Category Archives: Cultura

Dems and TX Latinos in 2020

Here are my thoughts, mostly based on general chisme gathered from actually speaking to South Texans the last few days. I say it this way because too many experts are either freaking out or pushing things aside. But it’s a conversation that must be had, and not 8 days before the next election.

I was hoping Kuff would have some numbers on what occurred in Latino counties in Texas and Harris County, and he came through. Much like many folks looking at numbers, Kuff doesn’t know what happened with this contraction of Latino Democratic support. Or, in other words, why so many South Texas Mexicans went for El Cheeto.

Like I said, I have no solutions to offer. Plenty of smart people have plenty of ideas, and quite a few of them were raising issues before the election. Might be a good idea to listen to them. All I’m saying is that whatever happened here, it wasn’t what we wanted. If we want to avoid a repeat, we better get to work.

Off The Kuff

Elsewhere, the Dem experts will now say that, given Miami-Dade County’s result, “Latinos are not a monolith.” Well, duh!

All one has to look at are socioeconomic numbers by individual groups, geography, among other demographics to know that there can’t be one message for Latinos, but it must be one that is as coherent as possible. Every Latino group has its own set of issues, no different than suburban and rural whites. The problem is that consultants will hone in on one particular group in their quest to win a state (Florida) with a message that isn’t believable for whatever reason, while ignoring the other groups in other parts of the country who then become an easy target for disinformation.

In my opinion, Democrats wasted a lot of resources on Florida’s non-Mexican Latinos, trying to convince them that Democrats are not socialist supporters of long-dead Latin American presidents. (The DNC ran radio ads saying as much in 2016, too, and I predicted this would occur again with a Biden candidacy supported by neoliberals and war-mongering republicans.) It wasn’t effective in 2016, either.

Meanwhile, other Latino areas of the country were simply taken for granted, particularly those voters who don’t often vote and may have formed opinions based on disinformation because they haven’t been engaged effectively by Democrats. Latino outreach by community groups may be the difference in Arizona and Georgia and could serve as an example of a possible solution. The work that JOLT and TOP did in Texas made a difference, but it is work that needs more investment to reach more people in Texas.

As JOLT’s Antonio Arellano mentions in the Tweets mentioned by Kuff, 500,000 more Latinos in Texas voted for the first time. Perhaps a good survey of these folks would give us some much needed information for the future.

Taking a look at South Texas Mexicans, we saw a move toward Trump and republicans that many did not expect. The Republican “fracking” attack against Biden (along with the usual republican culture war) worked and it cost Dems an opportunity to win back Congressional District 23 and almost lost State Senate District 19. Campos agrees. Another case of Trump disinformation finding an audience. The argument that Trump was a disaster on COVID-19 was not going to be enough.

Fracking companies (and the local businesses that benefit from fracking) are a big employer (and sponsor of cultural events) in South and West Texas. These workers didn’t care about the effects of fracking on the environment or any coming of green jobs in the future. They cared about their jobs now and were duped into believing that Biden would be the cause of their financial demise.

Fracking and oil and gas drilling has been suffering for a while in South Texas, and local businesses have been hit already with the original contraction, and that had more to do with market conditions than anything else. But for money-grubbing drilling companies, it’s easier to blame the Dems than go into a discussion of their own bad business practices or of how the market works.

On top of this, Trump offered the bigots amongst us the freedom to blame and show their hate toward immigrants, Black Lives Matter, the poor, gays, women, etc. In other words, the freedom to use their screwed up versions of Christianity and their weird fantasy of rugged individualism as a weapon toward others. Trump is no different than the asshole bullies some of us had to deal with growing up. Perhaps this was the “sleeping giant:” Bullies who finally had their say in a world that was too kind to those they have bullied. Just a thought. The culture wars are alive and well in all demographics–just look at the 55% of white people who voted for Trump.

Something to point out is that these South Texas Mexican Trump supporters aren’t as wealthy or even as middle class as the middle to upper-class Latin Americans (Cuban, Venezuelan) in Miami-Dade who continually build wealth and political power and spread it among their own. I grew up with some of these South Texas types and their parents were migrant farm workers and worked at the local cannery, just like mine. Since it was seasonal work, their parents were at the food stamp and government cheese line, just like mine. Some just want to forget from where they came.

Many in this younger generation took jobs in the oil field and in all the businesses that benefit from it. With the oil business doing its own contraction even with Republicans in power, the benefits of NAFTA no longer helping businesses thrive, and even agri-jobs going by the wayside because of cheaper migrant labor, there is a big swath of people whose livelihoods are often threatened and always searching for someone to blame. COVID-19 didn’t help. But, no one is bothering to talk to them or promising something better. You get a loud-mouth playing the blame-game on TV, it’s obvious that people respond to it all over the country. “Divide and Conquer” is still an effective republican messaging tool.

Anecdotally, a South Texas friend mentioned that some of these drilling-related businesses were helping Trump along by threatening jobs if they didn’t show support for Trump. It wouldn’t surprise me, if true. Farmers and the businesses that benefited from them would force Mexican American employees to vote their way in the days before the Chicano civil rights movement. This crap still happens and it is a lot easier in South Texas.

Another anecdote: A friend sent me a pic of a family I know with a Trump flag waving from their trailer house porch (like the one in the meme) and I remember them being poorer than dirt, on the free lunch program at school when we were younger, but now, they’re republicans. And, then, I remember the days before, during, and after the civil rights movement also had their own rendition of sell-outs and wannabes who didn’t care for anyone but themselves. It happens in all demographics.

Still, Biden was winning many South Texas counties, as Kuff’s data shows, but not at the usually strong rate to which Dems are accustomed and rely on without much effort. In my own area of birth, Biden was averaging in the 60s. Down toward the Rio Grande Valley, it was in the 50s. Zapata County, on the border where some fight Trump’s border wall and the median income is $26K, went 53% for Trump. Some say it was a blip and it won’t happen again, but, I’m not so sure.

Kuff mentioned how base Democratic districts didn’t turnout as well as suburban districts in Harris County. No doubt, work and money has been poured into those formerly bright red districts that went ignored when I first arrived to Houston 20 years ago. Perhaps that’s a solution for the base Dem districts and South Texas?

Still, in places like Harris County, local election numbers guy Hector de Leon reminds us that 66% of Latino voters in Harris County do not reside in traditionally Latino areas. So, the work of effectively targeting Latinos needs to happen everywhere. But the messaging needs to match the needs of specific areas. Too much work? Too expensive? I’ll remember that next time Democrats fund ineffective non-Latino candidates in 60-40 GOP districts.

Anyway, we are still waiting for Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and North Carolina–states with their own Latino organizing efforts who are definitely a part of the final outcome.

Today is Election Day – Nov 3, 2020

  • IN HARRIS COUNTY, TX
  • Get your sample ballot. (click link)
  • Find your polling location. (click link)
    • County Clerk Chris Hollins announced late last night that only one drive-thru location would be open. Even so, I’d suggest walking in to one of the other 800+ locations unless you have a disability or illness. In case of illness/disability, you can request curbside voting.
    • Anywhere else in America, find it here: https://www.vote.org/polling-place-locator/
  • Take your mask and your photo ID.
  • VOTE FOR EVERY DEMOCRAT FROM TOP to BOTTOM OF THE BALLOT!
  • If you feel your vote needs protection from suppression or other suppressive Republican or polling location behavior, get in contact with the Texas Voter Protection hotline here.
  • Watch the results from the comfort of your own home. Have a few drinks, make some queso, get some chips, and relax. Results will be coming slow, for sure, but that just means more chips and queso.
  • Keep an eye out for election night speeches at the Dem Party Facebook HQ and all throughout social media.

It will be a busy day and evening; however, you can vote at any of the polling locations, and the map on the link will advise you which locations are busy and which are not.

Stay connected and stay vigilant for any crazy Republican happenings out there.

Early Vote Day 1 Was Great!

Over 128,000 Harris Countians showed up and voted on the first day of Early Voting. Add the mail-in ballots and that number is 169,000+. Overall, it was a good voting day.

I showed up at the HCC-Alief campus on Westheimer yesterday morning and spent less than an hour in line with my neighbors. Visual estimates probably had 50 head of me with more folks showing up behind me. By the time I left, the line had gotten longer. Unlike my COVID Primary voting experience, the ID scanner actually worked on my ID and I didn’t have to spend a few minutes being questioned. The folks working the polls were friendly and efficient. Perhaps they needed more machines, but with 122 locations countywide, one could find faster locations checking wait times on the Harris County clerk’s website.

Obviously, it’s not over as Early Voting ends on October 30. And the Republicans are still trying to stop you from voting by filing a frivolous lawsuit to end the convenient drive-thru locations that are being offered by Harris County. All I heard were good things about this innovative way of voting, yet, Republicans want to make voting harder.

During these pandemic days, convenience is preferable to all–no matter theit political affiliation. Republicans, though, cannot stop their love of voter suppression. Whether it is Greg Abbott stopping multiple drop-off locations for mail ballots, or whiny lawsuits to annoy voters, the Republicans do not want you to vote.

Well, yesterday showed that people will show up in spite of Republican voter suppression tactics. And this must continue. In Harris County find your early voting location here, print out a sample ballot here, and spread the word to your friends and family! And don’t forget to thank the hard-working folks at your voting location.

And, vote for the Democrats!

DC Reviews: The Mavericks – En Español

For tried and true fans of The Mavericks, En Español has been a long-awaited work. Since their founding, The Mavericks have offered up some Spanish tunes belted out by their leader, Raul Malo, at their performances. More than a few times, fans have asked them when a Spanish-language album would be released. Well, it’s here and it doesn’t disappoint.

Their live playlist is so diverse that they are considered multi-genre (and Americana) with performances sprinkled with country, tex-mex, cuban, rock, jazz, and other rhythms, which says a lot about their collective musicianship. Whether it’s the dueling guitars of Malo and LA-born guitarist Eddie Perez, the tickled ivories of Jerry Dale McFadden, or the diverse drumming of Paul Deakin, or their sidemen, they can play anything–sometimes, at a moment’s notice.

En Español is an eclectic mix of Latin rhythms and American sounds that only The Mavericks could put together in an honest and sincere fashion. Songs of love and heartbreak abound on this collection, as well as Cuban folk and classic ones from another time.

Classic songs, such as La Sitiera, Sombras, Mujer, and Sabor A Mi are already well-known at their concerts and previous Raul Malo solo works. Yet, they’re given a new and bold flavor that fills ones ears and hearts.

The first single, Poder Vivir, a ska-ish-tinged song backed by the sweet accordion sound of Michael Guerra, has already been making the rounds on radio and various other platforms. In fact, it’s already reached the top of some Tejano music charts, which shows their ability to penetrate markets beyond their usual audience. Recuerdos features that signature Mavericks sound that has fans swaying at their concerts.

Another favorite tune is the danceable (for us Tex-Mex folk)  Julia Iglesias tune, Me Olvide de Vivir, along with the mariachiesque No Vale La Pena, made famous by Juan Gabriel and given quite the squeezebox assist by the legendary Flaco Jimenez and the trumpets of Julio Diaz and Lorenzo Molina. Another cover is a Spanish-version of Englebert Humperdink’s Man Without Love, Cuando Me Enamoro.

But it’s the haunting and heart-wrenching Pensando En Ti, backed by the requinto and the accordion, that will have one thinking about love lost and searching for a drink. Finally, they offer up some Cuban folk music with the Celia Cruz tune, Pinar del Rio, in case you haven’t danced enough.

NPR has a great article on some Mavericks history and the process of making this album, as does TejanoNation. My FB friend Hector Saldaña at the Express-News delves into it, too.

En Español is available on all platforms, but, since bands aren’t touring, drop them a few bucks and buy the album and their merch at their website.

Also, The Mavericks will be performing a live, pay-per-view concert at Nugs.tv on Saturday, August 22, featuring the new material from En Español. As I’ve always said, any Mavs performance is an experience, even from the comfort of your own couch.

Reviewing the DNCC – Day 2

Well, Day 2 was a lot more palatable.

It was good seeing Texas folks in some of the coverage, including Congresswoman Veronica Escobar of El Paso and State Rep. Victoria Neave of the Dallas area–both early Biden endorsers.

Although I wish Stacey Abrams had spoken longer, I liked Senator Chuck Schumer’s speech as it highlighted what Joe Biden is offering the people, which I think needs to be pounded into the brain of voters. Bill Clinton delivered some good lines that stabbed at the failure that is Trump. The heartstrings were pulled with Jimmy and Roselynn Carter’s speech, perhaps because of my own family memories of watching the DNCC, or the fact that they are up in years, now.

I was not too thrilled with the “empire” portion of the show. Bringing out military and intelligence folks to buttress the US’s drive for world domination, but in a kinder, gentler way, is not my thing.

Much like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez stated in her nominating speech of Bernie Sanders, I, too, was hoping for a different kind of foreign policy in 2020 that only Senator Bernie Sanders offered. Unfortunately, Democrats have this need to prove toughness during convention time, rather than promote peace between nations that should be our allies, if the poor and indigenous were not looked down upon by US interests backed up by the US military. These policies pushed by both parties, which are anti-democratic and labor-exploitive must end, or else, the challenges of violence-based, climate-based and economic-based migration will continue.

Joe Biden will keep the US war machine well-oiled and funded when our priorities should be elsewhere during this pandemic, or else the Lincoln Project wouldn’t be so supportive. And he will likely continue US-Latin America policy that has been detrimental to the poor and indigenous of those nations, while supporting right-wing regimes who allow foreign corporations to exploit their natural resources and workers. I mean, ask anyone which Latin American countries have the most mass graves, missing and dead climate and political activists and it will be nations led by right-wing monsters supported by the US.

Thankfully, Dr. Jill Biden saved the day with her presentation. It’s obvious that she would be a first lady who would be proactive and kind, rather than dead inside. No doubt the story of Joe and Jill Biden offers some humanity, rather than the current “blooper reel.”

I think the favorite part was the roll call of states who announced their delegate totals. My favorites were North Dakota and New Mexico, which featured Natives and Chicanos. Somos Indios, cabrones!

And for those that freaked out over Sanders being nominated, that’s all part of the rules and convention process. Those of us who voted for Sanders gave him enough delegates to qualify for nomination, thus, AOC and the UAW guy were asked to give the nominating speeches. Don’t worry, I blame those at the DNC who fail to explain the process for those watching because they think you’re ordinary voters who won’t bother to watch democracy in action.

By the way, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the nominees, officially.

Anyway, let’s see what Day 3 offers.

Reviewing the DNCC – Day 1

I think the only part of the Democratic National Convention (Day 1) in which I got teary-eyed was during the singing of the National Anthem and “America,” because I was hoping beyond hope that these tunes would actually mean something, again, in the future. Otherwise…

This first day seemed to be all about appeasing the middle, the right, and the white. That tried and true strategy that never works. Devoting 5 or so minutes to Republicans for Biden who basically stated that Joe Biden was not the big bad leftist portrayed by Trump didn’t leave me feeling warm and fuzzy. If anything, it makes me think that they’ll be quite comfy with the status quo that still enriched them during Dem administrations. The fact that Dems think that this is a workable strategy to gain white Republican votes still leaves me dumbfounded.

The use of Meg Whitman reminded me of her 2010 run for CA guv when she was considered the “cool republican” who suddenly turned on immigrants to the point where she supported the deportation of her undocumented housekeeper if republinuts gave her the nomination. All I saw was a reminder of bigotry and hypocrisy; but, that’s the kind of thing I look for in these kind of events. Let’s face it, after all of these years of immigrants being used as a political piñata by republicans, the Dems using them for votes leaves me disappointed. But, Dems refuse to learn.

Even more embarrassing was the use of Art Acevedo, the HPD head cop, in a racial justice discussion. He still hasn’t answered for HPDs killing of Nicolas Chavez, he refused to release bodycam footage of the killing, yet, the Democrats seem to think he’s part of the “racial justice” solution. What’s his answer? Crocodile tears and high-fiving protesters before gassing them and wrongly arresting them? I’m not the only one who was perturbed by this. Hell, Julian Castro has been doing some great work regarding police reform; why wasn’t he in this discussion?

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Senator Bernie Sanders were exceptional in pointing out the Biden agenda (which is what we all need to hear), especially Bernie. Bernie even did a better job on the issue of immigration and hate in his few minutes of speaking. And I’ll be the first to agree that a guy that looks like Bernie Sanders (old and white) should be stating these positions and not just brown folk. I hope Biden states them so eloquently.

Michelle Obama gave a great speech, as always, but I know I wouldn’t be able to say that being President reveals who you really are knowing my spouse deported 3 million immigrants and warehoused hundreds of thousands more (kids included). Of course, when it comes to remembering the “good ol’ days” of the Obama administration, I’m pretty much dead inside. Still, good speech.

Anyway, we’re all trying our damnest to be good soldiers despite the things that piss us off about those in charge of the Democratic Party. As Bernie reminded us, some of the issues we have fought for are now part of mainstream messaging (if not thinking) in the Party. It’s our job to keep those we elect accountable is what we’re told about democracy. Therefore, expecting better candidates does not end when the ticket is decided, either.

On to Day 2.

 

Local Dem Ballot Finally Done

The Harris County Democratic Party’s precinct chairs met this past weekend to discuss and approve the final two candidates to be placed on the ballot:  County Clerk and Harris Co Dept of Education Trustee.

Precinct Chair-slash-Blogger, Charles Kuffner, provided us an inside look to the happenings.

As I expected, Teneshia Hudspeth was unanimously approved and without any opposition. In the race for HCDE Trustee, though, there was some competition among the three candidates. According to Kuff:

Three candidates were nominated for this position: David BrownObes Nwabara, and Jose Rivera, as was expected. Brown led the voting with 38%, followed by Nwabara with 35% and Rivera with 27%. The rules say that a majority is needed, so we went to a runoff, and there Brown prevailed with a 53-47 vote. The closeness of the vote was appropriate for a tough choice, as all three candidates were excellent and well-qualified.

I was rootin’ for my friend, Jose, but he was a good Democratic sport about the result.

My work and passion for community will continue and I support 100% David Brown for HCDE Trustee for the Fall election. I would also like to congratulate Obes Nwabara on a spirited and great race as well. I am excited to see the energy and momentum of a new generation of leadership that is ready to work to ensure our community is equitable and accessible for all.

I’m pretty sure that Jose is not done and that someone with his deep history and connection to Democratic causes will be on the ballot (or for consideration to some sort of appointment) in the future.

That said, looks like the Democratic ballot is done. A comprehensive and Democratic list of candidates is available here.

 

The Noticeable Lack of Latinos at the Dem Convention

There’s a lot of talk among the brown masses about the lack of brown faces at this week’s national Democratic convention, which will formally nominate Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to be the top of the ticket for 2020.

The latest list of brown faces on a shortened 2-hour per day program, includes:  Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto (Nevada); Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY); Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM); and an article by Adrian Carrasquillo mentions early Biden endorser Congressman Filemon Vela (TX) who will be pre-recorded.

Let’s face it. Showcasing our best is not just about selling Biden, but also about giving Latino leaders a national spotlight to show us as more than just leaders of Latinos, and as people who can run a country.

The same article also gives reasons for the lack of brown faces:  Not enough time in the program; they don’t want too many elected officials speaking; and there were not enough early brown-faced Biden endorsers (Julian Castro and others didn’t endorse Biden until June). One former Obama brown person stated:

“At the end of the day, the convention is for party insiders, and in the times of COVID, I question the number of ordinary people who are paying attention and tuning in,” Stephanie Valencia said. What will move voters instead is the kind of field, television, digital and radio program the campaign has invested in, she added.

I think my “ordinary” Chicano parents just turned over in their graves, and not just because Republican John Kasich is on the list of speakers.

Frankly, I’m not too trusting of Democratic messaging for Latinos. In Florida, Biden will again (as Hillary did in 2016) run attack ads against dead Latin American presidents and other Latin American countries with democratically-elected leftist leaders who support things like universal health care and public education, while the other states will be reminded of Obama and DACA–and that’s about it. At least that’s my guess. But at this point, it seems that the excitement of Biden’s Latino agenda has sort of stalled because of the lack of brown faces at the convention. I’m thinking Biden and the DNC didn’t want things like “Abolish ICE” to be said too many times to a national audience.

So, it’s back to pointing fingers at Trump as a means of convincing brown folks to vote for Biden. But, as I’ve stated before, if Biden wants to win big, he needs to portray himself as more than the next guy brown people will be protesting.

The reality is that we won’t be seeing too much complaining from those brown faces considered “high-profile.” They are either getting support for their PACs to help regional campaigns, they don’t want to be brownballed by the DNC and state parties, and/or they are hoping for a job.

Seriously, though, nothing surprises me anymore.

 

 

 

Biden States Case For Latino Support

credit: Alamy

Joe Biden stated his case for the Latino electorate with a lengthy article stating where he stands on issues affecting Latinos.

President Trump’s assault on Latino dignity started on the very first day of his campaign. His assault doesn’t just reveal itself in the betrayal of the Dreamers or in the pardoning of a sheriff who has terrorized the Latino community. It’s in the underfunding of schools, in attacks on labor and the ability of workers to bargain for their worth, and in the neglect of Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria. Trump’s strategy is to sow division — to cast out Latinos as being less than fully American.

Generally, he promised the following.

Biden will:

  • Invest in Latinos’ economic mobility.

  • Make far-reaching investments in ending health disparities by race.

  • Expand access to high-quality education and tackle racial inequity in our education system.

  • Combat hate crimes and gun violence.

  • Secure our values as a nation of immigrants.

Specifically, he talked about supporting a Latino museum at the Smithsonian and political appointees to his administration that will look like America. Included is a promise to expand Latino small business opportunities and jobs creation through infrastructure development. Within this, improving the treatment of workers and expanding worker protection is on his to-do list. To support Latino families, he would address lack of access to child care for essential workers and early education. Expanding Latino homeownership is on his list, too.

One important part of his plan is expanding access to health care through a public option for health insurance and ACA subsidies to make Obamacare more affordable. Most importantly, addressing the inequality experienced by the Latino community that block their access to health care. It’s not Medicare-for-all, but given his primary campaign, I didn’t expect it. Given how COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses in health care and insurance, it should still be discussed.

In the realm of higher education, Biden is committed to increasing college graduation rates, tuition-free higher education including 2-year workforce programs, increased access to student financial aid, student debt forgiveness, investing in Hispanic-Serving Institutions, bringing HSI and HBCUs into high-tech research, among other commitments.

Pointing to Trump’s anti-immigrant nature, Biden promises to send an immigration bill to Congress on Day 1 which will modernize the immigration system and include a roadmap to citizenship for 11 million undocumented residents of the US.

On the detention side, Biden promises to decrease its use, passing on the case management responsibility to nonprofit groups while migrants go through the system. And Biden also promises to stop Trump’s policy of caging children in favor of family reunification. [I hope they aren’t reunified in family-style prisons.] Added on is a decrease in the use of 287(g) agreements to take out local law enforcement from the equation.

Really, folks, check out this article, which includes links to his policy pronouncements on his campaign website. It’s actually better than I expected, though, we will have conversations about his Latin America policy soon enough since it doesn’t seem to be any different than what Republicans offer:  More election meddling and coups in support of right-wing, murderous regimes who care little for the poor and indigenous.

Some of you will see articles about the Orange one making a play for Latinos, too. Basically, he’ll speak to the same self-hating, anti-immigrant, bigoted brown folk (including some of our relatives) who think they’re excluded from Trump’s anti-Latino hate. For some reason, they buy into it. So, Democrats should not waste time with them, instead concentrate on increasing the bottom line with folks who want a reason to vote for Democrats.

Yes, many of us feel like we’re just voting for the next guy we’ll be protesting. For sure, we will be making Biden accountable for these promises during the campaign and once in office. And another thing, Biden cannot be a repeat of the Obama years in which access for Latino activists to the White House was controlled by elitists not involved in progressive causes. Latino activists must be part of the discussion of issues, and not just inclusive of those content with invites to the White House Cinco de Mayo event and other photo ops.

And guess what? There will be Dems (brown ones included) who will be upset for the people demanding what was promised. But tough shit. We are only exercising our right to participate and to petition our government for a redress of grievances. Trump has expanded those grievances and “going back to normal” is not an option. It must be better.

The job for everyone who wants to rid us of the Orange one is to sell what Biden is offering, and NOT what Trump is doing or saying. Dems need to stop being a free ad for the Orange one where all they do is point a finger at how bad Trump is. Biden has stated his case and Dems need to back it up when trying to earn the Latino vote.

 

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.