Wednesday, July 1, 2020

NOTES, JULY 1, 2020

Greetings, blog reader, on this first day of July in the year 2020. A great deal is happening all around us these days, so much that it is hard to keep up with it all. Nevertheless, we shall try.

First, on the pandemic. It is getting worse by the day. Let us look at the data provided by our usual source, Worldometers. We will continue considering the numbers by the week, in order to get some sense of the trajectory of the spread of the coronavirus.

As for new cases in the world, last week (June 24 to July 1) saw 1,232,312, for a rise of 13%. This is a steady rise. Two weeks ago (June 10-17) there were 943,361 new cases (13%). One week ago, (June 17-24) there were 1,093,387 new cases (13%). This over the past three weeks, the disease is spreading apace at the same rate. Of course, this is uneven with some places seeing big spikes, as Brazil, and other places seeing declines.

As for deaths in the world, last week saw 34,219, a rising rate of 7%. Two weeks ago it was 32,540 (8%). One week ago it was 33,727 (8%). Again, numbers of deaths are steadily rising in the world.

The United States continues to be the epicenter of the pandemic as it has been for several months. Last week, there were 303,503 new cases reported in the U.S. This was a rising rate of 13%. This is an alarming jump from two weeks ago (162,745 cases, 8%), and one week ago (216,007, 10%). Both the numbers of cases and the rate of spread are climbing sharply. The total number of cases reported in the U.S. is now 2,727,996.

As for deaths in the United States, there is also cause for alarm. Last week (June 24-July 1), 6,647 Americans died of COVID-19. This was a rising rate of 5%. This is a dramatic rise from the week before (4,343 deaths, 4%) and the week before that (4,982 deaths, 4%). Both the numbers and rates of mortality are climbing. As of today, 130,123 Americans are reported to have died of COVID-19. The present mortality is app. 1,000/day.

South Carolina is cause for special alarm. Last week (June 24-July 1), there were 9,786 new cases, for a rising rate of 37%. This is for one week! Note this is far above the national average. In the week of June 10 to 17, SC reported 4,762 cases, 31% rise. The next week, June 17-24, SC reported 6,623 new cases, 33%. Thus in the last three weeks, SC has seen a dramatic spread of the disease in the state. As for the whole month of June, the number of new cases tripled in SC (app. 12,000 to 36,000). All signs indicate this will only continue. At this rate, SC is heading towards a medical emergency. 

As for deaths in SC, the total is 739. In the last week, 66 people in the state died of the disease, a rising rate of 10%. The is about the same number and rate of the past few weeks. There is no abatement in the mortality of this disease in SC. 

Alabama is a similar tale. The week of June 24-July 1 saw a big spike in new cases, up 6,948, or 22%. In the month of June, Alabama doubled its number of cases. As with SC, this is cause for alarm. AL now has 38,045 cases. There were 86 deaths in the state in the past week, for a total of 950. In the last month, 300 people died in the state of the disease.

All together, the new data show clearly that COVID-19 is spiraling out of control in the United States, particularly in our southeastern states as South Carolina and Alabama. The disease is running rampant in our area. Of course, some states have it even worse, as FL, GA, and LA. 

What are the authorities doing about this? I do not see any effective measures being even discussed let alone enacted to curb the spread. Thus, there is no reason to think this disease will not continue to spread like wildfire until a vaccine appears. Dr. Fauci said a few days ago, the earliest we could get a vaccine is early next year. We have at least six months to go. Do the math to see a projection of new cases and deaths. We are in for worse to come, much worse. There is no national program to bring the disease under control, likewise in out local states. We are the mercy of an incredibly tiny organism that has gained control of our lives. We will have to see it out.

Now, switching to another topic, litigation. 

As we know, the Episcopal diocese asked Judge Dickson to reconsider his outrageous Order of June 19 in which he purported to overturn the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of Aug. 2, 2017. In my opinion, the EDSC lawyers turned in an excellent paper last Monday laying out strongly their case. Now, we can expect the disassociated organization's lawyers to file a response to this. I imagine this will come within the month of July. Then, I think we can expect Judge Dickson to reject EDSC's motion for reconsideration. With that, the way will be clear for EDSC to appeal Dickson's Order to a higher court. 

The court above Dickson is the South Carolina Court of Appeals. However, if both sides agree, they could skip over this and go back to the state supreme court. This was what happened in 2015 after Judge Goodstein's outrageous decision. Both sides agreed to skip the appeals court and go straight to the SCSC. Seven months later, the SCSC held a hearing. Then, it took them nearly two years to publish their decision. 

It seems to me the EDSC side should go to the SC Court of Appeals. Surely that court would uphold the SCSC decision and order Dickson to implement it in his court. If the breakaways appeal that, which I am sure they would, EDSC would be on a much stronger footing when it appears before the SCSC justices, if they agree to take the case at all. 

On the other hand, it seems to me to be an advantage to the breakaways to go straight to the SCSC. That court is not the same as the one that issued the decision of 2017. Two justices have retired (Pleicones, Toal). They have been replaced by two new justices. One of the five, Hearn, has agreed to remove herself from the case. No one knows how the four others would vote, but perhaps they could be persuaded to side with Dickson. It is hard to imagine that the state supreme court would nullify an earlier SCSC decision, but anything is possible. Litigation in SC has been a wild ride so far; and there is still a long way to go. 

One has to bear in mind that SC is one of only two states in the U.S. (VA is the other) that allows the state legislature to elect all state judges/justices. State judges are elected by majority vote of the legislature; and they serve terms that would bring them up for re-election. Election and re-election would naturally exert political pressure on the judges. Politics and judgeships are traditionally intertwined in SC. Thus, there is no telling what the new state supreme court would do with this case. Still, it is hard to believe any state supreme court would discard an earlier decision of that court.

As for the United States court of appeals, we are awaiting the briefs of both sides. Then, the court will decide whether to have a hearing. If so, it will be livestreamed by audio. This court has already weighed in twice in this case (ordering the district judge in Charleston to get on with it). They did so expeditiously. We should expect the same this time. We will probably get a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals before the end of the year. I would bet my bottom dollar they will uphold Judge Gergel's decision which recognized the Episcopal Church as hierarchical and the church diocese as the only heir of the historic diocese. The disassociated organization is a new creation formed in 2012 at the schism.

All of this seems to be a lot of heaviness to take. It is hard. There is cause for worry all around us. But, let us not be disheartened. There is also good news, if we look for it. For instance, just last Saturday, the diocese of Alabama ordained and consecrated a new bishop coadjutor who just happens to be a woman, the first bishop to be a woman in the history of the Alabama diocese. She will become the diocesan bishop at the end of this year. This is cause for rejoicing. It certainly was for me. Moreover, there is a sea-change going on in America about racism. Just last Sunday, the last state to honor the Confederate flag voted overwhelmingly to remove it. So see, things do change for the better. Bear that in mind as we head into another week of worsening health, economic, and political crises in America. Do not let the fear of the moment overtake the hope of a better day.

Make no mistake about it, we are in a dark hour. No one asked for this. No one made it. Yet, here we are, and here we are called to live this hour as the Christians we claim to be. Tomorrow I turn 77 years old. I have seen enough crises in my lifetime, from the end of the Second World War onward, to know we will get through this one too. This is called faith. Peace.