Nurses fill the hospital room to turn a patient from his stomach to his back. The ventilator forcing air into him is most effective when he’s on his stomach, so he is in that position most hours of the day, sedated and paralyzed by drugs.
Lying on his stomach all those hours has produced sores on his face, and one nurse dabs at the wounds. The dark lesions are insignificant given his current state, but she continues just the same, gently, soothingly, appearing to whisper to him as she works.
The man has been a patient at Billings Clinic for nearly a month, most of that time in the hospital’s intensive care unit. He is among other patients, room after room of them, with the same grim tubes inserted down their throats. They have covid-19 — the vast majority unvaccinated against the virus, the hospital says. Visitors generally aren’t permitted in these rooms, but the man’s mother comes most days to gaze through a glass window for the allowed 15 minutes.
This all happened Friday. He was dead, at age 24, by Sunday morning.
The hospital’s morgue cart arrived at the ICU — as it frequently has these days — then the room was sterilized, another patient took the man’s place, and the cycle began again. In the past week, 14 people have died of covid here, the state’s largest hospital.
“I do feel a little hopeless,” said Christy Baxter, the hospital’s director of critical care.
The situation has played out in hospitals around the nation since 2020. But now Montana is a national hot spot for covid infections, recording the highest percentage increase in new cases over the past seven days. The state announced 1,209 new cases on Friday, and Yellowstone County, home to Billings Clinic, is seeing the worst of it. Last week, the county had 2,329 active cases, more than the next two counties combined.
What’s different from the early scenes of the pandemic is the public’s response. Not so long ago, the cheers of community support could be heard from the hospital parking lot. Now, tensions are so strained that Billings Clinic is printing signs for its hallways, asking that the staff members not be mistreated.
The ICU here has space for 28 patients but last Friday was operating at 160% capacity, Baxter said. To handle the overflow, nurses elsewhere provide care beyond their training as covid patients fill other parts of the hospital. In the lobby of the emergency department, rooms roughly 6 feet by 6 feet have been fashioned with makeshift plastic walls. Ten members of the Montana Army National Guard arrived last week to help however they can. Hospital staffers volunteer to sit with dying patients. Beds line hallways.
“The problem is,” said Brad Von Bergen, the hospital’s ER manager, “we are running out of hallways.”
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Robin Steenman, an Air Force veteran and white mother of three, is fed up with the way public schools in her community of Franklin, Tennessee are teaching kids about race.
She believes that the reading materials and teachers' manuals are biased, specifically the lessons taught to second graders about civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. Kids leave class believing that white people are oppressors and minorities are victims, Steenman claims.
While her only school-age child attends private school, Steenman nevertheless wants the public system, Williamson County Schools, to change its approach. She and a group of local women calling themselves “Moms for Liberty” recently asked the Tennessee Department of Education in a complaint letter to force the district to scrap that material and overhaul its curriculum.
Their protests have made Williamson County the first test of a new Tennessee law that bans the teaching of ideas linked to “critical race theory,” an academic framework that examines how racism has shaped American society.
The clash in Franklin, a Nashville suburb of 83,000 people, is part of a larger culture war over race and education that’s roiling other U.S. communities, and which has gained traction as a political force nationwide.
It has split parents and spooked some educators. Tennessee is pursuing plans to strip teaching licenses from instructors and cut state funding to schools that persistently teach taboo material.
A spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Education, the agency responsible for overseeing districts’ compliance with the law, would not comment on the status of Steenman’s complaint letter.
Williamson County Schools has denied that the civil rights material violates state law. The district's superintendent Jason Golden and 11 of the 12 district board members declined to be interviewed by Reuters.
School board member Eliot Mitchell told Reuters that Moms for Liberty's complaint was "misguided," and that teaching about racism in America's past does not equate to teaching "that one particular race is intrinsically racist."
Still, the district said it is reviewing the curriculum at the request of a community member whose identity it did not disclose. That review is scheduled to be completed by November.
Another local group of parents believes some of their neighbors want schools to avoid hard truths about the history of American race relations, including in Williamson County. The area is home to former slave plantations now open to tourists. Franklin’s public square, where a Confederate monument stands, was the site of an antebellum slave market and the 1888 lynching of a Black man by the Ku Klux Klan.
Some have pushed the district to address what they say is a long-standing pattern of racial insensitivity toward minority students in this 82% white county, including field trips to historical sites they claim have glorified the Confederacy and soft-peddled the evils of human bondage.
“Overall, it’s a beautiful community,” said Tizgel High, a Black mother of three. “But these battles, they get tiresome. You’re sort of constantly fighting for your humanity.”
Schools spokesperson Carol Birdsong said the district “continues to work to create a safe, welcoming environment for all students.”
In the past year, at least eight Republican-controlled states, including Tennessee, have passed laws restricting how the concept of race can be taught. The issue has become prominent in some off-year elections, including this year’s Virginia governor’s race, and it’s poised to be a major theme in the 2022 U.S. midterm contests.
White parents saw the Black Lives Matter protests. They voted Republican so they'd never have to see them, or think about why they happened again. They don't want to confront the truth, so they are criminalizing it, and forcing schools to whitewash history, to present it as "white heroes saved Black folk from slavery during the Civil War" and that they've been watching over us ever since.
And Black America should be grateful for it, and just shut the hell up about it.
Surprise, we're not.
House Democratic leaders confirmed this morning that they won’t be delaying the Sept. 27 vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill — even though the party’s larger $3.5 trillion reconciliation package won’t likely be ready to go by then. This is a huge win for moderates in both chambers. That effectively decouples the two bills, officially spiking the so-called “two-track” process that leadership hoped would enable passage of both while keeping the party united.
“We will be putting [the BIF] on the floor on the 27th, that’s next Monday,” House Majority Leader STENY HOYER told reporters in a rather newsy pen-and-pad this morning, though he also noted that the vote could slip one day. As for the reconciliation package, the Maryland Democrat said the House will move “as soon as it’s ready” — though no one seems to know when that will be.
The obvious big follow-up question here: What will progressives do? Several high-profile members on the left are almost certainly going to vote against this thing — some, like Rep. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-N.Y.), have made their unhappiness with this new process abundantly clear. But the question is how many, and can leadership — and President JOE BIDEN — convince enough to go along with this new plan?
In a closed-door caucus meeting this morning, Democratic leaders implored their members to stick together. But that’s easier said than done — especially when House progressives view the BIF vote as their best leverage to force moderate Democrats to support the reconciliation package.
Hoyer in his pen-and-pad pushed back on that argument, saying that he hoped “every Democrat votes for both bills.” “I don't agree with the judgement of those who believe that it would somehow compel the moderate wing of the caucus to be more supportive,” he added.
After months of grueling public hearings and frantic behind-the-scenes wrangling, House Democratic leaders insisted they are sticking with their original timeline: They said they plan to vote on a measure to improve the nations roads, bridges, pipes, ports and Internet connections in six days.
The commitment fulfills a promise that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) previously made to a small group of her party’s centrist lawmakers, a move that quelled an internal revolt that nearly brought the chamber to a standstill as it debated President Biden’s priorities last month. With the House’s adoption, the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure bill would then head to Biden’s desk, having already passed the Senate.
But Pelosi’s plans quickly appeared in fresh political peril, as her party’s liberal-leaning members issued their own demands. The bloc of lawmakers pledged anew they would not vote on a public-works deal unless Congress first adopted another, larger package that includes major overhauls to health, education, immigration, climate and tax laws.
That proposal, at roughly $3.5 trillion, remains an unfinished product in both the House and Senate, as liberal and moderate Democrats continue to quarrel over how much they should spend. With those fights unlikely to be resolved in the immediate future — and internal party divides only growing in the meantime — the fate of both measures entering next week remained in great doubt.
“I don’t think that the speaker is going to bring up a bill up that is going to fail,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the leader of the nearly 100-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, said late Tuesday after she met privately for nearly two hours with Pelosi.
“At the end of the day, if we don't have the reconciliation bill done, the infrastructure bill will not pass,” Jayapal said.
The conflicting demands left Democratic leaders in a bind, staring down the sort of internal political stalemate they had labored for months to avoid given their narrow majorities in the House and Senate. Democrats simply cannot afford to lose votes as they pursue trillions of dollars in long-promised reforms.
- The Justice Department is suing airlines JetBlue and RyanAir charging them with illegal collusion and price fixing for airports in the Northeast US.
- Wisconsin Republicans are suing Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over funds raised to fight against the recall election effort against her.
- Afghan Taliban leaders are asking the United Nations to be able to address world leaders at this week's UN General Assembly summit in New York.
- President Biden announced that the administration will double its global donation of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shots to 500 million by the end of the year.
- The FBI had the decryption key to stop the REvil ransomware attack in early July while more than 1,500 hospitals, schools and companies were locked out of systems, but didn't use it for weeks.