Covid-19 in New York #8 (Sep 13)

Back in April I really thought the Covid-19 pandemic would soon be over. Vaccines were rolling out. It looked like herd immunity was about to kick in. Time to move on to other things.

For a while, life was great around here. Active cases declined to single digits. Restaurants and bars filled up. People stopped wearing masks, even inside stores. There were parties and crowds. Everyone declared victory.

But the virus said nope. Active cases increased, then took off like a rocket. Last week the number of active cases hit an all-time high.

However, this surge is different. In the county, roughly 80% of adults are vaccinated. At Cornell it’s even better: 95% of students. Most of the Covid cases are happening in vaccinated folks, and they usually are less serious. Ten local residents are currently hospitalized: worse than anything before December 2020, but 1/3 of last January’s peak.

Tompkins County Covid Cases 2021

In the early days of the pandemic, Fox News kept saying this new disease was no worse than the flu. They were wrong. Lots of people found that out the hard way.

However, vaccines tame Covid-19 into a less serious respiratory infection. I couldn’t find local data for flu cases, hospitalizations or deaths to compare, but that’s kinda the point. Influenza is a normal part of winter, and rarely a crisis.

After 18 months of pandemic, Covid-19 is still worse than the flu, but it’s getting closer to being ordinary around here. So far this new surge has not affected daily life by much. Shops are open. Restaurants are busy. The hospital is not overwhelmed.

Sadly, Ithaca is not typical of the US.

Vaccination rates are lower in most areas. Sometimes a lot lower. In general, vaccinations seem to map pretty closely to wealth and education levels, plus Native Americans. I’m not sure what’s going on in Virginia and Georgia: maybe politics, or local culture, or just a data glitch. Texas is going la-la-la it’s not a problem if we don’t report it.

If you zoom in, our county is that dark blue dot in the middle of light and lighter blue Upstate NY. People took the pandemic very seriously around here, and they still do. Almost everyone is wearing masks in stores again. Some even outdoors. That’s not the case one or two counties over.

It has paid off. We’re a dark blue dot in the death map, too. Most nearby counties have been 3x to 4x worse. People in the dark red areas were over 20x more likely to die.

The way each region responds to the pandemic really is a matter of life and death. I suspect it’s going to be another tough winter. Delta is bad, but Mu sounds badder. Most likely Covid-19 will use up the entire Greek alphabet before it’s over.

BTW here’s a website that does a great job of calculating Coronavirus risk for you. Plug in a location, an activity and the details, and you can see the odds that it will make you sick.

Dennis Kolva
Programming Director
TurtleSoft.com

Covid-19 in New York #7 (Apr 14)

This chart shows the local experience with Covid-19 over the past 13 months. Blue is number of active cases, yellow is number in hospital, red is cumulative deaths. The last two are 10x to make them more visible.

There was a bump after every major holiday. Even Halloween. The most recent was mostly Cornell students after Spring Break.

That first blue bump in March/April 2020 now seems downright puny. Of course, NYC and a few other places had a terrible time then. The spare capacity here saved lives. Local medical staff took a bus down to help. Some patients transferred here.

I got the J&J vaccine more than a month ago, but haven’t changed behavior much. The chart explains why. Almost 30% of local residents are fully vaccinated, and over 50% have taken one jab. But active cases and hospitalizations are still worse than anything before November. It’s not over yet.

In the rest of the US, the situation is similar. New confirmed cases are off the winter peak, but still higher than last summer. Most regions are showing a small fourth surge.

Deaths have fallen off faster, probably because older people were vaccinated first. It’s already better than last summer. These days, Covid-19 is mostly a young people disease.

BTW the green bump is because Ohio changed the way they classified Covid deaths, and suddenly added 5,000.

Covid-19 probably is winding down. Unless something dramatic happens, this will be my last post on the subject. It has been an interesting ride. I sure hope we are better prepared for the next one.

Dennis Kolva
Programming Director
TurtleSoft.com

Covid-19: Mutations (Mar 8)

Life is not easy when you’re a coronavirus. If you can even call it a life.

You’re tiny. Too small to see in a microscope. Rock bottom on the food chain. You can’t move, and you’re delicious. Rich in protein, plus tasty fat and sugar. Happily snarfed up by bacteria or dust mites. Easily killed by UV, or just about anything else.

You only have one trick: sneak into the right vertebrate’s cells, and you’ll reproduce like crazy. But even that’s just temporary. In days or weeks, their immune system will learn how to stomp you. Eventually, the entire species will be resistant. The only way to survive long-term is to mutate, and change enough to infect again. Or better, jump to a new species and start over with fresh victims.

We are already seeing that with Covid-19. New versions keep popping up. Some reinfect people who survived earlier versions. Some are jumping to minks, cats, other species.

This is yet another reason why it’s a whole lot better to nip contagious diseases before they become pandemics. Fewer infected people means fewer mutations, and lower risk that the disease recurs for decades. SARS and MERS both were caught in time. Now SARS is gone forever. MERS is gone if you don’t hang out with camels.

It’s way too late for Covid-19 to ever be contained. The question is, what happens next?

For the short term, vaccinations are starting to kick in. They will help slow down the spread. Life will probably be close to normal this summer.

Unfortunately, Covid-19 will keep making new mutants. Most likely, there will be reinfections and outbreaks for years or decades. It’s established too deeply, now.

The only good news is that co-evolution is likely to happen. A virus spreads faster when their carrier is out and about, not deathly ill. If they kill the host, they also die. That means mutations and natural selection gradually make a disease less serious (but faster-spreading).

Warts are the ideal end point, from the viral point of view. Common colds are almost as good: infect everyone, rarely deadly. There already are four coronavirus strains like that (229E, NL63, OC43 and HKU1). Covid will eventually settle down to be the fifth.

Sadly, the process of becoming less deadly takes years, and it’s not 100% reliable. Folks probably will need an annual Covid booster to go along with the flu shot, at least for a while. Face masks may be a long-term reality.

In 2009, the US launched the PREDICT program. It set up a global network of labs and researchers to act as an early-warning system for pandemics. It cost about $20 million a year. Funding for that and other international health programs was cut in mid-2019. That was a 5 or 6 trillion dollar mistake just for the USA.

In this century, there have been 3 serious Coronavirus outbreaks: an average of one every 7 years. Fatality rates of 34% (MERS), 10% (SARS) and about 1% (Covid). Toss in Zika and a couple of Ebolas, and it’s one outbreak every four years. That’s not even counting influenza and other random diseases.

Humans are a densely packed and mobile species. Pandemics are nature’s way to fix that sort of overpopulation.

We probably should do more stuff like PREDICT, not less. Along with the sickness, dying and inconvenience, pandemics are very expensive.

Dennis Kolva
Programming Director
TurtleSoft.com

Covid-19: Vaccines (Feb 15)

From 2008 until 2013, I went back to Cornell part-time to finish up a BA in Molecular Biology. It’s an interesting field that didn’t even exist during my first shot of college. Mol Bio kinda squoze into the gap between Biochemistry and Genetics, with big help from the Human Genome Project.

Molecular biology is the reason you can get vaccinated for Covid-19 now. Previously, it took a minimum of 4 years to develop and test a vaccine. What sped things up is mastery over the big molecules of life: DNA, RNA and proteins.

Derek Lowe is a molecular biologist who blogs for Science magazine. He’s an expert on diseases and vaccines, but he writes for mere mortals. If you want to make intelligent decisions about Covid-19 vaccines, here are links to some of his recent posts. They are way better than anything you’ll ever see on Twitter or Facebook.

B Cells, Infection & Vaccination
Pfizer/Moderna Vaccines
J&J and Novamax Vaccines
Oxford/AstraZeneca Vaccine
Vaccine Production Myths
Why Lower Efficacy Isn’t That Bad (Vox)

I’ll try to summarize vaccine results so far, in very over-simplified form.

The first Covid-19 vaccines approved in the US were RNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. Both require two jabs, with about 94% efficacy at preventing infection. They use mRNA that includes the code for Spike protein. It’s stuffed into a tiny sphere of fats, cholesterol and probably some proteins. Composition and size similar to a Coronavirus, or like LDL “bad cholesterol” plus RNA. When injected, the nanoparticles are absorbed by muscle, lymph and liver cells. Inside them, the mRNA hooks up with a ribosome, which uses its sequence to build Spike proteins. Some Spikes leave the cell, float around, and trigger the immune system. Later, a real Coronavirus comes along, but immune cells recognize its spiky bits and send in the killers. Protected!

The Oxford/AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson/Janssen and Sputnik vaccines use a different approach. Instead of nanoparticles, they deliver via a modified Adenovirus (a mild virus that causes sore throats, pink eye etc). The DNA code for Spike is spliced into its genome. After injection, the virus infects some human cells. Its DNA sneaks into their nucleus and is transcribed into mRNA. That exits the nucleus, then follows the same path as the RNA vaccines: ribosome to Spike to export to immune response.

Of the 3 DNA vaccines, Sputnik (2 jabs) has excellent results, but probably won’t be available in the US. J&J (1 jab) is mediocre at preventing infection, though it’s OK at blocking serious disease and death. Oxford (2 jabs) is somewhere in between. The lower efficacy may be because some people are already immune to Adenovirus: so they kill it prematurely. Sputnik uses two different virus forms, which may explain its better performance. J&J and AstraZeneca are testing variations that may also be more effective.

Novamax takes a third approach. It cuts to the chase, and injects Covid-19 Spike protein directly. The Spikes are manufactured by moth (!) cells. How cool is that? To produce the vaccine, the DNA sequence for Spike is spliced into a virus genome. That infects the moth cells, which then produce Spike via the same path as the DNA vaccines. The protein is purified, then attached to a fatty nanoparticle. To the immune system, it looks a lot like a Coronavirus. Trials in the UK showed 89% efficacy (2 jabs). US Phase 3 trials started in December.

The DNA and protein vaccines have a big advantage: both molecules are more stable than RNA. They only need fridge temperatures for distribution instead of freezers (Moderna) or dry ice (Pfizer).

As an old dude, I’m eligible to be vaccinated now. The original plan was to wait for J&J vaccine data before deciding. That quickly became moot, since there’s a huge backlog. It will be a while until I can get any vaccine regardless. By health and habits I’m low-risk, so it won’t be too bad to live the pandemic lifestyle for a few more months.

New York vaccinated nursing homes and health care staff first. Now the priority is essential workers and teachers. That approach is already having an impact. There were 20+ daily cases in the local hospital for the month after Christmas, but it’s down to 3 or fewer. Surrounding counties are also doing much better.

At the moment I probably would pick Novamax, if its US trials are similar to the UK results. I probably already have Adenovirus immunity, and it makes sense to save mRNA vaccines for the next pandemic. However, the decision is barely more than a guess. There may not even be a choice of vaccines.

The big picture for humans: the success of all these vaccines is extremely good news. They’re fast, and will be even faster to release in the future. Minor DNA/RNA/protein tweaks to keep up with mutations will only take days, and won’t need such a long approval process. All three of the methods will help fight other diseases. And that’s not even counting newer techniques like CRISPR that are gradually being developed.

Looking back ten years from now, Covid-19 may seem like a wonderful disaster that launched huge medical advances.

Dennis Kolva
Programming Director
TurtleSoft.com

Covid-19 in New York #6 (Jan 12)

In July, the local Internet provider asked me to do some in-home wiring for a few of their clients. Most of the folks were good about masking and social distancing, but one couple wasn’t. They didn’t wear masks, and got physically close to me even after I asked them not to. I left early, and decided not to go back there. Someone else finished the work.

Soon after that, the couple tested positive for Covid-19. Not surprising, considering their behavior. The second installer had to quarantine. Luckily, I was outside the exposure time window. Phew.

Lately, it feels like there are more bullets to dodge. Cases have turned up in Home Depot, Walmart, most supermarkets, the Post Office, public transport. Since March I’ve kept a spreadsheet of public places where I’ve been, and when. There have been a few near misses, but nothing close enough to need a quarantine. Yet.

New York just entered phase 1B of their vaccination program. As an over-65 I’m qualified to get a vaccine as of today. Theoretically, I’d prefer to wait a bit. For one thing, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are well-tested and probably fine, but they are a new technology. I’d rather let other people be the guinea pigs, just in case there are long-term, subtle effects.

Also, they were the quickest to release. It’s possible there will be a future, more dangerous pandemic. If so, it would suck if my immune system had learned how to zap their mRNA carriers. Waiting a couple of months for Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca is kinda like saving the big guns for when they are really needed.

A traditional killed-virus vaccine would be best of all, since that approach is extremely well-tested. However those take years to develop. That’s a long time to be living in a bubble. Plus, any vaccines that haven’t started trials yet will have a hard time finding test subjects who weren’t vaccinated or infected. They may never get out the door.

Meanwhile, active cases have spiked locally, similar to the rest of the US. Covid-19 got into one of the local nursing homes right after Thanksgiving, and the number of county deaths jumped quickly from 1 to 17. That seems to be how the disease works in other places, also.

Since Christmas, the number hospitalized here has varied from 20 to 32. That’s much worse than the Spring ’20 surge, which maxed at 16 and was only over 5 for a few days. Here’s the chart to date:

Thick blue is active cases divided by 10. Red is the number in hospital, which lags by a few weeks. There was a spike of active cases in early March, but tests were scarce then so it’s not in this chart.

Most surrounding counties are having a worse time than here. Cattaraugus only updates their website once or twice a week now, ever since new cases jumped from a few a day to a few dozen. They used to be much more chatty. Chautauqua (next door to them) has 111 hospital beds, and 131 patients. Steuben has 774 active cases, 2,214 residents in quarantine (2% of their population), and only 15 contact tracers. They’ve had 153 Covid deaths so far in a population about the same as here.

The Rt tracker website is a good predictor for future disease impact. As of today 15 states are below 1.0 and reducing their active cases. 36 are above it, and still getting worse. Now that the holidays are over, there’s more hope it will improve.

One (tiny) good impact of Covid-19 is that many people put up extra Christmas lights this year. Walking around at night has become very entertaining. Winter is a bit less bleak.

Now we just need to survive Jan 20.

Dennis Kolva
Programming Director
TurtleSoft.com

Covid-19 in Charts (Dec 26)

This chart shows new confirmed Covid-19 cases in each part of the US. A couple months ago things got bad in the Dakotas and surrounding states. Then it improved there, but got worse everywhere else. There was a sudden reverse last week. New cases declined in every region. It may be good news, but more likely it’s because health departments ended the week early.

This one shows weekly restaurant seatings from OpenTable, comparing this year to 2019. After the April/May shutdown, it rose gradually to about 60% of last year. Now it has declined back to about 35%. There’s a big spread between states: New York is at 12%, California 6%. Texas and Florida are still near 60%. I don’t know why everyone decided to eat out during Labor Day week.

Last July I divided the largest countries into 5 groups, and made charts for their cumulative confirmed Covid counts. Here are updated global CCCCCCs. All numbers are cases per 100,000 people.

First are the countries that were doing it right back then. Almost all of them are still doing it right. They have very few cases, and economies that are close to normal. The only exception is Tunisia. It’s starting to catch up with Europe.

Next are countries that were just starting to increase in July. Most of them halted the growth, but Jordan, Morocco and Greece are acting like Europe. Some of the poorer countries may have low counts from lack of testing, rather than lack of disease.

The third group is countries in Europe, plus Canada. They had serious early outbreaks, but contained the disease over the summer. Sadly, things got much worse once the weather cooled. Canada and Germany aren’t too bad, but the rest are doing almost as badly as the US.

The fourth group is countries that were just starting to have serious problems in July. They are a mixed bag now. Some are doing OK, but the ones in Europe and South America have growth rates similar to their neighbors.

The last group I called the “basket cases”, with outbreaks that were bad and getting worse. Those in the Southern Hemisphere slowed down as their summer hit. Those with disease-friendly politics became even more baskety. Portugal started zooming recently, similar to the rest of Europe.

The countries with the most per-capita Covid cases now are #1. Czechia, #2. Belgium, and #3. USA.

About 45% of the world population is in places where Covid-19 is no big deal: China, all of East Asia and Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand. A few island nations and isolated countries. When a disease is contained, it’s possible to keep it that way. Though it’s much harder when neighboring countries don’t have it under control.

About 5.5% of people in the US have been infected so far. Keep in mind that it takes roughly 80% to reach ‘herd immunity’. Take the pain of the past 10 months and multiply it by 15 to get there naturally. It’s why we need vaccines.

Dennis Kolva
Programming Director
TurtleSoft.com

The Economy (Dec 2)

TurtleSoft was born near the end of the Reagan presidency. Those were the days of “trickle-down” economics, with a top income tax rate of 28%. It had fallen steadily from 91% in 1963, to 70% during the 1970s, then to 50% and down during the Reagan years.

I read an article back then predicting that the new tax policy would shrink the US middle class. They expected good fortune for Walmart (more poor people) and for Tiffany’s and Neiman-Marcus (richer rich people), but problems for Sears (bye-bye middle class).

At the time it seemed like a bold prediction. But 30+ years later, the writer turned out to be spot on. Sears is almost dead. Walmart is thriving. Aside from Amazon, their biggest competition these days is the dollar stores, which cater to even poorer people. Tiffany’s and Neiman-Marcus are in trouble right now, but that’s mostly because the Internet and Covid-19 zapped walk-in retail. Or maybe it’s because the moderately rich are also shrinking. The ultra-rich can buy islands and politicians (thank you Citizens United vs FEC). They don’t need to show off with jewelry or designer clothes.

The divide keeps growing, with fewer in the middle.

Covid-19 is definitely impacting the economy very unequally. It’s accelerating a trend that was already moving at decent speed. This is a very bad time to own a restaurant, or any type of walk-in retail. It’s difficult for most service professionals. AirBnBs. Much of the gig economy. Even hospitals and medical workers are worse off: higher expenses, layoffs, and less profitable work.

Construction seems to be a mixed bag. One of my neighbors is a contractor who has kept busy since May. However, the biggest construction project in town finished last month after many delays, and it is still completely empty. Nobody wants to rent offices or apartments in a building with shared hallways. The second-biggest project shut down in April, and it is still just a partly-finished foundation and elevator towers. That’s got to be hard on owner cash flow.

I’m no economist. But as a small business owner and a developer of accounting software, I do know how to track money. As the pandemic slithers into its scariest phase, I think the US is at a crossroads.

The conservative viewpoint is that the deficit is huge, and it’s time to cut back. Based on past history, that usually leads to austerity, layoffs, bankruptcies, deflation. Money stops flowing, so it becomes more valuable. Recessions are a good chance for people with money to pick up assets cheap.

The liberal viewpoint is that people are hurting and need financial help. The US can borrow at close to 0% interest. The economy needs stimulating. Stimulus makes things better in the short run, but the debt eventually needs to be paid to those who provided the money. Mostly rich people & foreign governments.

Hopefully there is some middle ground, to keep things stable until vaccines are widely available. Then life can get back to something close to normal. If the money goes into things that create wealth in the long run, then it’s an even better investment.

Unfortunately, this year a lot of money is shifting from places suffering from pandemic (US, Europe, India, Africa) to countries that contained the disease (China and East Asia). It’s too late to do anything about that. Wealth is also shifting upwards to rich people, since they are relatively less affected.

Meanwhile, I’m keeping busy, trying to stay middle class. Goldenseal Pro is inching along. I think progress will speed up soon.

Dennis Kolva
Programming Director
TurtleSoft.com

Covid-19 Update (Nov 22)

Our staff is back to working on Goldenseal Pro, though no major progress to report yet.

Meanwhile, here’s a chart for new weekly Covid-19 infections in each region in the US:

The numbers are from Johns Hopkins University. I multiplied counts for the first few weeks by 5x, because testing was so sparse back then. There’s still lack of testing now, but not nearly as bad.

50 million people are predicted to travel for Thanksgiving, so the curves probably will get steeper.

Covid-19 is now worse than the first surge 7 months ago, but the US reaction is very different. Here’s a chart of restaurant activity from OpenTable. It covers the entire pandemic from Feb 18 until yesterday.

Between March 10 and March 20, every state dropped rapidly from normal to 0% or close. Starting in May, seatings inched back to 50% or 60% of usual in most places (Rhode Island went crazy with restaurant dining, while Hawaii and DC mostly stayed closed). Attendance has dropped off a little in the past month, but many people are still eating out like it’s 2019. Presumably they are doing other things that spread virus, also.

I don’t know what to say. It’s like watching two trains on the same track, headed towards each other. The Coronavirus train is much, much bigger.

Dennis Kolva
Programming Director
TurtleSoft.com

Covid-19 in New York #5: Early Signs (Nov 13)

Here in Ithaca, we just set a record for active Covid-19 cases and people in hospital. Nationally, the US is also setting records. Things are getting worse in every state except Mississippi.

Globally, much of Europe is shutting down. Meanwhile, the US is chugging along about like normal. OpenTable shows restaurant seating declines in a few states, but most are about the same as a few months ago.

Back in March, I posted a link that talked about how fast Covid-19 will hit. It’s worth revisiting, since conditions probably will be like that again, and soon. Except, this time it’s starting from higher ground. Most of the US is headed towards conditions that are similar to New York City last March.

My parents are in a nursing home in Cattaraugus County NY. It’s rural, just south of Buffalo NY. I check their Health Department website weekly, to get an idea of how things are going there. It’s the only nearby county with a write-up on every case: gender, symptoms, how they caught it, why they were tested.

The odds of catching Covid-19 are growing rapidly. It may outstrip the number of test kits (already happening in the Dakotas). So, I decided to put all the Cattaraugus data into Excel (633 cases), then do math on them. The results may be useful for anyone trying to figure whether they have Covid-19 or not.

60% of Cattaraugus cases are female, 40% male. 20% are health care workers or employees in hospitals or group homes. 47% reported close contact with a Covid-19 carrier. They may not have known it at the time. 8% caught it while traveling elsewhere. 92% were local transmission.

34% had no symptoms when tested (they may have developed some later).

On average, the other 66% reported 3.21 symptoms each. The most common were fever (43%), coughs (43%), congestion (36%), body aches (33%), and headaches (31%). 21% had loss of taste and/or smell. That’s the only one that is different from a bad cold or the flu.

14% had shortness of breath: the most scary sign, since most deaths are caused by respiratory failure.

Victims also reported the usual stuff: fatigue, sore throat, chills, runny nose, nausea, diarrhea, sinusitis, weakness, dizziness, chest pains, stomach pains, vomiting. Sneezing was rare: only 3 mentioned it.

UPDATE NOV 22: Cattaraugus had 52 positive tests on Nov 17. Then 30+ most days after that. Not surprisingly, they stopped listing details for every case and just give a summary now. I revised the percentages slightly, with a few days more data.

If you want one more way to track the pandemic, Carnegie-Mellon now has a website with Covid-19 maps. It uses Google and FaceBook data to track doctor visits, mask usage and other indicators.

Back in March, people changed their behavior very quickly. It happened in just a week or two, even before Governors shut down states. I’m curious to see if it happens again.

Dennis Kolva
Programming Director
TurtleSoft.com

Health Departments & Politics (Oct 21)

I’ve been more than a bit obsessed with Covid-19 since it started. For a while it was almost a full-time gig. These days it’s calmed down to just a few hours a week: reading science papers, and spot-checking a few websites.

Among them are sites for Health Departments in some nearby counties. They vary. All have current numbers, but some break it down by towns; some give a brief description of each case; some have lists of places where infected people visited. Right after the Sturgis rally, Cattaraugus County (4 to the west) even mentioned that two cases were in people just returned from South Dakota. That’s a long motorcycle ride.

The sites are entertaining, in a geeky sort of way. I keep adding more counties, and now visit 15 of their sites. Reading between the lines, they paint a picture of what the pandemic must be like for staff in local Health Departments.

Pre-Covid, their biggest job was inspecting restaurants and other food services. Keep perishables below 45° or above 145°F, don’t put meat above salads in the fridge, control rodents and the like. They also administered WIC, and tried to keep people from catching STDs or growing too obese. Flu shots. Toxic algae blooms. Ticks and Lyme disease. Mosquitoes and West Nile. Opioids. Tobacco. Rabies.

Most of these departments are pretty small. They already had a lot on their plate. This year they’ve been in crisis mode for seven months already, and the battle has just started.

Contact tracing and quarantines are an important part of controlling a communicable disease like Covid-19. That’s mostly what they do now. I’m sure it is not an easy job. You’ve got to ask people where they’ve been, and who they were close to. Then persuade them to stay home for a couple weeks. Plenty of people resent authority or think it’s all a hoax. Even the best will be tempted to sneak out for a bit. You’ve got to deal with all that, and probably don’t have much enforcement power.

Normally I avoid talking about politics. As a business owner, I’m significantly less liberal than most folks here in Ithaca. As an Ithacan, I’m more liberal than most people using our software. It’s not worth arguing about.

Thing is, right now the US probably is headed into a major emergency. A once in a century situation. It’s right in the middle of an election for President, all of the House and 1/3 of Senators. Plus local races.

Both political parties got together in March, and signed the CARES act to support people and organizations affected by the pandemic. Since then, it’s been gridlock and antagonism.

All those local Health Departments will make the difference between a moderately bad Fall/Winter season for Covid-19, and a runaway disaster (or lock-downs and economic damage). To keep everyone safe, they need more staff to trace contacts. More tests. More resources to support folks in quarantine so they don’t wander off and infect others. Problem is, the states and counties that pay them are facing bigger expenses, and reduced revenues. They can’t print money to make up the difference. They need help.

And of course, many individual people are in the same boat. Life got a lot more complicated and generally worse in March. It’s not turning any corners, anytime soon. It will take extremely competent leadership to manage the next phase of the pandemic, and recover from the economic damage. States and counties can only do so much. Covid-19 is exactly the kind of problem that needs full attention at the Federal level. It’s not happening now.

You might say this country needs to come together to fight a common enemy: the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. And maybe come together for other stuff also. Life was already headed downhill for many people, even before March 2020.

I miss the days when there were liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. When politicians compromised and solved problems (at least some of the time). Voting in a politician is a lot like hiring an employee or subcontractor. In the end, competence and integrity are what counts.

Dennis Kolva
Programming Director
TurtleSoft.com