On today's BradCast: How bad is Donald Trump's Administration response to the COVID-19 crisis? Bad enough that "a guerrilla network" of high school kids seem to be doing a better job of getting some much-needed life-saving protective gear to medical workers than the federal government itself, at least in one state so far. [Audio link to show follows below.]
If you tried to fail any worse than the Trump Administration and his GOP acolyte Governors around the nation (Hello, Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis!), you'd be hard-pressed to fail as thoroughly as Trump has managed to, in virtually every aspect of the COVID-19 crisis. His deadly incompetence is continuing to help drive up infection rates, hospitalization rates and deaths in the U.S., even now, some five months into the pandemic. In Florida, the state's incompetent and very Trumpy Governor is at least finally admitting that they do not have nearly enough rapid tests to keep up with the explosion of new cases in the state after DeSantis reopened opened businesses far too early in the spring. But, even as FL hit a national record on Sunday of 15,300 newly confirmed cases in a single day on Sunday (more than most entire nations!), he continues to keep hospitalization rates a secret, despite promising last week to begin reporting them transparently to the public.
For their part, the Trump Administration is at least pulling back on one element of their shambolic crisis management. After being sued by 17 states this week, the Administration has walked back its vow to withdraw visas from foreign exchange students attending schools which refuse to open their classrooms to deadly in-person classes five days a week beginning next month. Other than that, the Administration response continues to go from horrific to even more horrific, if that's even imaginable.
NBC News reports today that, according to internal Health and Human Services documents they've obtained, shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) persist across the country as cases and hospitalizations and death rates continue to surge in major metropolitan cities and rural areas alike. The Strategic National Stockpile and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are still only able to fulfill about 30% of the requests for PPE for front-line medical and long-term care facility workers across the country, according to the federal documents, despite the President's ability to invoke the Defense Production Act to commandeer manufacturing facilities to meet the nation's needs.
Meanwhile, some high school kids in Atlanta, Georgia have taken it upon themselves to actually do something about the problem. We're joined today by SHOURYA SETH, high school senior and Chief Operating Officer for Project Paralink, a grassroots organization built with his friends to combat the coronavirus pandemic with the decentralized production producing and distribution of PPE to health workers. So far, they've managed to manufacture and donate more than 420,000 units of PPE, from face-shields to masks to more than 1,500 locations.
They've also gained some corporate support for their efforts, which are now joined by nearly 1,000 volunteers in the work to distribute much-needed protective gear in at least four states, to date. Seth says they have distributed to Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Alabama, though he tells me today they've recently begun working with California, New York, New Mexico and the Navajo Nation as well, for what they describe as "decentralization for social good" and "localized disaster relief".
Recently, he explains, "some hospitals had gone back to the position where they were only left with one week of supplies. And it was just, you know, really frustrating to see that the federal government was not doing anything about it." The project's ultimate goal, Seth explains, is to replace, or at least augment, FEMA's efforts with "Parapod Relief Stockpiles" all over the nation. He describes the project as "a guerrilla network of sorts [to] get the PPE supplies delivered faster than the federal supply chain." He also tells me that Paralink has already even outpaced FEMA in at least one respect in Georgia.
"Recently we actually passed FEMA in the donation of face shields," says Seth. "We didn't really see any coordination, at least on the gubernatorial level or the city level. On June 11th, FEMA put out a public press release, giving out state-by-state PPE data. When we looked at Georgia, what we found out was that FEMA had, at that time, only been able to produce 189,000 face shields, while we had been able to produce 370,000 face shields, essentially doubling the output. And the funny part is, some of the donations we made were to FEMA! So while we had been overproducing we had also been donating to FEMA!"
Seth tells us how how the project came about as an effort to improve food delivery logistics before the COVID crisis struck. They then decided to modify their algorithms to turn to PPE manufacturing and delivery.
"Just before the surge of cases, we started to notice a very, very slow downward trend in the cases. And we realized a lot of people, like Dr. Fauci, were talking about a second wave of the pandemic coming during the winter. We wanted to create the stockpiles in states to prepare for the future," he says. "A lot of the Republican-controlled state governments were ignoring those warnings, but we understood according to virologists, according to common sense, the cases were going to rise again." So, they sprung into action.
Seth also offers his own feelings about whether schools should be opened for in-person classes, as the Administration is now insisting upon, and asks for your help in growing the project. "If you have any sort of questions, inquiries, or ways that you can help us out, reach out to us!"
So, if you're worried about the next generation, today's conversation is likely to make you feel much better about their ability to handle --- and fix --- so much that we've already screwed up for them.
Then, another bit of encouraging and progressive news, this time from the Joe Biden Campaign today. The presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee announced a massive climate plan aimed at combating climate change and spurring economic growth by overhauling America's energy industry with a proposal to achieve carbon-free renewable power across the entire country by 2035. The ambitious plan echoes that offered during the Democratic primary campaign by then rival Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington state. The ambitious progressive plan would more than doubles the resources and halve the time-frame that Biden had previously proposed during the campaign. The effort to tackle our climate crisis would also, as Desi Doyen explains today, serve as a massive infrastructure jobs engine to help the U.S. climb out of the pandemic, it's accompanying economic crisis, and systemic racism, as the proposal requires that 40 percent of the money spent on clean energy deployment goes to historically disadvantaged front line communities, which have been among the worst and first victims of the climate crisis. It's a New Deal-like proposal that some might even call a Green New Deal --- if that phrase didn't startle delicate Republicans so.
Finally, we close with our latest Green News Report, as the nation attempts to deal with an extended extreme heat wave amidst our coronavirus crisis; as oil and gas companies go belly up, while both leaving environmental disasters for tax-payers to clean up and making sure their executives get huge bonuses on the way out the door; and as one venerable environmental group goes all in on ad buys highlighting Trump's deadly, parallel denial of both COVID-19 and climate change...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)