#COVID19Chronicles-237: December 1, 2020-History rewritten; Euan Lucie-Smith

For years, it was reported that Walter Tull was the first black officer to serve in the British army, during World War One:

It was a particularly interesting story because Tull is famous as one the early black professional footballers in Britain, playing for Tottenham Hotspurs in the English First Division. He had been born in England of a Barbadian father and English mother. Tull died during the war in 1918.

Well, history was rewritten by the discovery of a plaque showing Euan Lucie-Smith, a Jamaican-born soldier (white English civil servant father and ‘coloured’ Jamaican mother) and officer during WW1. He was killed during the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915. The plaque went up for auction in November and was sold to the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Museum (Royal Warwickshire) for a hammer price £8,500, a record price for such plaques.

Warwickshire history now claims another famous son, alongside William Shakespeare and many others.

His public school is proud to have a piece of the historic pie, now in the Royal Warwick Museum:

However, apart from being born in Jamaica, Lucie-Smith has a connection with Wolmer’s School, featuring on a plaque of those who served in wars.

A Wikipedia entry now covers key points of Lucie-Smith’s life:

#COVID19Chronicles-236: November 30, 2020-Madness, they call it madness

William Shakespeare wrote a statement for Hamlet that is famous: “I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.” In short, Hamlet was saying he’s not totally mad, and there’s method in my madness.

I recommend reading this report in Sunday’s Washington Post:

Everyone can have their take on what the period since voting ended in the US presidential election has meant, politically, but I think it’s hard for anyone who is not a diehard partisan can see it as other than a public display of petulance by someone who has one of the most powerful leadership positions in the world.

Peter Wehner’s summary is on point, to me: “This story is a remarkable piece of journalism. It chronicles Mr. Trump’s descent into madness. America is fortunate to have survived this man — so broken and tortured, so damaged and dangerous, so cruel and detached from reality.” I think he’s absolutely correct to touch on the elements of derangement that have been evident to many.

#COVID19Chronicles-235: November 29, 2020-Guilt tripping

Travel guilt is real!

Several friends of mine are caddies at Jamaican golf courses, and they occasionally tell me stories about the generosity of foreign guests with whom they work. Now ‘tourism (or travel) guilt’ is a real thing.

How travellers deal with it may vary:

Whether travel itself is part of the solution, or spending, or donating, or being especially kind and tolerant, the traveller may feel some angst about what he or she is doing. In places like Jamaica, we see a lot of this guilt meted out in the form of kindness with a monetary tilt.

With many restrictions on movement during the COVID pandemic, it’s been clear that guilt about travel has risen. But, it can be what helps some keep sane. We know!

Funnily, for all of my own lack of need, I have been the beneficiary of it, when some foreigner ‘took pity on me’ and thought I’d need USD 100 pressed into my hand for doing my job as a volunteer, I also had pangs of guilt, but decided I’d accept the gift and do something good with it. It went to a charity.

However, it takes a certain level of pity, or generosity, or more money than sense to give away a US$400 golf club that looks brand new, plus a tip. Well, one of my friends messaged me today about the new ‘toy’ he’d received this way. 🙂 Some guests with whom he’d worked for several days, helping them to learn golf, decided they’d part with their prized putter and depart from the island with a clear conscience, I guess. It’s lovely!

I was fortunate enough for him to let me also have a little ‘play’ with the toy, and I really must reconsider my life choices and think if being a caddy is what I do from now 😉

#COVID19Chronicles-234: November 28, 2020-The west has gone ‘wild’ with cases

We decided to take a short staycation and plumped for Hanover. We usually prefer the rustic charm of Portland, which is where we spent Thanksgiving last year; all three of our daughters were in Jamaica from the USA. We had the bonus of my mother-in-law and her friend. This year’s COVID-affected trip was with just our teenager, plus a cousin and his family. We get day visits from a couple living in Montego Bay.

But, we’ve grown to enjoy some spacious spots in Hanover, which work well in terms of observing COVID protocols of distancing, so several groups can stay in one place but have ample room to exist apart from each other, coming together for meals, which can also be hosted with good spacing at the table, or using several tables.

We were enjoying our turkey dinner on Thursday and praised the parish of Hanover for being lowest for COVID infections: it was the last to report COVID infections. Then, I checked the thread for the evening’s ‘Press briefing and COVID conversations’, which I’d missed. It covered “COVID-19 Protocols at Christmas”:

Well, knock me down! Hanover is now the COVID epicentre!

The west has gone a bit ‘wild’, it seems.

The regional technical director at the Western Regional Health Authority, Dr Dianne Stennett Campbell, gave an assessment of the current situation:

An “uptick in cases in the western end of the island accounts for the overall increase in the country’s figure”.

She added, however, that the increase in cases likely represents local transmission, and at the same time pointed out that no “clear” link has been established with the tourism sector. That should make some sigh with relief as the country heads towards the ‘high season’ for foreign visitors. However, it’s not clear how travel will be affected during the current surge also seen in the USA (from where the bulk of Jamaica’s tourists come), though Thanksgiving travellers seems to have ignored official advice not to travel for this holiday, with about a million people passing through airports each day for the last week. It’s usually the busiest travel time for the USA. But, whether the willingness to jump on planes will be as strong when it comes to travel abroad, we’ll have to see.

Most countries are really in a ‘don’t fly’ category for the USA, sitting at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) ‘level 4’, very high risk–‘Travelers should avoid all travel to these destinations’.

Source: CDC

So, Jamaica has been added to that category, which irked some people, but it includes The Bahamas, Ireland, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, for example. No countries are in level 3 (Travelers should avoid all nonessential travel to the following destinations). Only a few countries are now in levels 2 (moderate–Travelers at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should avoid all nonessential travel) and only a few in level 1 (low–All travelers should wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet from people who are not from your household, wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer, and watch your health for signs of illness). Some Jamaicans may be miffed because some of our island competing destinations are in level 2 (eg Barbados and St. Lucia); while Anguilla sits in level 1.

Getting back to the west. Dr Dianne Stennett Campbell’s assessment continued: “Most of the cases we’re seeing are locally transmitted cases. We do have cases in the tourist sector, but we have not been able to establish clear pictures of whether it is transmission between visitors in our hotel sector and workers or staff members. Usually, it is from the home environment in terms of that transmission that happens locally. So we’re carefully watching that picture. It may change, but that is what we’re seeing right now.”

Up to yesterday, Hanover accounted for 218 (2%) of the total of 10,537 COVID-19 cases reported since March; Westmoreland, 363; Trelawny, 237; and St. James, 1,094 (>10%). So, Hanover may be showing a high rate of infection per head of population–it has the highest parish rate of active COVID cases per 100,000 residents, 62.1; with Clarendon being the lowest at 6.9 –but the totals are really small. St. James has higher rates but is also trending towards significant numbers, especially if one regards what its usually hustle and bustle in and around Montego Bay may mean for possible contacts from overseas travellers–a scalar issue.

#COVID19Chronicles-233: November 27, 2020-New Zealand and Australia reap COVID control dividend as record crowds watch rugby during pandemic

A recent Washington Posts headline blared ‘Australia has almost eliminated the coronavirus — by putting faith in science’:

The Washington Post wrote: ‘Several practical measures contributed to Australia’s success, experts say. The country chose to quickly and tightly seal its borders, a step some others, notably in Europe, did not take. Health officials rapidly built up the manpower to track down and isolate outbreaks. And unlike the U.S. approach, all of Australia’s states either shut their domestic borders or severely limited movement for interstate and, in some cases, intra­state travelers.

…most important, though, leaders from across the ideological spectrum persuaded Australians to take the pandemic seriously early on and prepared them to give up civil liberties they had never lost before, even during two world wars.

“We told the public: ‘This is serious; we want your cooperation,’ ” said Marylouise McLaws, a Sydney-based epidemiologist at the University of New South Wales and a World Health Organization adviser.

A lack of partisan rancor increased the effectiveness of the message, McLaws said in an interview.

The conservative prime minister, Scott Morrison, formed a national cabinet with state leaders — known as premiers — from all parties to coordinate decisions. Political conflict was largely suspended, at least initially, and many Australians saw their politicians working together to avert a health crisis.

Perhaps, most important, Australia decided to follow advice from health experts: ‘Australia’s national response was led by Health Minister Greg Hunt, a former McKinsey & Co. management consultant and a Yale University graduate. Hunt and Morrison worked with the state premiers, who hold responsibility for on-the-ground health policy, to develop a common approach to the pandemic.’

The pay-off for that was that a record number of people went to watch a sports event during COVID. The Guardian wrote ‘The whole city was gridlocked: Brisbane heaves as fans allowed back en masse’:

‘Suncorp Stadium’s official crowd at the State of Origin finale between Queensland and New South Wales was 49,155. It is believed to be a world record since Covid-19 shut down sport.’ Competition had resumed in May, about the time that professional football resumed in Europe:

The country had got COVID under control.

Beforehand, however, New Zealand had staged the Bledisloe Cup rugby match against Australia in mid-October, lifting restrictions to allow fans to attend—46,000 attended.

Covid-19 restrictions in Auckland, which re-entered lockdown in August following a small outbreak of coronavirus cases, were lifted at the start of the month to allow crowds to return to stadiums.

‘New Zealand has been widely praised for its approach to handling the coronavirus and has reported fewer than 2,000 total cases and 25 deaths since the pandemic began,’ CNN wrote.

From early October, it was planned to host matches in New Zealand with capacity crowds. Auckland was at a higher alert level than the rest of New Zealand for several weeks because of a small community outbreak of COVID-19, but moved to level 1 from the start of October.

All of this is in stark contrast with most of Western Europe, Latin America, and notably the USA–where COVID has spiralled out of control. As the Post wrote: ‘As North America, Europe, India, Brazil and other regions and countries struggle to bring tens of thousands of daily infections under control, Australia provides a real-time road map for democracies to manage the pandemic. Its experience, along with New Zealand’s, also shows that success in containing the virus isn’t limited to East Asian states (Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan) or those with authoritarian leaders (China, Vietnam).

Notable amongst president-elect Biden’s early contacts with world leaders has been one with NZ’s prime minister, who has offered her nation’s expertise and advice on COVID. All is far from lost for the USA, though much time and too many lives might have been needlessly lost.

#COVID19Chronicles-231: November 26, 2020-Christmas curfew restrictions

On November 24, the PM announced in Parliament restrictions for the coming Christmas season. At present, the curfew kicks in at 9 p.m and ends at 5 a.m the next day. They will start at 10pm from December 1.

Christmas and Boxing days will see earlier curfews, from 7pm (till 5am):

Gatherings (public and private) will be limited to 15 people.

Curfews will revert to 10pm on December 27, start earlier at 7pm on January 1, then return to 10pm from January 2-15, However, if cases spike, the government will review measures.

Funeral provisions are being reconsidered, to take account of concerns about the inability to have the closure to which many Jamaicans have become accustomed.

Business endorsement of the measures has been quick, even though a push for easing had come recently, in an effort to help firms benefit from a push in Christmas sales.

For context, it’s worth recalling that, in early October, a possible Christmas relaxation of restrictions was being teased by the PM:

But, at that time, I’d wondered if that was the right message and approach. Because the country was then getting past the worst of a recent wave starting in August, but relaxing could have set things up for the start of a possible next wave. The moderation message had been telegraphed by the minister of health and wellness last week, so people should not be shocked.

#COVID19Chronicles-229: November 24, 2020-COVID PCR testing

Well, since the pandemic began, I’ve not had the need (or desire) to take a COVID test—my wife and daughter have, though. Touch wood, none of us have had any symptoms, so these have been for reassurance or need to travel. Only our teenager has had the need to travel overseas, and she took a test for that. She also had to take tests bi-weekly while at school. She also had to test negative before returning to Jamaica almost two weeks ago. When we have taken staycations in Jamaica, we have not tested beforehand, but our lodgings have had strict protocols in place. We may be travelling during the US Thanksgiving holiday period later this week, and with our daughter some 10 days into her 14 day quarantine, it seemed a good idea to test before setting off. It also makes more sense as the country has moved into the ‘community spread’ phase of the pandemic, which is quite different from when we last ventured to other parts of the island. The latest data show that almost every community has now had COVID cases.

The video show last week of active cases over time is revealing:

I wasn’t really looking forward to the nasal probing.

We made ‘bookings’ online for tests at UWHI, for 8am, and set off for that. Well, so much for thinking things would be smooth based on appointments. About 20 people were already waiting at 7:50; no one was at the ‘registration’ table, so we milled around. Some health sector personnel arrived around 8am and started to set up. “Don’t worry; you’ll all get through,” one said. Well, that’s a comfort…not, if you had scheduled other things based on an appointment time. (Sorry, that Jamaican disregard for the value of people’s time was again evident.) “Well, it’s free, so I don’t know why you’re complaining,” one young woman uttered. I pointed out to her that the price was immaterial to how the organization went and asked if it was better organized when it had been done with a fee. ‘Crickets’.

The health workers tried to get people to ‘line up’ based on ‘first come, first served’. Well, that wasn’t going to sit too well with my wife: “What’s the point of booking online?” she asked? Well, the point was that you were listed, but it didn’t matter much. “Those who are travelling, over there…” came an instruction. We moved to ‘there’, to the left of the registration area; others drifted to the right. Gradually, order started to appear, as people’s details were taken down, forms filled, and testing kits passed out, then people lined up at the testing area. One older lady got a ticking off for her doctor sending her to be tested; I presume she might have had symptoms and should have gone to…? Actually, it’s not clear where one should go! The email I received (below) had stated ‘you will not be tested here, and will be sent here’! So, I’m sympathetic to the lady who was as clear of where to go as a garbled message could make her 😦 My several attempts to understand it left me thinking Accident and Emergency should be where to go, but I wasn’t sure.

Some of the registration staff were the testers, so shifted from the desk to the booth. The line for testing started to lengthen.

After some more ritual grumbling about how Jamaica should be able to better organize, we had our kits and were in line for testing. But, grumbles were valid. Why take information online and not use that to at least have labels printed for each person to be tested? Admittedly, some may not show, but it’s a nonsense for people to answer the questions at registration and for forms and labels to be then handwritten.

While in line, a young lady asked how old we were and the 60+ year-old parents were ushered to the front of the line; the teenager stayed put. 🙂

I’d heard some horror stories about the nasal swabbing and, honestly, I was not looking forward to it. Then, I heard a frail old lady being given instructions: “You’re pulling away; come back; that’s good”. Then, she was being led away by (I think) a young relative. A man and I exchanged comments that if the ‘old granny’ could do it, we surely could. Man up!

Well, it’s not terrible; it’s not overly pleasant; it only takes a few seconds. It’s harder to hear and follow the instructions given by the tester: “Take out the bottle…Take off the top…Put them on the counter…Take out the stick…Step forward…Tilt back your head…[Swabbing]…Hand me the bottle…[Stick broken off, and bottle sealed.]…You’re done…Next!”

Results are due back within 48 hours. We all tested negative. Yea!

But, as we should all understand, one can test negative today and contract the virus tomorrow, but we don’t have continual testing, so let’s live with what we have, for now. Meanwhile, people are getting more sense of relief as news of successful vaccine trials roll in.

Prospects for their availability before end-year are looking good:

#COVID19Chronicles-227: November 22, 2020-When will he throw in the towel? Disgracing the office of The President

Bloomberg wrote yesterday: ‘A federal judge in Pennsylvania threw out a lawsuit by President Donald Trump’s campaign that aimed to block certification of the state’s election results unless it tossed out tens of thousands of mail-in ballots, rejecting the “startling” request due to a lack of evidence.’ It cited the judge’s ruling (my emphasis):

“This court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence…In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state.”

Bloomberg also wrote ‘It’s the latest and perhaps highest-profile courtroom defeat for Trump since the U.S. election Biden won by 6 million ballots. Suits filed by the campaign and its GOP allies have failed in Michigan, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona as judges declined to toss out millions of votes based on vague assertions by lawyers and sworn affidavits from voters who interpreted perceived irregularities as evidence of a Democratic conspiracy.’

In response, the Trump campaign said in a statement that it would seek an “expedited appeal” to the Third Circuit as a means to ultimately have the Supreme Court, and its 6-3 conservative majority, consider the case.

The court cases are now losing at a rate of 2 for 34.

Meanwhile, the president has checked out of governing, if he was ever checked in. As many noted, yesterday, instead of focusing on COVID with other G-20 leaders, he went golfing.

President Trump missed the virtual G20 summit’s “Pandemic Preparedness” event to visit one of his golf clubs on the same day that a record 195,500 new Covid-19 infections were reported in a 24-hour period in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins.

Much as I like being on a course, this is the metaphor that should stand as his legacy. His biggest care was about his golf score and handicap. The Guardian wrote: ‘According to a tally kept by CNN, Trump has visited one of his golf clubs on 303 occasions during his four years as president. During his 2016 campaign for the White House Trump regularly attacked his predecessor Barack Obama for hitting the links too often and insisted that he would have little time to play golf himself as president as he would be working too hard.’

Not surprisingly, this highlights yet another simple untruth uttered that has marked almost every day in office.

His biggest handicap was that he really doesn’t care for the people he is supposed to lead.

#COVID19Chronicles-226: November 21, 2020: You dare not look away from the post-presidential election shenanigans

Something is eerily fascinating about seeing disaster unfold. I’m not sure if it’s more thrilling than watching success unfold. What’s clear is that witnessing the opposite of expected outcomes is truly remarkable.

When I first encountered the USA, in the 1980s, if you’d told me that an actor would become president, I would have stuttered, badly. But, it did, and Ronald Reagan had the greatest of times with Margaret Thatcher during the early days of my working life during the 1980s.

If you’d told me when Martin Luther King was assassinated that the USA would elect a black man as president for two terms, I would have said, “Sure, and I will also be PM of the United Kingdom.” But, President Obama did it, and I never entered politics. 🙂

If you’d told me that a presidential candidate would win the popular vote by over 2 million and lose the Electoral College vote by a massive margin of 304-227–(7 faithless electors cast for others)—I would have shaken my head madly and wondered at the crazy system that undermines the popular will of the electorate. If the winner of that contest would be a man known as a reality TV star, while the other was a seasoned politician and former First Lady, I would have asked for a substance abuse test for myself as that must be an hallucination. But, that was 2016.

If you’d said that the winner of that same presidential election would claim to have won the next as incumbent, where he trailed by over 6 million votes and the Electoral College votes were 306-232 against him, and be trying to overturn that result with a flurry of court cases, I’d have thought it would be a pitch for a dystopian piece of fiction.

Yet, here we are, over two weeks past the final voting day, November 3, and the transition is notable by its lack of trans- anything, expect maybe transgressions in courts. The president comes out to the public after some 13 days—a post-election quarantine longer than when he was diagnosed with COVID19–and declares “Big pharma ran millions of dollars of negative advertisements during the campaign, which I won by the way.” So, the world has conspired against him and he cannot acknowledge defeat.

When you have a White House press secretary who states things about the previous transition not being orderly, the opposite of what the current president stated publicly, then you know the alternative universe is real: 🤔😳😩

But, a recent poll shows that half of Republicans believe that the election was rigged and the win ‘stolen’ from Trump:

Most political analysts says there’s no constitutional path that can deliver another result for President Trump than defeat. But, he’s trying through court challenges and is 1 for 31. His lawyers can say anything in public but must speak the truth in court, including admission that they have no fraud cases.

One of the states whose votes are being challenged, took the steps towards certifying their results—in favour of former VP Biden—as Georgia did on Friday afternoon.

The Governor of Georgia will finalize that process today.

The nation still awaits the formal ‘ascertainment’ of the election results, which will open the door for formal transition to take place, including funding for the incoming administration team and access to intelligence and the Presidential Daily Briefing:

On Thursday, House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Appropriations Committee Chair Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), along with two other senior Democrats, Gerald Connolly (D-VA) and Mike Quigley (D-IL), demanded that General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator Emily Murphy brief them by Monday on the delay in declaring President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election.

Trump seems to have tried to pressurize local Republicans in the Michigan state legislature but to no avail. The state has done its verification amid some drama.

That, after disaster in court, with evidence cited for Minnesota not Michigan! 🤔😳😩

Guiliani horror show press conference that even Fox News called “light on fact”:

All that may be remembered will be it was a ‘hot mess’, literally:

But, it was a serious assault on truth:

Thankfully, late night comics have material for years:

So, bad that those who know Rudy called it a “train wreck” and worse:

To cap it all, the sons of the main protagonists is this ‘mummers play’, tested positive for COVID, yesterday, after a series of well-published maskless events, and have likely been in contact with many on the Trump legal team.

You just can’t make this stuff up!

Sadly, Coco the clown should be at the circus, but he’s running amok on American streets. Please, make him stop! 🤔😳😡😩🇺🇸🙏🏾

#COVID19Chronicles-225: November 20, 2020: Christmas is coming; stay home and celebrate in new ways

Minister of health and wellness, Dr. Chris Tufton, and his team brought us up to date in the weekly ‘COVID conversations’ last night and outlined suggested ways to have a Christmas holiday that is still in keeping with our cultural norms—togetherness and mingling—but safe in terms of minimizing COVID risks. Think about creating new traditions that enshrine the measures that have been in place for months, they suggested (some specific ideas are in the Twitter thread below, which also includes a recording of the broadcast.

The team also addressed recent PAHO advice that quarantine of international travellers may not be needed. But, the chief medical officer noted that such an approach depends on each country’s capacity to manage the inflow of travellers and how well the originating countries are managing the virus:

In Jamaica’s case, with the vast majority of tourists coming from the USA, where the virus has spiralled out of control in recent months, it’s unlikely that Jamaica will risk the gains it has so far achieved by risking a ‘no quarantine’ policy.

Meanwhile, some in the business community want curfew relaxed to 11pm.m in the lead up to Christmas.