On every inspection, I have noted hundreds of detainees confined in dormitories, not individual cells. The most crowded areas of the jail are typically the holding cells for detainees who have just been admitted to the jail. I have found them to be filthy and so crowded that many detainees could only sit on the floor. Plumbing facilities have been nonfunctional. Even detainees in units with individual cells spend much of their time in an open area in which scores of detainees congregate. Labeling these cells as the equivalent of a quarantine area is a threat to these detainees’ health and the public health, as it presents an easy opportunity for covid-19 and other pathogens to spread in the jail and ultimately in the community.
Elizabeth Alexander, Washington
Regarding the March 20 front-page article “Senate panel’s chair sold stocks after minimizing threat to U.S.”:
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) was one of three senators to vote against the Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012, which made it illegal to trade on the stock market based on non-public and highly confidential information. Now Mr. Burr and at least two other senators, including Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), have been named as having done just that after they learned of the potentially negative repercussions on the market because of the coronavirus. The veracity of these allegations remains to be determined, although I am certain that, at the very least, the definition of “blind trusts” may, in the end, prove a bit problematic.
We should expect the Justice Department to quietly begin its investigations into the facts and possible felonious activities by all of these senators. At the very least, such investigations would give credence to the department’s impartiality and determination to punish all, including Republican senators, who are intent on gaining personal fortune at the expense of the oblivious public. Until such time, however, I would caution Ms. Feinstein to keep a very low profile.
Craig M. Miller, Leland, N.C.
I reacted differently to Sen. Richard Burr’s (R-N.C.) stock sale. I, like many, recognize that Republican senators simply cannot speak up or act in the interests of the United States if it crosses the president. Mr. Burr was smart enough to recognize the severity of what he was hearing in his briefings, so I’m confident his actions were only to help the people of North Carolina and not to take care of himself only.
Let me offer some guidance: This state does not have enough test kits, and the 126 hospitals in the state are less than properly equipped. A ventilator costs $25,000 to $50,000 — what a great investment! Tourist areas in the state, of which there are many, will experience economic hardship. He could visit AshevilleStrong.com to help provide assistance for local businesses. There are probably similar sites all across the state. I know Mr. Burr will put his estimated $628,033 to $1.72 million profit to good use for the people of North Carolina. Otherwise, I cannot fathom his lack of concern for our health and our lives by not strenuously speaking up for action in February, when it would have made a difference.
Kelly Fowler, Asheville, N.C.
Instead of blaming China for the coronavirus, as reported in the March 20 article “Trump targets China for blame as U.S. cases double and criticism mounts,” President Trump should assess the many failures of his administration to prepare for, test for, contain and treat this pandemic. His energies should be directed to solving these problems instead of stoking racism and attacks on Chinese Americans.
I was in Taiwan in December. Even then, despite the “coverup” by China, I heard about the novel coronavirus in China. The authorities in Taiwan reacted swiftly, inspecting passengers coming from Wuhan, where the new coronavirus originated. The Taiwanese authorities were alert and proactive, resulting in the lowest per capita incidence and death from covid-19 in the world, despite Taiwan’s proximity to and close links with China.
As for the China coverup, the first known covid-19 patient started to feel ill in early December, the Chinese authorities notified the World Health Organization about the new virus on Dec. 31, and Chinese scientists announced they had mapped the virus genome on Jan. 9. By contrast, the United States now has had nearly 2½ months to prepare for this pandemic, and we still do not have enough testing kits, protective gear for our health workers or ventilators for those of us who might fall sick.
Wanda Tseng, Rockville
Catherine Rampell’s March 20 column, “Bail out small businesses, not airlines,” made a compelling point on the proper focus for bailout efforts, but she did not go far enough. What is desperately needed is an emergency bill of rights for all Americans. The emergency bill of rights would specify that for the duration of the emergency and a reasonable period beyond: No person may be evicted from his or her home; no person can have a mortgage foreclosed; no person can have residential utilities cut off; no person can have a car towed or repossessed; and no person can be denied hospital treatment because of inability to pay. Exceptions can be made only for case-specific reasons of public health or safety, certified by a responsible local, state or federal official.
Congress and our state governments should promptly adopt and implement this bill of rights to protect millions of Americans who are vulnerable to economic disaster caused by the virus emergency.
Joseph Canny, Alexandria
I want to add my voice to the March 20 collection of responses to the coronavirus, “ ‘It’s a waking nightmare.’ ” I have been sick for about two weeks. On Friday, I was as sick as I had been at the onset. I strongly believe I have covid-19. I have made multiple efforts over the past week to get Fairfax County to test me. County officials have not provided any information as to where I can get tested. The response from my local hospital has been the same. On Thursday, I sent an email to my county board supervisor asking for help. So far, I have not heard back. As of Friday, Fairfax County said it had 15 confirmed covid-19 cases. Because it seems impossible to get tested, that number is a joke. I have self-quarantined since I became ill, and I will continue to do so. I do wonder how long I will be ill and how I will know when it will be safe to have contact with people.
Steve Steiner, Reston