Brugger: Corona and Lime. Or, Maybe, Just Lime

Brugger: Corona and Lime. Or, Maybe, Just Lime

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If you have seen any social media lately, you can’t have missed the jokes about Corona beer/virus and lime, often added to the top of the drink. It got me thinking… many people are using this time-out to re-think the everyday, and how many are simply looking to numb the anxiety with alcohol or a more benign distraction? Of course, I am more than thankful for those who are striving to keep us safe and stocked with food. I hope that the unemployed can take advantage of the extra pay some employers are offering. Not everyone in our community has been given the gift of less noise and the time for more reflection. But there are lessons to be learned as our routines are disrupted, and I hope our community comes out of this with a few new resolves.

Some of my readers will recall from studying history that British seamen were called “limeys” because of the lemons added to their rations of grog to prevent scurvy. (see Wikipedia for reference). Not only was scurvy a sign of malnourishment (Vitamin C), it was unsightly because sufferers had bleeding gums and open wounds. It gave rise to many derogatory remarks about British citizens in several places. But citric acid cured it! The derogatory remarks have faded from the lexicon, and life is better.

I use this as an example of making lemonade out of lemons (pun intended). In other words, as human beings, we have the capacity to not only think about what seems evident now, but what other possibilities there are in the future. We could be avoiding people with open wounds and bleeding gums. We could expect the plague to ravage us every so often. But we don’t. On Sunday March 22, CBS’s 60 Minutes reported on two US companies who have used the Novel Corona gene sequence to quickly ready two vaccines for trial. Within weeks of the outbreak! The world is not yet ready to be able to put this behind us, but there are people who refuse to be distracted from fear and instead are looking for answers.

How many of you have also seen the post about how The World is saying, “we can’t slow down our economies or our consumption and fight global warming” and Mother Nature says, “Here’s a virus: Practice.”? Maybe this period in our lives can be seen as a sort of gift. I know that I have been rethinking some areas of my life. Perhaps some of you have, too.

What started as an effort to get ready to remodel some rooms and at the same time provide goods to our church’s spring garage sale has turned into thinking about the idea of minimalism. I have realized that getting out of my house because of all of my cherished social obligations has let me escape from taking care of all the “stuff” I have carefully stored. The death of my sister-in-law in Colorado brought home to me how often I was too busy taking care of stuff (not people) to call or even travel for the few days necessary to visit. Old memories aren’t nearly as comforting as recent ones would be.

I have stuff all over my house that I tell myself will let people know about my past when they visit. But I seldom entertain. It takes too long to make the preparations. I’m not a hoarder, I have a cleaning service, but finding stuff to cook with, serve with, sit upon, or the time to plan have all fallen victim to the need to care of too much stuff.

In the past few years, I have learned that I have two main joys in life. My family and friends, plus learning new information and putting it together in “thinks.” This column is a result of the latter. This week, I am wondering if you, too, have noticed that busy is not always the same as productive. Corona with lime is good, but sometimes it’s just the lime that is useful.

Linda Brugger, retired from the Air Force, leaning Democrat and community activist can be reached at She welcomes feedback.



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Idaho’s structure of electing governors and LG’s completely separately — different from many states which bind them together — allows for the office holders to come from different points of view.

For future historians and artists who'll chronicle today's health and economic crisis, one humble item will stand out as the chief cultural emblem of the times: wearing a mask. Or not.

A small outbreak of coronavirus at a Fry Foods plant in Weiser gives a prime example of the importance of testing for COVID-19. More than that, it represents a warning shot across the bow of potential pitfalls if we don’t reopen our economy the right way.

As we tiptoe through Stage 2 of Gov. Brad Little’s phased reopening plan and approach a more robust Stage 3, it’s going to become even more important that we take the necessary steps to prevent future outbreaks.

And there will be future outbreaks.

The fact remains that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still out there. It’s ready to strike again, and without a vaccine, it remains a potentially destructive and fatal disease.

Aggressive and quick testing remains one of the key elements — perhaps the most important element — of controlling outbreaks at this point.

Fry Foods offers an early case study.

The Weiser food processing plant employs 260 people to make onion rings and other food products. It shut down earlier this month when at least seven employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fry Foods initially didn’t test all 260 employees at the Weiser facility — only the 50 or 60 who likely came in contact with the employees who tested positive. Other employees were able to get tested on their own.

The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (state run-laboratories) tested all that they had the capacity to do in one day, according to Kelly Petroff, director of communications for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The state lab can do about has a testing capacity of approximately 200 tests per day.

“We are not prepared to handle this,” Doug Wold, human resources manager for Fry Foods, told the Idaho Statesman, referring to the lack of coordinated response. “If you don’t have an employer who’s willing to be proactive, we’re just going to fail.”

Fortunately, Crush the Curve Idaho, a private, business-led initiative established during the outbreak to increase testing, stepped in and tested every employee at Fry Foods.

By Tuesday of this week, 20 employees — about 8% of the plant’s workforce — had tested positive for the coronavirus, along with at least two of their family members. Nearly all were asymptomatic.


That’s what needs to happen: rapid-response testing. If you have an outbreak at your workplace, get everyone tested. For those who test positive, keep them home and isolated. For those who test negative, they can keep on working and you’re back in business.

When the outbreak hit Fry Foods, company officials made the decision to shut the plant down.

Without adequate testing, that’s unfortunately the right thing to do. Without testing, you have no idea whether you have seven infected employees, 70 or 270.

We applaud Fry Foods company officials for making the tough call to shut down, even though they were given the green light by the Southwest District Health Department to resume operations.

Coronavirus is stealthy. A person can carry coronavirus longer without symptoms, potentially spreading to others unwittingly. Some people who carry coronavirus have no symptoms at all.

We are encouraged that Crush the Curve Idaho stepped up and stepped in here.

But Idaho needs a more concerted and organized plan to do rapid-response testing.

We are a fragmented health system. Health providers include Saint Alphonsus, St. Luke’s, Primary Health, Saltzer, among others. Then think about all the entities who pay for health care: Blue Cross of Idaho, Regence BlueShield, PacificSource, SelectHealth, etc. Throw in Medicare, Medicaid and those who are uninsured.

Even our own government health management system is fragmented, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and seven independent health districts not operated by the state.

And, in the case of Fry Foods, situated in a city bordering Oregon, workers were from two states.


No wonder Fry Foods officials were at a loss for where to turn for help. Without some sort of coordinated effort to test all employees and somehow pay for those tests, shutting down the plant was the best option.

It’s worth noting that the Fry Foods employee who initially had coronavirus was at a family gathering of a larger number than outlined in the governor’s reopening plan and was with visitors from out of state, two violations of the governor’s guidelines. That’s why we have the guidelines, and that’s why it’s important to follow the guidelines. Otherwise, this is what you get: an outbreak that shuts down an entire food manufacturing plant.

Unfortunately, shutting down operations every time there’s an outbreak is not going to get the job done.

And there will be more outbreaks as we reopen our economy, reopen factories and workplaces.

Idaho has a lot to be optimistic about, and we have a golden opportunity to lead the nation in reopening our economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. We have had relatively few cases (around 2,300) and few deaths (77). Our early efforts to shut down parts of our social interactions and Little’s quick call to issue a statewide stay-home order clearly have paid off. Idahoans’ adherence to the stay-home order has helped to flatten the curve and control the number of new cases. Residents and businesses, alike, have done their part to make this happen.

Our hope is that Idaho can chug along through the stages of reopening. Our fear is that if we don’t do this the right way, we’ll have a surge and we’ll be back to a statewide stay-home order. Nobody wants that.

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