There are many stories in the news these days, but whenever you read a newspaper or watch a news broadcast the COVID-19 pandemic is sure to be front and center. It's inextricably interwoven with almost every other news topic. Even items with seemingly no connection are entangled. 


Voter Fraud: You may have heard a lot of discussion relating to the possibility of voter fraud during the pandemic. The Flint branch of the NeffZone Research Bureau (my brother Big Rob) found out committing voter fraud may not be all that easy. 


There is no national ballot with just a single contest listed (for example just a choice for president). There are over 3,143 counties or county equivalents in the United States. Each county has different ballot requirements that need to be printed on them for any election. Plus, within those counties are thousands of municipalities, cities, towns, villages, and taxpayer supported entities (like schools, libraries, commissions, boards, city councils, police, and more). 


There are special requirements for making a ballot (paper thickness, weight, size,  shape, the kind of ink used, how they're folded and the envelopes used). There are bar codes on the letter head that allows a voter to track their ballot from the mailbox to the vote counting center. No ballot is counted unless the signature is an exact match with the one that was signed when a person registers to vote. So, to commit massive fraud you'd have to duplicate all the specs for every voting locality and then match the signatures for millions of voters. (https://www.cnet.com/news/how-to-commit-mail-in-voting-fraud-its-nearly-impossible/)


The Heritage Foundation noted: “As with other forms of voting, documented cases of mail-ballot fraud are extremely rare.” For instance, it found just “...fourteen  cases of attempted mail fraud out of roughly 15.5 million ballots cast in Oregon since that state started conducting elections by mail in 1998.” (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-vote-by-mail-explainer/explainer-fraud-is-rare-in-us-mail-in-voting-here-are-the-methods-that-prevent-it-idUSKBN2482SA)


The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law adds: “A look at the facts makes clear that fraud by voters at the polls is vanishingly rare, and does not happen on a scale even close to that necessary to rig an election. It is more likely that an American will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.” (https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/analysis/Briefing_Memo_Debunking_Voter_Fraud_Myth.pdf)


Masks: The wearing of masks has become very controversial. One way to look at the issue is in strictly economic terms. In short, something we can all understand – money. 


“A Goldman Sachs study estimated that a nationwide mask mandate would save America $1 trillion, or five percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. We can save the economy if everyone masks up, and a refusal to wear masks endangers not only our collective health but the whole country’s ability to return to our full financial livelihoods. The report uses complex analytical tools to ultimately conclude that a nationwide, mandatory mask requirement would end shutdown orders—and prevent any new ones—with an economic benefit of $1 trillion—or $3,000 per person.” (https://www.lendio.com/blog/small-business-tools/economics-wearing-mask/ and https://www.goldmansachs.com/insights/pages/face-masks-and-gdp.html)


This view is echoed by the The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). “If large groups of people refuse to wear masks, they are condemning their fellow citizens to long-term unemployment and our economy to disaster. There are no excuses left. We know that the best and most certain way to stop the spread (of the virus) is for everyone to wear a facial covering. It isn’t fun. It isn’t pleasant. But through shared responsibility, we can get this pandemic under control and save small businesses and jobs. Our economy depends on it, jobs depend on it.” (https://www.industryweek.com/the-economy/article/21134992/wear-a-mask-to-get-economy-going-says-manufacturing-group)


Living With Parents: A side effect of the pandemic is that young adults are moving back in with their parents. “The coronavirus outbreak has pushed millions of young adults to move in with family members. The share of 18- to 29-year-olds living with their parents has become a majority since U.S. coronavirus cases began spreading early this year, surpassing the previous peak during the Great Depression era. In July, 52 percent of young adults resided with one or both of their parents, up from 4 percent in February, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. Before 2020, the highest measured value was in the 1940 census at the end of the Great Depression, when 48 percent of young adults lived with their parents.”



Vaccine Freezers: All of us are rooting for a vaccine to be developed. There may be a slight glitch in the delivery system, however. “For two highly touted mRNA-based shots, storage concerns could derail plans.”


Two of the companies developing vaccine candidates have concerns. “Moderna and Pfizer could run into supply logistics issues over the ultra-cold storage needs for both shots. Experts expressed concern that the temperatures required to store mRNA vaccines were severely limiting to distributors' ability to ship the shots and to clinics' ability to administer them to a wide swath of patients. The vaccine reportedly needs to be held in storage at minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit, and will last for only 24 hours at refrigerated temps between 35.6 degrees and 46.4 degrees.”


The need for such frigid storage could be problematic. Vaccinations might be limited to “...certain hospitals and clinics with the proper equipment, and would require intensive one-day vaccination events at such sites that would cover (just) a fraction of the healthy population." (https://www.fiercepharma.com/manufacturing/pfizer-moderna-s-covid-19-shot-rollouts-could-be-ice-as-analysts-question-cold)


Suggestions for staying safe: The September AARP Bulletin contained some nifty hints to reduce your odds of infection, for COVID-19 and/or the flu. (https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2020/daily-virus-prevention-tips.html)


An easy one is to always carry a ball point pen. Since viruses can live on nonporous surfaces, you can avoid touching “community” pens at places like restaurants, banks and medical facilities. 


When it comes to the flu, getting more sleep is important. “In order to avoid difficulty falling asleep, turn off your phone, tablet and computer three hours before bedtime.”


Finally, when it comes to COVID-19, smoking is a huge factor.”Patients with a history of smoking are 91 percent more likely than never-smokers to die or reach critical condition.” 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews