Posted By: Francis Koster Published: March 9, 2021

Schools are often the heart of communities.  My own memories of primary school included time spent playing dodgeball on the playground,  my excitement when I was asked to bring my favorite book to school and tell my classmates why I liked it, and too many times having to carry a note home to my parents about some action I did or did not do.  (That never ended well.) Like some members of our community, some school buildings are getting old. Like some of us, their plumbing does not work as well as it once did, and friends and loved ones notice peeling paint, deteriorating roofs, and breathing issues (in the schools). North Carolina’s schools rank 37th of all 50 states in student learning.[1]   Our disappointing ranking is driven in part by old and loved school buildings which do not breathe well.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: February 28, 2021

As I listen to intense discussions between various political tribes about the need to stop the spread of Covid-19 verses claims of excessive government regulation, I am reminded of a story I heard sitting around a campfire at Boy Scout camp many decades ago.  My camp had a hand-pumped well, and the story made quite an impression on me at the time.   In 1854 London had no running water.  Local municipalities would tax citizens and businesses to fund the digging of public wells located in town squares to provide water for bathing and drinking.  At this time, since there were no indoor toilets or sewers, human waste was also being put in pits, called ‘cesspools’. They were everywhere. Both men and women wore perfume to mask the odor that was everywhere. A plague of cholera had started.  Millions were dying all around the world. The spread seemed to occur in areas with high odors.  The commonly held belief by both doctors and citizens was that cholera was spread by stinky air, then called ‘Miasma’.  

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: February 23, 2021

America’s health insurance system is like a ratty old quilt.  If your body is covered by the thick part of the quilt, you can feel more or less comfortable.  If your quilt has too many holes in it, you suffer. North Carolina has 17% of its population uninsured. We rank 6th worst out of all 50 states for our percentage of uninsured.[1]   Those uninsured who get sick will have mountains of debt they will not have the ability to pay. Insurance claims filed by Covid-19 patients show that if you catch mild Covid-19 but can recover at home, the cost of treatment averages around $750 for your care.   If you need to be hospitalized, the bill from the hospital is around $34,000.  If you are so sick you need to be in intensive care, the cost is about $84,000.[2]

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: February 3, 2021

We have two healthcare calamities unfolding before us – one visible, the other not yet. The first you at least know something about - Covid-19.  On January 14, one in 15 Americans (24 million) have been diagnosed with Covid-19.[1]  Of these, around four million survived, but are suffering after-effects ranging from brain fog, lung issues, and sexual disfunction.[2],[3]  Another 380,000 Americans have already died from it.[4]  Experts predict that the number of dead will grow to over half-a-million by April 2021,[5] even with an aggressive vaccination campaign, because around one-third of Americans say they will not take the vaccination at all.[6] This is only the visible part of our national tragedy. The second (still invisible) crisis is caused by the fact that out of every ten Americans, six have what is called a “chronic disease” – things like heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease.  These do not heal. They do get worse over time and must be carefully managed for as long as you live. [7],[8]

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: January 10, 2021

When I was a kid, there is a little ritual that happened in private. I later learned my parents referred to it as “The Talk”. At some age-appropriate point, my dad would invite “just the two of us” out for a fishing trip. After we dropped an anchor and threw our baited hooks into the water, I was trapped. After we caught a fish or two, he would bring up changes he was seeing underway in my body, and how I was probably beginning to face new biological urges. He explained that these changes carried with them moral and ethical responsibilities. The discussion was uncomfortable - but necessary. He was a good parent. As you contemplate your future and think about how your survivors will manage after you leave them, talking with them about your inevitable death is potentially a similarly stressful conversation, but because your parent can no longer trap you in a boat, you can avoid it. Most of us do. We stop behaving like responsible adults and shirk our responsibility as parents.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: December 20, 2020

Chances of catching Covid-19 are up to 18 times higher if you are exposed to someone who has it while you are indoors compared to being outdoors.[1] This is because the virus particles do not blow away like it would if you were both outside. If you are in a modern building with a new air conditioning system, the danger is less because it was designed bring in oxygen rich fresh air frequently. If you are unlucky enough to work in an old building, the virus concentration grows hourly as the infected folks near you continue to breathe it out. This infection is spread by people who do not know they are infected and for a 10 day period unknowingly infect others until symptoms begin to show up. Every unknowing but infected person appears to infect one other person during that period.[2] On the single day of December 9, 2020, Covid-19 killed more than 3,157 Americans[3], and almost 300,000 newly infected were identified.[4]

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: December 6, 2020

My father was a fireman and ambulance driver in a small town in Ohio. I have clear memories of going to the funeral of a fireman killed in the line of duty in a neighboring town. I was very young and had to hold my dad’s hand when we walked from the church to the cemetery. Flags at half-mast still have a powerful impact on me. Over Thanksgiving, I had a chat with a friend who is a lifelong member of the law enforcement community. We were discussing the existing and expanding stresses on First Responders as Covid-19 explodes around the coming holidays. I was explaining how awful the next few months are going to be, given the fact that it took 3 months for the first one million Americans to be infected, and 6 days for the latest one million, and the rate is rising.[1] I said I was worried about the stress on our doctors and nurses. He replied, “Do you know that more law enforcement officers die by suicide than are killed in the line of duty?” I did not. After we parted, I could not shake the emotions that statement caused in me. Got out my laptop and started researching. He was right.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: November 22, 2020

There are four facts in this article you do not know. Our population of Covid-19 infected people is split into two groups.  The first group is those who have developed symptoms and are now visible and counted.  That number is growing about 162,000 per day in America.[1]  That highly visible group is spawned by a second invisible group – those who are infected but do not know it.   Scientists have shown that during last week, 3,600,000 Americans had the virus, did not know it, and each of those will infect about 3 others during the next 10-day window.[2],[3],[4],[5] We live in a country that is #1 in the world both in the number and the percentage of our population of `Covid-19 infections.[6]  Our hospitals are already overwhelmed, do not have enough doctors and nurses, and patients are in beds in parking garages, tents, and hallways.[7]

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: November 15, 2020

Our country is having two epidemics, not one. The first one is Covid-19. In the past eight months, the Covid-19 virus has infected almost 11 million Americans and killed four times more than were killed in the entire Vietnam war. [1],[2] The projections are that by the end of February 2021, the numbers of infected will double to more than 22 million, and the number of dead will equal that of those Americans killed in WWll.[3],[4] Family members of patients who have Covid-19 are also learning that it can cause long term damage to the heart, lungs, brain, and other parts of the bodies of those who survive.[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10] Depressing, isn’t it?  And that is just the first epidemic. The second epidemic is actually impacting far more people, but almost no one is talking about it. Chances are you have it or know someone who does. It is called Depression.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: August 26, 2020

When most people think of K-12 schools, they think of things like reputation, quality of education, statewide rankings, school taxes, and so forth. What is often not recognized is the fact that public school systems are the major way many poor children get fed in our country. There are two public school systems in Cabarrus County. During the booming economy, last school year seven out of every ten of the students enrolled in the Kannapolis Public School System qualified for free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch on school days. If this program did not exist, 3,780 school kids would not have had enough food to eat during the school week. [1]

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