Thursday, November 26, 2020

Covid-19 continues surging in Maine, stressing contact tracing, hospitals

Happy Thanksgiving. Hopefully you're all spending it, as I am, in small gatherings because Covid-19 is exploding across the United States and until late January it doesn't appear there will be any cogent federal response, Hang tight.

Trends aren't good here in Maine, even though we still have the 49th lowest prevalence in the country after Hawaii. As I reported in the past few days for the Portland Press Herald, last week we hit new all time highs in hospitalizations, with medical centers in the eastern and central part of the state bearing the brunt of the burden. Intensive Care Unit capacity is rapidly becoming a front and center concern, two or three weeks ahead of whatever post-Thanksgiving boost the disease receives here. In yesterday's paper I reported on how the Maine CDC is already having to scale back the scope of contact tracing efforts, though they remain much more robust here than in most other states, definitely to include neighboring New Hampshire, which has officially given up on containment. 

As of yesterday, Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor had hit 27 inpatients, quadruple their peak during the spring surge. Should have updated hospitalization tallies for you tomorrow, which I'll post here as an update.

As I wrote Nov. 16, models show the trends here in Maine will get worse over the next few weeks.

Stay safe, wash your hands, and wear your masks.

Monday, November 16, 2020

The 2020 Elections and the American Nations

The American Nations boundaries show up in just about every closely contested election, and the 2020 presidential contest was no exception.

With the help of my Portland Press Herald colleague Chad Gilley, I crunched the election results (as of November 10) via the regional cultures as well as breaking out each of those between rural and urban counties and even between each of the six degrees of urban/rural-ness as defined by the federal government's National Center for Health Insurance Standards.

The results can be found in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram and online here. (There's also a brief sidebar on the paradigm for readers unfamiliar with it.)

By comparison, here's the 2016 version of this exercise.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Covid hospitalizations surge to record levels in Maine

I monitor the Covid-19 inpatient trends at Maine's hospitals on a weekly basis and this past week was especially bad. Maine, which has been one of the most Covid-limited states in the U.S., just broke its all-time record for inpatients and, as I report in tomorrow's Portland Press Herald, much of the growth is occurring in places it wasn't present during the spring and early summer surges: eastern Maine, central Maine, and at small hospitals scattered around rural Maine.

Details in the story.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Speaking about Union and how the U.S. survives via Trinity Wall Street, Nov 12

Before the pandemic struck, I was looking forward to traveling to lower Manhattan this week to speak as part of Trinity Wall Street Church's Trinity Commons series. But things are as they are [gestures vaguely around in all directions] and so we'll be doing this event virtually. The good news is all of you can attend, wherever you are.

The event kicks off November 12 at 6:30 pm and you can register here. It's a conversation format with Trinity's Priest-in-charge and Vicar, the Rev. Phillip A. Jackson.

I'll be talking about the vulnerabilities of the U.S. as a nation, federation, and republic, our struggle to forge a story of shared purpose, and what we need to do to survive going forward. These are, of course, the topics of my new book Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, and American Character: The Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good. Together they form a trilogy and, I hope, provide informed paths forward for a beleaguered republic and the "great hope" it has long represented.

So do join us if you can. Stay safe out there and pray, if you do that sort of thing, that better times are ahead for the U.S. and the world.

(An unrelated programing note: if you happen to live in Denmark, I'll be you guest later today (Nov. 7) on Danish national television, talking about our election.)


Friday, November 6, 2020

Fareed Zakaria recommends American Nations for today's political moment in the US

Over at the New York Times Book Review today, Fareed Zakaria -- whose ideas about illiberal democracy were very helpful in my thinking through some of the concepts in American Character -- was asked what four books he recommended for this political moment in America

Here's his answer:

"Ezra Klein’s “Why We’re Polarized,” which gets at the state of our politics. Colin Woodard’s “American Nations,” which gets at the cultural divides. Samuel Huntington’s “American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony,” because it places the current moment in historical context. And Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” because it is still the best book ever written about this country."

That's some company to be in. Thanks much, Fareed! 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Talking with CBC-Nova Scotia about the 400-year backstory to the 2020 election

The rest of the world is trying to understand what's going on with the United States and its (currently not quite resolved) election. 

So I very much enjoyed sharing the backstory (via the American Nations - American Character - Union trilogy) with CBC-Nova Scotia this morning for their longform Mainstreet program. It broadcast today, but can also be heard as a podcast here.

Last week I spoke with CBC-New Brunswick  (about Maine's role) and Denmark's Zetland Magasin about the grand American backstory.

Hope you're all getting more sleep than I am. But if you live in the United States, I very much doubt it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

New allegations against a Maine "medical supply" company led by man facing fraud indictments

It's Election Day 2020. Stay safe and, if you pray, do so for the survival of the American Experiment.

In my Maine reporting, I've been focused on the other crisis facing the world, the now-resurgent pandemic, and over the past few days I've been writing follow-ups on a story I broke in March about a Portland, Maine LLC headed by a man with a five-county criminal fraud indictment against him that had suddenly jumped into the medical supply business, trading in the shortage items desperately needed by hospitals and first responders.

Noble Partners, doing business as Noble Medical Supply, was the subject of my Portland Press Herald stories Friday and today, as allegations surfaced against the company and its founder Sean C. Grady. (Its customer-facing face is Diane Russell, former Democratic state legislator for Portland, who spoke at the 2016 DNC.) 

In Friday's story, news of a federal law suit against Noble and Grady in Florida; accusations of unreturned deposits for undelivered orders in Florida and California; a disgruntled sales representative and damaged masks in Texas; and, on the Internet, the company's website having been taken down by its provider and replaced with a demand for more than $15,000 in unpaid debts and a summary of Grady's legal problems in Maine and New Hampshire.

In today's story, the owner of a local Portland distillery lays out a story of a hand sanitizer production deal gone almost immediately bad, leaving his company out more than $150,000.

Separately, I also had this update on an uptick in Covid-19 hospitalizations in Maine and the unusual geography of that uptick. And to round out pandemic-related news coverage, in case you missed it, there is also this in-depth profile of Maine "superspreader wedding" pastor Todd Bell from Sunday's paper.

I last wrote about Noble Partners at the end of March, when they delivered a van load of masks and other supplies to some customers in Massachusetts as promised.

More on politics and the election anon.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

The Preacher and the Plague: a profile of the Maine pastor at the center of a notorious super spreader event

On August 7th, an obscure independent fundamentalist Baptists pastor presided over a wedding at a church he founded in the northern Maine town of East Millinocket, which was followed by a reception that did not comport to public health guidelines to contain the spread of COVID-19. Two months later, he's known far and wide -- by deed if not by name -- featured in news coverage around the world after the wedding has been linked to nearly 200 cases and at least eight deaths in Maine and the pastor has remained defiant.

Who is Rev. Todd Bell, where did he come from, what are the characteristics of the movement he belongs to and which supports him and why do they lead him to continue hosting maskless singers in his Sanford church and attend events featuring maskless youth choirs in other states, as he did this past week? Is he accountable to anyone, secular or otherwise?

I explored Bell's life, movement, and mission for this in-depth profile in today's Maine Sunday Telegram. And thanks to the Press Herald's subscribers for making this kind of time consuming work possible for a state-level news organization.