After weeks of staunchly denying that there was a monster in the attic, the tactic is finally becoming untenable. The pounding, stomping and grunting is just too loud to ignore. So now we’ve switched to “Yes, there’s a monster and we don’t know what his intentions are, but we think it will go away on its own. No need to do anything.”
Yeah, the Scott administration’s carefully posed optimism was on short supply in the latest gubernatorial Covid briefing. After several days of case counts between 200 and 300, a rising test positivity rate, dozens of hospitalizations and a high death count, Gov. Phil Scott and his top officials have retreated from their Happy Place.
Still, despite the bad numbers and failed projections, he still insists that there’s no need for any additional action. It’s all about the vaccine, baby. Get your shots and you’ll be fine.
Well, maybe. At least you’ll be less likely to end up in a hospital or a grave.
First up in today’s Parade of Gloom was Finance Commissioner and Grand Swami of the Cracked Crystal Ball Michael Pieciak, who acknowledged that Covid cases were up by 26% last week. He also admitted that Vermont is no longer best in the nation in cases per capita; we’ve fallen all the way to 19th which, he pointed out, was “still in the top performing half of states.”
Please, give it up already.
As he did last week, Pieciak said the near-term projections are all over the map. “We have a 50% confidence level in the projections,’ he said. “We’re a little uncertain as to the direction that we’re heading, unfortunately.”
That’s not the last time you’ll hear that confession of fecklessness, “unfortunately.”
Education Secretary Dan French was also on the retreat. He said the “test to stay” program is still a work in progress in the schools, that school staff and nurses often lack the capacity to do the necessary testing and contact tracing, and also that they are having to handle a lot of uncomfortable conflict with teachers.
Will he help out? Well, he’s meeting with school leaders on the reg. Expressions of concern will abound, I’m sure. As for tangible assistance, nope.
“We do continue to hear from districts and from school nurses about staffing concern,” French said..”I Don’t have any easy solutions for that, as I mentioned previously, but we are working to take some things off the plate, so to speak.” Whatever that means.
This brings us to the main event. The governor was a late entrant to the briefing due to a virtual meeting with federal officials. He actually got a few tough questions, although as usual, follow-ups were scarce as hen’s teeth. And you could tell the reporters hadn’t done much in the way of preparation; they knew the case numbers and not much else. I mean, they didn’t exactly distinguish themselves with questions like “Why has the Delta variant been so hard to predict?” and “Is there anything that can be done about this rise in cases?” No Pulitzers here.
But even when pitched a relative softball about Delta, Scott wasn’t up to it.
Yeah, I mean, keep in mind, let’s reset the clock a bit. We saw that our cases were coming down as well in the last week. Then all of a sudden, they went back up. I said, I think I said a week ago, one day, two days doesn’t make for a trend. And it didn’t. They went back up, for whatever reason, I don’t know. I wish I had the answer. I wish, I think we all wish we had the answer.
I think we all wish the governor had an answer. Just one. Any answer.
He then did another upward revision in the projected life cycle of the Delta variant. It was 4-5 weeks… then 7-9 weeks… and now, it’s 12-13. Which means, hey presto, the numbers should start going down in a couple of weeks!
Remember what Pieciak said about the projections? He doesn’t have a clue which way this is going, and neither does Our Dear Leader. “It’s unfortunate, we’re disappointed, we wish we had all the answers, but we have to keep doing what we think is right,” Scott said, doubling down on what’s been a failed strategy since the onset of Delta.
When asked if there was anything to be done about the rise in cases, Scott again spit the bit. “We are continuing to do everything we thin we can at this point, within reason,” he said, and then added that his intent was to “do everything” “without going to extremes.”
Because those are the only two choices we have: The status quo, or extremes.
In the middle of this answer, Scott pivoted to — of all things — fall tourism. “We’ve seen historic numbers of visitors,” he said, revealing his real priority: keeping the cash flowing.
He was then asked if tourism might be adding to the rise in cases. “You know, I don’t think so. um, although there is, the more activity there is, the more spread there will be,” Scott said. There’s the sum total of his prescience: “I don’t think so.”
Scott added that when he looks at the daily case counts, he checks for out-of-state cases. “At most, I’d say the high point was maybe 10%,” he said, completely ignoring half the problem with tourism: Travelers themselves may or may not get sick, but they’re contributing to the spread — and those additional cases would be in-state. His take is, like, stupidly wrong. He added that the problem “seems to be” small to mid-sized gatherings. You know, family occasions and such. Not tour buses or crowded cider mills or bars and restaurants. Heavens no.
Which brings us to a question about what the state could do to bring down the death count. Get ready for whatever the opposite of empathy is.
You know, those cases, and we’ll hopefully provide more information on that in the coming weeks, um, many of those cases are tragic, had a lot of compromising conditions, a lot of chronic conditions attached to most every death.
See, it’s not our fault. It’s the dead folks’ fault for being too weak to survive. Sorry about Grandma, but hey, look at these tourism numbers!
As if it wasn’t bad enough that Scott was peddling this stuff, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine took to the podium to engage in some straw-man punching.
If we had a total lockdown, we would prevent deaths. Absolutely no question. It doesn’t mean deaths are intolerable, but I think a total lockdown would be intolerable for many. Death is clearly tragic, but at many times it’s not avoidable.
Okay, doc, no one is calling for a total lockdown. A lot of experts, including dozens in your own damn department, are calling for further restrictions such as a mask mandate in indoor spaces. How stupid do you think we are?
Second, “not avoidable”? Hey doc, are you ignorant of how many more people have died during the pandemic than in whatever normal times used to be? How much more deadly this thing is than the flu? There are a hell of a lot of people, including those with pre-existing conditions, who really didn’t have to die just yet.
Both of my parents died after years of severe health problems — Alzheimer’s, heart disease, stroke — but you know, I’m glad I got to have all those later years with all the health scares and sudden work absences and canceled vacations and dealing with parents who were no longer all there. I’m glad they didn’t get cut down in a pandemic five, ten years earlier.
I tell you what, Dr. Levine, why don’t you go to Grandma’s funeral and try to sell that shit to the mourners?
Think that’s unfair? Well, I tell you what. As an older Vermonter with some additional risk factors, when I hear that I think of Ebenezer Scrooge: “‘If they would rather die, they’d better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
Yeah, that’s me, and a lot of Vermonters — including a good portion of Phil Scott’s base. Surplus population. No longer economically viable. Not worth imposing stricter policies and possibly hurting our economy.
I, and my fellows, have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.
Now tell me again what a Nice Guy he is.