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.