The fact-challenged whiners are winning on COVID, and we’re all going to lose

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

Well, ready or not, we’re reopening.

Tomorrow, restaurants will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity, it looks like the college football leagues that initially cancelled will now try to play and there is increasing pressure for local school districts to resume in-person instruction.

Now, understand, these moves aren’t based on science or that things are improving locally. They’re not, arguably, they’re getting worse again.

Mostly they seem to be happening because a segment of the population — led by legislative Republicans and various local GOP front groups — using fiction and greed to argue for a reopening, even when the science says it’s a really, really bad idea.

If we, collectively, had half a brain we’d be more shut down than we are right now. Despite this, these fact-challenged angels of death constantly attack Gov. Tom Wolf for rudely trying to keep us all alive. He’s a “Tyrant,” “King Tom” and other asinine catch phrases for a governor who has been widely praised by science experts (and most of us with triple-digit IQs).

In fact, based on a new study ( from the University of Pittsburgh, the shutdown measures instituted by Wolf saved a lot of lives in Pennsylvania, as many as 10,000. More than 20 other studies ( show that early, aggressive lockdowns halted the spread of the virus.

All of which we’re undoing, because we’re tired of the pandemic and some political leaders want to pretend its over — mostly to help the flailing presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

It’s not over, it’s not going to be over until maybe next summer. How we respond is going to decide how many of us live to see next summer. One can only hope Wolf locks down hard again when — not if — the virus spikes hard in October and November. Already, we’re seeing Israel under a three-week hard lock down — after locking down in the spring and then easing restrictions exactly as many advocate in the US.

Imagine if the US had responded like our neighbor to the north, Canada. They’ve had less than 10,000 deaths — on a per capita basis, the U.S. would have had to have just 90K deaths to do as well — we have 200K right now. Canada paid everyone — about $2K a month, subsidized businesses, created no-interest loans and basically spent money to keep everyone afloat during the crisis.

The US? Everyone got $1,200. A few small businesses got PPP loans (most seem to have been gobbled up by big companies and those politically connected).

The lack of any federal response – and now we know that Trump knew how dangerous COVID-19 was as early as February — killed a lot of people. Worse, is the failure to assist — heck, the federal government often hindered it — states in finding personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing kits. Estimates suggest anywhere from 100,000 to 150,000 lives would have been saved by a coherent federal response.

But local critics scream and moan about the minimal Pennsylvania restrictions like teens who had their car keys taken away for reckless driving — as of Monday, 50% capacity in restaurants and “last call” at 11pm (Wolf compromised from his earlier plan for it to be 10pm). Honestly, the science doesn’t support either move, actual expert Dr. Anthony Fauci pointed out this week how dangerous indoor dining is — but Wolf is trying to help restaurant and bar owners as much as possible without putting too much of the population at risk.

And still…the whining.

“Have you no compassion?” I was asked on social media this week by whomever runs the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry Twitter account, suggesting also that because I was getting “paid” that I didn’t care about small businesses.

As a small business owner entirely dependent on other small businesses to advertise — of course my revenue is in the toilet, which means so is my paycheck. It stinks. I have two kids in college, forced, despite having very “hands on” majors, to take most or all of their classes via Zoom, and are left isolated and deprived of a normal college experience. I’ve had to live as a virtual shut in — were I to get COVID-19 and give it to my health care provider wife, her whole practice, employees and patients would suffer.

Yes, we all have to make sacrifices to fight this thing. Apparently, my willingness to do so means I have no compassion for the corporate types who won’t make their numbers this quarter. What about the restaurants — those poor owners — they say?

What about them? The restaurant business is one of the few worse than the media business. Some 60% of new restaurants close in the first year – 80% within five years. They also spring up like weeds — so whatever number of eateries close in the coming weeks and months, they and the jobs they supplied will return when the economy gets better. I get that what is happening now is tough — but not nearly as tough as hundreds of thousands of people dying.

Restaurants and bars —and there’s no other way to say this – are deadly places right now for indoor service. There is no safe way to operate them unless building owners replace and rebuild their HVAC systems to rapidly pull air up and out of the building — adding HEPA filters and UVC light to the system is even better. But that doesn’t seem to be happening — so basically, these places are kill zones. Rough way to put it, but true.

It stinks — it stinks for them, for concert venues, for movie theaters and the like. And yes, maybe the federal government should have come up with a way to bail the owners out — but if Trump and the GOP in Congress don’t have that level of compassion for these owners, why should I?

You know who I have compassion for? The single mom working as a restaurant server making all of $2.83 an hour before tips, working in enclosed spaces, often dealing with unmasked patrons (you can’t wear a mask while eating or drinking). I have compassion for an elementary school teacher with 30 years in, still passionate enough about her job to bring inspiration every day, who has to reckon with the idea that teaching her fourth grade class in-person might cost her life. I have compassion for hospital workers who keep dying from COVID-19 because they risked it all to treat patients, some of whom refused to wear masks.

We should be more closed than we are. But because of the temper tantrums of a few and a bald attempt to reelect Trump, we’re going to do things we shouldn’t — like reopen schools and lift restrictions.

In case you were wondering, we’re not doing great right now with COVID-19 — just as the cold weather is coming, when spreading will be at a maximum. We’re just slightly down from a peak in early September.

Opening up fully is going to make it much, much worse.

It’s a bad idea. Don’t take it from me, take it from a medical expert, someone on the front lines in Pennsylvania:

“Every Pennsylvanian has a right to be healthy and stay alive during the COVID-19 pandemic, and attacks against science-based public health measures will only put people at risk,” said Dr. Max Cooper, Pennsylvania State Lead of the Committee to Protect Medicare and an emergency physician in Chester. “As physicians, we are extremely concerned that blind, unquestioning loyalty to President Trump is getting in the way of good public health policies and endangering people’s lives. Physicians have a responsibility to speak out when we see harm being done, and harm is being done right now to the people of Pennsylvania.”

We’re not ready to reopen fully. Period. Full stop.

We don’t have a vaccine. We’re not going to have a useful vaccine until the middle of next year — even if an effective, safe vaccine became available today, the infrastructure — needles, distribution and professionals to administer the shots — just isn’t going to be in place and won’t be for months. Even then, the early versions of the vaccine aren’t expected to be much more than 50% effective.

Yes, pro and college sports might be safer now to resume with the advent of “instant” testing (really 15 minutes, but close enough from Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card), allowing for frequent and rapid testing of athletes.

The Federal Government apparently bought up most of the tests from Abbott — 150 million — and it remains unclear how, or if, they will be used. Maybe they’re going to schools, maybe they’re sitting in a warehouse because Trump has made it clear he wants to limit the number of tests being done, claiming, bizarrely, there will be less cases if there is less testing.

But we’re blaming the fireman — Wolf — and not the arsonist, Trump. Wolf may have done an imperfect job, he admits as much, but the science shows he saved lives. Trump lied, repeatedly, stymied the best efforts of governors in both parties, and took a bad situation and made it horrific. If some of the clearly partisan whiners had a shred of integrity, they’d point that out.

But they don’t.


Interesting data coming out on where voters are requesting Vote By Mail, and it might be bad news for state Sen. Tom Killian (R-9) and GOP state house 160th District nominee Craig Williams.

Two of the top five districts for VBM requests in the commonwealth are in the 9th Senate/160th House district — with Kennett Township 3 being the top precinct in the entire state at this writing. Pennsbury North 1 is also in the top five. Additionally, Concord 3 in Delaware County, is in the top 10.

So far, VBM is skewing heavily toward Democrats — which means in those precincts Republicans will be in deep trouble.

Combined with polling I’ve seen showing both Killian and Williams down by double digits, it looks tough. Sources in Harrisburg tell me that Democrat groups have stopped working to fund Democrat Senate candidate John Kane — A: because he has a ton of money already and B: He’s way ahead. For what it is worth, I’m hearing similar things about the state Senate race in the 19th District, where State Rep. Carolyn Comitta appears to also have a commanding lead.

Of course, the numbers we see on election night and those we see about a week later will be vastly different unless counties are allowed to pre-tabulate mail in votes during the week before the election. I’m not counting, so to speak, on that.


The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a terrible loss for our country. Her legacy will live on for generations — both in terms of the law and her inspiration for generations of people of all genders and sexual orientations.

She will be missed.

I will take a deep breath and mourn her loss before taking a hard look at the political implications of her death both in the coming weeks and the years to come.

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