Archive for May, 2020

Service of “I Don’t Know” When Nobody Does Yet Some Insist They Do

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

Photo: zippia.com

I had a boss who couldn’t say “I don’t know.” He’d ask for a PR proposal and would make up information about a prospective client rather than admit he hadn’t had time to read background.

We’ve all known people who no matter what you mention have already read the book, seen the movie, eaten at the restaurant when it opened, attended the play in previews, are up to speed on technology and are familiar with the latest jargon in every industry–or so they say. [It’s exhausting.]

Photo: quora.com

We are used to pundits who share their intel with appropriate scientific backup and/or data to reassure. But that’s not what’s happening now. And it’s hard to accept. The twists and turns as Covid-19 plays out astound as they keep happening: You might carry and spread the virus to others yet not feel sick; children at first free from danger now are not. At first we were advised by some to physicians to disinfect groceries before putting them away and now the CDC advises you needn’t. [I still do.]

In spite of the uncertainty there are people who assert that they know for sure what’s best for communities, industries and fellow citizens. With equal assurance others maintain that they are wrong. You almost can’t blame those who crowd beaches the old fashioned way or mock social distancing and other suggestions to help stem the spread of the virus–as the advice and conclusions are quixotic. We’re all grasping at straws with hope for a cure or a vaccine ASAP.

To figure out next steps the president tossed the ball to governors and governors to local officials. With all the opinions and latest “facts” shooting at us from all directions citizens are ultimately left to decide what to do. When local restaurants open for business, are you in? Is a day at the beach in your near future? Planning a vacation that involves hotel stays? Are you unsettled by the ambiguities regarding Covid-19? Are you secure in the paths you’ve chosen to follow?

Photo: quora.com

 

Service of the Impact of Alarm From a Pandemic: Are Your Prominent Personality Traits Magnified?

Monday, May 25th, 2020

Photo: yourstory.com

Most people I know appear to be adjusting to the pandemic. What’s no surprise? Stress and anxiety are magnifying some personalities. The attempt to readjust can happen after any shock such as the death of a spouse and I’ve noticed this in some of my acquaintances lately. If one is usually generous, she tends to go overboard; if nervous, he freaks more easily. Hoarding is another tendency that has impacted a few.

Some with enough capital to support three families for a lifetime, if chronically anxious about money, become crazed over a perceived delayed pittance. The resourceful are ingenious in supplementing dwindling incomes.

Photo: ksat.com

Our chronic political divide isn’t helping keep lives in balance. Know anyone who waits until now to cut off all contact even though differences in political philosophy have been clear for decades?

Some dig in their heels to extremes refusing to face scientific evidence. “Masks can save your life” and the lives of others NY Governor Cuomo said again at his news conference on May 23, echoed by governors–both blue and red–Dr. Deborah Birx and countless others. Nevertheless doubting Thomas’s proudly prance around unprotected in public mimicking the exposed mouth and nose of a peacock-proud president. Even the “New York Tough” moniker doesn’t dilute the inference of weakness to those who interpret being told what to do as unmanly. Experts can’t convince them that their reasons are faulty–actually dangerous–if they think that “real men don’t wear masks.” [There are still drivers who won’t engage seat belts and parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids.]

Have you noticed in yourself and others behavior that represents an extreme personality trait?

Photo: youtube.com

Service of Shortages During the Pandemic

Thursday, May 21st, 2020

Photo: nycurbed.com

We’ve heard ad nauseam about TP, paper towel, mask and disinfectant wipe shortages in retail stores–I haven’t seen a container of Clorox wipes in weeks nor will I unless I’m there when they are delivered according to a Wall Street Journal article–but now there’s a bicycle shortage and hints of an impending scarcity of meat as well.

Ironically the pandemic might create a healthier population just as it has cleaned the air and waterways in cities worldwide. According to an @CNN tweet, the journal Nature Climate Change reported global carbon emissions dropped 17 percent between January and April.

Bicycles Built for Two

It’s not just in NYC that some anticipate riding their bikes to work instead of taking a subway. Christina Goldbam wrote “Thinking of Buying a Bike? Get Ready for a Very Long Wait. The United States is facing a shortage of bicycles as anxiety over public transportation and a desire to exercise has sent the demand surging.”

Portland Photo: bikeportland.org

She reported in her New York Times article, “Some bicycle shops in Brooklyn are selling twice as many bikes as usual and drawing blocklong lines of customers. A chain of shops in Phoenix is selling three times the number of bikes it typically does. A retailer in Washington, D.C., sold all its entry-level bikes by the end of April and has fielded more preorders than ever in its 50-year history.”

Goldbam wrote: “Today fewer than 1 percent of New Yorkers commute by bike. In Portland, which has the highest percentage of cycling commuters of any American city, only 6.3 percent of commuters ride bikes. By comparison, in Copenhagen nearly half of all trips to work and school take place on bicycles.”

During the 1980 NYC transit strike I rode my bicycle from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The Brooklyn Bridge was jammed. It will be interesting to see how social distancing plays out at rush hour if bicycle transportation really becomes a thing in cities.

High on the Hog

Photo: safetyandheathmagazine.com

As for meat, according to Saloni Sardana of businessinsider.com, the shortage is one of workers and of transport to stores–not of beef, pork, lamb etc.

Some analysts anticipate consumers moving to plant-based alternatives. Sardana also reported: “Kevin Beasley, chief investment officer at VAI, said: ‘By incorporating analytics and AI, meat companies will be able to ensure essential products are available in the right place at the right time and proactively identify breaks in the existing supply chain.'”

In addition, as the nation’s pocketbooks shrink, so their choices of cuts of meat will navigate to less expensive ones.

What shortages are you experiencing? Are you tempted to travel by bicycle? Do you think that a significant number of commuters will opt to bicycle to work once offices open up? Have meat prices increased in your grocery store?

Photo: cookingclassy.com

Service of Ordering Online During a Pandemic

Monday, May 18th, 2020

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press

Chances are you may have ordered something online during the pandemic even if it’s not something you normally do.

Small Business

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press

I wanted a special card to send a college grad and liked one I saw on a Greymount Paper & Press sponsored Facebook ad [photo above]. The well-designed website was promising.

I prefer feeling the paper and ensuring that the printing is crisp, but these days that isn’t in the, uh, cards. I took advantage of a promotion and bought four. They arrived promptly from the artist/owner of the press, Carlene Gleman, along with a professional invoice with a cheery handwritten note on it and two bonus surprise cards.

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press

I dashed off an email to thank Carlene and tell her how much I liked the cards. She responded: “It’s always lovely to meet a fellow quality-aholic. Thank you for your kind words! Customers like you are one of the reasons I get out of bed each morning with a smile. That, and my sweet little family who are currently trapped in the house with me for Week #4,900! Ha. From one upstate New Yorker to a downstate New Yorker, stay safe and be well :-)”

I forwarded this note to a friend who also loves–and sends–the best cards and she said she ordered some from Greymount too. I gave Carlene a heads up, said that my friend had recently been furloughed and she wrote “Thanks for letting me know about ___, I am going to sneak a few extra goodies into her package as a cheer-up.”

Big Business

In contrast, a friend’s experience ordering flowers from 1-800-Flowers on May 4th for delivery Mother’s Day weekend was inexcusable. Not once did the company update her. She had to waste her time tracking them down in countless follow-ups.

The arrangement was meant for her best friend and her friend’s mother, who is deathly ill. Hers was a hard deadline, possibly more imminent than Mother’s Day, which she made clear each time she called customer service as each subsequent promised delivery day came and went. The upshot: In spite of her diligent surveillance the flowers never arrived, the company returned her money and she ordered a bouquet from a local florist. During her last conversation a 1-800-Flowers customer service supervisor told her the delay was because of Covid-19. If a company has no mechanism to update customers and if they cannot fulfill an order they should not accept one.

These examples of a generous small business that nurtures customers and an overwhelmed big business is statistically insignificant. But I wonder if such differences in customer service might augur the future of success of the retail landscape during the pandemic–what do you think?

1-800-Flowers

Service of Symbols III

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

1918 pandemic. Photo: designyoutrust.com

I wrote about religious and tourist symbols in 2011 and 2013 respectively. Some symbols, like the heart, dove, and owl that represent love, peace and intelligence, achieve their associations naturally. For 12 years I wore a school uniform–another form of symbol. We were asked to behave when out and about in NYC because we represented the school.

Masks in spring 2020 inadvertently have come to represent a range of things well beyond what the Center for Disease Control [CDC] attributes to them such as respect of the medical community that’s limping from overwork. It’s also a sign of cooperation with the effort to arrest a pandemic that is faced by the nation in some places more than in others.

1918 pandemic Photo: pinterest.com

Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Senate hearing on May 12 that “the mask should be a very regular part of preventing the spread of infection.” Note: He did not say “it’s more important in New York than in Oklahoma or North Dakota.”

The same day, at his daily news conference, New York Governor Cuomo said the mask means: “I respect you, your health, your privacy. And out of respect for you I wear this mask. This mask says I respect the nurses and doctors who killed themselves through this virus to cure people. I don’t cause more stress on nurses and doctors. I respect essential workers who drive the bus, train, deliver the food and keep lights on so I can stay home and safe. So I respect others.  The masks represent community unity.”

The CDC wrote on the nuts and bolts of mask use during this pandemic:

1918 pandemic Photo: tampabay.com

“In light of new data about how COVID-19 spreads, along with evidence of widespread COVID-19 illness in communities across the country, CDC recommends that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in the community setting. This is an additional public health measure people should take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in addition to (not instead of) social distancing, frequent hand cleaning and other everyday preventive actions. A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, but may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others. This would be especially important in the event that someone is infected but does not have symptoms. A cloth face covering should be worn whenever people must go into public settings (grocery stores, for example). Medical masks and N-95 respirators are reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.”

I am surprised by how many people in NYC wear masks. We’re a maverick bunch. Most don’t like to be told what to do–for example we jaywalk and cross against the light much of the time. An incentive is that most stores won’t let people inside without a face covering. Only in a potentially crowded situation are New Yorkers asked to wear a mask which may be why some still don’t wear them walking in the street.

Is the converse true: Does not wearing a mask symbolize indifference and disrespect in addition to creating potential danger of spreading a deadly virus? Do you say anything to people who don’t wear one? Do you think wearing a mask–or not–has taken on political significance?

Photo: sciencealert.com

Service of Collateral Damage: Who Picks Up the Pieces?

Monday, May 11th, 2020

We are all collateral damage to this virus, some more than others.

For starters restaurants, airlines, retail and small businesses of all kinds, museums, theaters, consequent furloughed/fired employees and retired citizens living on savings all suffer. In addition to and as a result the country’s mental health has taken a terrible blow. Heading the list: substance abuse; domestic violence, alcoholism and suicide. The headline from a Well Being Trust & The Robert Graham Center Analysis: “The COVID Pandemic Could Lead to 75,000 Additional Deaths from Alcohol and Drug Misuse and Suicide.” People are understandably desperate.

Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam at The Washington Post reported last Friday that April job loss at 20.5 million with unemployment rate at 14.7 percent is “the worst since the Depression era.”

Policymakers have to make Russian Roulette-like decisions, the most difficult of their careers: Life loss over jobs? Jobs over potential sickness and death? The data on which to make decisions and forecasts of where this unpredictable tornado-like virus will go is mercurial: Every week we learn of new twists and turns as experts struggle to recognize symptoms and cobble together remedies. And too many interpretations appear to be political which doesn’t feel right in a crisis.

Between the squabbling and posturing I’m not sure who is leading the charge which is troubling. The president tossed the ball to the governors. CDC standards to determine when it’s wise to reopen businesses are followed by some but not all governors and nothing is done to enforce them.

Some governors on the east coast are coordinating the acquisition of personal protective equipment so they don’t compete and achieve the best prices but that seems to be it. They are not in sync when it comes to opening beaches, businesses and restaurants which Governor Cuomo has previously said is essential due to their proximity and the fluidity of citizens armed with cars.

  • Connecticut expects its restaurants to welcome patrons–with restrictions–on May 20. Whether town beaches are open depends on each mayor according to ctpost.com. For example Greenwich beaches are open to residents and Norwalk’s on a “case-by-case basis.”
  • New Jersey’s sun lovers will visit its beaches Memorial weekend.
  • NY State parks and beaches are closed at least until May 31 according to a NYS parks website. In order for a region to open under Pause New York, which expires May 15, it must meet CDC criteria: “a 14-day decline in hospitalizations and deaths on a 3-day rolling average. Regions with few COVID cases cannot exceed 15 new total cases or 5 new deaths on a 3-day rolling average. A region must have fewer than two new COVID patients admitted per 100,000 residents per day.” The NY State website spells out the priorities regarding business openings. In Phase I: construction, manufacturing & wholesale supply chain, select retail using curbside pickup only, agriculture, fishing. Only in Phase III do we see restaurants and food service that many other states have long opened. A crucial component: A region must keep an eye on data and be able to pull back and shut down again if the numbers of Covid-19 cases increase.

Do you feel secure that your state is interpreting the criteria for raising the gates to reestablish the economy while protecting workers, citizens–and you?  With the exception of NY Governor Cuomo, who has said time and again “hold me accountable; blame me,” the handling of this pandemic is like watching a child’s game of hot potato where some leaders don’t want to be holding the spud when the music stops. Who has a handle on the true full picture? How will the federal purse control/disperse life and worker-saving funds when regional criteria differ so drastically? Will exacerbated mental health issues be given their proper due by government and insurance companies?  And most important, who will ultimately determine which comes first–the economy or risk of death?

 

Cats sheltering in place in a neighborhood pizza parlor, hungry for company.

 

Little Things Mean A Lot II

Thursday, May 7th, 2020

I recently wrote about personal gifts from friends and family that cheered the recipients during the pandemic in the first “Little Things Mean A Lot” post. I’ve also noticed efforts of citizens who take advantage of their contacts and/or talents to create popup fundraising opportunities. Plugging in to such efforts makes it simple for the rest of us to do a little something that collectively can mean a lot in an otherwise helpless period given strictures of social distancing and increasing sparsity of disposable income. A plus: you know that your donation goes directly to those in need.

It’s not surprising that the initiatives I selected involve donations of food.

The manager of my apartment building and his wife make 100 sandwiches a week for “One Sandwich at a Time” and invited tenants to join them. He also launched a food drive. Tenants drop off shopping bags full of groceries in the lobby. [I took the photo above early the morning after his announcement]. I see a hearty number of different bags every time I go downstairs. The drive is scheduled to last until the end of the month.

Every other Saturday night from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. Julian Gordon and Tim O’Hara produce streaming fundraising concerts on Facebook–An Evening with Tim and Julian–to benefit The Sharing Place, a food pantry in Jersey City. They have raised some $2,200 in two concerts. Guests joined them on May 2; some performed songs that Julian wrote. The next concert is scheduled for May 16. Link to their Facebook page for updates.

Do you know of grassroots efforts that support food pantries or other ways people are amplifying what they can give to help those adversely impacted by the pandemic?

Julian Gordon, left, and Tim O’Hara, “An Evening with Tim and Julian.”

Service of Competition Taking a Back Seat

Monday, May 4th, 2020

Photo: cdc.org

Competition is the lifeblood of American business. We’re capitalists: It’s in our DNA. It may explain our addiction to professional sports. According to one survey six in 10 Americans identify themselves as fans.

However, under unusual circumstances such as this pandemic we need to put aside the traits that spell success in a free market system.

The other week on Face the Nation Margaret Brennan asked Scott Gotlieb, MD if we or the Chinese will be first to discover a coronavirus vaccine. I’m as chauvinistic as the next person but if it works, I don’t care who comes in first. Currently Oxford University, in partnership with AstraZeneca, has its medical focus turned to a promising front-runner vaccine–let’s hope they are on to something.

Yesterday New York Governor Cuomo announced a coalition of states to help prevent price-gouging and increase market power. According to NBC, “Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island are launching a regional purchasing consortium to jointly get items including personal protective equipment, tests, ventilators and other medical equipment.”  They are not all Democrats–the Governor of Massachusetts is a Republican.

We’re Americans. Coronovirus is an equal opportunity disease.

Photo: redskinswire.usa.com

And even though the country is more divided by politics now than in my memory it’s a good time for both sides in the rest of the country to follow the lead of the Northeast purchasing consortium and to desist from throwing down their gauntlets. It’s not the time for Democrats to point fingers and place blame nor for Republicans to recommend withholding funding from states that have sanctuary cities, larger numbers of coronavirus cases or that generally vote blue.

There’s danger in politicizing what science has proved to help mitigate the virus’s spread such as wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and sheltering at home. And if we follow these cautions it doesn’t mean we hope for a crash because it would reflect poorly on the administration.

Remdesivir shows promise of helping Covid-19 patients recover faster by four to five days.  In addition to a hasty vaccine discovery aren’t we all rooting for successful trials of drugs like this? Don’t we need each other to get out of this rocky boat?

Photo: thehill.com

 

 

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