. We have a video clip from a nature walk. One woman is in isolation and shared a photo from her bed. That was sobering. All of these images are exactly the kind of scenes I hope people will contribute: their perspectives during this time.

As I described in setting up the page, share anything that captures this moment in time: Stocking the pantry, videochats with co-workers, jigsaw puzzles with your kids, layoff notices, social distancing in the park, your Netflix watchlist.

MARK: I’ll have to check Governor Whitmer’s shelter-in-place order, but I don’t believe there’s an exception for “documenting the desolation.”

KIM: Going outside for a run or to walk the dog is allowed and encouraged. So why not get out of the house for a bit and take a few photos for the archives while you’re at it? Seems like a win-win to me.

[If you should take pictures for this, and you share them on social media, please post a link in this thread, or just send me the photos and I’ll find a way to share them.]

Posted in Art and Culture, Health, History, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments


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