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COVID-19: The Rule of 72 Rules

By Shlomo Maital

Albert Einstein once said famously, that compound interest is the “most powerful force in the universe.”   It is indeed, especially when compound interest is at work, in transmitting virus from one person to another, at varying rates.

So, here is the Rule of 72, and some optimistic news from my country Israel.

How fast is the number of infected persons doubling? How often? Are we succeeding in slowing it? The graph above shows the number seriously ill, or who have died, from COVID-19, in Israel,  dated from when schools closed – and the dotted line shows the future projection. The data are by the National Security Council.

Initially, it was assumed that the daily growth in COVID-19 seriously ill and deaths was growing at a compounded interest rate of 25% daily !! (why compound: because 25% more people, infect 25% more people, infect 25% more people..and so on…like bank compound interest).

Here is the Rule of 72:    The Rule of 72 shows you how quickly you’ll double your money. All you have to do is divide 72 by the interest rate it’s earning. This is the number of years it will take for your money to double.

Translate that to virus: Divide 72 by the daily rate of increase at which people fall seriously ill or die – that tells how rapidly the number of victims doubles – in how many days. 25% daily growth? 72/25 = about 3. Every 3 days. So in one month, 30 days, we have 10 doublings.   2 raised to the 10th power is 1,024. A thousand times more ill and dead, in one month. Simply not a situation hospitals can handle.

And that was the initial doubling rate in Israel, in the early days of school closure. Then people got the message and sheltered at home.

The daily infection rate then declined, to 15%. According to the National Security experts.

What does that mean? Rule of 72:   72/15 or about 5.   Doubling every five days. How many doublings in 30 days?   30/5 equals 6.   Two to the 6th power equals 64.

Sixty-four times more victims.

Something we can handle. Difficult, tragic – but – do-able.

   Sixty-four times more victims is hugely better than 1,024 times more victims.

   This is the Rule of 72. And the key point is – the Rule of 72 is in OUR hands. As my cell phone tells me each time I open it: Stay Home.  Getting the ‘compound interest’ rate down from 25% to 15% is hugely valuable.  When we invest we want more interest; when we shelter, we want a whole lot less (virus spread).  And even small differences in the rate of spread make a huge improvement.

   Now – next step, how do we figure out who can emerge from home to run the factories and farms? And when?   But so far, the Rule of 72 Rules.

 

 

A Vaccine Is On The Way – Soon?

By Shlomo Maital

Today’s Jerusalem Post daily paper, published in Jerusalem, brings some much-needed good news about progress in creating a vaccine against COVID-19.

The report notes:

A team of Israeli researchers says that they are days away from completing the production of the active component of a coronavirus vaccine that could be tested on humans as early as June 1. “We are in the final stages and within a few days we will hold the proteins – the active component of the vaccine,” Dr. Chen Katz, group leader of MIGAL’s biotechnology group, told The Jerusalem Post.   In late February, MIGAL [The Galilee Research Institute] committed to completing production of its vaccine within three weeks and having it on the market in 90 days. Katz said they were slightly delayed because it took longer than expected to receive the genetic construct that they ordered from China due to the airways being closed and it having to be rerouted.”

     (Note: the ‘genetic construct’ from China, is simply the RNA ribonucleic acid that defines COVID-19 — shame that cancellation of flights from China to Israel caused the delay – every day counts!).

   “As a reminder, for the past four years, researchers at MIGAL scientists have been developing a vaccine against infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), which causes a bronchial disease affecting poultry. The effectiveness of the vaccine has been proven in preclinical trials carried out at the Veterinary Institute.”

   Amazing that chickens, maybe, and their vaccine can help save human lives?

   The report continues:   “Our basic concept was to develop the technology and not specifically a vaccine for this kind or that kind of virus,” said Katz. “The scientific framework for the vaccine is based on a new protein expression vector, which forms and secretes a chimeric soluble protein that delivers the viral antigen into mucosal tissues by self-activated endocytosis, causing the body to form antibodies against the virus.”

   What does this mean? Basically: The vaccine helps the body produce a key protein able to penetrate the cells infected by COVID-19 in the throat and lung mucous. How does it penetrate?   Endocytosis is “the process of actively transporting molecules into the cell by engulfing it with its membrane.” This helps the cell produce antibodies that kill the virus, before it can kill the cell and reproduce, creating millions of new viruses that spread through the lungs.

     “In preclinical trials, the team demonstrated that the oral vaccination induces high levels of specific anti-IBV antibodies, “ a MAGAL expert said.

     A worldwide race is on, to develop an effective safe COVID-19 vaccine.   Whoever wins, humanity will be the big winner.   This is one race that can benefit everyone, even the spectators.

 COVID-19: The Economists’ Perspective

By Shlomo Maital

As readers know, I am an economist and have been super-critical of my fellow economists; I believe our prescriptions have done massive damage to the world, including the free-market greed-is-good credo that led to 2007/8.   But in the current pandemic, I am hearing words of wisdom from brilliant economists like Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, a New York Times columnist.

In his latest Op-Ed, in the New York Times (April 1) Krugman brings some serious wisdom. Let me summarize what he says.

To simplify things, think of the economy as consisting of two sectors, nonessential services (N) that we can shut down to limit human interactions and hence the spread of the disease, and essential services (E) that we can’t (or perhaps don’t need to, because they don’t involve personal interaction.) We can and should close down the N sector until some combination of growing immunity, widespread testing to quickly find and isolate cases, and, if we’re very lucky, a vaccine let us return to normal life.

“For those (like me) still receiving their regular paychecks, this period of shutdown — call it the coronacoma — will be annoying but not serious. I miss coffee shops and concerts, but can live without them for however long it takes.

“Things will, however, be very different and dire for those who are deprived of their regular income while the coronacoma lasts. This group includes many workers and small businesses; it also includes state and local governments, which are required to balance their budgets but are seeing revenues collapse and expenses soar.

   “How big is the N sector? Miguel Faria-e-Castro of the St. Louis Fed summarizes estimates that are as good as any: 27 to 67 million people, [for the United States], which he averages to 47 million. That’s a lot; we could be looking at a temporary decline in real GDP of 30 percent or more. But that GDP decline isn’t the problem, since it’s a necessary counterpart of the social distancing we need to be doing. The problem instead is how to limit the hardships facing those whose normal income has been cut off.

“What can be done to help those cut off from their normal incomes during this period of national lockdown? They don’t need jobs — we don’t want them working at a time when normal work routines can spread a deadly disease. What they need, instead, is money. That is, what’s needed now is disaster relief, not economic stimulus.”

So many ‘experts’ who tell us what should be done, are sitting pretty with large bank accounts and salaries that continue to flow. Krugman’s empathy for those without income – many many millions – is exemplary. THEY are the ones we need to worry about most.

So, as I’ve written elsewhere: Save Lives, yes…and save jobs, too,  by writing checks. If needed, pay the salaries and wages of workers for businesses, to keep them afloat.   Disaster relief…as Krugman says.

Testing holds the key. Why?   Using Krugman’s terminology: Suppose we had sufficient tests, deployed rapidly, with quick results, to know if EVERY working person had COVID-19. Divide the populace into N (non-essential, or infected) and E (essential and clean). If you shut down N+E together, everyone, you lose output and jobs – you lose E times (average output or income of E), which is huge and unnecessary.   If you shut down only N, you get all the jobs and output of E, and income. And you can use it to help pay survival incomes to the N.

This makes sense, right?   And we CAN get those quick automated tests out the door if they are given priority.

 

Save the Theodore Roosevelt!

By Shlomo Maital

USS Theodore Roosevelt Aircraft Carrier

Many years ago, my son Ronen, then an officer and chief engineer on an Israeli missile boat, and I boarded an American Sea Stallion helicopter at Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, and were ferried to the enormous American nuclear aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, anchored a few miles offshore. (The ship was far too big to enter Haifa Port).

This was made possible by my cousin Malcolm, then a nuclear sub commander. Thanks again, Mal!

Ronen and I were astounded.   Eleven decks, 5,000 sailors, nuclear engines meant it could stay on duty for many months, 80 jet aircraft launched from the upper deck, and the ability to launch and receive planes at the same time – and the capability, practiced frequently, of launching and recovering in the dark of night (not done by other nations).

Wow.

Fast forward. COVID-19. A New York Times article reports: Captain of Aircraft Carrier Pleads for Help as Virus Cases Increase Onboard.     “We are not at war,” the captain of the carrier Theodore Roosevelt wrote. “Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.”         

    The ship  was then in Guam. Hospital facilities there are very very limited.

   In a four-page letter dated Monday, first reported by The San Francisco Chronicle on Tuesday, Capt. Crozier laid out the dire situation unfolding aboard the warship, the Theodore Roosevelt, which has more than 4,000 crew members. He described what he said were the Navy’s failures to provide him with the proper resources to combat the virus by moving sailors off the vessel. “We are not at war,”  Captain Crozier wrote. “Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.”

(The Acting Secretary of the Navy has responded that, well, nobody on the ship is really THAT ill… so —   suck it up, guys!)

“Thomas B. Modly, the acting Navy secretary, told CNN in an interview that the Navy was working to move sailors off the ship — but that there were not enough beds in Guam to accommodate the entire crew.”

“We’re having to talk to the government there to see if we can get some hotel space, create some tent-type facilities there,” Mr. Modly said. “We’re doing it in a very methodical way because it’s not the same as a cruise ship.”

Speaking to reporters Tuesday night, the commander of the Pacific Fleet, Adm. John C. Aquilino, said that “we’re welcoming feedback” regarding the requests outlined by Captain Crozier.   Admiral Aquilino said that crew members would be rotated off the carrier for testing and quarantine before returning aboard. The intent, he said, was to keep the ship ready to carry out its missions. He said that no crew members had been hospitalized thus far, but he declined to specify the number of infections.

“The problem aboard the Roosevelt highlights a central dilemma facing the military: Top officials, who have spent years placing readiness to fight the next war as a top priority, are now finding that maintaining that readiness during a pandemic can endanger the health, and even the lives, of service members. At the same time that Americans are being told to stay at home and practice “social distancing” in public, many service members are instead being told to continue doing their jobs.”

I find this episode infuriating! I’ve served in military reserves and trained hard. Be ready to fight, is the credo. True. But in times of pandemic plague?   Save lives. And soldiers’ lives matter too.

Anyone want to start a Twitter account, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Lives Matter?   Because they do.

Wake up, Defense Secretary Mark Ester. You can save the lives of the sailors on the Theodore Roosevelt. These young men and women, some only 19 years old, spend long months at sea, away from their families. In normal times they defend America, all over the world. But now? It is urgent, top priority, to save their lives.

So – do something! DO SOMETHING! If you do not, their lives are your responsibility. And there will be no forgiveness.

Unemployment Insurance? Or Guaranteed Wages?

The Cost of Wrong Choices

By Shlomo Maital

US politicians, led by POTUS (President of the United States) are congratulating themselves for the $2.2 trillion bailout (Care Act), bringing relief to Americans out of work.

But let’s look at this more closely. US unemployment has leaped from a 40 year low, to what the St. Louis Federal Reserve believes could be as high as 32% (higher than the 24% unemployment rate in the Great Depression of the 1930’s). So the right approach is: Extend unemployment benefits. Right?

Wrong!

A New York Times article by leading economists  Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman makes this case:

“Instead of safeguarding employment, America is relying on beefed-up unemployment benefits to shield laid-off workers from economic hardship. To give just one example, in both the United States and Britain, the government is asking restaurant workers to stay home. But in Britain, workers are receiving 80 percent of their pay (up to £2,500 a month, or $3,125) and are guaranteed to get their job back once the shutdown is over. In America, the workers are laid off; they must then file for unemployment insurance and wait for the economy to start up again before they can apply for a new job, and if all goes well, sign a new contract and resume working.”

So clearly – the ‘extend unemployment insurance’ approach is NOT a solution. In the US, the right policy is to protect jobs. The wrong policy, the one adopted, is to pay pittances to those thrown out of work, in large part owing to government ‘shelter at home’ policy. The NYT continues:

“This dramatic spike in jobless claims [in the US] is an American peculiarity. In almost no other country are jobs being destroyed so fast. Why? Because throughout the world, governments are protecting employment. Workers keep their jobs, even in industries that are shut down. The government covers most of their wage through direct payments to employers. Wages are, in effect, socialized for the duration of the crisis.”

Socialized? SOCIALIZED!!!!???? Oh my, there’s that word, socialism. Yikes.

The US has a huge problem with semantics. Let’s be clear. Socialism is an economic and social and political system, in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned by the government. By paying wages to employers, governments are NOT implementing socialism, but preserving capitalism, by keeping employers and their companies alive, for a few months. That’s it!

America, open your windows (how often have I said that!). Check out Europe, “Old Europe”, as US Presidents like to say.

“Some countries — like Germany, with its Kurzarbeit system, a policy aimed at job retention in times of crisis — already had the government infrastructure in place to send workers home while the state replaced most of their lost earnings. [Kurzarbeit, ‘short work’, shortens the work week for all to distribute the hours among more people]. But several nations with no experience in that area — like Britain, Ireland and Denmark — were able to introduce brand-new employment guarantee programs on the fly during the epidemic.”

There is a fundamental problem with using unemployment insurance as the main bailout tool:

“Even if unemployment is generously compensated — as it is in the $2.2 trillion bill Congress passed — there is nothing efficient in letting the unemployment rate rise to double digits. Losing one’s job is anxiety inducing. Applying for unemployment benefits is burdensome. The unemployment system risks being swamped soon by tens of millions of claims. Although some businesses may rehire their workers once the shutdown is over, others will have disappeared. When social distancing ends, millions of employer-employee relationships will have been destroyed, slowing down the recovery. In Europe, people will be able to return to work, as if they had been on a long, government-paid leave.”

There is a basic hidden assumption in the US Care (bailout) Bill. It is based on liquidation – let businesses go broke, they screwed up anyway, we’ll re-establish them when all this blows over. Wrong!!!

  “A liquidationist ideology seems to have infected minds on both the left and the right. On the right, opposition to government grants to businesses is grounded in the view that markets should be left to sort out the consequences of the pandemic. Let airlines go bankrupt; shareholders and bondholders will lose but the airlines will restructure and re-emerge. The best way government can help is by slashing taxes, according to this view. The relief package includes more than $200 billion in tax cuts for business profits. This view is misguided. There is nothing efficient in the destruction of businesses that were viable before the virus outbreak. The crisis cannot be blamed on poorly managed corporations. Government support, in the case of a pandemic, does not create perverse incentives. Bankruptcies redistribute income, but in a chaotic and opaque way. And while bankruptcy might be a way to deal with the economic fallout of the pandemic for large corporations, it is not well adapted to small businesses. Without strong enough government support, many small businesses will have to liquidate.”

   Wrong-headed American policy impacts us all. In the good old days of the global economy, from the 1950’s onward, whenever the world economy slowed, America’s economy was the locomotive. Burgeoning spending by eager US consumers created demand that pull other economies out of the mud, worldwide. That was a crucial role America played.

  Today? We’re going to need America and China both, as locomotives, to pull us out of the Depression COVID-19 is causing. China seems to be coming out of it. Well done. But the US?   Not under current policies. Sooner or later, policymakers will recognize their error. But the US President NEVER admits error and doubles down on wrongheaded statements and policies. So don’t count on the US correcting its fundamental MASSIVE mistake.

      World, we’re on our own. America will sink, under a mountain of unemployment applications.

COVID-19: Logarithms Hold the Key

By Shlomo Maital

Warning: This blog could be harmful to your health…because it’s about… logarithms. (Logs). And plague. What in the world?

Well, let’s give it a shot. Nothing to lose.

A logarithm is a number, such that when its ‘base’ (usually, the number ten, or the number ‘e’, 2.71828 (we do NOT have to go into the black depths of THAT number), is raised to the value of the log, you get the value of your starting number, x.

For instance, 102 = 100. So the logarithm of 100 (using the ‘base’ of 10) is 2.

Clear?

Why are logarithms useful? Well, they have fallen into massive disuse lately, because of computers and calculators. But once they were crucial. Because, suppose you need to multiply two big numbers. On paper. Ouch! But wait! If you knew the logarithms of the two numbers? Add them! Because? The value of by times bz equals bz+y so, we have converted multiplying (hard!) to addition (easy!).

Logarithms was publicly proposed by John Napier in 1614, an English mathematician. Generations of school children (like my mother) had to learn the secrets of logs.

But what has this to do with COVID-19. So – there is a wonderful magical property of logs. Suppose there is a key number that you are tracking. E.g., the number of people in your country or your city or community, who have COVID-19. You can graph it, look at it, inspect the curve, it is rising, OK, but – what does it mean?

So here is what John Napier would recommend, 400 years ago. Take the logarithm of the number. Graph THAT, not the number itself.

Why? Because – trust me on this — the gradient, (steepness, or slope) of the logarithm graph tells everything. If the slope of the log is RISING, then the RATE of increase is increasing. If the slope is getting less steep, FALLING, the rate of increase of COVID-19 is declining. And this is crucial, to know how we’re doing. And you CANNOT tell this is you graph the number itself.

So, here in Israel, the slope of the logarithm of the number infected with COVID-19 has been declining. Yay!   The rate of increase is declining. We’re getting toward the apex. It’s a ways off…but once we reach the top of THAT hill, the slope of the log will turn from positive to negative…and that’s a KEY point. Because that’s when the number infected begins to fall….cause of celebration.

Clear? Clear as mud? So here is a sample graph. This is the total number of cases outside China. On a log scale. You can see a constant slope – constant rate of growth, as the virus spreads. Reflecting, maybe, a very slow response in Europe and the US.

So – in your country or city, track the logarithm of the number of cases, and measure the slope. That tells you whether it is speeding up or slowing down.   I don’t think our political leaders are quite up to that difficult mental exercise.  

The Big Winners: Dogs

By Shlomo Maital

SAMSUNG

   There is one big winner in the COVID-19 “shelter at home”: Our dogs. Like Pixie, our mixed-breed part-Yorkshire. We’re always at home, so any time is play time, and she brings us her rope and her weasel, to throw and play fetch. Then it’s walk time – it’s legal under partial ‘shelter at home’ to walk dogs, so she gets many daily walks, and we benefit from the fresh air.

When it’s TV time, she curls up on our laps, and as an equal opportunity dog, divides her presence between myself and my wife. She does her little circle – legacy of her wolf origins, who circle before lying down to sleep – and tucks in at our feet, her right ear straight in the air, alert and listening even when she sleeps. All this, in 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds).

Dog cognition expert Alexandra Horowitz, Barnard College, writing in today’s New York Times, observes, “[Dogs’] simple presence, and their willingness to be touched, is viscerally satisfying. Time spent reading on the couch is massively improved by a dog’s head resting on my leg, a warm snuffling muzzle directed at me is instantly calming. …there are some 90 million dogs in the US and in some ways we have treated dogs as quasi-people all along. “.

   Horowitz notes that normally dogs experience social isolation, as the owners are at work. They stay alone for most of their days. Now that WE are in ‘social isolation’, we are giving dogs ‘more of what they deserved all along – our companionship’.

One of the benefits of COVID-19 is a major rise in dog adoption. “…shelters that recently put out calls seeking foster care for homeless animals reported being inundated with applicants…”.  

Concludes Horowitz: “I hope we will maintain some of our current abnormal condition, giving our dogs the companionship they need. I hope we will come out of this with a fuller appreciation of the privilege that it is to keep the company of animals.”

Pixie: Thanks! We love and need you.

How the US Screwed Up:

A Litany of Fumbles

By Shlomo Maital

Ooops…fumbled the ball!

  The United States, led by the Trump administration, has fumbled the ball in dealing efficaciously with the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is the terrible litany of fumbles, mistakes and bad decisions, which in the end cause the deaths of many people. Needlessly.

    April 2018. Some nine or ten months before the crisis arose, Trump and his National Security Council advisor John Bolton (later fired himself…justice?) fire the NSC team charged with pandemic preparation; on April 8 Tim Bossert is fired, as Home Secretary Advisor, in charge of “comoprehensive defensive strategy against pandemics”. Bye bye strategy and plans. In May Rear Amiral Tim Ziemer, who headed a ‘health security team’ was fired and not replaced.

   Fast forward: China experiences early COVID-19, and, rather late, in late December, informs the world of it, and warns. On Jan. 20 the Center for Disease Control, in the US, announces the first case, a traveler from Wuhan, China. “We shut it down”, Trump says on Feb. 2. In February the CDC sends out its COVID-19 test, to public health testing labs in the US states; it doesn’t work. The US, (pride? Ego?) fails to purchase tests that are proven to work, from South Korea and other countries. The test is fixed, finally – but valuable weeks are lost. The public health labs work at developing their own test, something that has never before happened.

“When the CDC rolled out its tests, a component in them turned out to be faulty. That was unfortunate, but it put a big spotlight on the CDC’s decision to use its own test kit instead of test kits other countries have used, reportedly in an effort to create a more accurate test.”

   As of March 9, well into the US pandemic, only 4,300 COVID-19 tests had been carried out.  Trump says, “the tests are perfect”  (like his phone call to the Ukrainian President).

    Press reports:   “Testing is crucial to slowing epidemics. First, it lets public health officials identify sick people and subsequently isolate them. Second, they can trace that sick person’s recent contacts to make sure those people aren’t sick and to get them into quarantine as well. It’s one of the best tools we have for an outbreak like this. It’s also something that the federal government has done well before — recently, with H1N1 and Zika. “It’s been surprising to me that the administration’s had a hard time executing on some of these things,” Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said. “

America dropped the ball on testing. Press reports: “In the months before the coronavirus outbreak, the administration cut a public health position that was meant to help detect disease outbreaks in China, where the pandemic began, Even without such cuts, experts and advocates argue the US generally underfunds disease outbreak preparedness and public health programs more broadly. Further cuts just deepen the risks of pandemics. The common refrain among experts is that other countries’ actions, such as China’s draconian measures, gave the US a bit of time to do something, but the federal government has failed to get even the basics right in that time.”

What was President Trump’s role in this? “Trump “did not push to do aggressive additional testing in recent weeks, and that’s partly because more testing might have led to more cases being discovered of coronavirus outbreak, and the president had made clear — the lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president, the better for his potential re-election this fall.”

   Hospitals, especially in New York City, complain they lack equipment. Why? There is a large US strategic stockpile of lots of useful things. However, “While the administration has said it’s using federal authorities and tapping into its stockpiles to get more of this gear to the places that need it, health care workers on the ground complain that they still don’t have enough — forcing them to reuse possibly contaminated equipment and choose between working in unsafe conditions or not show up to work at all. All of this at a time when the country needs to, according to experts, boost health care capacity.”   There are rumors, Trump dislikes Washington state and New York State and that this is impacting federal shipments.

   In a pandemic, preparedness is crucial. The US Defense Department has contingency plans for a huge variety of threats. What about the health area? “….. this reflects on the lack of preparedness: A shortage of medical equipment is one of the many problems government simulations and exercises warned about before the current outbreak. But Trump simply didn’t prioritize pandemic preparedness beforehand. The US … was not prepared … A good preparedness plan would have helped address this and had things in place to allow for that increased need to be met.”

   US health care system is inadequate, even with Obamacare (imagine if Trump had succeeded in annulling it!?). “With the outbreak growing, the US’s lack of universal health care has become an even more obvious problem: If people can’t get testing, they’re less likely to find out they have Covid-19 and take precautions to avoid spreading the virus. If they can’t get treatment in case of complications, they’re more likely to suffer, potentially spread the disease, and die.”

   Fighting the poor, rather than the virus: “The administration has pushed forward on measures that will kick people off food stamps. This will not only lead people to suffer if they lose their jobs as a result of a coronavirus-caused recession, but it could lead to sick people going to work and spreading the disease, because they won’t have a safety net if they don’t bring in a paycheck.”

  Chasing immigrants, instead of virus: “Experts also pointed to the “public charge” rule, which effectively discourages immigrants from seeking public services, including health care, by threatening their immigration status if they are “likely to be a public charge” by relying on those services.”

   Yes, the United States has dropped the ball – fumbled it.   And this litany is very very partial – it’s only 1,000 words, it could fill a book.

   And the sad part, again, is that when a halfback fumbles in football, worst case, his team loses the game. In the US, when the administration fumbles, people die. Many people. And then ? Excuses. Boy, are we going to hear excuses, all the way to November and beyond.

Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts, as many as 200,000 Americans could die in this pandemic.  Many of these deaths could have been prevented, if the Administration had simply held onto the ball.

   There has to be accountability. At the very least, at the ballot box in November.

Find Meaning in Plague

By Shlomo Maital

  

   New York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks reminds us, today, that there is “moral meaning to plague”.   He quotes Victor Frankl, whose book Man’s Search for Meaning has influenced millions; in it Frankl describes how he survived the Holocaust death camps. He found meaning.

   How can each of us find meaning, in this plague epidemic?

   “Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person) and in courage during difficult times. Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it.” (Wiki)

     Work. Love. Courage. Pretty straightforward.

     Work – we do what we normally do, only at home and online.   Amazing how adaptable many people are, in their work. Special kudos to moms (and dads), who also care for young children.

     Love. Care for others. Let’s follow a formula I find useful, that I have borrowed: When you wake, ask 2 questions: What shall I do for myself today? (If you are not happy, strong, healthy, fit, effective, it’s hard to help others). What shall I do for others today? And, when you fall asleep, ask, What did I do for myself today? And – what did I do for others today?

   Courage. This may involve facing danger, opposition, humiliation. What is going wrong, that you can see, understand, and try to fix, or at least bring attention to it?

   There IS meaning in this epidemic. I see it everywhere, everyone, every day. Let’s all work hard to find it and leverage it.

 

 

Meet Andrea Ray: Heroine

By Shlomo Maital

   In our pandemic crisis, there are a huge number of unsung everyday heroes. Truck drivers who continue to drive the long hauls, delivery people, supermarket workers, police, Israel’s Home Front soldiers….

   And, in particular, Andrea Ray, featured on Channel 12 this evening. Andrea was born in Venezuela and made Aliyah to Israel when she was 16. She studied hotel management and had a senior job in the Dan Hotels system.

   Israel has taken over some of the Dan Hotels in Tel Aviv, and brought those who have tested positive for COVID-19, especially those flown home from abroad, to hotels. The area housing these patients is of course strictly quarantined, and the hotel is run jointly by the Home Front soldiers and Dan management.

     Why is Andrea a hero?   Who will care for the corona patients? Seriously? Spend many hours of the day mingling with those ill with the deadly virus?  

     You cannot tell someone to do this. You can only ask for volunteers.

     And Andrea volunteered. This is what she does, every day, for hours and hours – cares for the needs of the patients, cheers them up, laughs with them, and brings them joy with her smile.  

     What if she falls ill? Well, I’ll get the virus and then I’ll get better, she says.

     So, you’ve met Andrea Ray, heroine.  Do you know other such heroes and heroines?

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

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