Tom Clyde: Celebrating an orange panic level
We have moved from quarantine level Red to level Orange, and, boy, do I feel better. I have no idea what changes in my behavior are indicated by the switch from Red to Orange, but they must be substantial because, I don’t know. Nobody has the slightest idea what differences there are between Red, Orange, Yellow, Royal Stewart Plaid, or what ever comes next on the chart. If there was one lesson learned from the post-911 angst, it was that a color-coded chart of levels of existential fear serves no purpose because it has no meaning.
The country is going nuts. An employee at a dollar store was shot and killed after reminding a customer that the company’s policy required all customers to wear a mask. Another dollar store clerk admonished a customer, who then blew his nose in her sleeve. An Ohio legislator announced he would never wear a mask because covering the face is covering the likeness of God. If this is what Orange looks like, I don’t want to see Yellow.
My mood shifted from frustration to real anger this week. But I’m not angry enough to murder a store clerk, working for crap wages in a dollar store so her family has a place to live and food on the table. None of this is her fault, and thank God she’s willing to show up so we can all buy some medicinal Tide pods to eat.
The first reports of the virus were around in December. The Chinese sounded the alarm (late) about New Years. We golfed and diddled around until mid-March. So we’ve really been at this for almost five months, and it still looks like a clown show. Forget about the head clown. There is plenty of bungling to go around. Nobody is holding the hospital administrators accountable. These folks are pulling down multi-million dollar salaries in a lot of cases. Is it too much to have expected them to buy face-masks and fix up some of the old ventilators in the basement? Isn’t that what management does?
I look at the N-95 mask that is in short supply, and it really looks like anybody with a roll of the appropriate paper and a modified panini press could be cranking them out by the hundreds. But then they have to be certified by the FDA, and, like most other federal agencies, the FDA has been hollowed out and there’s nobody home. The Moron could waive some of those regulations, but that requires some focus. It’s unbelievable that five months into this, we still can’t solve even that.
I’m angry that the grocery store still doesn’t have normal inventory. Dairy producers are pouring milk on the ground, but it is sometimes hard to find in the grocery store. The problem there is packaging. Our Captains of Industry can’t figure out how to take milk that used to be sold in 10 or 20-gallon containers to schools and restaurants, and put it into grocery store jugs. There isn’t a milk shortage, there’s a shortage of people able to figure out the packaging. Same with bread, flour, sugar, toilet paper, and other staples.
Now it’s meat. The meat packing houses turned out to be concentrations of infection, and are closed because their employees are either too sick or too scared to come to work. So cattle are backing up on the farms, prices at the producer level are plunging (and the unsold livestock still has to be fed, so costs are rising). But in places, the meat counter is as empty as the toilet paper aisle. Part of that issue is also packaging. A restaurant or institutional buyer might be buying hamburger in 100-pound containers, and a slab of beef that the chef cuts for his menu. Changing the production line to package single steaks for grocery store sales needs more labor at the same time the labor is home sick. Meanwhile, there are 30 million unemployed.
I’m angry at Congress, who decided to bravely go on vacation instead of staying at the helm, going down with the ship. That’s leadership. They shoveled a lot of money out the door with no meaningful oversight on the way it gets spent, then ran for cover. The Senate came back to confirm some political appointees of dubious qualifications, then they, too will scatter like cockroaches. Still drawing full salary.
Trump is disbanding the White House Task Force on the virus. Apparently their work is done; problem solved. V.P. Pence says we’re back to normal by Memorial Day. The medical experts say we will see 3,000 deaths a day by June, and be social distancing (I still don’t really know what that means) until August. Salt Lake canceled the Days of ‘47 Parade in July, and Midway canceled Swiss Days on Labor Day — sure signs of the apocalypse.
I’m angry because after five months, I think it’s reasonable to expect some leadership, competence, and clarity. Instead, it looks like a systemic failure of Third World proportions.
Happy Orange threat level, just the same.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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