In the Shadow of Cape Fear Valley

Due to the nature of our for-profit health care system, a tremendous responsibility lies with regional hospitals to help coordinate and distribute the Covid vaccine. Here in Fayetteville, Cape Fear Valley Hospital needs to step up to the plate and save lives in the community that keeps it in business.

“We Saw this Coming”

Thus far, the only people in Fayetteville that have been vaccinated are the employees of Cape Fear Valley. Our hospital got right to it and started shooting up its staff as soon as the doses arrived in Mid-December:

“We’re very excited and proud that we have three of the very first 11 hospitals (in North Carolina) to receive the vaccine so we’re very excited about that,“ said Chris Tart, the vice president of professional services.

Tart oversees the hospital’s pharmacy services which bought a special freezer in the summer to make sure staff was ready for the vaccine.

We saw this coming and went ahead and purchased deep freezers and have them in strategic locations on backup generators, temperature monitoring and very secure locations, as well as a lot of backups,” he explained.

Fayetteville’s not special in this regard. Health care workers were put at the front of the line across the country. There are good policy reasons for this, but wouldn’t it have been better to vaccinate the elderly, first, instead of young, healthy hospital workers? Wouldn’t this have saved more lives?

But “life” is not always the linchpin of American medicine. We’ll need your method of payment, first, sir.

N.C. Lags Behind

North Carolina can’t seem to figure out the vaccine distribution quandary. We’re told the plan is advancing, but the evidence doesn’t support the talking points. Per yesterday’s news:

Some 462,000 doses of vaccine have been shipped to North Carolina since mid-December, but only a fraction of them have been administered. 

North Carolina’s vaccination rate so far is 966 per 100,000 people, lagging behind most other states in the country. That number for most states is between 1,000 and 2,000.

Based on the CDC’s vaccination rate data, only five states have a lower rate than North Carolina; Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas and Arizona.

You never want to be compared to Alabama and Mississippi when it comes to health care. Yet, here we are.

Fewer Doses for Cumberland?

All we hear about is a vaccine “shortage,” yet, per the CDC’s data, North Carolina is literally “sitting on” about 200,000 vaccination doses, today. Life saving medicine is stuck in freezers across the state in the middle of the bleakest winter we’ve had in 100 years. Schools are closed because of it. Businesses are shutting down. People are dying. It’s inexcusable.

Now here’s the scary part for us, locally:

“To increase the pace of vaccinations, DHHS sent a letter to all hospitals and local health departments alerting them that future vaccine allocations will be modified based on the number of vaccines administered that they have reported to the state,” the department said.

If you sit on your allocation of doses, you get less in the future. It’s that simple.

So what’s our hospital doing? They “saw it coming” and bought freezers and backup generators to keep the doses cold for their employees, but I can’t tell you what their plan is to help vaccinate everyone else. Maybe they are doing something, but they’re not letting the public know about it. The only thing about Covid on the hospital’s website is the new visitor restrictions they put in place.

Cape Fear’s Failure to Lead

I often talk about the blurry lines between public and private interests and the legitimate role of government intervention into both spheres. For example, Fayetteville’s one-sided public-private partnership with Prince Charles Holdings got us an unfinished 17-million dollar parking deck downtown.

But what do you do when you’re dealing with people’s lives?

The American health care system blurs the hell out of public and private interests due to the mix of funds that keep it running. Hospitals like Cape Fear Valley have a difficult dance to perform. But do not forget that the number one priority for a business entity is survival. The hospital only stays open if it makes money, whether it comes from the government, private insurance, or your checking account.

So what happens when a massive public health crisis arises that requires the distribution of a vaccine, but there isn’t a financial incentive for a local hospital to assist?


The Hidden Danger of Safety

The need for safety during Covid has caused a withdrawal from public life. We’re not participating in communal events like church, school, and family gatherings. Our institutions are going through the motions in zoom meetings, waiting for the pharmaceutical companies to save the planet. The recent presidential election made government seem important, but once it was over, a lot of the issues that had folks fighting in the streets have receded from our consciousness. Look at the Fayetteville City Council’s Agenda this month. Hard decisions on the future of the Market House have been pushed off to 2021. It’s just zoning changes for the rest of the year. The North Carolina General Assembly hasn’t done anything since Covid began besides spend some federal money. Don’t get me started on Congress.

It’s stagnant.

But I need to look in the mirror. Maybe I’m projecting? Although writing a political blog is a hobby, I feel a sense of responsibility to point out the truth on local issues as I see them. But I’ve withdrawn to my little covid safety routine, as I’m sure many of you have. I quit writing for a while. Once you stop putting in the work, it’s harder to start up again.

Death Spiral?

A recent article that popped up on my newsfeed got me thinking about the dangers of sitting in our safe, private spaces.

The Death Spiral of Public Life

It’s worth a quick read. It argues that our withdrawal from public life will permanently degrade our public institutions. Public schools are hit the worst, as many upper-middle class families are leaving for private schools (that are actually open). These families aren’t coming back. Public transportation isn’t being used because people aren’t going to work or travelling. Each of these public services will lose funding and each will suffer long term ramifications that will last well beyond the pandemic.

The result is this:

  • An increasingly large (and increasingly expensive) à la carte menu of necessary private services for those that can afford them.
  • Crappy government services for the poor.

Income inequality widens. America suffers.

The C.S. Lewis Answer

I’m going to throw some religion on this fire:

In his famous book, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis has a demon, Screwtape, writing to his nephew (also a demon), giving him advice on how to capture a man’s soul. In a relevant correspondence, Screwtape offers the following:

The great thing is to prevent his doing anything. As long as he does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance. Let the little brute wallow in it. Let him, if he has any bent that way, write a book about it; that is often an excellent way of sterilising the seeds which the Enemy plants in a human soul. Let him do anything but act. No amount of piety in his imagination and affections will harm us if we can keep it out of his will. As one of the humans has said, active habits are strengthened by repetition but passive ones are weakened. The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.

Feel numb to it all lately? You’re not alone.

You’ve been told to stay indoors, cover your face, hide your kids, hide your wives! Don’t do anything! Just sit there! A vaccine is on the way, next year! Your little county is now code level burnt orange due to rising positivity rates, so don’t even think about seeing your elderly parents this Christmas!

What active habits that don’t involve a screen have you actually done more of? Are even those becoming dull? Thought of writing a book about it? A blog post?

Inherent Design Flaw?

When I was in public school, I did have some screen time, and we got to play “educational” games. The best was the Oregon Trail. Your mission was to get your party from Missouri to Oregon in a covered wagon. The worst thing that could happen in the game was disease.

You have died of dysentery,” and what the Oregon Trail video game still  teaches us about health | by Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District | Medium

But you kept going. Sitting still wasn’t an option. A wagon is made to roll. Similarly, a human being is not made to sit still for years at a time. We’re designed to create, to move.

I would argue that the American political system is built on the recognition of this truth, and maybe that’s why we’re so bad at pandemics. The constant strain of personal freedom vs. the public good combined with a lack of leadership has caused a spiritual sickness in this country. We’ve lost our ability to act and our ability to feel is right behind it.

We’ve got to get moving soon. It’s who we are.

The Final Sales Pitch (Trump’s Exit)

Our President is a salesman. He’s sold everything from steaks, to wine, to online college. His latest pitch is getting his supporters to pay him 150 million dollars to “litigate” his claims of “election fraud.”

Much of the money raised since the election is likely to go into an account for the president to use on political activities after he leaves office, while some of the contributions will go toward what’s left of the legal fight.

Trump has no chance of winning these claims and has lost in every state he’s tried.

But he tried.

He tried to overturn an American election, in a pandemic. This should not be forgotten.

Donald Trump mocked for giving Thanksgiving speech from tiny desk | South  China Morning Post

There is a lot of debate in the political sphere about Trump’s influence in the Republican Party after he leaves office. Will he still “control” the party? Will he be a gatekeeper in Republican primaries with his army of loyal supporters? Will he run again in 2024?

I’m of the opinion that America will move past Donald Trump. Ex-Presidents are powerless figureheads in the American political system. They are irrelevant. The system is bigger than one man. It has been that way ever since George Washington stepped down after eight years in office.

But Washington left us with a warning:

Early Imprint of George Washington's "Farewell Address" Booklet, | Lot  #25691 | Heritage Auctions

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

Our election was fair.

The President lost.

The President knows that once he leaves office he will become the man he was before he got a free house and a free plane. He’ll just be the man who sleeps with Stormy Daniels and sells steaks on T.V.

That’s why he’s trying so hard to hold on.

In trying to hold on, he’s shown a willingness to destroy the American democratic system. It’s not even throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It’s taking a wrecking ball to the house.

He is the enemy Washington foresaw.

But fear not. Our democracy remains the “main pillar” of the edifice of your independence, tranquility, peace, safety, prosperity and liberty. Don’t let 2020 “weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth.”

Washington Monument reopens after years of construction | CNN Travel

We’re going to be alright, and we have a lot of brilliant men to thank for that.

The First Rule of Politics

One of the wonderful things about a Republic is that a national politician’s interest often varies by state. It’s a check on power.

Exhibit A:

After all the talk from Donald Trump about ending the vote count on election day, we have arrived here:

This map is very possible, maybe even probable. Biden may take the presidency because he won a single electoral college vote in Nebraska.

All of this is a bit ironic and made me think of this:

Fortunately, we’re not in 17th Century N.Y.C., though our President looks to be headed there in January.

Fayetteville Observer’s Covid Hypocrisy

The Fayetteville Observer supports the closure of Cumberland County’s public schools. Myron Pitts et al. believe the risks of Covid outweigh the benefits of in-person, public education.

The Fayetteville Observer supports the opening of Segra Stadium for “Pecktoberfest.” Myron Pitts et al. believe the risks of Covid do not outweigh the benefits of in-person, public beer festivals.

If our kids had money to spend on advertising, they might get a fair shake from their corporate-owned “local” paper. Instead, they get a double standard for the rest of 2020.

And that's all i have to say about that | Railroad humor, Forrest gump  quotes, Forrest gump