Palm Beach and Holland Lag in Vaccine Rollout

Holland, the country that gave me back my life in 2019, and Palm Beach, the Florida county in which I continue my recovery, would appear to have little in common. Tulips and clogs and bicycles, versus palm trees and flip flops and Hummers. Yes, there are canals in both places, but Florida’s are alligator-prone drainage ditches and the Netherlands’ are quaint waterways.

Among the most striking differences between Holland and my home county is the health care system. The Dutch mandate health insurance, taking the issue of coverage out of the conversation surrounding access to care. Among the miraculous elements contributing to my survival and recovery while I was in Amsterdam was that my New York State retiree health insurance fully covered the costs of my care. Had I been just a few months older, Medicare would not have paid my Amsterdam hospital bill as our national elderly health insurance system does not cover out-of-country costs. It was yet another issue I had not considered as our fateful cruise departed the American shores.

However, Palm Beach County and Holland have something surprising in common right now in the most dire public health issue in a century. Ten months into the coronavirus pandemic, both are lagging behind in administering the coronavirus vaccine.

Palm beach county is not vaccine ready

Jane Musgrave’s article in The Palm Beach Post lays out criticism against Palm Beach County for its lack of visible preparation for distribution of the coronavirus vaccine. It is disappointing. We have benefitted from the county’s leadership in requiring masks despite the lack of a statewide mandate. Governor Ron DeSantis’ callous lack of leadership throughout the pandemic has resulted in Florida’s 1.4 million cases and nearly 23,000 deaths, and the numbers are galloping ahead.

Andy Marlette, News Journal

Palm Beach County hospital and nursing home staff have received the vaccine in the first wave announced by DeSantis, and that’s following the public health direction from Washington. However, rather than following the guidance and placing essential workers in the second wave — grocery store clerks, bus drivers, first-responders, the people who make the world work for us — the governor went “off script,”

governor desantis didn’t follow the state plan

As reported by Jeffrey Schweers in the Tallahassee Democrat, the Florida state plan followed CDC guidance, focusing on long-term care residents, hospital workers at the front lines of the coronavirus battle, workers essential to the running of society, and people with medical conditions that put them at higher risk of getting the disease.

The state plan outlined procedures for distribution, inventory management, storage and handling, second-dose reminders, provider recruitment and enrolling, and communication with the public, Schweers writes.

We have a solid plan.

Jared Moskowitz, Florida Emergency Management director

But Governor Ron DeSantis went off script almost immediately, tossing out the state plan and all its structure while opening up availability to everyone in Florida 65 and over. There are 4 million very of us very anxious old people desperately trying to find out where to sign up. The county Health Department, now saddled with the job without the time or funds to have built the capacity, saw its COVID telephone hotline crash. Our local CVS is waiting for the vaccine. Our doctor’s office doesn’t have any information. I’ve sent an email to the county — as appeared in Jane Musgrove’s Palm Beach Post article — with the information I hope someone sees so that we can be put in line.

However, we are more fortunate than most in being able to sustain our self-imposed lockdown until the process reveals itself. We’ll be alright.

Holland is not vaccine ready

Holland, like the rest of the world, has been ahead of the United States in addressing the coronavirus pandemic. The friends we made among the staff and other patients at OLVG Hospital in Amsterdam are enduring another nearly complete lockdown while practicing the public health measures — wearing masks, keeping social distance, washing their hands — to keep themselves and their fellow citizens healthy.

However, the Netherlands has fallen behind the other European Union countries in beginning the rollout for the vaccine. In Mike Corder’s recent article for the Associated Press, he describes the Netherlands’ slow preparation for the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine. Holland, which begins inoculating Dutch citizens today, is the last member of the European Union to take this life-saving step.

This is outrageous. It is not a strategy, but chaos — total chaos — and the preparations were poor and too late.”

Geert Wilders, leader of the largest Dutch opposition party

We need functioning government

The outrage in Holland may be played up by politics in the constitutional monarchy, where multiple parties vie for parliamentary leadership. My husband and I are watching a fascinating political drama about such a process in Denmark, Borgen. It has infused us with a belief in government and, yes, even politicians. It’s been an excellent antidote to the past four years in America.

No political drama prepared us for watching domestic terrorists storm and desecrate the Capitol this past week, though. The silver lining may be, as Majority Whip James Clyburn said on the PBS NewsHour, that Republicans have finally been shocked into governing.

[While in the bunker during the assault on the Capitol] I saw how the government ought to work, Nancy and Mitch coming together and saying what we needed to do to get back to the Capitol and get back on the floor and continue doing what’s necessary to have a peaceful transfer of power.

Congressman Jim Clyburn, speaking on the PBS NewsHour

Twitter got rid of Donald Trump, permanently, yesterday. The country will be rid of him on January 20. It will be permanent, too, if he is twice impeached by the US House of Representatives.

And, look, he’s already said that he wants to be doing things that nobody else has much done before. This will help accommodate him … no president has ever been impeached for a second time before.

Congressman Jim Clyburn, speaking on the PBS NewsHour

How to Beat Trump: Laugh Him Out

Every joke is a tiny revolution.

George Orwell

Critics of President Trump can learn something from pro-democracy movements in other countries. Just as pointing and laughing deflates flashers, wit deflates dictators. Making the leader a laughing stock wins people over. In his recent column for the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof labels the power of mockery as “laughtism.”

We know it works against Trump. Who can forget the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner when Seth Meyers rolled out his Trump jokes as a grim-faced Donald glared back.

Donald Trump says he would run for president as a Republican, which is odd because I just assumed he was running as a joke.

Seth Meyers, 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner

The Kristof notes that the Committee for the Protection of Journalists — which I looked at in a recent post about the Voice of America — has intervened this year to defend seven cartoonists around the world who were arrested, threatened with prosecution, or threatened with death.

It was a cartoon of a the prophet Muhammad in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that led to the 2015 attack that killed 11 of its staff. The New York Times’ Norimitsu Onishi reported that the magazine reprinted the cartoon last month as the trial began.

The editorial cartoons that run in my newspaper, The Palm Beach Post, have hit the nail on the head, lampooning the White House’s coronavirus containment claims and strident electioneering. Cartoonists David Horsey and Clay Bennett are among the cartoonists that I’ve featured in my recent posts.

The grins of the people are the nightmares of the dictators.

Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo

Kristof closes with a final quote of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo that seems particularly well-timed. In the international embarrassment that was the first presidential debate, Vice President Biden called Trump a liar, but we have come to understand this as a fact, along with his cheating and other corruptions. Trump has been discredited so frequently, most recently in the NYT tax expose, that cartoonist Andy Marlette was ready with this within hours of the debate.

What did make the headlines was Biden calling Trump a clown.

Kristof quotes Liu Xiaobo in assuring us that a clown is much easier to dispose of.

A clown needs less revenge than a monster does.

Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo

… satirizing an authoritarian is good for the nation because it makes the eventual downfall and transition softer and less violent.

Nikolas Kristof, The New York Times

Practice laughtism. With apologies to Stephen Sondheim, send out the clown.

America Pitied By Allies, Trump Embraced By Far-Right

The world has loved, hated, and envied the US. Now, for the first time, we pity it.

Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times

The United States’ response to the Coronavirus has been marked by leadership failure, science denial, and political manipulation, such that, seven months into the pandemic, our country has had 6.5 million cases of the virus, and we are closing on 200,000 American deaths. According to the Republican National Convention, all of this is in the rear view mirror. According to reality, the virus continues to spread. As students go back to school this month — with the courts reviewing Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s order to open brick-and-mortar schools — health directors and epidemiologists forecast renewed ignition.

The journal Foreign Policy released a report gauging the performance of 36 nations in responding to COVID-19. The United States ranked 31st, ahead only of Indonesia, Turkey, Mexico, Iran, and China.

Senegal, a country of 60 million people ranking near the top of Foreign Policy’s list, has had only 14,000 cases and 284 deaths to date in this pandemic. The state of Florida, with about twice as many people, has nearly 50 times the number of cases. An American living in Senegal says that her Senegalese friends are flabbergasted that Americans are arguing over whether to wear masks and questioning the severity of the virus.

There hasn’t been a moment where my family was thinking that we should have evacuated. We always felt being here was the better choice.

Shannon Underwood, American living in Senegal, quoted by Deirdre Shesgreen, USA Today

America, for the first time in its history, is pitied and viewed with disdainful condescension. And the person at the helm — who the conservative commentator George Will calls “the most frivolous person ever to hold any great nation’s highest office” — has his hands off the wheel while our nation is on a downward spiral.

No, that’s putting it too passively. The nation’s floundering government is now administered by a gangster regime, and that’s not just America’s problem. Trump is emerging as a far-right cult figure in other countries, writes Katrin Bennhold, The New York Times’ Germany correspondent.

His message of disruption — his unvarnished nationalism and tolerance of white supremacists coupled with his skepticism of the pandemic dangers — is spilling well beyond American shores.

Katrin Bennhold, The New York Times

This really sticks in my craw. An “America first” tin-pot dictator modeling fascist behavior for a far-right German audience is the antithesis of the role of American president. It begs the contrast with another American president who spoke to a German audience. In his 1963 rock-star tour of Europe, President John F. Kennedy affirmed America’s solidarity with West Germany in resisting the Russians. “I am a Berliner.” Pro-democracy. Pro-NATO. Pro-allies.

My father represented our country in the US Foreign Service. In 1963, he was posted at the American Embassy in Rome, Italy, where he handled the press when President Kennedy visited a few weeks after being in Germany.

The plans went off without a hitch. Kennedy emerged alone from Air Force One, glamorous and handsome, waving to the small knot of observers. His open-air limousine was escorted by the handsome Carabinieri on horseback. He made his protocol visit to the Quirinale Palace, the seat of the national government. Kennedy’s call on Pope Paul VI came just days after his installation upon the death of John XXIII. The media noted this historic meeting between the first Catholic American president and the head of the Catholic Church.

From When the Dictator Flew Over Our House & Other True Stories, not yet published, Jane Kelly Amerson López

Like diplomats before and after him, my father’s loyalty was to the United States and its elected leader, regardless of policies or political party. It was not always easy — Dad came to disagree with the Vietnam War, which very much colored America’s overseas relationships — but being a diplomat today comes with unprecedented challenges. A July Democratic staff report to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations — Diplomacy in Crisis: The Trump Administration’s Decimation of the Department of State — concluded:

The President has undermined the United States’ role as a global leader, withdrawing from international organizations, agreements, and commitments, seeking to walk back our responsibilities to allies and partners, and retreating from leading the response to global crises.

Democratic Staff Report to the Committee on Foreign Relations, US Senate.\

The facts speak for themselves. Or, to quote Trump, “It is what it is.” We will vote in November.

Why We Must Support the US Postal Service

When my father was stationed at the American Embassy in Rome, our family mail came to us via the Army Post Office (APO), which routes US Postal Office mail to military bases and diplomatic missions around the globe. [A note here: the Defense Department says that the APO mail service is available to only US Postal Service mail. You’ll understand why I say this in a minute.]

So, back to Rome. The Italian postal system was unreliable, so people living in Rome during my parent’s time at the Embassy (early ‘60s and, again, mid-‘70s) put their mail in post boxes in Vatican City, which has run its own postal system for the past century. I just ran across this informal 2017 poll that shows that Italy continues to be ranked poorly on its handling of the mail, with some 80 percent of the respondents to an informal poll rating it as “poor” or “fair”.


the US mail ranks 7th in the world

Look at the bar graph again. In this list of 35 countries, Japan leads in high points for its mail system, followed by South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Austria, and the USA. 7th in a list of 35 countries, a good system.

Americans depend on the US mail

Americans have long relied on our government delivery of the mail to keep in touch with family, order supplies, transport livestock, and even transport children, as my friend Karen Coody Cooper writes in this piece that recently ran in our local newspaper, The Palm Beach Post.

My dad grew up on a South Dakota farm, where the mail linked his mother to family and friends who had found a warmer, easier life out in California. My father’s memoir, From the Hidewood, includes a story about his mother writing her family and making a friend of Dad’s one-room schoolhouse teacher through conversations at the mailbox.

… by the time she’d put the letter and its three pennies inside the roadside mailbox and raised the flag, the familiar slender figure with the book bag in hand had almost arrived.

Robert Amerson, From the Hidewood

Current attempts to hamper service

Elsewhere in the same issue of The Palm Beach Post was an article about the Trump Administration efforts to hamper the US Postal Service’s ability to deliver the mail, — in order to ensure its demise and resurrection as a for-profit enterprise — resulting in the death of chicks in transit to poultry farmers who’ve relied on the mail for their inventory. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) has taken the issue to Washington. Look at her. I would do what she asks. She is one of us persistent, nasty women who wants answers. I don’t think she’s going to be okay with converting the US Postal Service into a private corporation. And, Americans serving our country abroad rely on the USPS to get their mail to the Army Post Office.

Private sector Mail failed me

This week, I had my own postal experience that sheds some light on the issue for me. After a decade of holding onto the written records of my mother’s family — a collection of letters, poetry, and other paper in annotated binders which she created and curated — I decided to finally get them to their proper home, the historical society in her hometown of Winona, Minnesota. Although I felt badly about not having done more with the materials while I had them, I knew that I was doing the right thing in putting these treasures closer to family. The Winona County Historical Society assured me that they’d accept the materials, redirecting any that might better belong in another historical collection — Mankato, in Blue Mound County, was where her mother’s Kelly family was from; other family came from Fountain City, across the Mississippi in Wisconsin.

I packed the binders into two sturdy boxes culled from Amazon deliveries. Given the delicacy of the task, and trying to limit my exposure to people — the Coronavirus has not been tamed here — I chose FedEx to deliver the two boxes to their permanent home.

Here is what happened one week later.

One box was delivered to the Winona County Historical Society. The other box was dumped at my front door, soaking wet, falling apart, and somehow still containing its precious cargo. The FedEx address label with the Minnesota address was gone, and the box made it back via my husband’s name and our home address on a new FedEx label. How this happened is a mystery. When I tracked the box, it shows that it is still enroute to the original destination, with a current address of Countryside, IL. The automated response line would not put a real person on the telephone. Because the box is still in transit. And the FedEx shipping center down the road, which I visited yesterday with the box and cargo in hand, will not issue me a refund and/or re-ship the cargo. I’ll try again today to reach a human being.

So much for the private sector.

The USPS will get my box this time. I’ve been out in the world enough to appreciate that social distancing precautions are in place to protect me, and 95 percent of the people we’ve seen are wearing masks. The Coronavirus numbers are in decline.

Of course, Governor DeSantis and Education Commissioner Corcoran are demanding that Florida schools re-open in-person. I’m betting we see those COVID-19 numbers shoot back up.

Political Musings in the Time of Corona: Andy Marlette, David Horsey, Clay Bennett

Trump ads threaten: “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.” The images in these ads were taken as Trump sits in the White House. We have never been lead so callously.

He’s against God. He’s against guns.

Donald J. Trump, about Joe Biden

Trump sounds like a frantic salesman who cannot keep his pitch straight.

EJ Dionne, The Washington Post

He is hoping to get the nation to focus on the lesser problem of mayhem… To distract from the crushing, monumental screwup of public health and the economy.

Mona Charen, Ethics and public policy center

He is a businessman, and as such has thrown in the towel and declared bankruptcy.

William Damato, Letter to the Editor. The Palm Beach Post

The most dangerous people are the ones who speak with total authority and no room for error.

Jerome Groopman, Harvard Medical School

We all have to die, but we don’t have to die of stupidity.

Leonard Pitts, The Washington Post

Stupidity is being allowed to metastasize. And without science-based leadership at the top, it will continue to empower and embolden the mask holes among us.

Frank Cerabino, The Palm Beach Post

I equate Florida to a cruise ship. It’s very social, and it’s very group friendly, whether you’re flocking to the beach with friends or you’re all around the table having lunch.

Peter Ricci, Hospitality and Tourism Management program, Florida Atlantic University

We have I would say uncontrolled transmission at this time. That is fair to say.

Norman Beatty, assistant professor of medicine, University of Florida division of infectious diseases and global medicine

Florida alone has an average daily death toll roughly equal to that of the whole European Union, which has 20 times its population

Paul Krugman. The New York Times

Nothing’s risk-free in life.

Governor Ron DeSantis

Local government leaders in Georgia are being sued by the governor of that state for having the temerity to order the wearing of masks in their jurisdictions.

Can I get annexed to Germany or even North Carolina?

Mayor of Athens, Georgia

I am among the many New York State government retirees living in Florida. I know we make up the largest group outside the State. I know we have the expertise and the numbers, so how about we can petition Andrew Cuomo to be annexed? We would leave Mar-A-Lago behind.

Editorial Cartoons Say it Best

I grew up reading The New Yorker. Well, not reading it exactly, but flipping through the magazine to take in the cartoons, and trying to enjoy them like my parents did. We also had two big coffee table books of collected New Yorker cartoons, including one issued in 1950 on the magazine’s the 25th anniversary. It included this by Charles Addams.

These days, the editorial cartoons in The Palm Beach Post express the nation’s exasperation and exhaustion better than ever. Here are some from the past month.

Andy Marlette of the Pensacola News Journal digs into Governor Ron DeSantis, whose callous attitude rivals that of his hero, Donald Trump. Trump’s genius test is fodder, too.

Nick Anderson of The Washington Post channels Trump’s “it is what it is” response to the Coronavirus.

Walt Handelsman of The Advocate in New Orleans and Signe Wilkinson of the Philadelphia Daily News are tracking the Republican’s dismal record on responding to America’s economic crisis.

Andy Marlette even gets credit for weather forecasting, correctly noting that Hurricane Isais kept away from Florida, where the Coronavirus is running rampant.

These talented artist-commentators say more than a thousand words. Thank you!

Florida, A Third World Territory Moving into COVID Lead

Florida is nailing this coronavirus contest. When it hit more than 15,000 cases on Sunday, it moved into contention for the lead. If Florida were a country of its own, it would rank fourth in the world for new coronavirus cases in a day, behind the United States as a whole, Brazil and India, according to Reuters.

Miami is now the epicenter of the pandemic. What we were seeing in Wuhan (China) six months ago. Now, we are there.

Dr. Lilian Abbo, Jackson Health System

Instead of sounding the alarms, Florida is proceeding as if everything is fine. Masks are not mandated. And Walt Disney World opened last weekend. Just who do they think is coming? Certainly not Europeans, like the medical staff in Amsterdam — where life has gotten back to normal. — that got me well last year. They aren’t allowing individual Americans into their countries, much less planning vacations in Wuhan, USA.

Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, has a calm, pleasant speaking voice that lulls listeners into complacency as he repeatedly fails to address the seriousness of the pandemic. As our numbers rise, the Trump sycophant is echoing his White House master in insisting that our brick-and-mortar schools open.

I’m confident if you can do Home Depot, if you can do Walmart, if you can do these things, we absolutely can do the schools.

Governor Ron DeSantis

Right, says Frank Cerabino, snarky Florida commentator for The Palm Beach Post.

“Pay attention to your sales associate,” you say as you reach the parent drop-off/mulch pile spot. “Avoid the nail guns. See you in eight hours.”

Frank Cerabino, The Palm Beach Post

And then there’s how Florida’s immigrant community — essential workers for Palm Beach County’s $1 billion agriculture industry — has been both blamed and ignored as the coronavirus runs rampant.

From my neighbor’s mango tree and out avocado tree

They cooked your food. They delivered it. They picked your vegetables. They mowed your yard. They maintained the golf courses. Some drove Ubers; others cleaned toilets. And they got sick with the coronavirus.

John Pacenti, The Palm Beach Post

The Central American immigrant community — living in tight quarters, taking public transportation, without health insurance, dependent on hourly pay — has been treated with condescension, as if they are too unsophisticated to understand the scope of the pandemic. As the numbers of cases rise, politicians point the finger instead of stepping in to help.

Things have gotten so dire for immigrants in Florida’s southwest (Immokalee) that Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontiers came to their rescue. Yes, people living in the world’s strongest economy and longest-lasting democracy have become clients of health caretakers of Third World souls. The international medical humanitarian organization is providing testing, education, and mobile health services.

Our government is failing us. And they work for us. If they are not up to the job, it’s time to hire someone else, not let ourselves be distracted by their Mickey Mouse ramblings.