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Contributed photo from the office of the New York governor via AP / In this image taken from video, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference on March 3.

I paid close attention when an old friend jokingly asked on Twitter: "Can anyone tell me why I'm so Angry all the time?" But it's not so funny that rage is the new normal.

We've gotten louder and more contentious as we've suddenly been catapulted into a new Middle Ages with a politics and economics that mirror medieval lords and serfs with castles, indebted servants and a dying middle class. Each age group is struggling in its own way. There are super-angry people in every generation. Tweets that aren't crude and rude are often cries for help, for someone to listen, respond and care. Both sides of the COVID coin are expressed online: anger and despair.

Many of the despairing are young; I've written previous columns about their skyrocketing suicide rates. But many of them are elderly and their desperation makes them more vulnerable than ever.

COVID has fueled a raging black market: scammers, fraudsters and con artists. Charlatans surface in tough economic times with a vengeance. It's true that scams like "Free Solar Panels" target homeowners of all ages, but many fraudsters are focusing their stimulus check scams and community donation scams on senior citizens. Playing on understandable fears, fraudsters offer opportunities to skip the line and get quicker access for outlandish fees.

We've just completed National Consumer Protection Week, and Acting U.S. Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon for the Northern District of New York said: "Fraudsters are making a fortune by targeting Americans, particularly older Americans. ... The scammers tell elaborate lies, often become demanding and threatening, and take advantage of the physical isolation that many seniors have experienced during the pandemic."

Who would disagree that this is a shameful development toward the most vulnerable in our society? But what are we doing about it? Too often we consider the elderly faceless and expendable, like serfs who owe us or can easily be replaced. We've seen a nonchalance toward the elderly who were going to die soon anyway. Arguments against wearing masks to protect the elderly have been responsible for surges in infections and death. But the biggest COVID fraud toward the elderly has taken place from governors' offices.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo used emergency pandemic powers to tell nursing homes they couldn't deny admission to patients discharged from hospitals solely based on a confirmed or suspected COVID diagnosis. Supposedly freeing up hospital space, Cuomo should have anticipated that nursing homes would become the state's lethal epicenter.

Instead, Cuomo made even more of a mess by covering up and delaying death toll reports. With multiple excuses, mostly nonsense, the governor finally acknowledged that he'd made a mistake. His apology, almost a year later, brings the term "obfuscate" to mind. With recent news of official reports being doctored to show only about 50% of the total nursing home deaths, the term "criminal" comes to mind.

Another 'obfuscation" veering toward "criminal" comes from Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida where vaccine sites targeted wealthy communities of political donors. DeSantis' denial seemed sincere, "I'm not worried about your income bracket, I'm worried about your age bracket." Yet he blocked death toll reports on eldercare facilities and his new data analyst is an anti-masker sports blogger with no credentials.

Nix the medieval mix of lies and cons. Let's be honest and truly honor lives lost and the elderly still at risk. And don't bow down to the anti-masking propaganda. The lives that masks protect may be some old folks you love.

Contact Deborah Levine, an author, trainer/coach and editor of the American Diversity Report, at deborah@diversityreport.com.

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Deborah Levine / Staff file photo by C.B. Schmelter

 

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