A number of states around the country are reopening or preparing to do so, California Gov. Gavin Newsom is ordering the state’s beaches and state parks closed. The move was prompted by pictures from Orange County that showed Newport Beach crowded with tens of thousands of beachgoers over the weekend.
Earlier this week, the Newport Beach council considered a measure to close the beach for the next three weekends but decided against the move. Instead, the body decided to deploy more police officers and lifeguards to enforce social distancing.
The large weekend crowds at Newport Beach were prompted both by a heatwave in SoCal as well as numerous local closures at other beaches notes the Orange County Register. As one of the only open beaches in the area, people from around the area were drawn to Newport.
Nearby Laguna Beach, which had closed its beaches last month, voted to reopen for “active use only” on Tuesday. Beachgoers could run or swim if they maintained six-foot separation. Sitting or laying on the beach would not be permitted.
This morning, Gov. Newsom is ordering all state parks and beaches closed effective May 1 to address an issue that he admits is not widespread.
“About 100 beaches, easily defined 100 beaches, and there were five where we had some particular challenges,” Newsom said, per California’s ABC 7. Overwhelming majority there were no major issues. Quite frankly no issues.”
A memo sent by the California Chiefs Association to law enforcement agencies said that the beach scenes represented a “violation of Governor Newsom’s Shelter in Place Order,” reported NBC Los Angeles. The memo was an advance warning of the closures intended to allow law enforcement time to prepare.
Orange County, located near Los Angeles, ranks fourth in the state for Coronavirus cases. Statistics from the California Department of Public Health show that COVID-19 cases in Orange County are currently at an all-time high. The county is adjacent to Los Angeles County which has been an epicenter of Coronavirus cases in California. The Los Angeles Times today reported the largest one-day increase in new cases in LA County since testing began.
IHME models for California show that the state has already reached peak deaths (on April 22) and resource use (on April 19). Although the state seems to be on the backside of the curves, it still has high numbers of both new cases and deaths.
Many will scoff at Newsom’s action, but, given California’s position near the peak of the Coronavirus curves, the closures make sense. This is especially true for Newport Beach which would draw heavy traffic from Los Angeles. With the state and the city near the peak, it is likely that there are large numbers of people who are infected but don’t know it. Those people could infect others on trips to the beach and add fuel the outbreak in the LA basin.
The nature of the pandemic is that different states and cities will see peaks at different times. The nature of federalism is that state and local authorities should be able to deal with the outbreak on their own schedules.
There was no indication of how long the order would remain in effect, but Newsom tweeted that reopening would “be guided by science and public health.”
The true numbers are probably much worse. Excess US deaths in the first month of the pandemic doubled the official Coronavirus death toll. Many of these deaths were likely due to the virus but were not counted to the lack of testing.
The history of the Coronavirus pandemic has not yet been written but varying strategies by different states and metro areas will provide a rich body of data for researchers. For the full picture, however, we will have to wait until the virus runs its course.
I reported last week how the president was trailing Joe Biden in new swing state polling. Looking deeper into the polls, I found an interesting trend. Older voters have been one of the core components of the Trump base, but the president is now trailing Biden among older voters in all five of the presumed 2020 battleground states.
Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are shaping up to be battleground states this November. In all five of these states, recent polling shows that Joe Biden is now the preferred candidate of senior voters, a demographic that had been one of the principal parts of Trump’s base.
Not all polls make crosstab data, the demographic breakdown of the poll respondents, available to the public, but below are some of the most recent polls for each swing state to include the crosstabs. Because the polls are from different sources, the age groups don’t match perfectly, but they do provide a look into the age demographics of the race.
These poll results should be sounding alarm bells at Team Trump. Older voters were one of the last remaining bastions of Trump support that had not been eroded as suburban, minority, and young voters fled the GOP in 2018.
In 2016, Trump won all age groups older than 40. By the 2018 midterms, exit polls showed that Republicans ceded 40-to-50-year-olds to the Democrats and barely eked out a victory among older voters by only a few points. While midterms and presidential elections have different pools of voters, Republicans should be concerned about the deterioration of the president’s support among older voters, especially in swing states.
The obvious questions are why older voters are abandoning Trump and whether the phenomenon is national. A new Economist/YouGov poll showed Trump leading among both 45-to-64-year-old (by five points) and the over-65 set (by three points) despite Biden leading overall by six points. A Fox News poll from earlier in April yielded similar results with Trump leading among voters older than 45 by seven points with the two candidates tied overall at 42 points. Trump seems to still lead with the older demographic nationally but by a slim margin.
As to the reason for the shift, the obvious answer is Coronavirus. In all four of the state polls that asked about the pandemic, Trump received negative marks from a majority of all voters and in two of the states, Florida and Wisconsin, Trump’s handling of the crisis was rated negatively by older voters as well.
As I wrote a month ago, it was both good news and bad news for Republicans that Donald Trump became the focus of the government response to the pandemic. No one has been watching Joe Biden for the past month as all eyes have been on Trump. As it turned out the daily Coronavirus Task Force briefings put Mr. Trump’s ineptitude on display for the nation to see and it shows in the polls. President Trump’s daily briefing has been an in-kind contribution to the Democrats.
Older voters, many of them veterans, may also not appreciate the Republican rush to reopen the economy. Trump supporters have advanced proposals that seniors should shelter-in-place while the rest of the country goes about its business and some, like Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, have openly suggested that seniors should be sacrificed for the good of the economy. It would be quite understandable if older voters were angered at these ideas and registered their disapproval with a shift toward Biden and the Democrats.
As I frequently point, polls are a snapshot of history, not predictive. Today’s polls don’t tell us the outcome of an election six months away. They do, however, show trends and give insights on what people think. The president’s campaign staff should be looking very closely at these poll results, which could be a bellwether of a larger shift away from Trump if measures are not taken to correct the problem.
Intially there seemed to be little substance to the sexual assault accusation against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Over the past few days, more evidence to corroborate the accuser’s story has emerged.
Lynda LaCasse, who lived next door to Reade in the 1990s, told Business Insider, “This happened, and I know it did because I remember talking about it.” Lacasse says that she discussed details of the assault with Reade at the time.
“I remember her saying, here was this person that she was working for and she idolized him,” LaCasse said. “And he kind of put her up against a wall. And he put his hand up her skirt and he put his fingers inside her. She felt like she was assaulted, and she really didn’t feel there was anything she could do.”
“I don’t remember all the details,” LaCasse added. “I remember the skirt. I remember the fingers. I remember she was devastated.”
A second woman, Lorraine Sanchez, who worked with Reade in the office of a California state senator in the 1990s, said that Reade told her at the time that she had been sexually harrassed by a former boss in Washington. Sanchez also said that Reade said that she had been fired for bringing up the assault. Sanchez does not recall the details or if Biden’s name was mentioned.
Late last week, a video clip of Reade’s mother emerged as she called in to “Larry King Live.” In the segment from August 11, 1993, the woman says that her daughter had “problems” with a “prominent senator” and considered going to the press but did not “out of respect for him.” The caller does not mention Reade or Biden by name and does not disclose the nature of the problems.
Previously, two of Reade’s friends had told the New York Times that they were aware of the incident. The Times report, which interviewed Reade, several of her friends, and a bevy of people who worked for Biden, did not find any further allegations of sexual assault, but seven women did report that Biden had made them feel uncomfortable with kissing, hugging, or inappropriate touching.
Reade alleges that Biden went much further. In a podcast interview with Katie Halper on March 25 and subsequently with NPR, she claimed, “His hands went underneath my clothing and he was touching me in my private areas and without my consent.”
When she pulled away, she says that Biden pointed his finger and told her, “You’re nothing to me, nothing,” before taking hold of her shoulders and telling her, “You’re OK, you’re fine, you’re OK.”
Reade doesn’t remember exactly where or when the incident took place, but believes it to have been the basement of the Senate office building in the spring of 1993. At the time, she was a staffer for Senator Biden.
Reade also says that she told several other Biden staffers about the incident, again without mentioning the penetration, in 1993 but none corroborates her story. Politico reports that she claims to have told Dennis Toner, a senior staffer, then-chief of staff Ted Kaufman, and two others in the office.
Kaufman responded with a denial, saying, “She did not come to me. I would have remembered her if she had. And I do not remember her.”
Likewise, Toner said, ” “I can’t believe there’s any truth to this whatsoever. It’s out of character. It was never alleged. It makes no sense. And if anyone says I had any conversation about this whatsoever, it’s false. That never happened.”
Further, as recently as 2017, Reade (then Tara McCabe) seemed sympathetic to Joe Biden in a tweet.
At this point, it is unclear whether Joe Biden assaulted Tara Reade but there is sufficient reason to investigate further. It is also unclear what effect a lone accusation from 27 years ago will have on the campaign, particularly as Biden faces a president who has his own sexual assault baggage. At last count, at least 25 women have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct and at least one lawsuit is pending. It’s possible that both campaigns will avoid the issue in a version of Mutually Assured Destruction.
For her part, Lacasse believes Reade’s story, saying, “I have to support her just because that’s what happened. We need to stand up and tell the truth.”
But that won’t stop her from voting for Joe Biden over Donald Trump. “I personally am a Democrat, a very strong Democrat,” she said. “And I’m for Biden, regardless. But still I have to come out and say this.”
The Supreme Court declined to intervene in a case involving a lawsuit against New York City challenging a law that restricted where gun owners could take their weapons. New York amended the law last year leading the Court to decide that the issue was moot in a two-page unsigned opinion.
Under the original rule, gun owners were limited to transporting their guns to their home, their business, or one of seven shooting ranges that were outside of city limits per USA Today. Gun owners challenged the rule in federal court where it was upheld by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 2018, prompting the Supreme Court to hear the case. However, in June 2019, the city changed to the rules in what The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, the petitioner, called a “nakedly transparent effort to evade this court’s review.”
In the decision, the Supreme Court noted, “After we granted certiorari, the State of New York amended its firearm licensing statute, and the City amended the rule so that petitioners may now transport firearms to a second home or shooting range outside of the city, which is the precise relief that petitioners requested in the prayer for relief in their complaint. Petitioners’ claim for declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to the City’s old rule is therefore moot.”
Responding to claims that the city might arbitrarily change the rule again after the case is dismissed, the Court followed the procedure of vacating the lower court’s judgment and remanding the case back for further proceedings, if necessary. In other words, if New York returns to its old tricks, gun owners can pick up where they left off.
Justices Alito, Gorsuch, and Thomas joined in a dissent which argued that the Court should have rendered a decision on the case because New York only withdrew the regulation when it became apparent that the city would lose the case on the merits. The dissent also noted that, if the city had violated the Second Amendment rights of the petitioners, that they were entitled to damages and payment of legal fees.
The dissent fires a warning shot at the city when it references the Heller decision, calling the city’s violation of the Second Amendment “not a close question.”
In its entirety, the case is a victory for gun owners but an incomplete one. The petitioners achieved their aims of having the onerous restrictions removed, but failed to win damages and repayment of fees.
New York’s retreat indicates that the city knew that pursuing the case further would result in an embarrassing loss and another landmark gun rights case. While gun owners did not get that landmark ruling today, the Court has indicated to jurisdictions everywhere that Heller is now settled law.
A New York state policy requiring nursing homes to accept patients who were positive for COVID-19 may be responsible for the spread of the virus in several elder-care facilities. The order, issued on March 25, was apparently intended to ease the burden on hospitals that were becoming overwhelmed as the outbreak spread throughout New York City.
During this global health emergency, all NHs must comply with the expedited receipt of residents returning from hospitals to NHs. Residents are deemed appropriate for return to a NH upon a determination by the hospital physician or designee that the resident is medically stable for return.
Hospital discharge planners must confirm to the NH, by telephone, that the resident is medically stable for discharge. Comprehensive discharge instructions must be provided by the hospital prior to the transport of a resident to the NH. No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19. NHs are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.
The order cited “an urgent need to expand hospital capacity” as the reason for the policy. It also stipulated that “critical personal protective equipment (PPE) needs should be immediately communicated” to local emergency management offices.
When asked about the policy in a press briefing, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “They have to readmit COVID-positive residents, but only if they have the ability to provide the adequate level of care under Department of Health and CDC guidelines.”
Cuomo added, “If they do not have the ability to provide the appropriate level of care, then they have to transfer that patient or they call the Department of Health, and the Department of Health will transfer that patient.” No such requests had been made per state officials.
In one Long Island nursing home, the Gurwin Jewish Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, there was only one known Coronavirus patient before the order. Per an NBC News report, infected patients were transferred in after the order in the last week of March. A month later, an outbreak in the facility has killed 24 residents and one staff member. Only three of the deaths were patients who had been transferred in. At the time of the report, the facility had 40 known Coronavirus cases among long-term residents and 18 patients who had been transferred in.
“We can’t say for sure” whether the outbreak would have happened even without the transfer order, said Stuart Almer, the facility’s president and CEO, “But it’s certainly not helping the situation.”
New York was not the only state to implement such a policy. Other hard-hit areas such as New Jersey and California have instituted similar but more lenient rules. California’s rule says that COVID patients will primarily be sent to facilities with adequate PPE and the ability to follow federal infection-control guidelines. In New Jersey, nursing homes that accept Coronavirus patients are required to separate residents into groups of infected, exposed, and not exposed.
New York’s guidelines were relaxed as the hospital system became overwhelmed with COVID patients. Originally, the state required two negative tests, a seven-day wait since testing positive, and no fever before infected patients could be discharged. That changed as the virus spread and unoccupied hospital beds became scarce. Recuperating patients were moved from hospitals to nursing homes to free up hospital beds.
“The policy is to ensure people are not being held in hospitals solely due to their COVID status,” Jill Montag, a state health department spokeswoman, told NBC. “This is important for hospital surge management and their ability to maintain space for patients with acute needs.”
Almer believes that his facility had no choice but to accept patients due to the order. Gurwin initially housed the COVID patients in a separate 40-bed unit with separate staff and protective gear. The unit quickly filled up, however, and hospital transfers kept coming.
An unnamed executive at a nursing home in Queens told the New York Post, “The first two coronavirus patients were accompanied by five body bags.” The shipment was reportedly followed up with regular shipments of five additional body bags every week.
“Cuomo has blood on his hands. He really does. There’s no way to sugarcoat this,” the executive said.
Still, Cuomo maintained that nursing homes did not have to accept COVID patients if they could not provide adequate care, saying, ““They don’t have a right to object. That is the rule and that is the regulation, and they have to comply with that. If they can’t do it, we’ll put them in a facility that can do it.”
In a separate briefing, Cuomo responded to accusations that the state had not provided nursing homes with enough PPE, saying, “It’s not our job” and citing a nationwide shortage.
“It’s their primary responsibility like it’s a hospital’s primary responsibility and hospitals ran into problems, nursing homes ran into problems,” Cuomo said. “This is a national story, right? Turn on the national news any given time, and you have people saying ‘We can’t get enough PPE,’ right?”
A spokesman for Cuomo said the allegation that the governor had “blood on his hands” was “disgusting.” The spokeman added that nursing home operators were “trying to deflect from their failures.”
New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker told the Post, “The regulation is common sense: If you can’t provide adequate care, you can’t have the patient in your facility and that’s your basic fiduciary obligation — I would say, ethical obligation — and it’s also your legal obligation.”
However, the order does not spell out the instructions for facilities that were not equipped to handle COVID patients. The wording of the document says that nursing homes “shall” not deny admission of COVID patients “solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.”
The debate may hinge upon the word “solely.” An ability to care safely care for Coronavirus patients in addition to other residents could have constituted a reasonable reason to refuse hospital transfers that was not based solely on the diagnosis of COVID-19. While it seems obvious that nursing homes should not accept patients that they could not safely care for, the order does not make that clear or provide an alternative.
A trade association, the AMDA-The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine blasted the New York policy on March 26, one day after it was announced, calling it, “over-reaching, not consistent with science,
unenforceable, and beyond all, not in the least consistent with patient safety principles.” The group accused New York of “bullying nursing facilities and medical providers to make unsafe decisions.”
The controversy over New York’s treatment of nursing homes comes as there is new information about New York’s early response to the pandemic. The New Yorker ran an article comparing New York’s response to that of Seattle, which was much quicker and followed scientific recommendations. As Seattle closed schools, New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio and Gov. Cuomo minimized the threat, even as health officials sounded the alarm.
It is nevertheless tragic that many deaths in New York might have been avoided by a more clearcut policy that allowed nursing homes to turn away patients that would be mixed in with longterm residents. Some blame must be apportioned both to state officials who drafted the policy and nursing home officials who did not raise the red flag earlier.
The problem seems reminiscent of one of the hazardous attitudes identified in aviation as a cause of accidents, the macho mindset that leads to taking unnecessary risks due to misplaced confidence. “Mission-itis,” an unhealthy focus on completing the mission no matter what, is another way of describing what happened. Sometimes it is necessary to refuse to follow an unsafe order. That is what should have happened here.