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The pandemic isn’t over, DeSantis readies another plane, Fiona’s destruction, a fight over classified docs, and I want your essays

NOTE: I’m starting a new feature that involves you. More below.

Good day! It’s Tuesday, Sept. 20, the 263rd day of the year. The autumnal equinox arrives in the Northern Hemisphere at 9:04 p.m. Thursday, when there is roughly the same number of daytime and nighttime hours at the equator. Here in New England, that balance will arrive around the 25th-26th. It’s the astronomical start of fall.

Sunrise in Boston was at 6:29 a.m. and sunset will be at 6:44 p.m. for 12 hours and 15 minutes of sunlight. The waning moon is 24 percent full.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains how to make cornhusk dolls and I’m sorry, but the creepy little figures look like they should have Ron DeSantis faces and pins sticking out of them.


What’s it like outside? Cloudy, cool, with some showers here and there. Wednesday looks to be drier and warmer, mid-70s, but look for more rain Thursday.

Hey, sport: The Red Sox are in Cincinnati for a couple of interleague games vs. the Reds tonight and tomorrow night, then head to New York for a four-game series with the Yankees.

Zdeno Chara is retiring from pro hockey as a member of the Bruins, signing a one-day contract today as he ends a 24-year career during which he captained the Bruins’ only Stanley Cup-winning team in 50 years in 2011.

Kevin Paul Dupont: Former captain Zdeno Chara signs a one-day deal to retire as a Bruin

More negative reaction today over President Biden declaring on “60 Minutes” that the coronavirus pandemic is over, with public health officials around the country slapping their foreheads in frustration.

My favorite reaction was from Dr. Megan Ranney, academic dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, who borrowed one of Biden’s own favorite sayings: “I call malarkey.”

”Is the pandemic DIFFERENT? Sure,” she tweeted after Biden’s TV interview. After citing several reasons the country is better off now, including immunity from vaccinations and previous infections, testing, and treatments, she continued, “But over?! With 400 deaths a day?! I call malarkey.”


Biden’s ridiculous off-the-cuff remark is going to make battling this disease exponentially more difficult.

First, it’s going to set back efforts to persuade doubters to get boosters (or even first vaccines), especially with winter coming. The administration is going to have to expend a lot of time and energy once again telling people to get shots and to be careful because now those folks have another excuse not to: “But the president said ... !”

Second, keeping emergency measures in place will be tough. Thirteen states as well as the military are under some sort of emergency order or mandates based on their COVID infection numbers. Now there’ll be pressure to lift everything, particularly from public health-averse Republicans.

(Plus the pauses in student loan debt repayments is predicated on the continuing presence of Covid as a disruptor in people’s lives.)

Take GOP Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky. He came out and said that if the pandemic is over, “then all of the President’s emergency powers predicated on a pandemic, all COVID vax mandates, the emergency powers of every governor, Emergency Use Authorizations, and the PREP act should all be voided tomorrow.” Great!

Finally, Biden’s own administration is trying to get $22.4 billion in Covid funding from Congress to be able to continue giving free vaccines and free rapid tests, as well as combat the greater number of infections and deaths among people of color and the poor. Now that Biden has spouted off, good luck with that.


Just listen to what Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said: “Well, if it’s over, I wouldn’t suspect they need any more money.”

Thanks, Joe! (Okay, okay, so the Republicans probably weren’t going to vote for the extra money anyway. But why hand them an excuse on a silver platter? I’d rather hand them plane tickets to Venezuela.)

Look, there’s no doubt that we’re far better off today than we were even as recently as January, when the US had about 800,000 cases a day, 160,000 people were being admitted to the hospital with COVID every day, and 2,600 people were dying every day.

But today’s numbers still are unacceptable. Are we really okay with 400 to 500 Americans dying every day from a disease that could be brought under control? In 2020 and 2021, Covid was the third leading cause of death for Americans, behind heart disease and cancer.

And it will remain high, maybe slipping below accidents this year, but likely staying deadlier than strokes, respiratory diseases, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, liver disease, and kidney disease.

BTW, for the Covid deniers walking around saying that it’s like the flu, get a clue. In the US, the flu kills anywhere from 12,000 to 52,000 people per year. Covid is expected to kill anywhere from 113,000 to 188,000 Americans annually. Big difference.


And there’s probably no turning that around, given that Americans have proven ourselves incapable or unwilling to do what it takes to protect ourselves from deadly diseases.

Look at the leading causes of death: Heart disease and cancer. Most of those are diet-based. Yet we keep right on eating saturated fat from animals; processed meat like bacon, hot dogs, and deli meat; too much sugar, too much salt. Too many of us still smoke and too many of us drink too much alcohol.

Many Americans would prefer to have a stroke, a heart attack, or cancer rather than give up steak, cheeseburgers, fries, sausages, fried chicken, or potato chips. So expecting them to take measures to prevent the spread of Covid, like getting vaccinated, is just a Big Mac too far.

Word is that Bully Boy DeSantis is planning to send another planeload of hapless migrants from Texas to Delaware, dumping them near Biden’s summer house in Rehoboth Beach, because he amused himself so much with his Martha’s Vineyard stunt. (Although much to his chagrin, Vineyarders didn’t freak out at the sight of desperate South Americans trying to keep themselves and their families safe.)

Meanwhile, a sheriff in Texas opened a criminal investigation into DeSantis’s sad attention grab, pointing to a fake brochure designed to look like it was produced by the state of Massachusetts that promised housing, furnishings, food, and cash -- brochures that were given to the migrants in Texas as a way to lure them onto the plane.


I wonder if DeSantis’s fake Delaware brochure will promise that Biden will house them at his summer place. And you know what -- I bet he would! He could regale them with stories about growing up in Scranton because they’re the only people in America who haven’t heard that story yet.

At least we know that unlike the Orange Menace, Biden won’t block relief funds from getting to Puerto Rico as it deals with the latest hurricane to slam the island.

Hurricane Fiona, now a Category 3 storm, knocked out Puerto Rico’s power grid and killed four people. It drenched parts of the Dominican Republic and is battering the Turks and Caicos Islands. It’s strengthening as it heads north, with winds reaching 115 mph. It could reach Bermuda by Thursday.

Unlike five years ago, when Maria devastated Puerto Rico, FEMA is already on the ground. And thanks to Biden’s move eliminating the red tape that the Trump administration deliberately imposed to slow aid, money is already flowing.

Funny how Trump keeps asserting on his social media channel and proclaiming loudly at his scary rallies that he magically declassified the documents found at Mar-a-Lago that are clearly marked Classified and Top Secret, but his lawyers refuse to claim that in court.

The latest example comes from a hearing today held by the special master, Raymond J. Dearie of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, who’s supposed to be mediating this dispute over the thousands of documents the FBI found at Trump’s Palm Beach resort.

Dearie basically told Trump’s lawyers to put up or shut up: Either show him proof that Trump officially declassified the 100 or so marked documents, or he’ll conclude that the markings are accurate.

But the lawyers are balking because they know the truth. They’re arguing that they don’t have to prove that at this point in the proceedings, and that Dearie is supposed to be looking at Trump’s clams of executive privilege, not whether any documents are classified or not.

I wouldn’t put it past Trump’s lawyers to go running to their buddies on the Supreme Court to help them out.

Finally, I want to try something: Publishing your creative writing.

I’ve been impressed by some of your book reviews, submitted with your nominations for our twice-yearly Fast Forward Bookies reading lists, as well as your e-mails to me.

So how would you like to write very short essays about a particular subject from time to time, and I’ll publish them in a special Fast Forward about once a month?

Here’s what I have in mind: Essays of just 200 words on a timely or a timeless topic: Immigration, a recent trip, a lovely memory, democracy, bullying, death, book banning, a favorite teacher. I’ll pose a different topic probably once a month or so. (And feel free to suggest topics.)

Check out the NY Times’ “Tiny Love Stories,” which are 100-word submissions about, well, love. They are interesting, creative, poignant, funny, and just really good reads.

I think I’ll call it Fast Tales (to connect it to Fast Forward). If you have a better suggestion, let me know!

So let’s kick it off with a pretty universal topic: A beloved pet. It can be a pet you have now, a pet you had as a child, a pet that recently passed. Tell us about it. Some of your essays will be sad, but others will be humorous or inspiring. Send along a photo if you want.

How can you be sure you don’t exceed the 200-word limit? Use one of the free word counters easily found online.

Submit: Send your essays to me via e-mail at teresa.hanafin@globe.com

Deadline: Tuesday, Oct. 11 (three weeks from today)

I’m pretty excited about this! I hope you are, too.

Thanks for reading. With your pet essays, please don’t make me cry too much. E-mail comments and suggestions to teresa.hanafin@globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @BostonTeresa. See you Friday.

Please tell your friends about Fast Forward! They can sign up here. You can find recent FFs and our Bookies lists on this page. The Globe has lots of other e-mail newsletters that are almost as good as this one, from breaking news alerts to sports, politics, business, and entertainment -- check them out.

Teresa M. Hanafin can be reached at teresa.hanafin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @BostonTeresa.