School days in the era of coronavirus

20 percent cut

school daysAll summer, the issues of whether my wife, a teacher, and my daughter, a high school student would return to their traditional school days were up in the air. My wife and I have been watching the seemingly endless stories about the perils of colleges and other schools that have already begun their semesters.

In the city of Albany, there was a big push to allow students and students a choice. The Albany School District had an August 24 enrollment choice deadline. Leading into that, the district held several “virtual forums to provide families with the most up-to-date information and the opportunity to ask questions.” Some were building-specific; these would explain the protocols in those particular spaces. There were also district-wide forums.

To be honest, I didn’t attend any of the events. My rationale was that I was all Zoomed out. I did, however, vote in the enrollment choice poll. We voted Yes to in-class learning. The infection rate for Albany County has remained less than 1%, despite a few stupid college parties.

Also, my daughter wanted to go back to school. She thrives as a social being and hated whatever ersatz learning the school was forced into in mid-March through June.

Plan I

Virtual student orientation for students and parents and guardians were organized. The topics included orientation to the new classroom environment, and health and safety protocols. Also, they provided orientation to Google Classroom and a virtual learning environment. Students would hear about appropriate social distancing protocols, and the use and requirements for masks and face coverings.

After virtual instruction for all students for a week, the schools would begin to “implement identified instructional model (in-person, hybrid, or virtual), with early dismissal each day. By Tuesday, Sept. 29, all schools would “implement full days of instruction” by the preferred mode.

The budget surprise

Oh, geez. Schools Hit with 20% Cut by Governor Cuomo Right Before Start of Tumultuous School Year. “New York State budget office informed school districts statewide that it was temporarily withholding 20 percent of the State’s payments. This presents a major challenge for all New York school districts,”

Cuomo and labor leaders have written to New York’s congressional delegates urging them to provide $59 billion to the Empire State “to avoid what the governor predicts will be devastating cuts on state and local services.”

And suddenly, after all of the planning for options, Albany High School will be all virtual in the fall of 2020. My daughter is not happy. Moreover, she complained that I hadn’t told her the news. Hey, she was just getting up when I was going off to work at 10:30 a.m…

Back to school

Meanwhile, my wife IS going back to in-person teaching. Protocols are in place, but they seemed to be tweaked on a thrice-weekly basis. As a teacher of English as a New Language teacher, she’s hoping to get a face shield. It’s difficult to show visually how to enunciate while wearing a mask.

My wife was less worried about herself than bringing something home to her somewhat older husband. We’re just crossing our fingers. And our toes.

This bit of satire is essentially true.

Labor Day in the time of COVID

Maxing out the threshold

labormovementOn this Labor Day, we see how the coronavirus has pointed out flaws in how we operate a number of systems. Of course, unemployment skyrocketed in the early days of the pandemic. “Millions of people lost their job-based health insurance. While many are people are theoretically eligible for other forms of health insurance coverage, it’s not always that simple.

“This two-minute video lays out the options: Medicaid, job-based coverage from a spouse or parent, ACA marketplace coverage, COBRA, and short-term insurance plans.

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) plans may be able to elect continuous insurance coverage upon a “qualifying event,” such as losing a job or having hours reduced so that you’re no longer covered. That’s the upside. On the other hand, COBRA plans, in my experience, have been mighty expensive, especially when underemployed or unemployed.

The current regime’s constant attacks on “Obamacare” may have people believe the ACA is no longer an option. But it’s still there.Some folks thought the pandemic would aid the call for “Medicare for all,” or for all who want it. Perhaps, in a few months, it will.

HwOoMrEk

Having talked with a number of people who are working from home, I note some love it. They avoid much of the office politics, for example. On the other hand, others are having difficulty establishing a working day that is never over. This 2014 post in The Guardian, long before COVID-19, notes that “phones and emails enable bosses to pester staff at all hours. As a result, one-third of us feel unhappy about the time we devote to work and 40% of us are neglecting other parts of our lives because of work demands – which is likely to increase mental health problems.”

Our household fell into recognizing the separation of job and leisure when my wife was working from home in the spring. “Think you had a problem checking your work emails late at night? Without figuring out structure and boundaries it’s so easy to merge your work life and home life. Avoid that by putting a routine in place and physically separating work from home.

“For example, don’t plan to work from the couch. Instead, designate a space to work that’s away from living spaces and the kitchen. A desk in a bedroom, backroom, or spare room is perfect, preferably somewhere you can close the door if you share your living space with others. That works both ways because when your working day is over, you can shut the door on your job and ‘go home.'”

A lot of businesses are now also asking how to monitor employee internet activity so you need to get some good software if you need to do that.

You don’t feel well

Pre-COVID, a 2014 survey by the National Survey Foundation (NSF) concluded that 4 out of 10 Americans say they come to work sick simply because they don’t have much choice. Approximately 10% of those surveyed said they go to work sick. If you’re physically going to the job, that’s a terrible idea.

Undocumented immigrants, according to this CBS News report are particularly vulnerable. Generally excluded from the stimulus plans, many of these folks work, even when ill.

What if you are working at home and you feel as though someone ran you over with a truck? Obviously, you’re not going to infect your co-workers. Still, if you would have stayed home with your symptoms, you should take a sick day, if it’s available. “Plowing through” could just make one sicker.

“We NEED you!”

I’ve had enough conversations with unhappy employees to recognize a really disheartening phenomenon. There is a body of workers who actually have sick and/or vacation days accrued. However, they are discouraged, actively, or subtlely, from ever taking them. And often there’s a threshold, beyond which one can actually LOSE paid time off.

I remember feeling like the “indispensable employee” back in my FantaCo days. My boss insisted, correctly, that I should take time off. I decided to take eight successive Wednesdays off. The new comics came on Thursday, so this made sense. I read, went to the movies, cleaned my apartment, paid bills, and still had the weekends for fun.

We’re aware of how the Europeans take off more time than Americans. Yet, “almost as much productivity can happen, but within a defined set of hours… It’s setting an expectation; people don’t feel like they have to be checking email.”

An Abe Lincoln quote

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration.

Lydster: the summer job, finally

quarantine

Last year, my daughter had a summer job through the city of Albany’s Summer Youth Employment Program. It was her first actual job. She had taxes and Social Security taken out of her paycheck.

This summer, there was a pandemic that shut down the program. It’s not so much the money as it was something organized for her to do. Yes, she did some protesting and created some art. In fact, she combined the two by making a number of signs for the protests. She tackled some yardwork and power washed the front porch. But it’s better when she has a regular schedule.

She helped with a group of six to eight-year-olds in a program that my church contributes to. I’m of the opinion that friends and acquaintances of ours somehow created the position for her. It was only for two weeks, so she didn’t get too burned out by that.

It’s better than having her watch television all day. She watches some crime shows I actively hate.

why is this summer different from all others?

Of course, one of the elements that are different this summer is that we didn’t go on the extended family vacation. We had gone to a timeshare in Massachusetts, usually, for the past decade. COVID certainly affected that, to some degree. One of my daughter’s cousins is off to college and hasn’t even been home. Of course, the family dynamic has changed in no small way with the death of my FIL this spring.

And the three of us haven’t even gone on a nuclear family vacation. If we were to do so, it’d almost have to be in New York. The state has travel advisory. So if we were to travel to one of those 30-odd states, we’d have to follow a 14-day quarantine. so the longest trip we have taken is to see my MIL, 75 minutes away, and in New York State.

Obviously, we did not add to my daughter’s – or my – list of new states visited this summer. Maybe next year, if all goes well, we’ll travel to Minnesota for a family reunion.

Your COVID expert: Fauci or Woolery?

host of The Love Connection, among other shows

Chuck WooleryUnsurprisingly, IMPOTUS has been trying to undermine Dr. Anthony Fauci. The doctor has been the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) since 1984.

Fortunately, the regime has now secured the expertise of a much more reliable expert. “Chuck Woolery, the world-renowned epidemiologist, noted virologist and esteemed man of science… wait, no, you mean it was that Chuck Woolery? The game show host…?”

Yup. “Claiming he is ‘sick of it,’ the 79-year old Woolery tweeted that the ‘most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election.'”

Three guesses who then retweeted the message? You folks are SO smart. Thankfully, the medical experts pushed back. “We’re Not Lying.”

Only 1%?

This rift between the regime and Dr. Fauci goes back to April. These days, IMPOTUS says the COVID outbreak, which has killed over 140,000 Americans, is “under control.” The doctor “also disputed the president’s claim that 99 percent of COVID-19 cases are ‘harmless,’ saying it is ‘obviously not’ true.”

Where DOES this “ 99%” number, or usually presented as “only 1% are harmed,” come from? Of the 12.9 million cases as of this past weekend, 571,000 died worldwide. That 4.4% mortality. But of those who didn’t die but recovered, they experienced harm. Their percentage is about twice the death rate. Plus there are those who got sick but did not die and haven’t been cured. So well above 12% of people experienced “harm” from the coronavirus.

Discussing reasons for the recent surge in cases, Dr. Fauci agreed that it has been a mixture of politicians not following guidelines and citizens not following health advice.

Of course, the guy at 1600 Black Lives Matter Blvd. is a man who does not understand science or a lot of other things. Meanwhile, well into the pandemic, IMPOTUS didn’t wear a mask until very recently, says it’s a hoax, that’ll go away when it’s warmer and suggests it’ll be cured by ingesting Lysol. He says the U.S. is in a “good place” with the pandemic.

The buck stops there

But he DOES understand how to blame others. A document was being circulated by unnamed White House officials that included a list of Dr. Fauci’s past comments about the novel coronavirus that turned out to be wrong. The strategy of diminishing the doctor is based on Fauci citing the scientific evidence that was available at the time. As my friend likes to write, “Science knows it doesn’t know everything. Otherwise, it’d stop.”

A recommendation not to wear masks in January was, in part, based on a desire to keep people from hoarding the medical-grade PPE. By April, the doctor favored masks because the DATA drove the information he disseminated. Jaquandor weighs in regarding face coverings.

The ongoing campaign is having the desired effect. I read recently, “If almost everyone is wearing masks, and the infection rate is going up, that proves that masks don’t work!” SMH. As Dr. Fauci noted, “You could see from just looking, documented on TV and in the papers of still photos of people at bars and congregations, which are a perfect setup, particularly if you don’t have a mask. Some states skipped over those and just opened up too quickly.”

Meanwhile, the regime is attempting to bury a 69-page packet of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention materials about reopening schools. It “cautions that the ‘more people a student or staff member interacts with, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of Covid-19 spread.'”

So, Dr. Fauci or Dr. Woolery – who do you believe?

Our Economic Impact Payment Card?

Very stimulating

StimulusWhen I received an envelope from the Money Network Cardholder Services of Omaha, NE, I figured that it was a credit card from some bank that consolidated. Nope. It was the Economic Impact Payment Card. It’s money we’re “receiving as a result of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).”

In other words, our stimulus check was not a check at all but a debit card. It is a sign of the times that when I typed in eipcard com, Google auto-filled to add the word scam. But it is NOT a scam, as this brief, mechanical video notes.

The Treasury is Delivering Millions of Economic Impact Payments by Prepaid Debit Card, according to this May 18 post. “This week, Treasury and the IRS are starting to send nearly 4 million Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) by prepaid debit card, instead of by paper check. EIP Card recipients can make purchases, get cash from in-network ATMs, and transfer funds to their personal bank account without incurring any fees.

“They can also check their card balance online, by mobile app, or by phone without incurring fees. The EIP Card can be used online, at ATMs, or at any retail location where Visa is accepted. This free, prepaid card also provides consumer protections available to traditional bank account owners, including protections against fraud, loss, and other errors.”

Your basic caveats

Well…, check out this Forbes article, “5 Things To Know About Stimulus Debit Cards.”

Not everyone is getting them. “The Treasury Department says EIP cards will be sent to people who don’t have bank account information on file with the IRS from the 2018 or 2019 tax years and have had their tax returns processed by the Andover, Massachusetts or Austin, Texas IRS Service Center. Those two service centers process tax returns from [10 states], foreign countries, U.S. territories, and military addresses.” And other places, such as upstate New York.

You May Be Charged Fees. For instance, for “Out-of-network ATM withdrawals.” And I can’t find an in-network ATM that’s closer than 30 miles from my house: Walmarts in Bennington, VT and Pittsfield and North Adams, MA.

ATM balance inquiries. “Most ATMs will ask you if you want to check your card balance before making a withdrawal. However, each time you check your account balance on your EIP card via ATM, you will be charged 25 cents (on both in-network and out-of-network ATMs). You can avoid this charge by checking your account balance online, through the mobile app or by calling the customer service number.” Tricky stuff, this.

Bank/teller over-the-counter withdrawals. “If you withdraw cash directly from a bank teller, your first withdrawal will be free—but additional transactions will cost $5 each.” Ouch!

Register Online for Easy Account Access. I’ve tried, thrice so far. I get to what appears to be the last page, and I came up with an address error, somehow. So I CAN use the card, but I can’t yet check the balance unless I call 1.800.240.8100.