Rumblings of Our Discontent: Data errors, forgotten stockpiles, #ReOpenRI, art fails, media/legislators want “in”

Editor’s Note: One can sense the tide turning in any high news situation. Yesterday was such a day. Along with a glimmer of hope in the release of a plan to reopen the state, various groups and individuals – other news outlets – and even the morning national news had Rhode Island issues on our dealing with the coronavirus top of conversation – and rumbling of discontent.

National News

Rhode Island was mentioned in the leading headlines in a story about our RI Department of Health coronavirus statistics, and those blue charts that are issued every day. According to the news, RI statistics show 1 in 5 patients listed as “discharged” from hospitals, actually died at the hospital. Of the 466 hospital discharges listed on the data sheets, 86 patients died at the hospital. Error attributed to a coding issue which the reports say will be corrected.

Providence Journal

Local political writer Kathy Gregg released a story on the stockpile of Rhode Island’s PPE equipment. Apparently, a flood in November destroyed 2% of the stockpile of masks and other items. When remediation was under way, notice was made that the entire stockpile had gone past their expiration dates – but the items were kept, and no replenishing order was ever made. In the beginning of Rhode Island’s plea for PPE, this situation was never revealed.

Gaspee Business Network

GBN has launched a petition campaign to #ReOpenRI for Work. The petition campaign, urges Governor Raimondo to re-open Rhode Island for work. The Gaspee Business Network (GBN), refers to themselves as “the incorruptible voice of the small business community”. The information from GBN notes “per the Governor’s plan, it could be well into the summer before many businesses could largely return to normalcy. Only certain business has been judged as ‘essential’, but the Gaspee Business Network believes that every business and job is essential to our state’s economic recovery,” said Mike Collins, spokesman for GBN. “The Governor’s arbitrary and oppressive scheme to open the economy is far too restrictive and slow.”

The petition also requests that every industry be provided the opportunity to pledge to follow recommended state health protocols, as has been provided to other industries, like the RI Manufacturer’s Association. 

The petition reads, in part:

Our state government has shut down thousands of businesses, judged to be “non-essential” … causing hundreds of thousands of Rhode Islanders to be thrown out of work. 

And now, there is reporting that it may be June until the shut-down is ended … and that oppressive regulations and restrictions will be put in place.

Enough! Every business and every job is essential to our state’s economic recovery! 

Like other industries that have been arbitrarily exempted from the shutdown… some by agreeing to sign a pledge to implement safe health practices … every Ocean State employer and employee is capable of adopting industry-specific social-distancing protocols, and should be provided the opportunity to take the same kind of get-back-to-work pledge. 

It is time to start treating Rhode Islanders like adults and to restore our right to earn a living!

By signing this petition … I believe that all Ocean State businesses and jobs are essential. Also, 

  • I call on the Governor and state lawmakers to reopen our state’s economy without oppressive restrictions
  • I demand that the Governor restore the right to earn a living for all employers and employees currently shuttered from work … 
  • I ask our government to place trust we, the job-producers and workers of Rhode, to follow social distancing practices, as outlined by the RI Department of Health, and …

The petition can be signed here: 

Art Palooza

The Angel of Hope & Strength is Actually a Symbol of Communist & Fascist Totalitarianism – so says the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity. The group, described as the “premier advocacy organization for liberty” “denounces in the strongest permissible terms the totalitarian nature of the piece of art that Governor Raimondo chose to put forth as “hope” for the Ocean State’s struggles against the Covid-19 pandemic. The art which some call street art or pop culture art, is a customized image saluting nurses and the medical profession, by RI artist and RISD graduate, Shepard Fairey.

Their statement:

The Governor referred to the portrait (centered in the below image) as “an inspiring image of leadership,” even though it features a bastardization of the Statue of Liberty wearing a communist China-type cap and tunic, in a layout reminiscent of posters supporting fascist dictatorships of the past.

“Consistent with her authoritarian plans to unilaterally impose harsh dictates on businesses, employees, and individuals during our state’s recovery process, the Governor, unbelievably, is asking us to accept such an overtly anti-American symbol of repression,” exclaimed Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “The portrait’s official name may be the ‘R.I. Angel of Hope and Strength’, but it is actually a symbol of communist and fascist totalitarianism. This is not inspiring leadership, and this is not the way to restore prosperity. During this crisis, when we should all work together, this symbol of unilateral imposed authority is completely inappropriate.”

As further insult, and also symbolic of dictatorial regimes, the image, which is nothing more than a slight modification of a prior work, is being projected onto the sides of buildings by the RI School of Design. This portrait controversy brings back memories of the administration’s previous “Cooler-Warmer” marketing debacle. In stark contrast to the oppressive government-mandates favored by the Governor, the Center has proposed 30 free-market policies that can help businesses and families restore their financial and medical health as our state begins its recover from the pandemic.

The RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity describes itself as a pro-family, pro-growth research and advocacy organization.

Over 60? Are we “done”?

Advice needs to come for those “over 60” and “over 70” – both age ranges have been identified as “high risk” that may need to stay at home – for how long? With social security and pensions targeted to working longer and longer, we’ve all done that. So we can’t “retire”, live on our social security and stay home. We need to plan our children’s weddings. And we hope to be there, too. We need guidance, and we need it quickly. We’re not going to stay home in our “golden years”. And if we have to for awhile, how much will we be paid to do that so we don’t enter those years financially devastated?

Colleges and Universities

Brown University has been quiet. But President Paxson raised her voice in the New York Times when she penned an op-ed saying that a crisis will be upon institutions of higher learning if they are not allowed to open in the fall. Not only did she raise her voice about Rhode Island – and Brown University, but she raised her voice for colleges big and small all around the United States.

Media Scrum

The daily absence of media in the room continues to promote grumbling among members of the media for a more open process, where questions could be posed in real time, whether in person or virtually such as on Zoom, so more of a dialogue could happen. Presently reporters option is to type on a form which goes “live” as soon as the Governor stops speaking at the podium, resulting in some creative ways to copy-and-paste questions in – and then there is a follow up 15 minute phone conference where reporters all shout simultaneously until one voice rises above the others for attention. No other Governor, or the President, holds a “presser” in this way, having reporters sit with social distancing rules in the same room. The Governor refuses to change the format saying she might “in the future take a look at it”.

Where in the world is the Lieutenant Governor?

More than once it has been noted that the Lieutenant Governor is nowhere to be found at the Governor’s daily addresses to the public. Questions have been posed that if the Governor were to take ill with coronavirus or otherwise, the Lt. Gov. would take over, but the Governor has referred to her ability to manage the process from home, and/or “her team” is all set to take over. Lt. Gov. McKee has taken to doing webinars targeted to small business owners.

RI Legislature

Members of the Rhode Island legislature – and specifically the minority caucuses of both the House and Senate – want back in. When their voice was first raised leadership – House Speaker Mattiello and Senate Leader Ruggiero were not receptive. But now they, too, are raising their voice – leading Speaker Mattiello to say decisions “need to be a consensus from this point forward”, after complimenting the Governor on what she has done to this point.

Memorial Hospital – Hospital Emergencies – Overflow Locations

We have 3 amazing facilities that have been built to care for over 2,000 overflow patients in this time of pandemic in Rhode Island – that would be in addition to the almost-dozen hospitals patient beds, some surge capacitated to over 300 rooms each. So far, and these statistics may be in need of some minor adjustments, we have had 466 people, total, discharged from hospitals. There are 7,926 positive tested people in the state (all tested were symptomatic). 239 people have died in RI from coronavirus. The Governor and others have said they can’t imagine needing the overflow beds. But we build them. Because national leaders told us to be prepared.

One wonders if Memorial had been surge capacitated to stand as the one facility to treat all coronavirus patients requiring hospitalization how it could have risen to the occasion, with an overflow plan. Other hospitals would not be standing vacant of their existing patient base – those coming in for tests, medical appointments and elective surgery. That would require a statewide plan, and global thinking. In a state as parochial as Rhode Island with its healthcare system stretched almost to insolvency already, one can see how this couldn’t happen. However, will we surface without taking advantage of the opportunity for systemic change in our healthcare system – in our wealth extraction system?

Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Centers, Group Homes

78% of RI Coronavirus deaths are people over the age of 70. The vast majority are in nursing homes or what is referred to as “congregate” or group living centers. Bringing this to light has been the publication of all the state’s homes with more than two deaths – some with many more cases that bear watching – and a spreading of the virus that is nearly impossible to stop knowing its ease of contagion. Further, the RI Veterans Home has had their first person taken out, ill with coronavirus, others testing positive, and some staff also ill and testing positive.

With so much attention on a daily basis to fishing regulations, visiting parks, buying gardening supplies, many have begun questioning the way we care for our most cherished – our seniors – those who gave us life – and what changes need to be made to protect them. The virus is coming into their facilities. How do we keep it out?

“We have passed the surge”  

Dr. Levy, Rhode Island Hospital, said the words yesterday. Good words to hear. We stand not where we thought we’d be. Not at all. But how were we to know? What we do from here will tell us how we will look back at this time.

Rumblings of our Discontent…

The rumblings of our discontent are getting louder – our people are getting antsy to go back – albeit it in an altered way – to our lives. Teach us everything we need to know to do that responsibly. Our economic ruin as a state, a country, and in our own homes is weighing as heavily as a virus that 98% of us can fight off. We are committed to protecting the 2% who can’t – tell us how to do this. We’ll put everything we’ve got into it.

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