Posted: December 8, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, liability protections for corporations, Mitch McConnell, Moncef Slaoui, Operation Warp Speed, Pfizer vaccine, Rudy Giuliani, safe harbor deadline, Trump pardon spree
As Trump continues his coup attempt and Mitch McConnell continues to block relief for struggling Americans, Covid-19 is ravaging our country.
The New York Times: The U.S. has recorded its most Covid-19 deaths in a week.
With a seven-day average of 2,249 deaths, the country broke the previous mark of 2,232 set on April 17 in the early weeks of the pandemic. Seven-day averages can provide a more accurate picture of the virus’s progression than daily death counts, which can fluctuate and disguise the broader trend line.
The United States is approaching 300,000 total deaths, with nearly 283,000 recorded, according to a New York Times database. The nation is averaging nearly 200,000 cases per day, an increase of 15 percent from the average two weeks earlier, and has recorded over than 15 million total cases.
Much has changed since the previous peak in April. The coronavirus is no longer concentrated in big urban areas like New York City and now envelops much of the country, including rural areas that had avoided it for several months.
Many of the hardest-hit counties on a per person basis are now in the Midwest. North Dakota, where one in every 10 residents has contracted the virus, has the highest total reported cases by population, followed closely by South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
The latest wave to hit the United States has hospitalized record numbers. Each day since Dec. 2, more than 100,000 Covid-19 patients were in hospitals. That far surpasses the number of people hospitalized during the peaks spring and summer, which at their worst had nearly 60,000 Americans in the hospital daily.
The new peak also comes as the nation prepares for holiday celebrations, and as colder temperatures may push people to congregate indoors. Infectious-disease experts have warned that trends in the United States, which reported a record 2,885 deaths on Wednesday, could continue to worsen over the next several weeks.
We are getting closer to a vaccine, and the FDA has found that the Pfizer vaccine “worked well” after the first dose “regardless of a volunteer’s race, weight or age.” But yesterday The New York Times revealed that there most likely won’t have enough to go around: Trump administration officials passed when Pfizer offered months ago to sell the U.S. more vaccine doses.
Before Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was proved highly successful in clinical trials last month, the company offered the Trump administration the chance to lock in supplies beyond the 100 million doses the pharmaceutical maker agreed to sell the government as part of a $1.95 billion deal months ago.
But the administration, according to people familiar with the talks, never made the deal, a choice that now raises questions about whether the United States allowed other countries to take its place in line.
As the administration scrambles to try to purchase more doses of the vaccine, President Trump plans on Tuesday to issue an executive order that proclaims that other nations will not get the U.S. supplies of its vaccine until Americans have been inoculated.
But the order appears to have no real teeth and does not expand the U.S. supply of doses, according to a description of the order on Monday by senior administration officials.
Read more details at the link.
On Trump’s executive order, Politico reports: ‘I literally don’t know’: Operation Warp Speed scientist can’t explain Trump’s vaccine order.
The chief scientist of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed was unable to explain President Donald Trump’s latest executive order Tuesday, which aims to prioritize shipment of the coronavirus vaccine to Americans over other countries.
Moncef Slaoui, who Trump tapped in May to head up the administration’s efforts to hasten vaccine development, appeared puzzled when asked to clarify the president’s order during an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“Frankly, I don’t know, and frankly, I’m staying out of this. I can’t comment,” Slaoui said. “I literally don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” asked anchor George Stephanopoulos.
“Yes,” Slaoui said.
“But you’re the chief science adviser for Operation Warp Speed,” Stephanopoulos pressed.
“Our work is, you know, rolling,” Slaoui replied. “We have plans. We feel that we can deliver the vaccines as needed. So I don’t know exactly what this order is about.”
Indeed, it remains unclear how Trump’s executive order would be enforced, as drugmakers are already making agreements to deliver supplies for other countries.
Slaoui was similarly dismissive when asked about the executive order in another interview Tuesday, telling Fox News that “what the White House is doing is what the White House is doing.”
The incompetence would be funny if it weren’t going to kill people.
The Washington Post: Pfizer tells U.S. officials it cannot supply substantial additional vaccine until late June or July.
Pfizer has told the Trump administration it cannot provide substantial additional doses of its coronavirus vaccine until late June or July because other countries have rushed to buy up most of its supply, according to multiple individuals familiar with the situation.
That means the U.S. government may not be able to ramp up as rapidly as it had expected from the 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine that it purchased earlier this year, raising questions about whether it can keep to its aggressive schedule to vaccinate most Americans by late spring or early summer.\Trump administration officials denied there would be availability issues in the second quarter, citing other vaccines in the pipeline — most immediately, Moderna’s, also expected to be approved in coming weeks. Both vaccines are two-dose regimens, so the 100 million doses purchased of each would cover 50 million people each.
“I’m not concerned about our ability to buy vaccines to offer to all of the American public,” Gen. Paul Ostrowski, who oversees logistics for Operation Warp Speed, the government’s initiative to expedite vaccine development, said in an interview Monday. “It’s clear that Pfizer made plans with other countries. Many have been announced. We understand those pieces.”
But several officials knowledgeable about the contracts said that supplies from other companies may be insufficient to fill the gap.
Let’s hope the Biden administration will be able to deal with the mess that Trump is leaving them.
Trump and his buddies continue to flaunt warnings about wearing masks and social distancing to prevent spreading the virus. Of course these people will get the best treatments, while others whom they expose may not. The Daily Beast: Rudy Giuliani’s COVID Case Shows There’s No Vaccine to Treat the Disease the GOP Has Become.
Trump’s lawyer needs a doctor. If you saw him gallivanting across the country for the past month trying to overturn the election, it should come as no surprise to you that Rudy Giuliani, once revered as “America’s Mayor,” was hospitalized for COVID-19 this week.
Giuliani, a potential one-man superspreader whose recent visit forced the entire Arizona legislature to close up shop, is being treated at Georgetown University Medical Center. For the rich and powerful, there’s always room at the inn. Or hospital. And while we all hope for his speedy recovery, this is the latest sign that a pattern of privilege has emerged. It goes like this: Having tempted fate by refusing to social distance or wear masks, Trump and his team contract the virus. Next, they receive world-class medical treatment. Last, they quickly recover.
It’s not a victimless advantage. Their miraculous recovery reinforces the resentment of every hoohaw who won’t wear a mask and throws a fit at a bar in Staten Island because last call comes early at 10 p.m. The problem with these quick recoveries is that they demonstrate (to people who are the most susceptible to this message) that COVID-19 isn’t really a big deal.
Trump said yesterday that Giuliani is doing well and doesn’t have a fever. Then why is he in the hospital? I’m 73. Would I be hospitalizes with mild symptoms and no fever?
Meanwhile, there’s still no stimulus coming from Congress; and the one they are working on doesn’t include checks to help us regular folks, but it does include liability protections for corporations that force people to work in unsafe conditions. John Nichols at The Nation:
What the United States desperately needs is a multitrillion-dollar stimulus package to provide the resources to fight the current coronavirus surge, to provide for the unemployed and underemployed, to keep small businesses and small farms afloat, to fund state and local governments and schools, and to organize and implement the distribution of the vaccines that are vital to ending the current crisis.
What the United States does not need is a massive corporate bailout that allows the wealthiest and most powerful businesses in this country to avoid liability for actions they take that sicken and kill Americans.
Unfortunately, that is what Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and his minions have been battling to include in a new Covid-19 “relief” package. And key Democrats could end up going along with the grim reaper’s ghoulish scheme as he again uses federal legislation to insulate irresponsible CEOs from accountability—and, conveniently, to reward the business interests that fund Republican campaigns.
Exploiting the sense of urgency over the peaking pandemic and the prospect of what President-elect Joe Biden refers to as a “long dark winter” for working families, McConnell and his colleagues have for months held relief proposals hostage over the issue of a so-called “liability shield.” Such a shield—even if it is limited, even if it is only temporary—would give corporations immunity from lawsuits related to Covid-19.
Considering the stark evidence of irresponsibility on the part of US corporations since the pandemic hit, the proposal is absurd. Yet the “COVID Emergency Relief Framework” scheme that was initially proposed by corporate-aligned centrists in Congress but has now attracted backing from leading congressional Republicans and Democrats proposes just such a liability shield. The one-page outline of the plan released last week includes among its proposals: “Provide short term federal protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits with the purpose of giving states time to develop their own response.”
Click the link to read the rest.
Today could be the last day for Trump’s stupid coup attempt. Zoe Tillman at Buzzfeed News: Trump’s Desperate Effort To Overturn The Election Is Running Out Of Time.
Tuesday marks the “safe harbor” deadline — the date when states must certify results if they want protection under federal election law against Congress stepping in to decide which candidate gets their electoral votes. The fact that lawsuits are pending won’t prevent states from getting the benefits of certifying results by that date, according to election law experts. Judges are already wary of injecting legal uncertainty into the election and causing chaos and will be even more reluctant to do so after the deadline passes.
“The doors close significantly after the safe harbor deadline passes,” said Rebecca Green, codirector of the Election Law Program at William & Mary Law School. “It’s going to be a heavy lift to convince a judge to defy federal deadlines. I think it would only happen or be successful if some kind of wild evidence of just unbelievable scale were unearthed that was credible.”
Trump’s campaign has conceded that the Dec. 8 deadline is key to the fate of its legal challenges. It has pushed courts to rush to consider cases by then. In the campaign’s failed constitutional challenge to Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, Trump’s lawyers argued on Nov. 22 that it was “critically important” for a federal appeals court to hear the case before the deadline, which at that point was 16 days away. The court agreed to expedite the case and ruled against Trump in a 3–0 decision just five days later.
Read more at Buzzfeed.
Coming soon: the Trump pardon spree. Once again, this would be hilarious if it weren’t so dangerous. Axios: Trump plots mass pardons, even to people not asking.
President Trump isn’t just accepting pardon requests but blindly discussing them “like Christmas gifts” to people who haven’t even asked, sources with direct knowledge of the conversations told Axios.
Behind the scenes: Trump recently told one adviser he was going to pardon “every person who ever talked to me,” suggesting an even larger pardon blitz to come. As with most Trump conversations, the adviser wasn’t sure how seriously to take the president — although Trump gave no indication he was joking.
The big picture: The president relishes his unilateral authority to issue get-out-of-jail-free cards. Lately, though, he’s been soliciting recipients, asking friends and advisers who they think he should pardon.
Trump has also interrupted conversations to spontaneously suggest that he add the person he’s speaking with to his pardon list, these sources said.
Finally, at The Washington Post, Michael Luttig, a former judge writes: No, President Trump can’t pardon himself.
The pardon clause’s language is broad indeed, unambiguously allowing the president to pardon seemingly any other person convicted for any federal criminal offense. But its language does not unambiguously include the president himself. Had the Framers intended to give the president such broad power, we would expect them to have clearly said so. After all, the new nation was in the process of rejecting a monarchical government in favor of a democratic republic.
Instead, the words they chose to confer the pardon power on the president contemplate his granting of reprieves and pardons only to persons other than himself. The word “grant” connotes a gift, bestowal, conferral or transfer by one person to another — not to himself. That would have been the understanding of this word at the time of the Constitution’s drafting, and it is how the term “grant” was understood and is used elsewhere in the Constitution.
At the same time, the “take care” argument against the power to self-pardon merely assumes the very conclusion it reaches: that the pardon clause does not empower the president to pardon himself, and therefore that his self-pardon would be irreconcilable with his responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. This begs the question just as much as the textual argument made for self-pardons. If the Constitution allows a president to pardon himself, there could be no argument that in pardoning himself the president was not faithfully executing the laws.
Read the full argument at the WaPo.
Hang in there Sky Dancers! We just have to survive 43 more days of this insanity until the Inauguration.