Tag Archives: Guest contributors

Staunton’s Election Lessons

by Chris Saxman

Virginia’s most accurate statewide election locality — Staunton — just swept off City Council three Democratic incumbents in favor of three Republicans.

Democrats go from a 6-to-1 majority to a 3-to-4 minority.

This made headlines around the Commonwealth and political news sites. “Virginia is going Red this fall!” “Will Trump win in November?”

No.

There are many reasons why this happened and several lessons to be learned (again).

The main reason — the incumbents lost.

But first, here is just how accurate Staunton has been over the last EIGHT statewide elections in Virginia and why you should pay attention to the Queen City. Continue reading

Virginia’s Lockdown Violates Natural Law

by Deborah Hommer

My favorite Greek tragedy play is Sophocles’ “Antigone.” The protagonist risks her life with civil disobedience by burying the body of her brother Polyneices according to the religious dictates (natural/higher law) of her God in defiance of King Creon’s edict (man-made or positive law). When confronted with the choice of whether to obey the king’s cruel, arbitrary, unjust law or the law of God and her conscience, Antigone chooses the higher law. Antigone, her betrothed, and the king’s wife all commit suicide. By the end, King Creon is seen an incompetent leader shoe injustice led to irrevocable disaster.

Sophocles’ themes are universal. Americans today are governed by experts and their media megaphones to abide by arbitrary, unjust laws promulgated to combat the COVID-19 virus, and citizens must struggle with the question of whether or not to obey. Consider the following:

Neil Ferguson’s projections (resigned in disgrace), Anthony Fauci’s predictions (totally wrong and contradictory), the published report that justified the shutdown has been withdrawn, and the rest of the coronavirus hype are the biggest political hoax in history.

Things that make you go huh: Coronavirus in season 2, episode 14 in 2003 Dead Zone | 2019 Netflix Documentary Predicts “The Next Pandemic”  | Fauci: “No doubt” Trump will face surprise infectious disease outbreak, | timeline – corona has been in the making for decades |10.18.19 high-level pandemic exercise | WH hot mic – was it a hoax? | CNN reporter removes mask off camera; | Worldometer info illustrates overall Republican states have less deaths from Corona than Democrat states. Continue reading

Two Faces of the Face-Mask Mandate

by Sidney Bostian

Governor Ralph Northam will announce tomorrow the details of a statewide mandate to wear masks in public spaces and businesses. “We are working through the policy. Obviously it’s an equity issue,” Northam said at his Friday news conference, adding that all Virginia residents would need access to face coverings and that he is examining how to enforce such a policy.

“Wearing a mask could literally save someone else’s life,” Northam said. “That is becoming clearer every day as we move further into managing this virus over the long term.”

The justification cited above — “could literally save someone’s life” — is one of the most interesting “definite maybes” uttered by a public official in recent memory. A careful observer would note that Northam failed to cite his scientific sources for that statement.

Mask wearing in the COVID-19 era has become controversial. Proponents suggest that the coronavirus can be managed only if we compel everyone to wear masks. Opponents to mandatory masks flinch as if they are being asked to wear the “mark of the beast.” Virginians seem evenly divided with about half favoring masks and about half opposing (acknowledging that there are some who don’t care and will swing like a barn door).

Given the passions of the partisans on both sides, it is reasonable to ask that the Governor’s decree meet two tests. First, that there is scientific evidence that universal mask wearing will save lives, and second, that there are few if any citizens who will be adversely affected by long-duration, long-term use of masks. One would hope that Northam, a physician, would affirm the “do no harm” principle. Continue reading

The Emperor’s New Clothes — or the COVID That Didn’t Happen

by Carol J. Bova

The May 22 UVA COVID-19 Model weekly report says the virus transmission rate dropped below 1.0 in the past week. It had averaged 2.2 prior to March 15. Here’s the explanation of what that means:

Researchers use the transmission rate of a disease, often referred to as R-naught (R0), to measure how fast it spreads. R0 is roughly the number of people one  sick person infects. So a transmission rate of 2.0 means that, on average, one sick person infects two others with the disease. The key number for transmission rates is 1.0. At an R0 above 1.0, the infection will spread. But below 1.0 the infection  will  die  out…

Based on onset date, the R0 of COVID-19 in Virginia dipped below 1.0 beginning on May 10.

The reproductive rate is 0.998 based on an onset date 14 days ending May 10.

Let me repeat that: “Below 1.0 the infection  will  die  out.” Continue reading

Virginia Ranks 41st Nationally in Nursing Home Ratings

by Carol J. Bova

Medicare offers a “Nursing Home Compare” website. It uses a one- to five-star rating system for four categories: Overall Rating, Health Inspections, Staffing,  and Quality Measures. There is a category called Special Focus Facility for a nursing home with a persistent poor quality of care, subject to more frequent inspections and escalating fines. New nursing homes are unrated until more information is available. The website reports also include facility details, ownership, inspections, deficiencies, and fines.

The list below combines the percentage of special focus, one and two star (below average and much below average) nursing homes in one column, three, four and five star (average, above average and much above average) nursing homes in the second, and the percentage of new unrated facilities in the third for the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Sorted by overall rating, from best to worst, Virginia ranks 41st in the country with 41.8% of its nursing homes below average. Only Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Georgia, Texas and Louisiana had more below average facilities than Virginia. Continue reading

What, Exactly, Is VDEM Doing In the COVID-19 Emergency?

by Carol J. Bova

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) is responsible for writing the Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Operations Plan (COVEP) which “provides the framework for how the state will support impacted local governments, individuals and businesses.”

A Virginia Municipal League (VML) web page provides Virginia localities a Continuity of Operation Plan (COOP) template from VDEM. The page refers to Va Code Sec. 44-146.18 B.6. which encourages but doesn’t require localities to have a COOP.

This Continuity Plan is a recovery plan and functions as a companion plan to the [Locality’s] Disaster Recovery Plan and the Emergency Operations Plan. The Continuity Plan provides a framework designed to minimize potential impact to operations and allow for rapid recovery from an event, which may or may not cause the activation of emergency response or incident action plans.

“While the Code [of Virginia] refers to VDEM as providing guidance to localities,” writes VML, “the worksheet will have to suffice as that guidance for now – VDEM staff are currently working night-and-day on immediate emergency planning and response. Try instead to work with your local emergency coordinator or work together with a neighboring community if you need to develop your own COOP.”

VDEM staff is working night and day? Administrators are too busy to help local governments figure out how to maintain operations during the COVID-19 emergency? What, then, is VDEM doing? Continue reading

It’s Time to Reopen the Schools

Not a threat

by Han Bader

Several countries are reopening schools after temporarily closing them due to coronavirus. For example, Denmark and Norway have reopened their elementary schools. States in America should start reopening their schools, too. New research says that doing so won’t spread coronavirus to many adults, and it will have little effect on child mortality. Yet schools remain closed in 44 states.

Two months ago, I called for states to close their schools, to reduce the spread of COVID-19. My goal was to “slow down the spread of coronavirus and keep the healthcare system from being overwhelmed” by large numbers of coronavirus patients at any one time, by spacing out infections over a longer period of time. That way, hospitals would have enough ventilators and other equipment to treat all the people who fall ill, even at the peak of the epidemic. The goal of my advice, which was cited or shared by a number of web sites like Real Clear Policy, was not to prevent all transmission of coronavirus. That would be an impossible, unrealistic, and silly goal. Instead, the goal was more practical: To “flatten the curve” of infections and hospitalizations so that no more people would be hospitalized at any one time than hospitals can handle.

But even in the regions hardest hit by the coronavirus, American hospitals never ran out of ventilators — not even at the peak period of infections. Cities never ran out of hospital beds. Some hospitals did face difficulty obtaining enough personal protective equipment (PPE), but in most of the country, hospitals had enough PPE. Continue reading

Needless Ban on Elective Surgery Shrank the Economy

by Hans Bader

The economy shrank in 2020’s first quarter by a rapid 4.8% rate. Economists say the second quarter will be far, far worse, thanks to coronavirus. The virus’s spread triggered state lockdowns closing or restricting many retail establishments. Even before the lockdowns, fear of the virus shrank sales by discouraging people from leaving home.

But that wasn’t the biggest single reason the economy shrank. No, the biggest decline was in healthcare, due to state governments’ bans on elective surgeries and other elective procedures. The healthcare sector is 18% of the economy. As University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers notes, “Nearly half” of the shrinkage in the economy was due to “the delaying of elective procedures. It’s a strange reality that in the midst of a pandemic, we have a healthcare-led recession.” How ironic!

Statewide bans on elective surgery never made any sense. In cities and counties hit hardest by the coronavirus, it can make sense to temporarily delay elective surgeries to make beds available for coronavirus patients. But it doesn’t make sense to ban elective surgeries in a state’s other regions, where the coronavirus hasn’t really spread yet. That financially devastates hospitals. Banning most surgeries leaves hospitals without the revenue they need to operate, and forces them to lay off some of the very medical staff they may need to treat future coronavirus patients. Continue reading

Are Daily Headlines Driving the Fear?

by Larry Hincker

Last year, Virginia suffered 1,800 flu deaths. So far, the COVID-19 virus has taken about 425. The 2017-18 flu season was the worst in four decades. More than 80,000 Americans died that year.

What if newspapers posted a chart of flu deaths on their front page every day, like they now do with COVID? Wouldn’t that scare the bejesus out of people? Imagine the headlines on Jan. 8, 2018 – “80 Virginians died this week from the flu.” Or this whopper at the end of February: “120 dead just this week alone from flu or flu-like illnesses.” Or this – “Flu is expected to take more than 2,000 Virginians before the season is over.”

And the drumbeat goes on week, after week, after week. I wonder if I’d ever leave the house.

I was in organizational communications for more than four decades. I have observed that when something happens every day in the background, people tend to take it for granted. Like flu deaths. But when it enters the consciousness of the general public, it can be totally misunderstood. Continue reading

Getting to Goldilocks

by Chris Spencer

The news was good overall on Friday when Governor Northam announced the creation of a COVID-19 task force and presented a preliminary blueprint for reopening Virginia.[1] Like all works in progress, both could use tweaking, but they are good starts.

Let’s imagine how the task force could achieve victory.

I. A Beginning

The force convenes quickly by telephone for a one-hour introduction. The session is led by the temporary chair. The members take two minutes or less to introduce themselves, their main hopes and their main fears. Why include hopes and fears? True, they are inherently emotional, but they are important. Hopes are aspirational. Fears are cautionary. Both are real. Both influence. Getting them out in the open is informative, liberating, and a good way to start a dialogue.

The members set goals. Enter Goldilocks. The goals cannot be too hot or too cold: just right.

Substantively, the goal is to get the Commonwealth reopened piece by piece[2] in a reasonable way with reasonable risks. The world is a risky and imperfect place. Perfect safety is unachievable[3] and one best admits that up front. Continue reading

Looking for the Goldilocks Lockdown

by Chris Spencer

Virginia has an opportunity to show the rest of the nation how to reopen and prepare for the next waves of COVID-19.

We needed widespread mandatory restrictions in March to (a) flatten the curve to give the health system a chance to manage it and (b) impress upon people the seriousness of the situation. That worked. Everyone recognizes that the rules have to be lifted. The question is when and how. We need to find what one might call the Goldilocks zones: not too hot, not too cold, just right. Why zones? Because no one approach is going to be right for every business and for every part of the state.

Who decides? Certainly not talking TV heads or Twitter. Certainly not government alone. Certainly not each business and each citizen. We are all in this together and we have to get out of it together.

How do we decide? By working together. Continue reading

Jumbled Numbers

by Carol Bova

The Virginia Mercury published an article by Kate Masters April 6th about Virginia’s $27 million order for personal protective equipment (PPE). As of April 20th, the Governor’s Office had not responded to the Mercury’s Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the contract or the specifics of the deal.

The article did quote Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver, who described the types of equipment ordered. In discussing how many sets of PPE are needed to care for those who are presumed positive for COVID-19, Oliver also explained why hospitalization numbers from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) differ from those of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).

“The new numbers vary from the state’s tally of hospitalized cases because VDH only counts the number of lab-confirmed patients who have been discharged from the hospital, Oliver said at the briefing,” he said. “That number lags behind the number you would get if you were to ask that same question of VHHA, which actually tracks the current census in the hospital.” Continue reading

Uh, Oh…

by Dean Wortmier

Because the panacea bonfire of the “New Abbott Labs Test” is being stoked, I have been forced to revive some brain cells that have been comfortably soaking up rum for the past 8 years.

How much help is testing for CoV2 going to be in deciding to ‘Open Up’ Virginia?

Let’s use Abbott’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) application[1] for our Gold Standard.

From the tests that Abbott submitted to get the EUA, the 95% confidence interval for the Probability of Detection, Pd, of the virus is (94.0, 100), greater than 94 but less than 100.  Moreover, the document tells us that the 95% confidence interval for the Probability of a False Alarm, Pfa, is (0, 11).

Pretty impressive, well, impressive enough to secure a EUA to soak up $Billions of taxpayer money, but is really going to help with decisions to end the quarantine measures for Virginia? (Did you see how I kept it relevant to Bacon’s Rebllion’s blog?) Remember, we’re making an executive decision that could cost granny her life. Continue reading

COVID-19 a New Excuse for Racial Preferences

by Hans Bader

Government officials are handing out tax dollars based on race and gender in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. One example is in Arlington, where I live. The Arlington County government announced that it will hand out grants to small businesses based on “considerations” such as whether the business is “women and/or minority-owned.” That “consideration” of race and sex is unconstitutional.

To legally hand out tax dollars based on race to minorities, Arlington would have to show that it intentionally and systematically discriminated against those specific minority groups in the recent past, and needs to remedy that discrimination by giving them money today. The Supreme Court has said that race-based programs are allowed only to remedy the government’s own discrimination, not societal discrimination. (See Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co., 488 U.S. 469, 497 (1995)).

Arlington’s government can’t make that showing. Arlington is hardly a racist, sexist place that discriminates against minorities and women. Indeed, it is disproportionately run by women and minorities. The sheriff and commonwealth’s attorney are female and have been for years. The chair of the County Board is a woman. For years, the County Board has had minority representation. Continue reading

To Accelerate Economic Recovery, Delay These Laws

The worst possible time to demolish Virginia’s economy

by Chris Braunlich

Last week the Virginia Municipal League (VML), representing the Commonwealth’s city, town and county governments, urged Governor Ralph Northam to delay legislation imposing new costs and unfunded mandates on them. They argued that the economic recession and uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic have made both prohibitive.

The VML is right. During the eight years I served on the Fairfax County School Board, my colleagues and I often stared slack-jawed at the willingness of both Republican and Democratic state leaders to impose new mandates and staffing requirements on localities while providing little or no funding. Our amazement and discontent was bipartisan.

But what needs to be done doesn’t stop at the VML’s recommendations alone, which were limited to items having an impact on local government functions. League Executive Director Michelle Gowdy correctly notes that local “revenue from commercial properties are at risk as small local businesses close down. Whether these companies can hang on until the Coronavirus runs its course is unknown.”

Those local businesses feed local governments with taxes and salaried employees who also pay taxes. If their cost to operate rises so high that they cannot continue, they die and take their local tax revenue with them. Continue reading