TBC Weekly Newsletter August 24, 2020

An Unemployment Tsunami


Unemployment trends are transitioning from temporary layoffs to permanent ones, signaling a long road to recovery without a comprehensive second stimulus package.

USPS and Small Business


Changes in the postal service negatively impact small businesses that have been hit especially hard during COVID19.

Children More Contagious Than Adults


Children have been found to be silent carriers of the virus, with some asymptomatic children having higher levels of the virus in their airways than infected adults in ICUs.

COVID-19 Tests No Longer Need FDA Approval


The Department of Health and Human Services is no longer mandating that COVID-19 tests get FDA approval due to an executive order from the White House.

Hospitals Are Back To Suing Patients


Hospitals are suing COVID-19 patients for payment.

Herd Immunity: Is It Possible And How Close Are We?

It’s been a confusing back and forth since the pandemic began.  Is herd immunity achievable and if so, is it an ethical option?  What does attaining herd immunity mean and what are its implications?  Can we reach herd immunity without a vaccine?  Can people be reinfected? How long do antibodies last?


While there is still a lot we don’t know about the virus and its effects, here’s what we do know:


  1. COVID-19 antibodies don’t seem to last very long and no one is sure that they offer protection from being reinfected.  The CDC released updated information saying that “people can continue to test positive for up to 3 months after diagnosis and not be infectious to others.  Contrary to media reporting today, this science does not imply a person is immune to reinfection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the 3 months following infection.” Antibody levels also seem to vary greatly, but on average are much lower than they would need to be to achieve herd immunity even if they did guarantee immunity while they last.  Experts estimate that the global antibody rate is about 10%–much too low.  The highest rate of antibodies present is in New York City at an average of 20% but most places are significantly lower even if nearby, like Connecticut at an average of 5%. Even if new research that indicates the herd immunity threshold may only require about 50% of the population to be immunized is true, down from most estimates of 70%, we are no where near reaching herd immunity naturally.
  2. Natural herd immunity comes at too high of a cost and may not be possible considering it’s unknown how soon reinfection is possible after recovering from the virus.  Natural herd immunity would mean a massive death toll.  While the current estimated fatality rate of COVID-19 may be as low as .65% that would still be 2,133,300 American deaths.  And Dr. Fauci estimates that it may be much higher given the amount of pre-existing conditions in the US, not to mention the additional deaths that would occur, COVID related and otherwise, when our hospital system is completely overwhelmed.
  3. A vaccine will be necessary to reach herd immunity but it will take more than just a viable vaccine to stop COVID-19.  While vaccine development seems to be on track for a 2021 deadline, the efficacy rate may initially be lower than the optimal 70%.  If it takes 60-70% of the population being immunized to reach herd immunity, and we were lucky enough to have a vaccine with that ideal efficacy rate of 70%, it would still require almost everyone to be vaccinated.  That means that if ⅓ of the population decides not to get the vaccine, which is possible given the anti-science and anti-authority sentiment prevalent in the country right now, we would still be vulnerable to COVID-19 and the pandemic would continue.


A new addition to the coronavirus task force, Dr. Scott Atlas, has been pushing to allow for a natural herd immunity, adding to the confusion and misinformation being spread.  Obviously, a natural herd immunity, again, if possible, would come at the cost of a significant amount of American lives and is a last resort.  Our best bet is to enforce the measures we already know work, comprehensive mask wearing and social distancing, in conjunction with limiting groups of people in indoor spaces, while we eventually administer a viable and effective vaccine, hopefully sooner than later.


Yours in Strength,

The Take Back Control Team


We Must Save the USPS

In 2006 a law passed by Congress with bipartisan support that forced the United States Postal Service to prefund their employees retirement health benefits 75 years in advance and ever since this unnecessary and counterproductive legislation, it has been especially vulnerable. Now with the pandemic and lack of government funding, it is in a crisis.  Making matters worse, the newly appointed PostMaster General has been making decisions that seem more aligned with dismantling the essential public service than saving it.  In the past month reports have come in, along with pictures and videos, of post boxes being removed or locked, reduced office hours and potential closures.


Aside from the obvious implications this has in the upcoming November elections, there are many other reasons you should be extremely concerned about this trajectory.


The USPS is a huge employer.  They have 600,000 workers, 97,000 of which are military veterans.  This makes it one of the largest employers of veterans in our country. The last thing we need is an institution to go under that’s keeping Americans gainfully employed during the pandemic.


The USPS also goes places that Fedex, Amazon and other private delivery services don’t go.  This means that it’s one of the only points of access to the outside world for many people, especially in rural areas. Oftentimes, products ordered through Amazon or sent through Fedex end up being outsourced to the USPS in order to deliver to those harder to reach places.  If the USPS goes down, many people will be cut off from the outside world.


It is an essential service. Many rely on the USPS to mail checks to pay their bills, for life saving medication and other necessities, especially the elderly or disabled, and to stay in touch with loved ones.  As mail service has slowed, people have protested, signed petitions and taken to social media to express their outrage and share their struggles. Some people talk about how they haven’t received their cancer medication on time and are still waiting. 313 million adjusted prescriptions were sent through the mail in 2019.  Small businesses that depend on USPS to deliver their goods warn that if the Postal Service goes under, they will soon follow.


It will be terrible for the country if USPS can’t continue to operate.  Even more small businesses will close than already have during the outbreak, 600,000 USPS employees will lose their jobs, and lots of people will no longer have access to lifesaving resources and medication and/or be unable to afford to send mail through other privatized delivery services that are far more expensive.


The post office is a historic US institution.  In 1775 Congress named Ben Franklin the first Postmaster General and James Madison, the 4th president of the United States said this about its importance, “The power of establishing post roads must, in every view, be a harmless power, and may, perhaps, by judicious management, become productive of great public conveniency. Nothing which tends to facilitate the intercourse between the States can be deemed unworthy of the public care.”  It has indeed become not just a great public convenience, but a great public necessity.  Destroying it will throw us farther down a road it is becoming increasingly difficult to walk back from.  We must preserve and defend the USPS, both for the masses of people who depend on it and for the health of our economy and public infrastructure.


To learn more about what you can do to save USPS and make sure it’s sabotage is not just stopped, but reversed, click here.


Yours in Strength,

The Take Back Control Team


TBC Weekly Newsletter August 17, 2020

COVID Disinformation


Disinformation during a pandemic has deadly consequences.  The inundation and spread of false narratives has made it difficult to tell fact from fiction.  What is the end goal of disinformation and how can you spot it? Read the full article to find out.


Senate Breaks Without Relief Deal


The senate has gone on recess with no continuation of the eviction moratorium or unemployment expansion, leaving millions at risk of eviction and no way to provide for their families during the pandemic. A deal is unlikely to be reached before September.


The Deadliest Day of the Summer


On August 12th the US reported 1,485 COVID-19 deaths.  This is the highest number of daily deaths since May 15th.


How Small Businesses Got Stiffed


COVID-19 has been disproportionately hard on small businesses, especially those run by women and minorities. Between March1st through July 25th, 80,000 small businesses have permanently closed.  Government agencies that were supposed to aid small businesses have instead exacerbated the problem and banks are tightening lending standards.


White House Brings New Doctor onto the Coronavirus Task Force


The White House has recently added Dr. Scott Atlas to the coronavirus task force, a doctor more in-line with the current administration’s narrative on COVID-19. Dr. Scott Atlas has been decrying the “media hysteria” around the virus and encouraging natural herd immunity–something experts warn would result in the unnecessary deaths of vulnerable and higher risk Americans.


Food Insecurity

Food insecurity, once a rising concern linked to climate change, is now front and center for Americans during the pandemic.  With record levels of unemployment, supply chain disruption and rising grocery store costs, more and more Americans are forced to rely on food banks to feed their families.


Justin Block ,the managing director for the digital platform technology at Feeding America noted that “Across the Feeding America network of 200 food banks, the majority of food banks report seeing an increase in the number of people served compared to this time last year with an average increase of almost 60%.” This is substantial and a huge cause for concern.  With over 1 million new unemployment claims continuing to be filed every week, even as the unemployment expansion from the CARES Act expired last month, there is no end in sight for those out of work from COVID who need to feed their families. 


Feeding America estimates that 1 in 6 Americans will be food insecure this year due to COVID-19, a 46% increase from prior to the virus.  Even more disturbing, the amount of children suffering from hunger is projected to rise to 18 million, or 1 in 4.


Even if your immediate concern isn’t putting food on the table, grocery prices will rise for everyone.  According to the USDA beef prices will rise by 8%, pork by 4.5% and poultry by 3% this year compared to last year.  This is twice as much as the average annual increase in beef and pork prices.


What happens when food banks are overwhelmed?  Already feeding exponentially more people than usual, many that are volunteer led have had to shut down due to COVID. Lowcountry Foodbank in South Carolina fed about 140-150 people a month on average before the pandemic.  In April, that rose to 1,000, though that number has since dropped and held steady at around 700 per month since. But Brenda Shaw, Chief Development Officer for the Lowcountry Food Bank, expects to see another jump now that the unemployment expansion has expired.


We need serious government intervention.  No child should be struggling to eat in the world’s richest country, especially as stock markets continue to climb and the rich get richer off of the chaos of the virus. There is no excuse for this great nation to have 1 in 4 children go hungry.  Perhaps the most insidious component of this rising catastrophe is that it is entirely preventable.  Unemployment expansion is possible and would boost the economy.  Another round of stimulus checks is desperately needed.  Rental assistance and an eviction moratorium are key to preventing a second housing crisis, worse than the 2008 recession. 95% of the population wearing masks would control the virus in a matter of weeks and save 40,000 lives by December.  Our government must act, and act quickly to prevent economic collapse and the unnecessary death and disenfranchisement of its citizens.


Yours in Strength,

The Take Back Control Team


The Economy: A Bleak Forecast

Not to state the obvious but the economy is not doing well. If, when we first found out that COVID-19 was in our borders, we had done as experts recommended and had a comprehensive and aggressive testing and contact tracing program with federal direction and guidance, the economy would perhaps have fallen and then rebounded sharply with the V-curve the Trump administration is still hoping for


 But this did not happen.  Instead of leadership and swift action, we got half measures and a president who downplayed the seriousness of catastrophic and deadly viral spread to disastrous consequences.


Even as states have attempted to reopen, July continued to see record numbers of unemployment claims filed, with the last two weeks totalling to over 1.4 million claims each week.  The recently released economic numbers for the 2nd quarter show a 32.9% GDP contraction.  Numbers not seen since 1947 and 4 times the amount of the GDP contraction during the height of the 2008 Great Recession.  Analysts thought that the third quarter GDP numbers would see a quick bounce back, slightly offsetting the rapid decline of the 2nd quarter.  However, given recent unemployment numbers and the continued mismanagement of the pandemic, it is looking like the economic forecast will continue to darken into the 3rd quarter instead of providing relief.


Now we face a fall and winter that promise to be worse than anything we’ve seen thus far, both public health wise and economically. The unemployment expansion and eviction moratorium have both also expired, leaving 40 million Americans vulnerable to eviction and 25 million without the ability to collect a livable income


We are in an unprecedented situation right now.  We have no real leadership, there is no serious collaborative effort to stop the spread of COVID, and we are approaching, or have already crossed, a point of no return.


What is going to happen? 


The service industry will continue to be severely impacted, as will travel, manufacturing and all jobs that do not allow telework or ample social distancing. Unemployment will continue to rise and spending will go down. This in turn will fuel more unemployment and less spending, a vicious cycle that feeds into itself.  And if you still have your job and don’t think this will affect you, think again. Other commodities will get more expensive due to supply chain disruption and the breakdown of services.  For example, grocery store prices have already gone up, adding to growing concerns over food insecurity. And if the USPS goes under, we will all be paying significantly more for mail, to the point where it may be unaffordable to most people and your favorite small businesses. 


Unfortunately, the only way out is through.  We MUST do what it takes to get the virus under control. If we had instituted a lockdown in the spring, before the virus got a foothold, as painful as it might have temporarily been, we would be in a much better position for the fall and winter and a robust recovery would be much more likely.


Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has repeatedly emphasized that the economy will not make a full recovery until COVID-19 is eradicated. Before we can begin to get back on our feet, we need a competent national response to defeat COVID-19, something that seems less and less likely with the current administration.


Yours in Strength,

The Take Back Control Team


Back To School Update

We’ve only just begun August and already schools that have elected to reopen for in-person classes are reporting COVID-19 cases. 


In the Gwinnett County Public School system in Georgia, 260 employees either tested positive for COVID-19 or are quarantined due to exposure.  Corinth Highschool in Mississippi is reporting 5 confirmed cases and requiring children and staff exposed to quarantine for 14 days. In Greenfield, Indiana a school reported a case on their first day of reopening and Elmwood Community School, also in Indiana, was forced to move students in 7th-12th grade online learning for at least a week after several staff members tested positive.  


Most of the public messaging surrounding COVID-19 has warned against super spreader events, cautioning people against poorly ventilated indoor settings and crowds–so, schools essentially. 


Trump’s push to send kids back to school is a desperate attempt for normalcy and parents ability to refocus on their jobs and subsequently, restart the economy.  But there is no quick fix to the economy.  And sending kids back to school while the outbreak continues unabated not only endangers the children, but the parents who are then exposed.


Meanwhile, Governor’s are overriding local school boards and taking matters into their own hands.  In Maryland,  Gov. Larry Hogan overruled Montgomery County’s decision to make private schools go virtual until October.  In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds overrode local school districts and is requiring students to spend half of their schooling in person.  In South Carolina and Florida, the governors are pushing for in person classes.


Teachers in fear for their lives are making wills and finalizing end of life directives.  The American Federation of Teachers says it will back any local chapters that decide to strike.  


It’s clear that the risk to our youth and the adults in charge of their care are being put in high risk situations without adequate protections.  The question is not if people will die, but how many will die needlessly and how badly this will add flame to the already overwhelming spread of COVID-19.


Yours in Strength,

The Take Back Control Team



The USPS is in dire straits as we near a contentious election this November that will require vote-by-mail in order to be safe during a pandemic.  Trump and his administration have been systematically attacking both vote-by-mail and the USPS.


USPS has been targeted long before this by the GOP.  In 2005, Congress passed a measure requiring USPS to pre-fund retirement benefits 75 years in the future–an unnecessary and unprecedented amendment that has severely damaged the essential service. Now, as COVID-19 ravages the agency, Trump has appointed a Republican fundraiser and campaign donor, Louis DeJo as the new postmaster general.  Subsequently, USPS has continued to fall apart, with hours being cut nationally and announcements of considering office closures.


Trump’s repeated claims of voter fraud and vote-by-mail have been repeatedly debunked. Vote-by-mail is an efficient and safe way to hold elections–many states already do so successfully and without voter fraud.


And there are many other reasons to keep the USPS fully functional.  It is a large employer of veterans. It is a lifeline to many rural and native communities that other mail carriers don’t reach, as well as those with disabilities and who need life saving resources delivered at an affordable cost. If USPS breaks down, it is rural areas that will suffer disproportionately, although the rise in the cost of sending mail without USPS will affect us all.


“The post office may be mandated by the United States Constitution, as clearly as freedom of religion or the right to bear arms, but it does not fit with modern Republican dogma and, therefore, has been targeted for extinction,” says David Horsey, writing for the Los Angeles Times.


The safety of our democracy, small businesses, rural areas and those who rely on affordable deliveries of supplies are all depending on the continued existence of the USPS and it is our duty as Americans to save this public service guaranteed by the Constitution.


Yours in Strength,

The Take Back Control Team


The HEALS Act And Cutting Unemployment Expansion

Republicans have finally presented the outlines of a second stimulus package called the HEALS Act.  It includes more money for a second stimulus check but leaves out an eviction moratorium extension which expired on the 25th of July or rental assistance of any kind. It also cuts the unemployment expansion of $600/wk that many American families depend on for necessities.


Mitch McConnell is saying that they want to incentivize people to go back to work by cutting the expanded unemployment aid of $600/wk and replacing it with $100-200 or 70% of what people would have made at their jobs.


Just the other day Steve Mnuchin said “We’re not using taxpayer money to pay people more to stay home.” What this means is he does not want to use taxpayer money to support taxpayers who do not have jobs because businesses are unable to reopen at full capacity, if at all.


By refusing to support the American working class with their own tax dollars while millionaires get $1.6 million in tax cuts and billionaires get rich off of corporate bailouts, Congress is actually prolonging this crisis and making the economy worse.  According to the Economic Policy Institute extending the $600 UI benefits through the middle of 2021 would provide an average quarterly boost to gross domestic product (GDP) of 3.7% and employment of 5.1 million workers.  


Lisa Roberts, director of economic mobility at the Center For American Progress says, “Each dollar of unemployment insurance boosts economy-wide spending by $2. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that letting the $600 unemployment insurance extension expire would by itself lead to more job loss than happened in the recessions of the early 1990s or early 2000s.”


The HEALS Act also leaves out childcare funding, an eviction moratorium expansion, rental assistance, student loan relief, additional funding for local governments and other major crisis points that desperately need to be addressed and are intertwined with the health and economy of this country.  But it did have an extra $30 billion for defense spending on top of $760 billion already passed.


Reducing the unemployment expansion and neglecting to address critical issues exacerbated by the pandemic isn’t just hypocritical and cruel, it’s bad for the economy and the public health of this country.

Yours in Strength,

The Take Back Control Team

Will A Vaccine Be Enough?

There are currently over 165 vaccines in development all over the world and 27 have moved on to human trials. With a lack of national consensus of pretty much any measure that could be taken to curb the virus–lock downs, mask mandates, comprehensive testing and contact tracing–and no possibility of natural herd immunity, public health experts, politicians and everyday people are pinning their hopes on defeating COVID-19 with a vaccine, even if it may not be available until sometime next year.


Some vaccines have shown promise, giving researchers hope that a solution will soon be at hand. A new Phase I/II trial from scientists at the Oxford Vaccine Group and the Oxford University’s Jenner Institute show a strong immune response to the vaccine they are working on and no early safety concerns.  Some vaccines in the works are called mRNA vaccines, which bypass using any pathogens from COVID-19 at all in the production of the vaccine and instead isolate a “spike protein” that allows the virus to infect our cells rather than the virus itself.


However, there are still other obstacles to getting a vaccine to the masses besides the vaccine development itself.  Vaccinating the majority of the US population is a herculean feat, one that requires extensive coordination and a large scale manufacturing and distribution infrastructure. On top of that, if not enough people opt to get vaccinated, we still won’t reach herd immunity.


One of the biggest obstacles to quick implementation of a safe and working vaccine are the large numbers of people that don’t trust it enough to take it.  And it’s not just anti vaxxers.  People who generally trust science and medical research are uneasy at the rapid development of the vaccines, worried that we are skipping key measures and regulations to come up with a desperately needed solution.  Dr. Fauci predicts that the first vaccine we get is likely to have an efficacy rate of around 40%.  Eventually, we will hopefully have a vaccine with a 75% efficacy rate but the first one to pass the trials and be made available to the public is unlikely to be that successful.  But let’s say for argument’s sake that we get a vaccine with a 75% efficacy rate.  If 1/3 of the population declines to get vaccinated with a vaccine that is 75% effective, it simply won’t be enough. 


What can we do to ensure that enough people take the vaccine to turn the tide against COVID-19?  A nationwide campaign and public health initiative to make sure people are educated on the subject will be necessary. That and hoping for a vaccine with maximum efficacy. While America has stayed divided on masks, the severity of COVID-19, and how to address the ensuing calamity, perhaps we can finally come together on the issue of a COVID vaccine.


In the meantime, wear a mask, wash your hands, and social distance.

Yours in Strength,

The Take Back Control Team