Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19’

 

Hair Today

September 2, 2020, Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – It makes sense that Donald would comment on Nancy getting her hair blow dried; something a big hair guy would be sure to notice. Hard to tell if the hullabaloo is about Nancy walking down a hallway with wet hair and no mask, or the idea that blow driers in and of themselves are deadly. Geez, it’s hard to look pretty, with this virus thingy making a haircut so dangerous. I decided to check it out. What evil lurks in the hair salon these days? Beauty Parlor Gossip was the worst thing about such an environment in years past; Eudora Welty claimed to get some of her best story ideas from an afternoon under the drier.  One of her short stories, The Petrified Man, is actually set in a beauty parlor. Lots of gossip in that one. Yes, back before Twitter, we relied on our beauty parlors to spread tales.

But back to our modern hair salons, and the dangers they may, or may not, present for us. Prevention magazine recently interviewed infectious disease specialist Michael Ben-Aderet, MD, about salon safety tips and recommendations in the age of COVID-19. The article appears at a time when many states are easing restrictions and businesses like hair salons are reopening.

“The number one-way coronavirus spreads is through respiratory droplets from someone who is sick,” said Ben-Aderet, explaining the virus spreads the same way in salons as it does anywhere – making it increasingly more important that sick people do not enter salons. “One way to do this is to screen clients before appointments to make sure those who are sick reschedule if they have fever, cough, or shortness of breath.” But many people want to know what happens if someone sick does enter a salon. Can products and tools like a blow dryer spread COVID-19?

“A blow dryer does have the potential to spread contaminated air around a room,” said Ben-Aderet. “But again, there needs to be an infected person around. Unless someone coughs into a hair dryer and that spreads the droplets, it’s very unlikely.” As for the blow dryer itself, Ben-Aderet says it’s “unlikely for a hair dryer to be contaminated with coronavirus.” He does explain, however, that while viruses can’t grow on surfaces, they can persist on certain surfaces for a particular amount of time, making it imperative that each salon is cleaned and disinfected after each client. “Touching a surface that is contaminated with secretions or mucus membranes from a sick individual and then touching your face can make you sick,” said Ben-Aderet. “It’s important to remember that viruses need to grow in a person.”

So there you have it. A sick PERSON is the dangerous thing. And if not yet obviously sick, A VIRUS CARRIER. If nobody is hauling the virus around on their body, and coughing and touching things with their virus-contaminated droplets, or hands they just wiped against their nose, there is no virus to get anybody else sick. And the notion of “sick people” spreading things to other people is true for ordinary colds, the flu, and lots of other stuff that people transmit from one to another. It’s rude to take your sick self out and put your germs off on somebody else. Don’t do it!

We’re advised to wear masks when we do go out now, so if we have that Virus Thingy, we don’t spread it. This is a dangerous proviso – having a mask dangling around your neck and not properly positioned, or made of the wrong material, or not kept clean, is as bad as not having one at all. Also, RELYING on a mask as your ultimate protection is foolhardy. Look at these videos showing how far DROPLETS can travel THROUGH a mask!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evATiHUejxg&feature=youtu.be

Tomorrow: Masks Better Than Even The Lone Ranger Wore

 
 
 

That Virus Thingy

September 1, 2020, Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – Six months have passed since we really started counting “that virus thingy.” I check the US stats on the Centers for Disease Control website every week; so far no US state or territory has had a week go by with NO new cases. Except for American Samoa, bless their peaceful, well-isolated hearts. Today I took a worldwide look – the World Health Organization has an excellent site and really good advice. It’s vitally important to track what is going on in our own neighborhood, but I believe it is equally important to track what is happening beyond our borders. Compare – how are they managing? How are we, in the US?

As of the beginning of September, 2020, the World Health Organization shows 25,541,380 cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide; 852,000 deaths. If we want to compare that death count with the population of cities of equal size – we could say that EVERYBODY in Indianapolis, Indiana is dead now. Or, Seattle, Washington. Dead. No living, breathing persons left in those cities. When you look at it THAT way, it seems like a lot of deaths, doesn’t it? Other cities in the US that have populations in the 800,000 range are Charlotte, North Carolina; San Francisco, California, Columbus, Ohio; Forth Worth, Texas.  Imagine them gone! Imagine a dystopian horror tale, such as Peter Heller’s The Dog Stars (2012); a world where the unexpected happened – a flu pandemic struck – and life on the planet had to adjust to “what is.” While I’m a believer in Positive Thinking, I’m also a believer in being well-informed. And approaching life in ways that are reasonable, and not based on impatience to “get back to normal, now!” Like, opening schools.  Sure, kids are getting a sucky education right now. Sure, parents are sick and tired of having to manage and monitor their children’s schooling from home.  Sure – well the issue is ablaze in arguments and accusations and vastly different proposals. Politics involved. What is the best solution? Start with facts.

Here are the numbers broken down by sections of the world, and then the US.

World Health Organization Statistics – Number of Cases Reported Worldwide as of September 1, 2020

  • Americas – 13,469,747
  • SE Asia – 4,318,281
  • Europe – 4,225,328
  • Eastern Mediterranean – 1,939,204
  • Africa – 1,056,120
  • Western Pacific – 501,959
  • TOTAL WORLDWIDE – 25,541,380

Of the Americas, that’s both North and South, let’s look at what is happening just in the United States. We’ve got the most cases of any American country — 6,004,443 COVID-19 cases reported to date; 183,050 deaths from the virus. That “death” total kills off everybody in Little Rock, just about! The US numbers are big, and continue to get bigger. Over the next month, I’ll be looking at what other countries in the world are doing to combat a pandemic that is “sure ‘nough” real, and how they are keeping their citizens safe.

Meanwhile, wash your hands, keep your chin up (with MASK intact!), and if you happen to live in any of the states below, get in touch with your governor because your state is leading the pack this week, an honor you don’t want.

US States With Highest Percent of Population Diagnosed With COVID-19 as of September 1

  1. Louisiana – 3.2%, Governor John Bel Edwards, Democrat
  2. Florida – 2.87%, Governor Ronald Dion DeSantis, Republican
  3. Mississippi – 2.81%, Governor Jonathon Tate Reeves, Republican
  4. Arizona – 2.77%, Governor Douglas Anthony Ducey, Republican
  5. Alabama – 2.57%, Governor Kay Ellen Ivey, Republican

US States With Greatest  Numbers of COVID-19  Cases Diagnosed as of September 1

  1. California – 704,485, Governor Gavin Christopher Newsom, Democrat
  2. Florida – 616,629, Governor Ronald Dion DeSantis, Republican
  3. Texas – 612,969, Governor Gregory Wayne Abbott, Republican
  4. New York – 435,783, Governor Andrew Mark Cuomo, Democrat
  5. Georgia – 270,471, Governor Brian Porter Kemp, Republican

US States With Most New Cases Diagnosed in One Week as of September 1

  1. California – 40,416, Governor Gavin Christopher Newsom, Democrat
  2. Texas – 35,432, Governor Gregory Wayne Abbott, Republican
  3. Florida – 22,342, Governor Ronald Dion DeSantis, Republican
  4. Georgia – 16,522, Governor Brian Porter Kemp, Republican
  5. Illinois – 15,130, Governor Jay Robert “J. B.” Pritzker, Democrat

John Bel Edwards, LA

Ron DeSantis, FL

Tate Reeves, MS

Doug Ducey, AZ

Kay Ivey, AL

Andrew Cuomo, NY

Brian Kemp, GA

Gavin Newsom, CA

Greg Abbott, TX

J B Pritzker, IL

 
 
 

Voting, and the Virus

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – As of August 20, the World Health Organization reports 22,536,278 cases of COVID-19 in the world. Of that, 5,511,793 cases are in the United States, a number which amounts to one quarter, that is 25% of the worldwide total. In case you’re wondering, the population of the United States is 5% of the world population. Just saying.

I find it difficult to keep up with the current hoopla about “who is doing what when” with regard to decisions about managing a pandemic on local ground; and even more hoopla about “how to have a secure vote” with regard to the upcoming presidential election. So the recent announcement about New Zealand’s decision to postpone a national election due to an upsurge in COVID-19 cases really caught my eye.

Action in New Zealand

On Monday, August 17 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand announced that the September national election would be delayed by four weeks as new virus cases spread across Auckland, making it difficult to campaign. Prime Minister Ardern, who has the sole authority to determine when people cast ballots, said she had consulted with all the major parties before delaying the vote, originally scheduled for September 19, to October 17. Ms Ardern called the decision a compromise that “provides sufficient time for parties to plan around the range of circumstances we could be campaigning under, for the electoral commission to prepare, and for voters to feel assured of a safe, accessible and critical election.”

The shift keeps Election Day within the time frame allowed under the law — the latest possible date is November 21 — but it also highlights the national concern as a cluster of at least 58 new cases frustrates investigators, clears the streets of Auckland and suspends scheduled campaign events. Pressure on Ms Ardern and her Labour Party to change the date had been building over several days. A poll taken over the weekend showed that 60 percent of New Zealanders favored a delay. The leaders of other major parties also argued that the Level 3 lockdown in Auckland, the country’s largest city, prevented campaigning and would have made a free and fair election impossible on the original date.

I noted earlier, when on my NDI RTW visit to New Zealand, that their voting process is quite different from the US, where campaigning begins early and the media races to outdo itself by predicting, and announcing, results “before midnight.” I still recall my frustration in Seattle one year when I headed for the polls after work, only to hear “the winner declared” on the car radio. With our current Cell Phone Mentality, it’s a second-by-second race to get ahead of the game. I call it blather. Just saying.

From the New Zealand Electoral Commission webpage, I see today’s schedule for their 2020 General Election.

  • Monday 17 August: Prime Minister announces new dates for the 2020 General Election
  • Tuesday 18 August: Regulated period for election advertising expenses begins
  • Sunday 6 September: Parliament dissolves
  • Sunday 13 September: Writ Day – the Governor General formally directs us to hold the Election
  • Thursday 17 September noon: Deadline for party secretaries to get their bulk nomination schedules and the party lists to us
  • Friday 18 September noon: Deadline for electorate candidates to get their individual nomination forms to us
  • Wednesday 30 September: Overseas voting starts
  • Saturday 3 October: Advance voting starts
  • Friday 16 October: Advance voting ends
  • Friday 16 October midnight: The regulated period ends. All election and referendum advertising must end. Signs must be taken down by midnight.
  • Saturday 17 October: Election day. Voters can vote from 9am to 7pm
  • We’ll start releasing preliminary election results from 7pm on electionresults.govt.nz
  • We won’t count referendum votes on election night
  • Friday 30 October: We release the preliminary results for the referendums
  • Friday 6 November: We declare the official results for the general election and referendums
  • Thursday 12 November: Last day for the return of the writ

Easy peasy. Sit back and have a cup of tea. So, what will Ms Arden and the New Zealand government DO during this “delayed election” time? They will focus primarily on the virus. Health officials in New Zealand are scrambling to test thousands of workers at airports and other points of entry, along with quarantine facilities and a frozen food warehouse, to try to determine how the virus re-emerged last week.

New Zealand’s election is far from the first to be postponed because of the pandemic. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems reports as of  08/20/2020 that 64 countries and eight territories have postponed a total of 109 election events due to COVID-19, ranging from local municipal elections to parliamentary and national events. The idea of delaying the US general election was floated by President Donald Trump, but it was shut down by members of Congress and his own party.

Everything you need to know about voting in New Zealand https://vote.nz/

Everything you need to know about voting in United States https://www.usa.gov/election

 
 
 

Checking In On Reality

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – A reality check today, before I talk about my wonderful visit to Abu Dhabi.

It is clear, I hope, that all my travel posts are strictly imaginary. Imaginary, however, only due to COVID-19. This was to be a full-fledged Round The World trip celebrating 81 years of life, and I had booked all the hotels I mention in my posts, and selected all my flights. I carefully routed myself for the shortest in-air time possible, over the least amount of water. I’m not good at sitting in a tube with a belt buckled over my lap for more than six hours! So I meticulously planned.

But “life happens while you’re making other plans” fell true this March, when world travel was shut down in a hurry. So I consoled myself by declaring I’d imagine the trip, and think myself there. I renamed it the Now Defunct Imaginary Round The World (NDI RTW), and I started writing. After Abu Dhabi I go to Cairo, and cruise the Nile; then Reykjavik, Iceland, the northernmost capital city in the world! Get it? Wellington, and Reykjavik? My two high-school-graduate grandchildren are (were) meeting me there, and then a flight to Washington, DC together for a rousing end to an RTW, and finally a grand celebration back in Little Rock.

As of this week, the Center for Disease Control reports 4,678,610 cases of COVID-19 in the United States.

The World Health Organization reports 18,614,177 cases of COVID-19 worldwide.

I checked on current travel restrictions in the countries on my RTW, info from the US State Department, the agencies within countries, and the airlines. Here goes:

New Zealand

The New Zealand borders are closed for all but critical travel — protecting public health in New Zealand is paramount. The travel ban applies to all arrivals into New Zealand whether it is by air or sea. To help stop the spread of COVID-19, people who do arrive in New Zealand are required to undergo either managed isolation or quarantine for at least 14 days. https://covid19.govt.nz/travel-and-the-border/border-restrictions/#border-entry-restrictions

Australia

Australia’s borders are closed. Only Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members can travel to Australia. Australian Border Force liaison officers will work with airlines at overseas airports to identify those who should not board flights to Australia. https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-restrictions/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-international-travellers#travel-into-australia

Thailand

Updated 01st of August 2020: The Civil Aviation Authority in Thailand decided to extend the restrictions concerning commercial flights arriving in Thailand (with some exceptions) until 31th of August 2020. https://www.thaiairways.com/en_SE/news/news_announcement/news_detail/coronavirus.page

United Arab Emirates

The UAE government announced travelers must have a negative COVID-19 test result before flying to the country. The National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) said all travelers, including Emiratis, residents, tourists, and transit passengers, must have a negative COVID-19 PCR (nasal swab) test result within 96 hours in order to board commercial flights to the UAE. NCEMA said the new system will be in place August 1. However, there are reports Etihad and Emirates airlines began implementing this new regulation on July 24. https://ae.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/covid-19-information/

Egypt

As of the evening of August 5, there were 94,875 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 4,930 deaths in Egypt. Egypt is implementing 14-day quarantine periods and other preventative measures in all cases. https://eg.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/covid-19-information/

Iceland

As of 31 July, passengers arriving in Iceland who intend to stay in Iceland for 10 days or more have to undergo 2 COVID tests. The first is at the border on arrival and the second by the primary healthcare service 4-6 days later. In between the two tests, special precautions need to be taken. https://www.icelandair.com/support/covid-19/faq

Washington DC

As of July 24, if you are out in DC, you are required to wear a mask, with a few exceptions for vigorous exercise or while you’re actively eating or drinking. A self-quarantine of 14 days is required after participating in non-essential travel to/from high-risk areas when returning or traveling to Washington, DC, beginning July 27. The list of high-risk states included in the Mayor’s order are below and are in effect until Monday, Aug. 10.

  1. Arkansas
  2. Arizona
  3. Alabama
  4. California
  5. Delaware
  6. Florida
  7. Georgia
  8. Idaho
  9. Iowa
  10. Kansas
  11. Louisiana
  12. Mississippi
  13. Missouri
  14. Montana
  15. Nebraska
  16. Nevada
  17. New Mexico
  18. North Carolina
  19. North Dakota
  20. Ohio
  21. Oklahoma
  22. South Carolina
  23. Tennessee
  24. Texas
  25. Utah
  26. Washington
  27. Wisconsin

There you have it.

 
 
 

Time Flies

Linda Lou Burton posting about American Samoa from Little Rock, Arkansas – I was so terrified I’d miss the flight I called Talofa Airlines. I was booked with Air New Zealand to fly from Apia, Samoa to Auckland, then Wellington, for my stay in the southernmost capital city in the world. The WORLD! Air New Zealand would depart Apia at 9:45 PM on the 19th and fly me through the night; my Wellington hotel was booked beginning Monday, July 20.

That part was easy. But first, I had to get to Apia.

Lots of inter-island flights via Talofa, no problem there. But I kept staring at the map and that International Dateline that separates Pago Pago and Apia. I simply could not wrap my mind around the concept of TIME.

“When do I need to leave Pago Pago to get to Apia in time to catch my July 19th flight?” I asked. “Do I need to check out of Sadie’s-By-The-Sea on the 18th or the 19th?”

She assured me that I must check out on the 18th. “So, I LEAVE Pago Pago on Saturday the 18th, fly west to Apia, and ARRIVE 30 minutes later on Sunday the 19th?” I repeated this phrase several times. “Are you SURE?”

She was sure.

Thanks to COVID-19, I will not get to experience how it feels to lose an entire day of one’s life while being perfectly behaved. So instead, on this hot Sunday afternoon in Little Rock (it is 96 feels like 106 at 1 PM) I will concentrate on “How I Would Spend My Time” on the beautiful, still virus-free, island of American Samoa, if I were really there, whatever day it was.

I’d focus on the two reasons I came: to see the National Park, and to experience the “capital city” aspects of our southernmost US capital. With a room right on the water at Sadie’s-By-The-Sea, I’d be feeling rested, and ready to go.

The National Park Visitor Center is just a mile from Sadie’s, the road follows the harbor; I’d have a rental car. I’d learn about the subsistence farming that is allowed on some parklands, it’s the Fa’a Samoa way; there are small plantations to see. I’d learn about the birds, as the park is home to over 35 resident and migratory species – seabirds, water birds, forest birds, shorebirds; perhaps I’d spot a blue kingfisher (you know how I love birds!). I’d learn about the Pe’a (Fruit Bats), with wing spans up to 3-feet wide. These unusual bats are active both day and night and they only live here; also called the Flying Fox, one is featured on the 2020 American Samoa quarter! I’d learn about coral reefs, marine life, rainforests; things I don’t know much about and seldom get a chance to see. I’d learn about the customs and the history; the villages, the chiefs, the princesses. The celebrations, and the dance. That’s just the Park. https://www.nps.gov/npsa/index.htm

Then I’d follow the map to find my way around town. Maybe I’d lunch at the famous Sadie Thompson Inn; or check out the Marketplace in Fagatogo Square, looking for traditional Samoan food like palusami (wrapped bundles of taro leaves with a coconut and onion filling, sometimes with chicken, fish, or corned beef).

I’d stop at the Maota Fono complex, a bee-hive shaped building based on the traditional Samoan fale (oval or circular, domed, thatched roof held up by poles). The American Samoa territorial legislature (Fono) is housed here; there is a two-story main wing, with offices for the legislators and governor, flanked by two single-story wings housing the legislative chambers. The Fono is a bicameral legislature with a House of Representatives and a Senate, the only legislature in the US that is both bicameral and nonpartisan. (The Nebraska Legislature is nonpartisan but is a unicameral body.)

I’d stop at Government House, a colonial mansion atop Mauga o Ali’i (the chief’s hill). The building was erected in 1903 under orders of a US Naval Admiral; from here naval governors administered the territory until 1951. It now serves as the official residence of the territory’s governor and first lady, where they host major dignitaries who visit the island. There are five public rooms, one showcasing Samoan artifacts.

I’d stop at the Jean P Hayden Museum; in addition to Samoan artifacts, it has Moon Rocks due to American Samoa’s link to the Apollo Moon Missions. I’d stop at the Ocean Center at the National Marine Sanctuary, where one of the main exhibits is a room-sized global system displaying planetary data. https://americansamoa.noaa.gov/visit/

I’d drive out to Blunt’s Point to see the World War II Cannons, and stop at Utulei Beach and gaze across Pago Pago Harbor to Rainmaker Mountain on the other side. I’d do my best to wangle a ride in a fautasi, a long boat with 40 paddlers, and I’d shop for a puletasi – that’s a two-piece long fitted blouse and skirt.

I’d talk with everyone who’d talk with me, making sure I always said SAH-mo-a when speaking, as it is pronounced there, and not Sa-MO-a, as I’ve always done.

Seems like I’d need to add a day, not lose one. Time flies.

 

Governor: Lolo Matalasi Moliga

Proclamation issued July 1, 2020 in effect until July 30, 2020 regarding COVID-19 restrictions lists current status as Code Blue: minimal social disruption with emphasis on social distancing, hygiene, and cough etiquette.

Office of the Governor: https://www.americansamoa.gov/office-of-the-governor

 
 
 

A Pretending Day

Linda Lou Burton posting about American Samoa from Little Rock, Arkansas – Let’s pretend. Pretend that I wake up this morning in Volcano House, after an entire day peering into volcanoes and wandering black-sand beaches on Hawaiian Time, meaning “no hurries, no worries, no schedules.” Pretend I have a leisurely breakfast, load up the Budget, and drive 42 miles to Hilo.

My Hawaiian Airlines flight 181 actually IS departing Hilo (ITO) at 10:10 AM and setting down in Honolulu (HNL) at 11. That’s what they notified me yesterday via email, as “inter-island travel” is now allowed by state mandate.

But that’s just half my story. I planned to lounge around the airport, no rush, till time to board my flight to Pago Pago, American Samoa. Getting to American Samoa is no easy task – back in February when I began planning my RTW, I discovered there aren’t many flights in, or out. A few from Honolulu to AS, and even fewer from AS to New Zealand, my next destination.

So why go there?

Reason 1: National Park of American Samoa. After Haleakala NP and Hawaii Volcanoes NP, a stop at our most far-flung US National Park just made sense, especially since I’d already be flying that direction on my way to New Zealand and Australia. Tick off my 35th NP!

Reason 2: Pago Pago. I’ve never been to a single one of our US Territories, so a stayover in Pago Pago, capital of American Samoa, seemed the natural next step. A whole new line of capital cities!

Reason 3: Who wouldn’t want to go to a place called “Pago Pago”? How sweet is that?

First lesson about this delightful place, our only US capital south of the equator: please don’t pronounce it “PAY-go-PAY-go.” The letter “g” in Samoan sounds like “ng,” so the correct pronunciation is “PAHNG-oh-PAHNG-oh .” Got it?

American Samoa is 2,600 miles from Honolulu and 2,900 miles from Auckland, New Zealand, a collection of five tiny islands in the South Pacific Ocean with a total land area of 76.8 square miles. (That’s just a wee bit larger than Washington, DC.) It is home to around 55,000 people, and of that, 89% are Samoan. Most American Samoans are bilingual and speak English and Samoan fluently.

I won’t get into a history lesson about HOW American Samoa came to be “American” and a US Territory, but here are a few things the tourism folks want you to know:

Rainforest-covered tropical islands. Emerald jewels in a vast blue expanse of ocean. An eco-tourism paradise. Eastern arm of the Samoan archipelago. Home to Polynesians proud of their strong Samoan culture and heritage. The friendliest people in the South Pacific.

I’m sold, right there, even without the draw of another national park and capital city. My reservation for tonight was at Sadie’s-By-The-Sea, right on the beach. Tomorrow I’ll tell more about this island paradise, and the park, where I intended to spend the day relaxing, and exploring, in equal measure.

As it is, COVID-19 intervened. Of the 56 US states and territories reporting to the CDC, American Samoa, week after week since this began, has stayed at 0. Zero. No cases. The only place. Perhaps its isolation had a hand in that.

A restriction was put in place in March that US Citizens coming to American Samoa had to quarantine 14 days in Hawaii, but that apparently has been lifted. My Hawaiian Airlines flight 465 from Honolulu (HNL) to Pago Pago (PPG) will depart at 4:35 and arrive at 9:20 tonight, according to yesterday’s email. Maybe it is filled with people who live in Hawaii? Or passed the quarantine test? Or some other test? I don’t know.

I tried to call Sadie’s-By-The-Sea today. Their website is down, and no one answered the phone. I should be sleeping in Pago Pago tonight, listening to those Pacific waters lapping gently against the shore, right outside my door.

Let’s pretend I am.

 
 
 

Where I’m Not

Linda Lou Burton posting about Seattle, Washington from Little Rock, Arkansas – I am NOT on Delta flight 978 for a 5-hour 53-minute flight departing Seattle (SEA) at 2:55 PDT this afternoon, and arriving in Kahului, Hawaii (OGG) at 5:48 PM HST. I will NOT be sleeping at the Maui Seaside Hotel at 100 W Kaahumanu Avenue in Kahului tonight. And I will NOT be getting up at 2 AM in the morning for a Haleakala Sunrise Tour.

This was to be the second stop in my Round The World journey; the first stop on July 7 would have begun a week in the Seattle area visiting no less than a dozen family and friends. A visit to the Space Needle was on the agenda, a ferry ride across the Sound, a play at the Taproot, and lots of Asian food. (Hard to come by in Arkansas.) Friend Carmelita planned to cook lumpia and other goodies for my entire family! I was planning to meet new “significant others” and to stand back to back with grandchildren for pictures confirming that yes, I’m the shortest member of the family now.

Seattle was my home for 25 of my 81 years. The University of Washington was the original draw; and then I stayed. And stayed. The Seattle that I moved to in 1980 has changed tremendously in 40 years. The house I bought for $80K in 1986 is now valued at over a million dollars, and it is just an ordinary house. The population of Seattle in 1980 was almost half a million, and though it was the largest city by far I’d ever lived in, it quickly felt like home. Today’s population is nearing 800,000 with more than 12,000 homeless, and that count was before COVID-19 struck this spring. The full metro area is approaching 4 million, so congestion now, and crowding.

Still, Seattle scenery hasn’t changed. Puget Sound, surrounded by the Olympic Mountain Range on one side and the snow-covered Cascade Range on the other. Mt Rainer 100 miles to the south, the prettiest, most perfectly shaped mountain you will ever see.

I’m glad I lived there. I loved the scenery, the people, the food, and the diversity. And especially, I loved the WEATHER! No bugs, no tornadoes, no thunderstorms and gully-washing rains. No it does NOT rain all the time in Seattle! Annual rainfall in Seattle is 37 inches. Annual rainfall in Little Rock, where I live today, is 50 inches. Put THAT on your rain gauge!

Gardening in Seattle was a joy. Since the area is temperate (did I mention, little snow and few winter days below freezing) things just grow and grow and grow. Rhododendron blooms year round, with every color you can imagine; the fir trees are tall, and gorgeous; it’s like God made several trips around that part of the world dispensing beautiful things.

My kids nearly bought out REI the first year we were there; we went camping at Frog Lake, a mystical spot at the foot of Mt Hood; snowshoeing at Hurricane Ridge out on the peninsula; picnicking beside mountain lakes in a meadow of purple lupine. Heaven! Three of my grandchildren were born while I lived in the Pacific Northwest, so sharing their first minutes of life was a supercalifragilistic experience. All good stuff.

It will be 11 PM in Little Rock tonight by the time that Delta flight would have landed in Kahului; midnight at least by the time I would have arrived at the Maui Seaside Hotel.

I won’t be there.

Governor David Ige announced today that the reopening of Hawaii’s tourism industry will be delayed until the end of August. Ige first implemented quarantine measures back in March, requiring any passenger on any flight landing in Hawaii to spend 14 days in isolation to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, the number of passenger arrivals statewide fell from an average of nearly 30,000 per day to fewer than 400 by the middle of April, according to data released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. The governor has faced mounting pressure from several corners, including all four county mayors, to push back the planned reopening of tourism.

The governor did eliminate travel restrictions that pertained to inter-island travel last month, as the first step toward ushering in the return of the tourism sector in Hawaii. The second, the state hoped, was that in lieu of a 14-day quarantine, the state would require passengers to produce a negative coronavirus pre-test, taken within 72 hours of departure to Hawaii.

But as coronavirus cases on the mainland have surged in recent weeks, including in some of the markets that typically send the highest number of travelers to Hawaii, the state’s plan was criticized for being too weak to prevent a rash of new cases.

So I’m not in Hawaii tonight.

It should be noted, Hawaii has had only 1,115 total coronavirus cases and 19 deaths, the fewest of any state. This is mind boggling when you consider what is happening on the mainland. Good job, Governor Ige.

 
 
 

What It Was, Was Football

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – “What It Was, Was Football,” a monologue by Andy Griffith credited with launching his career, remains one of the biggest-selling comedy records of all time. And it IS funny. “Deacon Andy” thinks he is going to a tent revival when he stumbles into a college football game by accident. He doesn’t understand why they keep kicking a little pumpkin around. “And they was fightin’ each other for it!” he exclaims.

“Kicking the pumpkin” nowadays has soared far beyond sport, entertainment, or even tradition to become the biggest revenue producer for many a university. At the University of Texas, for example, 70% of its revenue from athletics comes from football.

Football funds NCAA sports and provides scholarships for college athletes. Football provides college athletes the opportunity to compete for a championship, and the fame and fortune that entails. Football helps to fund Association-wide legal services, communications, business insurance, and the list goes on.

Now it’s time for me to confess: I myself am not a football fan. My claim to fame is being at the University of Alabama the year Bear Bryant came to town. During his first year, I’d grab a hamburger after work and park the car by the fence to watch the magic on the practice field. I understand the love for the game. I understand that football is a force, a magnetic force pulling in a fan base whose loyalty is unexplainable. If you are born in Alabama, for instance, you are pledged at birth to be a lifelong Alabama or Auburn fan, and that loyalty is simply a way of life, even if you never set foot on a campus.

The ten most powerful fan bases in college football last year were, by one pick: Alabama, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas A & M, Texas. From Roll Tide to Hook’em Horns, don’t get in their way when it’s game time.

If you’ve been keeping up with the impact of COVID-19 on sports, you are aware of some serious shakeups about to happen to fall college football schedules. The Power Five – the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, and Southeastern Conference (SEC) have made shattering announcements this week, with more to come, as football fans everywhere wait to hear the news.

Yesterday it was announced that the Pac-12 Conference is canceling all its non-conference games for the season; just after that it was revealed that Larry Scott, Commissioner of the Pac-12 Conference, is battling COVID-19. Impact for the first game of the season: no USC vs Alabama on September 5. Financially for Alabama, that is a loss of $6 million.

That’s just one example, for one school, on one football weekend.

The shoe had dropped the day before, as The Big Ten was first to announce a “conference only” schedule for this season; this impacts all sports, details are still in the making as conversations take place between the Big Ten Council of Presidents, Directors of Athletics, staff and medical experts. But Ohio State and Oregon, September 12, canceled for sure.

Two Conferences decided; three to go.

ACC Commissioner John Wofford: The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and administrators remains the ACC’s top priority…..The league membership and our medical advisory group will make every effort to be as prepared as possible during these unprecedented times, and we anticipate a decision by our Board of Directors in late July.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey: We are running out of time to make a decision. What do we have to do to get back to activity? The direct reality is not good…we owe it to each other to be as healthy as we can be.

Big 12 Conference Commissioner Bob Bowlsby: The ideal situation remains a full 12-game schedule that starts on Labor Day weekend.

The Power Five Conferences are not the whole of it. There are 10 conferences and 130 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and I can’t count beyond that. The point is: “kicking a pumpkin” is part of the American scene. Yes, there is a great deal of money to be lost if COVID-19 knocks a hole in this season’s football schedules. But the sheer fun of the game for millions of fans is an even bigger loss.

What it WAS, was football – is that what fans will be left saying this fall on Saturday afternoons? That’s not funny.

 
 
 

Gomer’s Phrase

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – It seems to me there are only two kinds of people in the world. It doesn’t matter about race or religion; doesn’t matter about one’s IQ or socioeconomic status, family background, or birth order. Nor does it matter about height, weight, age, gender, or sexual orientation as we consider which “kind” of person someone is. Ourselves included, of course.

It’s simple. Psychologists might call it “outer-directed” or “inner-directed.” Or you can put it this way: Does a person rely on someone (or some thing) else for happiness; blame someone (or some thing) else for unhappiness; and wait for things to happen, either way? Do outside circumstances dictate whether a day is good or bad? Or does a person roll with the punches, adjust to the happenings of the world, and move ahead, regardless? “Life is like a box of chocolates,” Forrest Gump told us, in sweet and simple tones, “You never know what you’re going to get.”

“Surprise, surprise, surprise,” was a phrase made popular by Gomer Pyle, as life in the little town of Mayberry filled our TV screens in the 1960s. Jim Nabors played the role of Gomer for 23 episodes on The Andy Griffith Show between 1962-64, but Gomer’s Phrase stayed around.

In the movie Forrest Gump which came out in 1994, Gomer’s Phrase can be heard on a TV in the background as Forrest (Tom Hanks) plays table tennis after being injured in the Vietnam war. And he’s really good at it, even after getting shot in the but-tocks!

Surprise, surprise, surprise. You never know what you’re going to get.

The “surprise” of COVID-19 has me reading, alphabetically, the entire booklist created by students at the Clinton School of Public Service, as I choose to remain quarantined at home. The authors of the last four books, from varying time periods, struck me with their wide swings of attitude to circumstances.

Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was a German-speaking Bohemian novelist, and his writings are required readings in pretty much every college literature class. I first read Metamorphosis in college (where the lead character becomes a lowly bug), and now Letter to His Father, where a domineering father gets the blame for every anxiety and failure of his son’s life.

Keith Richards (1943- ) was co-creator of the Rolling Stones, born in England into a middle-class family. Keith loved music, got hooked on American blues in the 50s, dropped out of school to pursue his passion, and you know the rest. Fame, money problems, lawsuits, headlines, drugs. It was 2010 when he wrote Life, speaking frankly about the choices, and consequences, of the path he chose.

Viktor Frankl (1905-1997) was an Austrian psychiatrist, and a Holocaust survivor. His book Man’s Search for Meaning gives little detail on his suffering in Auschwitz and three other concentration camps, but rather on the sources of his strength to survive. He was kept alive, he tells us, by looking to the future, and thinking about what other things he was meant to do in life.

Elie Wiesel (1928-2016) was a Romanian-born writer, professor, and Holocaust survivor. His book Night was based on his experience as a Jewish prisoner in both Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. He focused on the pain, fear, and suffering he endured. He tells us that at one time he cried out to God: Blessed be thy name? Why would I bless God? He created Auschwitz!

See what I mean? How very odd, I’m thinking, that out of four books in a row, two authors focus on inward strengths; two look to the outside for blame. Kind of like what’s going on with “How To Solve The Problems Created by COVID-19 Around The World.” Every newscast or email I get is either focused on BLAME (Whose fault is this terrible thing?) or SOLUTION (How do we deal with this problem?).

Most, I’m sad to say, play the Blame Game. And then there is Head in the Sand. That’s the repetitive phrase, “Just wait. This will all be gone by next month.”

Surprise, surprise, surprise.

 
 
 

Readin’ and Writin’ and ‘Rithmatic

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – Do you know how many students attended public schools in the United States in the 2019-2020 school year? According to the National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/, about  50.8 million – 35.5 million in prekindergarten to grade 8, and 15.3 million in grades 9-12.

About 3.7 million students graduated from high school this spring, in the strangest ending to a school year anyone can recall. I’ve heard stories from my parents of “depression years” and school schedules revolving around “cotton-picking time.” My Dad was double-promoted in high school during hard times and wound up graduating at age 16. “Daddy had been a school teacher, and he made sure I got my studies done first. So I’d go to classes in the morning and then put in a crop in the afternoon,” he told. My Mom was dealt a reverse blow – her father held her back for two of her school years; once due to a lengthy illness and once when she simply needed to help support the family. My grandfather was a carpenter, and she dug clay from the riverbank to make bricks. But both parents persevered. They made it, despite the odds.

This year’s high schoolers were hit with an unexpected, unpredictable crisis along about March. In a flurry of fears and fumbles, as the COVID-19 virus began to creep across the country, schools shifted to stay-at-home, online classes. The methods varied from state to state, even within school districts. “Let’s stay home till this passes,” was Plan 1.

It didn’t pass. Virus cases continued to go up and state governors were tasked with issuing mandates to protect their citizens. What a thoroughly depressing “rock and a hard place” to be between. We can’t let 3.5 million kids miss a senior year! But also, we can’t let 50.8 million kids sit side by side in a classroom when the danger of illness, or death, is entirely possible.

So what to do?

You know what happened, it’s past now. My two high-school-senior-grandchildren toughed it out, sitting at home with their laptops; certain hours for online classtime and individual study. Yes, you can STUDY at home (that’s normally called “homework”) but how the heck do you complete a welding class online? They missed the senior prom, the cross-country meets, the camaraderie with school chums. It all went flat.

I applaud the effort their school officials made to create “virtual graduation ceremonies” so they did get to WEAR those caps and gowns; they did get photographed with smiling faces and feted with “immediate-family-at-home parties.” And cake, of course, cake. I’ve heard stories from friends in different parts of the country that told of similar, and some very unusual, solutions for “how to make it SPECIAL for the Class of 2020.”

Life goes on, and the virus isn’t letting up as the fall “school year” fast approaches. The daily news is mostly daily arguments and accusations; we MUST do this; we CANNOT do that. The impact of school closures extends far beyond “educational concerns” or “health concerns.” Financial, emotional, practical, common-sense issues are topsy-turvy; our structured way of life is no longer certain of its footings.

I analyze COVID-19 cases every day on the CDC site; today’s totals are 2,982,900 with 145,663 deaths so far in our 50 states, the District of Columbia, and our US territories.

Top Ten List

Sometimes, I noted, it isn’t good to make the TOP TEN LIST. Today, the ten US states dealing with the highest sheer numbers of COVID-19 cases are:

  1. 399,925: New York. Capital City Albany, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Democrat
  2. 277,724: California. Capital City Sacramento, Governor Gavin Newsom, Democrat
  3. 210,594: Florida. Capital City Tallahassee, Governor Ron DeSantis, Republican
  4. 210,585: Texas. Capital City Austin, Governor Greg Abbott, Republican
  5. 173,878: New Jersey. Capital City Trenton, Governor Phil Murphy, Democrat
  6. 149,574: Illinois. Capital City Springfield, Governor J B Pritzker, Democrat
  7. 110,338: Massachusetts. Capital City Boston, Governor Charlie Baker, Republican
  8. 105,094: Arizona. Capital City Phoenix, Governor Doug Ducey, Republican
  9. 100,470: Georgia. Capital City Atlanta, Governor Brian Kemp, Republican
  10. 92,148: Pennsylvania. Capital City Harrisburg, Governor Tom Wolf, Democrat

Andrew Cuomo, Gavin Newsom, Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, Phil Murphy, J B Pritzker, Charlie Baker, Doug Ducey, Brian Kemp, and Tom Wolf, governors of these hardest-hit states, have some tough decisions ahead. So do the governors, and health departments, and school boards, of ALL our states and territories.

There are more than 50 million children out there whose future rocks, and rolls, on the decisions you make.

Tomorrow: Colleges