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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Deaths from Covid-19 now tops the number lost on 9/11

Economic Impact

     With over 3,000 deaths from the COVID-19 virus, we now have passed the number who died on 9/11.  Our response to that event was to spend 6.4 trillion dollars to address that terrorist threat.  After this virus threat has shown our vulnerability to viruses that can cause pandemics, I wonder how much we will be willing to spend on improving our public health system and our capability to respond to future pandemics? Somehow I don't think it will be anywhere near that 6.4 trillion dollars.  This Countries priority has always been more directed at the military response to external threats than to recognize our internal weaknesses deficiencies.  You can see this today in the Governor of Florida trying to see the risk of the spread of COVID-19 as being out of state residents coming to Florida rather than his lack of action to shut down the beaches during Spring break and not ordering a shelter in place order in his state.  The only things we seem to be winning these days are tragedies, ignorance and incompetence.  Seeing refrigerated trucks backing up to hospitals in NYC to store dead bodies shows the falsehood to the phrase "ignorance is bliss."

   Retweet from Trump yesterday:

“President Trump is a ratings hit. Since reviving the daily White House briefing Mr. Trump and his coronavirus updates have attracted an average audience of 8.5 million on cable news, roughly the viewership of the season finale of ‘The Bachelor.’ Numbers are continuing to rise...

The Federal Government has started to hire retired women to enforce the 6 foot Covid-19 rule

Image may contain: 1 person

Monday, March 30, 2020

Is it safe to walk past people today with the covid-19 virus?

     Most of us are wondering how safe it is to be out near people when we don't know who might be infected and passing on the virus.  Is the air around us safe to breathe?  Here is some information that may give some information to use as a guide.
    The spread of the virus is much more likely from contact on hands than breathing it in. Washing hands after being out of the home is still the most important way to stop the spread. The size of the droplets carrying the virus is important in understanding how this virus is spread. The droplets from Covid-19 are a large droplet that causes it to drop to the surfaces in a few seconds unlike the droplets from the measles virus that are small and hang in the air for hours. Think of it as the difference between a rain droplet and fog droplet. One can hang in the air for hours and one falls to the ground rapidly. One report stated it this way: Even if the virus infects only a small fraction of those who come into contact with it, the extremely low rate among close contacts and the absence of infections in some household members of patients suggests that it rarely exists as an aerosol in most real-world situations.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Supporting our restaurants and hospital workers

      We all know how many of our restaurants are struggling to stay alive.  All of them have gone to pick up and carry out.  I wanted to highlight some of the ones that I have used.  When you order for your family just consider making a donation of an equal amount to the Howard County General Hospital Foundation to support our health care workers.  They have not seen the increase just yet but will be coming and your donation will help them fight to keep our community safe.

Mission BBQ Carries Dining at Opry Mills®, a Simon Mall ...
     Today I am highlighting Mission BBQ and have always been there for our first responders.  Check them out tonight and don't forget to also support our hospital.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Covid-19 might just get us thinking of using new products

   I know that for many families the thought of running out of toilet paper ranks up there with running out of food.  This week we still had a supply of toilet paper to last a few weeks but we were going to run out of paper towels.  A few years ago after realizing how much we spent on paper products I cut back on my use of paper towels and tried to use a cloth towel more.  Now our near term need for more paper towels might require me to venture out to buy more or search Amazon for a shipment, I found a potentially better solution.  Towels made out of bamboo.  I hesitate to even call them paper towels but they are similar.

Image result for bamboo paper towels

   At $10 for a 30 sheet roll that might seem a poor substitute for paper towels but they can be washed 100 times.  That is potentially 3,000 uses for $10.  That is a lot of spills.  The environmental impact of using bamboo is really an environmental benefit.  Bamboo regenerates in mass fully every 6 months as opposed to years for a tree.  First paper towels then maybe bamboo toilet paper?

    Even crazier than the hoarding of toilet paper is the panic buying of bottled water.  Up to the 1970's bottled water was rare.  Now people have forgotten we have water coming out of the faucet.


Monday, March 23, 2020

Kenny Rodgers RIP

Image result for kenny rogers

 Is Kenny Rodgers dying during our covid-19 pandemic telling us to "know when to fold 'em."

    You can tell I have too much time on my hands the past few days.

Howard County needs these items to deal with the virus

Howard County is a special community. We are connected by our history of resilience in trying times, our generosity to one another, and our ability to unite around a common challenge. We have received numerous offers from community members over the last few weeks asking how they can help during this pandemic.
Currently, we are asking for specific items that will help operations tremendously and keep our medical professionals safe. Below is a list of the items we are requesting from our residents. We ask that you donate new items.
N-95 Masks
Surgical Masks
Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs)
Impermeable Gowns
Medical Gloves (Non-Latex)
Hand Sanitizer (Not homemade)
Eye Protection
Flip down grinding/splash shields
Cleaning Supplies/Disinfectants
Please drop off the items to the Howard County Department of Community Resources and Services at 9830 Patuxent Woods Drive to the bins on the left of the main entrance. Collection will begin tomorrow, ‪Sunday, March 22 from 12:00pm - 5:00pm‬ and will run during the week ‪from 9:00am‬ - 5:0‪0pm. ‬
‪Please remember that a major way to help is to stay home and practice social distancing. This is a time for collective action and kindness. Together, we can save lives.

And we thought Apple, Google and Amazon was going to own the World

    Hottest company today?  It wasn't who we would have answered a month ago.  One answer today is Zoom.  Be honest, how many of us were using or even heard of Zoom a month ago.  We are entering a new paradigm of having to learn to do our activities remotely and searching for the applications that allow us to resume the semblance of a normal life.  You can throw in Instacart and Grubhub into this new reality.  Being positioned to giving people the ability to do something remotely has never been the better place to be than it is now,

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Planning for the unthinkable

   The lack of planning for disasters is just a part of human nature.  Don't plan and maybe the problem will go away.  When Trump says "who would have thought of this?" I yelled at the TV "You should have thought of it or just listened to experts that you ignore."
    I remember back in the early 1980's when FEMA had given Maryland's emergency planning agency a grant to develop a plan to respond to a nuclear attack.  The Maryland's plan was to be template for other states to use.  The primary goal was to determine how each County would evacuate its residents before the attack.  I know that sounds silly to think that you could develop a plan that would have enough time to implement and have people to follow it in a rational manner. But here was the assignment.  The President of the United States would order a national emergency and put in place an evacuation order to get as many citizens out of harms way before the attack.  As I remember it the plan supposed that there would be a 5 day warning to implement the plan.
      The person in Howard County Government responsible for emergency management headed up a local team of people from various sectors to determine the issues in having a mass evacuation of Howard County residents.  The plan was to do a staggered evacuation of our population out Route 70 to West Virginia.  Vulnerable populations first.  Schools would be responsible to evacuate school children on buses.  I can't imagine parents not running to their children's schools to get their kids but that was the plan.
      So why do I remember this?  I was involved with the development of a part of the plan for Howard County. I was the Planner for the Howard County Office on Aging and I was to find out the issues in evacuating senior citizens.  I remember meeting with managers at the local senior housing and the administrator of the one nursing home.  I learned that one of our senior housing buildings had handicapped units on the top floor because during construction they had underestimated the number of handicapped units needed and only had the top floor undone.  I was supposed to determine how many seniors didn't have cars or drive.  We had no real way to accurately determine this but I did add a question to a needs assessment that we did a couple of years later to determine how many transportation dependent seniors were in the County.
    While this exercise clearly showed that we could never develop a realistic plan for this situation it did make us aware of how we needed to plan for incidents of a more manageable scale.  One thing I remember being discussed was to have a plan that pulled together the different elements of County Government into a command center in case of a local disaster.  A few years later I was a part of this command center in the basement of the George Howard County Office Building during a 3 day winter snow storm.  Calls into the County storm hotline were directed to one of the 20 people in the Center.  The people answering the incoming calls would call out what the call was about and one of us would say we could handle the call.  I remember taking a number of calls from senior citizens who had run out of medicine.  Feldman's Pharmacy was a hero to many of the senior citizens in handling these needs.  If they couldn't drive the medicine to the person we had police drive the medicine to the person.
    Planning beats putting your head in the sand.  For our leaders not to realize how dependent we are on each other and plan for disaster in an organized manner is irresponsible. Am I thinking of anyone particularly?   

Save a life donate blood

   The blood supply is always impacted by holidays and snow storms and now we are critically low on blood because of the virus crisis.  You might be able to supply a ventilator to save a life but with your blood donation you may be able to save a life. Link to Red Cross


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Data map to assess the level of risk for the covid-19 virus in Howard County

         With all the information we are getting on the covid-19 it is frustrating that we seem to be fighting an invisible enemy.  We seem to be "shooting in the dark" with weapons that are not very well targeted.  I am sure that this experience will lead to new methods to address viruses in a faster way to control their spread.
     One of the ways this might be possible is the internet connect thermometers sold by Kinsa.  With now over a million of these thermometers in use the company can see where there is a spike in fevers above what you would expect from a normal flu season.  Of course other illnesses besides the covid-19 virus could be a cause of a fever but if you gain enough data over a long enough time you can identify the likely cause being a new virus like covid-19.

     The company puts out a national map on a daily basis to show the results that helps to show the risk level for all areas of the Country.  The picture above is yesterday's map for Howard County.  One caveat to a strict interpretation of this map is that the distribution of the thermometers might not be uniform throughout the County.  Here is the link to the daily map.  Interestingly, Florida seems to be a "hotspot" currently.  Spring breakers be wary??
      As I mentioned in the last paragraph the realty that there are only a million thermometers out there and their distribution may not be uniform across the County, it does lead one to think that governments should figure out a way to have these thermometers distributed to everyone universally and then a system of everyone recording temperatures daily during flu outbreaks.   Seems that we might have some money in our huge Defense budget to fight an enemy that has shut down our Country.


Friday, March 20, 2020

To ways we all have to do something positive today

   We may feel helpless and confused with the situation we face today but here are two ways to do something positive.
    The Howard County General Hospital needs your help to support those medical workers who are on the front lines of this crisis in our local community.  They are our HEROES.  They deserve our support! Help by donating to the Hospital Foundation.
    The United Way of Central Maryland is being overwhelmed by all types of needs of vulnerable individuals in our area.  Donate to help them meet the needs.


Welcome to the World's largest sociological experiment

    People who have the job of planning for disasters on the scale we are experiencing have usually only had computer simulations to try and determine how people will respond on a world wide scale.  We now have real data to show how different countries respond in very different patterns.  It is probably true that a tightly controlled country like China can more quickly respond with more restrictive measures than democracies.  While most Americans wouldn't trade our personal freedoms in normal times for being in a tightly controlled central government, we see how our personal freedoms and loosely organized federal system can be devastating in a pandemic.  It certainly has been shown dramatically when our President says that states and localities need to step up to the crisis because "the federal government isn't a supply clerk."
    If we needed any evidence of how Americans don't like to be controlled we only have to look at the crowded beaches in Florida and our crowded local playgrounds.  The Howard County Parks Department had to close the gates to our parks after seeing over 200 parents and children at the playground at Centennial Lake this week.  After doing that people started parking along Route 108 to enter the park.  Below you can see that the Columbia Association is taping off our tot lots to hopefully give people the message that it is not a good idea to use the area.  Maybe that is because of the 5 year old child in Elkridge that tested positive for the virus.

    If there is a silver lining in this crisis it is for all of us to examine what is necessary and what is excess.  With our uncertainty of what we need for the future maybe we will decide to use less of everything.  Maybe we don't need to wear different clothes everyday.  Maybe we go back to hand washing dishes instead of running the dishwasher.  Maybe we read more books.  Maybe we even spend more time with the people we share a home with.  Maybe we sleep more.
      Sociologists and social psychologists are going to be very busy after this virus crisis passes.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

How to help fellow Howard Countians today

  The United Way of Central Maryland has a link to see how you can volunteer with non profits in Howard County in this time of need.  Here is the link.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

When we look at somethings as essential when they are not

     In following social media that past few days I have been surprised how many people are asking where they can find toilet paper and bottled water.  I am the only one just learning that everyone seems to now refer to toilet paper as TP?  When I first started seeing the references to people needing TP I had to Google "What does TP refer to?"
    So panicking about bottled water when we all have free water coming out of our faucets is just downright foolish.  As to running out toilet paper when we have wash rags and water we have to remember there was a time that people lived fine without it.

     A health silver lining to the shortage of meat in the grocery stores might mean we cut down on our consumption of meat. 

When the gym is closed and you don't have a treadmill

Homemade treadmill.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Monday, March 16, 2020

Pulling together

   With the recommended "social distancing" we shouldn't forget that this may impose more hardship on some than others.  This is particularly true for the elderly or other people with limited mobility or resources.  It might be a time to check on our neighbors who fall into these categories.  Watch for local efforts to band together to help each other even as we take the necessary precautions to stop the spread of the virus.  I get few comments but I would be interested in any efforts that you know of in this regard.


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Maryland should follow Oregon with only mail in voting

  Oregon has had mail in voting since the late 1990's.  Why Maryland has not implemented this system is a mystery since the State sends out sample ballots to all registered voters.  Why not have real ballots with paid return postage.  This would eliminate the closing of schools for election day, hiring poll workers and make it more convenient for working people who don't want to have to rush home, skip dinner and wait in a long line to vote.  This year the exposing of voters to the Corona Virus should be the final straw in changing our State's voting system.  It is long overdue.

   My thoughts the past few days have been on the wonderful Italians who are suffering with this virus.  My experience in visiting Italy showed me how friendly and outgoing the Italian population is.  They know how to live life to the fullest.  Makes me want to visit them again after this passes to show how much they mean to Americans.  Here is a video to ''flash" singing from balconies in Italy in spite of what they are experiencing. 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

How we got to where we are today

    The past few weeks watching the Trump Administration's response to the corona virus pandemic I remember the Republican philosophy that may help explain where we are today.  In Ronald Reagan's first Inaugural Address he said, "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem."  This attitude to government has been a Republican philosophy, except when it came to the military.  It has culminated in Trump's attack on any part of the government that wasn't slavishly following him. You never know when this philosophy will lead us into a crisis but now might be a good time to have a competent government to protect us.

    Speaking of protecting us, compare the budgets of the Pentagon and the Centers for Disease Control.  CDC--1.2 billion dollars.  Pentagon 704 billion dollars which is 37% of the World's total military budget.  The Trump Administration proposed a 15% cut to the CDC budget for FY2021.  Our day of reckoning on our distorted priorities is here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

New speed cameras in school zones

   I am not sure how long this speed camera has been up on Kilimanjaro Road near Oakland Mills High School but I noticed it recently.  Just a heads up to slow down.