Category Archives: Uncategorized

COVID-19 Coverup?


by James C. Sherlock

I have published criticisms of the Northam administration’s handling of COVID-19 crisis not to embarrass the administration but to inform it and recommend how it might improve. But I find the administration’s action in removing from public view the main source of that embarrassment — “the page you are looking for no longer exists”[1] — to be profoundly unethical.

Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver said in an interview yesterday, “Department and emergency services personnel throughout the state ran through a scenario in May 2019, looking at what would happen if a pandemic caused tens of thousands of deaths. They looked at everything from how to treat people to where to put the bodies.”

He did not say how rigorous the “run through of the scenario” was, if he or the Secretary or the Governor participated, whether the participants learned anything, or whether they took any action based on those lessons learned. But we know exactly what the scenario was, because the Virginia Department of Health got it from FEMA. (The national assumptions for such a scenario are below.)

Oliver also did not mention the Virginia Pandemic Response Annex #4 to the Virginia Emergency Operations Plan. That plan was remarkably prescient about the arrival and effects of pandemic influenza. It was built on the FEMA template which you can see here. The Virginia annex modeled it exactly. It discussed such things as state responsibility to stockpile supplies in case of such an epidemic. Continue reading

More COVID-19 Innovators and Heroes

Intubation box. Photo credit: Dr. Hsien Yung Lai by way of Virginia Business.

From Taiwan with love. Dr. Scott Hickey, president of the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians, is contracting with two Powhatan County companies to produce boxes designed to protect emergency health care workers while they intubate patients with COVID-19. Designed by a doctor in Taiwan, the protective box is being replicated in the U.S. to shield doctors from droplets that can spread the disease. The builders are selling the boxes at cost for $270. They can be cleaned with bleach or alcohol.

Hickey explains the necessity of the boxes to Virginia Business. Physicians’ highest-risk exposure to patients — oral secretions, nasal secretions, eye secretions — is when they have to put them on a ventilator or intubate them. The box doesn’t provide total protection, but it does create an extra layer of defense. The box is not commercially available anywhere in the world. Hickey made a prototype and reached out to friends of his, who responded immediately. Now a major insurance carrier is interested in providing  the boxes for emergency rooms across Virginia.

Sheetz sandwiches for kidz. Sheetz Inc., a Pennsylvania-based operator of gas stations and convenience stores, will start providing fee lunches for children in need at 21 Virginia locations starting Thursday. The “Kidz Meal Bagz” program will include a turkey sandwich, chips and a drink, reports Virginia Business. Families can go to participating stores and ask an employee at the register for a meal. They’ll be offered one bag per child.

Newspaper subsidies for small business. Ogden Newspapers, the parent company of the Loudoun Times-Mirror, has established a $1 million fund to help local businesses get back to full strength by subsidizing local marketing through matching grants, reports the Times-Mirror. Businesses in the Loudoun market can apply for grants up to $15,000. The fund is open to all locally owned businesses impacted by the coronavirus. Grants can be used for print and online advertising in the Times-Mirror and LoudounTimes.com.

— JAB

COVID-19 Update: Hospitalizations Surge

Wrong reaction, lady, your hands should not be touching your face!

The Virginia Department of Health has updated its statistics to reflect yesterday’s numbers. The big movers: hospitalizations and deaths, both of which surged 26%.

Total confirmed COVID-19 cases: 1,484, up 234
Total hospitalizations: 208, up 43
Total deaths: 34, up 7
Total tests: 15,344, up 1,943

Here are John Butcher’s latest calculations for the “doubling” rate for key metrics:

Confirmed cases: 3.2 days
Hospitalizations: 3.7 days
Deaths; 2.9 days

The hopeful news is that the doubling rate for hospitalizations shows signs of stretching out. It makes a substantial difference if it takes 3.7 days for hospitalizations to double compared to 3.0 days. A top public health challenge is to “flatten the curve” — to prevent Virginia hospitals from getting overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients at one time.

I question, however, how well the VDH data reflects the reality in hospital wards and emergency rooms. Bon Secours Mercy Health, which operates 11 hospitals in the Richmond and Hampton Roads regions, announced yesterday that it has furloughed 700 full-time employees across seven states and 12 markets, reports Virginia Business. Continue reading

Neighborhood Narcs

Getting fresh air is all we have left. Looks like the neighborhood busybodies want to shut that down, too.

by Kerry Dougherty

I always liked the idea of Neighborhood Watch. You know, loosely organized groups of residents who keep an eye on things.

Sort of like homeland security for your street.

We don’t have an organized watch in my neighborhood, but we do look out for each other.

Here’s an example: I remember walking my dogs late one night when I saw a man I didn’t recognize trying to open a neighbor’s front door. It was locked and I saw him duck around the back.

Despite the fact it was after midnight, McKerry the Crime Dog went home, grabbed her phone, woke the neighbors only to learn that the “intruder” was the husband’s brother, visiting from out of town. They’d left the back door open for him. Continue reading

Opinions Shift as Swiftly as 9-11, 2008

I’m not a huge fan of Newsmax, but I do have high regard for McLaughlin and Associates polling. John and Jim McLaughlin have posted results of a long survey of 1,000 “likely voters” taken during the middle of last week, as the crisis grew in this country. Here’s the full survey and the  Newsmax report.

Some highlights that jumped out to me:

  • “Based on our historic polling experience, this movement of national voter opinion is an equivalent to the effects of 9-11 and the 2008 economic crisis combined. (Emphasis added.)
  • 44% saw the country as in recession. It would be easy to wonder how the other 56% can be so dense, but technically a recession is two full quarters of going backwards, not just one month.
  • More than one-third of voters (35%) cannot afford to go longer than a month without a paycheck, and many of them can’t hold out that long. The impact is harder on the younger respondents, Hispanics and African-Americans.
  • Despite that, 52% favored a full national shutdown, closing as many businesses as possible. The polling closed Thursday and it is easy to assume that sentiment will grow (as the effectiveness of the move fades).
  • And despite his resistance to that, President Trump was getting an approval bump out of this, especially in the battleground states.  This is where skeptics will point to McLaughlin’s GOP roots.

That has your interest. Go to the full text. Hat tip: Chris Braunlich. If you find other interesting polls from respected pollsters, add them in the comments.

COVID-19 Update: More Tests, More Infections

Latest data from the Virginia Department of Health: 135 new confirmed COVID-19 cases yesterday, bringing the total to 739. Another 16 hospitalizations, bringing the total to 99. And another three fatalities, bringing the total to 17.

Testing is ramping up in a major way — 1,929 tests yesterday, more than double the number from two days previously. A total of 9,166 tests have been administered in Virginia so far.

The VDH has begun publishing more detailed information. Of particular interest is this graph which shows the number of COVID-19 cases in Virginia by the day the illness began.

Continue reading

Scenes from the Quarantine

by Philip Shucet

Sunshine was an invitation to take a walk yesterday. Since March 9, I’ve been out only twice for grocery store runs. Both trips were on rainy days.

Streets in my Norfolk neighborhood are generally quiet, but now they are nearly silent. There’s more time between the sounds of passing cars. Parking spaces that usually jump around like checkers are mostly stationary. The street has settled into its own brand of calm.

Across the street a woman came out to walk her dog. But even such a familiar sight came with an exception: She was the only other person on the block. Should I be out, I wondered. And then I remembered every good reason to take a walk. Especially on a sunny day. Continue reading

Quantifying the Hospital-Bed Shortage

Source: ProPublica by way of Virginia Business.

by James A. Bacon

Two weeks ago, I raised the alarm: Virginia doesn’t have enough hospital beds to cope with the COVID-19 virus; capacity was most constrained in Northern Virginia. Yesterday, Bacon’s Rebellion contributor Jim Sherlock explained why: Certificate of Public Need (COPN) regulation throttled the addition of hospital beds in the Northern Virginia area. Now Virginia Business magazine — which is really stepping up its news coverage, by the way — explores the repercussions.

If only 20% of Virginia adults contracted COVID-19, hospitals in all metro regions across Virginia would be overwhelmed, according to data from the Harvard Global Health Institute.

The most staggering results from the Harvard study come from the Arlington hospital referral region (HHR) — which encompasses Fairfax County and other Northern Virginia localities. If 60% of adults were to become infected there, hospitals in the region would require an increase of nearly 600% more hospital beds to deal with the crisis. The Newport News region — which includes Williamsburg — takes a close second. Hospitals there would need nearly 500% more beds if 60% of the adult population were to be infected.

So, it is abundantly clear that Virginia does not have enough hospital beds if the COVID-19 virus continues spreading at an exponential rate. The big question is: What are we doing about it? Continue reading

COVID-19 Update: Ignore What I Said Yesterday, the Virus Is Going Exponential

John Butcher was right, and I was wrong. I was hoping, based on the previous two days’ worth of data and a heap of wishful thinking, that Virginia was heading up a less steep slope in the growth in the number of COVID-19 infections than widely feared. John maintained, however, that the data was consistent with an exponential growth curve. Today’s data update by the Virginia Department of Health shows that John, better known as Cranky, as in publisher of Cranky’s Blog, was right.

The number of total cases, new cases, hospitalizations, and fatalities all surged. Total cases in Virginia reached 391 yesterday, a single-day increase of 101. More ominously, hospital admissions rose to a total of 59, a one-day increase of 14. Tragically, the number of deaths leaped from six to nine.

The commonly cited rule of thumb is that the virus doubles in the early stages of the localized spread every three days. The numbers suggest that Virginia is no exception to the rule. Fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Click on “Leave a Comment” below to view John’s updated graphs.

— JAB

Leadership in the Time of COVID-19

We comment endlessly on the performance of our federal, state and local leaders in the time of COVID-19. It is perhaps time to discuss what successful wartime leadership at the top levels looks like without discussing individual personalities so that we have a common standards with which to measure them.  I offer the following:

The characteristics of success at the highest level leadership in times of crisis include:

  • Remain calm in the face of the enemy.
  • Possess training and experience at lower levels of command to understand the characteristics and implications of leadership success and failure or, less often, find oneself to be naturally gifted without such preparation.
  • Have a strong belief in oneself.
  • Be able to inspire or command the support of enough skilled people to achieve victory.
  • Be able to sort through strategic options offered by staff to choose the right ones in roughly the right order.
  • Be more concerned about strategic results than tactical ones.
  • Maintain the strategic picture in the face of sequential narrow advice by specialists/
  • Be a master of messaging and presence to inspire one’s own forces and create fear in adversaries.
  • Harness personal ambition to deal with an existential threat

All of that adds up to being a supremely skilled patriot. A great leader must not be a master of all of these, but certainly most. Badly implemented, these characteristics can existentially threaten. Appropriately harnessed, they produce greatness.

— James C. Sherlock

A Look at Richmond and COVID-19

By Peter Galuszka

Here is a roundup story I wrote for Style Weekly that was published today that explains the effects of COVID-19 on the Richmond area. Hopefully, BR readers will find it of interest.

It was a tough piece to report. The impacts of the deadly virus are very complicated and multi-faceted. An especially hard part was trying to keep with the fast-changing news, notably the number of new cases and deaths. We were updating right up until the story closed Monday afternoon. It was hard to talk to people with social-distancing and closings.

The experience shows the delicate balancing act between taking tough measures to stem the contagion and keeping the economy going. My view is that tough measures are needed because without them, it will all be much worse, particularly more illness and death as the experience in Italy has shown.

Incredibly, our utterly incompetent president, Donald Trump, now wants to focus on the economy more than taking necessary containment steps. It’s far too soon for that. Regrettably, a number of Bacon’s Rebellion commenters are sounding the same irresponsible tune in keeping with their big business and anti-regulation laud of free market capitalism. Continue reading

The Kind of Behavior that Spawned the French Revolution

by Kerry Dougherty

Some well-meaning person tagged me and about 100 others on Facebook last weekend urging us to pray to Saint Rocco. The patron saint of pandemics.

I appreciate the sentiment. But I have a better idea. Find me the patron saint of lost life savings. I want to pray to THAT guy.

I want to send up petitions for all of us who worked hard, lived within our means, paid our bills, saved our money, invested in American companies and who – in a few horrible weeks – watched our life savings shrink to alarming levels while several morally reprehensible members of Congress dumped their investments just before the stock market crashed.

Yes, I’m talking about a quartet of alleged profiteers in the U.S. Senate:  Richard Burr, Kelly Loeffler, James Inhofe and Dianne Feinstein. Inhofe may have a plausible excuse for his actions. The others? Not so much.

Their wealth was protected. The little people? Meh, who cares. Continue reading

COVID-19 Update: Virginia Has Reached Exponential Growth

It looks like COVID-19 in Virginia is going exponential. Today’s Virginia Department of Health update of coronavirus statistics indicates that another 38 cases were confirmed yesterday, bringing the total to 152. The number of hospitalizations increased from 20 to 25. The previous one-day increase (yesterday) was only 20 cases.

To some, those might seem like small numbers. But appearances are deceiving. At the current rate of increase — doubling within the past three days — the number of confirmed cases could reach around 156,000 within a month (30 days). If the spread accelerates — say, doubling every two days — the case count would surpass five million! The latter case seems highly implausible for a variety of reasons. But even 156,000 cases would inundate hospitals and medical staff.

So far it appears than about one COVID-19 case in 10 has resulted in hospitalization. The doubling-every-three-days scenario implies that Virginia hospitals would have to cope with 15,000 to 16,000 patients, mostly toward the tail end of the 30-day period.

By my back-of-the-envelope guesstimate, Virginia hospitals should be able to handle 2,000 to 3,000 COVID-19 cases without extraordinary measures. Brace yourselves for a storm.

West Virginia Cocktail Party

Up yours, COVID-19! This is how we deal with epidemics in our western Henrico County cul de sac. We call it a West Virginia cocktail party. Someone in the neighborhood brings out some hors d’oeuvres, a bottle of wine and some folding chairs, and plants them in the front driveway. Neighbors come walking by, see the party, and drag up their own chairs (and wine). The impromptu celebration grows organically — one could say, virus-like — until we hit the 10-person maximum permitted under Virginia’s state of emergency.

See our friend Brad with the tape measure? He’s making sure that we’re maintaining a six-foot sneezing distance from one another. Maybe we’ve had a glass or two of wine already — some of us seem a bit closer than six feet. But I’m pretty sure we’re beyond coughing distance.

It looks we’re in for a long slog with this social distancing thing. Bars and nightclubs are closed. We might as well find a way to have fun!

— JAB

Surviving COVID-19 with Video Chat, Netflix and Amazon Prime

Northern Virginia reader Allen Barringer responded to my request yesterday for readers to describe how they are coping with COVID-19. He started writing this piece as a comment, but it became so comprehensive that we decided to publish it as a full-fledged post. — JAB

by Allen Barringer

We live in a surreal moment: On the one hand our health care system’s response to this pandemic is vintage 1918; on the other, we live in the age of the internet. We can do amazing things on-line, both to entertain ourselves and to socialize with friends.

The dichotomy has brought to the fore the generational divides between those who grew up with on-line technology, those who are familiar with what it can deliver but can DIY only primitively, and those who are overwhelmed by it. The sine qua non, of course, is  a decently fast internet service.

We attend a church that has put worship services on-line and is experimenting with the use of Zoom for just about everything meeting-wise. A hard-core group is committed to overcoming these barriers to keep the sense of community going. Fortunately, that includes a majority of the vestry.

The dilemma is everyone else: It is difficult to get people thinking creatively “outside the box” when so much about daily life has changed and individual circumstances differ so greatly. It’s difficult to reach out to the isolated without on-line tools, or to help them overcome their technophobia without at
least a home visit and perhaps some training sessions, both of which are breaches of SD (social distancing) protocols. Continue reading