Bits ‘n pieces from east, west and beyond

| March 27, 2020 8:19 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 of events goings-on, including the upside of the pandemic:

Harbor Freight officials announced they plan to donate their entire stock of personal protection equipment, including N95 masks, to hospitals with 24-hour emergency rooms. Meanwhile, KPTV reported that a number of distilleries have converted their operations away from liquor so they can produce and give away hand sanitizers.

In Minnesota, after COVID-19 forced the cancellation of a bar mitzvah, the family contacted their caterers. They asked that the food prepared for the event be delivered to friends in quarantine and to others who would have attended, Mother Jones reported.

Before the White House asked states to not share their unemployment statistics, Sen. Sherrod Brown stated via Twitter that on March 8 Ohio had 536 unemployment claims. On March 16 there were 36,645 filings. Economists have warned unemployment could go as high as 20 percent. Between 1931 and 1940, during the Great Depression, it averaged above 14 percent, with a high of 24.9 percent in 1933.

The Republican-controlled Senate has been deadlocked 47-47 on stimulus funding. Several Republican members are in quarantine, negating the party’s majority.

The Republicans crafted a no-strings bill calling for distribution of emergency funds to corporations, even those so far unaffected by COVID-19, said Americans for Tax Fairness. The Democrats’ bill calls for funding to first go to citizens; consumer spending drives 70 percent of the U.S. economy.

Social distancing when enjoying the outdoors, courtesy of Conservation Northwest: Stay local to avoid unwittingly carrying COVID-19 to a new area; maintain a six-foot distance from others; bring your own lunch to limit stops; postpone outdoor group activities; reserve outdoor trips for only family or house members; don’t take risks — hospitals and emergency rooms need space for the sick; if you’re feeling unwell, even slightly, stay home; and of course, follow COVID-19 hygiene recommendations.

For out-of-school kids, Ranger Rick Magazine is free online through June.

In Washington, D.C., chef Jose Andres closed his restaurants and is converting some to community kitchens “for people in need of a plate of food... ”

Andres’ World Food Kitchen is taking action elsewhere, such as feeding quarantined cruise members in California, CNN reported.

Beyond fever, shortness of breath and coughing, other signs of COVID-19: digestive symptoms (including diarrhea reported CBS News) and losses of sense of smell and taste, according to The New York Times. The less noticeable symptoms may be signs of being a COVID-19 carrier.

All that hoarded toilet paper: With 4 percent of the world’s population, Americans use 20 percent of its tissue papers, but just a small amount of it comes from recycled paper, The Guardian reported. In the past two decades, a boreal forest area the size of Pennsylvania has been turned into pulp for bathroom use. This has affected Canada’s boreal forests, which absorb massive quantities of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The Rasmussen Report, labeled a “right wing pollster,” reported that 25 percent of “likely voters” think it’s OK to delay the November election due to C-19. By contrast, 62 percent opposed a delay. The rest were undecided. Forty-eight percent said the primaries should be postponed.

Meanwhile, in Congress, there are bipartisan efforts to enact vote-by-mail for all states, although a few Republicans are resisting. Elections were on time during the flu pandemic of 1918: Election volunteers wore masks and voters honored social distancing.

AARP members who help others with tax preparations said most people fear what they will owe, but typically about 90 percent had refunds, primarily due to rules and programs they weren’t aware of.

As long as the Electoral College stays in place, Republicans are favored to win 65 percent of future elections, even without a majority of the population voting for them, according to a study from University of Texas-Austin. The Electoral College gave President Donald Trump his win, despite his opponent earning three million more votes.

Blast from the (near) past: “We have [COVID-19] totally under control,” said Trump on Jan. 22.

And, not to be forgotten: Weeks before schools closed due to COVID-19, and after several Republican lawmakers downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, Republican Sen. Richard Burr, with info gleaned from chairing the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, told his top campaign donors at a luncheon that “[COVID-19] is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history … It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”

He said the donors should alter air travel plans, be ready for closed schools and be aware that the military could be mobilized as part of a response. One of the donors quietly recorded the private warning and turned it over to National Public Radio.

The 1918 flu outbreak infected 25.8 million in the U.S. and as many as 670,000 died. Business Insider says this year’s flu season has infected 32 million and killed 18,000.