Maine Peak Remains

Living with Coronavirus
Sunday December 12th, 2021
8:22 AM

Maine remains at peak; setting new records for infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.  Hospitals and hospital staff are stretched very thin, and overworked to the core.  This is a Delta wave largely affecting those who refused to get vaccinated.  Maine’s wave is part and parcel of the nations “Winter Wave”, which I fully expect to be an annual event. 

Like last time, the brunt of infections will be in the colder areas where folks are inside in groups more often and for longer periods of time.  Our best defense is prevention, avoiding the bug at all, which means masking and distancing and cleanliness of hands.  Our best protection is vaccination, which decreases spread minimally, but virtually stops hospitalizations and deaths.  I expect we shall follow that up with a “Summer Wave” which affects the hottest areas where people gather indoors to escape the heat.  I expect these events are likely to be annual events for a very long time indeed.

Omicron is rearing its head as well.  The data is still incomplete but it looks like it may evade Pfizer’s vaccine to a large extent.  There is some evidence that vaccinated people, infected with Omicron, have mostly mild cases, leading to the hope it is less dangerous.  Let me re-iterate, the data is still out.  We learn in real time, in hindsight, from the corpses.  It seems to be more infectious, and has to be very infectious at all to spread alongside Delta which is highly contagious.

Global Infected      265,579,446                   269,840,646                       
Increase             4,261,200
7-day average        608,742 infections diagnosed daily –Up

Global Dead          5,251,793                                          5,304,001
Increase             52,208
7-day average        7,458 deaths daily –Down barely

USA Infected         49,052,458                                      49,884,588
Increase             832,130
7-day average        118,875 infections diagnosed daily –Up

USA C-19 deaths      788,205                                         797,179
Increase             8,974
7-day average        1,282 deaths daily –Down slightly from last week’s doubling

Maine Infected       123,118                                           129,997                                                                
Increase             6,879
7-day average         982 infections diagnosed daily –Up from last week’s doubling

Maine deaths         1,336                                                1,367
Increase             31
7 day average        4.4285 deaths daily  –Down slightly

The Atlantic

“A lot is still unknown around Omicron, but a worrying trend has become clear: This variant sure is spreading fast. In South Africa, the U.K., and Denmark—countries with the best variant surveillance and high immunity against COVID—Omicron cases are growing exponentially. The variant has outcompeted the already highly transmissible Delta in South Africa and may soon do the same elsewhere. According to preliminary estimates, every person with Omicron is infecting 3–3.5 others, which is roughly on par with how fast the coronavirus spread when it first went global in early 2020.

In other words, Omicron is spreading in highly immune populations as quickly as the original virus did in populations with no immunity at all. If this holds and is left uncontrolled, a big Omicron wave lies ahead—bigger than we would have expected with Delta. Cases were already surging ahead of winter. The U.S. already had a too-low vaccination rate. And now Omicron threatens to eat away at the immunity we thought we had.

To be clear, this does not mean the pandemic clock has reset to early 2020. Vaccines and previous infections can blunt the virus’s worst effects. Even if protection against infection is eroded, which experts expect, given Omicron’s heavily mutated spike protein, protection against severe disease and death should be more durable. Hospitalizations, rather than cases, might be a better measure of the virus’s impact, as I and others have argued. But if cases balloon dramatically, even a tiny percentage of patients becoming seriously ill can turn into too many hospitalizations all at once. Therein lies the danger possible with Omicron. “That small proportion of severe disease, if it’s multiplied by millions of cases, that will be bad,” says Jeffrey Barrett, the director of the COVID-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute. “I’m pretty worried.”

“This is the simple math we have to keep in mind: A tiny percent of a huge number is still a big number. A largely mild but uncontrolled Omicron wave could cause a lot of pain, hospitalizations, and death across a country.”

Maine (WABI) –
“Single day reporting of coronavirus cases has topped 2,000 for the first time in Maine. According to the Maine CDC, there were 2,148 new cases recorded Thursday.  The head of the Maine CDC, Dr. Nirav Shah says roughly 1,700 are the result of an effort to reduce the volume of tests waiting review over the past several days.  He says about 450 cases are from the last 24 hours.

1/Stat of the Day: 2148. That’s how many new #COVID19 cases @MEPublicHealth reported today. It’s the highest number yet, and warrants a dive.

In short, the high one-day tally is the result of a major push by Maine CDC epidemiologists to plow through positive lab reports.

— Nirav D. Shah (@nirav_mainecdc) December 10, 2021

There are also 8 new deaths- two residents each from Cumberland, Androscoggin and Kennebec counties and one resident each from Oxford and Aroostook counties.  Meanwhile, 12,408 new coronavirus vaccines were given out Thursday in Maine according to the state’s vaccination dashboard.

According to the CDC, 8,348 were boosters.  69.56% of Maine’s total population is now fully vaccinated against COVID.”

“A team of experts from the National Disaster Medical System arrived Saturday at Maine Medical Center to help the hospital manage the onslaught of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.  It comes at the end of a week of record-breaking cases each day, with the seven-day cases average reported each day at an all-time high of 982.1 cases.

At times in recent weeks, Maine Medical Center has had no critical care beds available for either COVID-19 or non-COVID-19 patients.  MMC’s Emergency Department has often been on ‘diversion’ status, taking in only the most critical cases. For the week starting Dec. 6, the hospital had closed twelve operating rooms in order to free up health care staff and resources to care for other care teams.

The fifteen members of the group include physicians, advanced health care workers, nurses and paramedics, as well as an administrative staff specializing in safety and logistics support.  Officials with Maine Medical Center say that for the next two weeks, the team will be working on a new non-COVID-19 acute care unit, allowing administrators to provide 11 more beds for adult patients.

The team was sent at Gov. Janet Mills’ request, in collaboration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.”

On Church and State separation

Thomas Jefferson is the person who coined the phrase “separation of Church and State”, and wanted America to have a wall between them. For a damn good reason.  America has had religious liberty as a cornerstone of our nation since its inception.  Religious Liberty allows for people to believe and worship as they see fit.  Religious adherents do not all agree on religion, or God, or Jesus, or Salvation, or, or, or.

The list of disagreements between various religions is unending.

Maine has a case in front of the Supreme Court right now.  At its core is a state refusal to direct funds to a religious school which parents choose over the public option.  In rural Maine your town may not have a school, and your child might have to ride the bus an hour or more every day, each way, to the nearest school.  So the state has a program for such parents, if there is another private school closer, the state will pay for that instead of transporting the kids all over.  The parents in question sued because the state won’t pay for them to send their kids to a religious school, which is closer to them. 

On the surface that might seem unfair to those particular parents, as if they are being discriminated against for their religious belief.  The Supreme Court might even rule in their favor, saying it is unfair to those parents.  Those particular parents and their school desires are not the core issue here.  Church V State is.

If the Supreme rules in the parent’s favor, then all religions would have the same rights to taxpayer funds for education.  That means that Americans will wind up paying for the religious educations of religions they do not follow.  Jewish tax dollars might be used for Islamic education, Pentecostal dollars for Catholic educations, and so on, not for their own religion.  Since all tax dollars are pooled together, there is no way to say which citizens taxes are funding what.

Then you have the reality that some religions will exploit this for every dime they can get, despite being tax exempt to begin with.  In the end we would have the American taxpayer funding religious education, with no control of which religion is promoted in this fashion.  Religions would begin to compete for the American tax dollar, ostensibly for education. 

I guess we should just ignore the private planes, mansions, and yachts some religious leaders sport, right?

If the court approves this petition, then you can expect other parents, with similar issues, following suit and petitioning the state for equal funds.  Then religions will be able to siphon tax dollars for their religious congregation’s education, and every religion will want in on that funding.  Why not? They are tax exempt themselves, and the funds promise to grow their particular religious belief by educating children into it.

Carson V Makin

“Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett referred to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the “Jewish-Palestinian conflict” during a hearing on a case concerning public funding of religious schools on Wednesday.

“How would you even know if a school taught all religions are bigoted and biased or Catholics are bigoted or, you know, we take a position on the Jewish-Palestinian conflict because of our position on, you know, Jews, right?” said Barrett in a question directed at Maine Chief Deputy Attorney-General.

The case being heard by the Supreme Court was Carson v. Makin, which centers on Maine’s school tuition payment program that excludes schools that promote a faith or belief. Two families sued after they were denied tuition assistance, arguing that the program violates their religious freedom and equal protection rights.

The tuition program helps students who live in rural areas without access to public schools to receive a subsidy to attend a private school, as long as it is “nonsectarian,” which has been used to exclude religious schools.

Rachel Laser, President and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, first pointed out Barrett’s statements in a tweet on Wednesday evening. Laser also stated that the court appeared to be leaning in favor of forcing Maine to provide the subsidy to religious school students as well.

“Today’s oral arguments in Carson v. Makin revealed that the Court’s conservative justices may be poised to turn America’s foundational principle of religious freedom on its head,” said Laser in a statement on Wednesday. “That principle has never been understood as requiring the government to fund religious education, but several justices seem prepared to reinterpret it to mandate exactly that.

“One of the core reasons our country’s founders enshrined church-state separation in the Constitution was to ensure that the government doesn’t force taxpayers to pay for the private religious education of others,” added Laser. “If the Supreme Court requires Maine to fund religious instruction, it will be the first time the court mandates that taxpayers must pay for religious activities – shamelessly undermining our country’s founding principles that form the core of our democracy.”

Some of the arguments in the case refer to a circuit court’s decision on Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, which ruled that restrictions on receiving public funding against religious bodies are allowed as long as the funding is restricted due to the fact that the funds will be used for religious purposes and not based purely on the fact that the body has the status of being religious.

The petitioners claim that this distinction lacks a basis as barring funds to students who wish to learn at religious schools would discriminate not only against religious use of funds but also against the religious status which impels the religious use. They argue that the framers of the Constitution were aiming to protect religious “exercise,” not just “religious belief.”

The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution “protects citizens’ right to practice their religion as they please, so long as the practice does not run afoul of a ‘public morals’ or a ‘compelling’ governmental interest,” according to the United States Court’s website.

The State of Maine argues that the tuition program is unique and only intended to help students in school districts without public secondary schools with the equivalent of the education they would have received in a public school, according to SCOTUSblog. The state believes that public education should be “nonsectarian” and expose children to different viewpoints and does not promote a particular faith or belief system. The point of the tuition program is to provide only the equivalent of public-school education.”

This week it was 6 degrees and snowing for a couple of days.  It is now in the high 40’s with wind and rain, so the beginning of the snowpack has been melted into runoff for the rivers.  Does not help the aquifers a bit, nor does the low aquifer slow down Nestle from pumping it out and selling it the globe over: redistributing Maine water one plastic bottle at a time.  The Polar Vortex is hovering right above us; the combo of wind and rain and deeply cold air means ice events are very possible.

Got me thinking, what if an atmospheric river dumped into a cold air mass?  Would we then have an ice event which makes the ice storm of 98 look tiny in comparison?  Recently these atmospheric rivers have caused severe localized flooding all over the world.  If one sets up and dumps 14 inches of rain into a ten-degree airmass we would have an ice event like we have never seen.

As I worked on this another 52,208 people died from Covid, of those 8,974 were my fellow Americans, and of those 31 were my fellow Mainers.

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