Code Blue America: A Challenge To Our Values; A Political/Economic ‘guns or butter’ Battle For Lives Over Profit


“Humanity has but three great enemies: fever, famine and war; of these by far the greatest, by far the most terrible, is fever.”

— Sir William Osler MD

For the past few years Commoner Call contributor Dan Peak has done the twice-weekly ‘Russia Monitor’ column, doing heroic work in tenaciously following the twisting, turning, oily trail of Trump’s relationship with Russia. As egregious as his behavior has been, it looks that Trump, once again, has slipped the grasp of justice for his many — shall we say — “conflicted” behaviors.

Given the explosion over the past couple weeks of the national emergency impacting every reader, Dan will shift his column to the developing — and quite possibly devolving — Covid-19 pandemic in a new column entitled “Code Blue America”. Code Blue is medical shorthand for a patient in cardiopulmonary arrest, requiring a ‘code team’ of providers to begin immediate resuscitative efforts.

As the pandemic spreads, health care workers and the unsung heroes working in the grocery stores, farm fields, driving truck and making deliveries are all members of the biggest ‘code team’ this nation has ever seen. We all owe them our deepest respect and appreciation. We also need to understand that the only way we will get through this is together. We are all, in fact, on the Code Blue America team. Our job here is to bring you good information and sense to what promises to be a tragic and confusing passage for us all.

— Mark L. Taylor, Editor


“I would rather have my children stay home and have all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working. Even if we all get sick, I’d rather die than kill the country. Because it’s not the economy that’s dying, it’s the country.”

— Conservative radio host Glenn Beck


“For a *small* segment of our population, it’s true, the coronavirus can kill you. … But you know what else can kill you? Poverty. Hunger. Losing the entire economy.”

— Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) with Fox News Tucker Carlson

Dear Fellow Readers,

I am embracing the arc of history and how my column has been unfolding over months and significantly, the last several weeks. No more Russia Monitor, for now, it’s Code Blue America.

It is not possible to be a single source for all things COVID-19 affecting our daily lives but I will do my best to paint the picture. To that end I will start with a few resources that can answer some questions.

Vernon Memorial Healthcare COVID-19 Updates and Nurse Line. NOTE: “Call Before You Come In”

Two Viroqua doctors have been using Facebook to offer COVID-19 guidance though it may be tricky to navigate FB to find all new updates:

  • Dr. Paul Bergquist, here.
  • Dr. David Chakoian, here.

For accurate information tracking COVID-19 Cases and Resources:

  • Johns Hopkins University of Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center, here.
  • Wisconsin Department of Health Services coronavirus statewide count, here.
  • Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), here.
  • has an excellent Q&A section including how long the virus survives on various surfaces like cardboard for 24 hours, here.

Highly recommended, go here to get your Wisconsin Vote by Mail ballot; but you only have until March 30.


Diving in to the roiling ocean of COVID-19 news

The United States, Spain and Italy currently account for half of new coronavirus cases globally. Spain now reports more deaths than China. If the goal is to flatten the curve, it does not look like we’ve done that yet – globally, in the United States and certainly not in hot spots like New York City.

There are accusations that some countries like Russia are covering up their number of cases while denying critical protective equipment resources to front line health care. And that China is publicly claiming victory flattening the curve by denying testing. “In Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak and the country’s worst-hit area, officials on Monday reported a fifth day without new cases.” But as lock down restrictions are eased residents and analysts doubt the near-zero community transmission rate, worrying that leaders have prioritized restarting the economy over decisively containing the virus.

Trump has forced the question of what is most important – lives or the economy?

Trump is pushing a timetable for relaxation of lockdown restrictions as he “…Sets Easter Goal for Reopening American Economy”. The Tuesday report by NPR covers a lot of ground with what has transpired over the last day or two; it’s a worthwhile read.

But to stay on theme, there is a chorus of conservative thinkers, pundits and politicians sowing arguments to support a potential walk-back of the science-based policies that public health experts have repeatedly stressed are needed to slow the spread of coronavirus and limit the potential for overwhelming hospitals and rapidly accelerating death counts.

Generally, there is conservative skepticism over the cautions offered by health care experts and a willingness to accept a certain number of deaths (theirs?) to incur fewer economic costs.

“Disastrous sentimentalism.”

Trump has seized on this skepticism and framed his ‘back to work’ attitude in religious terms declaring Easter and ‘packed churches’ as his milestone.

Here a religious voice taking exception to the conservative religious view epitomized by First Things editor R.R. Reno:

“Reno complains that he can’t enjoy himself in any way he likes during a pandemic and it isn’t fair. In it, he makes the preposterous claim that trying to save an enormous number of human lives is “disastrous sentimentalism.””

Author Mary Pezzulo highlights Reno’s claim that “there are many things more precious than life.” Pezzulo responds, “I can think of nothing less honorable than allowing my selfishness to endanger another person’s life. It’s honorable to help people, not disregard their safety so that I can have a good time.”

Trump is not leading; he is fueling skirmishes, competition for scarce resources and divisiveness.

New York City is currently the US coronavirus hot spot with an infection rate that is doubling every three days. But Trump tells governors to solve their own problems and is offering only limited federal assistance. Here is New York governor Andrew Cuomo making the stark situation clear:

“FEMA says ‘we’re sending 400 ventilators.’ Really? What am I going to do with 400 ventilators when I need 30,000? You pick the 26,000 who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators.”

Trump is forcing governors to compete against each other for emergency resources from private companies. Trump gives himself the mantle of ‘wartime leader’ while telling governors, (you) “shouldn’t be blaming the Federal Government for their own shortcomings. We are there to back you up should you fail, and always will be!” FEMA prescribes, ‘go to the market, buy it, we’ll reimburse’.

Consider this ‘state-against-state competition’ being waged while “State legislatures are facing chaos amid the coronavirus crisis.”

Trump sets himself up to take credit for anything good that happens while passing on the responsibility for any failure to the states – this is NOT how our government is designed.

Trump threatens any governor who may be so foolish as to criticize him, “It’s a two way street they have to treat us well too.” CNN political analyst Joe Lockhart commented when posting this, now our governors know how (Ukraine) President Zelensky felt.”

I will give the final word on this to conservative Washington Post Opinion writer Jennifer Rubin:

He promises a coronavirus cure and millions of tests just like he promised customers delicious steaks and a university degree. It’s all showmanship; there is no real accomplishment. He has suffered from overselling and underperforming his entire life.


$2 Trillion coronavirus Stimulus Package – Boeing Bailout or Worker Protections?

It is not possible to properly explain the impact of the $2 trillion 1,400-page stimulus package in a few sentences. It has something for many and not enough for everyone but I want to be clear on my own assessment.

Republicans fought to limit oversight, especially with the $500 billion corporate bailout fund that Trump assured would be controlled by him – it’s not, there is some light oversight. Republicans managed to slip in last-minute support for Boeing as a ‘strategic resource’.

Democrats fought to expand worker protections including expansion of some financial backing for workers – though nowhere near enough to address the pain.

My point – look at what party fought for who – in a ‘guns or butter’ economic debate, the GOP again stood for ‘guns’, Dems at least fought for ‘butter’. And Dems did make it so Trump and family cannot personally benefit from the stimulus plan.

Some Rays of Hope?

The coronavirus isn’t mutating quickly, suggesting a vaccine would offer lasting protection.” This lack of mutation suggests the virus is unlikely to get more dangerous and raises hope for an effective vaccine.

How South Korea Flattened the Curve

We have learned how to flatten the curve – now we need to adapt and follow the Plan.

“COVID-19: A New Hope (w/Dr. Zubin Damania)” I found I had to accommodate Dr. Zubin’s delivery ‘style’, but he does lay out a practical set of ‘knowns’ that pick up on the above article for how South Korea (and other countries) have flattened the curve.

Be Careful. Be Vigilant. And Do Your Homework

Keep a safe distance, be watchful, don’t trust all claims at face value. Some simple examples of how people act out or take advantage.

  • Two start-up companies started marketing coronavirus home test kits “that let people collect their own saliva samples or oral throat swabs and then send the specimens to commercial labs to be tested for the virus.” But the Food and Drug Administration warned it had “not authorized any test”.




Scratching the COVID-19 surface, while ending with a pleasant distraction:

Bird Song Opera