Good News, Bad News

Listen to this episode

S1: I cannot swear to you that there is swearing on this show, but there might be. It’s the kind of behavior I engage in.

S2: Wednesday, April 22nd. Twenty twenty from Slate. It’s the gist. I’m Mike PESCA.

S3: Now that we’ve got all the time on our hands that we could use, we could either out or no. Listen to the ring cycle at half speed to revel in all the details of the bassoon. Or we could begin jigsaw projects, namely the honing and forging of a jigsaw with an anvil manually.

Advertisement

S1: I want to point something out about all the time we have on our hands now. We don’t all have all the time in the world on our hands. Some of us are working in grocery stores or pharmacies or takeout restaurants or even medical facilities, maybe wishing they had late texts on their hands because they have no time. Some of us are actually working harder than ever and maybe for less money than usual. Others of us don’t view the downtime as leisure opportunities rather than moments of dread. I get talking about our moment as a sense of shared experience. I understand the inclination. It’s also quite accurate to talk about more time on our hands, and it’s good to have a general esprit de corps talking about the perceived experience of most Americans and of the millions and millions of people are just looking to fill the days. But I also note that in matters of race, sex, orientation, disability, we’ve all become quite sensitized. And even in areas like Neurotypical City, which I never heard of two years ago, or immigration status, which I did but didn’t think of in terms of talking sensitively, we’re usually reminded, hey, not everyone is in the same camp. So a listener wrote me recently and said, you know, I’m not going to work every day. And this was in response to something I said, an assumption. Hey. With all this time on our hands kind of statement. And she wrote, I’m not a hero in health care. No. I walk forty five minutes to work every day and I work my ass off when I get there. She works at a wine shop slash liquor store, which can be open and should be open. I patronize them. She fills orders, but she hears all these conversations and says, you know, it’s just not my reality. She also writes, It’s such a stupid thing to have stuck in my craw, but I feel like we live in different worlds. But I think that’s a good point and not for the general reasons of flaying anyone who expresses anything deemed insensitive by the most sensitive among us. That is quite popular now. Dear sir, you said I was blind to the truth. That is a slur. As a sufferer of a brain malady, I cannot detect truth from fiction. It’s a serious condition, although I happen to be blind now. As I’ve described before, I put a lot a lot of thought into the words I use. The usage, the assumptions inherent in these words and labels. And sometimes like I’ve used the expression that’s lame and gotten some pushback, but I stand by it. I’m not going to go out of my way to say it, but I do think Lahm has known connotations and those connotations don’t really actually impugn people with disabilities. Not really. Not in 2020, whereas words like policemen should in fact be retired because they’re outdated. Also because policemen have good pensions. You know, the time you put in your 20 years and you become a fisher. I do think the inaccuracy is, though, of broad generalizations should be paid attention to, not because they hurt anyone’s feelings, but just because accuracy is important. It is inaccurate to say we’re all in the same boat. And if people like me stop saying this on a show like this, maybe people like you, which includes people like me when I listen to other shows like this. Maybe we’ll stop assuming that it is true and that will actually increase the amount of knowledge and accuracy in the world. That is my goal for the day in public, in personal communications. Don’t assume we’re all in the same boat. The boats are different. They’re all being piloted by different oars. People on the show today. I shpiel about Mayor Goodmans plan for Las Vegas. Neither good nor a man, nor a plan, nor actually mayor of what most of us think of as Las Vegas. Discuss. I will. But first, part two of our interview.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S4: Looking back at the Spanish influenza of 1918 and 1919, J. Alex Navarro of the University of Michigan on the pandemic of yesteryear and its resonances today.

S1: Yesterday, historian J. Alex Navarro, lead researcher behind the influenza encyclopedia. Talk with me about the responses to the outbreak that killed six hundred seventy five thousand Americans over 100 years ago. The Philadelphia parades, the San Francisco masks. Now we find out about the Brian Kemp or Carolyn Goodman of his era. A fellow named Charles P. Guillen, who looked at thousands of diagnosed cases in Newark, New Jersey, and thought those people need a stiff drink, thus causing researcher Alex Navarro to conclude alley in Newark.

S5: Just what? New York was crazy. Newark had these crazy. Newark had a mayor who just did not like the closure order, did not believe in the closure order, it was handed down by state authorities now by the state board of Health. He refused to fully comply with it at the last minute. He decides, OK, we have to go along with this. It’s a state order. But he changes the the saloon provision. So saloons are supposed to close, not and not every city, close saloons. And there’s a whole discussion as to why. But he decided he was gonna allow saloons to remain open to what became known as a side door business. So he couldn’t have patrons in the bar, but they could sell liquor through the side door with a prescription. Well, one got a prescription. People went into the businesses anyway, and proprietors in a bartenders would just tell people, OK, just stay out of view from the door. So pro-cop is walking by the front door. They don’t see you. He. The police force decides that they’re going to uphold the state order. So he’s at odds with his own police force. One of the city’s newspapers and I say you mentioned about newspaper coverage. The Newark Evening News, which was sort of the paper of record for the city. They printed this op ed attacking the mayor. So he turns around and threatens to shut the newspaper down for being a public health nuisance. Then unilateralists, the closure orders when the state hadn’t lifted them yet and says, well, their own their only mental place as long as the epidemic is around. And Newark has passed its peak, of course. They were past the peak. But that doesn’t mean you’re past the epidemic. You’re only the halfway point. He at one point invites a bunch of his associates and they go into a saloon. They order a round of drinks for everyone. Just at that point, the police commissioner was tipped off. So he shows up with his inspector. They walk in. They order the bartender to stop. The mayor goes out and yells at the police commissioner. The committee police commissioner basically comes in and shuts the entire saloon down anyway. And then it went on a didn’t just let it go even after the state removed the closure orders. This is a huge fight over who had the legal authority to do that between the city, the state, the city board of Health, the state board of Health. And it was really not entirely certain who had authority to issue this closure order. So in most cases, people just complied. But, you know, it wasn’t entirely sure who had authority. So if somebody like, you know, Mayor gillean of Newark wanted to complaining about it, it seems like he may have had the authority under New Jersey home rule to do that.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Charles P. Guillen, no statues of him exist. No. But how did how did Newark do with a decimated Newark?

S5: Was it decimated? But, you know, like most East Coast cities, they did not do all that well. In fact, mean you can look it up right here in Newark. So Newark had we cascade this excess death rate and they had an excess death rate of five hundred and thirty three deaths per 100000. And it had a public health response time of 10 days. And they only kept their gathering bans in place for 33 days, which was really low compared to other places.

S3: Yeah. So as I read through the archive. Couple observations. One is, you know, you don’t see mentioned too often, certainly not as often as the equivalent person is mentioned today is Woodrow Wilson just had the presidency didn’t have that role of solving people’s problems throughout the country in 1918, 1919, like it does today.

Advertisement

S5: Absolutely. Yes. So it’s sort of in some ways by design at least. And also because if there was going to be a president who was going to come out and take charge, it was certainly not going to be Woodrow Wilson on this issue. You know, he was very much preoccupied with the war effort, although although Princeton did shut down, as you said, Princeton did. Yeah, he was yeah. He had been the president there and had been the governor of New Jersey. You know, Wilson was definitely preoccupied with the war effort, but people didn’t really look to the federal government to have a response. It really wasn’t, you know, aside from the public health service, which did exist and did give recommendations and issue circulars about how to avoid influenza and some recommendations about what cities and states could do. There really wasn’t a federal response in the military. There was the military at least concerning the military camps and troop mobilization. But that was about it. You know, places people would have looked to their to their local leaders and to to some extent to their state leaders for guidance on how to best handle the epidemic. Although we are into well into germ theory by this point, as I mentioned earlier, people didn’t know as a virus. So the medical care was also different. So there was a little bit of a sense of the war is more important. People sort of died of infectious diseases at much higher rates than we’re used to today. So I think a little bit of that played a role into why people weren’t necessarily as concerned about it as we might expect, given how deadly it was. You know, there’s just other things going on. That’s not to say that it didn’t impact people. They didn’t think about it. But I think compared to today, it was definitely a different time.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: That was the other observation I was going to make. There was less what to modernize. My modernized would read as sentimentality or sensitivity. It was during a war and life was, I suppose, cheaper. And this isn’t to say that people didn’t mourn the loss of loved ones, but that was also common as well. And then the last thing to note with why there might. It might seem a bit insensitive, might have to do with just the standards of newspaper reporting at the time of what you say in public. But it did strike me that the coverage was if occasionally a little bit maudlin in the language, but mostly just straight ahead, unsentimental and talking about deaths quite matter of factly. And in fact, almost at a remove, almost antiseptic.

Advertisement

S5: Yeah, I would agree with that. You know, the one thing that stands out and I think it stands out because of that point, you just made it. There were a couple of articles that came out of Chicago that talked about some of the tragedies to come out of some of the families. You know, one guy, his whole family was sick. He went out to look for a physician for them. And, of course, is in a time when we have any kind of health care coverage. So if you couldn’t afford a physician, you had to rely on charity and physicians and nurses were in short supply. As you might imagine, this is not only wartime. So many of them and taken away for the war effort. But now the ones who are still in the cities and communities are overwhelmed with influenza cases. So he’s wandering the streets of Chicago looking for a physician, couldn’t find one and became so depressed he jumped off one of the bridges into the Chicago River and killed himself. You know, and so we see some of the stories like that, but they were very rare. You’re right. Most of the reporting is simply sort of matter of fact, what the health commissioner said, what the mayor announced, what the state authorities are saying, and, you know, how many people died yesterday or how many cases that were reported today. And that’s that’s sort of about it.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Yeah. And I’ve been reading a lot of the sports reporting and the tone is almost always the grifters can field an honest eleven rah rah. There there’s no thought of not playing the game. If the game is called off, it’s only because some of the teams have people stricken by influenza. It’s not out of this concern for social distancing. I mean, let’s remember, there is a war going on. Maybe that’s the bigger concern. I tried to compare it to the sports coverage of today with a lot of, I think, good questions about what the moral and ethical stances and see a whiff of the ethical when related to recreation and sporting activity in the coverage of the time.

Advertisement

S5: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think one of the interesting things is that because of the war effort, you get this hyper sense of patriotism. Now, that does play a little bit of a role in terms of things like masking in San Francisco. You know, the mask people are trying to position wearing your mask as somehow being patriotic, you know, and there’s something called the Committee on Public Information, which is operating at the federal level. It’s Wilson sort of propaganda arm that’s really pushing Liberty loan drives and that sort of thing. So, you know, people are being fed this information. But again, it’s against this backdrop where certainly compared to today and how we think of death and disease today, you know, we don’t have the same expectation that people are gonna die. We have an expectation that if you get sick, you go to the hospital and the hospitals and physicians and nurses and all the other health care professionals. There are miracle workers and they can save us. Back then, that was not the case. There was no safety net socially. So if you were poor and many of these cities were talking about poor immigrants and poor workers, you got very basic health care that was basically paid for by charity or in some cities they did have outlays of money to to help the indigent, you know, in places like Philly. There were so many deaths, especially among the poor, where families couldn’t afford to bury them or claim the bodies. They were buried in potter’s fields with unclaimed bodies, just with steam shovels, digging mass trenches. You know, that was just sort of part of life in a way that it is not today.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: Just from our conversation, I glean that you are not one of these people who will thump on a table and say, you fools, don’t you see you’re making the same mistakes again? You seem to have some humility about applying the lessons of the past to today. With that noted. Have you watched any of our current policies play out and just shake your head a little bit?

S5: I definitely have. You know, those states that have been very slow to act and react to this growing pandemic. I think that there are some lessons in 1918 for them. You know, you take a disease like Cauvin, for example, where we’re getting better data that there is much larger asymptomatic spread than we previously thought, that we could have people who are completely asymptomatic for the whole course of their disease. So they’re going around spreading. You know, by the time you start to see that curve rising, you are two to three weeks too late in your public health response time. At the other end, I see this drive to want to reopen. And I look at cities like Denver, for example. They open a lot of cities open right on or about Armistice Day. So you have this double whammy of people happy that things are open again. And also, they want to celebrate the end of the war and everybody rushes out. So Denver, that was the case. They filled up a auditorium with 8000 people. So listen to speeches about the end of the war. And everyone went to the movies and to cafes and saloons. And, you know, in Denver and there were other cities saying, is another example where this happened, where that second peak of. Cases comes very quickly right after they reopen and it’s actually higher than the first. And in no city that we found, with the exception of Grand Rapids, that one weird outlier did cities implement another second round of closure orders. A lot of close schools a second time because schools were being hard hit. But that’s it. They may have done things like limited theaters to 50 percent capacity or something along those lines, but it’s really hard to re-implement closure orders after you take them off the first time. It’s hard to keep them in place. People start to bristle and they get annoyed. But once you take them off, it’s really hard to put them back on. And the places that did consider it, like Denver, they were going to issue a second one. And the business owners got so upset that the second order went in into effect for just a few hours. A business owners complained to the mayor and the health commissioner and they immediately rescinded them and said, OK, we’re gonna do a mass order instead. And as we see in San Francisco, the masking order didn’t really work out so well. It didn’t work out so well in Denver either.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S3: J. Alex Navarro is the lead researcher and co-editor of The Influenza Encyclopedia. Go to it. Influenza archive, dot org. It’s a trove of fascinating, sometimes horrific, but really compelling information. Good talking to you, Alex. Thank you very much as we’re talking to you.

S1: And now the shpiel Carolyn Goodman, the mayor of Las Vegas, has called for the total reopening of the casinos and other businesses in her city. Before we get into the details of her proposal, of which there are a few. Let’s find out who Carolyn Goodman is. The mayor described her position this way to CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

S6: Not what’s the best date would be on the pilot. I need doctors and medical.

S1: And while she seems certain that her city of temperature controlled air SATs, indoor play spaces would be immune from a viral outbreak, she had a little less certitude in her personal relationship with the virus.

S6: Well, as someone who’s pretty sure she possibly had it, Jan, I have already been to the hospitals, say take my take my plasma Jan..

S1: That would make her the first carrier in the United States. Mayor Goodman is someone who probably almost definitely is mayor because her husband, Oscar, was mayor before her. He was a colorful mob lawyer and she was his wife. Carolyn Goodman, nee Gold. Mark’s father, by the way, was a doctor and her father’s father was also a doctor. She is, however, advocating some policies that don’t quite adhere to the best practices as advised by the current medical community. Here she is talking to Las Vegas Cavy V V Fox 5 TV.

S7: There’s no guarantee when two opens safely is coming. I am just saying, let’s go forward. Do it now. You don’t want to come to Vegas. Don’t come. You don’t want to leave your house. Don’t leave your house.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: So like an optional quarantine, which is just called being lazy and unmotivated or possibly a form of opt in agoraphobia, but not a policy. Nor is this her answer to the question, is there any way to open up casinos, but also responsibly, socially distance?

S7: I think it’s all about being a civilized community. And you learn that when you’re going to sneeze or cough, you cover your mouth, that you do your best to respect the rights of others. And if you’re sick, you stay home. You don’t go to work.

S1: That’s right. Don’t go to work because that’s just good manners or because your currently being intubated because of Corona virus. In our Anderson Cooper CNN interview, Goodman while repeatedly saying keeping Corona virus at bay was not her job. Didn’t quite articulate anything approaching a plan to keep the city open. I’ve actually followed her and her husbands careers for quite a while. So I am aware of their, shall we say, peccadilloes. And as another form of disclosure, I should say that I genuinely fear for her plan, such as it is her outburst. Open up. You know, those words that plan. I fear it being put into practice because it would imperil my parents who live in Henderson, Nevada, and have been following the rules. Well, except for card counting, my dad can’t wait to get back into that. But I don’t think that Mayor Goodman is a bad or evil person. And I also don’t think she is a stupid person. In fact, she got this right.

S6: Typhoid Mary, who I think passed away. Well, anyway, during the late thirties, it was, in fact, 1938.

S1: She also got this point well defined pretty narrowly. More or less correct.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S6: We offered to be a control group so was not evolved.

S1: Not stupid. But she is unwise. Very, very unwise. And there’s also this. The reason that her words are just words and not policies is that she doesn’t actually have control of what we think of Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Strip. That is not her call. The head of the county commission makes that call. The governor of Nevada, Steve Cecille Lack also makes the call. And he has laid out a four phase plan for reopening. And Phase 1 requires 14 days of declining hospitalization and deaths. That has not happened. The testing is also insufficient, he notes. There is also complicating things a city manager in Las Vegas with significant authority. He gets a say, too. It all adds up to what Mayor Goodman really has the power to do is this to pop off on television in an informed or not informed way. An interview with the Clark County commissioner, where she would voice caution and sensibility is not a gripping TV booking. A mayor saying, I want to be a guinea pig. Well, we could stretch that interview across two segments in primetime. In truth, there are hundreds of governors across America responsibly advocating for their residents. And there are a few who are popping off and they’re getting a lot of coverage. It’s compelling television, but it’s not necessarily actual policy about to be implemented. So Mayor Goodman articulates a minority position, though, a frightening position, and she has a frightening amount of influence, but nothing close to total influence or really even the actual final word in matters of policy when it comes to Corona virus. Of course, now her opinions have widely circulated and as we all know, when something goes viral, it becomes extremely hard to contain. And that’s it for today’s show. Margaret Kelly is the just associate producer. She can understand to this day why a person of good repute would not wish to be spotted in a Newark saloon. Daniel Schrader produces the jest. He is pretty sure he might be leaning in the direction of possibly going outdoors, maybe, say, to a courtyard or a plaza. The geste like Shakespeare. I like to end the show on occasion and rhymed couplets. So House. How’s this one? Trump’s coalition includes some Orthodox Jews plus bikers for Trump. A lot of tattoos mean adepero Dupere. And thanks for listening.