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Newsletter – Well, This is Pretty Awful

I wrote this for the Urban News for June 2020.

It is really hard to know where to start. I thought about just submitting a column that starts with expletives; it would also be completely filled with expletives and it would end with expletives. Somehow, I did not think the thoughtful editors of The Urban News would accept such an article.

It Happened Again

This time it was Minneapolis, but the sad truth is it could have happened anywhere in the United States. Another black man, George Floyd, was detained by police because he was suspected of passing counterfeit $20 bills. There was an altercation, a detainment, a handcuffing.

There was yet another infamous cellphone video. We see George Floyd being held down by a white police officer with his knee on Floyd’s neck, one hand casually in his pocket. Mr. Floyd is on his stomach with his hands cuffed behind him, and can be heard saying, “I can’t breathe.”

This is so reminiscent of Eric Garner, it hurts. It hurts badly. As you recall, Eric Garner was a black man who was stopped by police for selling individual cigarettes—a crime in New York. As he is dying, his last words are, “I can’t breathe.” The police officer used an illegal chokehold on Mr. Garner—also a crime in New York.

That was almost six years ago. As in Minneapolis, the officers do nothing to resuscitate a lifeless Garner. The police officer who used the illegal chokehold to kill Garner was fired. There was no indictment. No one went to jail.

Almost any black American—well, I should say, almost any progressive American—can name five to 10 Black Americans killed at the hands of American police officers over the past several years. Their names are widely known, the incidents infamous. Sandra Bland was pulled over in Texas for a traffic stop while visiting for anew university job. She was arrested for almost no reason, and she died in jail with no explanation. No-one was held accountable; no-one went to jail.

Michael Brown got into an altercation with a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. His offense, which ultimately cost him his life, was walking in the middle of the street. Michael Brown ignored the police request to get out of the street and walk on the sidewalk. The incident escalated and ended with Michael Brown being shot to death. The officers were not indicted; no-one went to jail. (The 13th Juror is a book that I commissioned Nelda Holder to write. It is about the death of Michael Brown.)

Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old black youth who was developmentally delayed. He was playing in a park by himself with a toy plastic gun—the way white boys play “cops and robbers” with impunity. An unidentified stranger called the police because this 12-year-old boy was playing with a toy gun. The police drove up with their guns drawn. Rice did not respond to initial instructions that were shouted at him, and two seconds after their arrival, he was shot dead. He was treated as a hardened criminal. There was an investigation and the conclusion was that shooting was “justified.”

More recently, Ahmad Aubrey, former football standout, was jogging in a neighborhood close to his home. The unarmed 25-year-old black man was spotted by a father and son, both ex-police officers. They decided that Aubrey fit the description of a suspect responsible for several break-ins in the area. They grabbed their weapons, hopped in their pickup truck, and chased Ahmad down. They followed him, hit him with their truck, and when he tried to challenge them, they shot him to death on a public street in Georgia. For months—until a video came out—there were no arrests. (Let’s not forget Breonna Taylor.)

Ahmad Aubrey’s case echoes the death of Trayvon Martin, a young man was walking back to his house from a convenience store when he was confronted by a resident of his father’s apartment complex—a former “neighborhood watch” leader. A fight ensued. Trayvon Martin was shot dead. George Zimmerman, the security guard, never saw a day in jail for killing an unarmed man. (more…)

By |2020-06-14T22:58:23-04:00June 14th, 2020|Civil Rights|Comments Off on Newsletter – Well, This is Pretty Awful

Please add Breonna Taylor to the List

Breonna Taylor was (please note I said was) a 26 yo female (emergency room EMT) who was shot and killed by police on March 13. It was after midnight. She was in bed with her boyfriend. It is unclear if she woke up or not. The door was kicked in by police. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, called 911 saying someone was breaking in their apartment. He then grabbed his gun and started shooting. The police returned fire hitting Walker and killing Breonna.

According to reports the police used a “no knock” warrant to enter the house. They thought that this particular house was being used by a drug dealer to sell and house drugs. The drug dealer was already in police custody.

This raises several questions:

  • Why is a “no knock” warrant necessary? What is the criteria for using a “no knock” warrant? Who signed off on the warrant? What questions were asked? If the judge didn’t ask any questions then want is the purpose of the judge?
  • How solid was the information that drugs were being sold at that location? Since the police didn’t find any drugs it is important to look at the source of the information.
  • Shouldn’t the police be 80 – 90% sure before breaking down the door? I understand the need for breaking down a door but couldn’t the police have observed the house for a day or 2? What was the rush? Why did you have go right away?
By |2020-06-02T22:24:27-04:00June 2nd, 2020|Domestic Issues, Race|Comments Off on Please add Breonna Taylor to the List

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.

(more…)

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