Biohazard

Coronavirus: 21st Century Pandemic – By the Numbers

Local Pandemic Headlines

Hawaii Today – Record numbers of new daily COVID-19 cases explode previous Hawaii case counts. 

State health officials reported a record 233 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, including 9 on Maui  and 5 new cases on Hawaii Island.  Virus death count steady at 40, statewide.

  • The Department of Health says at least 86 of Thursday’s 355 cases were linked to the Oahu Community Correctional Center.
  • The health department also reported the deaths of two Oahu men over the age of 60, bringing the state’s death toll to 40.
  • Even without the jail cases, Thursday’s numbers would be the highest recorded to date. The previous record high was 231 cases on Saturday.

Hawaii has the fastest-growing infection rate in the country, according to several statistical models.

The effective reproduction rate or Rt — also known as the infection rate — is a mathematical model for how many more people a person is predicted to spread the virus to, says Thomas Lee, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Hawaii Manoa.

“Every death reminds us how very serious this disease is,” Health Director Bruce Anderson said. “Coronavirus can strike down anyone of any age. We can all protect each other and prevent more hospitalizations and deaths.”

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said Wednesday that if the daily statewide COVID-19 case numbers continue to be in the 150-200 range in a week, he’d advise Gov. David Ige “to do the full shutdown and go back to a four-week period of stay-at-home” mandates.  “We have some of the highest transmission rates right now in the country,” he said. “And that’s a reflection of having had so few cases before. We had very little immunity.”

The Department of Health is investigating multiple coronavirus clusters — as Hawaii’s case numbers inched close to 4,000.

State health officials reported 202 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, including two on Kauai, two on Hawaii island, one on Maui and 197 on Oahu.

  • The state’s intensive care beds were at 56% capacity as of last Friday, according to Lt. Gov. Josh Green, and health officials are warning that hospitals could be overrun by the end of the month if the virus continues to spread at its current rate. At least two hospitals in the state are near capacity.

In recent weeks, we have seen a surge in COVID-19 cases statewide, including growing numbers on the Big Island. Today we saw 5 new Big Island cases, bringing Hawaii County to 22 known active cases. 3 of these individuals are currently hospitalized. Statewide, the total number of identified positive cases is 4,543, and of these 2,747 are currently active.


 

HAWAII COVID-19 IMPACT

August 13, 2020

Hi 8 13

 

 


 

 

Hawaii COVID-19 Trend Analysis as of August 12, 2020

Hi Deaths

Us Cases 8 12


  • Hawaii’s governor and mayors reevaluated plans for a projected Aug. 1 reopening, has been pushed out to September, and subject to change as conditions warrant.   

 

National Pandemic Headlines

  • Several European countries, including Greece and Spain, enacted new restrictions in an effort to contain outbreaks without having to revert to major shutdowns.

USA breaks through the 5 million mark for COVID-19 infections, but its just another day in the White House and the President, where its an absence of governance — as usual.

The U.S. reports its highest single-day virus death toll of the month.

Officials across the United States reported at least 1,470 deaths on Wednesday, the highest single-day total yet in August, according to a New York Times database, and a reflection of the continued toll of the early-summer case surge in Sun Belt states.

More than half the deaths reported on Wednesday were spread across five states that saw some of the most dramatic case spikes in June and July. Texas reported more than 300 deaths Wednesday. Florida more than 200. And Arizona, California and Georgia all reported more than 100 each.

Even as the number of new cases has fallen from its late July peak, deaths have remained persistently high. For more than two weeks, the country has averaged more than 1,000 deaths a day, more than twice as many as in early July.

 

“It’s unacceptable for the country to have testing come back a week or even two weeks later,” Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, he said on Sunday. “It’s not useful at that point.”

  • Six months since the very first cases of Covid-19 were diagnosed in China, more than 162,000 Americans are now dead – by far the biggest toll of any nation afflicted by the raging global pandemic.
  • Democratic vice presidential pick Sen. Kamala Harris on Wednesday blamed President Donald Trump for the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.   “This virus has impacted almost every country, but there’s a reason it has hit America worse than any other advanced nation,” she said.
  • “His refusal to get testing up and running, his flip-flopping on social distancing and wearing masks, his delusional belief that he knows better than the experts — all of that is the reason and the reason an American dies of Covid-19 every 80 seconds,” she said.
  • When other countries are following the science, Trump pushed miracle cures he saw on Fox,” Harris said. “While other countries were flattening the curve, he said the virus would just, poof, go away, quote ‘like a miracle.’ So when other countries opened back up for business, what did we do? We had to shut down again.”
The U.S. has the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world with more than 5 million cases and at least 165,328 deaths as of Wednesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

 

BeyondKona continues to monitor and report on the COVID-19 pandemic, sourcing information from the most reliable and available data sources. 


COVID-19 Impact on the United States

 August 14, 2020

 

  • COVID 19 Case Total exceeds 5.3 million and climbing / U.S. Deaths are now nearing 170,000 (169,131), as of August 12th, 2020, according to the Worldometer data tracker,  The number — far higher than any other nation’s — exceeded the number of U.S. lives lost to the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks combined.

 

 

Us Deaths 8 12

 

Us Cases 8 12

 



GLOBAL COVID-19 IMPACT 

 August 14, 2020

 

Global Case Graph 8 1

The cumulative total of Covid-19 cases confirmed since the start of the outbreak worldwide breaks 20 million, with an average over 10,000 new virus-related deaths per day.

  • 20,021,321 Cases WORLDWIDE (up-to-date)
  •  733,918 Deaths WORLDWIDE (USA continues to lead the world in virus deaths)
  • 12,896,895 Recoveries WORLDWIDE  Global Stat Graph

The earliest known case of the novel coronavirus dates back to Nov. 17, 2019, when a 55-year-old individual from Hubei province in China contracted the virus.  Recent evidence indicates the COVID-19 virus that taken a serious toll of New York lives originated from Europe, not China as previously thought.

That’s 10 times more worldwide than the globe reported just a month ago. As of today (April 2), the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has spread to 204 countries and regions, according to Worldometer, which relies on multiple data sources to track the virus spread. For more data detail we recommend visiting: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/



/////////////////////////// PANDEMIC ARCHIVE NEWS SECTION //////////////////////////////////////////////


Pandemic News Archive : Hawaii

  •  All travelers — visitors as well as residents — will not be able to bypass quarantine with a negative test result until September or later. With COVID-19 cases surging in key Hawaii travel markets and supplies of COVID-19 testing material under stress, Gov. David Ige on Monday said he would push back until at least Sept. 1, the present planned date for opening Hawaii to travelers from outside the state.
  • A major Hawaii laboratory that has conducted a large portion of COVID-19 diagnostic tests in the islands has suffered a major blow to its testing supply chain, which could cause significant delays in test result turnaround times.
  • The surge in COVID-19 cases in other U.S. states has cut Diagnostic Laboratory Services off from chemical reagents from its primary vendor, Roche Diagnostics.The reagents are used for the laboratory’s fastest molecular-based testing machines, said Mark Wasielewski, president of DLS. Reagents are chemicals used to test patient swab samples.

 

  • Hawaii’s Gov. Ige; “We are now ready to begin the process to return our economy in a safe and healthy way.” 

All incoming trans-Pacific travelers who wish to opt out of Hawaii’s 14-day quarantine will need to show proof that they had a negative molecular-based COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of their travel, Gov. David Ige announced  at a press conference Wednesday at the Daniel K. Inouye Airport.  

The new rules go into effect August 1

  • Bank of Hawaii released its May survey results entitled “COVID-19 in Hawaii: Facts and Insights.”  The survey of 1,096 Hawaii residents statewide was conducted May 14 to 22.

Peter Ho, CEO of Bank of Hawaii, said of the report… “The research findings illustrate just how much the pandemic has exacerbated hardships for residents. Many are adding to their existing credit card debt or selling personal items to make ends meet”.

– Hawaii Struggles with Reduced Tourist Dollars

  • Gov. David Ige said at a press conference Monday that during the prior fiscal year, the state collected $7 billion in taxes, and in the fiscal year that ended June 30, it collected $6.5 billion, a 7% decrease.

“But all of you know that we were running along very fine, through the end of the year on record pace,” Ige said. “January, February, March, the revenues had no impact from this COVID pandemic, and then we saw the degradation in April, May and now finally June. So we do know that COVID-19 will have a significant impact on the state’s finances. So we went from a record year to a significant loss in the matter of three months.”

State tax revenues were down about 25% in June compared to the same month last year, from $644 million to $483 million. Revenue projections anticipate a tax revenue shortfall of $2.3 billion in the next 12-15 months.

As a result of a mandatory 14-day quarantine for incoming visitors, Ige said more than 200,000 Hawaii residents have lost their jobs and sought unemployment benefits.

“You probably know someone … who is facing challenging financial times, and as difficult as it has been, we haven’t felt the full financial pain yet,” Ige said.

Some $4 billion in federal funds has kept state finances afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Ige said that money is drying up.

  • The Hawaii Bank survey revealed many drastic financial-pandemic effects on Hawaii’s households:
    • 45% say they have lost income.
    • 1 in 4 are delinquent on some of their bills.
    • 1 in 5 have had “issues with food security,” while 13% have sought food from a food drive or food bank.
    • 81% worry about contracting COVID-19 and 71% consider the coronavirus a threat to themselves or others living with them.
    • 83% received or expect to receive an economic impact payment.
  • The survey also found that 81% of respondents said they found the federal stimulus payments to be valuable; 49% found them to be very valuable.

– SBA Loans

  • Data released Monday by the Small Business Administration shows that businesses owned by members of Congress and the law practice that represented President Trump were among the hundreds of thousands of firms that received aid from the agency.
As part of its $660 billion small-business relief program, the SBA also handed out loans to private schools catering to elite clientele, firms owned by foreign companies and large chains backed by well-heeled Wall Street firms. Nearly 90,000 companies in the program took the aid without promising on their applications they would rehire workers or create jobs.
The data, which was released after weeks of pressure from media outlets and lawmakers, paints a picture of a haphazard first-come, first-served program that was not designed to evaluate the relative need of the recipients. While it buttressed a swath of industries and entities, including restaurants, medical offices, car dealerships, law firms and nonprofits, the agency did not filter out companies that have potential conflicts of interest among influential Washington figures.

Pandemic Archive : National

  • Study of 17 Million Identifies Crucial Risk Factors for Coronavirus Deaths

    The largest study yet confirms that race, ethnicity, age and sex can raise a person’s chances of dying from Covid-19.

    An analysis of more than 17 million people in England — the largest study of its kind, according to its authors — has pinpointed a bevy of factors that can raise a person’s chances of dying from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

    The paper, published Wednesday in Nature, echoes reports from other countries that identify older people, men, racial and ethnic minorities, and those with underlying health conditions among the more vulnerable populations.

    The research also revealed that patients older than 80 were at least 20 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than those in their 50s, and hundreds of times more likely to die than those below the age of 40.

    Medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, severe asthma and compromised immunity were also linked to poor outcomes, in keeping with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States. And the researchers noted that a person’s chances of dying also tended to track with socioeconomic factors like poverty, which is particularly bad news for Hawaii’s large low-income population.

  • The Trump administration has given formal notice that it will withdraw the United States from the World Health Organization, which is part of the United Nations, according to The New York Times. By law, the U.S. must give WHO a year’s notice before withdrawing, and officials said the notice would take effect July 6, 2021. The U.S. is the largest funder of WHO, responsible for $426 million a year in the 2018-2019 budget period, Live Science reported. Many public health experts, as well as politicians, denounced the move. In a statement, Elizabeth Cousens, president of the United Nations Foundation (a private organization that promotes UN interests), called the move “short-sighted, unnecessary, and unequivocally dangerous.”

States Mandate Masks, and begin to shut down again as coronavirus cases soar nationally and hospitalizations and deaths rise

  • The pandemic map of the United States burned bright red Monday, with the number of new coronavirus infections during the first six days of July nearing 300,000 as more states and cities moved to reimpose shutdown orders.
  • The United States is “still knee deep in the first wave” of the pandemic, Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday.
  • Fauci noted that while Europe managed to drive infections down — and now is dealing with little blips as it reopens — U.S. communities “never came down to baseline and now are surging back up,” he said in an interview conducted on Twitter and Facebook with his boss, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins.
  • Despite the steep new rise in infections, the House and Senate have adjourned for a two-week recess, setting up a potential battle when they return over another pandemic relief package.
    • US COVID 19 Case Total Accelerate, now exceeds 3 Million / US deaths reach 135,822
    • U.S. Cases Are Probably 10 Times Higher Than the Official Count, C.D.C. Says.
    • Seven-day average case total in the U.S. sets record for 29th straight day
  • More than 200 scientists from over 30 countries are urging the World Health Organization to take more seriously the possibility of the airborne spread of the novel coronavirus as case numbers rise around the world and surge in the United States.
  • There is growing evidence that the virus can spread indoors through aerosols that linger in the air and can be infectious even in smaller quantities than previously thought.

Asymptomatic COVID-19 Cases – Dangerous and the Source of Super-Spreader Outbreaks 

  • Conventional wisdom suggests that when a sickness is mild, it’s not too much to worry about. But if you’re taking comfort in World Health Organization reports that over 80% of global Covid-19 cases are mild or asymptomatic, think again. As virologists race to understand the biomechanics of Sars-CoV-2, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: even “mild” cases can be more complicated, dangerous and harder to shake than many first thought.

According to Dr Christopher Kellner, a professor of neurosurgery at Mount Sinai hospital in New York, “mild” cases of Covid-19 in which the patient was not hospitalized for the virus have been linked to blood clotting and severe strokes in people as young as 30.

At this stage, when medical professionals and the public alike are learning about Covid-19 as the pandemic unfolds, it’s important to keep in mind how little we truly know about this vastly complicated disease – and to listen to the experiences of survivors, especially those whose recoveries have been neither quick nor straightforward.


Pandemic Archive : Global 

  • California governor Gavin Newsom has bowed to the inevitable and ordered a dramatic rollback of the state’s reopening amid the resurgence in coronavirus infections. Bars are to close across the nation’s most populous state, while restaurants, cinemas and museums must cease any indoor operations.
  • Florida is the worst hit region in the US, mostly a by-product of the state’s flawed response to the pandemic.
  • As of last week, the worst per capita outbreak on the planet was in Arizona, followed by Florida.

  • Health-care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic are encountering shortages of masks, gowns, face shields and gloves — a frustrating recurrence of a struggle that haunted the first months of the crisis.
Nurses say they are reusing N95 masks for days and even weeks at a time. Doctors say they can’t reopen offices because they lack personal protective equipment. State officials say they have scoured U.S. and international suppliers for PPE and struggle to get orders filled. Experts worry the problem could worsen as coronavirus infections climb, straining medical systems.

  • Over the past five days, the United States has suffered a worsening resurgence of coronavirus cases indicating that — after six months — the most powerful country in the world has made little progress in controlling the virus.
  • President Trump has increasingly sidestepped responsibility for leading a coordinated federal response.That behavior fits a pattern in Trump’s presidency in which the president seemingly has no interest in or patience for what he considers the boring work of governing, several of his former senior advisers say, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

He has not fully engaged for the hard work of defusing the pandemic, including listening to panels of experts, sifting through scientific models and making hard choices to craft a whole-of-government response, an option not seriously considered.

  • As our country plunges into a black hole of unchecked illness, death and pariahdom, the administration is waging a PR war on its own top disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, trying to convince news outlets that he can’t be trusted. The move to treat Dr. Fauci as if he were a warring political rival comes as he has grown increasingly vocal in his concerns about the national surge in coronavirus cases.

In the past five days, as the news has grown more dire and Fauci has refused to sugarcoat it, Trump and his allies have sought to cast Fauci as error-prone.

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci is America’s top immunologist who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.

President Trump, meanwhile, has been largely MIA on a question most citizens expect their president to address: What does he plan to do now to better protect the public health and return the country to normalcy?  The president’s plan – attack the nation’s most respect and qualified infectious disease for political purposes.

On Monday, president Trump once again sought to downplay the outbreak and erroneously blame extra testing for high numbers of cases, adding that the US was doing a “great job”, while Fauci, in an online talk with a Stanford University expert, said: “We have let the local public health infrastructure in our country really go into tatters.”

  • Trump has also undercut the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, retweeting the conspiratorial ramblings of the former game show host Chuck Woolery: “The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid-19. Everyone is lying. The C.D.C., media, Democrats, our doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust.”

There are now so many stories of Trump followers dying after blithely exposing themselves and others to the virus.


International Developments

If you’re lucky enough to live in New Zealand, the coronavirus nightmare has been mostly over since June. After more than two weeks with no new cases, the government lifted almost all restrictions that month. The borders are still shut, but inside the country, normal life returned.

It’s coming back elsewhere too. Taiwan, where most days this month no new cases have been reported, just held the Taipei Film Festival, and a recent baseball game drew 10,000 spectators. Italy was once the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak and remains in a state of emergency, but with just a few hundred new cases a day in the whole country, bars are open and tourists have started returning, though of course Americans remain banned.

There were 321 new COVID-19 cases in all of Canada last Friday — and America, 68,241.

The world is closed to Americans; only a few dozen nations will let us in.

Lawrence O. Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown, predicts that American life will not return to normal before summer 2022. Two years of our lives, stolen by Donald Trump and his administration’s Absence of Governance.

  • Global case count exceeds 13 million infected. Death toll exceeds 1/2 million.
  • China raised its emergency warning to its second-highest level and canceled more than 60% of the flights to Beijing on Wednesday amid a new coronavirus outbreak in the capital. It was a sharp pullback for the nation that declared victory over COVID-19 in March and a message to the rest of the world about how tenacious the virus really is.
  • New infections spiked in India, Iran and U.S. states including Florida, Texas and Arizona as authorities struggled to balance restarting economic activity without accelerating the pandemic.  European nations, which embarked on a wide-scale reopening this week, looked on with trepidation as the Americas struggled to contain the first wave of the pandemic and Asian nations like China and South Korea reported new outbreaks. Chinese officials described the situation in Beijing as “extremely grave.” 

 

  • Study of 17 Million Identifies Crucial Risk Factors for Coronavirus Deaths

The largest study yet confirms that race, ethnicity, age and sex can raise a person’s chances of dying from Covid-19.An analysis of more than 17 million people in England — the largest study of its kind, according to its authors — has pinpointed a bevy of factors that can raise a person’s chances of dying from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The paper, published Wednesday in Nature, echoes reports from other countries that identify older people, men, racial and ethnic minorities, and those with underlying health conditions among the more vulnerable populations.The research also revealed that patients older than 80 were at least 20 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than those in their 50s, and hundreds of times more likely to die than those below the age of 40.

Medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, severe asthma and compromised immunity were also linked to poor outcomes, in keeping with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States. And the researchers noted that a person’s chances of dying also tended to track with socioeconomic factors like poverty, which is particularly bad news for Hawaii’s large low-income population.


Recent COVID-19 Medical Discoveries

Researchers say further study is needed but those with the chronic respiratory disease don’t appear to be at a higher risk of getting extremely ill or dying from coronavirus.

“However, people with asthma—even those with diminished lung function who are being treated to manage asthmatic inflammation—seem to be no worse affected by SARS-CoV-2 than a nonasthmatic person. There is limited data as to why this is the case—if it is physiological or a result of the treatment to manage the inflammation.”

Inhaled corticosteroids, which are commonly used to protect against asthma attacks, also may reduce the virus’ ability to establish an infection.

  • Common Drug Reduces Coronavirus Deaths, Scientists Report

A steroid, dexamethasone, is the first drug shown to help save severely ill coronavirus patients, according to scientists in Britain.

“It will be great news if dexamethasone, a cheap steroid, really does cut deaths by ⅓ in ventilated patients with COVID-19,” Dr. Atul Gawande wrote on Twitter, “but after all the retractions and walk backs, it is unacceptable to tout study results by press release without releasing the paper.”  “Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in Covid-19,” one of the trial’s chief investigators, Peter Horby, a professor of emerging infectious diseases at the University of Oxford, said in a statement. “The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment.”

  • There is no vaccine against the coronavirus, and the only treatment known to be effective, an antiviral drug called remdesivir, only shortens the time to recovery.


The United States in focus — 

For Americans, the coronavirus went from being a mysterious affliction that occurred in far-off lands to 1 million confirmed cases on US soil within 14 weeks. Now, just six weeks later, the US has broken through the grim milestone exceeds 3 million positive tests for Covid-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

Deficiencies in the stockpile of testing kits, swabs, ventilators and protective equipment for medical staff marked the opening stanza of the pandemic in the US. It was a muddled and sometimes astonishing response embodied by Donald Trump, who predicted the virus would vanish in the April sunshine, squabbled with state governors and pondered the merits of injecting bleach or taking hydroxychloroquine, an unproven anti-malarial drug, since withdrawn from test use by FDA and CDC directives after proven patient-risky and ineffective.

“From the beginning there have been misrepresentations and fabrications from the White House,” said Irwin Redlener, Director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. “Whatever the opposite of ‘mission accomplished’ is, that’s what this is. It’s essentially been an American fiasco.”

Dr Anthony Fauci, the administration’s top infectious disease expert, has admitted not seeing the president in weeks despite the ongoing public health crisis. “Where is it going to end? We’re still at the beginning of it,” Fauci said this week.

Yet even as the US has surged past 132,500 deaths from Covid-19, about a quarter of the entire global total, the crisis has faded from the political agenda.

With more than 40 million people already out of work in the US amid an economic downturn that may rival anything seen in the past century, any escalation of lockdown to stop the spread of the virus will risk unbearable mental and financial pain. On the other extreme, attempting to revert to previous patterns of life without a vaccine would likely overwhelm hospitals with the sick and dying.  “We need to really thread the needle between those two things,” said Redlener. “I worry we have passed over having that difficult conversation. We’ve already decided that it’s over and done with. It’s not.”

  • Trump White House declaring the mission accomplished in slowing the spread of the coronavirus, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert is sounding a more cautious note.

“We are seeing infections to a greater degree than they had previously seen in certain states, including states in the southwest and in the south,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said on Tuesday said. “I don’t like to talk about a second wave right now, because we haven’t gotten out of our first wave.” 

The federal government’s leadership in the coronavirus crisis has so faded that state and local health officials have been left to figure out on their own how to handle rising infections and to navigate conflicting signals from the White House.

About 800 Americans a day are still dying of Covid-19, a pace that, if sustained over the next few months, would yield more than 200,000 dead by the end of September. Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Oregon and Texas all reported their largest one-day increases in new cases on Tuesday, June 16th.


Hawaii’s Gov. Ige in late June, declared;“We are now ready to begin the process to return our economy in a safe and healthy way.” 

Hi Reopensweb1_0729-hawaii-state-seal | West Hawaii Today

  • All incoming trans-Pacific travelers who wish to opt out of Hawaii’s 14-day quarantine will need to show proof that they had a negative molecular-based COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of their travel, Gov. David Ige announced  at a press conference Wednesday at the Daniel K. Inouye Airport.  

The new rules go into effect August 1

Through July 2020, Governor Ige, previously declared a statewide COVID-19 restriction defined as “Act with Care”.

Act with care” is the new watchword for Hawai‘i’s current phase — reopening the “kamaʻāina economy.”  This phase depends on venues taking steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and Hawai‘i’s people “acting with care” to protect themselves and others by wearing face coverings and maintaining physical distancing. Now, more than ever, our safety depends on us working together to protect each other and supporting key public health strategies.

COVID-19 Q&A with Governor Ige — 

Q. Why is the timing right for reopening the economy, and with the reopening, what are your biggest concerns?

A. We’ve always said we would base our decisions on data and the best science to allow us to reopen. Clearly, our low COVID-19 case numbers show we’ve contained the virus and are able to manage any clusters, without overwhelming our healthcare system. My biggest concern is that people become complacent. We continue to emphasize that this is the new normal so everyone has to wear their masks, practice physical distancing  and limit their interactions to keep from infecting others.

Hawaii County re-opened, partly — Hawaii Island given go-ahead for selective re-opening of  churches, restaurants, and salons, effective June 1, 2020. Inter-Island flights have resumed as of June 16th, 2020.


Symptoms

Pac Money 1

Super PAC Money Targets Oahu and Hawaii County Races

Updated August 2, originally published June 30.


To quote the great political philosopher Cyndi Lauper, “Money changes everything.”

For the last 50 years the American political landscape has been guided by one basic rule: raise and spend as much money as possible during any given race in order to win.  The more dollars raised and spent on an individual race, the greater the chances for victory – in modern politics money has become a crucial determinant of whether or not a candidate will win. However, the currency of victory is not entirely measured in the amount of money raised and spent, rather how it’s spent to promote, influence, and otherwise motivate the public to vote for a specific candidate or ballot measure.

Civil Beat reported this week that Hawaii, even with its remote location, is not exempt from the political infection and influence pedaling effects of Political Action Committee money.  The PAC’s can receive and spend unlimited amounts of money to support or oppose any candidate, so long as they don’t coordinate with the person running for office, and they …“are hitting airwaves and mailboxes as voters cast their mail-in ballots, which went out statewide last week.”  https://www.civilbeat.org/2020/07/new-super-pacs-pour-money-into-honolulu-races/

All politics are local … but are they really?

The former U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill coined the phrase All politics are local” which encapsulates the principle that a politician’s success is directly tied to his ability to understand and influence the issues of his or her constituents. In other words, politicians must appeal to the simple, mundane and everyday concerns of those who elect them into office.  Those personal issues, rather than big and intangible ideas, are often what voters care most about, according to this principle.

Too often today’s candidates, backed by money interests with a stake in a race have an agenda and mask their goals through a local candidate, in a local race. Also addressing local community priorities may take a backseat to a hidden agenda – but that’s today’s political system.  Is it nefarious or illegal, it depends on your point of view and various election laws, but generally the answer is no.  Is it right, the answer is also no.  But today’s voters must be well informed, not mind-controlled, and do their homework in order to make intellect choices which serve their interests and those of the community.  In short, it’s voter beware and be informed, before marking and mailing in your ballot.

Follow the Money, Hawaii County 

The famous political adage from the presidential Watergate scandal, “… follow the money” offers a modern day tale of David and Goliath now unfolding in Hawaii County’s District 7 council race.  Here is an example of what should have been a local race in the tradition of Hawaii politics, but has been transformed by outside money and influence.  It is tPac Money 1he current Hawaii County council race between incumbent candidate, Rebecca Villegas, and her challenger and first time candidate, Jane Clement.

Most voters are aware of the billions of dollars now spent in each new presidential and federal election cycle, sums far greater than any state or down-ticket election. The further you go down ticket and into local races the closer politics begin to resemble a time past, with political races were built on the individual efforts of candidates with modest budgets and fully engaged in home grown politicking.

Candidate Clement’s until recently, was an employee of Seattle-based Strategies 360, although the company to list Jane Clement on their webs site: https://strategies360.ca/team/jane-clement/.  The extent of  money and power of Strategies 360 financial support of candidacy is a mater of record and on display in two direct campaign contributions totally $4,000 and additional PAC money funneled through Be Change Now.

Civil Beat reported earlier this week that the Strategies 360 and through its client PAC, Be Change Now, has so far spent $78,000 in support of Clement (an unprecedented amount of money for Hawaii County Council seat).

Strategies 360 is an accomplished and powerful firm with one primary mission: influence political outcomes, be it candidate, ballot initiatives, or referendum.  Strategies 360 are masters at media, public relations, and remaking corporate images and reputations.

Strategies 360 established its office beachhead in Hawaii through two separate Political Action Committees in which holds board seats: Be Change Now, main funding source is the Hawaii Carpenters Union.  The second Political Action Committee is Pacific Resource Partnership (PRP).  PACs generally pool large amounts of money into campaigns for or against candidates, fund ballot initiatives, and enable a legislation agenda which serves their member interests.

What Makes This Local Race Different: Digital

Kona area residents, both inside and outside District 7 have recently reported encountering Clement campaign ads suddenly appearing on their screens in internet searches, web email, social networking, and even Clement campaign ads appearing when accessing web sites outside the state with no political grounding what-so-ever to Hawaii – the scale of this digital tactic goes beyond anything we’ve witnessed in previous local county elections on Hawaii Island.  Another element, as to what makes this digital tactic employed by Strategies 360 so different, is that it is much more than just targeted advertising; rather it resembles the military-equivalent of message carpet bombing. 

This year’s local council race between Villegas and Clement is different in powerful ways, it’s digital savvy with well-funded and proven mainland campaign tactics and resources marshaled by Strategies 360. Most notably is the level of money and media sophistication being applied to Clement’s candidacy.

With offices in 13 states, including Hawaii and Washington D.C. Strategies 360 large national presence enables an effective localized presence in influencing and promoting an agenda that serves a wide range of clients from coal, gas, and oil money interests to marijuana legalization, often in the form of specific candidates and ballot measures; they are mainland hired guns with a local presence and available to the highest bidder.

But At What Price to Win

This 2020 election cycle, both in Hawaii County and Oahu, feels the presence of Strategies 360 at work.  A Goliath of a presence which raises a larger question.  All this money and attention in a very local county council race — what is their endgame if their candidate takes office?  Challenger Clement’s campaign promises so far have been limited to “I care”, and absent the usual campaign issue promises of “if I’m elected…”

Incumbent Rebecca Villegas, has demonstrated leadership at the Council, and backed issues focused on the community she serves and greater Hawaii Island. Her leadership has made her friends and some well-funded political enemies, some of whom have engaged Strategies 360 to influence the race outcome in District 7.

None of this is particularly shocking, if fact, it represents politics today. Once confined to the mainland political arena and beyond the shores of Hawaii, now, sadly, no more…

Balance In Government

An Absence of Governance

We, the People, NO… It’s Us Versus Them…

Who is Them? Generally, anti-science, anti-authority, anti-vaccine, anti-equality, anti-this, and anti-that feelings among a minority, but alarmingly large percentage of people. Us are the majority of Americans, who, after 3 ½ years living with what otherwise can be described as slow moving train wreck, are searching for the restoration of competency at the highest levels government.

The Nixon years were little more than a warm up act for what the Country is now experiencing.  The Republic’s system of democratic checks and balances between the three branches of government have been Trump-twisted into a knot so tight it can’t be loosened by even a global pandemic.  Instead, Americans must tolerate the ongoing incompetence of ideology-led policies, operating in a bubble of perpetual politics ahead of national self-interest and presidential governance. Pence Dr Fauci 1

The Federal response to the Coronavirus

America’s leaderless Federal response to the pandemic: kick the can down the road and onto the individual states. This is an experiment in Republican small-government theory, but playing out in its worst form.  It also demonstrates just how ill prepared this administration is in addressing the magnitude of a global crisis turned national crisis, and one which requires a coordinated Federal assistance response, from the top down.

“From the beginning there have been misrepresentations and fabrications from the White House,” said Irwin Redlener, Director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. “Whatever the opposite of ‘mission accomplished’ is, that’s what this is. It’s essentially been an American fiasco.”

This administration has failed the Country on many points, but the present day pandemic response is costing lives.

With more than 3.2 million COVDI-19 cases and more than 136,000 deaths (updated July 10th), and with only 5% of the world’s population, the US accounts for about 25% of all Coronavirus cases and deaths worldwide. The responsibility of the Coronavirus pandemic impacts on Americans does not rest with China, rather, the responsibility clearly rests with president and his absence of a competent Federal response … “I’m not responsible”, says Donald J. Trump.

The US reported a record number of new Coronavirus cases in a single day, last Friday, with 36 states reporting a rise in infections and Texas, Florida and Arizona particularly badly hit — examples of states with Republican-led governors drinking the Administration’s Kool-Aid.   On February 28th, President Trump reassured the nation …”It’s going to disappear. One day, like a miracle, it’s going to disappear. At worst — worst case scenario — it could be the flu”.

A voice in the wilderness

One of last surviving adults in the room of the Administration’s so-called Virus Task Force is the well respected Dr. Anthony Fauci, who continues to correct the falsehoods of this president’s statements on all things from snake oil cures to the need for wearing masks in public places.

The mask-less Trump leads by example, an example that carries with it the weight of the presidency.  It’s no surprise when national polls indicate many Americans are skeptical of the Coronavirus threat, or the need and effectiveness of preventive and protective measures of masks, social distancing, or even accepting a vaccine if and when it becomes available after months of the administration’s public denials and misdirection.

New Us Case Rise

In a CNN interview, Dr. Fauci, referring to President explained: “…people not wearing masks is a “a recipe for disaster” and with regard to the Trump administration’s attempts at contact tracing: “I don’t think we’re doing very well.”

Doctor Fauci, also the top US infectious disease expert, has said the country could see 100,000 new coronavirus cases daily unless action is taken to reverse the epidemic. 

Appearing before the Senate health, education, labor and pensions committee on Tuesday, Fauci warned that the US is “going in the wrong direction” over handling the coronavirus, and said the death toll “is going to be very disturbing”.

He appeared a day after the White House insisted the outbreak had been reduced to “embers” but the principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Anne Schuchat, insisted: “This is really the beginning.”


Editor’s comment …

The president’s malfeasance could not be accomplished by himself.  He gets by with a little help (make that a lot) from his friends.  During the spread of the deadliest pandemic to reach the United States in a century, Trump called upon his closest advisors for guidance.  No, not the CDC and other medical experts, or vast intelligence resources at his disposal, but his friends at Fox (so-called) News.

A Washington Post survey showed 27% of Americans would likely refuse a vaccine, when one becomes available.  Another grim reminder of why we need news sources based on factual reporting, and not national policy from media outlet with an agenda ripe with political propaganda and unfounded conspiracy theories only know to president — in times of crisis, and all other times, democracies need news which speaks truth-to-power.

When faced with a dangerous situation, the public needs not only competent leadership, but accurate information in order to make good decisions on how to protect themselves and others. That starts with clear and coherent direction from the nation’s top leader, the President.

We have today an administration based on loyalty oaths, not competence, which has produced predictable results for the Country as a whole (Us and Them) — policies which have cost American lives – amplified the virus crisis – and fueled unprecedented damage to the economy, regardless of party affiliation and individual beliefs.


Closer to home, Hawaii is reading itself to re-open to the world on August 1st.

As in much of the of rest of the Country, two opposing priorities are battling for virus policy dominance: economic priorities versus public safety.

Like Alaska, Hawaii is also remote from the continental United States, which has somewhat protected both states from the full onslaught of active COVID-19 cases and deaths. But as Hawaii prepares to re-open following Alaska’s lead (requiring a pre-qualifying negative virus test results as the safety linchpin), the full opening of the state will test the limits of our somewhat isolated healthcare system and pandemic response resources.

The state’s healthcare sufficiency could quickly turn into another example of a state-led attempt re-open – absent of Federal guidance and resources – could easily prove to be another well-intended, but risky experiment with unforeseen consequences.


With a surge in U.S. infections, the President and friends play golf

The latest surge in rising infections hasn’t yet been reflected in a comparable rise in deaths, but that’s only a matter of time.

There is also growing evidence that even those who survive Covid-19 can not only be reinfected, but may suffer from long-term adverse effects: scarred lungs, damaged hearts and perhaps neurological disorders.

The failure in national leadership extends beyond the executive branch and to the McConnell-led and GOP-controlled Senate. With it, is a legislative agenda directed by  McConnell comprised mainly of obstruction efforts of all most legislative matters which defies the constitutional precepts of a democratic system of checks and balances; be it investigations into presidential wrong doing or congressional bills designed to address the past, present, and the future fragility of the American healthcare system.

In contrast to the Senate, the House of Representatives have advanced measures during this national crisis that would:

  • Shore up health care, safeguard protections for pre-existing conditions, and lower the cost of prescription drugs
  • Take meaningful action to combat climate change and protect our land, water, and air
  • Increase wages for workers, secure equal pay, and strengthen our economy

The House advanced a number of bi-partisan bills, stalled by McConnell, including follow-up legislation to the CARES Act addressing the on-going economic and social consequences of the pandemic.

Today’s pandemic, has been compounded by administration’s inept response efforts which have contributed to extended medical supply shortages of PPE, lab tests and supplies, and contributed to the high burn-out rate among essential healthcare workers — all which has been with us since the February arrival of the COVID-19 virus on U.S. shores.

In contrast to all this, last week the administration prioritized and reaffirmed its support for a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which would, among other things, eliminate protection for Americans with pre-existing medical conditions. If the suit were to succeed, having had Covid-19 would surely be one of the pre-existing conditions making health insurance hard, perhaps impossible to get for an estimated 26 million Americans.

 

Green World

Think BIG – Big Island Green, that is …

Several Hawaii Island community voices have joined Tam Hunt in developing a vision for the island (and by extension the state), a vision which firmly places Hawaii on a path to a sustainable future, and a way to find its footing in the re-boot of the state and Hawaii County’s embattled economy. 


How to restart the kamaaina economy, improve resilience, self-sufficiency, and reduce our environmental footprint

Hawaii’s residents are facing economic devastation not seen since the Great Depression. Federal stimulus funds are helping to soften the blow but the $1,200 payments to individuals, and the $600 weekly increase in unemployment benefits are set to run dry by end of July.

Tourism, a critical cog in our economic engine, will likely lag for many quarters, and the threat of subsequent global COVID-19 infection waves will likely result in prolonged social distancing norms that will impact school schedules, affect work schedules, and decrease the productivity of local businesses.

What are we to do keep Hawaii Island afloat?

We are indeed at a historic place and time where an economic transformation of Hawaii is warranted, an opportunity for a 21st century New Deal specific to Hawaii’s needs. Even before the pandemic a lot of discussion had taken place locally, statewide and nationally about a Green New Deal, which would combine much-needed jobs programs, stimulate local economic activity, enable net zero carbon emissions, improve social equity, and save the environment.

Hawaii’s recent statewide experiment, from 2012 to 2016, in rooftop solar energy and net metering (NEM) created a statewide economic renaissance, producing the fastest economic growth for Hawaii in decades, created thousands of well-paying local jobs, new solar businesses, saved utility ratepayers substantial dollars, which flowed back into the local economy, and produced a lasting effect in advancing statewide solar energy independence.  This is a good example of smart policy.

What would a Green New Deal look like on the Big Island, led by local people and the county government? What would it mean to “think B.I.G.” (Big Island Green)?

County Research & Development have recently issued a draft Climate Action Plan with many great ideas. It’s a full-spectrum look at what the island will need to do to meet the statewide 100% renewable energy mandate by 2045, including solid waste management. It will also set the stage for the county to meet the 2017 declaration by Hawaii’s Mayor’s for the county to achieve 100% renewable ground transportation by 2045.

But a Green New Deal for the Big Island could advance the current 2045 goal of 100% clean and renewable energy for the state to 2030 or 2035 for our county. Think B.I.G. would be a job generator based on green energy, robust local agriculture, smart buildings, smart communities, electric vehicles and public transit, composting programs, public trails and expanded parks, improved water systems, and many other 21st century infrastructure activities. Most of these initiatives will save money and our unemployed need large numbers of new jobs in the near-term.

Aina Aloha is a new group of Hawaiian community members, businesses and organizations, rethinking Hawaii’s economy in light of the pandemic. Their declaration includes a list of guiding principles, the first of which states:

  • We are of and from this ʻāina that ultimately sustains us. We employ strategies for economic development that place our kuleana to steward precious, limited resources in a manner that ensures our long-term horizon as a viable island people and place.

Our hope is that Think B.I.G. serves the principles described by Aina Aloha.  Here’s a partial list of what thinking B.I.G. for the Big Island could look like. These examples are meant only to spur community discussion at this point:

Clean Energy Independence

  1. A commitment by the County itself to achieve 100% green energy for all of its operations (electricity, heating and transportation) by 2030
  2. A study of all County properties and parks for solar potential on rooftops, parking lots and other areas that can now be cost-effectively be solar poweredBeyond Kona Powerlines Solar Field
  3. Install hundreds of electric vehicle chargers, with solar canopies and batteries, on County facilities and public parks to charge County vehicles and public vehicles from the Sun (“driving on sunshine”), and enable grid resiliency.
  4. Install commercial and community microgrids for improved resiliency and grid support
  5. Complete study to determine alternative geothermal energy sites, and tidal/ocean energy sites, on and around the island
  6. A commitment by the County to retrofit all County buildings to achieve either LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) certification or Zero Net Energy with a combination of energy efficiency and solar technologies
  7. Community solar facilities for all apartment buildings with roof space or parking lots for solar
  8. Community wind power for areas that have decent wind resources and are otherwise suitable for small and medium-size wind turbines
  9. Robust rebate programs, working with Hawaii Energy, HELCO and the state Public Utilities Commission, for energy efficiency, solar water heating, roof top solar, electric vehicle and charger purchases, and other green-energy retrofits
  10. Install methane capture and power generation technologies at county sewage treatment plants and parks with composting toilets.
  11. Job training programs for solar technicians, energy efficiency technicians, green agriculture, and land stewardship

Local agriculture and permaculture

  1. Improve local food independence through regenerative agriculture and permaculture designPermaculture Costa Rica
  2. Support programs for local agriculture of all sizes with focus on the local food economy rather than the international export economy; farmer trainings; workshops; nurseries; seed banks and libraries
  3. Compost and mulching programs in every community
  4. Creation of food aggregation and distribution hubs following the model of Kahumana farms on Oahu
  5. Identify County properties that could be re-purposed for community gardens and farmlands with low lease rates to encourage new farmers

Waste programs

  1. Community led design sessions to help identify and implement improved recycling and upcycling opportunitiesGreenhouse Irrigation Water Recycling System - Ozone Pro ...
  2. Implement zero waste education and practices in all public schools
  3. Community led design sessions to identify better mid-term and long-term waste management solutions
  4. Assess the viability of industries related to extending the life of solar panels and batteries, and the recycling of these materials at their end-of-life
  5. Recycling waste water for irrigation

Parks and trails

  1. Create a series of interconnected bike trails and bicycle friendly roads across the island, reducing vehicle traffic and encouraging bicycle tourism
  2. Trail building programs in areas that are suitable for new trails, like county, state and national parks, and forest reserves
  3. Expand existing parks where appropriate, providing additional green space, species conservation and recreation
  4. Improve and expand park facilities like basketball courts, tennis courts, keiki play areas, community centers, etc.
  5. Identify public parks that can host food forests and community gardens and hand over management of those spaces to community groups, reducing the labor burden of county workers

Education

  1. Robust education and outreach programs to alert the public to rebates, job programs, and other aspects of Think B.I.G.
  2. Connect Big Island programs to statewide programs working on green energy, waste, local agriculture and other Green New Deal programs
  3. Encourage education curricula designed for careers in renewable energy, battery and fuel-cell vehicles, regenerative agriculture, waste management, parks maintenance, and recycling.
  4. These programs, if implemented in the next few years, would provide literally tens of thousands of new jobs on our island, while also making the Big Island even more enjoyable to live on, and reducing our environmental footprint. Hawaii island has the potential to serve as a model for the rest of the world and foster a new brand of environmentally responsible tourism.
  5. And the last major benefit would be a dramatic improvement in our resilience against disasters of all types.

Paying for all of this

How will all this be paid for? There are a number of possible funding options, including:

  1. Federal stimulus (CARES) funding to state and local governments, which currently is earmarked only for coronavirus response, but will almost certainly be expanded for recovery use before longCip
  2. State Capital Improvement Program (CIP)
  3. Foundation funding — many community, state and federal foundations will be looking for community-level leadership and Hawaii County can offer that.
  4. Federal or state community block grants
  5. County or state bond measures — if any time warrants bonds to be issued this is it
  6. Private – Public Sector investment partnerships

Additional funding, possibly a large part, can come from 3rd party investment – companies that are willing to build the infrastructure and reap the revenue from the energy generated or saved.

When all is said and done we on the Big Island can’t afford to not fund the economic and social benefits of a forward-moving B.I.G. initiative.


Tam Hunt is a Big Island resident and the chief executive of Community Renewable Solutions, LLC.  Hunt is also an attorney with substantial regulatory and policy experience directed to renewable energy and transportation electrification projects in California and Hawaii.  He was previously a UC Santa Barbara lecturer and expert on climate change law and policy and renewable energy law and policy.

Hawaii Virus Greeting Card

Hawaii and Tourism, an Economic Reality Ripe for Change

Hawaii’s tourism industry has been devastated by the COVID-19 lockdown.

With virus growth rates relatively flat on the islands, state officials struggle with re-opening and setting priorities: the economy vs. public health and safety.

Thanks to Hawaii geographic isolation, a statewide stay-at-home order and a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals, together this policy has been primarily responsible for one of the lowest rates of Covid-19 in the US.

But the quarantine essentially halted tourism in Hawaii, which accounts for a quarter of the state’s economy, and as a result, nearly one-third of the state’s working population has applied for unemployment.

Previously, Governor Ige, announced a phased approach to opening the non-tourism economy, or kamaʻaina (local) economy.  The plan reopened auto dealerships, car washes and pet grooming services in May, while waiting until June to consider reopening higher-risk businesses, such as gyms, hair salons, and theaters.

The governor also confirmed earlier that the mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals would stay in place through June, a restriction just lifted for inter-island flights, as of June 16th.  The finer details of how the tourism economy – bars, hotels, convention centers – will be reopened has yet to be released.

According to Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, the state has so far lost 78,000 jobs related to tourism-intensive industries (hospitality, trade, and transportation).  Assuming the visitor industry starts to fully reopen by September 2020, it is projected to recover to a level of 30 percent of arrivals (from same month in 2019), and up to 45 percent of previous levels by December 2020.  No cruise ship visitors are expected until second half of 2021.

The department’s second quarter 2020 economic report also reveals some other stark economic projections;

  • it will take 6 years for visitor arrivals to recover to the 2019 level (based on 2009 great recession recovery time line).
  • It will also take 2 years for local (non-tourism intensive sector) businesses to recover to the 2019 level, in terms of job count.

Can Hawaii open up to tourists without letting in the coronavirus?

With the recent upswing in U.S. coronavirus (Covid-19 ) case counts in state’s leading in the race to reopen back up for business, Hawaii faces the prospects of thousands of tourists returning to the islands, and some will be infected with coronavirus and also asymptomatic in which airport temperature checks of arriving passengers will be mostly useless for the screening of this virus-active segment of the population.

One idea currently being floated by government officials is waiving the quarantine restrictions for new visitors is that each passenger Hawaii-bound present proof recent negative test results prior to boarding their flight to Hawaii.  The process and stakeholder responsibilities for managing such a system have yet to be worked out.Toursim

One suggestion is that people take a COVID-19 test 24 hours before flying to Hawaii, and individuals who share their negative results with the airlines and/or state prior to boarding to qualify for a 14-day quarantine waiver on arrival.

Such a system won’t be flawless, since test results are not always accurate. People flying to Hawaii might still be exposed to the virus while traveling or at any point after their test results and before their arrival in Hawaii.

The median turnaround times for COVID-19 test results are approximately 7-8 hours, once test samples are received at a qualified mainland testing facility.  According to Hawaii’s DOH, specimens are collected in Hawaii and be sent to a private or state lab take upwards to 3 to 4 days for test results.

But with its flaws, a pre-qualification to fly to Hawaii testing certificate would likely stop the vast majority of asymptomatic people who would have flown into the state with Covid-19, making it an effective screening tool to keep the number of new arrival cases low.

Hawaii’s lieutenant governor, Josh Green; the US congressman Ed Case; and local lawmakers have expressed support for a screening strategy that includes pre-testing for the coronavirus, while the Federal Aviation Administration and the US Department of Transportation have said it would be possible, but testing and screening details have yet to be worked out between the Feds and the state.

As the theory goes…maintaining low rates of Covid-19 will probably encourage visitors to come to the state, as they will think of Hawaii as a safe place. It will also make residents who are weary of visitors – a handful were caught breaking quarantine after posting pictures of themselves on the beach or other quarantine violations – more confident about allowing tourism to return.

Testing, contact tracing, and isolation methods also needed to be bolstered before the state allowed tourists to come back, and ensure the safety of Hawaii’s residents.  In early May, the state’s department of health said it was increasing the number of trained contact tracers who will help in the tracking of infected persons and who may have come in contact with residents, in order to slow or stop the spread of the virus.

Beyond Tourism

It will likely take Hawaii longer to recover than states on the mainland with more diversified economies. At the same time, it is generally recognized, outside the state’s tourist industry, that Hawaii must diversity its economy and lessen its dependency on Tourism. The questions are what form such a needed economic transition would take, who would benefit, and how to ensure the transformation will be economically sustainable and equitable for Hawaii’s residents and business interests.

The state has already seen a loss of population for the past three years in what has been described as a form of economic flight, and the pandemic is likely to accelerate that trend without fundamental economic reform that addresses both the state’s dependency on tourism and its need for greater economic diversification… going back to business as usual is no longer an option in the new post-pandemic world economy.  Hawaii may be a magical place, but there is no longer room for magical thinking when it comes to state’s future.

 

 

Covid 19 Image

Coronavirus: 21st Century Pandemic – BREAKING NEWS

US has three months to rebuild medical supplies stockpile before Second COVID-19 Wave Hits

Last month, Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a candid warning (April 22 ) in a Washington Post interview.

A simultaneous flu and coronavirus outbreak next fall and winter “will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” adding that calls and protests to “liberate” states from stay-at-home orders — as President Trump has tweeted — were “not helpful.”

President Trump’s tenuous relationship with his own administration’s scientific and public health experts (Dr. Fauci, CDC, NIH) has created a political filter for all public information relating to the present pandemic. The unofficial message from the Oval Office is an unmistakable warning: Those who challenge the president’s erratic and often inaccurate coronavirus views will be punished — or made to atone.

Fast Forward to Present Day and Hear Scientists’ Warnings – Outside the Trump White House Bubble

Nine top scientists who advised President Barack Obama during his term in the White House are warning that the United States has just three months to rebuild its national stockpile of emergency medical supplies or risk further drastic shortages of testing kits and protective gear should coronavirus strike again in the fall.

The group of nine are among the most pre-eminent scientists in the country. In addition to Holdren, now at Harvard, they include Eric Lander of MIT and Harvard, Chris Chyba of Princeton and Susan Graham of UC Berkeley.

All nine were members of the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology assembled by Obama at the start of his presidency. Between 2009 and 2016 they co-wrote six reports for the president that touched on viral pandemics.

The dramatic warning from the former White House science advisers contains an implicit criticism of Donald Trump’s handling of the pandemic. The group of scientists warn that present federal government preparations for a possible resurgence of the disease must be triggered immediately inn order to avoid a repeat of the “extraordinary shortage of supplies” that the Country suffered earlier this year during the current first wave of the Pandemic.

“Preparation for a resurgence needs to be initiated now. It needs to be at a national level, in close collaboration and coordination with state and local officials,” the letter says.

In a series of recent statements, Obama has been searingly critical of Trump’s management of the pandemic. Last Saturday he told graduating students in an online commencement address that coronavirus had “finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing – a lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge”.

The nine authors, led by John Holdren, Obama’s White House science adviser throughout his two terms in office, criticize the Trump administration for failing to act on numerous studies urging replenishment of the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) in preparation for just the kind of health emergency unfolding today.

“The United States was unprepared for the supply needs of the spring 2020 Covid-19 pandemic,” the group says.

The scientists add: “There has been a persistent shortage of ventilators, testing kits, masks and other PPE [personal protective equipment] … In recent years the nation has let down its guard.


As states reopen, efforts to ramp up testing have been hampered by the fragmented U.S. health system

The inability of the United States to provide broad diagnostic testing, widely seen as a pivotal failing in the nation’s effort to contain the virus, has been traced to the absence of a cohesive Federal policy, and the the botched rollout by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, couple to delayed response by the Food and Drug Administration, and supply shortages of swabs and masks.

But the fragmented Federal response has been compounded by a poorly organized American health care system, making it difficult for hospitals and other medical providers to quickly overcome obstacles to testing, tracing, and treatment.

In recent days, Mr. Trump has delivered a mixed message on testing, saying on May 11 that in ramping up, “we have met the moment and we have prevailed,” while a few days later, he suggested that testing was “overrated” and that the high number of cases in the United States could be traced to more prevalent testing.

The picture for testing is improving, slowly. The United States is completing more than 300,000 tests a day, double the amount of a month ago, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Still, the level of testing in the United States is orders of magnitude less than what many epidemiologists say it should be. The country should be doing at least 900,000 tests a day — and as many as 20 million — to yield an accurate picture of the outbreak, they say.

The need for extensive testing is even more acute as many governors have reopened their states before the epidemic has crested. Without sufficient testing it will be hard to identify and contain new outbreaks.

Most testing is not done by public health authorities — whose labs have been chronically underfunded — but by hospital laboratories and major for-profit testing companies.

There have been calls for more than a decade to create a national laboratory system that could oversee a testing response in a public health crisis. An effort to create one 10 years ago withered away over time because of a lack of funding.


America’s Nurses Speak Out — Survey finds 87% of forced to reuse one-time protective equipment

Despite ongoing calls for protective measures, 84% of those surveyed have not been tested for Covid-19 and 72% work with exposed skin or clothing,

The nationally representative survey finds that “dangerous healthcare workplace conditions have become the norm” since Covid-19 spread widely in the US.

More than 100 nurses have died since the beginning of the pandemic.


Some Covid-19 patients who have symptoms for months

Prof Tim Spector, of King’s College London, estimates that a small but significant number of people are suffering from the “long tail” form of the virus.

Spector is head of the research group at King’s College London which has developed the Covid-19 tracker app. This allows anyone who suspects they have the disease to input their symptoms daily; some 3 to 4 million people are currently using it, mostly Britons and Americans.

Spector estimates that about 200,000 of them are reporting symptoms which have lasted for the duration of the study, which is six weeks. There is good clinical data available for patients who end up in hospital.

Thus far the government is not collecting information on those in the community with ostensibly “mild” but often debilitating symptoms – a larger group than those in critical care.

“These people may be going back to work and not performing at the top of their game,” Spector says. “There is a whole other side to the virus which has not had attention because of the idea that ‘if you are not dead you are fine.’”

He adds: “We are the country that invented epidemiology. We haven’t produced any epidemiological studies other than the app. It’s kind of embarrassing.”

As more information becomes available, the government’s Covid model seems increasingly out of date.

Many Covid patients do not develop a fever and cough. Instead they get muscle ache, a sore throat and headache.

The app has tracked 15 different types of symptoms, together with a distinct pattern of “waxing and waning”. “I’ve studied 100 diseases. Covid is the strangest one I have seen in my medical career,” Spector says.


The president’s outlandish behavior as Americans suffer has inspired horror and confusion while alienating allies

The Trump administration has repeatedly claimed that the US is “leading the world” with its response to the pandemic, but it does not seem to be going in any direction the world wants to follow.

Across Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, views of the US handling of the coronavirus crisis are uniformly negative and range from horror through derision to sympathy. Donald Trump’s musings from the White House briefing room, particularly his thoughts on injecting disinfectant, have drawn the attention of the planet.

“Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger,” the columnist Fintan O’Toole wrote in the Irish Times. “But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.”

The US has emerged as a global hotspot for the pandemic, a giant petri dish for the Sars-CoV-2 virus.

As the death toll rises, Trump’s claims to global leadership have became more far-fetched. He told Republicans last week that he had had a round of phone calls with Angela Merkel, Shinzo Abe and other unnamed world leaders and insisted “so many of them, almost all of them, I would say all of them” believe the US is leading the way.

None of the leaders he mentioned has said anything to suggest that was true.


Top health experts testify before the Senate today that the U.S. is not “out of the woods” and warn against reopening too fast.

Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned the Senate Health Committee on Tuesday (5-12) morning that “we are not out of the woods yet,” a day after President Trump declared, “we have met the moment, and we have prevailed.”

Dr. Redfield is one of four top health officials testifying remotely by video, three of which in some form of self-isolation after exposure to a White House official who tested positive for the coronavirus, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and Stephen M. Hahn, the Food and Drug Administration commissioner.

Americans should brace themselves for the risk that they will suffer their “darkest winter in modern history” due to the ongoing federal government failures in addressing the coronavirus pandemic, a recently ousted public health official turned whistleblower warned the US Congress.

Dr. Bright, who was removed from his role heading a federal agency in charge of vaccines last month, told a congressional committee on Thursday that as the virus continues to spread in the US the “window is closing to address this pandemic” because the Trump administration still lacks a comprehensive plan to tackle Covid-19.

Dr. Fauci on Monday said he would tell the panel that there could be needless suffering and death if the country opens prematurely, but steered clear of that language during the early part of the hearing, instead saying, “the consequences could be really serious.” Mr. Trump has pushed for states to reopen and at times has encouraged people to defy governors’ orders.

More than 84,000 people in the United States have died from the virus, and Dr. Fauci cautioned that the number is likely higher and will grow even more if some areas if some areas of the country reopen prematurely.

“If that occurs there is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control,” Dr. Fauci said, adding that it would not only lead to deaths but would set the economic recovery back as well.

Senator Patty Murray of Washington, condemned the Trump administration’s response to the virus, saying that Mr. Trump “has been more focused on fighting against the truth than fighting the virus.”

She criticized “delays” and “missteps” on tests, “corruption and political interference” in the government’s attempts to acquire personal protective equipment, and the White House’s move to put off guidelines the C.D.C. drafted to help schools, restaurants, churches and other establishments safely reopen.

“Americans have sadly paid the price,” she said.

In a tense exchange about whether children should go back to school, Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, noted that the mortality rate in children is low, and suggested that schools should be reopened district by district.

“As much as I respect you Dr. Fauci, I don’t think you’re the end all. I don’t think you’re the one person who gets to make the decision,” Mr. Paul said. “We can listen to your advice but there are people on the other side saying there won’t be a surge.”

To that, Dr. Fauci gave a pointed response. “I have never made myself out to be the end all and only voice in this,” he said. “I’m a scientist a physician and a public health official. I give advice on the best scientific evidence.”


New COVID-19 case clusters emerge in Asian countries previously praised for their successful coronavirus containment.

As the world confronts the pandemic, several nations in Asia have been hailed for curbing the spread within their borders. But in the face of the coronavirus, victory can be elusive and fleeting.

And as several countries make moves to lift measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, officials from the World Health Organization are urging governments and the public to maintain “extreme vigilance” to avoid a new wave of infections.

Singaporeonce a model for its speed and efficiency in tracing the contacts of infected people, has seen its cases balloon to more than 23,000 as the virus spread in dormitories for foreign workers.

China – Officials in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak began and which celebrated its recent emergence from more than two months in lockdown, said it would test all 11 million residents after six new cases were confirmed this week.

The new cluster of cases, the first recorded there since April, were linked to a man who fell sick in March but was not tested. He recovered, then fell ill again last month.

Japan – As reported earlier (https://www.beyondkona.com/covid-19-end-game/), the northern island of Hokkaido offers a grim lesson in the next phase of the battle against COVID-19. It acted quickly and contained an early outbreak of the coronavirus with a 3-week lockdown. But, when the governor lifted restrictions, a second wave of infections hit even harder. Twenty-six days later, the island was forced back into lockdown.


 



NEWS ARCHIVE

A divide between so-called red states and blue states is driving a US congressional dispute over COVID-19 recovery aid.

Hawaii and other state governments are incurring large economic costs to respond to COVID-19.   States are also experiencing large declines in tax revenues and increased enrollment in safety-net programs as disruptions caused by COVID-19 drive incomes and consumption lower. Without assistance from the federal government, states will likely be forced to make deep program cuts, enact substantial tax increases, or both, signs of which have already begun here in Hawaii.

The disagreement is another reminder as Mr. Trump and a divided Congress make decisions about federal relief, based on politics — which is never far from their calculations.

Democrats are presently urging action that a much needed next phase of assistance in the form of state aid be enacted now, but President Trump and Republicans argue that the government should wait to see how the economy is faring before enacting another sweeping stimulus law.

Much of the dispute — unfolding months before the November elections is about control of the Senate — a political calculation not lost on this Administration, and which states that stand to benefit or lose.

President Trump has suggested that he viewed the issue through an entirely partisan lens. But the reality is that many states and cities (both blue and red) are experiencing devastating fiscal crises during the pandemic, and Congressional Democrats have joined bipartisan groups of governors and mayors in pressing for as much as $700 billion for troubled states, cities and towns.


Men’s blood has higher levels of an enzyme used by the Sars-CoV-2 virus to infect cells

The results of a study published in the European Heart Journal show. Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is found in the heart, kidneys and other organs. It is thought to play a role in how the COVID-19 infection progresses into the lungs.


The World Health Organization says “extreme vigilance” is needed as countries begin to exit lockdowns imposed to curb the virus’ spread.

The warning comes after Germany reported an acceleration in new infections after easing its lockdown, and South Korea, another country that succeeded in limiting infections, saw a new outbreak in nightclubs.


Follow the Money – Economic Impact Payments

Economic Impact Payment from the IRS. The latest figures show that nearly 130 million individuals have received their payments, accounting for $200 billion in support during the first four weeks of the program.   For Hawaii residents, so far, the IRS has issued 542,426 Economic Impact Payments, a total of $923,960,321.

The IRS is committed to helping you get your Economic Impact Payment as soon as possible. The payments, also referred to by some as stimulus payments, are automatic for most taxpayers. No further action is needed by taxpayers who filed tax returns in 2018 and 2019 and most seniors and retirees.

The IRS is encouraging everyone who has not yet used the “Get My Payment” tool on its website to do so no later than Wednesday, May 13 for a chance to get a quicker delivery of their Economic Impact Payment.

Hawaii’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) announced it distributed $140,300,082 in unemployment insurance benefits for the week of May 3rd.

  • In March, Congress passed a historic $2 trillion stimulus package to shore up the economy. Money 1
  • The CARES Act includes $150 billion for state and local governments to help them respond to the coronavirus crisis.
  • But the money hasn’t been distributed evenly: Rural states are receiving a disproportionate amount of relief funds relative to their COVID-19 case and death counts, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
  • That has major implications for states with larger outbreaks, since governments are being forced to make severe cuts to programs like Medicaid, even as millions lack health insurance.

Hawaii State legislature comes back to work next week to face up to uncertain times ahead and an emerging budget crisis.

Hawaii’s rainy day fund is one area that will be tapped to cover revenue-budget shortfalls. One thing certain, Hawaii’s legislature cannot assume a return to business-as-usual revenue assumptions going forward and for the foreseeable near future – adjustments will need to be made. Question is what “adjustments” will be made that will be sufficient to balance the state budget.

After being recessed since March due to COVID-19, the Hawai‘i legislature will be reconvening on Monday, May 11.  Lawmakers will focus on state budget issues and board member confirmations.  The Capitol will also be closed to the public, but all committee hearings and floor sessions will be live streamed on ʻŌlelo and written testimony will be accepted on all active matters before this renewed legislature session.

  • Hawaii — Govenor Ige, eases “Stay at Home” to “Safer At Home”

More Hawaii businesses will be permitted to reopen Thursday, (5/7) in a new statewide emergency proclamation.New Cases

Governor Ige’s new proclamation allows “low-risk” businesses to reopen as long as they follow social distancing guidelines.

Re-opening Hawaii’s business community and beaches

Hawaii businesses eligible for reopening include retail businesses and services, non-food agriculture, astronomical observatories and support facilities, car washes, pet grooming services, non-profit organizations, shopping malls and wholesale and warehousing operations. Health care providers also will be allowed to resume elective surgeries.

The primary consideration for determining which businesses can reopen is they can effectively enforce social distancing protocols.

The reopening requires that patrons and customers maintain minimum distances between people, limit the number of simultaneous customers and require employees and customers to wear masks.

“Although we encourage you to patronize the newly reopened businesses and activities, you are safer at home,” Ige said.

Hawaii state, since the pandemic hit the islands, has tested less than 2% of the population, and so far has failed to employ statewide COVID-19 case tracing.

The current “flattening of the curve” in the state is more a testament to the state’s early and aggressive virus containment measures than the potential for a wider spread of COVID-19 throughout the state as containment management restrictions are lifted.

Updated Hawaii State and County Face Mask Guidance

On April 24, 2020, the governor previously issued a statewide order encouraging all to wear cloth face masks based on CDC recommendations, which is that everyone should wear a cloth face covering when out in public. They also advise that cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

The governor’s order also exempts the use of a face mask while using an ATM or in a bank, and while engaging in physical exercise.For Hawaii County, Mayor Kim also issued a new rule requiring the use of face coverings or masks for all essential businesses and operations. All customers and all employees are required to wear face coverings. Children younger than 5 and those with health or medical conditions, trouble breathing, or who are otherwise unable to remove the covering without assistance are exempted from this rule. Unless there is an exemption, a business is required to refuse service to those without face coverings.


  •  US infection rate rising as states open up

New confirmed infections per day in the U.S. exceed 20,000, and deaths per day are well over 1,000, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. And public health officials warn that the failure to flatten the curve and drive down the infection rate in places could lead to many more deaths — perhaps tens of thousands — as people are allowed to venture out and businesses reopen.

“Make no mistakes: This virus is still circulating in our community, perhaps even more now than in previous weeks” said Linda Ochs, director of the Health Department in Shawnee County, Kansas.

Elsewhere around the world, Britain’s official coronavirus death toll, at more than 29,000, topped that of Italy to become the highest in Europe and second-highest in the world behind the United States. The official number of dead worldwide surpassed a quarter-million, by Johns Hopkins’ count, though the true toll is believed to be much higher.

When the still locked-down area is included, new infections in the U.S. appear to be declining, according to the AP analysis. It found that the five-day rolling average for new cases has decreased from 9.3 per 100,000 people three weeks ago on April 13 to 8.6 on Monday.

U.S. testing for the virus has been expanded, and that has probably contributed to the increasing rate of confirmed infections. But it doesn’t explain the entire increase, said Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang, a public health researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles.

“This increase is not because of testing. It’s a real increase, he said.

On Monday, a model from the University of Washington nearly doubled its projection of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. to around 134,000 through early August, with a range of 95,000 to nearly 243,000.

Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the institute that created the projections, said the increase is largely because most states are expected to ease restrictions by next week.

Without stay-at-home orders and similar measures, Murray said, “we would have had exponential growth, much larger epidemics and deaths in staggering numbers.” But cooperation is waning, with cellphone location data showing people are getting out more, even before their states reopen, he said.


  • The Trump administration projects about 3,000 daily deaths by early June

As President Trump presses for states to reopen their economies, his administration is privately projecting a steady rise in the number of cases and deaths from the coronavirus over the next several weeks, reaching about 3,000 daily deaths on June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times, nearly double from the current level of about 1,750.

The projections, based on modeling by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and pulled together in chart form by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases now.

The numbers underscore a sobering reality: While the United States has been hunkered down for the past seven weeks, not much has changed. And the reopening to the economy will make matters worse.

“There remains a large number of counties whose burden continues to grow,” the C.D.C. warned.

The projections confirm the primary fear of public health experts: that a reopening of the economy will put the nation right back where it was in mid-March, when cases were rising so rapidly in some parts of the country that patients were dying on gurneys in hospital hallways as the health care system grew overloaded.

On Sunday (5-3),  Trump said deaths in the United States could reach 100,000, twice as many as he had forecast just two weeks ago. But his new estimate still underestimates what his own administration is now predicting to be the total death toll by the end of May — much less in the months that follow. It follows a pattern for Mr. Trump, who has frequently understated the impact of the disease.

At least 1,000 people with the virus, and sometimes more than 2,000, have died every day for the last month. On a near-daily basis, at least 25,000 new cases of the virus are being identified across the country.

Trump prepares country for politically-driven calculus; re-opening U.S. against all odds and public health consequences… Slow, conflicting, and confused Federal response to pandemic contributes to national PPE supply, equipment, and virus testing shortage, as national death toll exceeds 51,450..


  • US Federal Gov’t ReOpening Plan  – PHASE ONE —

ALL VULNERABLE INDIVIDUALS should continue to shelter in place.

Members of households with vulnerable residents should be aware that by returning to work or other environments where distancing is not practical, they could carry the virus back home. Precautions should be taken to isolate from vulnerable residents.

All individuals, WHEN IN PUBLIC (e.g., parks, outdoor recreation areas, shopping areas), should maximize physical distance from others. Social settings of more than 10 people, where appropriate distancing may not be practical, should be avoided unless precautionary measures are observed.

EMPLOYERS will continue to ENCOURAGE TELEWORK, whenever possible and feasible with business operations.  If possible, RETURN TO WORK IN PHASES.  Close COMMON AREAS where personnel are likely to congregate and interact, or enforce strict social distancing protocols.


  • A Second Wave of COVID-19 infections is projected for Hawaii…

A month ago, it was reported (3-31) that …COVID-19 is spreading in Hawaii communities at a wider scale than being reported. That’s according to two medical experts on the frontlines of containing the virus.

“There’s no fear mongering here. We need to isolate we need to separate,” Dr. Miscovich, founder of Premier Medical Group Hawaii, whose clinics have identified about 40 of the 175 positive cases so far in the state.

Dr. Miscovich added that most of the professional community are “thinking there’s probably 800 to 1,000 unidentified cases on Oahu right now, and that would also be across the neighbor islands. We need to test them we need to find them, we need to isolate them, we need to treat them and I still am very confident that we have the ability to flatten the curve.”

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Dr. Miscovich added that most of the professional community are “thinking there’s probably 800 to 1,000 unidentified cases on Oahu right now, and that would also be across the neighbor islands. We need to test them we need to find them, we need to isolate them, we need to treat them and I still am very confident that we have the ability to flatten the curve.”

Dr. Miscovich has been on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus. He and his team held another drive-thru testing site last weekend in Oahu. He said Hawaii can expect to see an increase in positive cases in the near future.

“The people of Hawaii need to know, we are going to see a massive surge. It does not mean that we have a massive new influx. This is just the data we’re getting today is coming from the last 10 days,” Dr. Miscovich explained about the lag in testing results.

However, he adds that testing is getting faster, and a new blood test can help speed up results.

“We have a pilot on a device right now, which is a 10 minute blood test, and that pilot is about 95% accurate,” Dr. Miscovich said about the new form of testing. He said the blood test is used for patients with a high probability of having the virus. “It still needs to be quantified with a nasal swab,” he said.


  • More states are allowing certain businesses to open up

After a wave of reopenings over the weekend, at least six more states will begin allowing certain businesses to open back up on Monday, the latest expansion in economic activity despite rising coronavirus cases.

In Florida, restaurants, stores, museums and libraries are allowed to reopen with fewer customers, except in the most populous counties, which have seen a majority of the state’s cases. Restrictions on certain businesses or parts of the state were also lifted in Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and West Virginia.

About half of all states have now begun reopening their economies in some significant way, introducing a pivotal new chapter. Some states have lifted stay-at-home orders or reopened businesses even though reported new cases are rising or remaining steady. Public health experts have warned that reopening too soon could lead to a new wave of cases and deaths.

“The fact remains that the vast majority of Americans have not been exposed to the virus, there is not immunity, and the initial conditions that allowed this virus to spread really quickly across America haven’t changed,” said Dr. Larry Chang, an infectious-diseases specialist at Johns Hopkins University.

Though businesses are almost universally reopening under restrictions, such as allowing fewer customers or enforcing social distancing, experts say it’s too soon to tell how much that will help stop the spread of the virus. “Reopening is not a one-way street,” Dr. Chang said. “If there is a surge in cases, we need to clamp down again.”


  • Countries are taking steps to ease restrictions, and their neighbors are watching closely to see what happens

At least 12 countries began easing restrictions on public life on Monday, as the world tried to figure out how to placate restless populations tired of being inside and reboot stalled economies without creating opportunities for the virus to re-emerge.

The steps, which include reopening schools and allowing airports to begin domestic service, offer the rest of the world a preview of how areas that have managed to blunt the toll might work toward resuming their pre-pandemic lives. They also serve as test cases for whether the countries can maintain their positive momentum through the reopenings, or if the desire for normalcy could place more people at risk.

Most of the countries easing their restrictions are in Europe, including Italy, one of the places where the virus hit earliest and hardest, leaving more than 28,000 dead. The country plans to reopen some airports to passengers.

In Germany, where widespread testing has kept the pandemic under control, children will return to schools. Austria also plans to restart its school system.


  • Sweden’s approach to the pandemic sets a seductive, but foolhardy course for the nation

For the US and other countries battling the coronavirus pandemic, Sweden sets a seductive example. While the world’s biggest economies have shut down, one small, well-governed Scandinavian country has allowed most businesses to stay open. The strategy apparently relies on “herd immunity,” in which a critical mass of infection occurs in lower-risk populations that ultimately thwarts transmission.

In Sweden, business is not actually proceeding as usual. Most travel and mass gatherings are not allowed, and some schools have been closed. But restrictions from government are considerably less severe than many other countries. Restaurants and bars are still functioning, some of them only with minimal distancing taking place.

The results have been mixed. Sweden has the highest fatalities and case count per capita in Scandinavia, but is lower than some of its neighbors to the south. Economic disruption has been significant but not as debilitating as other countries. In the capital, Stockholm, the nation’s top infectious disease official recently estimated that approximately 25 percent of the population has developed antibodies.

We don’t know if that percentage is accurate because the data isn’t available, the antibody tests still appear to be of uncertain accuracy, and we don’t even know what a positive antibody test means. There is some optimism that most people who are infected will have some temporary immunity. But if immunity is short-lived and only present in some individuals, that already uncertain 25 percent may be in jeopardy of re-infection, which could prove deadly.

We also still don’t know what total population percentage would be necessary to reach the herd immunity goal. It could be as high as 80 percent of the population.

There are huge risks for the US to copy Swedan’s laissez faire pandemic policy.  The simply fact is that Americans are far less healthy than Swedes. We have significantly higher rates of asthma, diabetes, hypertension, three of the most-risky underlying conditions, and four out of every 10 Americans are obese. A herd immunity strategy in America would mean many more deaths, and  more people forced into some form of lockdown for many more weeks, most likely months.

Moreover, the Sweden example demonstrates that a targeted herd immunity strategy doesn’t do much to protect at-risk populations either. Deaths among the elderly in Sweden have been painfully high. In a more densely populated country like the United States, and with a larger proportion of vulnerable people, the human toll of a herd immunity strategy could be devastating.

But what about the economy? The choice is not between indefinite shutdown and Russian roulette. A transition needs to occur that balances the risks at play. From that perspective, Sweden is the future. But not because of a herd immunity strategy. Because a more targeted approach to social distancing can be deployed when the timing calls for it, when old-fashioned public health methods can foster a gradual easing of restrictions in a way that can be tweaked as we learn more and develop new tools — treatments, understanding of immunity, testing improvements, and epidemiological data.


  • COVID-19 – Infection Cycle

Data is beginning to emerge indicating that individuals infected with the virus, once recovered, remain active carriers of the virus for up to 24 days.

Currently, it is estimated to take about 2 weeks, once inflected with COVID-19 virus, to manifest symptoms. And then it takes another 2-3 weeks to recover, and an additional 2-3 weeks once recovered, to remain a carrier of the (active) virus, and with possibility of inflecting others.

Add it all up, and that’s about 8 weeks or about two months — the total timeline for individuals infected to carry the “active” virus within their body.

Hawaii state, as is occurring nationally, is experiencing shortages of essential pandemic supplies: hand sanitizer,  N95 masks, thermometers, gloves, and related panic purchase effects on supplies of toilet paper and some food stocks.  Raw material shortages essential to the production of items ranging from N-95 masks to toilet paper are beginning to be reported by some U.S. manufacturers.

Officials are screening passengers that arrive at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport to identify those coming from countries that require quarantine or public health supervision. Anyone who has traveled to areas with sustained community transmission are being asked to self-isolate and monitor their health for 14 days.


  • COVID-19 – VACCINE ?

BeyondKona first reported in April the promise of existing virus vaccines and their potential role in treating COVID-19, with a particular focus on Remdesivir.

It was reported today that severely ill coronavirus patients were responding well to Remdesivir, a Gilead Sciences drug, at a Chicago hospital. The trial involved only 125 people and the preliminary results were not peer reviewed, but it was welcome news, and a possible beginning to a virus vaccine based on science and not politics.

Previously, Remdesivir was given to the first known U.S. coronavirus patient: a man in Washington State who had recently returned from the outbreak’s epicenter in Wuhan, China. And he has made a good recovery.

But that patient is, of course, only a single person, and a larger sample size will be needed to determine the drug’s efficacy.

Two trials of Remdesivir are currently underway in China: one for severe cases of COVID-19 and the other for mild or moderate cases. Results for both trials are expected in April.

Another clinical trial is planned in the U.S., and it will be run by the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. That trial will take months to be conducted and at up to 50 sites around the world, testing Remdesivir against a placebo.

Remdesivir has been shown to be effective against many other viruses, and some experts are optimistic that it—or similar compounds—may work for the pathogen responsible for COVID-19.

The surge was based on a report by the news site STAT about videotaped comments by a University of Chicago Medicine researcher leading a local trial site for Gilead’s experimental drug Remdesivir. Of 113 patients with severe disease, only two people treated with the drug died, and most got better quickly, the researcher said. It was not disclosed how many were on ventilators before they improved.

University of Chicago Medicine is one of the dozens and dozens of sites listed by Gilead on clinicaltrials.gov as trial locations around the world for the company’s Remdesivir study, with the 6,000 patients being grouped into four categories of disease severity and dosing. The worldwide trial is ongoing, with preliminary results not expected until next month.

“Drawing any conclusions at this point is premature and scientifically unsound,” University of Chicago Medicine said in a statement.

For more details: https://www.beyondkona.com/coronavirus-covid-19-news-archive/

 

 

Face Mask People

Post Pandemic: Winners and Losers


The Post Pandemic Economy

There is no question in anyone’s mind that the coronavirus (COVID-19) has had a significant impact on the global economy and the lives of so many people.

The daily discussion in the world of politics and media focuses on social and economic impacts, and too often ranges from fear to anger.  The voices we hear from our global leaders to Wall Street to the titans of industry are missing the lesson and opportunity that COVID-19 offers humankind.

These so-called leaders fail to grasp the opportunity that COVID-19 has created  for the transformation of a global economy no longer sustainable by any honest metrics, and one that is so destructive to the delicate and planetary environmental balance on which we also all depend, it represents an even larger end game than the present pandemic.

Prior to COVID-19’s arrival, we humans entered the 21st century full speed ahead, blindly confident our consumption of resources, burning of fossil fuels, and increasing social and economic imbalance within the world’s growing human population, could, and in fact would, continue unabated and without consequences.

Scientists estimate that at least six out of every 10 known infectious diseases in people have spread from animals. More importantly, three out of every four new or emerging infectious diseases affecting humans come from animals. Zoonosis has its roots in elements from our current model of development, particularly in agriculture and mining, and in the way we develop roads and plan urban growth.

Vast changes in land use and the loss of habitat from these practices have put people and livestock into closer contact with wild species. They have exposed our societies to diseases for which no immunity has yet developed.

More than 70% of the ice-free land surface has been altered significantly already. By 2050, land-use change will affect 90% of the Earth’s land systems if we continue with business as usual, according to the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. If we carry on the same path, a future pandemic could be even more deadly and costly in terms of lives and livelihoods.

Economic Indicators

Many Americans came into the nationwide lockdown with limited savings, despite gains made over the course of a record-long economic expansion. At the end of 2019, three in 10 adults said they could not cover three months’ worth of expenses with savings or borrowing in the case of a job loss, “indicating that they were not prepared for the current financial challenges,” according to  a central bank spokesperson.

Economic wellness measurements, like daily stock indices, financial arbitrage outcomes, hedge fund priorities, or the price of oil offer little insight into the health of the patient, the economy, which may hold a hidden and growing cancer about to blossom into many adverse effects.

Fortune 500 corporate priorities set the stage for corporate subsidies (taxpayer funded), and drive global government policies too often designed to serve the interests of corporations (who are not people, as defined in Citizens United vs. United States), and which inevitably leads to various forms of wealth extraction from the consumer class to the poorest of the world’s citizens.

A present day example, the current Administration’s die hard effort to preserve coal profits at the expense of clean energy jobs — policy and regulatory changes that created unnecessary public health costs, enabled higher dirty energy costs and environmental destruction, and has accelerated climate costs. All of which has left the American public to pick-up the tab for coal profits benefiting a few at the expense of the many.  — BeyondKona previously reported on the link between coal-fired power plant emissions and enabling the spread of coronavirus, COVID-19: https://www.beyondkona.com/editorial-pandemics-pollution-and-politics/

Even after COVID-19’s painful, but obvious lesson: business-as-usual is no longer sustainable, global leaders and financial markets are operating with the assumption we can continued to consume our deficit-spending of the planet’s natural wealth (against all science and common sense) without consequences to them, because someone will always bail them out come the next financial crash.

As if there was no tomorrow, tomorrow has finally arrived, and rather unexpectedly in the form of a global pandemic touching the daily lives of all people, regardless of their wealth or position.

Whatever our expectations, the fact is, business as usual is done — we humans must now adapt or go the way of the dinosaurs.

Beyond the Present — Projected Social & Economic Consequences

Winner & Losers 3

  The above graph offers an incomplete sampling of possible economic and social changes ahead, and is based on a current trend analysis.  An increased emphasis on science and research and development are implicit in all aspects of any transformation going forward.


With infections surging, cities in lockdown, businesses shuttered, travel mostly on ice, layoffs mushrooming, there is little expectation that society will just return to the state it was before COVID-19’s arrival.  The number of Americans filing unemployment benefit claims hit a record of more than 36 million over a two month period ending mid May.

 

Jobless Claims

 

The global economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be with us for several years to come.  It will also present many opportunities for change and improvements in the human condition, beginning with a economy based on sustainable business priorities and the global transformation to an equitable and clean energy economy.

We have only begun to scrape the surface of technological advancements of the last 20 years, and apply those opportunities to betterment of humankind.

COVID-19 is not the end game for humanity. Rather it is the beginning of a new and transformative period in human history, much in the way the 14th century plague that sweep Europe finally led to Renaissance.

Now is the time for policy makers and all of humankind to rethink traditional assumptions and unsustainable business models, and to act on social and economic changes aligned with the realities and opportunities of a post-pandemic global economy.


Twitter, a case in point

The coronavirus pandemic forced millions of U.S. workers to abruptly transition from office life to working from home. With no end to the outbreak in sight, companies and their employees are preparing for several more months of remote work. The prolonged absence from the office has raised the question of whether some workers will ever go back.

Though the technology for large-scale remote work has existed for years, less than 4 percent of the U.S. workforce did their jobs from home before the pandemic. In a matter of weeks, that number grew to include roughly a third of all workers in the country.

A number of large companies, especially in the tech sector, have extended their work-from-home periods until the end of the year. On Tuesday, Twitter became the first major firm to allow employees to do their jobs away from the office permanently, if they choose.

The sudden mass migration of the white-collar workforce into home offices has been so transformative that a significant portion of workers will never come back, many industry experts say. The most important reason the change may become permanent is it seems to offer benefits to everyone involved. Employees are spared the time and expense of commuting and have more opportunities to see their families. Many report they have been more productive at home than in the office.

Companies could see major financial benefits from cutting their spending on expensive real estate and reducing the cost of maintaining office space — especially with the extra safety measures that will likely need to be implemented.

Employers that had been reluctant to allow remote work have seen that many concerns about lost productivity and harm to company culture are unfounded, labor analysts say. The pandemic also forced companies to tackle the expense and logistical challenges that may have been barriers to broad work-from-home policies.

“Given the choice between retrofitting their offices with expensive safety features, or allowing employees to work from home, it’s a good bet that many companies will choose the latter. But if working at home does become the norm, it will effectively shift the cost of maintaining and renting office space from the company to the employees.” — Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Inquirer

Covid 19 Breaks Apart

COVID-19 END GAME

The VIRUS

Here is what we don’t know

No one knows how and when the COVID-19 pandemic will end, including Donald J. Trump.

Here is what we do know — 

This coronavirus is unprecedented in the combination of being easily transmitted from one person to another, and COVID-19 exhibits a wide a range of symptoms (going from none to deadly).  It has disrupted a world with 21st century science and technology at its disposal, but in an environment of unprecedented global political division.

Viruses are constantly mutating. Those that trigger pandemics have enough novelty that the human immune system does not quickly recognize them as dangerous invaders.

They force the body to create a brand-new defense, involving new antibodies and other immune system components that can react to and attack the foe.

Large numbers of people get sick in the short term, and social factors such as crowding and the unavailability of medicine can drive those numbers even higher. Ultimately, in most cases, antibodies developed by the immune system to fight off the invader linger in enough of the affected population to confer longer-term immunity and limit person-to-person viral transmission. But that can take several years, and before it happens, havoc reigns.

What can we do?

Some of the world’s best scientific minds, and lesser minds in the political arena, are trying to figure out the end game of living with COVID-19, and into the foreseeable future.

The question as to how the pandemic will play out is part science, part social, and part political. The percentage of effort we give these 3 elements of COVID-19 decision making and policy will determine the degree of humanity’s success or failure in a battle to the death with this killer virus.

At best, present projections about how COVID-19 will play out are speculative.  The end game will most likely involve a mix of everything that checked past pandemics:

  1. Continued social-control measures to buy time,
  2. new antiviral medications to ease symptoms, and
  3. the Holy Grail — a vaccine.

If any of the several antiviral medications currently in development prove effective, they will improve treatment options and lower the numbers who get seriously ill or die. A technique to screen for SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies, an indicator of immunity in recovered patients, could also prove very useful.  Previously used only in local epidemics, these new serological assays won’t end the pandemic, but they could make it possible to spot and use antibody-rich blood as a treatment for critically ill patients; more certainly, the tests will also get people back to work faster if those who fought off the virus and are immune can be identified.

Unless a vaccine is administered to all of the world’s eight billion inhabitants who are not currently sick or recovered, COVID-19 is likely to become endemic. It will circulate and make people sick seasonally—sometimes very sick. It is not clear whether a vaccine will confer long-term immunity as with measles or short-term immunity as with flu shots. But “any vaccine at all would be helpful at this point,” says epidemiologist Aubree Gordon of the University of Michigan.

But if the virus stays in the human population long enough, it will start to infect children when they are young. Those cases are typically, though not always, quite mild, and so far the children appear less likely to develop severe disease if they get reinfected as adults. The combination of vaccination and natural immunity will protect many of us.

The coronavirus, like most viruses, will live on—but not as a planetary plague. 

The Public, Political Reaction

As ‘quarantine fatigue’ spreads, Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says second wave of coronavirus is ‘inevitable’ in the United States, which has recorded more than 1.3 million confirmed cases — nearly one-third of the global total.

Fauci also warned that “we could be in for a bad fall and a bad winter” if the right countermeasures aren’t put in place

A small minority of Americans are showing growing signs of “quarantine fatigue” and officials face pressure to ease coronavirus restrictions, factories, malls and state governments in many parts of the country are taking steps toward reopening.

A recent Monmouth University poll found 81% of Americans believe the outbreak measures taken by their state government have either been appropriate or not gone far enough. Therefore, protest coverage should include data showing real views of the public.

Given the size and composition of rallies’ focused on overturning public health measures designed for virus mitigation  it is unsurprising that many protesters neither practiced social distancing nor wore masks as shown by the media coverage.  Protesters wave signs and flags with a common theme objection to stay-at-home orders, including a mix of anti-vaccine and pro-gun rights activists, COVID-19 pandemic denialists, and conspiracy theorists.

Hawaii’s record of stay-at-home compliance has been a good one, and chiefly responsible (island-by-island) for state’s “momentary” success in mostly containing the COVID-19 outbreak.

What Can Hawaii Learn from this island prefecture?

Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido offers a grim lesson in the next phase of the battle against COVID-19. It acted quickly and contained an early outbreak of the coronavirus with a 3-week lockdown. But, when the governor lifted restrictions, a second wave of infections hit even harder. Twenty-six days later, the island was forced back into lockdown.

Hokkaido’s story is a sobering reality check for Hawaii and leaders across the world as they consider easing coronavirus lockdowns.

Experts say restrictions were lifted too quickly and too soon because of pressure from local businesses, coupled with a false sense of security in its declining infection rate.

The Japanese prefecture of 5.3 million people, known for its rugged mountain beauty and long history of farming and fishing, and was the first area of Japan to see a major coronavirus outbreak. It’s very different from Japan’s main island, Honshu, with its frenetic sprawling cities.

Hokkaido’s leaders acted early and decisively, even as the national government was criticized for moving too slowly to stop the spread elsewhere. Japan still has relatively few confirmed COVID-19 cases compared to other countries—12,400—but the numbers have more than doubled in the last two weeks.

Hokkaido doctors saw their first coronavirus patient, a tourist from Wuhan, China.

By mid-March, the health crisis was stabilizing—new cases were in the low single digits and even zero on some days—but complaints from businesses were increasing. Hokkaido’s two main industries—agriculture and tourism—had been devastated.

“Hokkaido’s business sector was opposed to the state of emergency, but the governor also wanted Hokkaido to be an example to the rest of Japan for how to control the virus,” says Aya Hasegawa, a reporter for the Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper.  Three weeks after Hokkaido successfully initiated CVOID-19 containment measures, the island was re-opened for business.  With the state of emergency lifted, and only residents who “feel unwell” were asked to stay at home, the rest of island engaged in limited social interactions in an attempt to find some kind of functional “normal”.

Large Japanese companies, after the state of emergency was lifted, began sending a fresh crop of workers from Tokyo and Osaka to Hokkaido.  That likely seeded even more infections and soon the second outbreak was in full bloom.

By April 9—exactly three weeks after the lockdown was lifted—there was a record number of new cases: 18 in one day. “Officials thought about people coming from overseas but never considered that domestic migration could bring the virus back,” said Hironori Sasada, professor of Japanese politics at Hokkaido University.

With a second lock down now in place in Hokkaido, businesses are now preparing for the long haul. Tetsuya Fujiawara, CEO of Smile Sol, a group of ten pub restaurants in Hokkaido, says even though sales are down 60%, he’d rather a strong, consistent lockdown than “lukewarm measures” that would only perpetuate the another cycle of restrictions being lifted and then reinstated as infections surge – again.

Living With COVID-19

Looking to recent history for clues on how best to live (not die) with COVID-19, the H1N1 influenza outbreak of 1918–1919 provides some useful guidance, even 100 years later.

Doctors and public health officials had far fewer weapons than they do today, and the effectiveness of control measures such as school closures depended on how early and decisively they were implemented.Covid 19 Breaks Apart

Over two years and three waves, the pandemic infected 500 million and killed between 50 million and 100 million.

It only ended as natural infections conferred immunity on those who recovered.

The H1N1 strain became endemic, an infectious disease that was constantly with us at less severe levels, circulating for another 40 years as a seasonal virus.

It took another pandemic—H2N2 in 1957—to extinguish most of the 1918 strain. One flu virus kicked out another one, essentially, and scientists don’t really know how. Human efforts to do the same have failed. “Nature can do what we cannot,” says virologist Florian Krammer of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

Ultimately, in most cases, antibodies developed by the immune system to fight off the invader may linger long enough that the affected population will confer longer-term immunity to broader population and limit person-to-person viral transmission. But that can take several years, and after that happens, we will be judged by future generations on how well we succeeded or failed to address an unseen threat.

Editorial — Pandemics, Pollution, and Politics

Pandemics

Three-quarters of new or emerging diseases that infect humans originate in animals, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it is human activity that multiplies the risks of contagion.

Humanity’s “promiscuous treatment of nature” needs to change or there will be more deadly pandemics such as Covid-19, warn scientists who have analysed the link between viruses, wildlife and habitat destruction.

Deforestation and other forms of land conversion are driving exotic species out of their evolutionary niches and into manmade environments, where they interact and breed new strains of disease, the experts say.

Roger Frutos, a specialist in infectious diseases at the University of Montpellier, said multiple studies have confirmed the density and variety of bat-borne viruses is higher near human habitation.

“Humans destroy the bats’ natural environment and then we offer them alternatives. Some adapt to an anthropomorphised environment, in which different species cross that would not cross in the wild,” he said.

Habitat destruction is an essential condition for the proliferation of a new virus, he added, but it is only one of several factors. Bats also need to pass the disease on to humans. There is no evidence of this being done directly for coronaviruses. Until now there has been an intermediary – either a domesticated animal or a wild animal which humans came into contact with for food, trade, pets or medicine.

In the 2003 Sars outbreak in China, it was a civet cat. In the Mers outbreak in the Middle East in 2012, it was a camel. Scientists have detected about 3,200 different strains of coronavirus in bats. Most are harmless to humans, but two very closely related sarbe-coviruses found in east Asia were responsible for Sars and Covid-19. The paper says future sarbecovirus emergence will certainly take place in east Asia, but epidemics of other new diseases could be triggered elsewhere.

South America is a key area of concern due to the rapid clearance of the Amazon and other forests. Scientists in Brazil have found viral prevalence was 9.3% among bats near deforested sites, compared to 3.7% in pristine woodland. “With deforestation and land-use change, you open a door,” said Alessandra Nava, of the Manaus-based Biobank research centre.

Pollution

A Harvard University study has linked dirty and polluted air to the worst coronavirus outcomes, and it has quickly become a political football in Washington.  Presidential candidates, agency regulators, oil lobbyists and members of Congress from both parties are using the preliminary research to advance their own political priorities — well before it has a chance to be peer-reviewed.

The stakes are high because the study’s tentative findings could prove enormously consequential for both the pandemic’s impact and the global debate over curbing air pollution. The researchers found that pollution emanating from everything from industrial smokestacks to household chimneys is making the worst pandemic in a century even more deadly.

The consequences and public health costs of Air Pollution before COVID-19, associated with elevated exposure to NO2 …

  • Hypertension,
  • Heart and cardiovascular diseases,
  • Increased rate of hospitalization,
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
  • Significant deficits in growth of lung function in children,
  • Poor lung function in adults or lung injury and
  • Diabetes

A second and collaborating European study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment has found that long-term exposure to air pollution may be “one of the most important contributors to fatality caused by the COVID-19 virus” around the world.

The study looked at COVID-19 fatalities in four of the countries that have been hit hardest by the virus – Germany, France, Italy and Spain. It found that 78% of deaths had occurred in just five regions in northern Italy and Spain.

These regions, the report notes, have the highest concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a pollutant harmful to human respiratory systems, while their geography means these areas also suffer from downward air pressure, which can prevent the dispersal of airborne pollutants.

Trump administrations environmental rollbacks will significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality each year, according to energy and legal analysts.

As economies across the world are halted and millions of people abide by stay-at-home orders in the effort to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19, many are observing similar unintended consequences: cleaner air and water in some of the most polluted cities on earth.

  • Impacts of the new coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) could contribute to a near 8% drop in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020, according to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
  • Global energy demand is expected to drop 6% this year, due to both the coronavirus and to countries seeing warmer-than-average winters. That 6% decline is seven times higher than the drop brought by the 2008 financial crisis. Alongside that decline in energy demand, IEA predicted demand for coal could fall by 8%, while oil will also see a downturn. But renewable energy sources may see an uptick in demand.
  • IEA said emissions are likely to rise again once economies reopen and recover, unless countries try to invest in clean energy and renewables. In a tweet, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol called for “structural emissions reductions.”

If you lived through the Nixon years you may have thought you’ve seen it all.  From enemy lists to break-ins. But this current administration has demonstrated there is no limit to massive abuses of power and privilege.

The 21st century Republican party and its leadership, culminating in the actions and events leading to Trump’s impeachment, without consequences, and the obstruction of evidence in due process, speaks to the current system of governance which has broken the checks and balances within the Federal government.

Since assuming power, the Trump Administration has, and is, reversing nearly 100 environmental rules designed to protect the public health and the environment.

Epa Reversals

All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality each year, according to energy and legal analysts.

At the same time, the Interior Department has worked to open up more land for oil and gas leasing by cutting back protected areas, limiting wildlife protections, and in policy partnership with the EPA, eliminating air and water pollution rules and protections.

The GOP controlled White House and Senate has taken gerrymandering, court stacking, influence peddling and profiting to a whole new level.

Unlike the days of Nixon, Trump and his party have a nation media empire which not only has their backs, but engages daily in misdirection and conspiracy theories and serves as a state propaganda machine the envy of even Russia’s state run media.

In U.S. cable and digital media markets, specifically, that’s influence which translates into effective mind control of the 30% of the population — (their) truth without facts, science as fiction, and serves as a policy feed-back loop for the President of the United States who gets his daily briefings from Fox, not the nation’s intelligence community.

All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality each year, according to energy and legal analysts.

None of this will change until the GOP leadership is standing in the unemployment line come this November.

Virus Finanical Aid 2

COVID-19, Federal Financial Aid Headed to Hawaii

NEWS UPDATE – Monday, April 20th, 2020

Second Round Economic Relief Package Momentarily Stuck in the Mud of Politics

Negotiations between the Trump administration and Democrats to reach a final deal were not expected to finish Monday, congressional officials said, as they worked to resolve the disagreement. But Senate leaders scheduled a session for 4 p.m. on Tuesday, signaling optimism that they could resolve the issue and quickly approve the measure without a formal vote that would require senators to return to Washington.

Democrats are pushing to include a requirement in the agreement, which includes $25 billion for testing, that the government establish a national testing strategy, according to people familiar with the ongoing negotiations who asked for anonymity to disclose details.

Democrats have said that a national testing strategy is crucial to combating the further spread of the coronavirus and allowing states to plan for eventual reopening. Republicans, wary of placing the political onus on the administration to devise and carry out such a strategy, have argued that states should set their own plans.

Mr. Trump appeared to reject the Democrats’ proposal on Monday, by placing politics ahead of a coherent national testing policy needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic. “States, not the Federal Government, should be doing the Testing,” the president wrote on Twitter.

Last week ago the Democratic controlled House of Representatives and the Republican-controlled Senate, finally reached an agreement on the first round of Federal financial aid for workers and business, in response to global pandemic which is having impacts of the nation’s new stay-at-home economy.

The Congressional aid package (CARES) included a massive $2 trillion coronavirus economic recovery package. The aid package also represented the largest emergency relief package in American history – includes billions to help those who are unable to work due to the outbreak, direct cash payments to millions of Americans, new funding for state and local governments, including at least $1.2 billion for Hawaii, and aid for small businesses, hospitals, and health care workers.

Virus Finanical Aid

Key provisions in the financial aid package include:

Hospitals and health care workers – provides more than $130 billion to help hospitals, nursing homes, health centers, and health care workers across the country.

  • Billions for personal and protective equipment for health care workers, testing supplies, increased workforce and training, new construction to house patients, an increase of the Strategic National Stockpile, medical research into COVID-19 and Medicare payment increases to all hospitals and providers.

Unemployment assistance – provides $260 billion to help those who have lost their jobs or are experiencing reduced incomes.

  • Available to self-employed individuals, part-time workers, independent contractors, and gig workers, including ride-sharing drivers.
  • Covers those who are sick, quarantined, furloughed, or whose family circumstances keep them from working or reduce their pay as a result of the coronavirus outbreak or government containment efforts.
  • Aid will cover salaries up to about $65,000 for 4 months.

At least $1.2 billion for Hawai‘i – funding to the state and county governments that will help pay for Hawaii’s response efforts.

Direct cash payments – provides a one-time cash payment to millions of Americans.

  • Individuals will get $1,200 (joint filers get $2,400) plus $500 per child.
  • Benefits start to phase out for those with incomes exceeding $150,000 for married couples, $75,000 for individuals, and $112,500 for single parents.
  • Payments will not go to single filers earning more than $99,000; head-of-household filers with one child, more than $146,500; and more than $198,000 for joint filers with no children.

Small businesses and non-profits – provides $377 billion for small employers, including restaurants, hotels, and non-profits.

  • $350 billion in partially forgivable loans to small businesses and non-profits to maintain existing workforce and help pay for other expenses like rent, mortgage, and utilities.
  • $10 billion for Small Business Administration (SBA) emergency grants of up to $10,000 to provide immediate relief for small business operating costs.
  • $17 billion for SBA to cover 6 months of payments for small businesses with existing SBA loans.

Large employers – provides $500 billion to keep the biggest employers, including airlines, and their workers on the job.

  • Protects collective bargaining agreements and prevents employers from firing employees.
  • Extends health care benefits for airline contract workers.
  • Prohibits stock buybacks or dividends for the length of any loan provided by the Treasury plus one year.
  • Restricts increases to pay for top executives.

 

CARES Act information provided courtesy of Senator Brain Schatz’s office