Let us start this latest update on some positive notes and then delve into the why’s, wherefores and results that accompany them.
Firstly, if you are fortunate to have savings or retirement funds based in any securities, 401’s and IRA’s you’ll likely be enjoying the positive news as markets are UP and the DOW has surged to record heights.
Next there’s a couple of (US) approved vaccines out there and already in distribution.
Greater clarity is now afforded into the Pandemic risks by increasingly available Coronavirus accounting, which helps us all to better research our own liabilities.
The Christmas Star has been on view across the world, enriching the Holiday Season.
And another US Stimulus Package is hopefully nearing Government-approval for action. (At least it is moving).
So, we begin on a broadly positive footing and have reasons for hope hurtling into 2021.
I have not been journeying out on extended travels recently; rather staying locally in my hometown of Santa Cruz and heading up North for boating out of Alameda on the weekends.
The Financial Market bounce has been stimulated by perceived DEADLOCK in Washington. Although election news drags on the Markets had their needs satisfied quite shortly following the Nov. 3rd polling.
The House has a more balanced party participation and to all intents and purposes a Senate already approximately tied leaves the occupancy of the White House far less relevant. It seems that as politicians are notoriously and primarily focused on retaining their seats in two years, all the big-ticket, controversial bills and positions are already largely “off the table.”
The political desire to be controversial and take personal career risks will wane and so we have practical Deadlock, as near as dammit.
Financial Markets like this Washington Stalemate, hence the surge, which was stimulated further by the promised, expected and predicted arrival of the first Vaccines.
It is sad to reflect that investors are markedly uncomfortable when Government can be more active; a stunning practical reaction and perhaps a condemnation?
Locally I share the California lockdown currently in effect through Christmas with 40 million others. Gatherings of any size are not allowed. Some other States are equally burdened, boding poorly for a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday Season and New Year.
The motivation to travel out of State is lessened as my preferred North Dakota travel destination is currently topping the Infection and Death-count charts for both long-term and 7-day Covid-19 Stats. The ND distinction of just recently being recognized as the ONLY State that grew economically during this Pandemic is quickly receding to the background as it’s minimized closure actions now seem more suspect.
More distant in-State CA travel seems rather hopeless too, as closures are everywhere, dining freedoms are universally rescinded and Essential Travel Only restrictions are back in-play, affecting hotel-stays.
Local restaurants again offer only take-out options, some allowing self-serve in their temporary outdoor facilities and others now dismantling these recently built dining areas to conform with spotty local ordinances.
The surfers still swarm Pleasure Point just down the street, wandering passed the newly posted prominent blue sign asserting STAY HOME ORDER ENFORCED. ESSENTIAL TRAVEL ONLY.
The word ENFORCED was obscured with surfing-related stickers almost immediately and locals mill around the area as usual, largely unmasked. It is unlikely the local Sherriff will police this area at all.
Published Stats say that Santa Cruz County has indeed had a surge in Virus numbers. It has reached a total local death-rate consistent with a bad flu season.
Some people mask-up outdoors as required locally. Mostly these seem to NOT be locals, are elderly or probably have underlying health issues.
I have heard young, mid-20’s service workers say they just wear their masks to keep people happy as there is almost no chance they could die from COVID. They seem willing to guard others, fulfil their job requirements and protect their employer’s conformance interests.
Recent weekends locally feature a 7-man rock band set up on one of the busier Santa Cruz intersections at Portola and 41st. They show up afternoons on Saturday and Sunday, plug in under the canopy of a mostly vacated Auto-repair building and entertain standing groups of 30-40 mostly mask-less people, or whomever shows up.
I suppose this is Civil Disobedience during a period of an enforced Stay Home order.
As I have driven by these performances on at least three occasions I assume no enforcement will be forthcoming.
And so, health risks and dictates are accepted differently in several quarters.
Hereabouts, if you are not in the 70-80, 80-90 or 90+ age brackets, in a care facility or part of the 30% Hispanic population the risks of death from COVID are extremely low. But few people want to be the exception, caught out against the odds.
The Pandemic thrives as temperature drops; this bodes badly for the encroaching and lengthy Winter months still to come when vaccinations are not immediately available. And many other States face far worse weather outlooks than California.
The great majority of deaths in CA occur in just FIVE of the Southern California Counties. Of these LA County is >6x worse than each of the other four. The remaining 53 CA Counties have spotty ups and downs but are largely under the same increased lock-down rulings employed across 5 newly defined regions.
The restrictions placed across California State by Governor Newsome have been poorly received because of his own, well-publicized ignorance of his own edicts. Dining out, keeping his OWN business interests open and making questionable personal grabs on first round COVID-relief funds have won him no friends.
He faces another growing push for his RECALL which might stick in this case, given some from his own party are reportedly showing interest.
Newsome has a poor image with locals who knew him where he grew up in Marin and he is a nephew of Nancy Pelosi. There is currently rumor he has personal interest in the Senate Seat of Kamala Harris as an escape chute from Recall, should it become necessary.
I used an on-line NYT vaccination queue predictor for my own situation. There appear to be about 120 million people ahead of me in line. Firstly, health workers and those at high risk, also posing politicians and now even incarcerated felons in some States.
Interestingly the outcome of the Presidential Election continues in the news. The Electoral College has already given Biden the nod, but the Citizenry apparently largely (some 70%) accepts that large-scale voter-fraud was in play; yet courts remain unconvinced despite a recent confirmatory Government report and >1000 sworn affidavits being registered in predominantly Battle-ground States.
Even overseas Bookies that make a living on being right offer good odds that Trump’s last day in office will be January 2025. These beliefs are further fueled by VP-Elect Kamala Harris’ continued refusal to vacate her Senate seat.
This is a truly epic Banana-Republic Soap Opera scenario. When and How will it all end?
Internationally it seems that every dog has its COVID Success Then failure (or vice versa) Story.
Once-envied Sweden touted its Herd Immunity approach yet has now replaced that with recent high-level government acceptance that (quote) whatever we did, has failed miserably. As I write Sweden’s internal lock-down restrictions have just been increased and extended into the New Year.
But now previously underperforming neighbors Denmark, Norway and Finland are claiming successes, based ironically upon their ability to quickly conform and follow instructions, buoyed-up (in Norway) by substantial North Sea Oil reserve revenues fueling their economy.
Germany is now under stringent lock-down restrictions. Schools are closed and those picturesque Christmas Markets are cancelled both there and across much of Europe. Holiday Season celebrations will be bleak or none outside the home.
The UK has detected the FIRST reported Virus Mutation across their Southeast territories, an oddly less-infected region at the beginning of the year. A second variant has subsequently emerged in England; this initially being tied to South African travel.
It seems few Countries test for or can quickly discover Mutations, so who knows where the rapidly spreading first version emanated or will travel next? Virologists claim that more contagious mutations are usually less deadly. As for the Second Mutation, who knows?
Fingers crossed on all accounts; time will tell.
Some European Countries are closing flights to and from the UK. Today the EEC is calling for that practice to cease. Where will this settle?
I saw a Satisfaction Survey polled for Europeans contemplating how SATISFIED they are with their own government’s decisions in protecting them from COVID. The aforementioned Scandinavians (in Norway, Denmark and Finland, w/o Sweden) are currently somewhat happy, with those in France and Spain posting the highest levels of dissatisfaction.
A bright influence on the world has been the Christmas Star, visible low in the Southwest from California soon after sunset and appearing through Christmas day. What appears as a single Star is actually a regular conjunction of the two largest Planets in the Solar system, namely Jupiter and Saturn. Although their orbital proximity happens every 20 years it is rarely seen so bright and close to earth; things last looked this good in 1226 AD. Worth a look, with or without binoculars.
More locally a San Francisco Renaming Committee has decided to ditch a few dozen names from local schools. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s will be gone as she came down on the wrong side of an argument on permitting a Confederate flag to be raised one day in 1984; someone got some long-awaited revenge.
And Lincoln is OUT, too; despite the Emancipation Proclamation he is not sufficiently WOKE, viewed through the retrospective, revisionist lens of time.
Speaking with a couple of still active local garage owners, I am told things are continuing adequately for them. Their Automotive businesses are surviving well enough to keep the lights on, pay rent and avoid layoffs.
Some unusual things flare in the Press. I read a Transgender Activist is pushing for ALL children to receive Puberty Blockers so they can avoid the great trauma of puberty onset until they are ready. It seems a little out there for many today, but 20 years from now, who knows what might be dictated and embraced?
Those people in any form of Care Facility must be suffering in their lengthening separations from friends and loved ones. Even the best Social Media and Communication tools leave us isolated, longing for human touch and contact.
It is a daunting challenge for all Caregivers to satisfy this basic need and fully relieve the misery.
And there are also inevitably many small households across the Globe where the latest STAY HOME Orders have condemned occupants to potentially miserable isolation.
On a personal note, I grow tired of the constant hand sanitizing and masking-up activities required while shopping for essentials but doggedly persist, anyway. I have even received Text Messaged Stay-At-Home Alerts as I have lined up to enter a store, while simultaneously watching un-masked groups of energetic runners stream by.
These days the contradictions are many and diverse. The path to exit this unwanted anomalous lifestyle feels interminable, even with an end in sight.
However, it is now time to figure out WHEN I might expect my vaccination. I am not one of those who will shy away, especially given my distance back in the queue; any short-term vaccine risks will be WELL in the past by the time my turn ever comes around.
And my inoculation will likely soon end up being an official requirement for the travel I so desperately yearn.
How about you? Finding any joy in your life and outlook?
The Holiday Season and New Year are upon us. It is a long way till things return to any flavor of normal. So, are you making enough effort to eke out a level of fulfilment and happiness in your own situation?
There are always things out there to savor. Take a thoughtful look and be sure you are making the absolute best of these challenging times!