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Pandemic St. Louis Style: Policy Fragmentation & Cognitive Dissonance

November 28, 2020 Featured, Metro East, Missouri, Politics/Policy, Retail, St. Charles County, St. Louis County, STL Region Comments Off on Pandemic St. Louis Style: Policy Fragmentation & Cognitive Dissonance

Early this week the KMOV News (CBS/4.1) had a story on the Jefferson County Health Department approving a mask mandate — and the upset group protesting outside. The very next story was the St. Louis Area Task Force saying hospital beds, including ICU, beds were filling up with COVID-19 patients.

People were protesting wearing masks in public while area hospitals are announcing they’re filling up quickly. There’s a term for this: cognitive dissonance.

The mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information. The unease or tension that the conflict arouses in people is relieved by one of several defensive maneuvers: they reject, explain away, or avoid the new information; persuade themselves that no conflict really exists; reconcile the differences; or resort to any other defensive means of preserving stability or order in their conceptions of the world and of themselves. The concept was developed in the 1950s by American psychologist Leon Festinger and became a major point of discussion and research. (Britannica)

Metro requires riders to wear masks on buses and trains. Metro doesn’t serve Jefferson or St. Charles counties.

How does this relate to masks?

Because of the intense polarization in our country, a great many Americans now see the life-and-death decisions of the coronavirus as political choices rather than medical ones. In the absence of a unifying narrative and competent national leadership, Americans have to choose whom to believe as they make decisions about how to live: the scientists and the public-health experts, whose advice will necessarily change as they learn more about the virus, treatment, and risks? Or President Donald Trump and his acolytes, who suggest that masks and social distancing are unnecessary or “optional”? (The Atlantic)

I don’t like wearing masks, but it’s the right thing to do around anyone other than my husband. The worst days are when I have treatment at Siteman Cancer Center, my mask is on for hours.

Then on Wednesday I saw a news story at Lambert airport on holiday. An airport spokesperson was explaining how everyone inside the terminal had to wear a mask — except she was inside the terminal and not wearing a mask! Two different travelers inside the terminal, both with masks, said they weren’t concerned because they were taking precautions — but their nostrils were visible!

My mom was a waitress for many years, so I feel for food service employees and restaurant owners. A recent story showed an owner upset at recent St. County restrictions prohibiting indoor dining. They argued it was unfair, if people could go into Target & shop they should be able to dine in. Uh, except that shoppers have to keep their masks on in retail stores — inside bars & restaurants the masks come off after being seated. Apples to oranges.

As I was writing this yesterday I saw a story on dine in supporters in St. Louis County. I wish as much effort was put into improving the carryout experience (ordering & packaging).

We’re back to limits on items because some placed their own important over that of the community.

A lot of this cognitive dissonance is due to the vastly different pandemic policies in different jurisdictions in the region. At least the Illinois side of the region has one uniform policy imposed by Governor Pritzker.  Here in Missourah Gov Parson has taken a hands-off approach, resulting in an infection rate double that of Illinois.   As a result each county has to go at it alone even though residents frequently cross over borders. Other than the hospital’s pandemic task force we have no regional leadership.

Our hospitals are full and their workers are exhausted. All because people aren’t willing to wear a mask in public or eat their restaurant dinner at home.

– Steve Patterson

 

Completed The 2020 Census Online Yet?

April 22, 2020 Featured, STL Region Comments Off on Completed The 2020 Census Online Yet?

Many of you have been at home for a month. Getting bored? If you haven’t done so already, you could complete the 2020 Census — a count of everyone on April 1st.

The time is now. Help shape your future, and your community’s future, by responding to the 2020 Census.

Most households received their invitation to respond to the 2020 Census between March 12 – 20. These official Census Bureau mailings will include detailed information and a Census ID for completing the Census online.

In addition to an invitation to respond, some households will receive a paper questionnaire (sometimes known as the census form). You do not need to wait for your paper questionnaire to respond to the Census. (2020Census.Gov)

It only takes a few minutes to complete online. Phone & mail are also options.

— Steve Patterson

 

Shutting Down To Save Lives

March 13, 2020 Featured, Popular Culture, STL Region Comments Off on Shutting Down To Save Lives

The St. Louis region still only has one confirmed case of COVID-19, but to contain it from spreading some big decisions have been made — both nationally & locally. Flights from Europe cancelled for at least 30 days, major sports postponed, Broadway shows shuttered, music tours cancelled. College classes switching to online only.

Enterprise Center was to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.

The NCAA had said the March Madness tournament initially would be played without fans, but yesterday made the decision to cancel completely. Both local St. Patrick’s  Day Parades have been postponed.

Some had been upset about lost revenue by not having spectators at restaurants and booking hotel rooms by the NCAA decision to not have fans, now we won’t have players, coaches, family, etc.

Sometimes the right decision means saying no to short-term profits.  This also impacts workers who need their paychecks to pay rent/mortgage and other bills.

We can look back to St. Louis 102 years ago to see how effective such drastic actions are.

When the influenza epidemic of 1918 infected a quarter of the U.S. population, killing tens of millions of people, seemingly small choices made the difference between life and death.

As the disease was spreading, Wilmer Krusen, Philadelphia’s health commissioner, allowed a huge parade to take place on September 28th; some 200,000 people marched. In the following days and weeks, the bodies piled up in the city’s morgues. By the end of the season, 12,000 residents had died.

In St. Louis, a public health commissioner named Max Starkloff decided to shut the city down. Ignoring the objections of influential businessmen, he closed the city’s schools, bars, cinemas, and sporting events. Thanks to his bold and unpopular actions, the per capita fatality rate in St. Louis was half that of Philadelphia. (In total roughly 1,700 people died from influenza in St Louis.)

In the coming days, thousands of people across the country will face the choice between becoming a Wilmer Krusen or a Max Starkloff.” (The Atlantic)

Philadelphia did have twice the population of St.Louis, but also more than twice the land area. It was a wise decision to shut everything down. In doing so many lives were saved.

It’s impossible to know how many more would’ve died had the city not been shut down temporarily. There will, hopefully, be a point where our lives can return to normal.

Will normal be different than what we knew prior to COVID-19?  Impossible to say at this point. However, it is possible to see businesses learning how to live without expensive conferences & expos.

Over the last 20 years, the conference and convention industry has grown rapidly as the global economy has expanded.

In 2017, about $1 trillion was spent worldwide on business events, including funds to plan and produce the events and related travel, according to an Events Industry Council report. North America alone accounted for $381 billion.

Convention centers and similar facilities rely on these events to survive, often booking major ones years in advance. (LA Times)

Right now we’re looking at an expensive expansion of our downtown convention center. Do we move forward or put it on hold to see what the  convention business will look like a year from now?

Will Coronavirus influence the design of the upcoming MLS stadium? More hand-washing stations?

A lot to think about, especially if you’re at home for days.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

Fragmented St. Louis Region’s Coronavirus Preparedness Is Being Tested

March 11, 2020 Featured, STL Region Comments Off on Fragmented St. Louis Region’s Coronavirus Preparedness Is Being Tested

I wrote the recent Coronavirus-related Sunday Poll a week ago. At the time the Coronavirus hadn’t come to the St. Louis region. Then Saturday night came word of a case in St. Louis County, so I had to revise the post. So much has happened in just a few days, first the non-scientific results:

Q: Agree or disagree: The St. Louis region is well-prepared to handle the Coronavirus.

  • Strongly agree: 0 [0%]
  • Agree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat agree: 1 [4.76%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 6 [28.57%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 1 [4.76%]
  • Disagree: 3 [14.29%]
  • Strongly disagree: 7 [33.33%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 3 [14.29%]

We don’t really know, but we’re about to find out.

Source: Food & Drug Administration

I do take comfort that St. Louis County Executive Sam Page is also a physician.  However, I’m a little concerned instructions to self quarantine are only issued verbally, it’s a honor system. As a person with short-term memory issues I often forget things said to me verbally — I really need written information. Email is easy as a backup to verbal.

That said, it seems like common sense if a member of your household might test positive the entire household needs to quarantine — not go out for coffee or attend a party and dance.

As a cancer patient, I’m also high risk. So don’t expect to see me out and about. Other than grocery shopping and visiting Siteman Cancer Center, I’ll be at home. I’d planned to spend two weeks in Chicago next month, but I’m putting that off indefinitely.

Most of you don’t have the luxury to stay at home. Yes, some of you can work from home but most cannot. Many, like my husband, get zero paid days off work — no paid holidays, no paid vacation days, no paid sick days. Even if you get paid days off you if you’re a bus driver, cashier, nurse, etc you can’t do those jobs from home.

Back to the regional preparedness, this will test their communications.  Here are links to Coronavirus pages at St. Louis County and St. Louis City. Plus the CDC and BJC hospitals.

To me a regional approach would be one website where a resident could put in their zip code so they could find out who to contact. Such a website could be helpful in case of natural disasters, voter information, etc. Include every county that’s part of the St. Louis region on both sides of the Mississippi River.

It’s easy to have low expectations — I just hope we’re wrong.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Is The St. Louis Region Prepared For The Coronavirus?

March 8, 2020 Featured, STL Region, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Is The St. Louis Region Prepared For The Coronavirus?
Please vote below

It’s a common joke that the first hint of a storm St. Louisans head to the store to buy bread, milk, & eggs. Now expand that globally.

Rationing supplies. Overwhelmed delivery workers. Toilet paper protected by security guards.

This is the new reality for some retailers, who are having to take drastic action to limit the number of toilet paper rolls, face masks and hand sanitizer bottles each person can buy as customers stockpile goods over fears of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The epidemic has infected more than 97,000 people and killed 3,300 globally, leading to growing alarm that has resulted in mass bulk buying around the world. (CNN)

I’m not clear on how toilet paper is going to protect you from COVID-19. Last night the first case in Missouri was announced:

Gov. Parson said a St. Louis County woman in her 20s had traveled to Italy and was tested positive for COVID-19. The woman tested positive at a Mercy hospital in the St. Louis County area. The sample was sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A total of 26 people were tested for COVID-19 including the positive case. Three additional tests remain in progress. (KMOV)

Today’s poll isn’t about our personal stockpiles of supplies, but how our region will respond now that the Coronavirus has arrived.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight, assuming I have all the settings correct to deal with the start of Daylight Saving Time.

— Steve Patterson

 

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