The Reality of Vaccines and Reopenings

I’ve been reading about reopenings of various industries and many industry leaders point to “local authorities” as their benchmark for how they will roll-out any reopening. Of course, what precautions are put in place to protect workers  and how effective those protections will be is up to those industries

Harris County has a color code at which we are currently at RED and it is safe to say that many industries are looking forward to ORANGE as the mark to begin phases for increased employees on-site.

To get to ORANGE, Harris County would need to have 14 days each of flat or decreasing rates of:  new COVID19 cases; COVID19-related hospitalizations; COVID19 ICU admits; and fewer than 15% of general and ICU beds in use. To get from ORANGE to YELLOW, it would take continued decreases at similar rates, as well as widespread deployment of a vaccine or treatment for COVID19.

It’s safe to say that it may take a while to get back to ORANGE, as changes in personal responsibility (behaviors) and public policy (Abbott/Trump) are still a work in progress (or in digging a deeper hole). It may take more death and infection to convince people and leaders to adapt, unfortunately. Still, it would seem that some sort of comfort in reopening would be found at YELLOW. Certainly, reopening at YELLOW would give the impression that an industry actually cares about their employees, instead of the crap-shoot at ORANGE.

While Trump and his minions and some in the science community are selling us on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine and that one may be ready as early as October, 2020 (to December, 2020), there are others being a bit more honest about vaccine development and the eventual issues in efficacy, production, and roll-out.

I read a lengthy report by management consulting firm McKinsey that brought all the information out there together to explain the reality. Carolyn Johnson at the Washington Post had a lengthy article, too. For all the attempt at excitement by Trump and his minions, the bottom line is that it is going to be a lot more challenging than what he’s selling. Here are a few of those challenges:

  • More than 50 vaccine candidates are expected to enter human trials in 2020, and 250 total vaccine candidates are being pursued. Historical attrition rates would suggest that such a pipeline could yield more than seven approved products over the next few years.
  • A number of hurdles remain, including validating unproven platform technologies, demonstrating vaccine candidates’ safety and protection against COVID-19, and delivering the highest-impact vaccine profiles.
  • Regulatory bodies are still finalizing guidelines for COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Vaccine manufacturers have announced cumulative capacity that could produce as many as one billion doses by the end of 2020 and nine billion doses by the end of 2021. [Note:  FDA has set a benchmark of 50% effectiveness to approve a vaccine.]

As the post article mentions, how effective the initial vaccines that are approved really are will influence how much buy-in by consumers there will be. And, as previous vaccines in US history have shown, it has taken a few years for some vaccines to reach a trusted level of efficacy. We are also reminded:

Even the word “effective” will be parsed by experts and may need to be carefully explained. The goal is for a vaccine to prevent infections altogether. But that’s not the only definition of a successful vaccine, which could also include shots that reduce the severity of symptoms people experience. Ideally, a vaccine would do both. But what happens in real life will influence decisions about who should get the vaccine first.

Mark Mulligan of the New York Langone Vaccine Center (quoted in the Post) states that

he believes people should view vaccines in much the same way they have regarded reopening — as something that must occur in gradual phases to be safe and could even double back on itself as we learn more. Governments and companies are investing billions of dollars to ramp up the vaccine supply now, but even so, it won’t be possible to vaccinate everyone in the first week or even the first month after the first vaccine becomes available. The world will become safer, bit by bit, not all at once.

And even when there is a vaccine, what will be the priority list? As the Post article reminds us, it wasn’t until Trump and famous people (athletes) were shown to have easy access to almost daily COVID-19 testing that people began to see how people are prioritized in this country. When the upper crust is prioritized, it would seem that the rest of us start to care less while forgetting that there are more of us who should be demanding change.

No doubt, we need more than just the vaccine to make all of this work. Along with a longer term shut-down to flatten the curve, more testing is needed as well as sped-up results, effective contact tracing (and COVID-19 patients willing to cooperate with tracers to inform those they may have exposed), and the development of accessible and affordable therapeutics and treatment to help those who are infected get beyond the infection. All of this must be buttressed by access to health care and an economic stimulus that keeps people fed and housed, rather than enriching corporations. Without all of these components in place, reopenings deemed safe will only be a farce.

It is getting more difficult to have faith that we will get beyond this with less people affected because political and industry leaders seem to miss the point that much like people were expected to adapt to change (masks and self distancing) of their own volition, politics and industry needed to similarly adapt for the long-term. Because of a thirst for profit and political power, taking on COVID-19 has been a dismal failure for most, but quite profitable for a few. Again, I remind all of how people (and even businesses) are prioritized during these times.

So, stay home as much as possible, and if you need to go somewhere, wear a mask, wash hands, and physically distance from everyone. The rest is up to those we put in charge and how willing they are to risk your life for political power and profit.

 

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA

The Texas Progressive Alliance says “Person, woman, man, camera, TV”. Also, “Play ball!”, “Get the federal stormtroopers out of American cities”, and “Here’s this week’s roundup”.

Off the Kuff has (you guessed it) another Presidential poll to dissect.

SocraticGadfly has non-RIP sayonaras for two Dallas notables. First, he waves at faded Dallas media legend Jim Schutze, COVID0-canned by the Dallas Observer a while back. Second, he says don’t let the door hit you on the way out to John Wiley Price elections hack Toni Pippins-Poole.

DosCentavos had another slow week, but he’ll get back on it this week. He did tell us about the the latest 2020 campaign tune by Chicano music legend Johnny Hernandez.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Amanda Marcotte reminds us that feminists had warned us about the likes of would-be judicial assassin Roy Den Hollander.

Christopher Hooks documents the goat rodeo that was the state Republican Party convention.

Grits for Breakfast outlines the sunset review process for the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

Allyn West has a conversation with City of Houston Transportation Planner David Fields about transportation and health.

The Texas Craft Brewers Guild would like your help saving Texas’ microbreweries.

The Current reports on the plight of the Kerrville Folk Festival, which is soliciting donations to stay afloat after cancelling its 2020 event.

Latinos and COVID-19

The LA Times recently featured an article about COVID-19 in South Texas, specifically, the Rio Grande Valley. I wrote a post about bad state leadership and COVID-19 in South Texas in early May. I had hoped that people would realize that bad leadership and a pandemic do not mix and that they wouldn’t listen to awful leaders. Unfortunately, it seems to be getting worse.

We’ve all heard that it’s pretty bad down there and it is. Hospitals are overloaded, deaths are happening so often that even a transporter of bodies has earned a feature in some newspapers because of how busy he has become. For Mexican Americans and other Latinos, it is bad everywhere.

In 2015, 27% of US Latinos were uninsured. It’s safe to say that given the undocumented population and the economic effects of COVID-19, that number is even higher today. Latinos did not have access to adequate health care pre-Coronavirus. This in itself is a public policy failure, but if there was an underlying condition that caused underlying conditions to become exacerbated by COVID-19, it is the lack of access to health care and wellness.

The LA Times article quoted one of the Medical authorities in the RGV who stated that people were finding it difficult to avoid family get-togethers, especially during the season of Mother’s Day, graduations, Father’s Day, and 4th of July. An article in the NY Times also gave mention to Latino “culture” in the form of family get-togethers. In other words, events that bring families together are a cultural thing in South Texas and folks can’t seem avoid them.

Miya Shay at ABC13  reported on the Del Toro family whose patriarch contracted COVID-19, along with other members of his family, after a Father’s Day dinner.

It’s bad enough that there are failed Republicans leaders in other states who blame Hispanics for the spread of COVID-19, but let’s not forget the failed Texas leadership that downplayed COVID-19 realities and sped up a re-opening of Texas. Greg Abbott chose profits over people.

As I stated in a previous post, the people model their behavior based on the attitudes and decisions of their leaders, and Greg Abbott didn’t start panicking and reversing course until the body count started worsening in July. Until now, it was all about limited COVID-19 testing, a lack of medical resources and preparation, and fast-tracking the reopening of states. Trump continues hell-bent on reopening states and schools. Meanwhile, there are local leaders who actually are–whether in Houston or in the Valley–trying to shut down their cities, yet, are forced to add a disclaimer that their orders have no teeth because of Greg Abbott.

Well, now we are at this point where the whole state is considered a hot spot and it must be restated:  STAY HOME! And if you need to go to the grocery store or to a doctor’s appointment (and I don’t see any other reason other than essential work to leave your home), wear a mask, distance from others and wash hands. It’s not that difficult. It’s up to us. And, if you’re an essential worker, you also have a responsibility to stop the spread by practicing safe protocols and CDC guidelines beyond your work environment.

In other words, fellow Brown people, screw what may seem to you like “culture,” and take responsibility for saving our families! Culture also means taking care of our own families when there is danger.

And if you are a leader of a state agency, college, or university, or a company that has the ability to continue operations from home, then it is your responsibility to be part of the solution–Keep your employees home!

Given the situation with the Florida Marlins and outbreaks at various school gyms prepping for Fall athletic programs, school sports need to shut down, too. And that includes university sports programs. Hell, even professional programs that are supposedly “in a bubble” need to stop this folly of a season. If they can get sick in a bubble, they will spread it beyond the bubble. And it sets a bad example.

Still, the diversity of my Facebook friends list runs the gamut and it freaks me out to see people at get-togethers with people who don’t reside with them at the lake or at the beach or eating at restaurants (even if they are at whatever percentage they’ve been told to be by Greg Abbott) or getting haircuts…the list goes on.

Forget about the fear of schools reopening as that’s still in the future. What is going on now dictates what happens later and all we see in the future are more funerals and more despair if behavior and public policy does not change. We have a responsibility to ignore bad leaders like Trump and Abbott and do whatever it takes to stop the spread.

It’s getting to where the people who are sick and dying are people we each personally know and love. I‘d rather miss (or be missed by) my family members for a couple of months of lockdown than forever. 

Register to Vote!

Thanks to Ann Harris Bennett, our Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar for posting this today.

Johnny Hernandez Drops Anti-Trump Tune

The legendary Johnny Hernandez is making his feelings about the current resident of the White House heard in a new protest tune, co-written by Chalo, he just dropped this week.

It’s Time To Unite is an anthem calling on folks to unite to rid us of Trump in November with a Motown funk-heavy beat that offers lots of soul.

In case you’re wondering, YES, Chicanos can perform just about anything and Hernandez’s musical upbringing includes all the standard genres that influenced everything else.

It is refreshing to see a Tejano legend tell it like it is and if you follow him on Facebook, it’s easy to see where Johnny stands. His brother Little Joe has recently endorsed a lot of Democrats, including Joe Biden. The new schoolers in the Tejano industry could learn a few things from these guys and the industry’s history of being a part of the Civil Rights and Farmworker movements.

Here’s the link to the song. Enjoy and have a great weekend.

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Roundup

The Texas Progressive Alliance stands with the people in Portland currently being attacked by federal troops as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff had the goods on two more polls of Texas.

SocraticGadfly called out Texas Monthly for naively accepting at face value the “poor me” story of a major fracking company’s head.

DosCentavos ruminates on what Trump’s threat to cut public education funds is really about.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Murray Newman lays out the nuts and bolts of restarting the jury selection process in Harris County.

Grits for Breakfast sees the forthcoming sunset review of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement as an opportunity to limit the number of police forces in Texas.

Shari Biedinger reports on the 50th anniversary re-enactment of the Great Brackenridge Park Train Robbery.

KeAndré Jordan explains how you can support Houston’s Black restaurants.

The Current showcased a San Antonio man who became everyone’s hero for matching his face masks to his ties.

Finally, the TPA brings you this Twitter thread about Texas cities that we guarantee you will not have thought of before.

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Roundup

The Texas Progressive Alliance is fanning itself with one hand and sipping from a frosty beverage with the other as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff catalogs the many ways Greg Abbott failed during the COVID crisis.

SocraticGadfly says that if Black Lives Matter, and Confederate statues are a worry, even in Gainesville, it’s interesting that, as part of that Young Republicans PR also matters. He also offers a few thoughts on various statues issues in general.

It was a slow week at DosCentavos , but he reminds everyone to send healing thoughts and vibes to Tex-Mex Legend and great Democrat Little Joe Hernandez.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Big Tex says we’ll meet again at the State Fair in 2021.

Paradise in Hell was sad to see that happen.

Reform Austin lists a number of prominent Texans who have contracted COVID-19.

Progress Texas argues that our district attorneys are not prosecuting enough abusive cops.

Rick Casey posits that Greg Abbott misses having Joe Straus around to serve as the main punching bag for the wingnut coalition in the GOP.

The Texas Signal highlights Sen. Eddie Lucio’s ties to the private prison industry.

An Elections Administrator for Harris County

The County Commissioners voted 3-2 to enact the position of elections administrator to run all voting operations, including voter registration. In doing so, they strip these duties from the county clerk and the tax assessor-collector to create what is called an independent, non-partisan office.

As I mentioned when this was first discussed:

…nothing wrong with a discussion.

It seems they decided to forgo any lengthy discussion and just create the position while an ongoing study is had on creating the position. The hiring of the administrator would not happen until after the 2020 election, so, the interim County Clerk Chris Hollins would still run the November election.

And as I’ve stated, I don’t have too much of a problem with having an elections administrator. As Kuff reminds us, other big counties have had one for a while and it seems to work. And, no doubt, each side of the debate gave good arguments that have much to do with history of the current system versus the politics of putting into office good people so that history isn’t repeated.

I agree with former County Clerk Diane Trautman that lengthy discussions should be had. At the same time, change after years of Republican rule can only happen in quick instances if we want change to actually happen. Of course, that’s my argument against police reform committees when the leadership exists to exert change in an instant. I guess I just want some consistency.

Ultimately, the people elected the Democratic majority to do what they think is right. I mean, I don’t like how a couple of the commissioners exerted their influence and money into the race for County Commissioner Pct 3 from their own fiefdoms, thus allowing them to pick their co-workers on the court, but I guess it’s allowed. So, this majority will get to pick the election administrator.

What’s done is done. My hope is that there will be a national search to bring in the best election administrator possible that has run the best, seamless and accessible elections (everything Commissioner Ellis said wasn’t happening in the current system). Or has the appointment already been decided?

Anyway, that’s politics. Even when creating nonpartisan positions.

 

 

 

The Dem Primary Run-Off Results

As far as Texas Democrats are concerned, I’m sure we are all glad it’s [almost] over. For DC, well, it wasn’t the best night for those I supported. Still, it’s on to November like the good little Democrat I try to be.

Royce West’s campaign against the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (and MJ Hegar) fell short, but I sure am proud of my friends who worked on West’s campaign and came up with a respectable result against the odds and the DC cash. We shall see what kind of campaign is run against Cornyn, now. Issues? Trump? Both? Will the DSCC even stick around? Questions that must be asked and answered, and now.

Family friend and fellow Cristaleño, Roberto Alonzo, gave it a go for Texas RR Commish, but it was obvious that Chrysta Castañeda was too much to overpower in the big cities. Still, we are proud of Roberto and the whole Alonzo family because they just don’t give up when it comes to the issues that matter.

Michelle Palmer cruised to victory in her race for SBOE-6, as did Te’iva Bell for the 339th District Court. Judge Alexandra Smoots-Thomas was soundly defeated by Cheryl Elliot Thornton for the 164th. Thornton is well-qualified and will be impressive in November. Cheri Thomas came up short for one of the appellate court seats against Tami Craft, but she is a great candidate who should remain in the game for future consideration. And Mark Alan Harrison is on his way to November in his run for Constable Pct 5.

Diana Martinez Alexander ran a great grassroots race for County Commissioner Pct 3 against big money and influence. I’ll still give her credit for being the only candidate in the running to shake my hand when asking for votes at one event I attended with most of the candidates in attendance. After doing some campaign finance sleuthing and seeing how she was outspent, and considering the final result, I must say that I am quite impressed with what she accomplished. She’s another one that should stay in the game because her activism will be an asset to Democrats up and down the ballot.

The race that was the most interesting was Texas House 148 with Penny Shaw and incumbent Anna Eastman, who won a special election to replace retiring Jessica Farrar earlier this year. No doubt, Eastman has said the right things on most issues important to Democrats, but it was Penny Shaw who may have gotten a late boost because of the policy differences she had with Eastman on public education and the out-of-town PACs that filled Eastman’s campaign coffers. It always seems to be the difference in these races–Teacher Unions -vs- Big Charter School Money. In this case, it was the union-supported Penny Shaw winning the early voting period and election day to put her over the top. While one side blames “negative campaigning,” it really was all about who turned out the most votes from their targeted base. I mean, c’mon, it was 200 votes difference. In non-COVID times, that would be a candidate attending a quince in the northside as the difference. As this is a Democratic district, Shaw will likely win in November.

Akilah Bacy cruised in HD138 and it seems incumbent State Rep Harold Dutton will squeeze by to another term. Incumbent Constable Chris Diaz was unseated by Jerry Garcia by less than 300 votes. Again, whomever turns out their base wins, no matter how negative it gets.

Big wins elsewhere include Dr. Jennifer Cantu for Fort Bend County Commish Pct 1, Delia Garza for Travis County Attorney, Jose Garza for Travis County DA, and Candace Valenzuela for Congressional District 24.

In Austin, it looks like State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez and former Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt will be in a run-off later this fall for Senate District 14. While this special election brought out Republicans to support their own, it’ll be interesting to see which candidate Republicans choose as their candidate. It could be the difference in the race if Republicans decide to even come out.

It’s been real, y’all. Let’s win in November!

It’s Open Season on Public Education

It seems we are up in arms about schools being forced open by Trump, Abbott, etc. As Betsy DeVos puts it, they must be fully opened–no part-time schools, etc. And Trump threatens to cut federal funding to schools that don’t follow his COVID-spreading rules.

This isn’t just about making kids, teachers, staff, and parents sick with COVID-19. It’s about destroying public schools. Just a guess, but I’d figure it would go something like this:

  1. Trump/Abbott will force open schools or lose funding.
  2. Parents/staff/teachers say NO.
  3. Parents find online privately-run (and corporate charter) school companies to homeschool their kids because of Trump’s threat against public schools.
  4. Trump cuts funding to public schools because of lack of attendance.
  5. Trump offers Dept of Education money to corporations who will operate private/charter schools to run low-quality diploma mills.
  6. Trump doles out federal tax money to parents in the form of vouchers to “send kids to private school,” but in reality, it’s for these low-quality privately-run diploma factories that Betsy DeVos’ friends will open because high-quality private schools aren’t going to be expanding their attendance for every Black and Brown kid in America.
  7. Public education as we know it is destroyed in the name of profits for a few. And considering that the vast majority of K-12 public students are Black and Brown, one can see this was the intent all along.

What really sucks is that this will look like some sort of CARES Act type of thing where parents will be offered a nice-sized check, yet, it’s Trump’s corporate friends who will get the billions of dollars in the end.

Unfortunately, too many people will not want to say no to a big check. Cash is always useful when families are in a hurting situation. Those who are of means will just get a boost to help pay for actual private school tuition (and family vacations). But when the vast majority of students are in public schools, we should invest in online infrastructures for online/hybrid education in the public realm, instead of giving away money to Trump’s friends.

So, while people, teachers, staffers, and parents will be worried about the pandemic and risks of illness, we also need to be worried about the bigger picture that will bankrupt public education. It has always been the goal of Republicans to destroy public education, whether it is through vouchers, the myth of school choice, or the creation of corporate-run charter schools under the guise of them being “public.” And, let’s face it, we have a few Democrats who spout the charter school and “education reform” BS quite well, too, and are as much at fault for opening this door for Trump and DeVos.

Fight back! Even in Tuesday’s run-off, vote for those with a record of protecting teachers, students, and public schools.