COVID-19 is a public health crisis, but as it has unfolded, it has rippled out into an economic crisis, too. The stock market has been volatile, businesses are closing their doors, and millions are staying home to limit the spread of the virus. In our community, The Tea Party Festival and Earth Day celebrations have been canceled. All of this means we in Chestertown and people across America are feeling unprecedented economic pain.
To help, our elected leaders have been planning to give money directly to the American people. Members of the Republican-led Senate, the Democratic-controlled House, and the Trump administration all put forth ideas for direct cash payments, ranging from one-time payments or monthly payments of varying sizes.
“We need cash in the hands of affected families,” said Republican Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR).
“So many people in this country are worried about what happens when their mortgage/rent/car payments/bills are due,” Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA-43) posted on Twitter.
In the early stages of this discussion, there were no fewer than nine proposals for direct cash payments. We’re encouraged to see the broad agreement that during a crisis, it helps to put cash in people’s pockets and let them spend it how they see fit.
When Congress turns its attention to climate change—another looming crisis—it should not forget this lesson: Direct cash payments are a simple, transparent, and fair way to support Americans when economic winds are shifting.
Climate change demands that we stop emitting greenhouse gases, which are trapping excess heat in our atmosphere and upsetting our planet’s delicate balance. America needs to move from a fossil fuel-based economy to a clean energy economy. That will be a major change, but it should not be an acute crisis like we’re in now. By charging fossil fuel companies a fee at the source of extraction and reimbursing that fee to Americans through cash dividends, we can ensure a healthy economy while making a gentle transition to a clean energy future.
As proposed in HR 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, Congress could put a price on carbon pollution, driving our economy away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy sources, and it could rebate that money as an equal cash payment, or “dividend,” to all Americans each month.
Cash payments/dividends give Americans the choice of how to spend it: pay bills, buy groceries, save, invest in a more energy efficient car, spend it at a local business, or anything else.
This is especially important for low- and middle-income Americans, who might otherwise struggle with cost increases as we shift to a clean energy economy. When dividends are given to everyone, low- and middle-income Americans benefit dramatically. For anyone concerned about those who are uniquely vulnerable to both economic shocks and climate change impacts—direct cash payments/dividends are an effective tool to help meet their needs.
Finally, cash payments/dividends are transparent and easy to track, unlike tax offsets. That visibility helps people and our elected officials stay focused on the problem at hand: right now, the pandemic. Soon, climate change.
As of this writing, Representative Andy Harris has sent a letter to constituents outlining
the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act with direct payments to taxpayers through recent tax filings or their Social Security Benefit Statement. Taxpayers will receive a one-time payment of $1,200 from the Treasury, plus an additional $500 for every child under the age of 17.
It’s clear that money in the hands of Americans helps keep our economy running. That’s why Congress and the President have used this tool in the current crisis. When we’ve dealt with COVID-19, let’s use that same tool to combat climate change.
Mark Reynolds is the Executive Director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Hope Clark is the Group Leader of the Chestertown chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
I get by. Occasionally in my allotted news time in these plague-fraught weeks, a tear takes me unawares. Oddly it is not in response to numbers of casualties I can’t quite comprehend, but upon hearing of some act of outrageous and spontaneous generosity – stranger to stranger. My tear is small, but my spotted springer senses it is there, and he drapes his spry and pliable body across the contours of my lap. As he melts into me, some of the tightness dissipates, and soon I relax into the warm fur contact.
Yes, my staying at home companions are canine. My twosome, although devoted, are night and day. The Golden is the king of the couch. Taking it easy is surpassed only by treat time. The springer is indeed rightly-named, bouncing through life. He gets me up and out, rain or shine. I tap into my own inner pep as we play rollicking ball games. The fancier the fly I throw, the more aerial his catch. I cheer; he wags. The game is all that matters.
With the limited mind set of my own species, the homebound policy might feel restrictive. Not so from the pooch point-of-view. What could be better: we, our pack of three, are together, all day every day. For weeks, for months. This is the jackpot. I might mind that meals are make-do. Their bowls of the same kibble with garnish are always exciting. Oh food! Oh stuffed toy! Oh belly rub! Oh squirrel! Oh snuggles into my bed! Oh sleep serene! This is one way to look at living.
More and more I realize that if I am open to learning, they are here to guide me. Joy is not a perfect past, a future without care. Joy is the immediate. With them I live in the moment. Our pattern is established.
At daybreak with the first light, my eyes open. The spaniel hears eyelashes! I get a few canine kisses. Tails thump with delight. I believe they smile. “We are wonderful. You are wonderful. We have this day. Let us rejoice in it.”
My hands rub the soft fur of each dog. They lead. I follow. And once again fling open the door to a brand new morning.
While we all live through one of the greatest challenges most of us have ever faced, volunteer organizations that support our community every day are still hard at work.
One of those is Compass Regional Hospice. This year, Compass celebrates 35 years serving patients and families in Queen Anne’s, Kent and Caroline counties facing a life-limiting diagnosis. They provide “care on your terms” for everyone, from small children to centenarians, through comprehensive, professional and compassionate care and grief support.
In the midst of a national health emergency, their clinical care team continues to serve patients at the Centreville and Chestertown Hospice Centers, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, and in patients’ homes. The bereavement team and social workers continue to provide emotional and psychosocial support to those struggling with grief and maintaining their mental health.
April is National Volunteer Month, so if you want a way to help our community, Compass can put you to work. I have volunteered with Compass since 2007 helping patients and their families. I wasn’t sure that I could help people confronting life-limiting illnesses, but volunteering with Compass has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. I have worked with patients at both in-patient centers, in assisted living and nursing homes, and most often, in their homes. I have no health care background, but Compass has provided all of the training and support I have needed.
Compass Volunteers know, without question, that their help is needed and valued. Volunteers give caregivers some respite: time to grocery shop, go to the doctor, visit other family members, take a walk or just take a nap. We offer companionship to patients who cannot leave home, playing cards, listening to music, watching old movies, reading books, saying prayers, or just chatting. We do vigils with patients when their families cannot be there.
As a Compass volunteer, I have met wonderful people I might never have known otherwise. Veterans who fought In Vietnam and World War II. People who still remembered World War I. Surgeons, farmers, homemakers, and people who worked at the bank, the grocery store, the insurance company. People who loved Ella Fitzgerald, Mozart or the Rolling Stones. People who loved old movies or television westerns.
Other volunteers help out with fundraising campaigns, answer phones or staff Estate Treasures in Chester, MD, an upscale resale shop that features gently worn or carefully used donated “treasures” to help offset unfunded hospice care and grief support.
Want to get involved? Let me count the ways. If you are able, please donate. Like most non-profits, Compass depends on generous gifts to cover their unmet costs. Health care is expensive, but Compass never turns down anyone who needs care, so even small donations help. Volunteers cannot work directly with patients right now, but when the coronavirus has passed, volunteers will be able to hold a patient’s hand, support his caregiver, or help out in the office. Stuck at home? Do your Spring cleaning. You might unearth items you no longer need to donate to Estate Treasures. Do you sew? Right now they need face masks for medical staff risking their lives to care for others.
For more information, consult the Compass Website at http://compassregionalhospice.org. If you would like to volunteer, contact Volunteer Coordinator Robyn Affron. Now is the time to do what you can for our community.
COVID-19 “testing” is a word with a variety of meanings. We have to get it right.
We seem to encounter constant confusion or overly simplified descriptions of our evaluation strategies for COVID-19 as just “testing”… as if all and any tests are the same. But they are not. Similarly, we have not, on a per capita basis, tested more people than China, or South Korea or Italy. Hopefully this will change soon.
Some of our tests are gold standard and have been in short supply, high demand, and requiring days and weeks to obtain results. Others are rapid (hours or a few days) and even more recently, point-of-care with results known in minutes.
But all of these tests so far are genome tests sensing for viral DNA or RNA using a version of rt-PCR (reverse transcriptase, polymerase chain reaction). It identifies the presence of an antigen—in this case a specific infectious virus. PCR is a type of lab test that typically requires a high-level laboratory, highly trained technicians, known and validated probes and primers, good controls and elapsed time and precision to perform correctly.
At first, only CDC was allowed to conduct these tests with collected samples sent only to one of their sites, then other labs were certified, and now high-level university labs in most states with help from highly trained graduate students as extra technicians are racing to perform as many as possible because they have long been considered gold standard methods. The basic premise is that a sample of collected material via a nasal and/or pharyngeal swab will provide viral particles of a sort and amount which can be amplified and therefore detected if you have current COVID-19 infection.
However, swabs may not be collected correctly, nor enough material on each, and newer rapid diagnostic tests for COVID-19, like “quick flu” and “quick strep” have real and persistent issues of low sensitivity (false negatives) while typically being designed for higher specificity (true positives).
Estimates from China’s testing during the initial Wuhan crisis indicate swabs for their various rt-PCR tests were only 30-50% accurate. Even more alarmingly, only last week China released data indicating that even initially positive and hospitalized patients who seemed to recover symptomatically and had negative re-tests have tested later as positive. Positive, negative, negative, negative, positive! Theories abound on how this might be possible if there is no re-infection. This is shocking to consider. The last positive result suggests that many former patients deemed recovered, and presumably allowed to travel and congregate in large groups, are still shedding virus and possibly infecting others.
Was this because of an inaccurate set of prior tests or because new tests only detected non-infectious remaining viral particles? This is still not known. But another recently defined issue is that the China case count definitions are not what we might think either. We were told last week that there were no new cases in a certain region of China, but now we know that they do not include in overall daily counts for total and for new cases, any patients re-testing as positive after being released from the hospital or other medical care. These counts also do not include asymptomatic cases (but known positive) in the case counts we have been hearing. That is a very big issue, of course. Case definitions and test result definitions must be standardized if the world is to value and make decisions based upon them. “I have no idea why the authorities chose not to count [asymptomatic] cases in the official case count. I am baffled”, said one of the Wuhan doctors who had a second positive test after recovering. (NPR)
False negative rates will also be an issue with the latest rapid COVID test Abbott is running on the ID NOW platform and approved under EUA (emergency use authorization) by the FDA. But if we all eventually have access to this test under loosened inclusion protocols, I will try to get it.
It will be an important addition for quickly finding more active current infection, aka cases, albeit that experts agree false negative rates may run as high as 15% for COVID-19. This means that if you receive a negative result, you must continue to act and react as if you are still able to transmit the disease. THIS IS CRUCIAL TO UNDERSTAND! The faster test with results provided on-site will allow us to quickly know more about disease and transmission patterns, but still not all we need. It is likely that this consideration became clear to President Trump before he made his latest request for social distancing to continue through all of April. Observing just the strange pattern of negative to positive results in China would be enough…
But there may also have been a bit of good news in a recent Presidential briefing. With his administration finally agreeing to purchase test kits used so successfully by South Korea’s identification and containment efforts, we may soon also be able to include another very simple immune status test here in the US. “Soon” might still be a month away, but test kits have been purchased and submitted for FDA certification by at least one company. These types of tests are qualitative serology (blood) tests measuring antibody (not antigen) responses…IgM indicates current active infection, in this case with COVID-19, to which a person has mounted an antibody response. If such a person later is re-tested and shows IgG antibodies, it means they convalesced from the infection and are clear and immune for some unknown period; this also means they will no longer transmit the current viral strain. An initial IgG result implies similarly that you were at some point (likely relatively asymptomatically) infected and now recovered. Again, you would not infect or transmit the disease.
Of course there are finer points to antibody type, affinity, and sufficiency, but for what is known and needed at this time, showing an IgM vs convalescent IgG signal, or none of either (not as yet infected) would be of enormous interest for not only each person’s peace of mind, but also for national modeling efforts that could drive other decision-making for resources, care and interventions, as well as social and economic goals to follow..
So, antigen vs antibody testing? Longer PCR lead time vs rapid PCR? Nasal/pharyngeal swab vs finger stick/venous blood? My choice will be to get one of these when inclusion protocols begin to allow testing for less symptomatic people when more tests become available. Meanwhile we should stay sequestered for a while longer. You do not want to become seriously ill in the first wave of reduced resource availability.
I think we have a fortunate trajectory in our region, with fewer and later cases, lower modeled deficiencies forecast for beds and ICU interventions, and have been made safer earlier by swift mitigation efforts of our State leadership. We have a way to go; we are not China, but neither are we NY. So far, we are simply lucky.
Pamela Getson is a PhD biostatistician with a BS in physiology. She was Director of the Statistical Core Group of Children’s Hospital while on Faculty at the George Washington University School of Medicine/Pediatrics. She now lives in St. Michaels. In addition to teaching and research, she designed and evaluated clinical trials, and later served as a senior math/biostat reviewer of data submitted in support of new vaccines at the FDA/CBER. She consults to industry and academia, but now living on the shore permanently in retirement, primarily assists with her husband’s new interest in oyster gardening and resumption of their love of sailing and nature.
When our sunny days sparkle between the rainy ones, I go out for fresh air therapy. A noontime finds us on the lawn chairs with our mugs on the table between. Our heads are tilted back to catch some beams and we let the wind chime carry the conversation. Two chickadees come to our tea party and remain in the nearby shrubs, flitting twig to twig. If I hadn’t chosen to be still and silent, I might have missed their cheer. One’s own yard as nature preserve enhances sheltering-in-place.
No one on the news channels reports the season’s unfolding. All the same and no matter what, it is spring. A walk to my mailbox bedazzles. My neighbor’s driveway is lined with popsicle-shaped pear trees. She is an artist living in an impressionistic landscape. All white and light.
As I walk on a distance on our rural road, here a tree, there a shrub positively glittering. The cherry trees at their peak seem hung with snow. As I stroll, I feel the lightness of the landscape. Climate change finds the blossom cycle rapid – the first redbuds sing “rejoice,” pink and cream dogwood flowers unfurl. Dandelions glow, remaining daffodils and forsythia exuberant punctuation marks of yellow. And when I come ‘round the bend, an opening of Irish green pasture reveals the Holstein cows, crisply black and white, contented in their meadow.
It is my great privilege to be homebound amidst such glories.
Back at my tea party with the chimes and the chickadees, the tabby cat commandeers part of my cushion. Her fur is warm and she curls around contentedly. I notice a small purple violet, a periwinkle along her vines, the first wood poppy grows through her left-over leaves – yellow, persistent. Amidst the fragrance of viburnum, all is quiet. In this moment Calm is possible.
With so much beyond our power, we are given spring. A beautiful day indeed.
We sincerely hope you, our friends, patrons, members and community, remain safe and well during this challenging time. While we took the prudent step of closing the Academy Art Museum, the Museum’s mission continues and the place, whether real or virtual, is thriving.
Our construction project still moves forward and once the threat of the COVID-19 virus passes we will celebrate a completed renovation making the Academy Art Museum even more welcoming to the entire community.
From the moment some doors closed, the virtual ones opened thanks to the commitment and dedication of the Museum’s fine team. Within days, we began providing a range of online and remote art learning opportunities and experiences. You may have seen the first rollout of these enhanced efforts in the recent e-newsletter entitled Art at Home.
One change in the next few months is the cancelation of our annual Spring Gala. This gathering will be back, but not this year. However, in the spirit of the more things change, the more they stay the same, every one of our pledged Gala sponsors has embraced GALA2020 by confirming their commitments of support even with no gala. GALA2020 is designed to ensure that we meet the Museum’s needs this year while also aiding us in furthering our mission in response to the challenges facing our community.
We hope you will join with our GALA2020 sponsors and support at any level. We know the innovative programing already available and other projects the team is developing can make a difference. We will work with our partners throughout the community to find ways to help.
It is an understatement to say that this year is different. What is unshaken, however, is the Museum’s commitment to serve our community with arts programs and exhibitions. You can send your support to GALA2020 right now by clicking HERE. Or, send it through the mail.
Please follow our efforts on Facebook as well as our webpage. We hope you enjoy and share with friends the special offerings.
We wish everyone in our community safety, calm and good health in these trying times.
Cathy McCoy, Board Chair
Jocelyn Eysymontt, Board Vice-Chair
Craig Fuller, Board Vice-Chair
Benjamin Simons, Director
Academy Art Museum
I was stunned when I read the article by Mr. Parks in the Talbot Spy yesterday. Mr Parks said that he, and apparently others, are not self-quarantining, since he used the phrase “we’re not self-quarantining.” He then went on to criticize President Trump’s handling of coronavirus in many ways, including questioning President Trump’s leadership qualities, none of which complaints were valid and none of which helped stop the spread of the virus in the slightest respect.
I ask you, Mr Parks, why are you not self-quarantining? You should be! All Americans should be!
We’re all in this together! Rather than criticizing the President, let’s try following his advice so that we, as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, or as Trump-Lovers or Trump Haters, but as Americans, can defeat the coronavirus!
President Trump has requested legislation to make whole those workers who are losing their jobs due to virus related closings, and to make whole businesses who are losing money or being forced to close due to the virus.
Why don’t we make certain that every penny of our tax dollars in the final version of such legislation actually goes towards victims of coronavirus, and not to the various state and local “pet pork” projects of Congressmen, Congresswomen or Senators. If any dollar does not go towards those coronavirus goals lets hold those who are responsible for such accountable by voting them out of office in November.
Let’s work together as Americans to solve this problem and not constantly criticize the President for his efforts without offering any alternative workable solutions. The biggest complaint that we hear is “why have more people not been tested?” How can you test 320 million Americans with an invasive testing procedure that requires a hazmat suit to ensure that the tester is not infected? We don’t have 320 million tests or 320 million hazmat suits in the US, or even in the World. Let’s all listen to our President’s advice and put forth our best efforts to self-quarantine, and let’s defeat this as proud Americans, the same way that we have overcome numerous obstacles in the past!
Despite a majority of Americans’ support for women’s right to choose — a decision set by the Supreme Court nearly 50 years ago — attempts to diminish abortion rights for women remain relentless. A Pew Research report from 2019 found that upwards of 60% of Americans say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
However, anti-abortion activists around the country have passed a variety of state laws making it increasingly difficult for women to end their pregnancies. One strategy has been to pursue state-wide, medically unnecessary, gestational bans. In other words, women would not be allowed to have abortions, a constitutional right, once their pregnancies have progressed to a certain length of time after their last menstrual periods. Bans have been proposed for as short a period as six weeks, often before women may even know they are pregnant.
Environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, have been involved in protecting women against these bans. Environmental groups focus their efforts on creating a world in which all humans can live in safe, healthy environments. Comprehensive reproductive health care is essential to that goal. Reproductive freedom is thus considered a basic human right.
Lack of control over the timing of childbearing interferes with an individual’s ability to pursue educational, economic, and social opportunities. Women without means are the victims in these scenarios and are less likely to have adequate resources to care for children once they are born; low-income people are also subject to living in areas with more environmental hazards (close to incinerators, coal plants, etc.).
In contrast, wealthy women have always been able to gain access to pregnancy termination services and will continue to do so regardless of increasing restrictions on abortion. In addition, those with means are able to raise their families in healthy, safe communities.There is growing recognition that environmental issues are inextricably linked to issues like gender and economic inequality. It is important that we reject intrusive measures that presume to understand the challenges others face. Instead, we must provide access to safe, legal and affordable family planning for all who seek it.
Reproductive justice, economic justice, and environmental justice are three inexplicably tied movements. The right to choose if, when, and how we become pregnant cannot be separated from the right to raise those families in healthy, safe environments and afford all the basic life necessities.
Susan Olsen, M.A., M.Ed.
Mike Pretl Community Impact Fellow
Maryland Sierra Club
Isabel Blalock, MPH
Field Director, Abortion Access Campaign
NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland