A whopping, record-setting 300% increase in COVID cases just this month in the state of Michigan, more than any other state in the country, has now been achieved.
This is a stunning and shameful development that comes on the heels of our state having re-opened too soon — along with, at the same time, having to live amongst a few million Michiganders who still think the coronavirus is a hoax and that wearing (or not wearing) a mask is a political statement.
We have chosen not to follow Dr. Fauci's advice and warnings. The virus is quickly mutating — and it is doing so with our help. And by the way, there are not just three variants of this disease — there are many more. They don't like to repeat this much on the news as they don't want you to panic. But I want you to panic because you need to hear the truth. Ok, I actually don't want you to panic because if you do, that won't be helpful and we won't get anything done.
What I do want to do is to appeal to your inner, rational, intelligent adult so we can collectively bring this pandemic to an end. Instead, what's been happening is that we are letting our inner 9-year old to take over:
"I hate this pandemic!"
"I'm sick of being inside!"
"I want to go out and have fun!"
"I miss going out to eat!"
"I don't know anyone who's died! Things are getting better!"
"I miss my friends and family!"
"I want to go to the State and see a movie!"
Yes, of course! We ALL feel part or all of this. So, my apologies to 9-year olds. These are all normal feelings and desires. BUT...
We are SO close to beating this virus. It can be contained. BUT ONLY IF WE ACT LIKE DISCIPLINED ADULTS. COVID-19 can be arrested THIS YEAR. I'm using a lot of CAPS. Because I'm tired of being a voice in the wilderness, tired of 30 years of my warnings going unheeded, 30 years of making movies to alert people about the decline of the middle class, to warn that Columbine will be only the beginning of a mass-slaying spree, that there would be NO weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, how a universal health care system would benefit the US, and how the uber-rich would widen the income gap and provide platforms for hate groups to keep us divided.
So, let me say it again:
1. If we can get 80% of our neighbors and families vaccinated in the next couple months;
2. If we all continue to wear masks and insist everyone else wear one, too;
3. If we stay away from ALL kinds of crowds and gatherings until the coast is clear...
We will achieve herd immunity by the end of summer and we will make it more difficult for the virus to mutate. If we can control ourselves and our frustrations and our desires for just a bit longer — like responsible adults do — then we can create our new normal and get back to living life freely.
If not, as the doctors and scientists have warned us, then this is going to be a 3 to 4 year pandemic. Which way do you want this to go?
I'm sending you this letter today — you, our friends, members and volunteers of the Traverse City Film Festival and its two theaters — because I'm desperate to bring our beloved Festival back and to reopen our theaters as soon as possible.
But because I'm clearly (along with many of you) alone in this thinking, as proven by Michigan surpassing Alabama this week by tripling the number of COVID-19 cases — I am going to stand my ground and protect the lives of our patrons, staff and volunteers. The virus decides when we re-open — and WE decide when the virus is defeated.
A few other updates:
DEBT: Due to our fundraising efforts, plus most vendors granting us debt forgiveness, we have reduced our debts by two-thirds and expect to be debt free by the fall. This is incredible news. Although we aren't out of the woods yet, we now see our financial stability as a coming reality in 2021 thanks to many of you.
THE BOARDMAN RIVER IN THE STATE THEATRE: This is serious. Due to reasons you are well aware of, the water levels have risen and the ground water near the lakes has risen with it. The State Theatre sits directly on the banks of the Boardman River. Our basement has been flooded for some time. Experts have examined the situation and have come up with a plan. Now we have to raise the money and do the work. We can't reopen a theater with standing water and mold in it. This is serious. We need help.
COVID-PROOFING OUR THEATERS: We need to replace our air-filtering systems, set up social-distancing seating, hand sanitizing stations, etc. to keep everyone safe. We are making plans for this now.
By the end of April we will be able to announce if we can hold this summer's film festival and if we can re-open the theaters. Fingers are crossed, yet hopes have been temporarily dashed by the news of Michigan leading the country in COVID case increases. I'll keep you posted.
As for this weekend's new film at The Virtual State: THE MOLE AGENT. Nominated for this year's Academy Award for Best Documentary.
A private investigator in Chile hires someone to work as a mole at a retirement home where a client of his suspects the caretakers of elder abuse.
"The documentary succeeds with its tenderness, while vividly reminding us how easily society can forget its elders." — RogerEbert.com
"Funny, poignant and finely crafted." — The Hollywood Reporter
All my best,