IRISH TIMES: The world has loved, hated and envied the U.S.  Now, for the first time, we pity it

A view of the US from Ireland – Donald Trump has destroyed the country he promised to make great again

Irish Times, by Fintan O’Toole, April 25, 2020
Donald Trump: his presidency has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA
Donald Trump: his presidency has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA 

Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.

However bad things are for most other rich democracies, it is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they are locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from Covid-19, has amplified its lethality. The country Trump promised to make great again has never in its history seemed so pitiful.

Will American prestige ever recover from this shameful episode?

As the American writer George Packer puts it in the current edition of the Atlantic, “The United States reacted … like Pakistan or Belarus – like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering.”

It is one thing to be powerless in the face of a natural disaster, quite another to watch vast power being squandered in real time – wilfully, malevolently, vindictively. It is one thing for governments to fail (as, in one degree or another, most governments did), quite another to watch a ruler and his supporters actively spread a deadly virus. Trump, his party and Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News became vectors of the pestilence.

The grotesque spectacle of the president openly inciting people (some of them armed) to take to the streets to oppose the restrictions that save lives is the manifestation of a political death wish. What are supposed to be daily briefings on the crisis, demonstrative of national unity in the face of a shared challenge, have been used by Trump merely to sow confusion and division. They provide a recurring horror show in which all the neuroses that haunt the American subconscious dance naked on live TV.

If the plague is a test, its ruling political nexus ensured that the US would fail it at a terrible cost in human lives. In the process, the idea of the US as the world’s leading nation – an idea that has shaped the past century – has all but evaporated.

Other than the Trump impersonator Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, who is now looking to the US as the exemplar of anything other than what not to do? How many people in Düsseldorf or Dublin are wishing they lived in Detroit or Dallas?

It is hard to remember now but, even in 2017, when Trump took office, the conventional wisdom in the US was that the Republican Party and the broader framework of US political institutions would prevent him from doing too much damage. This was always a delusion, but the pandemic has exposed it in the most savage ways.

Abject surrender

What used to be called mainstream conservatism has not absorbed Trump – he has absorbed it. Almost the entire right-wing half of American politics has surrendered abjectly to him. It has sacrificed on the altar of wanton stupidity the most basic ideas of responsibility, care and even safety.

Thus, even at the very end of March, 15 Republican governors had failed to order people to stay at home or to close non-essential businesses.

This is not mere ignorance – it is deliberate and homicidal stupidity. There is, as the demonstrations this week in US cities have shown, plenty of political mileage in denying the reality of the pandemic. . .

It draws on a concoction of conspiracy theories, hatred of science, paranoia about the “deep state” and religious providentialism (God will protect the good folks) that is now very deeply infused in the mindset of the American right.

Trump embodies and enacts this mindset, but he did not invent it. The US response to the coronavirus crisis has been paralysed by a contradiction that the Republicans have inserted into the heart of US democracy.

The contradiction was made manifest in two of Trump’s statements on the pandemic: on the one hand that he has “total authority”, and on the other that “I don’t take responsibility at all”. Caught between authoritarian and anarchic impulses, he is incapable of coherence.

Fertile ground

But this is not just Donald Trump. The crisis has shown definitively that Trump’s presidency is not an aberration. It has grown on soil long prepared to receive it. The monstrous blossoming of misrule has structure and purpose and strategy behind it.

There are very powerful interests who demand “freedom” in order to do as they like with the environment, society and the economy. They have infused a very large part of American culture with the belief that “freedom” is literally more important than life. My freedom to own assault weapons trumps your right not to get shot at school. Now, my freedom to go to the barber (“I Need a Haircut” read one banner this week in St Paul, Minnesota) trumps your need to avoid infection.

Usually when this kind of outlandish idiocy is displaying itself, there is the comforting thought that, if things were really serious, it would all stop. People would sober up. Instead, a large part of the US has hit the bottle even harder.

And the president, his party and their media allies keep supplying the drinks. There has been no moment of truth, no shock of realisation that the antics have to end. No one of any substance on the US right has stepped in to say: get a grip, people are dying here.

That is the mark of how deep the trouble is for the US – it is not just that Trump has treated the crisis merely as a way to feed tribal hatreds but that this behaviour has become normalised.

As things get worse, he will pump more hatred and falsehood, more death-wish defiance of reason and decency, into the groundwater. If a new administration succeeds him in 2021, it will have to clean up the toxic dump he leaves behind. If he is re-elected, toxicity will have become the lifeblood of American politics.

Either way, it will be a long time before the rest of the world can imagine America being great again.

COVID-19 Solano County update: 9 new cases, very few new tests

Thursday, April 30: 9 new cases, no new deaths, total now 263 cases, 5 deaths

Solano County Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Updates and Resources.  Check out basic information in this screenshot. IMPORTANT: The County’s interactive page has more.  On the County website, you can click on “Number of cases” and then hover over the charts for detailed information.

Previous report, Wednesday, April 29


Solano County reported 9 NEW POSITIVE CASES today – total is now 263No new deaths, total remains at 5.


  • No new cases of young persons under 19 years of age, total of 5 cases, just under 2% of the 263 confirmed cases.
  • 7 of today’s new cases were persons 19-64 years of age, total of 206 cases, 78%, of the total.   No new deaths, total of 2.  Note that only 29 of the 206 cases in this age group (14%) were hospitalized at one time.  (It is unclear whether the 2 deaths were ever hospitalized.)
  • 2 of today’s new cases were persons 65 or older, total of 52 cases, 20% of the total.  No new deaths, total of 3.  Note that 21 of the 52 cases in this age group (40%, nearly half) were hospitalized at one time.  (It is unclear whether the 3 deaths were ever hospitalized.)

HOSPITALIZATIONS: 51 of Solano’s 263 cases resulted in hospitalizations, same as yesterday.  Good news – no increase in hospitalizations!

ACTIVE CASES:  55 of the 263 are active cases, again same as in yesterday’s report.  Maybe the spread is leveling off, but don’t forget – there are 55 of us struggling with the virus here today, and presumably contagious.  The county does not report WHERE the active cases are.  Below you will see that only 12 are currently hospitalized, which leaves 43 of these 55 active cases out in our communities somewhere, and hopefully quarantined.

The County’s “Hospital Impact” graph (below) is virtually the same as yesterday and the day before.  12 of the 51 hospitalized cases are currently hospitalized.  And still only 12 of the 55 active cases are currently hospitalized.  The County’s count of ICU beds available and ventilator supply remains at “GOOD” at 31-100%. (No information is given on our supply of test kits, PPE and staff.)


  • Vallejo added 5 of today’s 9 new cases, total of 122.
  • Fairfield added 4 of today’s 9 new cases, total of 60.
  • Vacaville remains at 35.
  • Suisun City remains at 16.
  • Benicia remains at 14.
  • Dixon, Rio Vista and “Unincorporated” are still not assigned numerical data: today all remain at <10 (less than 10).  Note that the numbers for other cities add up to 247, leaving 16 cases located somewhere among the locations in this category.  Residents and city officials have pressured County officials for city case counts.  Today’s data is welcome, but still incomplete.


The County reports that 3,713 residents have been tested as of today.  This is an increase of only 37 individuals since yesterday’s total of 3,676.  So today we added only 37 and yesterday only 106, after days when the County reported 505 and 438 new tests.  Why the significant drop?  Testing should be on the increase!  We have a long way to go: only 8 tenths of 1% of Solano County’s 447,643 residents (2019) have been tested.

Solano’s upward curve in cumulative cases – as of April 30

The chart above shows the infection’s trajectory in Solano County.  It’s too soon to tell, but we may be seeing a flattening of the curve!

Still incredibly important – everyone stay home and be safe!

COVID-19 – California will exceed 50,000 positive cases and 2,000 deaths today or tomorrow

By Roger Straw, April 30, 2020

California’s COVID-19 Statewide Update page shows a chart plotting the past month’s day-to-day numbers on new confirmed cases and deaths, an excellent resource for understanding where we stand in the midst of the pandemic.  Yesterday’s increase of 1,469 positive cases would suggest that California will exceed the 50,000 mark in cases sometime today or tomorrow.  We will surely top 2,000 deaths today.

Here is from today’s report:

How are COVID-19 cases progressing?

Data as of April 29, 2020 at 11:00 am.

There were 1,469 new confirmed cases Tuesday. The total number of deaths is 1,887, an increase of 78 from Monday.

Other charts show:

  • How COVID-19 cases are progressing in each county
  • Gender and ethnicity of those infected with COVID-19
  • Numbers on the current state of testing
  • Numbers on the current state of hospitalizations
  • Hospitalizations by county

Solano County’s COVID-19 Dashboard gives similar data.

Risky opening: Cal Maritime Academy in Vallejo to begin face-to-face classes on May 10

[Editor: This is way too soon, even with various restrictions and accommodations.  Solano County is still at risk, not to mention Vallejo’s current cluster outbreaks and the active spread of the virus in some of the many locations from which students are returning to Vallejo.  I hate to think that Cal Maritime students, faculty and staff might be guinea pigs in California’s staged re-opening.  Is it too late for Gov. Newsom to reverse this decision?  – R.S.]

Coronavirus: Cal Maritime Academy approved to resume in-person classes beginning in May

ABC7 News, By Liz Kreutz, April 27, 2020

VALLEJO, Calif. (KGO) — As California weighs extending its shelter-in-place order, there are signs some restrictions are beginning to ease.

California State University Maritime Academy in Vallejo says it has received approval from the state to begin face-to-face classes in their spring semester.

“I am pleased to report that as a result of the hard work and good planning of our COVID-19 task force and the academic leadership team, Cal Maritime received approval from Governor Newsom’s office for a limited reopening of our campus to resume face-to-face instruction for the completion of our spring 2020 semester as planned,” Cal Maritime president Thomas Cropper said in a letter to students on Friday.

Cropper said the decision was run through the Chancellor’s Office and various internal entities of the Governor’s Office, including the State Department of Public Health, who provided additional guidance on reopening.

Sarah Sanders’ son Noah is a freshman at Cal Maritime and currently taking virtual classes as he shelters in place with his family at their home in Marin County. Sanders said she was shocked and concerned when she heard classes would be resuming so soon.

“It’s weird, all my friends who have college age students have their kids for the summer and can keep them home, and that’s not our case, which is good and bad,” Sanders said. “I guess they’re kind of a trial case. We’ll see how it goes.”

Bob Art, the Vice President for University Advancement at Cal Maritime, told ABC7 that the school is taking extreme safety precautions, and that when students return to campus it won’t look like it did before. An email from the president to students tells students to “please be prepared for a different campus experience.”

According to Art, cadets who plan to return to campus will be surveyed with a health questionnaire while at home and then given a health screening upon their arrival on campus.

Art said that each cadet will be housed individually in a residence hall room without roommates, and that meals will be grab-and-go or delivered straight to a students door. Everyone will also be health screened daily, including a temperature check, and need to wear a face covering when they are outside their room or office.

“Social distancing will continue in every aspect of campus life- so it will be quite different,” Cropper said in the email.

In that email, Cropper said the initial plan was for students to return to campus on May 10. Face-to-face instructions would tentatively begin on May 13. And a planned ocean voyage would also continue and tentatively begin on June 10.

Art says that since Solano County, where the academy is located, has just updated the shelter in place order to May 17, the new tentative start date for classes is May 20- but that the date could still change.

Cal Maritime is a small, isolated school with just under 1,000 students. Many classes are hands on and cannot be taught virtually. For these reasons, Art believes they are in a unique position to try a partial reopening. He said roughly 500 students are expected to return to classes this Spring.

Although Sanders had concerns, she realizes the school might be a good blueprint for others.

“I can tell you, if it doesn’t work we’ll really know it will be hard for these bigger schools,” she said. “If it does work, I’ll be excited.”

Cal Maritime is part of the Cal State University system. Still, an official for the chancellor’s office told ABC7 News that the reopening of Cal Maritime is unique and separate from the other universities, and that at this point it’s “too early” to say when the other schools will reopen.

Jesse Melgar, a spokesperson for Governor Newsom, released the following statement regarding the partial reopening of Cal Maritime:

“The CSU Maritime Academy trains merchant marines and the maritime workforce is required for shipping and logistics. This specialized maritime workforce is essential to the California economy, as 90% of U.S. trade moves by sea. Nearly $500 billion of trade moves through the Los Angeles and Long Beach port complex alone – the largest on the U.S. Pacific coast – supporting roughly 200,000 jobs. The Administration has provided conditions that must be met for the Academy to resume limited in-person instruction for 513 merchant marine officer cadets after May 10, including strict, unique health and safety guidelines.”

“This includes screening each cadet and instructor every morning, maintaining physical distancing, offering grab-and-go meals, using PPE and providing hand sanitizing stations. This is the only academy of its kind in the state and does not serve as a precedent for other colleges or universities in California.”