A TGB READER STORY: Dinner for an 82nd Birthday
Grocery Shopping While Old During a Pandemic

THINKING OUT LOUD: How the U.S. Coronavirus Mess Affects Elders (and Everyone Else)

Among the few things understood about the coronavirus is that it hits old people harder that younger adults and children.

In addition to elder deaths from the virus at home and in hospitals, at least 20,000 deaths due to the virus have been reported in U.S. nursing homes but the number is undoubtedly much higher because many do not release the number of such deaths.

So much else is wrong with the U.S. official response to the virus, I cannot in good conscience focus only on the people – old folks – this blog generally addresses. Everyone of every age is at risk.

Although a few countries and some U.S. states show a slight reduction in the number of new coronavirus cases in recent days, thousands are still dying.

Nevertheless, local governments are allowing certain retailers, some beaches, restaurants and other venues to reopen. And even when governments do not yet sanction openings, there are business owners who just defy officials and open anyway.

Some reports are telling us that even without this loosening of restrictions, the number of deaths per day, now averaging about 1,000, is expected to double by early June.

And I haven't even gotten to those armed, masked men at the Michigan statehouse. I'm still not clear what they were protesting but those gigantic guns they carried were shocking enough to scare me about what could happen.

A better kind of leadership, I am convinced, would bring the country together rather than leave it open to threats of violence. (President George W. Bush after 9/11 comes to mind. Also President Barak Obama after the church shootings in Charleston.)

For myself, I gave up on Dr. Deborah Birx when she declared a few weeks ago that the president has a deep understanding of the science of the pandemic. She confirmed my misgivings about her further when she tried to defend the president's Clorox delusion.

Meanwhile, the closest thing the U.S. has to national leadership that can be believed is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo but he, rightly, is focused on his state.

Certainly we cannot pay attention to President Clorox and anyway, on Tuesday, The Guardian headlined a story thusly: “Trump Gives Up on Virus Fight to Focus on Economic Recovery – and Re-election.”

So I guess we can move on from the fantasy some might have entertained that he would ever have anything useful to contribute to a future triumph over our global health predicament.

In recent days, Trump has also withdrawn U.S. funding of the World Health Organization (WHO), refused to join world leaders in funding COVID-19 vaccine research and announced the intention to “wind down” the White House coronavirus task force.

Here is something else Trump is working on. As reported in Common Dreams (and other places) on Monday,

”President Donald Trump on Sunday said he will not approve another badly needed Covid-19 stimulus package if it doesn't include a payroll tax cut, a policy that would strike a blow to Social Security and Medicare funding while offering no relief for the more than 30 million people who have lost their jobs over the past six weeks.

"'I told Steve just today, we're not doing anything unless we get a payroll tax cut,' Trump said during a Fox News town hall Sunday night, referring to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. 'That is so important to the success of our country.'”

In case anyone is in the dark about what payroll taxes are, they are deductions from every employee's paycheck to fund Social Security and Medicare. Employers match the payroll tax.

It's hard to keep up. As I am writing this on Tuesday, it is being reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, following a Republican lunch, told reporters that the Senate is in no hurry to pass any new legislation related to COVID-19.

I guess that means we can, for now, relax about Social Security and Medicare cuts. More broadly, it means that individual states are on their own without anywhere near the resources of the federal government.

In the history of the United States, I'm pretty sure there has never been such incompetence and dereliction of responsibility. This is a horror show.

Comments

There’s so much I want to say here, but your last sentence said it all. This is a horror show. I feel like all we can do is bow our heads and pray for the future, because the present is f—ked.

I've been stuck here in my room at the assisted living facility for 54 days. Contact with staff only. No activities except TV and the worst f-----g food you can imagine. But I am more than willing to put up with this and more if I know that me staying at home means one less life lost. I just wish out government felt the same way.

You're right Ronni -- it is a horror show. I've been reading "The Great Influenza: the Story of the Worst Pandemic in History," by John Barry, for about a month now. It's been slow going, as I've had to set it aside often and I've also been skipping around, based on what's been happening in this current pandemic. One thing I find particularly interesting is the lack of progress in medicine over centuries. Even now there seems to be not only a lack of support at the top of American government for increased knowledge in medicine (and most sciences) but a "so what" attitude about the ramifications of that. Yet the president claims to have vast and innate understanding for almost all things scientific, because of his very good "you know what." Mind-boggling. As the saying goes -- you can't make this stuff up.

And the president's desire for a payroll tax cut at a time like this can only be about increasing profits for large corporations along with his chances for re-election. Same as it ever was.

Right now it's all about political payback during this administration's last year in office.

As the soothsayer said, "Follow the money!"

It is definitely a horror show. I hate horror shows.

Elizabeth Warren made an interesting connection between U.S. gun violence and COVID-19 deaths in an interview Tuesday with Shannon Watts. She described both as the two biggest public health emergencies in America right now. On reflection, it occurred to me that gun violence (including firearms suicides) and COVID-19 both affect older people (firearms suicides are mostly older white men) and People of Color (urban gun violence). Many apparently see these two groups as expendable.

Hang in there, Bruce! And all others in incredibly tight "lock down" situations. Your feet are to the fire, I don't know that I could do it. Lately, it feels like the horror show is sucking everyone's spirit dry. But hey, let's not take it lying down, ha ha. Even in a tiny room with rotten food, we can (I think, hope, believe) own our spirit, our mind. No one can take that. Lately in the morning, I ask myself, what do I love, where is my spirit?? It's in nature (I hope to Godde you tight lock downers have windows!) it's in the stars, it's in the wind, it's in the bird in the tree, the rock in the path. And then it has the strength to do some things that might actually help somebody........not much, mind, but something.........a head of lettuce, a wee painting, some money, prayers, listening, whatever. Covid-Trump are not the only show in town, there's the universe, the tremendum, and it's ALL an energy of which we are part.

Yes it is a horror show and yet it seems his approval rating keeps going up. WTF?!

It feels like the whole country seems to be in deep denial about what is really going on these days and just how badly we are screwing things up.

If you want an insight to the protests read up on Libertarianism. It is basically a political ideology thinks ANY governmental rules are an infringement of their rights. They hate the lockdowns and deny any sense of the “common good”. Their decisions are based solely on what is best for them.

My first, cynical thought when I heard about the demand for payroll tax cut was, "Well, Medicare won't need that tax revenue because so many of us, its age 65+ users, will be dead." Bruce, stick around, we need you.

Meanwhile, an accomplished sewer friend (who happens to be age 72) just got a request to sew 300 masks for our city, earning $7.50 each. Each takes at least 1 hr to make and she is to supply her own materials. She already made 120 for nothing.

I have no words. I feel very discouraged, yes at trump and his corrupt administration, but more so, at the people who still support him after all this and more. Are they that ignorant or are they just mean and selfish.

I’m glad I’m old. I’d hate to be a young person today for many reasons, not just this virus.

A great book I can recommend is "Spillover" by David Quammen. It’s a fascinating read and even though it was written in 2012, it is very prophetic.

I used to love grocery shopping - oh so many possibilities! This horror show is sucking my spirit dry. I still work, at a construction company deemed essential as we do work on bridges and waste water treatment plants. At 4:30PM there is just nothing left on grocery shelves - unless you can make a meal out of blue-cheese stuffed olives, canned pilchards, and applesauce. I have to go to different stores, 3-4 times a week; grocery shopping is now a hunter-gatherer endurance test. I don't have the time nor energy 13 hours after I wake up.

As things disappear from the shelves, they just don't return. How can it be after 2 months there still is no TP, no Mr Clean, no eggs, very little meat? I'm just outside of DC, and a friend in Raleigh says we are having worse shortages than they.

I am trying to hold tight to all the lessons I learned from my grandparents about WW2. They had to wait years for some things to return, but they still had access to basics. I'd love to see rationing though; some flour, milk, eggs, sugar, butter, meat for everyone. Something to look forward to. Maybe I'm romanticizing. Somebody set me straight on this thought please!

I feel like I'm one blink away from a nervous breakdown, as there is nothing to look forward to but larger losses, more frequently.

I need a more Salinda-and-Bruce outlook to bring me out of this funk.

Bruce, I do feel for you! Here's a smile for you from a relative also on 'lock down' in long term care (where residents and staff all just tested negative for Covid...which is what it is all about!). A couple of days ago he heard excited female voices in the hall and suddenly something came flying across his room, banged into the window, and landed on the floor! A female mallard duck had gotten into the building somehow. He said he talked to the duck and reassured her that they would not cook her! In the meantime, a maintenance man corralled her in a waste basket, covered it with a blanket, and took her outside. (Bruce, you are not in Seattle at KGH, are you? If you were, I would connect you two.)

Equally worrisome - the long-term health effects on 'survivors':
"while most COVID patients don’t need ICU care, a troublingly high number of those who do end up in kidney failure or with profound neurological deficits. Several patients at work have been off all sedation for almost a week, and show no signs of waking up — I doubt that they ever will. And people with kidney failure may need dialysis for life. When the discussion is limited to false binaries of deaths vs recoveries, these cases get left out of the dialogue."
from https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/what-are-covid-19s-long-term-medical-effects

I sympathize with all the commenters, most of whom are in much worse situations than mine. I am hoping, however, regarding shortages of milk, eggs, butter, and meat, that people will try alternative options and find they are just as good as animal products and a lot more healthy for humans and the planet (I use unsweetened almond milk, plant-based butter, frozen "crumbles" that are just as tasty as hamburger, frozen "chick'n strips" that substitute for the real thing in recipes, etc.) I also have found that a mix of brown rice, canned low-sodium beans, sautéed onions and garlic, canned or fresh tomatoes, and salsa makes a delicious meal. After years of wishing I could go vegetarian, I now find I am almost there! Just a thought.

How many of us who recall when Barack Obama was trying to pass the Affordable Care Act? Do you remember the Republicans attacking the legislation by saying that Obama was creating "death panels" that would kill countless seniors? Many folks drank the kool-aid.

Now, Trump is basically willing to let thousands of seniors, among the most vulnerable to Covid-19, die so that he can get the economy running and his re-election in the bag. Is this not the same thing?

Prisons, nursing and assisted living homes, and the poor are being sacrificed so that the Idiot-in-Chief can be re-elected? Really????

I am so weary of the Trump Show. Our democracy played out as "reality TV." The framers of the constitution must be rolling over in their graves. And still his admirers tel me he is "doing a terrific job.' What Koolaid did they drink?

I'm so sorry for the American people. President Clorox? Better luck next November!

Horror show, indeed. And while I worry about all the sickness and death, I also worry about the economic impact on small businesses and the individuals who depend(ed) on them. Going to the grocery store used to be my only outing and now that's gone (thank goodness for delivery). But I'll gladly stay inside. I didn't get past cancer 5 years ago just so this virus could take me down.

Bruce, could you have some meals delivered from local restaurants? A tasty meal can really lift your spirits.

I'm very lucky to be in sensible Switzerland, where the Federal Government have to agree compromises, and then have them ratified by the National Assembly. I really worry about my family in the US and in the UK - their governments are being led by self-serving idiots, who are causing untold thousands of deaths and setting their countries on a path to greater social divide.

Horror show? Disaster? Catastrophe? ALL fit--absolutely!

I’ve not hugged my grandaughter since late February and wonder if I’ll ever be able to. That being said, I intend to marry Andrew Cuomo when this is over. (I’ve been told to get in line.)

Horror show is a good way to describe it. Nice that McConnell is laying off the payroll tax for now, but what he's doing instead is getting an influential judgeship for one of his Kentucky pals, a young man who has zero courtroom experience and got a "not qualified" rating from the bar association.

The lead editorial in the NY Times print edition today brings up the possibility that Americans will begin to treat Covid-19 deaths the way they treat deaths from mass shootings--something that we just have to tolerate. What a nightmare!

There's nothing to do but vote in November, vote in mass, vote as if your life depends on it, because it does.

California is opening up stores and restaurants like there is no longer a problem. Or, at least here in the center of the state, the San Joaquin Valley. Even though the number of cases and deaths continues to rise, daily, people are screaming for their favorite restaurant to be open. Business owners are screaming that they are going to lose everything if their doors aren't allowed to be open. So, the politicians, and even the law enforcement, are all hung-ho to allow the reopening. I think they are afraid of the mass demonstrations and arrests if they don't go along with it.

As for the shortages, I will believe things are better when there are declines in cases and deaths from COVID-19 and when the shelves in the stores are fully stocked with paper products and cleaning supplies. Until then, I'm staying inside.

Oh my. I’m glad I’m living in Australia at the moment (not just at the moment, really).

I'm too sad to make much of a comment, but one thing I would like to clarify is that we all need to be cautious when listening to the media about these "mass demonstrations." I hate to sound like Trump with his fake news, but I did read an account by someone who actually saw one of these demonstrations, and there were 13 people protesting. The local news media reported on it as if it were a mass demonstration, never reporting the small number of protesters. We've gotta take it with a grain of salt.

Just when it seems things couldn't possibly get worse, with Trump, they always do. I read now he has rewarded a political supporter by putting him in charge of the U.S. Postal Service -- a person with no more knowledge about that operation than those of us who use the service.

Doctors are learning there may be more serious ill effects to children by this virus than has been previously known. First reported by the U.K. last month more cases are turning up in New York City and other U.S. cities. No age group is spared.

Even the long overdue hodge podge of tests to determine whether or not people have or had the virus are unreliable -- some totally unviable and others as much as 30% or so unreliable giving false positives or negatives. Perhaps they're better than nothing, but surely had there been effective leadership from the beginning and test creation support we might have a more dependable test.

Our local newspaper (trying desperately to survive) just printed a lengthy article by a local middle-aged woman who contracted the virus. She received a false negative, thus endangering her and family until she took it upon herself to recognize her symptoms must mean something and again quarantined herself at home. She has recovered, but I don't want to experience the symptoms she described.

We're undergoing what I am concerned is a premature opening of businesses in Los Angeles County, so though our stay-at-home approach has kept the virus from raging out of control, we still experience spreading. I continue to stay in my home, mask if I occasionally go to a few select drive-thrus.

I hope Supreme Court Justice GBD regains her health for the future and especially through the rest of this year. I monitor Congressional actions and legislation and what our worse-than-incompetent leader does or does not do. I focus on a belief that November will culminate in the election of a change in Administration and concentrate on maintaining a positive outlook on life between now and then. May you all stay safe!

Correction --- gross error -- Supreme Court Justice RBG -- I don't know what I was thinking about -- maybe all this is getting to me after all.

To Bruce and other TGB readers: I will call you and keep you company on the phone or via video chat, just say the word. I will help you pass the time in isolation. I live in NJ in case you are concerned about the time zone.
Ronni, please feel free to give our my contact info to any of your readers who need a "pen pal" or socially distant companion. It is the least I can do. Much love and courage to you all.

I know I already left a comment at the top (a pretty negative one) but wanted to thank you for the excellent piece here Ronni. The truth may hurt, but at least you share it well.

I was right where Bruce is, and I was the only one with a computer. It was all very frustrating.

Hey there. Didn’t have time to read the Comments which I normally do. But just want to say I totally agree with you on Birx. I spotted her slimy sycophantic ego about the same time as you. I wish Fauci would resign now that that “Task Force” is semi-officially debunked. What a s***show!

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