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Whose America?

This is not the America that I grew up in.

I grew up in the 1970s. Forty years ago, for a person of color, the world was still your oyster. You could do anything that you wanted—as long as you put your mind to it.

Work hard and be rewarded

Workers leaving Pennsylvania shipyards, Beaumont, Texas (LOC)

You had to work hard. The mantra that was beaten into all of us was to get your education. Education was the ticket to a better life. Education was the way out of the ghetto. That was the way out of low-end jobs. Education.

People of color understood that the playing field wasn’t level, but this obstacle could be overcome with hard work. Then something happened during the 1980s. America stopped investing in education. We stopped investing in ourselves. Sure, President Clinton and President Obama did their best to reverse this trend, but when you look back over the last 30 to 40 years, we simply have not invested in ourselves.

Instead, we believed, as a nation, that tax cuts for the wealthy would help everyone. It was like magic pixie dust. Tax cuts would turn everything into gold and silver.

The fact is that tax cuts helped only the rich. No one else. There was no money for infrastructure. There was no money for education. There was only money to help the rich get richer—just as they were designed to do.

President Joe Biden

As comedian Steve Martin used to say, “I’m just a wild and crazy guy.” Joe Biden wants to do something crazy. Joe Biden wants to invest in us.

In his State of the Union address, Joe Biden laid out a plan in which we would invest in the United States of America. We would repair and build bridges. We would improve our infrastructure. We would improve our electrical grid. We would invest billions into high-speed broadband. We would invest in ourselves so that we can compete with China, Russia, and any other nation in the world. We would invest in education again. Two years of free community college, this is one of the best ideas I have heard in decades. Let’s not saddle our young adults with tens of thousands of dollars of debt.

How can you be an American and oppose this? Well, if you are a Republican and you really don’t want to see a Democratic president succeed, you can oppose this. The first thing out of your mouth would be surprise at the “ridiculously” high price tag.

I would ask how much should we spend on a country of over 330 million people in order to improve the lives of everyone? A couple hundred million? A couple hundred billion? Or should we spend what is necessary in order to improve the lives of Americans?

Here’s my question: Would you invest $10,000 in your own education and training? $40,000 for the wellbeing of your family of four? Well, that’s more than what Joe Biden is asking: $3 trillion dollars for 330 million people comes to $9,090 per person. Don’t you think everyday Americans are worth an investment of ten thousand dollars, when we just let the top CEOs of America’s biggest companies—Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and others—increase their personal wealth by well over a billion dollars each last year?

Republicans commonly pass spending bills for aircraft carriers, fighter jets, and tax cuts without a second thought about how to pay for them. (Of course, many of them lied to us and told him that the tax cuts would pay for themselves. That has never happened. That never will happen.) Now, that we are trying to help the American people, now they want a price tag. I’m sorry, I’m not playing this game.

Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina gave what can only be described as a sad rebuttal to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address. It is clear that Senator Scott lives in a bubble in which no reality can really penetrate. Then again, when you think about it, he has to live in a bubble. If he were to see that the Republican Party has turned in the party of white supremacy, he would have to question his own self-worth. Why does he belong to a party that hates who he is?

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By |2021-05-16T15:55:10-04:00May 16th, 2021|Coronavirus, Economy, Newsletter, Poverty, Race|Comments Off on Whose America?

May 2020 Newsletter – Worst President Ever

I wrote this for the May 2020 issue of the Urban News.

I have been trying to think of some tune that would elevate my mood. I thought of “Love Train” by the O’Jays. Of course, there’s Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” Then there’s Katrina’s “Walking on Sunshine.” But none of these tunes really seem to hit the spot. Ricky Martin’s “Living La Vida Loca,” James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)” is a perennial pick-me-up, but not this time. Finally, there is “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

Well, I’m sorry, but I’m in a funk. None of these tunes is changing my mood. As of this writing, the United States has more than 1.1 million Americans who been infected with the coronavirus and more than 70,000 deaths. 70,000! That is more than three-quarters of the population of Asheville. (To put this in perspective, there were 39,773 firearm deaths in the US for all of 2017.)

This is why I am dysphoric. I know that Jared Kushner, president’s son-in-law and top aide, recently said that the administration has done an outstanding job with the coronavirus. My first response is “HAH!” That is not reality; that is political posturing. The Trump administration has done a terrible job.

Petri Dishes for the Coronavirus

Last month, in this newspaper, I stressed that I was worried about nursing homes. In nursing homes there is the perfect combination of elderly patients, close quarters, and a population with multiple comorbidities. That is the perfect environment for the coronavirus to grow, thrive, and kill.

Unfortunately, I was right. Many states did not enact any specific legislation to safeguard nursing homes. Facilities across the country became a fertile breeding ground for the coronavirus. Here in West Virginia, in Wayne County, 30 of the 41 residents at one nursing home tested positive for the novel coronavirus, as did 34 of the 68 staff—50%—in a county with a total population of less than 40,000. There were seven deaths from this one nursing home. After nursing homes made the national news, governors across the nation began enacting proclamations to make nursing homes safer, but it seems a little too late.

Unfortunately, when I was writing my newsletter last month, I didn’t even think about prisons. Prisons are overcrowded. So it’s not a surprise that at the Cook County jail, in Chicago, 276 inmates and 172 correctional officers tested positive for the coronavirus. Again, this is the perfect combination of people in close quarters who can easily and rapidly spread the virus between each other. Some prisons are trying to release some prisoners early in order to decrease overcrowding. One federal prison in Washington DC is shipping over 100 prisoners to West Virginia to decrease overcrowding. I am not sure if it is possible to do social distancing in a prison. This is a problem that no one seems all that eager to solve.

Huge coronavirus outbreaks are taking place at large meat processing plants. It appears that the owners of these plants did little to change their practices to try to decrease the possibility of a coronavirus infection. Over 20 of these plants have closed down because of coronavirus outbreaks—and now even Wendy’s is running out of hamburgers at some of its outlets! In his infinite wisdom (please understand, I’m inserting as much sarcasm as I can with eyerolling), President Trump signed an executive order ordering meat processing plants to stay open. Trump did not order these meatpacking plants to furnish all their workers with masks. He didn’t order them to begin testing all of their workers for the virus. He didn’t order frequent hand washing or social distancing. Instead, he issued an executive order which seems to make the problem worse.

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By |2020-06-02T06:35:28-04:00June 2nd, 2020|Coronavirus, Elections|Comments Off on May 2020 Newsletter – Worst President Ever

April 2020 Newsletter – Coronavirus

I published this in the Urban News

Coronavirus, Nursing Homes and Trump’s Complete Failure
Errington C Thompson, MD

It is kind of amazing. It has only been a couple of months, toward the end of December, when China announced that the discovery of a new virus in the city of Wuhan. It was a coronavirus. It was different than SARS, which we saw more than a decade ago. Two weeks later, in the middle of January, China announced the first death secondary to this novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

On January 20, a man in his thirties returned to the US from Wuhan and fell ill with the coronavirus. This man returned to his home in Washington state. By this time, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and other countries were reporting cases of the coronavirus. Ten days later, on January 30, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency.

In early February, in Kirkland, Washington, the Life Care Center nursing home seemed to be battling an unusual number of their residents’ contracting what appeared to be the flu. One resident after another got sick, and even after several days, these residents did not seem to be getting better. They were taken to the hospital: one after another died.

As of two weeks ago, 29 of these nursing home residents had died because of the Covid-19. According to a Washington Post article, 30 of the 43 remaining residents have tested positive for the coronavirus. Forty-six of the nursing home’s 180 employees have also tested positive. Which makes us ask, what special precautions did this nursing home take in early February to try to prevent the spread of this virus?

This is a new virus, yet in a very short period of time, we have learned a lot about it. It is a respiratory virus, meaning that it is passed from one human being to another, by mostly coughing and inhaling the virus. We know that it is highly contagious.

Currently we do not have a cure. Supportive treatment works in a lot of patients, but not all: there are many patients who are dying of the Covid-19 virus. We have heard reports of vaccines being developed, but they are not ready yet. We have heard that old drugs like hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin (touted by President Trump) may be useful in treating this virus, but experts have stated that these claims are highly dubious, at best.

One of the great myths that surround this virus is that it attacks only the elderly; this is 100% wrong. The other myth is that only the elderly will die with this virus. This is also wrong. Perfectly healthy, young, active people have contracted this virus, gotten sick, and even died.

It is now the beginning of April 2020. The coronavirus has been detected in all 50 states. Yes, it’s in North Dakota, New Mexico, and here in West Virginia. States all over the nation have enacted “social distancing” in order to try to stem the spread of the virus. All but nine states—all with Republican governors—have mandated “stay-at-home” orders closing countless restaurants and other businesses.

And as of April 3, there were almost 300,000 diagnosed cases of Covid-19, and more than 7,000 deaths from the virus, just in the United States.

Nursing Homes

With everything that has happened at the Kirkland Life Care Center, what precautions have nursing homes enacted? Are these precautions universal?

Nursing homes contain a population uniquely vulnerable to the coronavirus. It would seem reasonable that nursing homes would test every single patient. Then, if the nursing home does not have any patients with the coronavirus, its managers would make sure that the coronavirus never invades the nursing home. They would lock down the nursing home. No visitors who haven’t been tested. All patients coming in would have to be tested: and every new resident must have a negative test before entering the nursing home. All employees would need to be tested, on an ongoing, regular basis.

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By |2020-04-28T10:20:14-04:00April 28th, 2020|Coronavirus, Domestic Issues, Healthcare|Comments Off on April 2020 Newsletter – Coronavirus
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