Happy Tuesday CivMixers! I hope everyone is having a good day and a somewhat normal (at least new normal) start to this week.
I am not going to lie, the rising numbers of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the U.S. are grim, as we have officially overtaken China in deaths.
According to the Atlanta bases Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we now have 163,539 confirmed cases of the respiratory disease COVID-19, which is caused by the coronavirus, increasing the total amount by over 22,000 cases.
As we all know by now, because we’ve been told by public health officials at every level of government, it going to get worse before it gets better. It is hard for any of us to imagine right now that it WILL indeed get better. From family to friends to colleagues, the majority of people I have spoken to over the past 24 hours are all starting to get down. We’re feeling isolated and maybe even a bit depressed.
Please know that many of us feel this way. You are not alone. If you know anyone who suffers from anxiety or depression normally, you may want to reach out to them.
The news around the U.S. today is again dominated by the COVID crisis and its attendant fallout, but as always we will pare it down to the top 5 things we think you absolutely need to know.
1) Aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (USS TR), COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire among the approximately 4,000 naval personnel aboard. At last count, the confirmed number of cases aboard the ship was at 50. The USS TR is a nuclear-powered American aircraft carrier that is currently docked in Guam. Its home port is in San Diego, CA. On March 26 – in other words, less than a week ago – the number of cases stood at eight.
Commander Captain Brett Crozier of the USS TR has written a letter to the Pentagon that urgently calls for assistance onboard the ship, as he feels “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.” Capt. Crozier also indicated he believes there’s too much of a focus on testing, which has proven to be inaccurate among the sailors due to tests not administered at the right time. As a result, multiple sailors who initially tested negative are now positive.
Crozier’s other concern is that there is no possible way for the sailors to properly enact social distancing in the ultra confined space of the ship, as well as the inability to properly clean and sanitize to prevent the spread of the virus. A number of sick sailors have been moved to restricted movement areas, most of which do not meet the minimum guidance from the Navy regarding isolation requirements.
As for a recommended group quarantine, Capt. Crozier frankly states that won’t work. In his view, the current conditions are ripe for a massive spread of COVID-19, as not only are the spaces confined but the environment of a Naval ship itself consists of shared communal living – berthing, restrooms, gyms, workspaces, mess halls – everything.
Capt. Crozier did agree that removing a portion of the USS TR’s crew and cleaning the ship might help stem the spread of COVID-19, but in the end, this will likely be a temporary and minimal band-aid. He recommends moving and isolating 90 percent of the ship’s crew on shore for the suggested 2-week precautionary quarantine period. The 10 percent left on board would be what Capt. Crozier called “a necessary” and acceptable risk to keep the nuclear reactor running.
“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” he concludes. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die.”
In response to this letter, the Navy replied that the leadership is working as quickly as possible to find the solutions necessary to keep the entire crew of the USS TR safe and healthy and is looking into all of Capt. Crozier’s concerns.
2) According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), there are signs that the social distancing and public health protocol efforts enacted throughout the country are starting to slow the spread of COVID-19. But, we’re still in a very dangerous place right now. The numbers are still going up, but they are rising more slowly – even in the country’s virus epicenter: New York City.
Dr. Fauci’s comments were bittersweet as they provided hope to a nation that saw its deadliest day yet yesterday, with 575 deaths from COVID-19 and other complications due to the coronavirus. With the rising numbers, the death toll from the novel coronavirus has surpassed the number of fatalities from the deadly terrorist attacks on 9/11.
As I mentioned above, we also took over the top spot for the overall deaths stemming from the novel coronavirus worldwide today.
None of this should affect the way that we are currently living as of yet, Dr. Fauci insisted. Though the numbers are slowing, they are still rising. To prevent another influx, we have to continue practicing social distancing and abiding by other federal and state regulations. There are simply signs that the process is working, so as hard as it is on all of us, we must stay the course.
3) The latest elections delayed due to the COVID-19 crisis in the epicenter state of New York is the voting for school district budgets and school boards. The original date was May 19, and it has now been pushed to June 1.
Late yesterday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order Number 202.13, which included this delay for all of the approximately 700 districts statewide.
There was no definite replacement date set, just a vague push to sometime after June 1, to be determined after “further directives” concerning location, manner, and timing of when these elections should take place. Cuomo also rescheduled the April 28 presidential primary to June 23 – the same date as the state’s existing congressional and state legislative primaries.
David Albert, spokesman for the state School Board Association (NYSSBA), agreed that this was a necessary move. He stressed, however, that for most school districts the fiscal year begins July 1, so they will need to know before that date if their budgets are approved.
If not approved, they need to resubmit their budget plans for a second public vote, the timing for two votes before their fiscal year begins will have to be taken into account.
All approximately 700 districts are also waiting on the state’s budget to be approved, which will break down the aid to each school district for the upcoming year. Cuomo wants to have a more flexible power over the budget this year due to the virus’ massive – and negative – impact on the economy.
The deadline for the state budget is tomorrow, April 1, but an agreement has not yet been announced.
4) In 2018, the Gerstner Family Foundation, the Heckscher Foundation for Children and the SUNY Impact Foundation partnered to begin a fund to expand SUNY Albany’s ability to assist students in need known as the Student Emergency Fund.
During the COVID-19 crisis, many of the students who have found themselves in limbo due to the school shutdown, and the fund has helped keep them going.
During the crisis, the Student Emergency Fund at UAlbany has raised almost $40,000, with approximately 90 donations in the last two weeks coming in from staff, faculty, alumni and other members of the UAlbany community. The funds can cover anything from food to lodging and utilities. They have also been assisting students with the technology necessary to continue studying remotely.
As of today, the fund has received upwards of 50 applications seeking assistance, and school administration expects the number to increase as the epidemic lingers. Donations to the fund also help to stock the Purple Pantry – an on-campus non-perishable food and toiletry pantry (free of cost) and Purple Threads – a boutique offering professional clothing to students – as a part of the UAlbany Cares initiative.
5) As mentioned earlier, many people are starting to feel the psychological strain of the COVID-19 crisis. With the rising death rate, hospitalizations, and critical cases, fear and panic are also on the rise. Also, we’re going on the third week most people being shut in their homes, either laid off, unemployed or working from home with no daycare of school for the kids.
The environment is primed for increased anxiety, unbearable stress and a plague of depression. The Capital Region National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is working to get tips and advice out to help everyone cope.
Robin Cole, president of the Capital Region’s NAMI branch, wants people to know that as important as it is to stay informed, you have to be disconnecting from not only social media but any screen for some time every day.
Making sure to stay emotionally, mentally and spiritually connected during this time is also important, Cole says. Call your family members and friends, FaceTime them, Google Hangout – whatever it takes. Most likely everyone has a person in their life who can help them learn how to manage their emotional stress right now, or give them tips on how to minimize anxiety.
Meditation is a great way to relax, calm yourself and clear your mind. You can meditate by yourself or be guided by multiple mindfulness apps or online videos.
If you are at a crisis point, please call the NAMI hotline at either (518) 588-6949 to this helpline.
You are strong. You are beautiful. You are resilient. You are loved. You are capable. You are not weak. You are not defected. You are not weird. You are not a lost cause. You are not different.
Photo credit: George Fazio.