Tuesday, April 28, 2020

28 APRIL 2020, NOTES

Greetings, blog reader, on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. We are nearing the end of April. Will anyone be sad to see this month end?

We have been following the data in Worldometer in search of a discernible pattern in the pandemic upon us. Continuing with two-day increments, we can see a trend emerging, and it is a welcomed one. While the disease is spreading and killing more people, the rate of the spread is definitely declining. 

In the last two days, April 26-28, in the world, 3,080,101 cases were reported, a rise of 145,463, or 5%. This is down from the previous two days' 7% rise. As for deaths in the world, there were 8,582 in the past two days, for a rising rate of 4%. This is below the earlier two days' 6% rise. In all, 212,265 people in the world have died of the plague, all withing the last six months.

As for the United States, the coronavirus continues to spread but at a lessening pace. There are now over one million reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. In the last two days there were 49,611 new cases reported, for a rising rate of 5%. This is significantly less than the earlier two days' 8%. As for deaths in the U.S., there were 2,538 in the last two days, a rising rate of 5%, well below the earlier two days' increasing rate of 8%. In all, 56,803 Americans have died of the plague, all withing the past three and a half months.

South Carolina reported 360 new cases from April 26 to 28, for a rising rate of 7%, the same as the earlier two days. SC reports a total of 5,613 cases. 11 people died in SC of the plague in the last two days, a rate of 7%, less than the earlier two days' 11%. 177 people have died of the disease in SC. Alabama is following a similar path. There, 326 new cases were reported in the last two days, a rising rate of 5%, declining from the earlier two days' 7%. 15 people died in AL of the virus in the last two days, a rate of 7%, up slightly from the earlier 6%. 228 people have died of the virus in AL. 

SC and AL are conspicuously fortunate in the southeastern U.S. The in-between state of Georgia has suffered four or five times as much. Florida and Louisiana are even harder hit than GA although rising rates in all these states seem to be declining as well.

It is too soon to jump to any conclusion, especially since states are beginning to "re-open." We will not know for several weeks how this is going to impact the spread and mortality of the pandemic. It is concerning that the re-openings are happening when every state is seeing rising numbers of cases and deaths. However, the reported statistics are beginning to show a clear pattern of decline in the increase of the spread and the morbidity of the virus. Let us pray this is real and will continue.

Meanwhile, I continue to marvel at the little acts of kindness I see all around me, and I am sure you see too. On last Sunday, my sister's doorbell rang at 11:30 a.m. She lives in a retirement community of small apartments in Bay St. Louis. She opened the door and a woman, standing at a distance, asked if she could leave a box of lunch. The people of a local AME church had gotten up at dawn and cooked a feast for hundreds of people who needed a good hot meal. They were out delivering from door to door. My sister said it was the best meal she had had in memory. There is amazing grace, yet again.

Remember, friends, we are here for the living of this hour. Peace.


P.S. In the "What Were They Thinking?" category, a bank clerk took this photo to show us it is not a good idea to try to disinfect money in the microwave:

Sunday, April 26, 2020

26 APRIL 2020, NOTES

It is Sunday, April 26, 2020. The pandemic continues. The plague goes on its ever more deadly sweep. Our night of pain turns ever darker as we see more thousands of people fall sick and die all around us.

We have been following the data in Worldometer in two day increments trying to get some sense of a pattern in the pandemic, hoping upon hope that we will see a turning point and a lessening of the plague. I am very sorry to say that this is not in sight today. 

As for the last two days, April 24-26, in the world, there were 189,169 new cases reported for a rise of 7%, no change from the previous two day period. 2,934,638 people in the world have fallen ill with COVID-19. As for deaths in the world, 11,892 people died of the disease in the last two days, an increase of 6%, slightly less than the 7% of the earlier two days. Over 200,000 (203,683) people in the world have died in this pandemic.

The United States is by far the hardest hit country in the world with about a third of all the cases in the world and far and away the most deaths. In the past two days, there were 74,187 new cases, a rising rate of 8%, the same rate as the previous two day period. However, the rate of the increase in U.S. deaths is down noticeably. In the past two days, 4,022 Americans died of the disease, an 8% rise, below the 11% of the earlier two-day period. In all, 54,265 Americans have died in this plague.

South Carolina and Alabama continue reporting soaring numbers with no lessening in sight. SC reported 336 new cases in the last two days, a 7% rise, exactly the same rate as the earlier two days. There were 16 more deaths in SC for a total of 166. This was an 11% rise, the same as the earlier two days. Alabama reported 381 new cases, a 7% increase, well below the 19% of the earlier two days. Twelve people died of the plague in the last two days in AL, a rising rate of 6%, well below the 15% rise of the earlier two days. In AL, 213 people have died of COVID-19, all within the past few weeks.

There are news reports about the pandemic reaching a plateau or beginning to slow down. The statistics do not bear out such views. Quite the contrary, the pandemic is spreading daily and killing people at the same rate, some 2,000 a day in the United States. At this rate, we will pass the 60,000 threshold before the end of April. The predictions of 60,000 deaths by the first of August were clearly far off. Even if the curve "flattens" and 2,000 Americans die of the disease every day from now to the first of August, the total deaths would be roughly around 90,000. Now, it may be that the summer will bring a decline in the number of daily deaths, but so far there is no indication that warmer weather has any effect at all on the disease.

VIDEO OF THE DAY. I would say the video of the week is Dr. Birx's reaction as President Trump makes his wildly dangerous comments about light inside the body and injections of disinfectants in the body to fight the coronavirus at his daily show on last Thursday. She carries the pain and dismay of us all on her stricken face. This video is worth a thousand words (rapid blinking of eyes, clinched hands, diverted gaze are all signs of distress). Find it here . May God protect Dr. Birx. Since Dr. Fauci is nowhere to be seen these days, apparently she is the only thing standing between us and insanity.

Finally, remember we are here for the living of this hour, as disconcerting as it may be. Peace.  

Friday, April 24, 2020

24 APRIL 2020, NOTES

Greetings, blog reader, as we journey together on through our long, dark night of the pandemic. My constant wish is that you, indeed all of us, remain safe and well and do what we can to stop the disease and to care for those directly and indirectly affected by it.

We have been following the data from Worldometer by two-day increments to try to get some sense of the progress of COVID-19. The figures continue to be disturbing. From April 22 to 24, 172,466 new cases were reported, for an increasing rate of 7%, no change from the previous two days (Apr. 20-22). As for deaths, 13,233 were reported in the past two days, for a rise of 7%, down slightly from the 8% of the earlier two days. Nearly 200,000 people in the world have died of the plague.

Numbers of the United States continue to surge. In the past two days, there were 67,534 new cases reported for a total of 886,709. This is a rise of 8%, slightly higher than the 7% of the earlier two days. As for deaths, 4,900 Americans died of the virus in the last two days, a record. This was an 11% rise, down slightly from the 12% rate of the previous two days. As of now, 50,243 Americans have died of this disease, almost all of them within two months. The experts are now beginning to raise their projections for numbers of dead by the end of the summer.

Although there are places, as NYC, where numbers are declining, the overall figures for the U.S., and the world, continue to skyrocket. In view of the whole of the U.S., there is no indication of a leveling off. In fact, the disease is spreading rapidly around America.

In South Carolina, there were 309 new cases in the past two days, for a total of 4,917, and 15 more deaths for a total of 150. The rates are about the same. In Alabama, there is alarm at the rapid spread. In the past two days, 929 new cases were reported for a total of 5,832. This is a 19% spike, well over the earlier two-day 9%. In AL, 15 people died of the virus in the last two days, for a total of 201. Two months ago, there were no reported cases of COVID-19 in either SC or AL.

Bottom line for Apr. 24---the coronavirus is spreading rapidly in America, including SC and AL and is killing increasing numbers of people. It is highly contagious and deadly.

The dilemma we face now in the midst of this terrible pandemic is when and how to "re-open" the closed places and businesses. On the one hand, everyone wants to "get back to normal" and have people out of work return to their old jobs and ways of life. There are 26m people filing for unemployment now, a record since the Great Depression. This is bad on many levels. On the other hand, we do not want to accelerate the spread of this highly contagious virus and so must continue keeping people apart. The looming question is when and how to "re-open." Should we do it sooner rather than later or later rather than sooner? Here are two extreme examples of responses to this question:

Yes, I did a double-take too. This was a protester a few days ago in Nashville TN. Assuming this sign is sincere, one has to admire the frankness of this poster even as one recoils at the appalling immorality of the message.

In Denver, a few days ago, a health care worker risks his life to stand up against angry protesters demanding immediate re-opening. Shades of Tiananmen Square 1989. 

So, I think we Christians must ask ourselves what should we do now with the awful dilemma facing us? What Would Jesus Do? Would He want to see more people die so that some could have their jobs back, or would he give up his life to save the lives of others? We all know the answer. 

Finally, remember we are here for the living of this hour, as hard as it is. Peace 

Thursday, April 23, 2020


The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina are under stress from the pandemic. Exactly how much we cannot know but signs are clear of troubles ahead.

On yesterday, 22 April, the Episcopal diocese released a letter from the chair of the standing committee announcing a suspension ("pause" was the word used) of the search for the next diocesan bishop of the diocese. Find the letter here . The note gave no timeline for the future except to say, "We will reassess this decision on an ongoing basis." Apparently, there will be no election of a new bishop in the next diocesan convention, in November of this year. This means the diocese will be without a seated bishop for the foreseeable future, not good. Meanwhile, EDSC churches remain closed to in-person worship with no clear date of reopening. Online worship continues.

Also, on yesterday, the 22nd, the Anglican diocese urged people to give money to the church, even to "Consider giving above and beyond your tithe." Find their plea in their newsletter here . In addition, the diocese is calling for more money for Camp St. Christopher which has laid off "almost all of its staff" on "unpaid furlough." It announced a loss of "over $800,000." Considering the historic budgetary strains of the ADSC, particularly its huge costs in legal fees and supporting the Anglican Church in North America, it is no surprise that the crisis of the pandemic is having "dire" effects on that diocese that is now pleading to its people for financial rescue.

Meanwhile, local churches controlled by ADSC clergy continue on in lock-down with no certain date of reopening. Interestingly enough, Bishop Lawrence has authorized "communion to go" allowing communicants to collect pre-packaged consecrated wafer and wine to have communion at home. One can wonder how well that is working out.

To be sure, every diocese of the Episcopal Church is suffering under the strains of the pandemic. However, these strains carry special weight in lower South Carolina where, well before the present pandemic, the two dioceses from the old Episcopal diocese were struggling under the heavy after effects of the schism of 2012. These are hard days indeed for the survivors of that historic and costly schism. 

The future welfare of the Anglican diocese was already dubious considering the failure of its claim to the historic diocese and its loss of the 29 parishes and Camp under the state supreme court ruling. Once it hands over the 29 and the Camp to the Episcopal Church, which is inevitable, it will be left with 6 parishes. How it survives the pandemic on top of all of its legal losses remains to be seen. To say the least, its future does not look good. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

22 APRIL 2020, NOTES

It is Wednesday, April 22, 2020; and our dark hour continues. Sometimes I feel as if I am only the bearer of bad news and I wish I had something good to relay. However, as painful as the numbers are, it is important that we pay attention to them. My philosophy is that knowledge is good and we cannot have too much of it because it leads to wisdom. 

The statistics of the last two days, according to Worldometer, our constant source, continue to show rapidly rising numbers of cases and deaths from the coronavirus but also a lessening of the rates here and there. 

In the world in the last two days, 20-22 April, there were 151,985 new cases reported for a total of 2,573,003. This is a rising rate of 6%, down from the previous two days (18-20 Apr.) of 7%. As for deaths in the world, there were 12,668 in the last two days for a total of 178,558. This is a present rate of 8%, a rise from the earlier two days' 7%. 

In the United States, there were 54,910 new reported cases in the last two days for a total of 819,175. This is an upward rate of 7%, down slightly from the 8% of the previous two days. As for deaths in the U.S., 4,778 people died of the disease in the last two days for a total of 45,343. This is a rate of 12%, well up from the previous two days' rate of 9%. It is clear from these statistics that the rate of people dying from the virus is climbing in the world and in America. Thus, we have not reached the height of the curve. There is no leveling off, no plateau. The plague is growing ever more deadly.

In South Carolina, there were 231 new cases in the past two days for a total of 4,608, a rise of 5% and down from the previous two days' rate of 7%. However, there were 15 more deaths in SC for a total of 135. This is a climbing rate of 13%. In Alabama, 424 new cases were reported in the last two days for a total of 5,327. This is a rate of 9%, climbing from the earlier two days' rate of 7%. As for deaths, Alabama lost another 26 people for a total of 186. This is a rate of 16%, climbing from the earlier two days' 6%.

To give us more perspective, we can go back and look at the numbers for the past two weeks, April 8 to 22. 

World cases:   1,446,986 to 2,573,003

World deaths:   83,090 to 178,558

U.S. cases:   400,549 to 819,175

U.S. deaths:   12,857 to 45,343

SC cases:   2,417 to 4,608

SC deaths:   51 to 135

AL cases:   2,197 to 5,327

AL deaths:   64 to 186

The alarming news in these figures relates to America. The rate is spread in America is much greater than in the world. Worst of all is the much higher death rate in the U.S. New reported cases in America more than doubled in the two weeks while deaths more than tripled. Just look at those numbers: at least 32,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 in the past two weeks! The real number is probably much higher.

How do the rates in the U.S. compare with other countries? According to Worldometer, the American death rate is relatively high per 1m population as compared with other countries. As for tests, there are many countries that conducted more tests per 1m population. The charge that the U.S. has a low death rate and conducts more tests than anyone percentage-wise is flatly false. The U.S. response to the pandemic has been relatively poor. For more details, see worldometers.info/coronavirus/ . 

At the moment, there are two items of concern. The first is the disappearance of Dr. Fauci from the daily televised presidential briefing. He has not appeared in the briefing for the past four days. He is still on the task force and still appears for interviews otherwise on TV. Obviously President Trump does not want Fauci at the briefings. We can only speculate at the reasons for this. 

The other item of concern is the rush propelled by right-wing forces in the country, to open up everything. Numerous southern states are moving to re-open places that have been closed even though this is in violation of the federal guidelines for re-opening which say there has to be a decline in rates of infections for 14 days. There is no decline, quite the opposite. There has been a swirling fight going on in Washington about when and how to re-open the country. Dr. Fauci is a powerful advocate for a "go slow" approach and is being overruled by some governors in the country. Dr. Birx continues to appear at the daily briefing but she talks only about testing which the administration is insisting is fully functioning when it is not by the statistics. 

The rush to "re-open" is a highly risky business, particularly the way Georgia is going about it. Tattoo and massage parlors are to re-open. There is no way one can do these businesses by social distancing. If numbers begin to spike, states will have to reconsider and close down again which would be even harder on people. South Carolina has started rolling back its closures even though numbers there continue to climb. In Alabama, the closures remain until the 30th but the sensible Republican governor hinted yesterday she may extend the quarantines.

We are in the midst of a terrible and terrifying pandemic. This is like nothing we have ever known. There is no point in trying to disguise or diminish the truth. In fact, that would do more harm than good. As hard as it is, it is best to face reality and come up with realistic responses to this awful crisis that is upon us whether we want to see it or not. And, many, many people are responding well, even heroically, in this emergency.

It is trite to say, but still true, we are all in this together and we will get through it together. Remember, we are here for the living of this hour. Peace.  

Monday, April 20, 2020

20 APRIL 2020, NOTES

Greetings, blog reader, on this Monday, April 20, 2020. Life in the pandemic goes on. We have been on "quarantine" for over a month now. It seems to me that, for the first time, there is real optimism about the course of the plague here in America. The numbers of the last two days show an across-the-board decline in the rate of the spread of the disease. It is too soon to jump to any conclusions, but it is hard not to latch on to any glimmer of good news. We need it so badly. It looks to me as if there is a light at the end of the tunnel but we cannot tell yet whether it is daylight or an oncoming train. So, for now we have to keep feeling our way along the black walls inching ourselves toward the light ever hoping it is the end of our very long tunnel. 

The numbers of the past two days are encouraging even though the raw numbers are still horrifying. According to our usual source, Worldometer, there were 157,966 new cases in the world from Apr. 18 to 20. This is a 7% rise, down from the previous two days' 8%. There were 11,063 deaths in the world, Apr. 18-20, a 7% rise, down from 12%. In the United States, there were 53,993 new cases, an 8% climb, but down from 10% in the previous two days. As for U.S. deaths, 3,390 people died from Apr. 18 to 20, a rate of 9%. This is well below the previous two days' 30% jump. 

Rates are down in SC and AL too. In South Carolina, there were 291 new cases Apr. 18-20. This is a 7% rise, down from 12%. There were 4 more deaths in SC, for a total of 120, again a lessening rate. In Alabama, there were 331 new cases for a total of 4,903 and 9 more deaths for a total of 160. The rates of these declined as well.

To be sure, the numbers of cases and deaths are appalling. Over 40,000 Americans have died of the disease in less than two months. In the past week alone, 20,000 died. This is terrifying. Do not let anyone tell this this is just another form of the flu or that it is not so bad and will go away. The awful truth is staring us in the face. This is a uniquely bad plague. Thousands more people around the world will fall sick and die of the virus for a long time to come. By all accounts, it will be at least a year before we have a vaccine against it.

Yet, signs of slowing down may also, finally, be showing up. In New York, the governor says the state has "rounded the curve," meaning the rate of hospitalizations and deaths there is clearly declining. And, now some states are talking about "re-opening" the closed places. In Alabama, a state commission is recommending to the governor that she start re-opening places around the first of May, but with stipulations. For instance, restaurants will have to check temperatures of patrons at the door and move tables apart. Everyone agrees the re-opening should be done slowly and carefully so as not to spread the highly contagious virus even more.

Anyway, I see signs of hope. I see a light at the end of the tunnel. God help us if it is a train.


We have not heard much lately about the Episcopal Church schism in South Carolina. It has been overshadowed by other events going on, namely the pandemic. It is still there, and even after seven and a half years unfortunately remains unresolved. 

The legal war is still going on even though the Episcopal Church has won in both state and federal courts where the big issues in contention have been settled. In the state court, the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of August 2, 2017, is still sitting on the desk of the circuit court judge, Edgar Dickson where it has been gathering dust for 27 months now. Of the three majority decisions in it, Dickson has implemented only the first, to recognize the independence of the seven parishes in question. He has ignored the other two, to recognize Episcopal Church ownership of the 29 parishes and of Camp St. Christopher. No one knows why the judge is sitting on the SCSC decision. Or, if they do, they are not talking. Church lawyers tried twice to get the SCSC to prod the judge on to implement the decision but the high court demurred. If and when Dickson will implement the second and third decisions is anyone's guess. 

We should recognize, however, that Judge Dickson turns seventy years old this year. Under state law, he must retire from the bench by Dec. 31, 2022, just 32 months from now. Since he has already dawdled away 27 months in this matter, it is not inconceivable he will simply do nothing on this case for another 32 months. He is holding an official Remittitur issued by the SCSC on Nov. 19, 2017, for its decision of Aug. 2, 2017. It is Judge Dickson's assigned task to implement the SCSC decision. However, apparently no one can force him to do his job. This state of limbo is not good for either side. It leaves the Church party angry and frustrated. It leaves the breakaways with the false sense of victory by default, a wall of bricks that will fall on them when the SCSC decision is inevitably implemented. The hard feelings between the two sides that will come of this drawn-out situation will be hard to heal, if that is even possible.

The federal court has been different. The U.S. district judge in Charleston, Richard Gergel, issued a clear and strong decision on Sept. 17, 2019 entirely in favor of the Episcopal Church. The entity of the historic diocese was awarded to the Church under the principle of hierarchy. When the schismatic side was slow to comply with the judge's injunction, Gergel issued another order demanding their obedience. He also denied a petition from the breakaway side for a stay pending an appeal. Likewise, the appeals court denied their request for a stay. Right now the two sides are preparing to appear before a panel of judges of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, in Richmond. The breakaway side's lawyers are appealing Gergel's decision to the higher court. In my view, there is virtually no chance the appeals court will overturn Gergel's decision which is a masterpiece of thoughtful jurisprudence and all but appeal proof. When the schismatic side loses in Richmond, this should finish that part of the war of litigation. That will mean the Church side owns the pre-schism diocese and all the rights, assets, and properties of it.

Apparently there is not much change in the internal status of each of the two dioceses. The breakaways have not posted either their new budget or their latest membership statistics (for 2019). The last figures (2013-2018) showed relentless decline of about a third of communicants since the schism. Meanwhile, their clergy are still occupying 29 buildings that legally belong to the Episcopal Church and their bishop continues to inhabit the Episcopal diocesan bishop's residence. 

The Episcopal diocese is without a seated bishop now. The standing committee is in the process of searching for a new diocesan bishop rather than installing another provisional bishop. The original plan was to have the diocesan convention elect a new bishop at the annual meeting in November. I do not know the present status of the search for a new bishop.

So, in the litigation we are waiting on two things to happen. In the first, the federal appeals court is likely to hold a hearing on the breakaways' appeal of Gergel's decision within a few months. The last two hearings were live-streamed by audio; I assume the next will be as well. I will keep you posted about this. The other thing we are waiting on is for Judge Dickson to implement the second and third majority decisions in the SCSC opinion of Aug. 2, 2017. As I said, when this will happen, if it ever does happen, is anyone's guess. The SCSC orders will eventually be implemented whether by Dickson or not.

So, after seven and a half years we are excruciatingly close to a resolution that seems maddeningly elusive. Who would have predicting this all those years ago when the schismatic leaders insisted the diocese had to leave the Episcopal Church to keep gays and women from having equality and inclusion in the life of the church? And, whatever happened to the issue of human rights anyway? It seems positively quaint now looking back as if it is barely relevant any more. Seven and a half years of schism and legal war just to keep some of God's children from having the same rights, dignity, and respect as others. What a waste. What a shame.

Finally, remember, friends, we are here for the living of this hour, as hard as this is. Peace.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

18 APRIL 2020, NOTES

Greetings, dear blog reader on this Saturday in April. The night of the plague is ever descending. The dark is growing darker. The world and the nation are in the thick of the worst natural disaster of our lifetimes. This is a terrible time as we watch people all around us fall sick and die.

We have been tracking the progress of COVID-19 in two-day increments from the statistics provided in Worldometer. So, what do the past two days (April 16-18) reveal as of this morning posted numbers? The news is not good.

In the world, another 166,479 people have fallen ill for a total of 2,263,052. This is a growth rate of 8%. This is the same rate as the previous two days. Thus, no change in the rate of spread. As for deaths from coronavirus, 19,165 people in the world died of it in the last two days. This is a rising rate of 14%, and more than the previous two days of 12%. Thus, the death rate is rising in the world.

As for the United States, our country continues to zoom along as the center of the pandemic with by far the most cases and the most deaths. In the past two days, 65,924 Americans fell ill for a total of 710,272. This is a rise of 10%, the same as the previous two days. Thus, the spread of the disease is not abating. As for deaths, 8, 621 people in the U.S. died of the virus in the past two days for a total death figure of 37,175. This is a 30% rise (in two days!). In the previous two days (Apr. 14-16), the rise in the death rate was 21%. These numbers show there is no abatement, no plateau, no flattening the curve that some people claim is happening. Statistically, this deadly disease is spreading exponentially.

The numbers in our local states are no less shocking. In South Carolina, in the past few days, 430 people have fallen ill of the virus, a rise of 12%. There are now 4,086 cases in SC. The previous two days had seen a 6% rise. Nine more people died in SC for a total of 116 deaths. This is a lessening rate. In Alabama, the plague is spreading even faster. In the last two days there were 331 new cases and 28 more deaths. This is consistent with the previous periods.

Even if the Worldometer numbers are not precise, they still give us a general picture and indication of trends. In general, COVID-19 is spreading rapidly. The worst spread is in America where the death numbers are spiking. The numbers do not show any lessening of the pandemic, quite the opposite.

At the first of this month, the experts, as Drs. Fauci and Birx, told us the first two weeks of April were likely to be the worst, that is, to see the most rapid spread and skyrocketing death numbers in America. Were they right? Let us look at the statistics of the first two whole weeks of April (April 4-18):

As for cases in the world, the number rose from 1,133,500 to 2,263,052 from the 4th to the 18th. This is about double. As for deaths in the world, the figure rose from 60,378 on Apr. 4 to 154,827 on Apr. 18. This is more than doubling. In the United States, there were 277,607 reported cases on the 4th and 710,272 on the 18th. This is almost triple growth, far more than the world average. As for deaths in America, as of the 4th, there were 7,406. On the 18th, there were 37,175 reported deaths. 7,406 to 37,175 is nearly a five-fold increase. Nearly 30,000 Americans died of the disease in the last two weeks! This is the most disturbing figure of all.

In South Carolina, reported cases jumped from 1,700 on the 4th to 4,086 on the 18th. This is more than double. Deaths in SC went from 34 to 107. Alabama jumped from 1,515 cases to 4,572, triple. Deaths in AL jumped from 38 to 151. As with the world and the nation, there is no indication in the figures of a slowing down of the pandemic. In fact, the numbers suggest a quickening of the spread and the mortality.

Thus, the experts were right that the first two weeks of April were going to be bad. The numbers certainly show this clearly. There is no sign of leveling off although it is too soon to tell if this is the top of the curve. We will need more time to know where the trend is going. However, there is no reason in the posted statistics to believe that we have seen the worst of this pandemic. The latest projected mortality figure being tossed around of 60,000 Americans dead by August is probably unreasonably low. 37,000 American deaths by April 18, leaves only 23,000 to go in three or four months. To hold it down to 60,000, there would have to be a dramatic and sudden decrease in the mortality rate and there is no sign this is happening. Realistically, we can expect far more than  60,000 Americans dead of the virus by the end of the summer.

This is why I do not understand the push popular among some conservative elements of the U.S. to minimize the reality and the significance of this pandemic and the push to ignore it and "re-open" the country. I simply do not understand where they are coming from. They can see the same terrifying statistics that we all see. This disease is not just like the flu, it is not just like any other pandemic of our lifetimes. It is something unique and very deadly.

To be sure, the experts are telling us there is far more we do not know about this disease than we do know. OK, what do we know? Here is where the experts agree:

1-COVID-19 is highly contagious. It is two and a half times more contagious than the common cold. A carrier can infect another person just be breathing on them.

2-COVID-19 is deadly. It is ten times more deadly than the common flu. Uniting the contagious and mortality factors produces a lethal combination.

3-There is no cure, not even an agreed upon set of treatments for this disease. A vaccine to prevent it is at least a year off. 

4-COVID-19 is mysterious in its effects on the host bodies. Between a quarter and a half of people who get the virus remain "asymptomatic," that is do not show any symptoms of it. They do not feel sick. However, they are carriers and can (unknowingly) spread the virus to anyone with whom they come in contact. They can also leave the virus behind on hard surfaces where it can be picked up by the next person. On the other hand, the virus can produce strange, even bizarre, effects in some people which, even if they survive may do permanent damage. We know this virus can attack the brain as well as the lungs and other organs.

5-The "mitigation," such as it is, is coming from social distancing, stay-at-home, and disinfecting practices. Lifting these practices increases the likelihood of accelerating the spread of COVID-19.

Of course, everyone is sick and tired of this pandemic. We wish the disease had never appeared. We wish it would go away. We wish our lives could get back to "normal." We all agree on that. The problem we are now facing is how to get there. What is the best approach to a return to normal in this unique situation? 

First and foremost, we should listen to the experts. Drs. Fauci and Birx are our national treasures. They have spent their long and remarkable lives preparing for this moment in time. They are here for us in this terrible hour. I for one do not think this is just a random chance. So, if we have any sense at all, we will heed their advice. And their advice now is to go slow in "re-opening" the country. Let's take a little step at a time and see how it goes. If numbers start to spike, we should reconsider.

The people who are making light of this international, and national, health emergency are wrong. We should not listen to them. We should listen to the experts, the people who know whereof they speak. Likewise, we should not listen to the people who are trying to turn the response to the pandemic into a political issue. They are also wrong, on another level. This is not the time to settle old scores. This is not the time to campaign for the next election. This is a time for all of us to come together and defeat the enemy that threatens us all.

Keep in mind, we are here for the living of this terrible hour. May the peace of God remain with you, and with me. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020


There has been talk of late, promoted by President Trump, of "re-opening" the country on the First of May. Actually, the lifting of restrictive policies will be done by states and localities, not by the president, but that is another matter. The battle going on over when to "re-open" is a tug-of-war between the scientists and the Wall Street gang. The business interests want to re-open sooner rather than later to get the economy back on track while the health experts warn against reopening too soon and risking an even greater wave of infections. So, the businessmen want May Day but the doctors warn of m'aidez.

The terms May Day and m'aidez are pronounced the same but have entirely different meanings. May Day is a festival time, a joyous celebration of new life as well as of working people. On the other hand, m'aidez is a signal of distress. It comes from the French verb "aider" which means to help. M'aidez is really a shortened version of the correct French grammar which is "aidez-moi" (help me). Nevertheless, m'aidez is now a standard international call of distress. Thus, business people now want the First of May to be a May Day while health experts warn this would be a m'aidez.

The statistics of the pandemic, as reported by Worldometer, continue to shock and terrify us. In the last week or so, the rate of growth had seemed to be slowing, but this was not true of the last two days. From April 14 to 16, 159,305 people in the world fell ill of the coronavirus. This is a rate of 8% rise, same as the previous two days. The death rate increased. In the world, 15,062 people died, for a rise of 12%. The previous two days had seen 10%. In America, the numbers are even more grim. In the past two days 57,175 people fell ill, for a rise of 10%, the same as the earlier two days. However, death figures spiked. Nearly 5,000 Americans died of the plague in the last two days for a percentage rise of 21. The earlier two day period had seen a 15% rise. It is alarming to see the death rate in the U.S. increasing.

The figures in the local states are equally alarming. In South Carolina, reported cases climbed by 217 to 3,656,a steady rate of rise. Meanwhile, 30 more people died for a big jump in the death rate. As reported, 107 people have died of the virus in SC. In Alabama, the disease is spreading even faster. In the last two days, 438 people were reported for a total of 4,241. There were 20 more deaths in AL for a total of 123. Louisiana has seen more than a thousand deaths.

In short, if these statistics of the past two days are accurate, the rate of spread of COVID-19 is accelerating.

As bad as the numbers are, they certainly would have been a lot worse if we had not employed the quarantine and stay-at-home policies put in place by state and local authorities. This must be considered before any decision is made about "re-opening" the country.

The question of re-opening boils down to prioritizing people or property. Which is more important? For us Christians, it is a no-brainer. People always come first because we are God's creation, made in God's own image. This is a choice between the lesser of two evils. If we err, it should be on the side of caution. We must go the last mile to save human lives. It is our calling.

There is no doubt about it. We are descending ever more into the darkness of the worst world and national crisis in 75 years. This is a frightening and terrible time but it is not a time to despair. When I get down, I look around at all the little lights of grace all around me and I cherish each one. How about my brother's church youth group who go and get groceries and pick up meds and deliver them to the elderly of their church? There is grace. How about the woman who put her car in line at the food give-away. When she reached the front, she handed the workers her $1,200 stimulus money. There is grace. How about my favorite supermarket that is paying its workers a $50/week bonus for the duration. There is grace. I am sure you can add a list of acts of grace that you see too. Amazing grace will see us through.

Back to our original point, May Day or m'aidez. We all want life to get back to "normal." We all want this to go away. It would be wonderful if we could count on re-opening on the First of May. However, the reality is that things are not going back to normal for the foreseeable future. The plague is not going away. We must be careful and wise about re-opening places. The health experts who know what they are talking about should be our guides on when and how we should go about this. In spite of the failures and chaos in Washington, the scientists have done a good job so far. They should be left alone to continue. 

Remember, we are here for the living of this hour. Peace.   

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

14 APRIL 2020, NOTES

COVID-19 continues to run rampant in the world with no end in sight. This is the worst pandemic of our lifetimes. It is the greatest existential threat to humankind since the Second World War. This is our ever darkening hour.

The statistics of this pandemic continue to be shocking and terrifying. We have been following the numbers in two-day increments and so we will continue in an effort to get some statistical understanding of the progress of this pandemic. The picture that is emerging has two parts. The numbers of cases continue to skyrocket while the rate of the spread of the disease continues to decline. This is bad news and good all at the same time.

According to Worldometer, in the two days from April 12 to 14, 146,241 people in the world fell ill to the voronavirus for a total of 1,937,268 cases. This is a rise of 8%. In the previous two-day period we watched (Apr. 8-10), the rate was 12%. This indicates the virus is still spreading rapidly but the rate of the increase is falling. As for deaths worldwide, 10,936 people died of the virus in the last two days. This is a rise of 10%. On April 8-10, it was 17%. Again, this shows the plague is continuing to kill people in alarming numbers but the rate of the increase is falling. 

Similar trends are seen in America. In the U.S., in the last two days, there were 54,058 new cases, a rise of 10%. From Apr. 8 to 10, the rate of increase was 17%. As for deaths, in the last two days, the U.S. saw 3,064, an increase of 15%. In the period of Apr. 8 to 10, the rate was 30%. This is probably the most encouraging bit of information we have today. The rate of deaths in the U.S. is falling dramatically. This, however, does nothing to diminish the tragedy of a total death number in the U.S. of 23,644.

In South Carolina, in the last two days, there were 232 new cases for a total of 3,439. This is a 7% rise from Apr. 12 to 14, a decline in the rate of growth from the 16% rise of Apr. 8 to 10. Likewise in Alabama, there were 541 new cases from the 12th to the 14th, a rise of 17%. The period of Apr. 8 to 10 had seen a 29% rise. Thus, while state numbers are racing at an alarming pace, the actual rate of increase in falling. As with the world and the U.S., the state numbers are both heartbreaking and encouraging at the same time.  

Meanwhile, we continue on with our social distancing and stay-at-home policies which seem to be working even though the U.S. has by far the worst spread of the disease of any country in the world, and now the most deaths of any country, bypassing Italy.

At the moment, we should be concerned about the fate of Dr. Fauci. On Sunday, he went on the talk shows and said that earlier intervention in the U.S. would have reduced the spread and the number of deaths. This was seen as an implicit criticism of the president. Trump then re-tweeted a "dump Fauci" tweet. Certain right-wing elements have been carrying on an Internet campaign to get rid of Fauci. On yesterday, Fauci humiliated himself by taking his words back in Trump's daily performance. Watching Fauci at the podium was painful. It was like watching a hostage video. My heart ached at our hero's humiliation.

Judging from Trump's well-known pattern of behavior, I would not be surprised to learn one day soon that Fauci has been removed. Right now the fight in Washington is whether to continue the "lock-down" for an extended time or to move to "re-open" the country. Fauci and Birx are fighting for continued lock-down. The Wall Street gang are fighting for re-open. Trump is claiming the power to decide this when in fact the state governors control such. Trump's daily "briefing" on the pandemic has become a grotesque public relations campaign for his re-election. Yesterday's performance was appalling. In my opinion, this was the worst display of presidential leadership since W. demanded we attack Iraq because of (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile, the real leaders and heroes of the hour are leading the nation through the darkness and I thank God for them every day.

Drs. Fauci and Birx stand between the people and the abyss. We should hope and pray they survive the chaos in Washington. They have managed to dodge the bullets so far, and that is saying a lot.

I wish I had better news. I wish I had some uplifting video or thought to leave with you today, but I have not. This plague will come to an end one day and we will be there all together as we are now. The trite truism is still true, we are all in this together.

Never forget, we are here for the living of this hour. Peace. 

Monday, April 13, 2020


Around our hurting world, "Amazing Grace" has become the theme song of humanity in our present crisis. This is entirely appropriate. In spite of it all, the death, the destruction, the disruption of life everywhere, there is grace. It is all around us if we only look for it. The great tenor, Andrea Bocelli, sings the world's theme song on Easter in front of the Milan Duomo. His is the voice of an angel. If this does not bring moisture to your eyes, you are made of wood.

Find Bocelli's beautiful rendition of "Amazing Grace" on You Tube.

Sunday, April 12, 2020


On Friday, we observed the day of death. Today, we are rejoicing in the opposite, in the victory of life over death. He is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! It is Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection, the day marking the victory of goodness over evil. The darkness of death is vanquished by the light of life. Nearly two millennia ago, an event occurred to a poor, young itinerant preacher in a minor fringe province of a great empire that profoundly changed human existence forever. Today we celebrate that monumental, world-altering event. It was God's own sacrifice for the redemption of humankind, the greatest act of love ever.

Today we are faced with a new plague of death. Our fellow human beings are dying all around us by the thousands, felled by a nearly invisible organism without a conscience. No one knows how bad this plague is going to get nor how long it is going to last. We feel helpless, frightened, disoriented. Yet, there are many, many good people working hard to get this deadly pandemic under control and to minimize, if not eliminate it. Through the grace of God working through these heroic people, life will win out over death. This is what Easter tells us.

This is the first Easter Sunday in my seventy-six years that I will not be inside a church building. This makes me feel sad and hurt. Then, when I look around at the reason for my relatively minor loss, I realize what I am giving up is nothing compared to what so many grieving families and friends are giving up as their loved ones die. I have no right to complain. I am not complaining. My church building will reopen one day. There will be other Easters.  

Easter comes in spring fittingly when the earth is awakening to new life, its own victory over the death of winter. Nowhere is this more evident than in a garden. So, to celebrate this greatest day of the year and to anticipate life over the death of the present plague, let us take a moment to enjoy the beauty of the season as seen in my own modest garden. These photos were made in the past few days.

"Snowball" Viburum has passed its prime but remains spectacular. The smaller part of the garden is on right, the larger on left. A lawn separates the two.

The larger part of the garden. The boxwoods in the center mark the entrance of one walkpath. There are winding paths throughout this part.

My favorite place to sit on the larger side is a bench near the brow of a slight elevation. This is the view at mid-day. From here, I can see much of the garden. On left is camellia, on right hydrangea. The small tree on right is crabapple. The large trees on left are maple. The green shrubs in middle are yaupon holly.

Eve's Necklace Tree (Sophora affinis). In spring, it blooms in long flower strings, or "necklaces." This small deciduous tree, to about 12 feet, is an attractive but rarely seen garden specimen. This came as a seedling from Texas.

Much more common is Mock Orange (Philadelphus coronarius) aka English Dogwood. This is an old favorite shrub prized for its small, aromatic white flowers that smell of orange blossoms.

Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata 'atrosanguinea'). This vine is on a trellis but I let it grow at will onto neighboring shrubs as it searches for the sun. This uncommon form of Crossvine came from Woodlanders nursery in Aiken SC (good source for unusual plants).

Moving to the smaller part of the garden, here is Grancy Graybeard (Chionanthus virginicus) in full bloom behind Lady Banks Rose.

A larger and showier cousin of Grancy Greybeard is Chinese Fringe Tree ( Chinonthus retusus). This one is about 20 feet tall. In spring it is covered in white "fringe." This one came from my favorite nursery, Nurseries Caroliniana, in North Augusta.

Climbing rose "Don Juan" has deep red flowers. This one is sharing a trellis with a Carolina Jasmine that is trying to take over.

My warmest wish is that you have a refreshing Easter, dear blog reader. The vicious coronavirus has forced us to confront death and destruction whether we wanted to or not. However, not even this time of darkness, unparalleled in our lifetimes, can dim the light of the greatest day of the year. We need this Easter more than we have ever needed one. We need the victory of life over death, of light over the darkness, of love over hate. We need reminding that God's love surrounds us now as much as ever.

Queen Elizabeth has given us another talk of encouragement, showing us, once again, true qualities of leadership. In her Easter (11 Apr.) message she assures us the coronavirus will not overcome us. Find her remarks by audio here .

Throughout it all, bear in mind we are here for the living of this hour. Peace.

Friday, April 10, 2020


It is Good Friday, April 10, 2020. It is a day to remember death, in more ways than one. In the Christian religion, this is the day of the Lord's death. He was executed in a gruesome and brutal way by order of the ultimate political authority of the day in Palestine, the Roman governor. The Romans reserved death by crucifixion for themselves as an example of what they would do to disturbers of the peace, as Jesus of Nazareth. The Roman Empire of the day was a far-flung loose state of 55 provinces, each ruled by a governor who was a virtual dictator backed up by the army. The Romans required two things of their provincial people, loyalty and taxes. Otherwise they left people more or less alone as long as no one upset the rather fragile system too much. From the Roman perspective, Jesus was nothing more than a troublemaker, a disturber of the peace. He was upsetting their system of "law and order." He had to go. Of course, no one at the time, not even Jesus' followers, had any idea what this execution was going to mean. In fact, it changed the world as no other event in human history has done. And so, it is a "Good" Friday.

Here, in 2020, all these centuries later, death is present in our lives again. Thousands of people are being killed every day by an invisible power that is doing nothing but disturbing the peace, disrupting law and order.

According to Worldometer, in the last two days, 167,272 people have fallen ill of COVID-19 in the world and 13,701 have died. This is bad news and good news. The bad is that the numbers are ever rising. The good news is that the rate of increase is slowing, at least slightly.

In America, the numbers are grim. In the past two days, 68,346 people have been reported with the virus for a total of 468,895. As for deaths in the last two days, 3,840 American have died of the plague for a total of 16,697 dead. Again, the numbers are escalating but the rate of growth is slowing slightly.

In South Carolina, the last two days saw 375 new cases and 16 more deaths. SC now lists 2,792 infected and 67 dead. In Alabama, cases are soaring. There were 641 new infections in the last two days for a total of 2,838. There were 14 deaths for a total of 78. The hardest hit state in the south is Louisiana which is reporting 18,283 cases and 702 deaths. New Orleans hospitals are overwhelmed.

So, the figures, even inaccurate and incomplete as they are, show the plague to be spreading rapidly but its rate of spread is slowing. Meanwhile, the effects of the plague are hitting hard. Yesterday, the U.S. government reported some 17 million people unemployed, a record since the Great Depression. A third of people could not pay the rent this month. Food pantries are running out of food. Programs to help small businesses survive are lost in a haze of chaos. Meanwhile, with a vacuum of leadership at the top, local governments are scrambling to meet the needs of the day.

The present fight going on in America is when to "reopen" the country. Conservative forces are demanding immediate lifting of the quarantines and closures. They are thinking of money. The medical leaders say, not so fast. We need to keep our policies in place until the threat has abated. They are thinking of people. Dr. Fauci indicated schools should be able to reopen for the next school year, which for many people would be August.

And so, we refuse to be vanquished by death. Our heroes of the hour are those fighting for life, the medical professionals from the lofty, Drs. Fauci and Birx, to the lowliest, the janitor of the smallest hospital. Our prayers should be for and with them.

Finally, the video of the day. There was amazing grace nearly two thousand years ago. There is amazing grace all around us now. Here is a lone nurse reminding everyone of this as she sings to exhausted crews in her hospital. Find the video here .

As we recall the amazing grace then and now, we should remember we are here for the living of this hour. Peace.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

NOTES, 8 APRIL 2020,
with update

8 April 2020. Greetings dear blog readers as we move into mid-Holy Week and ever more into the blackness of the night of the pandemic.

The devastation of the COVID-19 plague continues on unabated. Today's numbers are staggering and heartbreaking. As hard as it is to look at these numbers regularly, I think it is important to do so because information leads to knowledge, knowledge leads to wisdom, and wisdom leads to understanding. So, here goes.

In the past two days, according to Worldometer, at least 161,724 people fell ill for a total of 1,446,986 COVID-19 cases in the world. This is a 13% rise and right in line with the previous two-day period. In the last two days, 12,742 people in the world died of the disease for a total of 83,090. This is a rise of 19% and an acceleration from the previous two days (17%). 

In the United States in the last two days, 63,698 people fell ill for a total of 400,549 cases. This is a rise of 19%, a slight dip from the previous two days (21%). However, deaths in our country are spiking. In the last two days, 3,237 Americans died of the plague. This is a 34% increase, and a 4% rise over the previous two days. In all, 12,857 Americans have died of the virus. The plague is worsening in America.

In South Carolina, 368 people fell ill in the past two days for a total of 2,417. This is an 18% rise, a slight increase over the previous two days (17%). As for deaths, 7 people died in SC of the disease in the last two days for a total of 51. This is a 16% rise, less than the previous two days (30%). In Alabama, there are 356 new cases for a total of 2,197. As for deaths, AL now counts 64, a whopping 42% increase in two days.

While these numbers may not be precise and are almost certainly well under-reported, they do give us a general guide of the progress of the pandemic. It is definitely getting worse in the world and particularly in the U.S. which has by far the most cases in the world although not the most deaths, at least as yet. Italy has that dubious honor. The trends are horrifying.

Meanwhile, we continue our social distancing and at-home isolation which we all know to be the right thing to do. These are hard, there is no doubt about it. It is hard because it is against human nature. Human beings are social animals. We naturally gravitate to other people. We long for social contact with people beyond our own homes, a hand shake, a hug, close eye contact, a friendly face. It is hard not to have these even though we know very well it is in our interest for the time being to do without them. So, I think we have to think of ways we can lessen the loneliness and aloneness and make contact with other people with our modern technology. We need it.

Reports are out that people are coping with the home isolation in various ways. Reuters has an article indicating a rising consumption of chocolate, tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, and porn. Companies that deal in such are seeing their stock values rise. However, the biggest gain in stock has been in a company that produces diabetes medicine in anticipation of the long-term effects of this new consumption. Find the article here .

Bishop Mariann Budde has another good sermon from the National Cathedral online I recommend. It is not quite as memorable as her classic homily of 22 March, but it is still helpful in our present state. Find her sermon of April 5, here . It is about 12 minutes long.

May we all find courage and strength in this dark night, and remember we are here for the living of this hour. Peace.


UPDATE. 11:00 a.m.  The Church of England has closed all churches to all people, clergy and laity, in view of the pandemic. There are to be no live-streamed services in any Anglican church in England. This will be most difficult coming now as it does in Holy Week.

Read a report of this in Thinking Anglicans here .

See a video of the Archbishop of Canterbury explaining his decision here .

On March 23, the Prime Minister of the UK ordered all churches closed. The next day, the archbishops of Canterbury and York ordered their clergy to refrain from entering their own churches. On April 7, the London college of bishops agreed to end all live-streaming from the church buildings. Live-streaming may continue from private venues, as home living rooms. It is now a blanket rule in the Church of England that all churches are closed to all people, clergy and laity. This means no live-streaming from the church buildings until further notice.

Given the esteemed position of the Church of England, and the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Anglican Communion, all officials of the provinces of the AC should consider their own policies regarding the closure of the church buildings, even for live-streaming from the churches.