Bits ‘n pieces from east, west and beyond

| June 26, 2020 8:57 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

Breakthrough mask technology from Indiana State University uses fabric that not only prevents spread of COVID-19, it also kills germs. The electroceutical fabric creates an electrical field that disables the virus, according to the South Bend Tribune.

Mild COVID-19 onset observed in Wuhan, China, showed that 25 percent of patients had gastrointestinal tract symptoms only. Fewer than half had respiratory symptoms only. This comes via an April study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology.

In honor of Juneteenth, which references the emancipation of slaves in Texas in 1865, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered the removal of Confederate portraits at the Capitol. Those in the portraits had taken actions such as swearing to “preserve and perpetuate slavery,” and had served in either the government of the Confederacy or its military.

Most are familiar with the dismal shortage of COVID-19 protective gear for health care workers. They may not know that hospital bills for treating the virus can run from $73,000 to more than a $1 million, said Robert Reich, former secretary of labor.

But, Reich notes, “we’ve seen no shortage of riot gear or tear gas” for police forces “cracking down on peaceful protesters across the country.”

“Defund the police” isn’t a bid for anarchy, the Christian Science Monitor pointed out. Rather, it involves the transfer of a portion of police funds to projects shown to reduce the need for law enforcement responses, such as education, social and health services and job opportunities in marginalized communities.

Minneapolis recently made a commitment to shifting funds and plans to focus on affordable housing, opioid epidemic solutions and mental health resources. New York City has announced the end of their 600 strong plainclothes police units, which have received criticism for aggressive tactics.

Oregon saw a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases last week. The epicenter was a church that held gatherings despite restrictions. Other church outbreaks, from The Week: in Arkansas, 21 were infected and three died. At a choir practice in Washington, 52 of 61 members were infected and two died. In Virginia, a preacher who insisted on resisting church lockdown died.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in their recent 5 to 4 decision, upheld the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The program allows children brought into the country illegally to gain a two-year deferment from deportation. It also allows a work permit, but no path to citizenship. (Citizenship would be offered via the DREAM Act, which has been stalled in Congress for 19 years.) The Supreme Court also ruled that employers cannot discriminate against LGBTQ workers. President Donald Trump initially indicated no resistance to the DACA ruling, but later tweeted that both of the above rulings indicate a need for new Supreme Court justices. Polls show 74 percent support for DACA.

Last week, Facebook removed Trump campaign ads that used an inverted red triangle, the Nazi symbol for political prisoners (such as liberals, Socialist Democrats and Communists). The Washington Post said there were 88 such ads. Critics noted that 88 is Nazi skinhead code for “Heil Hitler.” Media Matters suggested the ads were meant to demonize antifa while attracting media attention, which is cheaper than running more ads, while playing to racist and anti-censorship sympathizers.

Mistakes are inevitable as the government gropes its way out of an economy hit hard by COVID-19, said Mike Konczal, a Director at the Roosevelt Institution. He wrote in The Nation that it’s important to learn from the Great Recession that the biggest risk is doing too little, not too much. Beyond stimulus checks and packages, Konczal said government spending to boost the economy must be automatically renewed if unemployment slips above 4 percent. It’s currently close to 20 percent, according to Forbes.

There were 1.5 million unemployment claims filed last week, 58,000 fewer than the prior week, reported the Washington Post. Over 45 million have filed at some point since the beginning of the pandemic.

Retail sales were up 17.7 percent in May, but down 8 percent overall compared to February. The economic outlook could remain fragile when supplemental unemployment benefits end in August.

In the U.K., use of inexpensive dexamethasone for severe COVID-19 cases has cut deaths by a third, according to an article in Nature.

The U.S. death count from COVID-19 was 122,596 on June 22, up from 118,264 on June 15, according to worldometer.com. On June 1, it was 106,562.

The vice president recently advised governors to tell citizens that new coronavirus outbreaks are due to increased testing, The New York Times reported. The same day, the president stated that “If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any.”

Blast from the past: “All of man’s unhappiness stems from his inability to sit quietly in a room, alone,” quipped French philosopher Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662.