Friday, March 13, 2020

The Last Adult

There seems no adult in the room as the histrionics and paranoia kicks into overdrive over the Coronation Virus.  I look forward to the Lifetime movie on the Doctor or Patient Zero that spreads/dies/saves/diagnosis it and the Discovery Series - Virus Hunter.

On that note let's read these articles about the fucking nightmare we are living in.  I plan on putting on rotation here, Contagion (proving once again Matt Damon will save us), 28 Days Later (Cillian Murphy, hot) 28 Weeks Later (Jeremy Renner, would not throw him out into the virus laden streets either) The Seventh Seal (the amazing actor Max Von Sydow just died, probably from the Coronation Virus); The Andromeda Strain (Michael Crighton good read); Dawn of the Dead (Zombies who doesn't love 'em); Outbreak (great Director lousy film) ; 12 Monkeys (my new bofo Brad Pitt); Rise of the Planet Apes (medical monkeys revolt blame them clearly cause if we could test on them we would be cured by now); World War Z (my boo Brad Pitt just older and so much hotter but not with a fever hot). There are some others but these are my top 10.

Listen folks we got shitloads of time on our hands just remember to keep washing them and only have time them.


'Fear is not productive': what the US is getting right – and wrong – on coronavirus 
John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert, says the US has ‘completely bungled’ 
Covid-19 testing. But panic won’t fix things
Susie Cagle in San Francisco Guardian
Fri 13 Mar 2020  
While the known Covid-19 infection rate continued to climb this week in the US, efforts to limit further spread are beginning to affect daily life for many Americans. Dr John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, praises the steps government and private companies have taken to limit public gatherings. But he cautioned against letting collective concern turn to toxic fear: “That’s not productive for yourself or for keeping you safe.” 
We’re starting to see a real shift in public life across the US, with the cancellation and in some cases government banning of large public gatherings and events. How effective are those kinds of measures in limiting the spread of infections? 
I was publicly vocal that sporting events should shut down weeks ago. I thought it was just irresponsible of [the Bay Area sports teams] the San Jose Sharks and the Golden State Warriors to hold public games with fans. So I think all the advice and now dicta to not have these gatherings is a wise thing to do in the face of a pandemic. 
There’s no better way to infect people rapidly than to take human beings and put them in a confined space for a prolonged period 
There’s no better way to infect more people rapidly than to take human beings and put them in a confined space for a prolonged period of time. And that’s exactly what gatherings do, bringing people from disparate parts of a community together, crowding them together and leaving them there for a prolonged period of time. Think for a moment that you’re the virus instead of a human, and your role in life is to produce more viral particles. It’s ideal from a virus’s perspective in terms of transmission.

What are some of the most persistent public misconceptions about Covid-19? 
I’ve heard some say: look at influenza, that’s already killed between 20 and 30,000 Americans this year, so what’s the big deal about Covid-19? I think that’s a major mis-framing of the situation. There’s no question that influenza is a horrible disease that kills a lot of people every year. On the other hand, we’ve got an infectious agent facing us that we think is around 20 times more contagious than influenza, and carries a mortality rate that is probably 20 to 40 times greater than influenza, and it’s increasing in some parts of the world almost 33% a day over the past two weeks. Where we are now with Covid-19 and where we could be in a few weeks to a few months, we don’t know, but it could be disastrous. 
Other places experiencing coronavirus outbreaks have been successful in slowing transmission. What are they doing right that the US isn’t doing? 
Everybody’s still struggling with knowing what was effective and what was not effective in China. China has not only blunted the curve, but we’re seeing the number of cases declining. I suspect it was related to the draconian measures of not letting people travel outside of that region. They walled off the Hubei province, as many as 56 million people. It’s hard to imagine something like that here in the US, but if things get worse, we might see that. We need to understand what worked and what didn’t work so we can learn from that and apply those things here. But China is a very different society from ours in terms of how it’s governed. 
We may also be seeing a decline in cases in South Korea. They’ve done an enormous amount of testing, so they know where to apply their public health resources. 
What are the most challenging unknowns about this coronavirus? 
One of the biggest is that we don’t know how many people are infected. We don’t know how many people are currently infected, we don’t know how many people were infected and then got over it, we don’t know how many people were infected and never got sick. Without knowing the denominator, we don’t know what the case fatality rate is. We don’t know any of that because the testing in the US has been woefully inadequate. And that’s been a real black eye for the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and the national government. It should never have happened in this country. 
Without knowing how big a problem this is and where the problem is, how can we make rational public health decisions? It means we have to make blanket decisions for wide swaths of the country when that may not be necessary. We’ve gone from containment to mitigation now, but there may be parts of the country where we should still be putting effort and money into containment. 
All of these things are knowable, but they’re unknown now because we’ve completely bungled the testing that we should be doing. Just completely. I’m shocked to be saying this. With more testing, we’d know how to marshal our resources and how best to apply them. 
You’ve called for maintaining calm and perspective. In early February, you said this wasn’t something to panic about in the US. 
Well, that was a few weeks ago. 
Many more people in the US are far more concerned than they were about a month ago. Just how worried should we be now? 
People have a difficult time understanding risk. This is not in any way to diminish the impact of this pandemic – we have to do everything we can to stop it or at least blunt it. But we take risks every day that don’t even reach our consciousness, like getting into a car. Let’s do what we can do to prevent getting infected and go on with our lives. 
Don’t drift into fear and anxiety, because that’s destructive

I can speak from the perspective of a physician and a public health professor and I can tell you what is optimal to prevent people from not getting infected. But we have to have a society that functions – if we have a society where everybody is hunkered down and nobody’s making sure the water we drink is safe, or that there’s an adequate food supply, all the public health measures in the world are not going to be of value. These are all things that need to be balanced. 
We should be very concerned, and we should act accordingly in a rational way. Fear and anxiety are not productive for yourself or for keeping you safe. We have to find that balance. Don’t drift into fear and anxiety, because that’s destructive to us as individuals and as a community. 
So I’m very worried.
So he ends with the comment I am very worried.. about what? Again the tititalating ending means what is he worried about. Thanks for the clarification and explanation there asshole.  My Dentist at Vanderbilt two weeks ago said similar gibberish when telling me to "be careful."  Of what am I to be careful of?  Again unless you can give clear guidelines, examples and specifics you do nothing to make anyone feel secure so you live in paranoia and fear.   A state that should Tennessee's motto over the Volunteer one but then again a week later I was proven wrong on that as they did come out and do what they could.  It takes a village alright.

In the meanwhile the rich get richer and hunker down in fabulous manses and are served by the very ones that cannot do the same.

Coronavirus divides tech workers into the 'worthy' and 'unworthy' sick
Campuses have become ‘ghost towns’ as staffers depart – but many contractors still have to show up

Julia Carrie Wong in San Francisco
Guardian
Thu 12 Mar 2020 06.00 EDT

When Josh Borden arrived for work at the Google offices in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday morning, it felt like arriving in a “ghost town”. The parking lot was deserted, there was no breakfast being served in the cafeteria, and the nap rooms were tagged with signs announcing their closure “as a precaution given the Covid-19 situation”. “The office is so empty,” he told me. “Even more so than when the Googlers have their ski trip.”

The day before, Google had asked all its North American employees to begin working from home due to the coronavirus – a policy that has since been expanded to the rest of its global workforce. But Borden, a triage analyst who has worked for Google for about four years, is one of the approximately 135,000 people who make up Google’s “extended workforce”: temps and subcontractors who perform work for, but are not technically employed by, the $830bn company. And though Borden and his co-workers perform computer-based tasks that could just as easily be completed from home as those of other technical workers, Google does not allow them to access their work from home.

“The FTEs [full-time employees] almost all seem to be heeding the recommendation to work from home, while we are sitting here in the Petri dish, with the choice of not getting paid, or maybe getting sick and then putting our family and friends at risk too,” Borden said. “I’ve heard from multiple people that they feel like we’ve been forgotten and abandoned – and that our health and safety is clearly less important than the Googlers’.

“Our second-class status now has literal health implications,” he added.

In many ways, the technology industry has been ahead of the curve in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Facebook and Google were quick off the mark in cancelling conferences, and the industry has for the most part adapted quickly to the global imperative for social distancing by encouraging employees to work from home.

And it’s not only the higher-paid technical workers who are being considered. Microsoft was the first to commit to paying hourly workers such as shuttle drivers and food service workers, even if their work hours are reduced as a result of the disease, a policy that was then adopted by other companies. Gig economy companies such as Uber and Lyft have announced plans to fund 14 days of sick leave for drivers who are diagnosed with Covid-19 or placed under quarantine. Amazon initially announced that it would not penalize warehouse workers for taking unpaid time off if they were sick during the month of March. On Wednesday, it announced a new policy that will provide paid sick leave for all employees affected by the coronavirus, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But why did it take a global pandemic for Amazon to consider that a policy that penalizes workers for taking unpaid time off when they are sick is fundamentally inhumane? Why is it still acceptable to put in place protective measures for some part of the workforce, but not for all? And when this outbreak – and the accompanying public pressure – subsides, will Amazon, Uber, Lyft and others go right back to the previous system of forcing the lowest-paid members of their workforces to either work while sick or go without pay?

The situation recalled to me the work of Jacob Remes, a history professor at New York University who studies disasters. Several years ago, when I interviewed Remes about homelessness, he told me: “What the category of disaster does is sort people into worthy poor and unworthy poor.” In America, if you are made homeless by a hurricane, you are considered “worthy” and are (usually) eligible for public relief or support. But if you are homeless due to job loss or eviction, you are generally viewed as unworthy – and scorned by politicians as a sponge on the system.

Coronavirus is now creating a new division – between the worthy sick and the unworthy sick.

“Because there is suddenly more generosity during a disaster, there’s also a lot more policing to make sure that the ‘bad poor’ don’t get any benefit,” Remes told me on Wednesday.

Why should Uber drivers and Amazon warehouse workers with a diagnosis of coronavirus be eligible for paid sick leave, but those with a diagnosis of cancer not be? And what does it say about our society that this sorting is acceptable?

“Disasters really show both the positive and the negative things that we have built into society, because they demonstrate who is vulnerable and who is less vulnerable,” Remes told me on Wednesday. “And vulnerability is socially created.”

The coronavirus pandemic has shone an unforgiving light on the social architecture that has both contributed to the tech industry’s incredible wealth – and allowed large numbers of people to be left vulnerable. That workers like those in Google’s Pittsburgh office are falling through the cracks is no accident – their vulnerability is part of the incredibly lucrative design.

A spokeswoman for Google said that some employees and contractors were still asked to come into the office “to serve our users and keep our products running” by performing work that “can only be done by people physically present at offices”. She also noted that Google was taking “necessary and recommended precautions, including increased sanitization and social distancing”.

But Borden questioned whether his co-workers’ presence at the office was really necessary, noting that his work is entirely computer-based, and he simply lacks permission from Google to access it from home. Couldn’t a company with more than $100bn in cash on hand simply pay for subcontractors to take a paid day off while Google sorts out the security protocols necessary to provide them with remote access? I asked.

“Maybe this shows how much they really need us,” Borden responded. “Or, maybe it just shows how little they care.”

For the record a lot of money is made during disasters its the new disaster economy and I will discuss that in relation to Nashville and the tornado in another post.

And meanwhile you want fries with that Uber delivery?


If you’re sick, they don’t care’: pandemic forces food service to review its policies. 
With only 15% of food workers guaranteed paid sick leave, employees are reluctant to take time off for illness
Lauren Aratani in New York
Guardian
Fri 13 Mar 2020

In the middle of his shift last summer at Chipotle in New York City, Carlos Hernandez started to feel sick.
He told his manager that he was having diarrhea which, under the US Food and Drug Administration’s food code for restaurants and food services, meant he should have been excused from his shift 
Instead, Hernandez was told to stick around. He was to either go into the back of the store to wash dishes or work the register.
“Even if you’re sick, they really don’t care. If you can still stand up on your feet and move your hands, you’re considered workable,” Hernandez said 
'I suffer through it': how US workers cope without paid sick leave

This brushing off of illness is common in many places within the food service and restaurant industry and has been for many years. But with the recent coronavirus outbreak, being sick is no longer something people can shrug off given the illness’ ability to spread rapidly and efficiently.
The culture around sick leave in the food service industry is that it is nearly nonexistent. The CDC says that 15% of food workers have paid sick leave. That means a bulk of people in the industry are part of the 32 million American workers who are without paid sick leave.
Poor sick leave policies are an “industry standard” in food service, particularly fast food, said Judy Conti, government affairs director for the National Employment Law Center. The US does not have a federal sick leave policy, with 12 states and Washington DC having paid sick leave laws. 
“Workers are getting low wage to begin with, so it’s really disadvantageous for them to take time off from work because they won’t get paid,” Conti said.
Maurilia Arellanes, who works at a McDonald’s in San Jose, California, said that she took a day off during the week to recover from the flu last year. When she came back to work, she found that she lost a chunk of the hours she was typically assigned to work. 
“I went from working 35 hours a week to 27 hours a week. I had spent a month asking and begging my managers to get me back my normal shifts,” Arellanes said. “Workers like me are paid wages so low that we are dependent on every cent we earn on our shift.”

Arellanes is part of the Fight for $15, a workers’ rights campaign that has called on McDonald’s to give all workers in its corporate and franchise location paid sick leave if an employee or a close family member has tested positive for coronavirus and must be quarantined. They also demand that the company provide paid leave for parents who care for children of closed schools and cover the cost of testing and treatment of the virus.
“When I called in sick recently, I had to miss a payment on my electric bill and pleaded with the utility company for an extension,” said Fran Marion, a McDonald’s worker in Kansas City, Missouri, also part of Fight for $15. “If any of us had to be quarantined for two weeks ... the effects would be devastating for our families.”
In response to the campaign, McDonald’s made an announcement that they will offer up to 14 days of paid sick leave to any employee of corporate-owned restaurants who are quarantined with coronavirus. A vast majority of McDonald’s restaurants, above 90%, are not corporate-owned but are owned by franchisees. 
“As we proactively monitor the impact of the coronavirus, we are continuously evaluating our policies to provide flexibility and reasonable accommodations,” a McDonald’s spokesperson wrote in statement.
Even with paid sick leave, workplace culture in the food service industry encourages ill employees to make their shift rather than having someone rush to find a replacement.
Luis Torres, another Chipotle worker in New York City, says that managers at his location will often “guilt” employees into working while sick, saying that they are busy and do not have enough people working. “I’ve kind of normalized it, many people have normalized it,” Torres said.
Chipotle as a company offers three days of paid sick leave each year, but employees in New York City associated with the local 32BJ SEIU union, including Hernandez and Torres, went on strike last week in response to what they say is the company not following local sick leave laws. New York City requires five days paid sick leave accrued over the year.
Earlier this year, Chipotle settled with the city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection for firing an employee who took sick leave. The department is also conducting a deeper investigation of the chain’s workplace practices. 
“We communicate to all employees how they can properly request sick time. Employees that are not feeling well are required to stay home and we’ll welcome them back when they are symptom free,” a Chipotle spokesperson wrote in a statement to the Guardian.
From a public health perspective, actively encouraging employees to take time off while sick is important for industries such as food service whose work requires employees come in direct contact with people.
But the food industry has been particularly susceptible to a lot of turnover because it typically produces high-pressure and fast-paced environments, putting pressure on managers to have all hands on deck even when employees are ill.
“Missing one person out of a system in a restaurant or a food [service] setting is really problematic” for efficiency and quality in a restaurant, said Ben Chapman, a professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University. “It’s a problem in public health that we haven’t really gotten our hands around.” 
Chapman said while coronavirus is not at a stage where people should be avoiding restaurants, “people should be wary of being around people who are ill”.


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