Coronavirus Diary Wednesday, 5/20/20

May 20, 2020. Now that’s a lot of 20’s in a row. Silly that I like to see the repetition or pattern of dates. It puts some irrelevant significance on a day and that gives me joy. 

Let me just say from the top, I’m getting pretty dry today as I reread what I have dug into for you. Sorry, as my Canadian friends say. You may or may not find it your cup of tea. That’s certainly no way to promote and encourage you to read this and it runs totally counter to my lifetime in marketing. But, what the heck, just being honest. Today is about voting by mail in Georgia, changes we’ve seen in isolation and a couple of things to share to get your day rolling. 

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Voting by Mail 

For those of you living outside of Georgia you may not know that the secretary of state, due to the virus, mailed every registered voter an application to vote by mail in the upcoming primaries. A gutsy and expensive decision, but one with which I whole-heartedly agree. 

It’s a multiple step process because you must first declare that you want to vote by mail and in which party primary you want to vote. Send that in and you receive the ballot for your chosen party. Fill in and send and you’ve voted in your primary. Then, in October/November, you’ll also receive a ballot by mail to vote in the 2020 Presidential Election.

Now, I have never, ever, ever voted by mail. Ever.

And, I have only missed one presidential election in my life. Ever. I always chose to vote in person even after the rules for voting by mail relaxed from “absentee” ballots to vote by mail for anyone for any reason.  

From what I’m reading, mail-in is the fairest way to hold the election. Oregon has led the way with a 20-year history of mail-in voting. Other states that are highly rural have also seen the positive results of giving more people the easiest route to vote. 

That aside, I’ve always enjoyed the experience of voting in person, and wearing the Georgia Peach “I Voted” sticker all day long to show all I’ve completed my patriotic duty and taken advantage of our most important right as an American. 

My excitement over voting dates back to elementary school. The voting machines would show up at Hillandale Elementary School in Durham ramping up to election day. They sat in the auditorium, each one covered up, tested and readied to capture the votes and set the course of our country’s future. On election day, a stream of adults flowed in all day long to cast their votes generating a lively feeling of excitement and anticipation. And, I wanted to participate. I couldn’t wait. Especially after accompanying my mom, standing inside the booth with her as she pulled the big red-handled mechanical lever to close the curtain, then flipped the small levers voting for her candidates. The array of races were all across the face of the machine. Then, once she had flipped all of the switches and rechecked her votes, she pulled the big lever again that at once opened the curtain and counted her votes inside the mysteriousness of the machine. 

Back then, you had to be 21 in order to vote. I turned 18 during the Vietnam War and it was then that the voting age was reduced to 18. It took an act of Congress pressed by significant antiwar protests across the country which pushed to match the draft age with the voting age. Finally, rationality met reality. If you’re old enough to be drafted, fight and die for your country, you should have the right to cast your vote in the very course of the country. I cast my first ballot in a losing effort to upend Richard Nixon running for his second term. Nixon won reelection in the most lopsided victory up to that point in U.S. history. Of course, Nixon was undone by the Watergate break-in and other malfeasance and resigned in disgrace in 1974, halfway through his second term. 

But I digress. Let me get back to today and the freedom to cast our individual vote. In person, or by mail…until 2018. 

Election 2018 is when then secretary of state and Republican candidate for governor, Brian Kemp and team, reduced the number of voting machines at our polling place by two thirds, from 12 down to four. All the polls had predicted a higher than normal midterm election. And yet, many polling sites across Georgia were ill-equipped to handle the turnout. Voters had to endure long lines and late waits. Polls were held open to allow all to vote. 

Plus, the downright nerve of the man running the the election process to also run for the highest position in the state government showed Kemp’s stripes even more than his commercials sitting on his porch with a shotgun or standing next to his beat up pickup truck talking about “illegal immigrants” and how he will personally send them all back across the border…but I digress, or regress.

On that election day I had to wait in line for over an hour. Julie waited over two hours when it had never taken more than 15 minutes in prior elections. 

So, I was opting to vote by mail this time, virus or not. I’ll have to miss the excitement but happily skip the waiting…and waiting…and waiting…a roadblock which is an often-used form of voter suppression. The harder you make it…and for many, waiting cuts into their paycheck if they’re hourly wage earners or have children at home or in line with them. 

There’s a lot of argument about the merits, safety and the often discussed opportunity for fraud with the mail-in ballot. 

And, there’s the President saying, out loud and without evidence, that if mail-in voting is allowed across the country, Republicans will never win an election again

I’m watching the building debate closely as we look down the barrel of a hugely important presidential election as well as a slate of both federal, state and local offices in Georgia up for grabs. 

Although investigation after investigation has proven that election fraud is a non-issue, it continues to be the rallying cry for those afraid of high voter turnout and involvement. 

Living in a state that has a history of proven voter suppression under the guise of holding down unproven voter fraud, I worry about the fairness of our election and the accuracy of the end results regardless, that all votes will be cast and counted. Afterall, this is where the secretary of state and 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidate, Brian Kemp, oversaw the largest mass disenfranchisement in U.S. history. Kemp should have stepped down from his appointed position upon declaring his candidacy for governor. Instead, he maintained his position throughout the election while laying a path of voter suppression.

Losing under those conditions was the genesis in Stacey Abrams creating FairFight Georgia, an organization that promotes fair elections in Georgia and around the country, encourages voter participation in elections, and educates voters about elections and their voting rights. It has become a substantial watchdog over elections. I highly recommend that you check out the great work of Stacey and team Fair Fight.

When Social Distancing makes urban feel rural 

Or, enjoying the smallness of life when staying home for safety. Another way of looking at it, said an article in the WAPO, is “comfort in being cocooned, or our routines being limited to a few permissible daily activities, and just having to take care of the people and things in our immediate bubble.”

Actually, have you given thought to what you will be giving up to go back to normal? 

This slow down, bad though it has been and will be for our economy, has been liberating for many. “Some people have really flourished in isolation,” said an emergency doctor who, herself, spent a year in Antarctica studying the long-term effects of isolation. “They learned a language, they made art. For many, it was a rich period of personal growth.” 

As far as how her studies on human behavior in the Great White South relate to our re-entry after a few months of staying at home in the comfort of our homes, well, the things that fell out of our orbit of experiences might have lost some of their appeal. We’ve formed a new normal of what we enjoy. Our “creature self, that which gives us emotion, is wary of changing the routine we’ve learned to like in the last month.” 

The advice from the experts lines up with the gradual return to normal phasing for each of us, not just businesses. “Be easy on yourself. Start your social engagements with familiar people, rather than trying to see all of your friends at once as soon we’re all let back out.”

In other words, take it easy. Don’t stampede. Don’t throw or go to a “We’re back” block party. 

Take a breath today and write down what are good things that you learned, adopted, realized during your and your family’s isolation. What do you want to maintain going forward. What did you like about staying at home? What made you feel good, or even better than before the virus.

How do you want to reset your values? If you’re a business owner or leader, what have we learned that should be made a part of doing business going forward?

And, of course, what have you missed the most and look forward to getting back to doing. 

I can assure you, commuting to work is not one of them!!

 

The business of reopening…from three weeks ago

I’ve been circling articles in the AJC and grabbing links to online stories that I believe relevant and from reliable sources just like I watched investigative reporters do all the years I was in TV. Looking for ideas, context, people of note for sourcing, a small item that could be a large item. Frankly, I got behind in circling back to them to review and possibly include in the blog. 

Today, while waiting in the car for Julie’s eye appointment, I pulled out the small stash. I found one article dated April 26, which is not that long ago really, but lightyears ago with regard to our understanding and progress through the virus. Regular Money Matters columnist Wes Moss in the Sunday Business section caught my eye with his column “Georgia’s reopening can be a model for U.S.” With it having been written over three weeks ago I was intrigued to see if the article still held water. You decide.

Two things that I circled were “Social distancing is working. According to www.covidtracking.com, the five-day rolling average of new cases in Georgia peaked at 969 on April 11, and is now running at approximately 700.” 

Wes puts forward the question, “So, do we really want to back off on a strategy that’s working? No, not completely. But we have reached an inflection point with our economy – one that demands a smart balance between protecting human life and preventing economic catastrophe.” Wes interviews a source who is part of Strategies Research Partners which provides macroeconomic research. This advisory firm stresses the importance of a May restart – instead of a June or July reopening. According to his source, “starting the reopening in May gets us to a minus 30% GDP number for the second quarter. Waiting one more month takes us to minus 60% GDP” and suggests that that 30% spread is the difference between “bending our economy and breaking it. 

During the dark years of 2007 and 2008, we were at minus 8% and minus 4.5%.  

Without a vaccine, we can’t secure ourselves against the virus and the virus is with us for the foreseeable future. And, we cannot afford to delay reopening until we effectively wipe out the virus. Moss’s advice:

  • Continue working from home for all jobs that allow for it. 
  • Businesses must institute practices to protect employees – monitoring for symptoms, testing even those without symptoms given the spread possible by asymptomatic infected individuals.
  • Social distancing is the new normal. PPE of varying degrees, from full on to masks only. 
  • Those businesses that can should stagger their in-office workforce by staggering days employees are expected to come to the workplace. This could cut the number of exposures by half, and keep the traffic down as well.

Moss didn’t get into restarting schools, both grades K-12 and higher education. That’s a very huge and different question but figures into parents going back into the workplace versus home, working with kids. The latest information regarding COVID-19 attacking healthy young people showing up must make this decision even more difficult. Or easy. 

 

Nothing like a pandemic to insight interest in making a will

Another article in my stash dated April 20 was headlined, “Pandemic creates sense of urgency to make a will.” Some lawyers were offering free services to draft wills and advanced directives for first responders. You have to celebrate their willingness to help those taking care of us.

If you have been putting this one off, take advantage of the extra time you have to put your mind at rest. Make a will! Most especially if you have kids or family. Or, if your current will is outdated because the kids have grown or you’ve moved to another state, or federal tax laws have changed since your previous draft, fix it!! 

By happenstance, Julie and I were already in the throws of doing just this before the virus showed up. We’d found, interviewed and met with new counsel since our lawyer had retired. Our drafts were in process at the beginning of the year and by the time we were ready to execute, we went to an almost empty office, put on gloves and signed the various documents including the will, and power of attorney for health and finances. What a relief without the virus hanging over our heads. And even more so, after seeing people struck down with COVID-19 apart from family. The power of attorney for health couldn’t be more important to your family should you fall ill and be separated from them.  

 

If you made it this far, thank you, thank you, thank you. You are a trooper. I hope that you found it interesting and informative. Let me know. Comment below.

 

Stay safe. Stay home. Find yourself. Dream of beaches.

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The ultimate in optimism arrived in my Sunday AJC

 

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