Tag Archives: Covid 19

Ernie would be proud

Dang! I regret not snapping a picture of a building in Amarillo that is the subject of this blog. That would be the Ernie Houdashell Randall County Annex.

You see, it is Houdashell’s name that gives me reason to comment. I am delighted to have seen the building with the late Randall County judge’s name on it. My bride and I made a quick trip to the Panhandle and we took a moment to gaze at Ernie’s name on the annex.

Houdashell died recently of complications brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. His passing saddens me to this day. He and I became acquainted shortly after my arrival in the Texas Panhandle in early 1995 when he was district director for state Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo. Houdashell gravitated to the county judgeship not long afterward.

He worked hard to acquire the site of a former store on Western Street and build a county annex in south Amarillo. The county seat is in Canyon, but the bulk of the business in the county occurs at its annex, which formerly was stuffed into a tiny structure on Georgia Street.

Houdashell wanted county employees to operate in a modern and spacious venue and wanted the public they served to avail themselves of all the services the county offers.

He fought, cajoled and negotiated a deal for the county to build the annex. Then he died. The county then rewarded Houdashell’s memory by putting his name on the shiny new courthouse annex.

Oh, one more thing. The old annex structure has been repurposed into the Texas Panhandle War Memorial Center, next to the memorial honoring all the individuals from the Panhandle who gave their lives in conflicts dating back to the Spanish-American War. Houdashell worked to acquire an Air Force F-100 fighter jet, an Army UH-1 Huey helicopter (similar to one on which Houdashell served while deployed during the Vietnam War) and a piece of the battleship USS Arizona that was sunk in the Pearl Harbor attack.

Again, he did that all of that because of his eternal love of the county he served with distinction and honor.

I will miss my friend forever and then some. Randall County has done well by inscribing Ernie Houdashell’s name on the county annex.


Vaccines aren’t evil, Ron

Ron DeSantis is showing us what kind of presidential candidate he likely will become; he will trade on voters’ unjustified fears about proven medical treatments designed to rid the nation of a killer virus.

The Florida governor, likely to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, vows to launch a probe into the evil nature of the various vaccines approved by the federal food and drug agencies to fight the COVID-19 virus.

DeSantis, certainly no medical doctor, is getting some shi**y advice from his staff on what to say about the vaccines. Every infectious disease I have heard has said they are safe, they are effective and they shouldn’t be cause for worry among those who need to take them to fight off the virus … that is still killing Americans.

What the hell is DeSantis talking about?

I believe he is blowing it out his backside. It sounds like a precursor to a GOP nominating campaign that is going to trade on more lies and deceit.


Pandemic is not ‘over’

OK, Mr. President, I feel the need to set the record straight on something you reportedly blurted out on national TV the other evening.

You told “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley that the coronavirus pandemic “is over.” Uh, Mr. President? It’s not over! It’s still with us. Pharmaceutical companies are producing new vaccines and boosters. They’re making them available for schmucks like me to take … and I damn sure am going to receive my second booster shot in very short order.

What troubles me about your careless assertion that the pandemic is “over” is that it well might cause too many Americans to let down their guard.

I also heard what you told Pelley about how so many more millions of Americans are getting vaccinated than there were when you took office. I also heard how you said that the death toll has dropped off dramatically. That’s all true.

However, if the pandemic is “over,” why make such a big deal of having this vaccine booster available?

To be clear, I am not going to join the right-wing cabal of critics in suggesting that you’re “out of touch” or that you don’t have the intellectual heft to stay on the job as president. I am with you, Mr. President.

It’s just that your words carry tremendous weight. I mean, jeez, don’t say things that reverberate the way public pronouncements do. That reverberation is amplified when it involves statements that have killed nearly 1 million Americans and caused enormous anxiety among millions of other Americans.

Look, Mr. President, a member of my immediate family became sickened right after Christmas 2020. We could have lost her! We didn’t. However, she isn’t right just yet.

Others, too, are suffering recurrences of the disease.

Businesses are still “strongly encouraging” masks. Hospitals are offering free instant exams to patients checking in with unrelated emergencies.

Does that sound like a pandemic that has run its course?

It’s still with us, Mr. President.


Public service or sacrifice?

It is virtually impossible to find any situation equal to what public servants are experiencing in this era of petulance, but I might have a close example.

Gillespie County, Texas, no longer has an elections department because its officials have resigned over the harassment they have received in light of the 2020 presidential election. Teachers have quit their jobs because parents have grown intolerably angry over mask mandates and other requirements imposed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The closest example to this I have experienced in my lifetime occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s when Americans turned their anger over the Vietnam War to those of us who participated in it. Our military personnel were following lawful orders but when they returned home from that war, they were treated in many cases like war criminals.

We grew out of that anger … eventually.

My hope now is that we can outgrow what is occurring now.

As the Dallas Morning News noted in an editorial:

This needs to stop. We believe in an America where people are willing to listen to each other, where they are willing to see the humanity in another person, where we are willing to admit maybe there is another side to the story.

That’s called maturity. It’s something that’s in too short supply these days. Some growing up would do us good.


Many thanks, Dr. Fauci

Just got word of what many of us expected all along: Anthony Fauci is going to retire from a several-decades-long career in public service.

To which I want to offer the good doctor a heartfelt expression of thanks and gratitude for all he has done to help protect us against infectious disease.

Fauci, of course, became the face of medical awareness during the COVID-19 pandemic that spanned two administrations, from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. He is the nation’s — if not the world’s — leading expert on infectious disease. He spoke the truth to us when he had the answers to a disease that was killing thousands of Americans daily. When he didn’t know the answers, he had the guts to say so.

Oh, but the man who served as President Biden’s senior medical adviser, had to endure the defamatory criticism that came from the far-right wing of our political life. They didn’t trust him. They bristled at mask mandates, at calls for social distancing, at government telling citizens what they needed to protect themselves and others from a killer virus. He even had to endure the undermining of his public statements that came from Donald J. Trump, who hired him to manage our pandemic response.

Fauci served through several administrations, going back to the time of Ronald Reagan. He served with honor and with dedication to the practice of medicine and public health.

Fauci said he will leave in December. Presumably he will head toward a private life with his wife and family.

The man has earned some time off.

As the saying goes to those who have devoted their life to the cause of serving the public … thank you for your service, doc.


Are we overplaying COVID?

The thought occurred to me today as I was visiting by phone with a dear friend and former colleague: I am starting to wonder if the media aren’t overstating and overplaying these occurrences of COVID-19 positive tests among celebrities.

My friend, who is married to an Amarillo physician, didn’t disagree. I frame it in those terms because she didn’t precisely embrace the notion. She and her husband have seen their share of heartache and tragedy among her husband’s clientele.

To my point … which is that we seem to be entering a new stage of this pandemic in which “testing positive” is just, well, part of the new normal.

Texas Democratic candidate for governor Beto O’Rourke tests positive and the media are all over it; same with Vice President Kamala Harris.

They both report they are fine. They have “mild symptoms.” They’ll isolate for a few days and then be back at whatever it is they do during the day. The same can be said for practically everyone these days who is listed as testing positive for the virus.

I am not selling short the consequence of getting sick with this pandemic. A member of my family became desperately ill shortly after Christmas 2020. I also have lost several friends who have died from the disease. That was then. These days, though, the treatments are vastly improved and with more Americans becoming vaccinated, the instances of serious illness from the disease appear to be waning.

You remember when becoming infected with HIV/AIDS was a virtual death sentence, yes? What’s happened there? People are living long and fruitful lives with the virus that once delivered death with stunning and ruthless efficiency.

I am thinking at this moment that I am not going to get overly worked up over reports that someone in the news has contracted the COVID-19 virus. It is becoming part of living each day.


Big Lie gets even weirder

I never thought it was possible to embellish The Big Lie but the Republican nut cases who occupy public offices have managed to do so.

It goes like this …

There are those within the GOP who contend now that Democrats are fabricating the impact of various COVID-19 variants to “cheat” their way to winning future elections. One of the Republican nut jobs in Congress, Rep. Ronny Jackson of Amarillo, went on Fox News to suggest that very thing. The hosts on “Fox and Friends” let the moronic physician-turned-politician mutter that trash without challenging him.

One of the hosts said Jackson is “probably right.” Umm, no! He’s not right! He is wrong. So are those who suggest that the impact of the latest variant, called Omicron, is made up, that it’s a fabrication.

The Big Lie was born out of Donald Trump’s phony claim of “widespread voter fraud” in the 2020 election. It has now grown more legs and to my utter horror it is beginning to take root in the gullible mindlessness of Republican cultists’ noggins.

Good grief. Is there no end to this idiocy?


POTUS tells us: do not panic

Message received, Mr. President.

Joe Biden went on TV this morning to tell us the Omicron variant that began in southern Africa but which is working its way around the world provides no reason to panic.

He said we have to do the same things we have done to suppress the original COVID-19 virus and the assorted variants of the virus that have sprung up. Omicron is no different, President Biden said.

I hear ya, Mr. POTUS. My hope is that we all hear the president. That we all do the things we need to do to keep the virus variant from spreading. You know what they are, so I won’t belabor the point here.

I remain an eternal optimist that we are going to weather this matter. The timing of when we get the all-clear signal remains an open question.

No worries as far as my family and I are concerned. We aren’t waiting with bated breath for someone to tell us we’re in the clear from the virus. We are going to stay with the good-practices recommendations and do our part to put this virus — and the variants — down for keeps.


Medical personnel are heroes as well

(Photo by Gerardo Vieyra/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A phone call today produced a remarkable statement from one of my North Texas sources, a fellow I have gotten to know well while working as a freelance reporter for the Farmersville Times.

He is recovering from pneumonia induced by the COVID-19 virus.

He is grateful to be alive. Indeed, there was a lilt in his voice I hadn’t heard before today.

My source wanted to make a critical point: He said the medical personnel to tended to him are “among the very best.” They are performing heroic work under trying conditions, he said.

I did not press this fellow about precisely where he had been hospitalized. His feelings, though, about the medical personnel who cared for him could apply all across the spectrum.

My goodness, we hear stories of doctors and nurses stressing out as they care for those cannot touch their loved ones. The coronavirus isolates the sick from the healthy. Those who are hospitalized by the COVID virus become the exclusive charges of the medical professionals who care for them.

So, these folks step up. They become “surrogate loved ones” for those who depend on them to bring them back to good health or to save their lives.

As my friend noted as well, they are answering the call to do what they can under the most trying circumstances one can imagine.

“They need to know how much we care about them,” my friend said. I assured him that I would use this blog as a forum to do that very thing.

So … that is what I am doing here.

These men and women have earned our eternal gratitude for the work they are doing. They save lives every day. How much more heroic than that can it get?


Appreciating a POTUS who stays out of the way

The coronavirus pandemic has gripped two presidencies hard, which brings me to this thought.

The first president snagged by the pandemic, No. 45, kept stepping into the spotlight and talked over the advice we were getting from the experts he had brought in ostensibly to “assist” him in fighting the killer virus.

He hired a first-rate team. Then he refused to let them do their job, which was brief the public on what they know and how to advise us on dealing with the peril.

The next president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., aka No. 46, has stayed the hell out of the way. He kept a couple of his predecessor’s key medical advisers. President Biden has brought in some experts of his choosing.

The refreshing and, frankly, encouraging aspect of the current president’s modus operandi is that he is letting the experts talk directly to us. He isn’t stepping on their lines. He is not contradicting them. Biden is not hurling epithets, such as “idiot” and “loser” at them.

Yes, we are experiencing a surge in infection. A variant has emerged that has dodged its way out of medicine’s best strategies to deal with it. Children have become a major concern.

However, the president of the United States, Joe Biden, is letting the experts do what they do better than anyone else, which is convey information we need and provide counsel to the nation in need of some level of expertise.