Coronavirus: What history tells us about “flattening the curve”

Covid GIFThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised all Americans to limit our physical contact as COVID-19 or coronavirus spreads in communities across the country.
There is no cure or vaccine for the virus. It is highly contagious and particularly deadly to the elderly or others with compromised immune systems.
The CDC says 20% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 in the U.S. were 20-44 years old. Even if you are healthy, you can pass COVID-19 on to others who can be severely affected.
Help protect those you love by avoiding crowds, distancing yourself from other people and isolating yourself even if you think you just have the “sniffles.” We all have a responsibility to protect our loved ones, and others’ loved ones.
Flattening the curveFlattening the curve – The phrase “flattening the curve” refers to the same potential number of cases appearing over a greater period of time.
When a spike in cases occurs, health care resources can be overwhelmed. A flatter curve is slower, allowing people to recover and hospitals can continue to provide care to families, friends and neighbors who need it.
Flattening the curve means everybody does their part to reduce spread for as long as possible.
What history tells us –
Influenza struck the United States in the spring of 1918. By summer it seemed the outbreak was over, but a second wave of cases occurred in September. Two cities’ responses to the return of disease shed light on why today’s efforts to “flatten the curve” are so important.
Walter Reed Hospital Flu Ward

A masked nurse at Walter Reed General Hospital in Washington, D.C., takes the pulse of a patient suffering from influenza during the pandemic of 1918–1919. Patients in beds were lined up in a screened-in gallery, separated by sheets. Photo: Library of Congress

Philadelphia officials didn’t want to cancel a major, city-wide parade, worried about causing a panic. Eight hundred and eighty-five miles to the west, in St. Louis, Missouri, public officials had already canceled that city’s parade.

On September 28, about 200,000 Philadelphians in close quarters watched the parade of floats and marching bands. The first flu cases showed up two days later. By the end of the third day, flu patients filled every bed in every hospital in the city, and by the end of the week, 2,600 people had died. Over the next several weeks, more than 12,000 people in Philadelphia died of the flu.
Meanwhile, in St. Louis, only about 700 people died of the flu. Keeping people home saved thousands of lives in St. Louis, while people gathering in large numbers cost thousands of lives in Philadelphia.
Social distancing doesn’t prevent all disease but it can prevent a spike in cases so severe that hospitals become overwhelmed.
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Coronavirus and Las Vegas casinos: It’s a health gamble

My wife and I have enjoyed many visits to gamble in Las Vegas casinos. As the coronavirus pandemic threatens public health across the U.S. and world, I ask: How safe is it to gamble in casinos?

Come on Vegas. You’ve shut down buffets, sportsbook gaming, clubs, spas, salons and gyms. These are all places where people gather.

Now you have to take what may be the most important public health step. Close your casino games until COVID-19 is given the “all-clear” by public health officials.

This message is for every casino in America. Because Las Vegas has the highest concentration of casinos in the world, I mention you specifically. You should take the lead here. You need to take the lead here. This pandemic has been declared a national emergency.

Anyone, regardless of age, should worry about the health risks posed to anyone gambling or working in close proximity to casino guests and employees. People infected with COVID-19 can spread it to those they come into contact with at gaming tables and slot machines. Las Vegas and Clark County already have several presumptive coronavirus cases.

One concerning fact about coronavirus: According to a new study funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the National Natural Science Foundation of China, about 1 in 10 people infected and contagious with the disease can go days without exhibiting symptoms of the virus for which there is no cure, no vaccine.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control coronavirus is spread in a variety of ways:

Person-to-person spread
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
    These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

The most effective way to slow the spread of coronavirus at this point is social distancing when we’re in public and self-quarantine if we exhibit symptoms. If we don’t, our hospitals will quickly be overwhelmed with serious COVID-19 patients, effectively paralyzing America’s health care system. Take a look at what’s happening in Italy if you want a real-world case of this happening.  As I write this post, 1,809 people have died from coronavirus in Italy. And it’s happening in America too. In Seattle, Washington and King County 35 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported. 

How easily the virus spreads

  • The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas.
  • Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.

Recently, featured an article “Las Vegas Doing All It Can to Prevent Spread of Coronavirus” that touched on four points:

  1. Las Vegas casinos are scared revenues could drop significantly due to the coronavirus
  2. These facilities have increased cleaning and sanitizing efforts
  3. Hand sanitizer machines have been installed everywhere
  4. Casino stocks have taken a big hit due to concerns over the deadly virus

The article said many casinos doubled the number of people who clean slot machines. Table dealers are using hand sanitizer machines after dealing cards and handling chips.
Between games, there is more extensive table cleaning. Casino bartenders are instructed to wipe their counters down every half hour or so.
Staff are working around the clock sanitizing many casino’s doors, toilets, and counters. The card decks on table games are being destroyed more frequently. Other casino areas that are frequently touched are regularly washed down and sanitized.

That’s not enough to stop the spread of coronavirus? It does not follow suggested CDC public health guidelines for coronavirus.

Here’s ane example scenario: I play craps. Most craps players handle the dice several times when it’s their turn to roll. For good luck, some players may blow on the dice before rolling them.

After every roll, the dice are retrieved by the stickman who regularly inspects the dice by hand before returning them to the table player who rolls the dice. If a die or dice fall off the table during a roll someone else usually picks them up their hands and returns them to the stickman for inspection.

A standard casino craps table may have up to 16 players who roll the dice. Often the number of players are about half that. Add to that, typically five casino staff members who manage a craps table.  Players usually stand shoulder-to-shoulder at a craps table. As they do, they stand within a couple of feet of each other and casino table staff.

Craps players also handle their chips with their fingers as they place and retrieve their bets on the table. Every time someone rolls the dice the chips, often hundreds of them, are co-mingled among other craps players and the five table crew members.  Gaming experts estimate the dice are tossed 60 to 100 times an hour on a casino craps table depending on how many players are on the table.

Some people use a repeatable, consistent style of holding, releasing and rolling the dice. It’s called “rhythmic rolling.”

That’s a lot of hand contact and closed space for a highly contagious disease like coronavirus to spread quickly from one person to another.

If someone who is contagious with COVID-19 goes from table to table playing games they could potentially infect dozens of others. When others become infected and return home from Las Vegas they too could infect more people. The human spread of this incurable virus then becomes geometric. It spreads, sickens and kills humans faster than our ability to control it.

My point: In a scenario such as this, what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas. It needlessly puts lives at risk and adds to the daunting challenges faced by health care workers who have to treat serious coronavirus cases.

So please Las Vegas casinos. Close down the gambling until we can stop the spread of this disease. I know you are the driving economic force in Nevada. This means tens of thousands of casino and hotel employees and entertainers will be idled by this emergency. This is truly heartbreaking. But if you don’t do this today the odds are this crisis will only become worse.


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66 years ago Bevo Francis scored 113 points in a college basketball game

66-years ago today. One of college basketball’s greatest games featured a scoring wizard named Bevo Francis. He played for the Rio Grande Redmen at little Rio Grande College in Ohio’s Appalachian hill country. Francis scored 113 points in a 40-minute regulation game against Michigan’s Hillsdale College. That was before the 3-point line in college basketball. Rio Grande won 134-91 and Francis broke his own small college scoring record of 84 points set two weeks earlier against Pennsylvania’s Alliance College.  Here’s a snippet from my documentary “They Could Really Play the Game: Reloaded”on the historic team.


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Television icon Don Meier dies

Donald Meier, creator, producer and director of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, one of America’s most iconic television programs, has died.

Don Meier, creator of “Mutual ofDon Meier, creator of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” during filming of the program in the early 1960’s.
Photo: Meier family

A Meier family member said he died peacefully of natural causes last Saturday in his Winnetka, Illinois home. Meier passed away exactly one year after memorial services were held for Lorena Meier, his wife of 68-years. She died at age 100.

After serving as a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel in World War II, Meier became an early television pioneer at WBKB, Chicago’s first commercial TV station. In the 1950s, he joined the NBC Network in The Windy City where he was a director of the Dave Garroway Show. Meier produced other popular TV programs such as Quiz Kids, Mr. Wizard and Zoo Parade.

In an interview before he died Meier said Zoo Parade became his inspiration for a pilot program in the early 60s that could take TV viewers around the world to see wildlife in its natural habitat.

Don Meier visited Africa to film several episodes of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” during the program’s 25 year run on television.

Meier called his program Wild Kingdom. Without Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company, the television program may have never materialized. The NBC television network agreed to broadcast Wild Kingdom if Meier could find a sponsor for his program. Meier was rejected 84 times by prospective sponsors before a chance conversation between St. Louis Zoo Director Marlin Perkins and officials at Mutual of Omaha who wanted to sponsor a new half-hour TV program around which to build a national image for their company.

That program, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, made its NBC debut in January 1963. Over the next 25 years almost 332 episodes of the largely popular program were filmed in 47 countries. Along the way, Wild Kingdom became a staple for family viewing while increasing ecological and environmental awareness. It won Emmy Awards for outstanding program achievement in 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1969.

Don and Lorena Meier received several Emmy Awards for “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” program and have also underwritten several scholarships for students at the University of Nebraska.

Wally Podrazik, curator at Chicago’s Museum of Broadcast Communications, called Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom one of the earliest examples of effective television branding. “Anyone who grew up in that era doesn’t immediately say ‘Wild Kingdom.’ First reference is ‘Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,’” Podrazik said.

Hosted by Marlin Perkins and with co-hosts like Jim Fowler, Wild Kingdom gave audiences rough and tumble family entertainment. Even though the show was educational in nature, Don always reminded his staff that they were producing an entertainment show. “We always edited it so that the program looked as though you were looking over Marlin’s shoulder and participating with him in the action,” Meier later said.

In 1974, Wild Kingdom parted with NBC to become a successful syndicated program that ran through 1988. During its peak years, 34 million Americans watched Wild Kingdom each Sunday on 224 U.S. TV stations. Former co-host Jim Fowler called Wild Kingdom one of television’s first reality TV shows. “We actually went out and had the adventures and had the experiences that we showed on television,” Fowler said.

Meier’s program also became a precursor to modern wildlife programs on cable networks such as the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. In his late 90s, Meier reflected on Wild Kingdom’s success. He said the program’s greatest achievement was its reshaping of the way many viewers thought about wildlife and wild places. Meier took note of the changes he had seen in the world. “There were places I went when I was doing Wild Kingdom. I could see the changes happening all the time,” Meier said.  “It doesn’t take very much awareness to come to the conclusion that we better take care of the planet now rather than later.”

Meier, an Oshkosh, Nebraska native, was a graduate and scholarship benefactor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In the near future, Meier’s four Emmy awards will be on display at the UNL’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications. Meier’s legacy of supporting students and higher education will continue through the Donald and Lorena Meier Foundation. Meier is survived by his many loving nieces, nephews, and their families.

To watch an award-winning documentary about Don Meier and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom click here or go to:

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And No Bird Sang: World War I

Author’s note: This story is just one from a series that look at World War I and WWI General John J. Pershing. Click here to see more of the series.- Bernard R. McCoy)

After the war’s end in 1918, an extraordinary film was commissioned by the French government to capture the scale of the Great War’s devastation and the shocking extent of the fighting across the Western Front in northern France and Belgium.

LucienLeSaintPortrait (2)

Lucien Le Saint, 1917, © Musée Albert-Kahn – Département des Hauts-de-Seine

The 78-minute film was called “En dirigeable sur les champs de bataille” (“In airship on the battlefield”). It was shot by film-maker Lucien Le Saint in what was said to be a French government effort to obtain reparations from the Germans for the devastation left behind by the war.

The film was shot at the beginning of 1919 with French balloon pilot Jacques Trolley de Prévaux as he flew a few hundred feet above the battleground.


Jacques Trolley de Prévaux Photo: French government

Thanks to the French government, I was able to get portions of the film and have paired them in the video below with a portion of the song ‘The Awakening’ by composer Joseph M Martin.

To me, the song’s lyrics capture the physical and spiritual desolation left behind in the war’s ruins.

 “I dreamed a dream, a silent dream of a land not far away.

Where no bird sang, no steeples rang, and teardrops fell like rain.

I dreamed a dream; a silent dream. I dreamed a dream of a land so filled with pride that every song, both weak and strong, withered and died.

I dreamed a dream.

No hallelujah; not one hosanna! No song of love, no lullaby.

And no choir sang to change the world. No pipers played, no dancers twirled.

I dreamed a dream; a silent dream.”

A naval gunnery officer before the war started in 1914, Jacques Trolley de Prévaux had been retrained to fly the dirigibles that had been developed to spot for artillery, detect mines at sea and fight against submarines. For his actions he was awarded the Légion d’honneur and the Croix de guerre.

He joined the French Resistance at the beginning of 1942 and turned down an opportunity to go to London, but decided to stay in France. According to the French government’s Chemins de Mémoire, Trolley de Prévaux felt he would be of more use at home than in London. Secondly, his wife, a Jew of Polish origin and a resistance fighter along with him, was pregnant.


Jacques and Lotka Trolley de Prévaux in 1936. Photo: Paris Match

In the spring of 1943, he received the Distinguished Service Order from the British and appointed to become one of the main leaders of the French Resistance. He was arrested by the Gestapo in Marseille in March 1944. Jailed at Montluc Prison, he was executed in August 1944. His wife, Lotka, met with the same fate. Promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral, Trolley de Prévaux was posthumously made a Compagnon de la Libération, or Hero of the Liberation of France.

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Trump’s trade war with China could hurt Nebraska’s economy

The trade war between the United State and China has officially launched as both countries have imposed tit-for-tat tariffs. A prolonged trade war could have major economic consequences for Nebraska.


President Trump welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping during a visit to the U.S. Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barria

In response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s 25% tariff on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods, China’s Ministry of Commerce this month announced 25% tariffs of equal size on certain U.S. exports to China.

While Trump’s tariffs mostly target industrial and tech goods, China is focusing heavily on increased tariffs on agricultural products from the U.S. — a move that is likely to not only cause pain to Trump’s political supporters but leave US farmers with fewer options to divert their crops.

Nebraska farmers and ranchers, in particular, could suffer given the state’s heavy reliance on agricultural exports to China. China is Nebraska’s number 1 export market. It’s also the number 1 export market for 22 other American states.


Source: Business Insider

According to the most recent reporting figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

  • $1.43-billion in Nebraska agricultural exports were sold to China in 2016
  • China comprised 22% of Nebraska’s agricultural export market  
  • 57% of Nebraska beef exports were sold to China
  • 52% of Nebraska soybean and soybean products and 79% of the state’s sorghum crop was exported to China  

The chart below lists Nebraska agricultural exports to China.


The chart below lists primary Nebraska agricultural exports China has increased its tariffs against.


If the tariff war drags on, state services to Nebraska residents would suffer too as a potential $250 million drop in agricultural export income could cause a multi-million dollar decline in state tax revenues. The political irony is that Nebraska overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump, the architect, and instigator of the current trade war with China,  in the 2016 U.S. presidential race.

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Behind-the-scenes star of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom dies

(Editor’s note: Don and Lorena Meier have been long-time scholarship donors and friends of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. See below for Lorena Meier’s obituary)

Don and Lorena Meier shared the honors as recipients of several Emmy Awards during the 25 years “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” aired on TV stations across America in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Lorena Meier died at age 100 on June 22, 2018. (Photo: Courtesy Don Meier)

From 1963 to 1987, “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” was a Sunday night television staple for tens of millions of families across America. The show made host Marlin Perkins a household name and earned its creator and producer, Don Meier, well-deserved status as a creative visionary.

But behind-the-scenes, there was a low-profile star, Lorena “Lorie” Meier, Don’s wife for 68 years, who ran the business end with a firm hand and unfailing competence.

Sadly, on June 22, 2018, Lorie Meier died at age 100.

Don said, “without her, the success of Wild Kingdom couldn’t have happened.” Regardless whether Don was traveling into the wild, or back home, Lorie attended to all the financial matters at the company’s Chicago office. She dealt with the lawyers, bankers, insurance companies and ad agencies and occasionally helped in the film editing department.

Lorie Meier was bookkeeper for “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” during its 25 year television run. She frequently helped review and edit film for many episodes of the popular wildlife television program. (Photo Courtesy Don Meier)

“She was the General in charge of everything. She ran the place,” said Don. “It just naturally evolved that I could go any place in the world and take as long as it took, and I knew that things were being taken care of honestly and completely and efficiently, which she did.”

(Watch the documentary: “Exploring the Wild Kingdom”) 

Lorie was born in Warren, Ohio on September 26, 1917. She graduated from high school in Milwaukee and studied piano at Marquette University. In her early 20s, she worked as an executive assistant for top-level managers at Allis-Chalmers in Milwaukee, then moved to Chicago to take similar positions at various corporate offices.

She met Don during an industry/social event at the downtown Playboy Club in 1946, and in 1950 they married. She continued to work as an executive assistant at Esquire Magazine and then an advertising firm until teaming up with her husband after he formed Don Meier Productions.

“She was not only a wife, she was a partner, she was an advisor, she was a supporter. She was everything, and never for a moment did she relinquish that role. My life became full when I met her. There was never a time when I could not depend on her 100 percent and she the same way with me.” (Don Meier, husband of Lorie Meier) 

In her spare time, Lorie loved to garden and took great pride in bringing creative landscape designs to life. “The place used to look like a botanical garden,” said Don. “She had all these different species of flowers, and flower beds all around the yard but her favorite were always the daises.”

“My Great Aunt Lorena has always been a major inspiration to me,” said Lorie’s niece Kelsey Bennett. “She had her dreams, created goals to meet them, and through her tenacity, made her dreams come true.” Kelsey said.

“She was happy-go-lucky and vivacious and fun,“ said Lorie’s nephew, Bob Bennett. “She knew when to work hard and when to enjoy herself.”

“She was an incredibly loving, caring and compassionate woman, yet very down to earth,” said Doreen Pizzato, a former employee who remained her close friend for 49 years. “There wasn’t anything she did that she didn’t do incredibly well. She was one of the most classically elegant women I have ever known.”

Lorie and Don Meier are long-time donors to the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Don Meier earned his broadcast journalism degree from CoJMC. Over the year’s the Meier’s have continued to sponsor scholarships for dozens of CoJMC students.

“Our college could not have asked for greater friends and supporters than Don and Lorie,” said CoJMC professor Barney McCoy, producer of an hour-long documentary on “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” “Their financial support of our college has made it possible for dozens of Nebraska students from across our state to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,” said CoJMC Interim Dean Amy Struthers. “The Meier’s legacy of giving will make it possible for many future generations of Nebraskans to afford a college education.”

Lorie Meier was the loving daughter of the late Marie and Marvin Olson and dear sister of the late Donald (the late Virginia) Bennett. She is survived by her beloved husband of 68 years, Donald Meier; her loving nieces and nephews; James (Denise) Bennett, Donna Bennett, Bob (Diane) Bennett, Lori Bennett, Mary Bennett (Eric Munkwitz) and many grand nieces and nephews. She is also survived by Don’s numerous nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.

A very special mention and “Thank You” to Lorie’s in-home caregiver Jessica Salinas, for all she did and meant to Lorie during the last year and a half of her life.

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Black Jack Pershing: Love and War

My latest documentary project “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War” is in distribution. Here’s the documentary’s trailer.

For more information on the documentary go to

His name was John “Black Jack” Pershing and his roots ran deep in 20th century America. He commanded 2 million U.S. troops that helped win World War I and changed the world. America became a global superpower. General “Black Jack” Pershing was his nation’s highest-ranking officer. Behind Pershing’s iron exterior stood a man who endured great personal tragedy and heartbreak.

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Insect Labor Day

What natural beauty lies and flies under our noses this Labor Day weekend in my Lincoln, Nebraska yard. The insect world is busy gathering nourishment for the cooler fall and winter temperatures that will begin arriving in the months ahead. I shot this with my Samsung 7 smartphone and a JVC GY-HM600 ProHD video camera. Courtesy music: Nevada City by Huma-Huma.

Labor Day for insects from CoJMC on Vimeo.

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A relection – 15 years ago : “From one who was there. In memory of 9/11.” 

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