Bits ‘n pieces from east, west and beyond

| April 17, 2020 8:49 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact, which COVID-19 has illustrated so well. A recent sampling:

Korea’s Centers for Disease Control said it appears COVID-19 is reactivating in dozens of people considered cured, which matches data from Japan and China, reported.

An order for 39 million health masks, placed by a service employees union, was derailed when the FBI learned the masks were knock-offs. But the agency’s interest in the items has raised concerns, according to the Los Angeles Times. The newspaper reported the FBI was preparing to confiscate the order and send it to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Trump Administration planned to cut 700,000 people from food assistance programs by April 1, but a court decision forbade it, calling it “arbitrary and capricious” in light of the pandemic. Officials with the Department of Agriculture said they would appeal the court’s decision.

Food Research and Action pointed out that enacting the cuts would force low-income people who are sick to resume working. Studies have shown that food assistance can decrease health spending per person by $1,400 annually while also lowering hospitalizations for Medicare and Medicaid users.

The Centers for Disease Control corrected earlier misinformation: COVID-19 was initially regarded as something that afflicted older people at higher rates. Their study of the first 2,500 confirmed cases in the U.S. showed that 38 percent of those hospitalized were ages 20 to 54.

President Donald Trump hoped to lift activity restrictions by April 12, but that changed when he learned that 13 people died in one day of COVID-19 in a hospital near where he was raised. As well, a health officer told him he would be blamed for ensuing deaths if he did lift restrictions, the New York Times reported.

To avoid voter disenfranchisement due to COVID-19, Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill that includes: nationwide vote-by-mail, early voting, an end to voter purges, no ID requirements, funding for transitioning to new election procedures and hazard pay for poll workers facing coronavirus exposure. Without vote-by-mail, having to choose between staying safe in November or voting could mean “our democracy will be lost,” Warren argued in a New York Times opinion piece.

Vote-by-mail could be derailed. Trump said he would not sign the stimulus bill if it included United States Postal Service funding, according to Business Insider. The postal service has suffered a decline in mail traffic due to COVID-19 and sought $50 billion from the bailout bill and $25 billion in loans. USPS funding could run dry in June. A $10 billion loan was added to the stimulus bill to temporarily float the agency.

Trump has said the USPS can create their own fix: “raise the prices by, actually, a lot.” The WEEK says there are suspicions the COVID-19 crisis is being used by Republican privatization fans to undermine the postal service, rendering it ripe for private takeover. There are other options for keeping the USPS economically stable, such as passing a pending legislation that would rid it of the onerous 2006 law requiring it have $110 billion in health pension funds (not required of other agencies) and a return of postal banking services.

So far some 19 USPS workers have died from COVID-19. Another 500 are infected, nearly as many are presumed exposed, and 6,000 are in self-quarantine, according to Business Insider.

Health officials said the White House has undermined the COVID-19 response, for example by underplaying the risk posed by the disease. As of April 11, there were over 20,000 deaths and a half-million confirmed cases in the United States, the Washington Post reported.

Natural or contrived crisis can upend governments and enrich corporations, which is fully documented in Naomi Klein’s bestseller, “Shock Doctrine.” (The book is not about conspiracy theories — it documents known conspiracies.) One of the themes for embracing a calamity: “never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Aware of statistics showing poor voter turnout increases the GOP’s chances of winning, the Wisconsin party went to court to stop an order delaying the recent election there due to COVID-19. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, prevented the election’s delay. The four dissenting justices said failure to postpone the election would disenfranchise voters. But there was a big turnout and surprise wins for Democrats.

Blast from the past: In a Washington Post opinion piece, Stuart Stevens, a Republican political consultant, traced the U.S. government’s failed COVID-19 response to a history of beliefs held by right-leaning politicians. Those include a general attitude of “government is bad,” experts are overrated (or just plain wrong), science is under suspicion, and “going it alone” is to the nation’s benefit. Stevens argued the crisis will best be solved by massive government intervention.

He commended Louisiana’s former Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal for saying Republicans “must stop being the stupid party.” Instead, Stevens said, they’ve aligned with a science-denying president who argues windmill noise causes cancer.