October 30, 2020

Archives for May 2020

Letter From Paris: Thoughts on Life Under Lockdown in Fontainebleau, How France Has Coped With COVID-19

Nicole Prévost Logan in Paris prior to the lockdown.

There have been many deadly pandemics in the history of the planet but this is the first time ever that one has affected so many people. COVID-19 forced half the world population – or more than three billion – into confinement. I guess this is the price one has to pay for living in a globalized world. Each country handled the coronavirus crisis in a different way.

How did Europe, and more particularly France, manage the virus outbreak, both during the stay-at-home period and after the relaxation of the rules?

Like many people, I escaped the approaching lockdown of large cities – in my case the French capital of Paris.

The famed Château de Fontainebleau. Published under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

On March 16, I left Paris on what I thought would be an extended weekend but turned out to be eight weeks, and was fortunate enough to stay with my daughter in Fontainebleau.  Only a 40-minute train ride south east from Paris, Fontainebleau is a lively town of 15,000 inhabitants, famous for its 12th century chateau restored and enlarged by generations of kings.

During the period of “confinement” – as the lockdown is called here – technology became quite helpful. People exchanged news and jokes across the globe, using WhatsApp; some did yoga or gym watching  YouTube; meetings took place via  Zoom;  people on Skype remained safely behind the screen while they urged other to stay home, and a French actor read La Fontaine fables on Instagram. In other words  globalization had not ended … it just had become virtual.

A feeling of anguish never went away. Week after week, one watched hospital scenes with medical staff and caregivers hovering over patients disappearing under respirators, ventilators, machines of all types connected by wires and tubes. We, the spectators, became numbed by so much suffering.

Every night the head of the health  department gave frightening, sometime confusing information. On TV all we saw were doctors, surgeons, epidemiologists, and doctors specialized in intensive care. Politics, economy, even social conflicts had been moved to the back burner.

In France, late March was the most frightening time. We were at the bottom of the curve showing an acceleration of the virus and feared a tsunami . It was on March 23 that the stock market fell to the lowest point, losing 40 percent from its high. The world was collapsing around us.

I attempted to read “The Plague” by Albert Camus, published  in 1947. Bad idea! The  description of the ghastly symptoms and of the panicked Oran population became unbearable. The story resonated too much with what we were going through.

The epidemic in France started in the Grand Est. A group of 2000 evangelists had gathered for a week of fasting in Mulhouse.  The area became the epicenter of the outbreak. Very soon it was joined by the heavily-populated Ile de France with Paris at its center.

France has been one of the countries hardest hit by the virus. Actually it ranks as fifth for the number of deaths, after the US, Russia, Italy and the UK.

The objective of the French government was to make sure that the medical facilities would be able to absorb the sudden surge of infected people. Chaos was avoided thanks to planning ahead. At the height of the crisis, transfers of patients were organized to areas less affected by the virus, and to other countries like Germany or Switzerland. Helicopters, fast trains, military planes, boats … all means of transports went into action.

French President Emmanuel Macron

The Macron government showed compassion during this difficult time, expressed gratitude toward the caregivers, and showed humility in its limited ability to cope with such an  unprecedented situation. In other words it appeared human … while also gaining a few points in the polls.

The government took unparalleled measures compared to most other countries. It gave temporary unemployment status – with up to 90 percent of a person’s salary covered – to one out of three wage earners – or 13 million people. Some taxes were cancelled, and bonuses distributed. The total of this largesse reached 120 billion Euros. The Maestrich Treaty rule of capping European Union (EU) members’ deficit at 3 percent is now forgotten. The French national debt, usually limited to 60 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, doubled.

The management of the coronavirus crisis did not go without a number of hiccups however. The main one was the shortage of masks. It has been a source of irritation throughout. On the advice of medical experts, the government kept saying that the masks were useless except when used in public  places. It stressed that priority should be given to the medical staff who are battling the disease on the front line.

The real reason for this policy soon exploded into a scandal; in reality, there were not enough masks. Frantic orders were placed in other countries, mainly China. At one point, one witnessed a real war of the masks. Some shipments were burglarized, other rerouted.  One shipment intended for Italy was confiscated on its arrival at Prague airport and, in another case, France took over a shipment on its way to Sweden. On the eve of the “deconfinement” masks were still hard to find.

Another criticism of  the crisis management has been the insufficient  number of testing facilities.

One does not want to be old at a time of pandemic because statistics do indeed show that older people are most vulnerable to the disease. At one point, a rumor started that “our fragile seniors” should remain locked up long after the rest of the population.

Fortunately for all the older people, Bernard Pivot, a most popular and entertaining moderator of a literary show on TV, rebelled one day. He was so funny and convincing that the government changed its policy and replaced age discrimination by health criteria.

It is a fact though that real carnage has taken place in nursing homes and retirement homes with assisted-living.

The stay-at-home rules were quite strict in France. Public gardens and forests (like the forest of Fontainebleau) were off-limit. Only a one-hour walk was allowed and no further than one kilometre from the person’s residence. A signed document and ID were required at all times. Dispensation was only granted for the imperative need to purchase food or medicine.

By mid-April, one began to see the light at the end of the tunnel when Macron gave May 11 as the date for the end of our, “deconfinement.”

The gradual opening up of society after that date was a cautious, arduous and very gradual process.  Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and his key ministers  spelled out the rules in a 60-page Protocol. A map showed France divided between red and green zones. The hardest task was to organize public transport in heavily populated areas as well as re-opening of the schools. Today there is a limit of 60 miles for travel from one’s residence. Cafés and restaurants remain closed in the red zones.

On June 3, the government will reassess the impact of loosening the rules. About 30 small “clusters” of contamination are popping out around France. Several of them are where people work in in slaughter-houses. But nothing to worry about (as yet).

At the outset of the COVID-19, France was just pulling out of months of strikes and social turmoil following the government’s structural reforms intended to modernize the country. The crucial retirement system was being debated in the Parliament. Overall, progress had been made under the Macron mandate: the economy was sound and unemployment at its lowest levels in years.

Then progress and turmoil came to a full stop almost overnight because of the pandemic.

Culture felt the brunt of the crisis. Cinemas, theaters, opera houses, concert halls, museums and festivals will stay closed until June.  The cancellation of the Cannes Festival was the worst blow.

Europe has been slow in tackling the coronavirus.  Ursula von der Leyden , president of the European Commission acknowledged that fact herself. A gigantic stimulus is being negotiated by the  EU members. Thierry Breton, European Minister of Internal Trade said, “Only solidarity can help the EU get back on its feet.”

But the “North countries” like The Netherlands and some Eastern European countries, including  Hungary, are balking at the idea of helping those hardest hit by the virus. On May 19, an accord between Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel was a real breakthrough with a proposal to create a bond of 500 billion to help the EU recovery.  The 27 members have still to agree to it.

How did the French accept the lockdown? Surprisingly well … at least at first. But as the anxiety diminished, the opposition found its voice again, public opinion resumed its usual pastime of scrutinizing and criticizing every move by the government.

Bruno Lemaire, the French Minister of the Economy declared, “The hard part is ahead of us.” The main priority will be to assist three sectors:  aeronautics, the car industry and tourism. It is a unique opportunity to redirect the economy to be carbon-free.

But the future looks like a black hole with the economy under perfusion.

Let’s end with good news though. Beaches have reopened and travel restrictions are set to disappear in July and August … just in time for vacation!

Editor’s Note: This is the opinion of Nicole Prévost Logan.

Nicole Prévost Logan

About the author: Nicole Prévost Logan divides her time between Essex and Paris, spending summers in the former and winters in the latter. She writes a regular column for us from her Paris home where her topics will include politics, economy, social unrest — mostly in France — but also in other European countries. She also covers a variety of art exhibits and the performing arts in Europe. Logan is the author of ‘Forever on the Road: A Franco-American Family’s Thirty Years in the Foreign Service,’ an autobiography of her life as the wife of an overseas diplomat, who lived in 10 foreign countries on three continents. Her experiences during her foreign service life included being in Lebanon when civil war erupted, excavating a medieval city in Moscow and spending a week under house arrest in Guinea.

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Brendan Saunders Endorsed by Republicans to Run Against Incumbent Needleman in November

Brendan Saunders is the endorsed Republican candidate to challenge incumbent Norm Needleman for the 33rd State Senate seat.

AREAWIDE — At their district convention held Monday, May 18, Republicans confirmed first-time Senate candidate Brendan Saunders will challenge incumbent Democratic Senator Norm Needleman for the 33rd State Senate seat in November.

In his acceptance speech, Saunders said, “Ronald Reagan once said, ‘the greatness of our nation lies within its people.’ I believe that the greatness of this state lies within its residents. As your senator, I will fight to reverse the trend of raising taxes and fees. I will work to let you keep more of your hard-earned money. I will fight to make living and operating a business in this state less onerous. ”

“Saunders has the ‘get up and go’ and enthusiasm I love to see in a candidate,” said Ed Munster of Haddam’s Republican Town Committee (RTC). Munster, who nominated Saunders, said Monday, “He is a good speaker and someone who listens and is interested in what you have to say. Something voters want in people they elect to public office.”

Saunders and Munster have a history of campaigning together. He helped Munster run for Congress in 1992. While this is Saunders’ first time running for office, he has also helped Westbrook candidate State Representative Jesse MacLachlan, and State Senator Art Linares. Saunders “knows what he is getting into,” said Munster.

Carolyn Kane of Chester RTC, seconded Saunders’ nomination Monday. Kane proclaimed Saunders as both dynamic and grounded with a lifetime of ties to his community. She also said that Saunders has an “approachable demeanor and commanding confidence. He came out of the gate ready to share his plan, vision, and how he would work in Hartford to ensure the 33rd district would be his priority.”

Noting, “In the wake of COVID-19, Saunders retooled his campaign to include an active online presence, strategically using his District tour to highlight his technological savvy and command of communication avenues,” Kane added, “Brendan demonstrates new ways to connect on a personal level and proves his commitment to building lasting relationships with every interaction.”

She said, “His ability to build partnerships is one of the most important skills sets a State Senator must have.”

To support Saunders’ campaign with a donation and to learn more, visit Saunders4Senate.com.

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Former State Representative Bob Siegrist III Receives Endorsement of 36th District Republican Convention

Bob Siegrist III received the nomination to be the Republican candidate for the 33rd Congressional seat.

HADDAM – Former State Representative Bob Siegrist, III (R-36) received the unanimous endorsement at the virtual 36th District Republican convention held tonight throughout the district.

Siegrist thanked the delegates after securing the nomination to seek the 36th House district seat in November. “I will actually listen to the concerns of the residents in my district and fight for them when it comes to such critically important issues as taxes and state spending, unfunded state mandates and transportation and tolls to name a few.”

Siegrist continued his remarks, “I am greatly encouraged by the groundswell of support from residents across the four-town district who are willing to work on my campaign and support my return to the General Assembly on their behalf.”

Siegrist concluded by stating, “I will work hard in the coming months to earn your vote and bring back common sense policies that will improve the quality of life for the 36th District”.

Former State Representative Bob Siegrist, III, represented the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam from January 2017 to January 2019. He had served on the Public Safety and Security, Insurance and Real Estate, and Veterans’ Affairs committees.

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State Rep. Devin Carney Endorsed for Another Term in 23rd District

State Rep. Devin Carney has been endorsed to run for reelection in the 23rd District.

OLD SAYBROOK — On Tuesday, May 19, Republican delegates from Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook unanimously endorsed State Representative Devin Carney for a fourth term as representative for the 23rd District.

The delegates held a convention by web conference to endorse Carney, making his campaign for another two-year term as State Representative official. Delegates gave remarks on State Representative Carney’s dedicated and effective record of public service as well as being a knowledgeable and accessible legislator for the four communities.

“Representing the 23rd District – the place where my family lives, where I was raised, where I went to school, where I work and volunteer – has truly been the honor of a lifetime,” said Carney.  “I am proud to be your voice in Hartford to advocate for fiscal responsibility, small business growth, our wonderful public schools, and our precious shoreline coast. We are facing an uncertain future and need experienced leaders who put people over politics – something I have always done.”

Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education Member, Dr. Mary Powell-St. Louis, nominated Carney.

“Devin has done a wonderful job representing people here in the 23rd District. He listens, cares, and is a real voice of reason”, said Powell-St. Louis. “As a Region 18 parent and Board of Education member, I was particularly pleased with how hard he worked against state forced expanded school regionalization last year – his leadership helped defeat, what would have been, devastating for our students, schools, and quality of life.”

Old Saybrook First Selectman Carl Fortuna seconded Carney’s nomination.

“It has been a pleasure working with Devin over the past several years. He has been a strong advocate for small towns and small businesses and has worked diligently to ensure our needs are met,” Fortuna said. “His knowledge of state and local issues, active community outreach, and his legislative experience are exactly what we need as the state works through the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath.”

Some other voices from across the district spoke in support of Carney’s nomination.

Westbrook Tax Collector, Kimberly Bratz, added “From day one, Devin has worked incredibly hard to try to make Connecticut more competitive and has fought for fiscally responsible policies. Residents deserve someone in Hartford who will focus on rebuilding our economy without new, higher taxes – and that person is Devin.”

Judy Tooker, Old Lyme’s Tax Collector, commented, “Devin understands the unique needs of our community members, from healthcare and transportation to employment and jobs, and he will focus on the district – not partisan politics. We need his strong voice in Hartford now more than ever.”

In addition to receiving the Republican nomination on Tuesday, Carney reported that he had raised the necessary contributions to qualify for the state’s Citizens’ Clean Election Program.

Carney, who works in finance and real estate, was first elected to the legislature in 2014. He was born and raised in Old Saybrook and lives in Old Lyme with his significant other, Lisa. He currently serves as Ranking Member of the Transportation Bonding Subcommittee and serves on the legislative committees overseeing Transportation, Planning & Development, and Finance, Revenue, and Bonding.

He was named a 2019 Environmental Champion by the League of Conservation Voters for his work supporting renewable energy and received the Legislative Service Award from the Connecticut Counseling Association for his work on mental health issues and opioid addiction.

In district, he serves on the Boards of the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center and Saye Brook Senior Housing. He is also an active member of the Old Saybrook Rotary Club, both the Lyme-Old Lyme and Old Saybrook Chambers of Commerce, and with Grace Church in Old Saybrook.

In addition to his duties as State Representative, he serves as an alternate to the Old Lyme Zoning Board of Appeals.

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Find Out About ‘A Sailor’s Life,’ Join this Virtual Program at Deep River Public Library, June 25

DEEP RIVER — What was life like for sailor in the 1800’s? Find out in this virtual history lesson presented by the Mystic Seaport!. Join Deep River Library on Zoom on Thursday, June 25, at 10:30 a.m. as a sailor’s chest is unpacked in this interactive history lesson.

Using artifacts, from Mystic Seaport’s collections, a Museum educator will guide participants  through the clues, piecing together a picture of what a sailor’s life would have been like more than 150 years ago.

All are welcome to attend this event. Visit the library’s website calendar or Facebook Event page for Zoom meeting information, or email the library at deepriverpubliclibrary@gmail.com for the meeting codes.

For more information, visit http://deepriverlibrary.accountsupport.com and click on the monthly calendar, or call the library at 860-526-6039 during service hours: Monday 1 – 8pm; Tuesday 10 am – 6 pm; Wednesday 1 – 8 pm; Thursday and Friday 10 am – 6 pm; and Saturday 10 am – 2 pm.

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Former State Representative Bob Siegrist III Announces His Candidacy for 36th House District Seat

Bob Siegrist III intends to seek the Republican nomination to be a candidate for State Representative for the 36th House District.

HADDAM – Former State Representative Bob Siegrist III (R-36) has announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for State Representative of the 36th House District, May 19.

“The 36th District residents sorely need a Representative who fights for them when it comes to such important issues as taxes and state spending, transportation and tolls, our kids’ education and veteran’s issues just to mention a few.”

Siegrist continued his remarks, “I will actually listen to the concerns of the residents in my district and always fight for common sense policies that will improve the quality of life for the 36th district”.

Siegrist concluded by stating, “I will work hard to earn your vote and would be honored to return to the General Assembly on your behalf”.

Former State Representative Bob Siegrist III, represented the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam from January 2017 to January 2019. He had served on the Public Safety and Security, Insurance and Real Estate, and Veterans’ Affairs committees.

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Essex Land Trust Publishes ‘Thatchbed Island & its Ospreys’ Booklet

ESSEX — The Essex Land Trust has announced that it has published Thatchbed Island & its Ospreys, a booklet commemorating the return of Ospreys to its Thatchbed Island property and the lower Connecticut River. The booklet celebrates the successful recovery of this iconic raptor, one that practically disappeared from Connecticut.

In March 2003, the land trust installed its first Osprey platform on Thatchbed Island, located in Essex’s South Cove. Since then, Ospreys have successfully raised numerous broods. A camera was installed in 2010 and it broadcast the annual breeding cycle through 2019. 

The 45-page, full-color booklet features a brief history of Thatchbed Island, the experience of building the platform and installing the camera, recounts the breeding season through pictures taken from the OspreyCam live stream and details the causes of its decline and eventual recovery.

Both the publishing of the booklet and the cost of installing the Osprey camera were facilitated by grants received from the Community Foundation of Middlesex County.

The booklet was spearheaded by board member Jim Denham, who coordinated and edited the project. It is a lasting contribution and serves as a reminder of the land trust’s mission: Caring for our world here at home.

A downloadable version is available on the Essex Land Trust website or can be purchased for $7.50 (postage included) by sending an email to info@essexlandtrust.org.

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