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An Alternative View: Going stir crazy — but still wearing my mask

A man walks past CVS Pharmacy in downtown Palo Alto on April 29. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Say goodbye to asking your neighbors over for a drink or a barbecue any time soon — such activities could be prohibited for quite awhile because of the rising coronavirus rates statewide and in Santa Clara County.

Is it a wise move by the government, or is it just a mean ban on socializing with our friends and family?

Diana Diamond is a longtime Palo Alto journalist, editor and author of the blog "An Alternative View," on PaloAltoOnline.com. Courtesy Diana Diamond.

During our stay-at-home period, I've been very conscientious about avoiding contact with others, mostly because I know I have less immunity to the virus than when I was 30 or 40, and because this is a ghastly, painful disease that I just don't want to suffer through. I wear masks when I am near others, and we haven't had a single person socially come in our home or backyard.

Yes, every once in a while (like Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays), I either go stir crazy or figuratively climb the walls.

Some of my friends have entertained in their backyards, telling me they "make all the food, everyone wears masks, and we socially distance ourselves when together." I think they are just trying to make themselves feel virtuous.

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Two Saturdays ago, for the first time in four months, my husband and I went over to visit a friend whose wife recently died. He was starving for company, too. We had a delightful, fun time and intended to observe all the rules.

We came with our masks on, did not walk through his house and sat on the patio with a pleasant breeze blowing. He served us wine.

I haven't yet figured out how to drink red wine through my mask. I couldn't quite get the liquid into my mouth. So off the mask came. Back on after the first sip, then off, then on, then a "hell with this" response on my part.

He served takeout pizza and a salad. Although we were sitting 8 feet apart, we all had to pull our chairs to the table to eat off plates. Our social distance collapsed to 2 feet.

By the end of dinner, and starting on my second glass of wine, my mask stayed around my neck. Then we talked about food, travel and the election and the virus for more than an hour.

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When I came home, I realized that I certainly didn't properly distance myself all evening long.

That's why I support the county's ban, which may expand to other counties, because as well intentioned as we may be, social distancing is near impossible when you eat or drink with another person. In fact, under the county's mandatory directive for outdoor dining, meeting friends or family from another household for outdoor dining is prohibited. It states: "Everyone sharing a table must be from the same household." I agree with this measure because I don't want more people dying.

The federal government certainly has not helped in clarifying any rules about how best to avoid contaminating others — only "wash your hands." But there's not a national wear-a-mask requirement or even consistent rules on how many people can be together at the same time.

County responses are completely uncoordinated. Two weeks ago, I could eat indoors in a Menlo Park restaurant but only outdoors in Palo Alto. I could get my hair cut in some nearby cities, but not Palo Alto until Monday, July 13, and then by Wednesday, July 15, hair salons were closed again. Last Tuesday the rule was I could get a haircut or pedicure outside.

As we all know, this virus knows no city, county or even country boundaries, so just because a pedicure is available in one city doesn't mean that salon is protected from the virus while a mile away another salon is not.

Bars should be closed because people drink and talk at bars and sit next to each other, and there's no way we can protect ourselves from one another.

One of my grandsons had the coronavirus, which he picked up at a newly opened bar in "college town" — luckily a very mild case. As he was getting better, he said, "Now I can go to a bar because I have immunity from that virus." I replied, "For two weeks, the doctors say."

I also think the virus continues to spread because many think if they feel OK, then they don't have to worry, without ever realizing they can be carriers — silently spreading the virus among us. That's why we have to wear masks, to protect ourselves, but more importantly, to protect all those around us. NBC reported recently that doctors think 51% of the new virus victims are the result of being exposed to people who didn't know they transmitted the disease.

Americans, I think, tend to take things less seriously than people in Europe. America has soaring death rates — the fourth-highest in the world — but we don't seem really alarmed. One 25-year-old on Memorial Day said, "I just want to party all weekend and see my friends and go to bars because I am tired of this coronavirus."

With that attitude, the virus will continue to spread.

We have no real solution yet to ridding this country of the virus, except by a yet-undiscovered vaccine. But polls so far show that only 50% of the population said they would get a vaccine.

The only temporary solution is wearing a mask. So wear a mask. Don't harm others.

If we get California under control, maybe we can be a model for other states to do likewise.

Diana Diamond is a longtime Palo Alto journalist, editor and author of the blog "An Alternative View," which can be found here. You can email her at [email protected].

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An Alternative View: Going stir crazy — but still wearing my mask

by / Contributor

Uploaded: Fri, Jul 31, 2020, 6:57 am

Say goodbye to asking your neighbors over for a drink or a barbecue any time soon — such activities could be prohibited for quite awhile because of the rising coronavirus rates statewide and in Santa Clara County.

Is it a wise move by the government, or is it just a mean ban on socializing with our friends and family?

During our stay-at-home period, I've been very conscientious about avoiding contact with others, mostly because I know I have less immunity to the virus than when I was 30 or 40, and because this is a ghastly, painful disease that I just don't want to suffer through. I wear masks when I am near others, and we haven't had a single person socially come in our home or backyard.

Yes, every once in a while (like Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays), I either go stir crazy or figuratively climb the walls.

Some of my friends have entertained in their backyards, telling me they "make all the food, everyone wears masks, and we socially distance ourselves when together." I think they are just trying to make themselves feel virtuous.

Two Saturdays ago, for the first time in four months, my husband and I went over to visit a friend whose wife recently died. He was starving for company, too. We had a delightful, fun time and intended to observe all the rules.

We came with our masks on, did not walk through his house and sat on the patio with a pleasant breeze blowing. He served us wine.

I haven't yet figured out how to drink red wine through my mask. I couldn't quite get the liquid into my mouth. So off the mask came. Back on after the first sip, then off, then on, then a "hell with this" response on my part.

He served takeout pizza and a salad. Although we were sitting 8 feet apart, we all had to pull our chairs to the table to eat off plates. Our social distance collapsed to 2 feet.

By the end of dinner, and starting on my second glass of wine, my mask stayed around my neck. Then we talked about food, travel and the election and the virus for more than an hour.

When I came home, I realized that I certainly didn't properly distance myself all evening long.

That's why I support the county's ban, which may expand to other counties, because as well intentioned as we may be, social distancing is near impossible when you eat or drink with another person. In fact, under the county's mandatory directive for outdoor dining, meeting friends or family from another household for outdoor dining is prohibited. It states: "Everyone sharing a table must be from the same household." I agree with this measure because I don't want more people dying.

The federal government certainly has not helped in clarifying any rules about how best to avoid contaminating others — only "wash your hands." But there's not a national wear-a-mask requirement or even consistent rules on how many people can be together at the same time.

County responses are completely uncoordinated. Two weeks ago, I could eat indoors in a Menlo Park restaurant but only outdoors in Palo Alto. I could get my hair cut in some nearby cities, but not Palo Alto until Monday, July 13, and then by Wednesday, July 15, hair salons were closed again. Last Tuesday the rule was I could get a haircut or pedicure outside.

As we all know, this virus knows no city, county or even country boundaries, so just because a pedicure is available in one city doesn't mean that salon is protected from the virus while a mile away another salon is not.

Bars should be closed because people drink and talk at bars and sit next to each other, and there's no way we can protect ourselves from one another.

One of my grandsons had the coronavirus, which he picked up at a newly opened bar in "college town" — luckily a very mild case. As he was getting better, he said, "Now I can go to a bar because I have immunity from that virus." I replied, "For two weeks, the doctors say."

I also think the virus continues to spread because many think if they feel OK, then they don't have to worry, without ever realizing they can be carriers — silently spreading the virus among us. That's why we have to wear masks, to protect ourselves, but more importantly, to protect all those around us. NBC reported recently that doctors think 51% of the new virus victims are the result of being exposed to people who didn't know they transmitted the disease.

Americans, I think, tend to take things less seriously than people in Europe. America has soaring death rates — the fourth-highest in the world — but we don't seem really alarmed. One 25-year-old on Memorial Day said, "I just want to party all weekend and see my friends and go to bars because I am tired of this coronavirus."

With that attitude, the virus will continue to spread.

We have no real solution yet to ridding this country of the virus, except by a yet-undiscovered vaccine. But polls so far show that only 50% of the population said they would get a vaccine.

The only temporary solution is wearing a mask. So wear a mask. Don't harm others.

If we get California under control, maybe we can be a model for other states to do likewise.

Diana Diamond is a longtime Palo Alto journalist, editor and author of the blog "An Alternative View," which can be found here. You can email her at [email protected].

Comments

Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2020 at 7:47 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 31, 2020 at 7:47 am
13 people like this

We can wear masks, lock ourselves in our homes, walk 10' away from anyone we meet while walking in the streets, never see a smile, not even to recognize if that sunglassed masked figure is a friend or a stranger as we pass on the other side of the street, make brief visits to grocery stores, or even eat at a favorite outside dining establishment with a household member, and still the virus lingers. Costco is the latest venue that has clusters of infection! But is Costco closed? No. They are essential. San Mateo is likely to close all its gyms and salons tomorrow, but has there been one case in San Mateo linked to a gym or a hair salon?

We are being treated like pawns in a game. We are being punished unrelentlessly. It isn't whether or not we want haircuts or to work out at a gym, it is whether or not the people who work in them can earn enough money to pay their bills, or the owners to pay their rent. We are hearing every day about restaurants and stores closing for good. The latest news talks about bowling alleys. These establishments have been obeying the rules, and the consequence for them is that they are bankrupt. The consequences for us is that when the virus is stemmed in whatever way that happens, we will be surrounded by empty storefronts and nothing to do for leisure or exercise.

The repercussions of the pandemic are not just health, but socialization and economic.


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 7:52 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 7:52 am
7 people like this

With the current level of infection in San Mateo County and the Bay area we should all be going back to a full shelter in place.

We cannot stop the virus with this rate of infection, the low rate of quick turn around testing and minimal contact tracing.

I am not willing to see more deaths just so people can go to the gym or hair salon.

"Is there any logical reasons for keeping Costco with cases open and closing businesses that have no cases?"

Yes - it is a risk/benefit calculation.

What is being kept open are essential business and those businesses are required to enforce mask and social distancing to minimize the risk of transmission.

People have to eat but we do not have to go to the gym or to the hair salon.

The US is now having one preventable death every minute. Why has that somehow become acceptable?

The evidence is clear that the more human interacting, particularly indoors, the greater the risk of infection.

We can learn both from other countries/states successes and from history:

Web Link

Or we can continue to have more people get sick and die.

France is an excellent example of a poor start followed by a lockdown and a very careful controlled reopening with extensive testing and tracing:

"But while the outbreak occurred primarily in only two parts of France, French President Emmanuel Macron imposed a severe, nationwide lockdown on March 16. And during that lockdown, the government put extensive testing and contact tracing in place. Almost exactly two months later, France mostly reopened. And for the last two and a half months, the country has functioned in a primarily open status with around 500 new cases per day and only about 450 deaths in the last month."

Web Link

The US on the other hand paid the price of a patchy lockdown but received none of the benefits because the necessary and promised testing and tracing has not occurred.

A blindfolded public health system cannot stop this virus.

Here are the per capita death rates:
US 467 per million
France 463
Canada 236
World 86
Finland 59
Norway 47
Cuba 8
S.Korea 6
New Zealand 4
Vietnam 0


fatalties
College Terrace
on Jul 31, 2020 at 9:46 am
fatalties, College Terrace
on Jul 31, 2020 at 9:46 am
18 people like this

A couple of weeks ago, California first started recording 100 COVID-19 fatalities per day. This week, we hit 150 fatalities/day, just for California. COVID-19 is getting worse and poor social distancing is a big part of that. Some of the problem is employers who are not protecting their employees very well. Another big part of this is social gatherings at churches and restaurants and backyards. Younger people may not experience terrible symptoms, but they are spreading the disease to their parents who are making up that 150 fatalities/day number.

This is not the time to be selfish. Protect your family by obeying the social distancing and mask wearing rules. Do you hate your parents so much that you want them to die painfully?


a resident
Community Center
on Jul 31, 2020 at 3:47 pm
a resident, Community Center
on Jul 31, 2020 at 3:47 pm
11 people like this

The virus is not going away. It will spread. Lockdowns just add devastation to the damage that the virus is doing. Stop acting like if we were all just good little boys and girls that the monster would go away. You have to come out of hiding and start contributing to society again.

We have to grow up and figure out how to manage this risk, as with ALL OTHER RISKS WE ENCOUNTER in life which together completely overwhelm the risk associated with C19 (although covid is the only one that gets any attention so it looms very large).


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 4:01 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 4:01 pm
7 people like this

"The virus is not going away." Correct

"It will spread." ONLY if we continue to do stupid things like reopening without quick turn around testing and contact tracing.

Look what France, South Korea and New Zealand have accomplished - and not just by being good little boys and girls. They have figured out exactly how to manage the risks of Covid 19 as a PRECONDITION of dealing with all the other risks in life.


Nayeli
Midtown
on Jul 31, 2020 at 5:43 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
on Jul 31, 2020 at 5:43 pm
22 people like this

@ Peter Carpenter - Do you have a citation for those rates? Even if they are true, I think that our rate would be considerably lower if the mishandling in the greater New York City region has been better handled. That was a debacle of the highest order.

I would offer a different potential set of policies to handle this type of pandemic.

Apparently, those who are at greatest risk are the elderly and those with preexisting conditions (primarily issues with the lungs/breathing or clotting).

Of the 191 COVID-19 related deaths in Santa Clara County (~2 Million population):

- ZERO children or adults under the age of 30 have died.
- 68.1% were over the age of 70
- 45.6% were over the age of 80
- 21.5% were over the age of 90
- 13.1% were not due to comorbidity (more than one cause)

Web Link

These statistics are interesting. As of today in our county, there have been 9,931 known cases. There have been 191 deaths associated with COVID-19. This means that 9,740 people who contracted COVID-19 have not died. While just 8.8% of the total cases are over the age of 70, they represent 68.1% of the deaths.

So, my proposition would be to continue a shelter-in-place for the elderly as well as those at risk due to a preexisting health issue. I believe that the federal government (as part of the next CARE or HEAL act) should reimburse companies to continue paying the wages of the individuals who cannot work from home but aren't permitted at their place of employment.

The rest of us should continue to maintain proper social distancing and masks in public places as well as vocational areas. I don't think that it is wise to shut down the entire economy when there is only a readily-identified group that is most at risk of serious long-term issues or death from COVID-19.

I read some paper last week that stated that Americans have gained an average of 10 pounds since this crisis started. This is due to a lower level of exercise from walking around work, school, etc. Moreover, many people chose to eat fast food more often. I wonder what effect these newly acquired habits have on the collective health of the nation.


Wut?
Palo Alto High School
on Jul 31, 2020 at 5:44 pm
Wut?, Palo Alto High School
on Jul 31, 2020 at 5:44 pm
3 people like this

With all due respect, Diana, your headline is:
"An Alternative View: Going stir crazy — but still wearing my mask" but you wrote:

"He served takeout pizza and a salad. Although we were sitting 8 feet apart, we all had to pull our chairs to the table to eat off plates. Our social distance collapsed to 2 feet.

By the end of dinner, and starting on my second glass of wine, my mask stayed around my neck. . . When I came home, I realized that I certainly didn't properly distance myself all evening long."



Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 9:20 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 9:20 pm
1 person likes this

@ Peter Carpenter - Do you have a citation for those rates?

Web Link


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 9:23 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 9:23 pm
2 people like this

"The rest of us should continue to maintain proper social distancing and masks in public places as well as vocational areas."

The problem is that many people are not "maintain proper social distancing and masks in public places as well as vocational areas."

Either we do it right or we should not bother because a 70% compliance rates still results in a spreading epidemic.


Nayeli
Midtown
on Jul 31, 2020 at 9:36 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
on Jul 31, 2020 at 9:36 pm
15 people like this

@ Peter Carpenter: Thanks for that link. However, I don't know just how credible that might be. I've seen some "World-o-Meters" items in the past that weren't accurate.

While the figures for some countries (like the United States) might be accurate, there are other countries who have somewhat "suspect" figures. This is especially true for countries with more expansive testing.

70%? Is it really that high? Compliance stats via Gallup were much lower for every section of the nation. Only the Northeast hit 70% -- before sinking to 64% a few weeks later.

So, a 70% compliance rate is actually pretty good. At the same time, I think that the primary method of prevention -- social distancing and masks -- should be followed.

I just wonder if the approach from the start should have been to focus on the elderly and those at risk for death or long-term physical debilitation. In terms of completely shutting down the economy when the rate of death is fairly low -- particularly if we sheltered those at risk -- is still somewhat perplexing.


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 9:45 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
on Jul 31, 2020 at 9:45 pm
Like this comment

How in the world do you consider one death every minute as low?

As to accuracy of world o meters they cite their sources and their data is consistent with every other site I follow.


Nayeli
Midtown
on Jul 31, 2020 at 11:21 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
on Jul 31, 2020 at 11:21 pm
11 people like this

@ Peter Carpenter - I think that you misunderstood.

I never said that "one death every minute is low." Rather, I simply mentioned an alternative legislative policy approach that could permit the rethinking of total shutdowns if "the RATE of death is fairly low -- particularly if we sheltered those at risk."

As for the World-o-meter's accuracy: Again, my issue is with "all things being equal." Some countries don't test as widely as others. Other countries might not report accurate figures either. More importantly, every country has entirely different sets of legislation regarding COVID-19 prevention requirements. Thus, the reported figures aren't particularly helpful for comparison's sake.


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park
on Aug 1, 2020 at 8:11 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
on Aug 1, 2020 at 8:11 am
2 people like this

"I never said that "one death every minute is low."

You did state "In terms of completely shutting down the economy when the rate of death is fairly low -- particularly if we sheltered those at risk -- is still somewhat perplexing."

Our current "fairly low" death rate is one per minute.

It seems that you are proposing the herd immunity strategy in which millions would die.

*********

"As for the World-o-meter's accuracy:" it correlates with every other COVID source that I use and it posts the data sooner than most.


Nayeli
Midtown
on Aug 1, 2020 at 9:53 am
Nayeli, Midtown
on Aug 1, 2020 at 9:53 am
8 people like this

@ Peter Carpenter - Again, I believe that you misunderstood me. I never said that "one death every minute is low." Again, I was considering possible alternative set legislative policy approaches.

Given the fact that the statistics show who is most at risk, I think that our federal, state and local policies should accommodate for them. This is especially true if "the RATE of death is fairly low -- particularly if we sheltered those at risk." If that wasn't clear in the initial post that you misquoted, then I hope that each of my subsequent posts has made it clear.

I am not advocating for a total "herd immunity" approach either. While I am not sure about the validity of claiming that "millions would die" from that approach, my view is that a herd mentality approach (like what is being done in Sweden) in a nation of our size would overwhelm our health care system.

People are dying from COVID-19 -- no matter the approach that any nation will take. People will continue to contract it. Some of those people will die. Yet, we now know which people are most at risk of dying. These are primarily the elderly and those with specific types of preexisting health conditions.

Our approach to COVID-19 should primarily focus on helping those individuals who are at greatest risk. The policies that our leaders take should reflect this. They should be sheltered in place.

I would argue that the government should subsidize the incomes of those individuals throughout this time in which their shelter-in-place is required. In fact, I would argue that local government should work with the state and federal governments to distribute food and supplies to such individuals so that those individuals do not have to go out and get them.

At the same time, a total shutdown of counties and states (and their respective economies) might not be the best route. While I might be at-risk of contracting COVID-19, I am not at a particularly high risk of death. The same is true with most people.

I am not saying that every office, place of business or government should be open. I am saying that many of them can be -- with appropriate steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Moreover, I would argue that the government should offer tax incentives to avoid laying off employees and allow people to work from home too.

The problem in our nation is that we don't have one overarching central government. The federal government (including the legislature and White House) is limited when it comes to governing every state and municipality during a pandemic like this. Instead, the United States has 50 state governments, 3,141 county governments and nearly 20,000 incorporated municipalities. The states arguably have more power than the federal government in these matters.

Unfortunately, there is little reciprocity in the laws and policies made by each of these governments. Since a state cannot close its borders and shut out residents of other states, the policies of one government have the habit of overlapping another.

So, if Nevada, Arizona, Oregon or Mexico decides that it will not require masks or shelter-in-place rules for anyone, those individuals (with a probable higher rate of COVID-19) still have access to our state. Given their proximity, those individuals are at a much greater likelihood to infect people in this state.

This is why I think that the controlled approach that focuses on those at risk of death is the most vital approach -- regardless of the aims of other macroeconomic legislative decisions. Yes, people will still contract COVID-19. People are going to get it. Some people will die from it. The point is to safeguard those who are most at-risk and then come up with policies that are the best alternative for everyone else.


Common sense
Mountain View
on Aug 1, 2020 at 10:48 am
Common sense, Mountain View
on Aug 1, 2020 at 10:48 am
6 people like this

Summary headline to Diana's article says "We have no real solution yet to ridding this country of the virus, except by a yet-undiscovered vaccine."

Diana, you keep asserting that assumption; I assume you believe it. But it isn't true, never has been, and seems to me a strange perspective after five months of public information.

The 1918-19 lethal flu pandemic, with a similar person-to-person transmission mechanism, was stopped without vaccines, without specific treatment, and without everyone getting the disease. Once everyone finally became serious about avoiding crowds and wearing masks in public, the epidemic stopped spreading and died out. That experience formed the basis for the self-quarantining advice we got since in March, and the masks since.

Secondarily -- despite the ever-hopeful pronouncements of officials -- antiviral vaccines are uncertain in several ways, and at best are slow in coming. Had everyone taken basic low-tech anti-epidemic steps to heart early on, the world might have ended this in April. The epidemic continues only as long as people keep passing it to each other.


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park
on Aug 1, 2020 at 10:48 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
on Aug 1, 2020 at 10:48 am
5 people like this

Given the US's widespread and uncontrolled pandemic the only way to get control is with a single, coordinated, nation wide strategy.

The US if faced with a unique situation where we have thousands of hot spots - many of which we only discover when people get sick enough to seek medical care.

So we first have to have widespread sheltering in place UNTIL we can test quickly and widely and then contact trace every infected person.

Again look at South Korea, New Zealand, Vietnam - they have proven that this works and they have reopened their economies.

We did a half-hearted, slipshod effort at containment and failed miserably.

Now we have to go back stage 1 and do it right.

Or we will simply continue down the road of a death every minute and a shackled economy - a lose -lose strategy.


stephen levy
University South
on Aug 1, 2020 at 2:16 pm
stephen levy, University South
on Aug 1, 2020 at 2:16 pm
10 people like this

I think the focus on deaths alone leads to bad policy.

People who do not die can face serious and sometimes reoccurring illness with loss of income and family disruptions.

This is true for the younger folks who are leading the surge in cases.

My read of the health experts is stop the spread first then start to reopen beyond essential activities.

And there is the danger that young people who might have mild cases spreading the virus to people at more risk


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park
on Aug 1, 2020 at 8:26 pm
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
on Aug 1, 2020 at 8:26 pm
4 people like this

We should recognize that San Mateo County is having to backup because of people who are not wearing masks and who are not social distancing.

The very people who demanded more "freedom" are the ones responsible for us having less freedom.

Actions and inactions have consequences.


Peter Carpenter
Menlo Park
on Aug 2, 2020 at 7:45 am
Peter Carpenter, Menlo Park
on Aug 2, 2020 at 7:45 am
Like this comment

"The coronavirus is spreading at dangerous levels across much of the United States, and public health experts are demanding a dramatic reset in the national response, one that recognizes that the crisis is intensifying and that current piecemeal strategies aren’t working."

Web Link


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