Are We Now Paying For Those ‘Cut Government Spending’ Candidates We Elected?

by Curt Kovener

Did you vote for candidates who wanted to cut government spending? Put government on a business basis? Eliminate government regulations? Get government off the backs of business and out of our private lives?

So now how does it feel to travel 100 or more years back in public health history? Maybe now we realize (and way too late) that government funding of inspections, regulation and oversight as it applies to public health is a wise investment in “We, the People.”

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic takes us back. It transports us to a time when there were no available antibiotics, virtually no vaccinations and limited medical-care interventions compared to what exist today.

The leaders we elected to the White House, the Statehouse and the Courthouse weren’t paying attention until the wolf was at our door or perhaps; the Huns were at the gate.

So now, this public health approach of a century ago is also all we can employ to contain the coronavirus, a virus without a specific antiviral medication to treat it or a vaccination to prevent it.

COVID-19 is 10 times more lethal than influenza and is now on every continent except Antarctica. Compared with the MERS and SARS coronaviruses, this coronavirus will probably be much more difficult to control.

Despite the new inconveniences of our now everyday life of social distancing, public health officials expect that we have not seen the worst of this pandemic and many more cases and deaths will follow. Although, so far, relatively few cases have been identified in Indiana, it is anticipated that intensification will occur as a result of person-to-person contact that may have happened before we all sequestered ourselves.

A long incubation period of up to 14 or more days, spread of infection from asymptomatic infected individuals and a high mortality rate make this virus especially worrisome.

Possible effective antiviral medications are being explored but will take a year or more to develop.

This current health threat should be a reminder of the value of our elected leaders supporting public health on the federal, state and local levels. The very success of public health— the absence of diseases that once routinely killed healthy people— has rendered public health interventions invisible and taken for granted by the public and government. These interventions involve advancements in sanitation, housing, food protection, nutrition, clean water, pure food and drug legislation, antibiotics and vaccination.

Historically, we have woefully underfunded federal, state and local health departments. The Trump administration earlier in his term reduced Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding. Indiana ranks 49th in public health funding with the Indiana State Department of Health spread thin and most county health departments, including Scott and Jackson Counties, lacking adequate infrastructure and personnel.

Indiana and most states will need significant federal assistance and leadership. The Trump administration has provided a delayed and less-than-adequate federal response with President Trump busy politicizing what should be a bipartisan effort. We can only hope that Vice President Mike Pence, the former Hoosier Governor not highly enlightened nor historically proactive in public health matters but now in charge of the federal government’s coronavirus response, will leave the decision making to federal public health experts.

Now that citizens are showing infection, businesses closed, and the stock market has plummeted to the levels since before Trump was elected by vowing to Make America Great Again, the federal government (which is already trillions in debt) is busy throwing money at a problem that could have been decreased with adequate pre- emptive funding for research and tests.

What we are experiencing and how we now must live is why funding public health is so important.

And what about those anti- vaccine advocates among us? Will they refuse a COVID-19 immunization when available for them and their children and then continue spreading the disease among the rest of us?

(Dr. Richard Feldman, an Indianapolis family physician and a former Indiana State Health commissioner, contributed to this column.)

When COVID-19 Comes To Our Community

by Curt Kovener

We like to scare each other. Whether from the pulpit or the politician, conjuring up the boogieman is what they often do to encourage us to follow their way.
Currently we have some pretty bad stuff heading to us and the pulpiteers and especially the politicos are doing their best to be reassuring about the COVID-19 form of Coronavirus when they really don’t know much about it.
This is a new virus for which no treatment or vaccine to prevent exists. It has been likened to the 1918 flu epidemic that killed millions. (There’s some more that that boogieman we like to forecast.) But, remember, a hundred years ago there were none of the vaccines and treatments we now take for granted today.
When it comes to disease, my thinking is that we should ignore the pontificating preachers and pandering politicians and pay attention to the people in the medical field who know the science.
As of this writing on Friday the 13th (hmm…didn’t mean to scare you with that) no Coronavirus cases have been reported in Jackson and Scott County or anywhere else in southern Indiana. But it is in Central Indiana and northern Kentucky, so it is only a matter of time until it visits our community.
What should you do to prepare? First, DON’T go buy cases of toilet paper. This virus doesn’t cause diarrhea. It is a respiratory virus.
If you have a fever, cough and shortness of breath, first call your medical provider and let them know of your symptoms. Then follow their instructions. Do not go to the hospital ER or doctor unannounced and spread your disease within your community.
And remember what our mothers told us when we were grubby little kids: “Wash your hands!” And with soap and water and for 20 seconds. Sing ‘Happy Birthday” to yourself (even though it might not be) two times and that should be sufficient.
Carry a hand sanitizer in your pocket or purse for those times in-between hand washing. And after you open a door or handle money (there is a reason it is called filthy lucre).
If you can push a door open, use your elbow or shoulder. To pull a door open use your little finger and look for dirt and wear patterns on the handle and pull it where everyone else is not. Then use sanitizer.
Staying away from crowds helps to prevent the spread of the disease. But if you did go to church or went out to eat, maybe showing some self-restraint and self-quarantining would be for the better good of our community. But after that weekend crowd gathering experience, if you start coughing, feeling feverish and have some trouble breathing, please refer to the instructions above in paragraph 7.
While we are told by medical professional not to touch our mouth, nose or eyes, when I think of that guidance, one of those facial parts itches or tickles.
Here in the wilderness, Becky and I can easily self-quarantine. Though, when you live in the forest with molds, pollens and dust there are constant allergies. And sometimes we make ourselves paranoid with a runny nose or a dry cough.
Since we both work, we do have to leave our quarantine occasionally. So if we meet, please do not be offended if I keep my distance from you or don’t shake your hand opting for a fist or elbow bump. And take no umbrage if during or immediately after our conversation I bring out the hand sanitizer. I’m not calling you a leper or unclean, I am just following the scientific medical community’s recommendations.
Just like the worries over Y2K in 1999, polio, measles, H1N1 flu virus, SARS, MERSA, and Ebola scares, it’ll all be OK.
Remember the universal truth: This, too, shall pass.
But in the meantime, wash your hands, use sanitizer, and avoid crowds. Stay healthy.

Learning From Others’ Thoughts

by Curt Kovener

It has been a while since we visited the quotation library of Professor Ron Atkins. Our trip and our expanded understanding is long over due…and timely.
Some of these will be humorous and that’s OK, some will rub you the wrong way and that’s OK, but all will provoke your thinking which should astound you as much as it does those around you.
•The boy was as useless as rubber lips on a woodpecker.
Earl Pitts
•Many people love in themselves what they hate in others.
Benzel Sternan
•If you think your boss is stupid, remember: you wouldn’t have a job if he was any smarter.
Albert A. Grant
•A book is a mirror; if an ass peers into it, you can’t expect an angel to look out.
George C. Lictenberg
•There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies.
Winston Churchill
•A man’s reputation is what other people think of him; his character is what he really is.
Jack Miner
•In making up the character of God, the old theologians failed to mention that He is of infinite cheerfulness. The omission has caused the world much tribulation.
Michael Monahan
•The real acid test of courage is to be just your honest self when everybody is trying to be like somebody else.
Andrew Jensen
•The world is full of willing people; some are willing to work, the rest are willing to let them.
Robert Frost
•You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.
Eric Hoffer
•Keep a fair-sized cemetery in your back yard in which to bury the faults of your friends.
Henry Ward Beecher
•Never do a wrong thing to make a friend or to keep one.
Robert E. Lee
•A woman who seeks to be equal with men lacks ambition.
•Love thy neighbor as thyself, but choose your neighborhood.
Louise Beal
•If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.
Milton Berle
•Regarding terrorism, one of the things we’re fighting is enforced ignorance. David McCullough
•You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.
Abraham Lincoln
•I like long walks, especially when taken by people who annoy me.
Fred Allen
•Everyone is in awe of the lion tamer in a cage with half a dozen lions—everyone but a school bus driver.
Laurence Peter
•Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.
•The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame.
Oscar Wilde
•It’s bad luck to be superstitious.
Andrew Mathis

Some Thoughts On Which To Think

by Curt Kovener

(This is an encore column from the Curt Comments archives.)
Here is some trivia, facts and bits of information which may be of no use but will make you a more informed human.
•It takes glass one million years to decompose, which means it never wears out and can be recycled an infinite amount of times.
•Gold is the only metal that doesn’t rust or corrode, even if it’s buried in the ground for thousands of years.
•Your tongue is the only muscle in your body that is attached at only one end.
•If you stop getting thirsty, you need to drink more water. When a human body is dehydrated, its thirst mechanism shuts off.
•Zero is the only number that cannot be represented by Roman numerals.
•Kites were used in the American Civil War to deliver letters and newspapers.
•Drinking water after eating reduces the acid in your mouth by 61 percent.
•Peanut oil is used for cooking in submarines because it doesn’t smoke unless it’s heated above 450° F.
•The roar that we hear when we place a seashell next to our ear is not the ocean, but rather the sound of blood surging through the veins in the inner ear.
•Nine out of every 10 living things live in the ocean.
•Airports at higher altitudes require a longer airstrip due to lower air density.
•The tooth is the only part of the human body that cannot heal itself.
•In ancient Greece, tossing an apple to a girl was a traditional proposal of marriage. Catching it meant she accepted.
•Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.
•Caffeine increases the power of aspirin and other painkillers, that is why it is found in some medicines.
•The military salute is a motion that evolved from medieval times, when knights in armor raised their visors to reveal their identity.
•When a person dies, hearing is the last sense to go. The first sense lost is sight.
•Strawberries are the only fruits whose seeds grow on the outside.
•Avocados have the highest calories of any fruit at 167 calories per hundred grams.
•The moon moves about two inches away from the Earth each year.
•The Earth gets 100 tons heavier every day due to falling space dust.
•Everything weighs one percent less at the equator.
•For every extra kilogram carried on a space flight, 530 kg of excess fuel are needed at liftoff.

Don’t Blame Me, Life Made Me That Way

by Curt Kovener

I do not know if schools still issue a hard-copy report card. Perhaps email, text or some specialized app may get student grades to parents these days. But back in the middle part of the last century, report cards got their name because they were on card stock to be taken home by the student for signing by the parent. This was done to help ensure that parents knew the scholastic progress of their progeny.
I did not fret or fear report card day as I generally brought home A’s & B’s, unlike my younger siblings. However my downfall was conduct where there were frequent D’s. Fortunately, conduct was not counted toward one’s honor roll achievement. My father maintained that those below average grades were because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I maintain that it was educator retribution because most teachers clearly misunderstood my twisted razor sharp wit.
Take for example some of the following thoughts and observations on the human condition.
•‘Revenge’ sounds so mean. That’s why I like to call it ‘returning the favor’.
•I’m sorry I hurt your feelings when I called you stupid. I really thought you already knew.
•Hey, I found your nose. It was in my business again.
•Friday is my second favorite F-word. The first is food—definitely food.
•Sometimes I need what only you can provide…your absence.
•I can’t be responsible for what my face does when you talk.
•Did you fall from Heaven? Because so did Satan.
•You can tell when I am forced to use those self-checkouts in big box stores. I’m the guy yelling at the screen “There is no unexpected item in the bagging area!”
•I haven’t lost my mind. Half of it just wandered off and the other half went looking for it.
•There is no need to repeat yourself. I ignored you just fine the first time.
•Everyone was thinking it. I just said it.
•If people don’t occasionally walk away from you shaking their heads, you’re doing something wrong.
•Some people call them swear words. I call them attention compelling sentence enhancers.
•I love sarcasm. It’s like punching people in the nose but with words.
•I had my patience tested. I’m negative.

Fuzzy Flannel Sheets Warm The Winter Night

by Curt Kovener

I’m going to clue you in on a bedroom secret at our house. This isn’t X-rated but it is Z-rated as in ZZZzzzz.
When colder weather arrives in the wilderness, our bed gets covered with flannel sheets: top sheet, bottom sheet and pillow cases.
Yep, the same material we all wore as footed PJ’s as we toddled through the house in diapers and training pants. It’s the same material I wear three seasons of the year in my outdoor work shirts.
Becky and I have found that in our “mature years” that comfort is playing a larger role in our lives.
Satin sheets are way over-rated for sleeptime. They are cold and never warm up. The percale and muslin cotton sheets might be fine for summer night sleeping, but beginning when the frost is on the pumpkin and the snow is on the rooftop, ice on the pond, and the thermometer is even too cold to rise, we switch to the soft, warm embrace of old time flannel sheets.
I think growing up Mom called it a sheet blanket—a flat, white cotton flannel sheet that covered you. But you still had to deal with the initial cold bottom sheet.
The wilderness home now has an assortment of flannel sheets in a variety of colors—mainly plaids and outdoor scenes.
After a day of working outdoors, followed by some warming up in front of the fireplace with a toddy or two, the flannel sheets and thick comforter offer a warm hug for the night’s slumber.
In the winter we forgo electric blankets. Instead, the bedroom thermostat is set in the mid-60’s range and we pile on blankets and comforter over the flannel sheets.
And the snoozing is never better. I don’t feel cramped up fearing to move to a new sleeping position because the sheets where your body isn’t are cold. No matter where you flail in the flannel through the night, there is warmth.
There is a downside to flannel sheets. I do not advise wearing flannel pajamas or sweatpants because flannel on flannel acts like Velcro®. You stay put for the night and may need assistance with morning extraction.
In addition to flannel sheets and flannel shirts, I have found another comforting cold weather application for the fuzzy cotton fabric: flannel boxers. But maybe that is best left for a topic for another column.