Off the Record (April 1, 2020)

AS OF LATE MONDAY, plague stats for Mendocino County reveal only four infections, all of them travel-related. Ms. Dukett of Public Health explained that Mendo's tests are sent by courier to a public health lab in Santa Rosa, the round-trip process taking 4-5 days. In theory. But given the number of pendings, it’s taking longer. 

THREE OF THE FOUR MENDO POSITIVES  are described only as "inland" persons which, in Mendocino County, is everyone east of the Pacific tide line. The first case was identified as a young woman in Gualala who went immediately into isolation "with close active monitoring." Dr. Doohan, the county's chief medical officer, was quite candid about the Gualala case: ”I have ordered the closure of a business that knowingly continued to operate in a manner that created a risk to the public’s health, the Breaker’s Hotel and Vue restaurant in Gualala.” Which is where the young woman worked who tested positive.

SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS fleshes out the fed bailout: "Federal proposal: $250B to expand unemployment to cover 100% of lost wages (for "average worker") for up to four months, including independent contractor and self-employed are eligible. Loans to small business to cover fifty percent of payroll for eight weeks, forgivable to employers who keep employees working. Direct payments of $1,200 for up to $75k; $2,400 married up to $150k, $500 per kid; $500B to distressed companies; $350B for small business loans."

LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI is 101 today. As a youth, I haunted Ferlinghetti's City Lights Book Store, lurking in the basement probably reading his poetry as I waited for the latest Ramparts, The Realist, the I.F. Stone Newsletter, Minority of One and whatever else I could find in subversive lit. Many years later, I met the man himself, a modest, humorous man who has always been good to the ava, making personally certain we weren't lost in the vastness of the shop's magazine rack. I can't think offhand of anybody more central, more important to the cultural and politically resistant life of San Francisco and beyond than Ferlinghetti, model world citizen.

NOT GETTING THE WORD. The volume of misunderstanding and misinformation on the social media I see reminds me of what I first had literally beaten into me in Marine boot camp — in '57 beatings were still a routine part of the training, violence being a time-tested attention-focuser — that ten percent of the people never have any idea of what is happening. Ever. These days, given the internet, I'd say it's more like twenty percent.

SPEECH THERAPISTS to the fore! The constant iteration in formal speech of "to be honest" and "frankly" dropped into simple declarative sentences, as is routine on NPR, to have the opposite of the intended effect, if there is an intended effect other than to occupy dead air. If we have to be reassured by the speaker him/herself that he/she is honest and frank, well…Don't get me started on "like" and up talk.

LISTENING TO GOVERNOR NEWSOM’S OVERLONG presser last week we started to get a little more understanding of the “modeling” the governor has been using to estimate the possible extent of the virus expansion in California. Newsom’s medical officer/spokesperson, Dr. Mark Ghaly, seemed to be saying that they were using the modeling to help predict the load and capacity needs of the state’s healthcare system, not specifically to estimate the actual number of expected cases. This is prudent because the State and the medical system need to have some idea what they might be facing in the next few weeks so they can plan for it. Ghaly said they are adjusting their “models” based on current experience and data. But to use those estimates as Supervisor McCowen did at Tuesday’s virtual board meeting to wildly speculate on 30,000 or 40,000 cases in Mendocino County doesn’t do anybody any good. (Mark Scaramella)

TRUMP'S PRESSER Thursday afternoon was, as he said 38 times while I watched, "incredible." Everybody and everything was incredible. Except, of course, the fake news bedeviling him despite the incredibility he's created. Incoherent as always, Trump did manage to confirm, for those people who look to him for confirmation of reality, that the manufacture and distribution of the products required to test and treat the virus has nearly caught up with demand, which may mean that even the outbacks like Mendocino County will soon have the testing devices with which to confirm the true number of cases here. So far there are four confirmed with a bunch pending. None of the four are quarantined and neither of them have required hospitalization.

GETTING KINDA ROUGH out there judging from on-line back and forth. A Coastie wrote, "There are 21 active Airbnb listings in FB taking reservations. Last time I checked, Airbnb wouldn't divulge the names or addresses of the hosts."

AS THE KEYBOARD MOB howled condemnation, a knowledgeable person calmly pointed out, "Appearances can be deceiving. They just haven't updated their calendars; if you did try to make a reservation, the host would most likely decline. I know this because I help AirBnb hosts with marketing online."

THE NOT ENOUGH bailout money won't reach the millions of people who need it until early May, and so far it's a one-time payout of $1200, twice that for a couple, $500 per child.

3.4 MILLION people have already filed unemployment claims, a figure predicted to double in a week.

AMERICA'S MEDICAL MAN, Dr. Fauci, said yesterday that Americans should prepare for the outbreak to become seasonal. "I think it well might become a seasonal, cyclic thing that totally emphasizes the need to do what we're doing in developing a vaccine, testing it quickly. We're dealing with Cycle A right now.”

PLAGUED THOUGHTS. If there are no corona virus cases in Lake County is methamphetamine the possible antidote?

WITH BLOOD BANK donations among the casualties of the plague, I remember trying to sell blood at a commercial operation just for the experience of it, only to be rejected as too old. My fellow donors were a woebegone collection of the alcoholic and the drugged, and I wasn't mollified by the explanation that after a certain age, which I definitely was, the stuff of life isn't as transfusable as it was. But, but, but how about the poisons these people are loaded up on? It's the age of the stuff, the doctor explained, not what you pollute yourself with. Non-commercial blood banks still take the Anderson Blue.

WITH THE BANKS closed Friday, and the Federal Reserve's printing presses running round the clock, and not to be too big a crank about it, but we've been on faith-based money for years now, ever since Nixon took US off the gold standard. It reminds me of the old Soviet joke: You pretend to work, and we'll pretend to pay you.

THE BANKS suddenly closing Friday — at least in Marin — with no prior notice merely adds to the apocalyptic vibe prevalent since that resounding Friday, the 13th of March, 2020, the day everyone seemed aware at once that this corona thing was dead serious. Even the cluster-dependent beach yobbos seemed to have gotten the word that this thing can kill them if they don't isolate their insensate selves.

I WAS HAVING TROUBLE describing the absence of people on the streets when Mike Kalantarian reminded me of the neutron bomb. O yeah, remember when the lunatics were selling it as the perfect weapon because it killed all the people but left property intact? Boonville looks like the day after. 

GOTTA LOVE the pure insouciance of the ever-larger homeless camp a little north of the runway at the Ukiah Airport. An American flag went up over the site this week. And wouldn't one suppose that given all the instantly vacant Ukiah motels that the homeless would be ordered into them? I know, I know. Like herding cats, but if the idea is to stop the spread of the virus the most likely spreaders oughtta be spread.

ONE SIGN of the Great Reversion that seems to have kicked off is the many posted photos of coyotes trotting along Frisco's deserted streets. At the top of my aerobic hill in San Anselmo, a wolf-size coyote is a regular sight, undoubtedly fattened on a regular menu of pet cats, whose forlorn owners festoon neighborhood billboards with missing notices, large rewards attached.

BETTER NOT HAPPEN HERE: A 17-year-old LA kid who died when he was turned away from the closest hospital because he didn't have insurance. Given that Ukiah and Willits hospitals are privately owned for profit businesses, a Supe's declaration that no one gets turned away might be Mendo-necessary. The boy was turned away from an urgent care and died Tuesday after being admitted to a public hospital in the northern LA neighborhood of Lancaster. His positive coronavirus test didn't come back until after his death.

“NOTHING has changed since the dawn of time. Since the Lascaux caves. As soon as night falls we still gather together around any vague light, drowning our sorrows in primitive music and intoxicating substances. Man may have learnt how to fly beyond the stars, to walk on the moon, to gorge on the Milky Way, but he still returns to his cave, the fear of the bear deep inside him.” (Pascal Garnier)

SAN ANSELMO is not a place that inspires fear unless it's the fear of boredom. A big part entire family lives within a few blocks, with three more branches in nearby San Francisco. Life in San Francisco, as we know, can be wildly unpredictable, and sometimes frightening. But if anything fear-inspiring ever happens in San Anselmo, it happens indoors, and it isn't likely to be driven by fear. San Anselmo is my Lascaux cave from late Thursday afternoon until early Sunday morning when I depart for Mendocino County, a much more diverse and interesting place, to me anyway but, these odd days, as silent as San Anselmo is every day.

EVERYONE'S WORLD has suddenly been upended, and San Anselmo is confronting its fear while at the same time expressing support for the front-line people who are fighting the affliction for all of us. At 8pm we all go out in front of our houses and howl like wolves. Friday night, the whole seldom seen population of my street and all the surrounding streets, and the whole town of thousands of people, stood outside their caves and howled, howled a feral cacophony of multi-generational tribute howls to our life lines, the doctors and nurses and store clerks and cops and delivery people everywhere in the world. And we did it again Saturday night and will do it every night until we win.

I HOWLED in Boonville promptly at 8pm Sunday night. A dog down the street answered with his howl, but no humans. I’ll howl again tonight, and keep on howling for a few minutes every night hereafter. In Philo, Dave Severn and his family howled.

EVEN THE DA LIKES SUNNY'S: "As L likes to say, 'set your money free so it can help others.' So on Lee's suggestion, L and Lee set some money free this morning at Sunny's Donuts on South State. I was the appreciative recipient of two sugar-raised doughnuts and one plain cake. Yum! P.S. Sunny's current C19 shelter at home promotion is to spend $5 in the store and get a free coffee." (DA Eyster)

TAX DAY NOW JULY 15: Treasury, IRS extend filing deadline and federal tax payments regardless of amount owed.

ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK

 [1] Anyway. Beautiful early spring day out west here yesterday. Highs near 60, crystal clear blue skies, and nary a CV case in sight. Talked to the lady down the street who works records up at the hospital. ZERO cases reported thus far, with life proceeding in pretty much a normal fashion, other than the mandatory business closures. As an added bonus, I get to skip an upcoming totally unnecessary doctor’s appointment so that we don’t unnecessarily overburden the local medical system, which is currently showing no signs whatsoever of being unburdened. Another plus. The local hiking, running, golfing, and biking communities are having a field day with their time “at home,” evidently interpreting the rules of work from home quite liberally in their favor. A paid spring every day exercise break – what’s not to love? The fact that we don’t live in NYC or Seattle I guess. Not that I would ever consider that in my worst nightmares, even under normal conditions. 

[2] Imagine being an insurer when a truly earth-shaking disaster hits, and you’re on the hook for all of it. Shouldn’t you be afraid of going out of business from all that liability? Now imagine being an insurer where there is simply no downward pressure on premiums, because people are infinitely motivated to pay through the nose No. Matter. What. Medical insurance in the USA needs to be abolished. Demand Medicare for All.

[3] If you take the expected events out of insurance, and make it true insurance, the price drops drastically, because most people don’t have major medical events requiring prolonged hospital stays and surgery.

I kept trying to explain this aspect of Obamacare to a young woman who thought she “needed” insurance. They put that “access to health care” slogan out there in the MSM and it amazed me how many people bought it.

Everyone knows that insurance companies hinder “access to health care.”

This woman had asthma. I asked her how much she spent in a typical year, for treatment of that “pre-existing condition.” Generally she spent nothing, but the amount she spent for “access” even with a subsidy, was always more than a doctor visit cost.

Then there was the specter of hospitalization. The insurance available on the bronze plan was lousy insurance.

So she spent more per month, to get “better” insurance, and still faced co-pays and an increased deductible.’

All this does is allows hospitals to charge more money for their services.

If they could only charge what people could afford to pay, they would go out of business.

People don’t understand that for the most part, they are self-insured.

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