As pandemic rages, we can’t give up the fight

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

The election is over — Joe Biden will be the next President of the United States.

You know what’s not over? The COVID-19 pandemic. More than 180,000 new cases were reported Friday, some 5,500 in Pennsylvania. Over the last week, Chester County is averaging 100 new cases a day — and generally speaking, we’re doing better than average, But still not well.

Yes, a vaccine is coming — maybe March or April for most of us. There is an end to all of this coming. But in the meantime, it’s going to get a lot worse.

There are those who continue to advocate to “reopen safely.” This is basically like pouring gasoline all over yourself and juggling lit blow torches “safely.” If anything, we need to tighten things up — not do the exact things that will make this worse.

But you see, those arguing for a reopening claim to be supporting small business. They’re not. They’re supporting greedy real estate developers and strip mall owners, big banks and powerhouse law firms that fund their operation. 

If they supported small business, they’d be backing federal and state intervention — money — to help these businesses survive this crisis. They’d be supporting programs and funding to help businesses make their establishments safer. 

But they’re not. 

They want these small business owners to open up fully, risk their customers, their employees and themselves so that the greedy real estate barons get their money. Keep in mind, despite a glut of commercial real estate, these masters of self interest have in many cases been raising rents on retailers, driving many out of business in recent years. Somehow, I missed the torrent of sympathy for these businesses from these same “open up” types while that happened.

It’s pretty clear that we, the small business owners of Chester County, need a new association that actually represents our interests and our priorities, not those of a few, powerful interests.

Meanwhile, despite this lunacy, the pandemic rages on.

And some closures are going to have to happen. Gov. Tom Wolf said he doesn’t expect to institute a broad lock down again, as happened in the spring. He knows people won’t cooperate — they’re tired of the pandemic. The pandemic isn’t tired of them, though, as hospitalizations and deaths grow. While our hospitals aren’t overwhelmed right now — as is the case in the plains states and elsewhere — it seems likely that in a few weeks things will become increasingly dangerous.

So, some measures will need to be taken.

Already, both Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the state’s teachers union, the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) have called for the state’s schools to return to virtual-only learning. Neighboring Montgomery County’s Board of Health voted this week to close that county’s schools — and at least one Chester County district, Owen J. Roberts, appears to be moving in that direction.

Look, I totally get why stopping in person instruction is difficult and painful for many. It’s not a good solution, but it may be the least bad one.

Kids, while they typically don’t get as sick, are excellent spreaders of COVID. We’ve already seen high school sports teams have to end their season early because of cases of the virus. The virus is spreading like wildfire and any day now, we’ll see a report of dozens of cases in a Chester County school.

Again, I get the burden this represents for parents and kids. Virtual education is rarely as good as in-person education. Parents have to figure out how to watch their kids during the day. Poorer kids don’t have the computers and broadband to attend virtual class.

While restaurants and bars are super-spreader sites, I’m not sure there’s much more we can do, short of closing these businesses again — which would probably kill a lot more of them off. 

Without a massive federal stimulus, these businesses are going to struggle to survive, anyway. 

As the virus spread explodes, people will stay home out of fear. According to JP Morgan/Chase, which tracks credit card usage, we’re already seeing a virus-driven reduction in consumer spending, right now focused on the plains states. As things get worse here, eateries and bars will be open and empty, if the “open up” crowd gets their way. It’s a “wisdom of the crowds” factor that people seem to be missing.

We need immediate federal intervention: cash for states and municipalities, cash for small businesses, without the chaos and fraud of the PPP program, cash for enhanced unemployment, and yes, monthly checks of $2K for December, January, February and March, with the option to extend it if the vaccine roll out is delayed.

Pricey? Sure. But not much worse than the 2018 tax cut (cut…right, my taxes went up) in terms of the deficit. Additionally, because inflation is unnaturally low, the government can literally print money to help pay for it without tanking the economy (only the equities market might suffer, as people would move money from risky investments to bonds and CDs if they pay decent interest).

We need government action. We are unlikely to see it, though, before January.

Meanwhile, stay home if you can. Wear a mask when you can’t and keep your distance, especially indoors. Wash your hands. Try to limit gatherings — and I know this is tough — especially on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This will end. But we all have to survive the next few months.

Stay safe.


Digging a bit into the final election results, it was interesting to see that Chester County was literally the worst county in the state in terms of Democratic vote drop off from the top of the ticket. And the issue wasn’t just undervote — where people vote the top of the ticket and nothing else — but a lot of Chesco voters voted for Biden and then, essentially, voted straight ticket Republican down ballot.

Statewide, there were a lot of issues with the state Row Office candidates getting a lot less vote than Joe Biden. But Chester County was the worst.

A few examples:

Attorney General Josh Shapiro saw a drop of 12,000 votes from Biden but Republican Heather Heidelbaugh got 5,000 more votes than Donald Trump in the county. Nina Ahmed, running for Auditor General, lost a startling 23,000 votes as compared with Biden, while her opponent — the statewide winner — Tim DeFoor got 12,000 more votes than Trump in Chester County. State Treasurer Joe Torsella was knocked off in part because he lost 19,000 votes as compared to Biden, while winning opponent Stacy Garrity gained 9,000. Keep in mind, Torsella lost statewide by about 100,000 — meaning the drop off in Chester County was crucial in his loss. Even popular U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, who defeated John Emmons by 13 points, saw a fall off of 9,000 votes, while Emmons picked up 8,000.

Don’t get me wrong, there were issues statewide, but Chester County’s Democrats failed to carry the rest of the ticket. While Biden’s race was national — as was its Get Out The Vote efforts — there was a clear county party failure in GOTV and messaging. Worse, the numbers in the county’s Southeast — including state House Districts 158 and 160 — performed even worse than the rest of the county, turning Christina Sappey’s rematch with Eric Roe in 158 into a nail-biter and in the case of the 160th, caused the loss of Democrat Anton Andrew to Republican newcomer Craig Williams — who polls had down as much as double-digits in September.

Yes, I know COVID threw a wrench into running the normal door-knocking plan for GOTV, but other counties fared better — even neighboring counties.

You can spin this anyway you want, but the numbers tell the story. If Democrats are going to win, they’re going to need to change how they do things in these national election cycles — and it may be time for new leadership both countywide as well in the local southeast region.

This was a big failure on the part of the party and its leaders, seemingly unable to throw off the legacy of decades of being in the minority and adapting to being the majority party in the county.

But without major changes, that majority may well be short lived. Without Trump to drive Democratic turnout, Republicans will win the county Row Office races unless Democrats can change up and improve their game.


A concerning note out of Pennsbury: former Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh is in the hospital with COVID-19.

Welsh reportedly worked the entire day at the Chadds Ford Elementary School polling place, Pennsbury North 1 & 2, setting up the GOP table inside the school. Some witnesses said she did not consistently wear a mask.

She reportedly interacted with a lot of voters — and may have been shedding virus at that point. Those who voted at that polling place and/or interacted with Welsh may want to get a COVID test as soon as possible. The same is true for any candidates that visited the polling place.

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