The record for the number of 911 calls in New York City in a single day was broken three times last week and the governor of New Jersey announced that mortgages in the state were being suspended and he said “for any landlord who is getting mortgage relief today – we expect you will in turn provide similar relief to your tenants” and Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates announced they were donating $25 million to a coronavirus research fund and swastikas were found painted on a Bernie Sanders campaign office in Florida. A new analysis warns that health insurance premiums could rise 40% next year if millions of people end up requiring hospital stays due to the virus and at least six mothers imprisoned with their babies in Illinois have been released on account of the pandemic and just now there’s a four alarm fire engulfing a church in Baltimore and the newspaper captured a picture at the moment the top of the steeple collapsed and started hurtling downward toward the ground on fire like a giant missile and it’s almost beautiful but it’s not.
Like many other alt-weeklies around the country who were already struggling before the economy went into the toilet Dig Boston the paper that for better or worse set me loose upon the world lo these many years now is coming on tough times. Despite that they are still putting out great and essential work. Today I’m doing something rare which I may do more of in the future and reprinting one of their pieces with permission like they’ve done with my work a few times such as this dispatch I wrote from the Never Again Action march and protest at Amazon and this piece about me going to Cheers and getting depressed from the Hell World book.
If you can and especially if you live in Massachusetts please consider throwing them a few bucks during this fucked up time.
Ok here’s the piece which you can also read there if you like. It’s by Iñaki Estívaliz with translation by by Adrienne Evans and after that there’s a lot more of my usual horse shit below.
In Italy and Spain, where citizens are forced to quarantine inside their homes to prevent the spread of COVID-19, people go out to the balconies and windows to applaud medical personnel, those whose work threatens their lives, and the people who are most affected by the virus.
In the US, as the White House focuses on blaming everything from China to former President Barack Obama, fewer people seem to recognize that if someone does not clean and disinfect the corridors, waiting rooms, operating rooms, and other hospital spaces, healthcare personnel would fare far worse in the battle against coronavirus.
Wendy Melendez Dominican, friendly and hardworking, has been cleaning the Tufts Medical Center in Boston for 10 years. She says she has seen everything—from rivers of blood, to syringes that she has to collect with no more protection than thin rubber gloves and a broom. These needles are left in the unsupervised bathrooms of the hospital, where addicts can hide to get a fix.
Now, Wendy says, “I have never been so worried. I continue to work with great fear. We are taking risks, but as long as there are healthcare staff working, we are an essential part of the whole. Because if we don’t clean, under what conditions will the doctors be able to work?”
“We take risks to safeguard others,” she continues. “We are the support system for the staff. But if they risk their own health, we risk twice as much. Because we clean and collect the waste, and in a pandemic situation like this, this is a job that is much more dangerous and problematic.”
Wendy says that she has been on the verge of passing out upon discovering some messes she’s been assigned to clean, like an occasion when a physician cut a patient’s vein while trying to collect a skin culture. The room was covered in blood. She mainly works cleaning the consultation rooms of the infectious disease building, where “patients of all kinds arrive, and there always ends up being something contagious.”
Wendy continues to wear the gloves she “normally” wears, only now she puts on masks more often, since she understands “that there may be a higher risk.”
“If I have to wear 15 gloves at once, I put them on—I protect myself,” she says, expressing regret that among her colleagues, there are some people at riskier ages, such as a man who cleans on the night shift who is “more than 70 years and has said that he doesn’t want to retire.”
These days, despite fears about coronavirus, Wendy continues to work under stressful conditions for two reasons: out of solidarity and social responsibility (“the doctors must work in areas that are clean and disinfected”); and for pure survival (“no one has yet said that you don’t have to pay the rent, that you don’t have to pay the bills.”).
Wendy is a member of the Local 32BJ branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). She explains that, thanks to the union, they now earn more ($20 an hour) than before and have some benefits, but says it is still a job where one lives paycheck to paycheck. “An hour worked, that’s a paid hour. If we do not work, we aren’t paid. This is the main reason we must come to work. We cannot afford to stop working.”
She has a message for others: “We are trying to take care of people, but we need people to do their part, for people stay at home. We need them to not expose themselves and put us further at risk, because we do it out of obligation and necessity. Because you don’t potentially spread the virus yourself to one person. You spread it to a lot of people, to your family, and to the people you ride with on the bus, on the train.”
Local 32BJ represents about 14,000 janitors and about 6,000 security employees in Massachusetts. They mostly work in office buildings and hospitals, and at Harvard and MIT. As of the time of this reporting, five members of Local 32BJ had tested positive for coronavirus.
The union is fighting so that those infected continue collecting for hours they are losing from work, SEIU vice-president Roxana Rivera says in a telephone interview. She explains that union members who work full-time have benefits such as health insurance for themselves and their families, as well as paid sick and vacation days. But if they are fired, they no longer receive benefits. And now, many of the cleaning and security employees who work at the universities are losing their jobs. MIT has promised to pay them 30 days, while Harvard will do the same, but that’s only for those it hires directly. For the other union members, subcontracted through outside vendors, it depends on what those companies decide regarding jobs and benefits.
The union is fighting so that all those dismissed due to this pandemic situation receive some compensation. SEIU constantly monitors cases, speaking with the families of those affected, and staying in communication with the companies employing the workers to make sure safety protocols are followed.
Of the five cases of union members who are suffering from coronavirus, Rivera said one of them is in serious condition.
“It is a public health crisis,” Rivera says. “If they have to send people home, then pay them. We are asking universities and buildings to also pay the workers who are subcontracted.”
The union is also trying to inform its members as much as possible by giving them brochures about how to protect themselves against COVID-19, encouraging them to watch out for themselves, communicating with the companies who hire the subcontractor workers, and talking to the business leaders of each of the 2,000 workspaces where their members work.
Rivera notes that her constituents, the majority of whom are African-American and immigrants, now work with high levels of fear and anxiety. She says that universities and other businesses where layoffs are now taking place recognize that now, more than ever, these workers provide an invaluable service to society.
“Don’t use workers only when you need them and then kick them out,” Rivera adds. “They need to pay contractors to pay workers right now. These men and women are the anonymous heroes of the coronavirus pandemic and are among those who least can afford to lose their wages and benefits during this crisis.”
Another anonymous hero is Kevin, a young man who is employed as a trash collector on the streets of Cambridge. He appears happy and energetic in a job he started on January 6 after being on a waiting list for 10 years. Kevin handles garbage cans as he fills the truck with trash, and doesn’t seem overly concerned about the coronavirus. On the other hand, he acknowledges that they have a lot more work now than when he started this job just under three months ago.
On the one hand, there is much more residential garbage, since many people do not leave their homes and consume everything there. On the other hand, the workforce has been reduced to minimize contact and risk between colleagues from three workers to two per truck. If there’s any silver lining, it’s that with the drastic reduction in traffic, they are saving a lot of time on the way from home to work and back.
“There is much more trash, much more shit,” he says, “smiling without stopping to move between trash cans and jumping up and down from the truck. “But if we stop working for a single day, everything rots and the rats will take over the city.”
You might also read this piece from them about people experiencing homelessness in the city during the pandemic.
Wait for the Lord is trending on Twitter and a Subway location is offering a free medical mask with the purchase of two sandwiches and the first federal inmate has died from complications from the virus he was forty nine year old Patrick Jones who was being held in Oakdale, Louisiana after being sentenced to twenty seven years for selling cocaine. Joe Biden was asked on Meet the Press on Sunday morning if he thought Donald Trump had blood on his hands and he said “I think that’s a little too harsh” and Bob Dylan has released his first new music in eight years in the form of a seventeen minute song about the assassination of JFK.
A reporter for the New York Times posted that she attended her first funeral via Zoom and a paramedic in the UK got a standing ovation from all her neighbors as she left for her shift and she broke down in tears and Ivanka Trump shared on Instagram a video of people in Boston singing Lean On Me from their balconies soon before it was reported her father had called retired baseball Alex Rodriguez for ideas about how to handle the pandemic. The governor of Rhode Island has employed the National Guard to go door to door in vacation areas of the state to inform people from New York that they must self-quarantine for fourteen days and it has at this time come to my attention that there is a CBD company called Boomer Naturals.
“She’s dead, and I’m quarantined,” a man whose wife died from the virus explained in this piece in the Washington Post. “That’s how the story ends. I keep going back over it in loops, trying to find a way to sweeten it, but nothing changes the facts. I wasn’t there with her at the end. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I don’t even know where her body is right now, or if the only thing that’s left is her ashes.”
“All right, enough of this,” the Daily Wire podcaster Michael Knowles tweeted yesterday. “Time to start reopening” he wrote by which he meant time for you to go back to work not him.
Earlier this week twelve of thirteen Boston City Councillors supported the idea of rolling out a freeze on rent and mortgage and evictions and foreclosures. “Right now there are residents wondering how they’re going to pay their rent and are running out of money for food and medications,” Councilor Ricardo Arroyo said over a video conference call. One disagreed and suggested the vote be delayed. “This is quite a complex issue here, and, being a landlord myself…” Councilor Frank Baker said and the rest after that is sort of irrelevant isn’t it. Previously Baker has “spoken out against rent control, voted against regulating the short-term rental industry [Airbnb etc], and opposed a new tax on high-end real estate deals,” according to the Boston Globe.
Yesterday we went for a drive for the first time in over two weeks just to see something different and it was a nice reminder that even during a devastating pandemic it still fucking sucks to drive around Boston. The Death Cab for Cutie album We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes came out twenty years ago this month and due to whatever it is that is wrong with my brain I can’t think about that album without being transported into a Barnes and Noble on like 86th and 6th near where I lived at the time in New York when I would reappropriate piles of books and magazines from the magazine company I worked for and return them for store credit so I could afford like a cold baguette with a piece of turkey and roasted red tomatoes on it. Joe Biden tweeted this weekend “Let me be clear: No one should have to pay for coronavirus testing or treatment” but he didn’t mention why it is he has thought his entire life and still thinks even right now that people should have to pay for every other possible disease they might get.
“Here’s a little secret about the coronavirus crisis,” this piece in Wired titled This is the Cozy Catastrophe starts. “If you and your loved ones are healthy and financially secure—for now—then some not-so-small part of you might just be enjoying this whole thing. Lazy days at home, ALL CAPS headlines, desolate parking lots, that warm-and-fuzzy-end-of-the-world feeling. The turmoil is thrilling from afar. The internet works just fine. And, let’s be honest, you needed a break from the daily grind.”
Hospital tents are being set up in Central Park near Mt Sinai today as two of the hospital’s top executives have decamped to their vacation homes in Florida. Workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island are walking out on Monday to protest insufficient safety protections and lack of transparency after a number of them have tested positive. Workers for Instacart are also going on strike on Monday asking for protective equipment an increase in hazard pay and an extension of their sick leave policy.
“In Italy, authorities have conceded that their coronavirus death toll did not include those who had died at home or in nursing homes. Similarly in France, officials have said that only those who died in hospitals had been recorded as pandemic-related — a practice they said would change in the coming days,” according to the New York Times.
Every day for the past eighteen days I have done two things which is go for a run for about thirty to forty minutes to calm my anxiety and then drink half of a bottle of whisky to bring the same anxiety back and today is going to be no different on either account there and neither will tomorrow and then one of these days I’ll probably stop doing one of those two things I’m not sure which it will be just yet though so fingers crossed.
Wolf Blitzer just came on the TV to tell me how many people are dead and where it was they died.
Louisiana now has the third highest cases in the country and the second highest number of deaths Wolf Blitzer said.
Amy Klobochar is coming on after the commercial to talk to him about what’s what so I gotta go now and watch that just in case.