Post 281 - December 17, 2020

Day 281…

The snow is still falling this morning.

While places outside of the city got as much as two feet, it looks like we got considerably less than that here. Because of the wind, none of it has accumulated evenly so it’s hard to tell.

Looking out the window, I would say two or three inches, but according to the weather service Central Park has had accumulations of 10 inches with up to 2 more expected before it all finishes up later today. It is well below freezing this morning so none of it is going to go anywhere anytime soon.

The United States just past 17 million cases of the virus a few minutes ago. Over three hundred thousand Americans have lost their lives to it.

That should be shocking but it isn’t. Instead, it’s just Thursday. (And, of course, I had to check my phone to confirm what day it is.)

We set some new records yesterday.

247,000 new cases. In a single day. That’s all of Winston-Salem, North Carolina - sick, in a single day.

113,000 people were hospitalized yesterday, on top of everyone who is already in there. That would be as if the entire population of Costa Mesa, California had to go to the hospital at the same time on the same day.

3,600 Americans died as a result of the virus on Wednesday.

These unfathomable numbers are being fueled by the infections that happened over the Thanksgiving holidays when, despite warnings, people gathered with family anyway. With Christmas a week away, it is likely to be another month before we start to see any of those numbers begin to head down. If people didn’t stay away from each other for Thanksgiving, they certainly aren’t going to do it for Christmas.

Governors from all across the Northeast and the Midwest released a video yesterday message urging people to reconsider their holiday travel plans and stay home.

"If you are planning to travel or gather with other households for the holidays -- we urge you to reconsider. Just one infection can cause an outbreak in your community, which could overwhelm our hospitals and put you and your loved ones at risk."

People didn’t listen before, they aren’t likely to listen now.

The Pfizer vaccine rollout is underway. Two people in Alaska have reported an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Both are fine, one had a more serious response than the other. Both were healthcare workers.

There are reactions like this expected with any vaccine. So far, there are so few of them that they are notable enough to report. That’s actually a good sign.

It looks as if the FDA is going to give emergency approval to the Moderna vaccine later today. That will certainly speed up the number of people who can be inoculated on any given day.

I’ll admit that I’ve been as suspicious about these vaccines as anybody.

Whether it has been a natural separation or a conscious one, the messaging on the virus is no longer coming from the President. Of course, even though in the midst of his insensible rants about election fraud and other nonsense, he occasionally touts his great success with the vaccine, nobody seems to be paying any attention to that anymore. We are hearing from doctors and health care experts and watching all of them get it. I think it’s helping.

I will also admit that I’m not sorry that I am far down the line to get the vaccine. By the time it gets down to those of us in the general population, whatever issues there are will likely have been identified. Hopefully, as the rollout continues and fewer and fewer issues are reported, more and more people will change their minds and agree to get inoculated. That’s the only way that we will be able to return to anything like a fully open society.

I’m not squeamish about getting shots. Given how much I’ve traveled, I’ve been jabbed against almost everything that you can get vaccinated for.

COVID-19 might actually not be our biggest problem anymore.

The extent of the damage done by the Russians to our security systems via their latest hack is only starting to be understood. What they may be able to control, now, is extremely worrying.

Even though it has only come to light in the last day or two, this hack happened months ago - possibly as early as March. They’ve been in there for a while.

Tom Bossert headed the current Administration’s cybersecurity team until he was pushed out in 2018. The President objected to how his unit was investigating the scope of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. In other words, they were investigating it.

In an op-ed in the New York Times yesterday, he laid out what the damage could be.

"The magnitude of this ongoing attack is hard to overstate… (it will) take years to know for certain which networks the Russians control and which ones they just occupy… Somehow, the nation’s sensitive networks have to remain operational despite unknown levels of Russian access and control. A “do over” is mandatory and entire new networks need to be built — and isolated from compromised networks.”

The insidious nature of these attacks is that the Russians, if it is indeed them who perpetrated this attack, will be able to monitor all the efforts to investigate it from within those very systems.

What the Russians are likely to do with this access is to use their ability to control these networks to disseminate false information. This will have the effect of further undermining American’s confidence in the government - something this President has been doing ever since he took office.

All of this is pretty terrifying and yet the President has yet to utter a word about it. The White House Press Secretary said that they are taking a “hard look” at the data but left it at that.

As Bossert concluded, “We are sick, distracted, and now under cyberattack. Leadership is essential.”

This may be the thing that knocks COVID 19 off its current #1 crisis position.

We are still 34 days away from anything close to the leadership necessary to get us out of this. We aren’t going to get anything close to that from they guy in office now. This cyberattack requires swift and immediate retaliation. This President is far too in the thrall of the Russian President to take this seriously.

You know that things are dire when over breakfast you have a serious discussion with your partner about how likely is it that the current President of the United States is a Russian state operative.

The President-elect already has his hands full.

The snow has stopped.

The sky is now a brilliant blue although it looks like clouds are moving back in. Despite the brightness, however, it is seriously cold out there.

Time to break out the Timberlands and the parka and venture out. I’m not sure how far I’ll get, but I am going to give it a shot.

If worse comes to worse, I’ll just head over a couple of blocks to the new Krispy Kreme Doughnut Shop that opened up on Broadway and 96th Street.

Nothing is so bad that it can’t be made better by a Krispy Kreme doughnut.