Tuesday Reads: Coronavirus NewsPosted: July 20, 2021
The illustrations in this post are by paintings by Frida Kahlo
I hate to focus another post on Covid-19, but honestly I think it’s the biggest story today. Cases are rising again, even in highly vaccinated states like Massachusetts.
Despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the United States, Massachusetts is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Data from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health shows an additional 717 confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported Monday. The data includes new positive coronavirus cases reported since Friday.
The data shows the biggest percentage increase in cases was on Cape Cod, where 59 new cases were reported, or a 0.4% increase since Friday.
Middlesex County reported 147 new cases since Friday. Suffolk County reported 114 new cases, Worcester County reported 73 new cases and Norfolk County reported 59 new cases.
The COVID-19 positivity rate has also increase, from a seven-day weighted average low of 0.31% in mid-June to its current mark of 1.16%.
According to Monday’s report from the DPH, 106 patients with confirmed coronavirus cases were hospitalized in Massachusetts, of which 31 were reported to be in an intensive care unit.
The seven-day average of hospitalizations has increased every day since July 9, increasing from a low of 85 to its current number of 106.
Some of these cases and deaths are breakthrough cases. Boston NBC 10: Breakthrough COVID Cases in Massachusetts, Explained.
At least 79 people have died and more than over 300 have been hospitalized in Massachusetts due to COVID-19 breakthrough cases after they were fully vaccinated, state health officials say….
A vaccine breakthrough case occurs when a person tests positive for COVID-19 after they’ve been fully vaccinated against the disease.
A person is considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after receiving the second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID vaccine, or two weeks after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine….
Seventy-nine vaccinated residents in Massachusetts died from COVID-19, either without being hospitalized or following a hospital stay, DPH said. That death toll reflects 1.78% of the 4,450 confirmed breakthrough cases and 0.0019% of the 4,195,844 people fully vaccinated as of July 10.
“All available data continue to support that all 3 vaccines used in the US are highly protective against severe disease and death from all known variants of COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated,” the DPH said in a statement to The Boston Globe.
Stephen Collinson at CNN on the state of the pandemic in the U.S. as a whole: A day of reckoning shows America’s pandemic battle is sliding backward.
If Joe Biden’s July Fourth fireworks marked a moment to declare the darkest days of the pandemic over, Monday was the day when reality dawned that the nation’s fight against Covid-19 is quickly sliding back in the wrong direction.
A hybrid version of American life that will pass for normality for the foreseeable future is coming into view, in which most of the vaccinated live and many of those who refuse their shots get sick or die.
In a moment of stark symbolism, new schools guidance released Monday from the American Academy of Pediatrics on mask wearing dashed hopes that kids robbed of a chunk of their childhoods by Covid-19 could go back to carefree schooldays this fall. The prospect of millions of youngsters over 2-years-old in face coverings in class epitomized how the nation is still under siege from the virus. It’s also likely to unleash yet another political culture war in some GOP states that abhor masking and have banned schools from seeking to protect the vulnerable that way.
In another shock to the national psyche on Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 700 points in its biggest drop of the year as alarm over virulent Delta variant infections hammered travel, leisure and energy stocks that had been juiced by the idea of a summer of freedom.
And at the same time, eyes were drawn toward Tokyo, where more worries loom. So often, the Olympics forge cathartic national unity thanks to athletes inspired to go faster, higher, stronger. Such a moment has rarely been so needed. But these Games are unlikely to offer that feeling of escape, as they often do — a sheen of reflected glory for the White House….
All these developments, in many cases, represented a realization that hopes that the virus would be in the rearview mirror this summer were unfounded and that some kind of new national effort is warranted.
“If we don’t get a significant proportion of these recalcitrant people vaccinated, you’re going to be seeing a smoldering of this outbreak in our country for a considerable period of time,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Monday.
In fact, the Olympic games could still be cancelled. CNBC: Tokyo 2020 chief Muto doesn’t rule out 11th-hour cancellation of Olympic Games.
The chief of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee on Tuesday did not rule out a last-minute cancellation of the Olympics, as more athletes tested positive for COVID-19 and major sponsors ditched plans to attend Friday’s opening ceremony.
Asked at a news conference if the global sporting showpiece might still be cancelled, Toshiro Muto said he would keep an eye on infection numbers and liaise with other organizers if necessary.
“We can’t predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases,” said Muto.
“We have agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises.”
Two new polls reveal discouraging news about the people who are refusing to be vaccinated.
When asked which poses a greater risk to their health, more unvaccinated Americans say the COVID-19 vaccines than say the virus itself, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll — a view that contradicts all available science and data and underscores the challenges that the United States will continue to face as it struggles to stop a growing “pandemic of the unvaccinated” driven by the hyper-contagious Delta variant.
The survey of 1,715 U.S. adults, which was conducted from July 13 to 15, found that just 29 percent of unvaccinated Americans believe the virus poses a greater risk to their health than the vaccines — significantly less than the number who believe the vaccines represent the greater health risk (37 percent) or say they’re not sure (34 percent).
Over the last 18 months, COVID-19 has killed more than 4.1 million people worldwide, including more than 600,000 in the U.S. At the same time, more than 2 billion people worldwide — and more than 186 million Americans — have been at least partially vaccinated against the virus, and scientists who study data on their reported side effects continue to find that the vaccines are extraordinarily safe.
Yet 93 percent of unvaccinated U.S. adults — the equivalent of 76 million people — say they will either “never” get vaccinated (51 percent); that they will keep waiting “to see what happens to others before deciding” (20 percent); or that they’re not sure (22 percent).
Read more details at the link.
Most Americans who still aren’t vaccinated say nothing — not their own doctor administering it, a favorite celebrity’s endorsement or even paid time off — is likely to make them get the shot, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.
Why it matters: The findings are more sobering evidence of just how tough it may be to reach herd immunity in the U.S. But they also offer a roadmap for trying — the public health equivalent of, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”
What they’re saying: “There’s a part of that population that are nudge-able and another part that are unbudge-able,” said Cliff Young, president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs.
- “From a public health standpoint they’ve got to figure out how you nudge the nudge-able.”
Details: 30% of U.S. adults in our national survey said they haven’t yet gotten the COVID-19 vaccine — half of them a hard no, saying they’re “not at all likely” to take it. We asked the unvaccinated about how likely they’d be to take it in a number of scenarios:
- The best prospect was a scenario in which they could get the vaccine at their regular doctor’s office. But even then, 55% said they’d remain not at all likely and only 7% said they’d be “very likely” to do it. That leaves a combined 35% who are either somewhat likely or not very likely but haven’t ruled it out.
- The Biden administration’s Olivia Rodrigo play won’t reach a lot of the holdouts, according to these results: 70% said the endorsement of a celebrity or public figure they like is “not at all likely” to get them to take a shot, and just 4% said they’d be “very likely” to do it. But another combined 24% could be somewhat in play.
- What if your boss gave you paid time off to get the shot? 63% said they’d still be not at all likely to do it, while 5% said they’d be very likely. Another 30% combined are potentially but not eagerly gettable.
- Similar majorities said they’d be unmoved by community volunteers coming to the door to discuss the vaccine, the option to get a shot at work or a mobile clinic, or being lobbied by friends or family members.
Again, go deeper at the Axios link.
At CNN Oliver Darcy reports on the horrifying vaccine hypocrisy at Fox News: Fox has quietly implemented its own version of a vaccine passport while its top personalities attack them.
Tucker Carlson has called the idea of vaccine passports the medical equivalent of “Jim Crow” laws. And other Fox News personalities have spent months both trafficking in anti-vaccine rhetoric and assailing the concept of showing proof of vaccination status.
But Fox Corporation, the right-wing talk channel’s parent company, has quietly implemented the concept of a vaccine passport as workers slowly return back to the company’s offices.
Fox employees, including those who work at Fox News, received an email, obtained by CNN Business, from the company’s Human Resources department in early June that said Fox had “developed a secure, voluntary way for employees to self-attest their vaccination status.”
The system allows for employees to self-report to Fox the dates their shots were administered and which vaccines were used.
The company has encouraged employees to report their status, telling them that “providing this information to FOX will assist the company with space planning and contact tracing.”
Employees who report their status are allowed to bypass the otherwise required daily health screening, according to a follow-up email those who reported their vaccination status received.
“Thank you for providing FOX with your vaccination information,” the email said. “You no longer are required to complete your daily health screening through WorkCare/WorkMatters.”
The concept, which was first reported Monday by Ryan Grim on The Hill’s morning streaming show, is known internally as “FOX Clear Pass.”
While the “Fox Clear Pass” is voluntary for employees, and other companies have similar tools, it is still remarkable, given how vocal Fox’s top talent has been in criticizing the concept of vaccine passports.
There was a bit of good news yesterday in Indiana. The New York Times: A Federal Judge Upholds Indiana University’s Vaccine Requirement for Students.
In what appeared to be the first ruling upholding a coronavirus vaccine mandate by a university, a federal judge affirmed on Monday that Indiana University could require that its students be vaccinated against the virus.
A lawyer for eight student plaintiffs had argued that requiring the vaccine violated their right to bodily integrity and autonomy, and that the coronavirus vaccines have only emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, and should not be considered as part of the normal range of vaccinations schools require. He vowed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary….
He said that the appeal would be paid for by America’s Frontline Doctors, a conservative organization that has been pursuing an anti-vaccine agenda. Mr. Bopp, of Terre Haute, Ind., is known for his legal advocacy promoting conservative causes.
Mr. Bopp filed the lawsuit in June, after Indiana University announced the previous month that faculty, staff and students would be required to get coronavirus vaccinations before coming to school this fall.
The university, whose main campus is in Bloomington, Ind., said that students who did not comply would have their class registrations canceled and would be barred from campus activities.
The requirement permitted exemptions only for religious objections, documented allergies to the vaccine, medical deferrals and virtual class attendance.
On Monday, Judge Damon R. Leichty of the U.S. District Court for Northern Indiana said that while he recognized the students’ interest in refusing unwarranted medical treatment, such a right must be weighed against the state’s greater interest.
“The Fourteenth Amendment permits Indiana University to pursue a reasonable and due process of vaccination in the legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty and staff,” his ruling said, also noting that the university had made exceptions for students who object.
Judge Leichty was appointed by former President Donald J. Trump.
Sorry for the boring post, but unless we get a grip on this pandemic, any chance of a return to “normal” life is going to disappear.
As always, this is an open thread.