The COVID-19 Chronicles, Continued

A few takeaway points from the national news:

  • The number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise nationally and in Massachusetts, along with the number of deaths. The number of confirmed cases on the Vineyard has risen to two, of whom one has reportedly been hospitalized. The case numbers everywhere are almost certainly low thanks to the (dare I say) criminal lack of testing equipment across the country. In most places only those with obvious symptoms get tested, though exceptions seem to be made regularly for the likes of Sen. Rand Paul, who was out and about for several days before his test results came back positive.
  • In places where testing is more widespread, several studies indicate that many testing positive for COVID-19 show either delayed symptoms or no symptoms at all. A survey in Iceland suggested that this may be as high as 50 percent. Asymptomatic people can spread the virus, which by all reports is highly contagious. If this doesn’t argue persuasively for (1) widespread testing, and (2) social distancing and “shelter at home” advisories, I don’t know what does.
  • Republican officeholders are showing their true callous, short-sighted, and/or ignorant colors. Rand Paul is right up there, but so far the guy who takes the cake is Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick of Texas. He believes people should get back to work, and if that raises the mortality risk for older people (as it almost certainly would), older people and presumably their friends and relatives should be willing to make the sacrifice. Since Patrick is about to turn 70, the Texas Monthly aptly headlined its story “Dan Patrick to Dan Patrick: Drop Dead.” He and his fellows readily justify this by invoking the interests of their children and grandchildren, but since many of them are climate-change deniers I can’t help wondering what they mean by this.

Closer to home, five of the six island towns have issued stay-at-home orders; the sixth town, Aquinnah, has approved the order “in concept” but hasn’t actually enacted it. West Tisbury’s order went into effect at noon yesterday, March 25, and continues till noon on Monday, April 7. It makes reasonable exceptions, like buying groceries, seeking medical care, and enjoying the outdoors as long as social distancing practices are observed, and those staffing essential services can still go to work.

Malvina’s 2017 inspection sticker. March is a good month to get inspected. August is not.

Malvina Forester is supposed to be inspected this month, and of course I hadn’t got around to it yet, so I wondered if vehicle inspection was considered essential; IOW, would I be risking a $1,000 fine to take Malvina to Kenny Belain’s inspection station? (Kenny’s garage is literally across the street from the town hall, but no, I was not seriously worried about getting busted.) A quick visit to the Registry of Motor Vehicles website assured me that the deadline has been extended 60 days for all non-commercial vehicles due for inspection in March or April. State government workers are paying attention to the workaday details of all this. Whew.

Speaking of which, both the federal and the state tax-filing deadline has been extended 90 days, to July 15. This probably means that my appointment with the tax preparer next Monday will be postponed too. Gotta check on that.

Governor Charlie Baker (R) is pushing back against the island towns’ stay-at-home orders, which are more stringent than the advisories issued by the commonwealth. According to the Martha’s Vineyard Times story, this has something to do with the need to maintain a unified statewide front during an emergency, but it’s also clear that one sticking point is whether construction is an essential service or not: the town orders say no, but the commonwealth says yes. Do we suspect that some heavy-duty lobbying is going on around this? We do indeed. The comments on that M.V. Times story are worth skimming for the range of local opinions on this.

I’m no fan of Charlie Baker’s, but I do have to say that he’s doing much better than most Republican governors and elected officials. So is Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio, but DeWine pulled a typical Republican trick by declaring abortion services non-essential. Like pregnancies are going to stop advancing till the stay-at-home order is lifted? When all this is over, or we’re at least on the downward curve, it’ll be interesting to see to what extent government action, popular compliance, and access to adequate health care affected the spread of COVID-19 and the mortality rate.

Yesterday in a Facebook thread about the sometimes drastic changes that COVID-19 is making in our lives, I wrote: “It’s like the tide has gone out and everything below the surface is exposed for all to see, and (I hope) remember when the tide comes in again.” Some specifics, off the top of my head:

  • Many of the workers who are putting themselves at risk day in, day out to keep us supplied with groceries and other essentials are considered “low-skill” or “unskilled” and are paid not much more than minimum wage (if that). A $15 an hour minimum is not too much.
  • It’s workers and consumers who keep the economy going, not billionaires and corporate executives.
  • Schoolteachers do much more than teach.
  • Libraries do much more than lend books and DVDs.
  • On Martha’s Vineyard as elsewhere, the quality of many people’s lives depends on the volunteered time of “older” people. Meals on Wheels, for instance, are delivered not just to older people but mostly by older people. It does indeed “take a village” to raise a child, not to mention keep a community going, and a goodly proportion of those villagers are grandparents or of grandparently age. Dan Patrick (see above), take note.
  • Universal access to affordable health care benefits every single one of us, and the lack of it harms us all.
  • Elections matter.

More TK! (That’s publishing lingo for “to come.” 😉 )

I stuck this photo in because it combines libraries and voting. That’s Susan Phelps (right) and me at the voter registration table, West Tisbury library, June 2018.

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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