I had a post from 12 years ago where I commented:
Rep. Nisly has introduced House Concurrent Resolution 2 declaring that the COVID emergency has ended. Gov. Holcomb’s actions to mitigate the impact of COVID on Indiana have largely been taken under the authority of Indiana’s disaster emergency law, IC 10-14-3. IC 10-14-3-12 allows the General Assembly to terminate a declaration of public emergency by means of a concurrent resolution. (A concurrent resolution is one that’s passed by both the House and Senate.) HCR 2 declares that “the various restrictions imposed upon the residents of Indiana to implement the state of disaster emergency are no longer necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of Indiana.” Instead, Hoosiers can simply protect themselves!
By way of reminder:
This is what the State’s recent COVID history looks like as Rep. Nisly asks the General Assembly to declare that even the relatively mild restrictions the Governor has put in place are unnecessary. Nisly’s argument that Hoosiers know enough about COVID that they can now protect themselves and their families against the disease is disingenuous and specious. It deliberately ignores that people are invisible vectors of this lethal disease. When an individual chooses not to wear a mask in public, it puts my family in danger. It creates a greater risk that I will pick up the disease from someone and unknowingly transmit it to my family and friends. It cedes public spaces to the most reckless among us. It’s like saying that stop lights are now optional, and that I should stay off the roads if I don’t like it.
Nisly and his fellow travelers want to characterize themselves as champions of liberty. But the fact is that libertarians never seem to have good plans for drainage, pollution, public health, or any other situation involving a destructive agent that doesn’t respect property lines or bodily integrity.
Sheila has a good post on “The Appeal of Fascism” that you should go read. It’s no secret that Trump has authoritarian tendencies and that it’s not a small number of his supporters regard this as a feature rather than a bug. So, what the hell is going on? It’s too easy to dismiss Trumpists (not that Sheila is doing this) as goose-stepping Nazi wannabes. Sure, there are some out there. Charlottesville showed us that. But if that’s the answer, we might as well just pack up the American experiment and get ready to start shooting at each other. If nearly half of your fellow countrymen are simply monsters, then you’re just biding time until the Apocalypse.
So, I don’t think most Trump supporters are monsters. But I’m also tired of trying to understand them. As Sheila observes:
Pious exhortations to more progressive Americans to “reach out” to those resisting social change aren’t just embarrassingly one-sided (no one is telling the alt-right to try to understand those dark-skinned or Jewish or Muslim “libruls”); they also have a distressing tendency to be either naive or condescending– or both.
There’s no shortage of Trump supporters who dismiss liberals as un-American. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but I don’t see a lot of energy being spent by Trump supporters or really anyone else trying to understand Clinton or Biden supporters. Endless New York Times safaris to talk to white people in the diners of the great Flyover were not balanced by right-wing publications talking to black people in the city trying to understand why they didn’t like Trump.
I don’t know what “the answer” is in terms of trying to get the division to be less pervasive and less vitriolic. But I suspect it has something to do with having people from opposite sides of the divide interact more frequently in ways that don’t involve discussing their differences. I suppose having people steer clear of unhappy discussions is a very Midwestern approach, but I just don’t see any upside in trying to resolve these kinds of differences. You can’t reason someone out of a position he didn’t reason himself into. These cultural biases we have internalized which divide us from fellow citizens who have internalized other cultural biases aren’t, by and large, views that we’ve come to objectively. Some of them may well stand up to objective analysis as being good positions to hold, but an unconscious, emotional attachment probably came first – subsequently clothed with logical defenses. If I’m right, the question ends up being to ask what we can do together that doesn’t involve discussing our differences and which will allow us to interact in a way that teaches us that we’re part of the same community and that very few of us are monsters.
Basically, the more alien we regard “the Other” as being, the bigger problems we’re going to have. We have to reduce the alienation somehow.
Check out Steve Hinnefeld’s post on the State Board of Education’s accountability framework recommendations. A couple of quick thoughts:
- Board staff says that the recommendations aren’t set in stone. So they’re almost certainly set in stone.
- Steve notes that the recommendations use the term “Hoosier values” six times in a 14 page document. In the context of noting the conflict between the State “A-F” framework and the federal government’s Every Student Succeeds Act, the recommendations say, ““Indiana should design a state accountability system that prioritizes Hoosier values and strive to use the same indicators for the state and federal models as is allowable under law.” I might be wrong, but I’m getting a “Common Core” vibe here. Indiana abandoned Common Core out of a reflexive anti-Obama sentiment then rebuilt its own system for reasons.
- We could ditch the whole A-F machinery and just rank schools by median income in their districts. There wouldn’t be a big change in the rankings.
My first post was 16 years ago. I can’t say this blog is still going strong, but it’s still going. When I started, I kind of had in mind a resource that Hoosiers could use to comment on topics of the day and maybe provide some links to legal resources, commentary on legislation, and discussion of legal opinions. With respect to the legislature, in part, I wanted to show that there was more going on with the General Assembly than just the stuff that hit the headlines. I was also inspired by the national blogs that were starting to go strong back then but whereas that space already seemed crowded, the state level seemed wide open. On top of that, my experience at Legislative Services (only 5 years prior at that point) could be helpful.
Early on, I had the notion that maybe I’d recruit some friends with other areas of expertise: business, science, medicine, etc. That never panned out. I was a little surprised by what seemed to draw traffic and what didn’t. People were *really* passionate about Daylight Saving Time. I could put up a quick hit on DST and get a lot of traffic. Meanwhile, a deep dive into a complicated piece of legislation would be less popular. It gave me some sympathy for what news organizations must struggle with.
Social media — mainly Facebook and Twitter came along — and made it easier for me to scratch my writing itch by just posting something quick there. So, I wrote less here. Which was probably just as well because that’s where people re-located in any case. It wasn’t just me – the entire blogosphere shrank. But, I keep plugging along – usually going through a burst of productivity when the General Assembly introduces its bills. I’m happy to still have this place to write and still interact with some old friends.
At the moment, I feel like social media isn’t giving me what it used to. The algorithms seem to feed me angry political stuff which gets old after awhile. I don’t have a good sense of whether my friends are still posting about their kids or what they had for lunch or cat pictures or whatever. I don’t see that stuff, but it could be that the algorithm buries it. So, maybe I’ll be writing more here. Maybe not. We’ll see. That’s been one of the joys of having a blog – I can do it when I feel like, and not do it when I don’t feel like it. For those of you who are still dropping by, thank you!
Gov. Holcomb has issued Executive Order 20-48 which rescinds the “Stage 5” COVID mitigation order and replaces it with the “Color Coded County Assessment” order. This relies on the State’s color code system where it averages two numbers for each county. The first number is the weekly number of new cases per 100,000 residents in a county. Blue is less than 10 cases per 100,000 residents. Yellow is between 10 and 99. Orange is between 100 and 199. And red is 200 and above. Blue gets you zero, yellow – 1, orange – 2, and red – 3.
The second number is the seven day positivity rate for a county. Positivity rate is number of positive cases divided by number of tests. This is important because a low positivity rate gives you more confidence that you’re identifying most or all of the cases in your community. Blue (0) is less than 5%. Yellow (1) is between 5% and 10%. Orange (2) is between 10% and 15%. And red (3) is above 15%.
You average these two numbers to get your county score/color. Blue for 0 and 0.5, yellow for 1 and 1.5, orange for 2 and 2.5, and red for 3. The executive order requires the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) to monitor these metrics as well as hospitalizations, available critical care beds & ventilators, and testing & contact tracing ability. The order also makes some recommendations to citizens: follow CDC guidelines, self-quarantine when sick or having been in contact with someone symptomatic, and be vigilant if you’re in a higher risk category or in contact with such people. Many of the old stage 5 requirements remain in place: Social distancing and masks are part of the order. Masks are not required in private businesses where maintaining distances of 6 feet is feasible. Some exemptions are specifically authorized – among other things, where a medical condition that prevents wearing a face mask. (This is the one the anti-maskers are most likely to abuse by lying.) Masks aren’t required when seated at an establishment to eat or drink. Masks are required at schools for students grade 3 and above as well as all staff members. However, if 6 feet of space can be maintained, masks aren’t required. And, if 3 feet of space can be maintained and students are all facing the same direction, masks aren’t required during in-person instruction time.
The color coded approach will limit the size of social gatherings and events based on the county’s color. Larger social gatherings are permitted but the organizer has to submit a safety plan and have it approved by the local health department. In blue counties, social gatherings can have up to 250 people, yellow counties up to 100, orange counties up to 50, and red counties up to 25. In yellow counties, local officials and health officials are expected to meet regularly to talk about potential actions to decrease the spread of COVID. In orange counties, there is the same expectation. In addition, IHSAA sporting events are limited to 25% capacity. In red counties, local officials are also expected to talk and, in addition, to consider limiting hours of operation for bars and restaurants. There’s a lot of encouragement for red counties: the Governor encourages events to be cancelled, encourages businesses to limit employee congregation in public areas, and encourages restaurants and retail businesses to promote curbside pickup. Senior care center activities must be suspended or cancelled.
(I probably mock the “encouragement” more than I should. Yes, there’s a part of me that wants The Law to take forceful action to compel people to act in a way that won’t spread this deadly disease. But the reality is that the rule of law depends heavily on voluntary compliance. If you have to use force in a high percentage of cases to obtain compliance, your government is in trouble. If our leaders were speaking with one voice on the appropriate actions citizens should take, I think we’d be in better shape than if we have mixed messages even if some of those messages come with legal compulsion.)
The order does come with some enforcement provisions for business. Verbal order to business owner followed by written cease and desist order to business followed by the local department of health issuing an order to close the business. There don’t seem to be explicit enforcement provisions for situations not involving businesses but I presume, for example, the courts could issue injunctions in non-business situations. Also, disaster emergency law under which the Governor is issuing these orders has some general penalty provisions which might come into play even though they aren’t specifically articulated in the order.
I’ll be candid, I haven’t read this entire document, but it seemed worth sharing: 2020 ISDH Emergency Response Report (pdf). I found the link in the minutes to the October 14, 2020, interim committee on public health. I guess I would have expected that entire meeting to be devoted to COVID and making recommendations to the General Assembly on legislation to address the pandemic which is currently spiraling out of control. (But, the legislature isn’t exactly nimble – the agenda and the notice of the committee meeting were probably prepared a month before based on planning which happened before that. In August, the pandemic felt kind of stable.)
Anyway, what I found probably most interesting in the ISDH document (at p. 18) was a chart of suspended, waived, or modified rules and statutes. For example, a prohibition on automated dialing was suspended for the purpose of allowing the Fairbanks Study to call people to determine the extent of COVID spread. There are several pages of these modified rules, allowing more remote services, modifying timelines, and relaxing rules to account for the fact that more resources are being thrown at COVID. The document also has a chart (p. 13) listing reduced or suspended health services (e.g. audiology assessment services were reduced or changed to virtual, routine food safety inspections were suspended, some immunization services were suspended, etc.).
As far as future recommendations, the report suggested to the General Assembly:
Related to ongoing response operations and other pre-COVID public health initiatives, IDOH recommends that Indiana consider a long-term solution for expanding some telehealth services on an ongoing basis. The temporary expansion during the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be invaluable in supporting healthcare delivery during the public health emergency when our healthcare system was facing challenges keeping patients and providers connected, especially for patients with chronic medical conditions or circumstances where a patient did not feel safe with a traditional face-to-face visit or in-home services. Delivery of services through telehealth expands access to care, streamlines efficiency and increases convenience for both patients and provider and is expected to be an improvement in service delivery going forward.
Which is fine, as far as it goes. What I wonder is whether the committee on public health or some other arm of the General Assembly is studying masking, social distancing, and other tools for limiting the spread and damage caused by the pandemic and — probably the important part — how best to obtain public buy-in and compliance with such requirements or recommendations.
I’m open to correct that the Indiana General Assembly is acting more responsibly than this brief AP story suggests, but it looks like they’re unwilling to do the bare minimum to slow the spread of COVID. Specifically, they’re unwilling to commit to a rule requiring that members of the General Assembly wear masks at the State House when they reconvene for organization day on Tuesday. Just as a reminder: this is what our new COVID cases are doing.
This is probably an indicator that we won’t be getting a lot of scientifically sound public health legislation this session.
Edited to add: I occasionally browse the bioRxiv COVID pre-print server for biology. Just after I wrote this post, I came across this study entitled “Association of social distancing and masking with risk of COVID-19.” From the abstract:
We examined the association of community-level social distancing measures and individual masking with risk of predicted COVID-19 in a large prospective U.S. cohort study of 198,077 participants. Individuals living in communities with the greatest social distancing had a 31% lower risk of predicted COVID-19 compared with those living in communities with poor social distancing. Self-reported masking was associated with a 63% reduced risk of predicted COVID-19 even among individuals living in a community with poor social distancing.
This politically-motivated, performative anti-masking is hurting people.
As COVID spirals out of control in Indiana and with re-election secured, Governor Holcomb is apparently revamping the COVID restriction system for Indiana. Instead of the five stage re-opening plan announced earlier this year, there will be a county-by-county set of restrictions based on whether the counties have a red, orange, yellow, or blue coding on the State’s dashboard. The color coding is based on the county’s number of weekly cases per capita and its positivity rate. According to news reports, social events in orange counties will be 50 or fewer (unless there is a health department approved plan) and extracurricular school events will be limited to 25%. Red counties will be limited to social events with 25 or fewer (unless there is a health department approved plan), senior care activities are suspended, and school events are limited to participants and parents. I haven’t seen the actual order from the Governor yet, so this is me paraphrasing the newspaper summary — omitting the “ought to” provisions and descriptions of things that are already permitted. (For example, “Local officials can consider limiting hours at bars, nightclubs and restaurants” — they can already do that.)
The mask mandate will remain in place. I don’t see it in the material I’ve linked above, but I thought I read something about the State making money available to communities that enforce the mask mandate. I’ll be interested to see what that’s about.
The number of new cases per day were holding relatively steady until about the beginning of October when things went screaming upward. Our death rates are up, our new cases are up, the hospitals are starting to feel the strain. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Gov. Holcomb would have felt more freedom to act sooner if the election had been earlier. The right wing of his party is howling that having to wear a mask is tyranny and the Democrats weren’t likely to give him much credit regardless of what he did. I would have liked to see more political courage from him. But the hell of it is that it shouldn’t require that much courage. Rather than fighting him on this, Hoosiers should welcome guidance on how to get past a pandemic that’s cost 4,500 lives in our state alone. Instead, a shocking number of Hoosiers can’t manage to keep a mask over their nose.
There’s encouraging news about a vaccine, but it’s far from a sure thing and it’s going to take awhile to roll out even if things go perfectly — which they won’t, because our federal government is an incompetent shit show at the moment. So, this winter is going to be tough.
None of us has the god-like perspective it would take to be truly objective. All of our experiences are mediated by the time & place in which we find ourselves, our past experiences, the gaps in our knowledge, and any number of other biasing factors. Media we consume add their biases — and it’s not necessarily a left or right thing. Even journalists striving to be objective are limited by space – and so have to pick & choose which facts or what context to mention and what to leave out. Newspapers and broadcasts are going to include deviations from the norm (man-bites-dog rather than dog-bites-man) and stories that increase subscriptions or get viewers to watch through the commercials.
But, it seems to me (and this is hardly original) that social media algorithms are taking this to the next level. I hesitate to make too much of this because I think there is a tendency to fear-monger new trends and technologies. (“Comic books are ruining our youth!”) The algorithms are designed to increase engagement between the user and the social media platform. Emotional experiences are more likely to keep the user’s attention and negative emotions are easier to provoke than positive ones. So, you end up with a lot of people spending a lot of time viewing the world through the lens of a platform designed to keep you coming back by making you anxious or angry.
I hesitate to make this analogy because I don’t have any expertise in mental health, but I wonder if this is in some ways analogous to what an individual goes through with depression. Their brain filters out the positive and emphasizes the negative, creating a feeling of hopelessness. Only in this case, it’s not brain chemistry doing the filtering but a business that wants you paying attention long enough to show you ads.
For what it’s worth, I’ve spent the last few days without checking Twitter or Facebook where I’m typically a heavy user. I’m not ready to judge that as good or bad, but it’s different. This will auto-post to Twitter. I don’t think I have anything similar set up on Facebook.