Two weeks after the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, reported Covid infections in the state have risen nearly sixfold.
South Dakota counted 3,819 new cases in the past two weeks, including seven deaths, up from 644 cases in the 14 days preceding it. That makes it the state with the largest percent increase in Covid cases in the past two weeks.
The state’s rate of Covid-19 infections per capita in the past two weeks is in the bottom half of the country, but it’s the sharp and sudden increase in case counts that sets it apart.
Meade County, home to Sturgis, has counted 330 new cases in the last two weeks, up from the 20 reported in the two weeks before the rally, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case count. The 1,550 percent increase comes after the motorcycle rally, which usually draws around half a million people, possibly had its biggest year ever, according to County Sheriff Ron Merwin.
Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: November 13, 2021 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: coronavirus pandemic, Department of Justice, Donald Trump, Fulton County DA Fani Willis, Georgia, January 6 Committee, Jeffrey Clark, Mark Meadows, Merrick Garland, Steve Bannon, violent threats against public officials 11 Comments
I know this isn’t breaking news to any Sky Dancers, but it’s still the best news in a long time. Steve Bannon has been indicted for contempt of Congress. More good news: it appears that Merrick Garland actually is taking the insurrection seriously. From the DOJ statement issued yesterday:
Stephen K. Bannon was indicted today by a federal grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress stemming from his failure to comply with a subpoena issued by the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol.
Bannon, 67, is charged with one contempt count involving his refusal to appear for a deposition and another involving his refusal to produce documents, despite a subpoena from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol. An arraignment date has not yet been set in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“Since my first day in office, I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”
Katie Benner and Luke Broadwater at The New York Times: Bannon Indicted on Contempt Charges Over House’s Capitol Riot Inquiry.
A Justice Department spokesman said Mr. Bannon was expected to turn himself in to authorities on Monday, and make his first appearance in Federal District Court in Washington later that day.
A lawyer for Mr. Bannon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The politically and legally complex case was widely seen as a litmus test for whether the Justice Department would take an aggressive stance against one of Mr. Trump’s top allies as the House seeks to develop a fuller picture of the actions of the former president and his aides and advisers before and during the attack on the Capitol.
At a time of deep political polarization, the Biden Justice Department now finds itself prosecuting a top adviser to the previous president of another party in relation to an extraordinary attack by Mr. Trump’s supporters on a fundamental element of democracy, the peaceful transfer of power….
After the referral from the House in Mr. Bannon’s case, F.B.I. agents in the Washington field office investigated the matter. Career prosecutors in the public integrity unit of the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington determined that it would be appropriate to charge Mr. Bannon with two counts of contempt, and a person familiar with the deliberations said they received the full support of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.
The indictment of Bannon serves as a warning to other Trump goons who have refused to testify before the House January 6 committee.
The charges against Mr. Bannon come as the committee is considering criminal contempt referrals against two other allies of Mr. Trump who have refused to comply with its subpoenas: Mr. Meadows and Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official who participated in Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
“Steve Bannon’s indictment should send a clear message to anyone who thinks they can ignore the select committee or try to stonewall our investigation: No one is above the law,” the leaders of the panel, Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, and Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, said in a statement. “We will not hesitate to use the tools at our disposal to get the information we need.”
Earlier they had released another blistering statement after Mr. Meadows failed to appear to answer questions at a scheduled deposition. Mr. Meadows’s lawyer, George J. Terwilliger III, informed the committee that his client felt “duty bound” to follow Mr. Trump’s instructions to defy the committee, citing executive privilege.
“Mr. Meadows’s actions today — choosing to defy the law — will force the select committee to consider pursuing contempt or other proceedings to enforce the subpoena,” Mr. Thompson and Ms. Cheney said.
They said Mr. Meadows refused to answer even basic questions, such as whether he was using a private cellphone to communicate on Jan. 6, and the location of his text messages from that day.
Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: The big warning signal Stephen Bannon’s indictment sends.
For more than two years, the Democratic-controlled House struggled to obtain crucial testimony from Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn in its Russia investigation. When he declined to submit to a subpoena, they fought it out in court. By the time an agreement was reached for McGahn to testify this year, Donald Trump was no longer in the White House, and the Russia issue had faded in both import and memories. McGahn said frequently in his testimony that he no longer fully recalled important episodes….
This time, though, the House and its select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob took a very different tack. And it resulted in both a legally and practically significant result.
Rather than try to get a court to make former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon testify, the Jan. 6 committee instead moved quickly to recommend he be held in contempt of Congress. That put the decision into the hands of the Justice Department, which would need to decide whether to file criminal charges. But it would at least be quicker.
On Friday, this approach — an extraordinary gambit necessitated by an extraordinary effort to stymie investigators for most of the past five years — led to an extraordinary outcome: Bannon has been indicted by a federal grand jury, making him the first person charged with contempt of Congress since 1983.
While an indictment is significant — it’s actually the second time Bannon has been indicted in fewer than 15 months, with the first earning a preemptive Trump pardon — the move is less punitive than it is precedent-setting.
Other witnesses, including former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who are also resisting cooperation with the inquiry, now have to contend with the prospect of potential criminal charges….an indictment is a bell that can’t be un-rung. Those like Meadows might defy the subpoenas in the hope of some kind of accommodation — perhaps allowing them to withhold a certain part of their testimony or documents that have been requested. Bannon’s indictment serves notice that the Jan. 6 committee can threaten to play hardball, with plenty to back it up….
Bannon and Meadows are among the first against whom this could even be deployed. Theirs were among the first batch of subpoenas, along with White House communications aide Dan Scavino and national security aide Kashyap Patel. In other words, plenty of others will now have very important decisions to make. Another big one will be Trump DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, who spearheaded the effort to get his department to legitimize Trump’s false stolen-election claims.
Down in Georgia, Fulton County DA may be gearing up to impanel a Grand Jury to investigate Donald Trump for his efforts to overturn election results in the state. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Fulton DA mulling rarely used special grand jury for Trump probe.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is likely to impanel a special grand jury to support her probe of former President Donald Trump, a move that could aid prosecutors in what’s expected to be a complicated and drawn-out investigative process.
A person with direct knowledge of the discussions confirmed the development to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, saying the move could be imminent.
Some legal observers viewed the news, first reported by the New York Times, as a sign that the probe is entering a new phase.
“My interpretation is that she’s gotten as far as she can interviewing witnesses and dealing with people who are cooperating by producing documents voluntarily,” former Gwinnett County DA Danny Porter said of Willis. “She needs the muscle. She needs the subpoena power.”
Special grand juries are rarely used but could be a valuable tool for Willis as she takes the unprecedented step of investigating the conduct of a former president while he was in office.
Her probe, launched in February, is centered on the Jan. 2 phone call Trump placed to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, in which he urged the Republican to “find” the votes to reverse Joe Biden’s win in Georgia last November. The veteran prosecutor previously told Gov. Brian Kemp, Raffensperger and other state officials that her office would be probing potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting criminal solicitation to commit election fraud, intentional interference with the performance of election duties, conspiracy and racketeering, among others.
The investigation could also include Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who promoted lies about election fraud in a state legislative hearing; and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who was accused by Raffensperger of urging him to toss mail-in ballots in certain counties. Both men have denied wrongdoing.
In other news, another Congressional committee is investigating efforts by the Trump administration to downplay the coronavirus pandemic. The Washington Post: Messonnier, Birx detail political interference in last year’s coronavirus response.
Tuesday ReadsPosted: August 31, 2021 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Afghanistan, coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, Florida, Hurricane Ida, January 6 insurrection, Joe Biden, Madison Cawthorn, Ron De Santis, The Big Lie, Western wildfires 17 Comments
I’m struggling to get going with this post. There is so much negative and even crazy coverage out there. If only there could be a week or two of boring news! But the media is still beating up on Biden for ending a 20-year war, Republicans are still claiming 2020 was a “rigged election,” and the pandemic is still worsening because wacko right wingers insist on taking a horse de-wormer instead of just getting vaccinated and wearing masks. And we can’t forget the powerful hurricanes and wildfires that are linked to our refusal to deal with climate change. So here’s a sampling of what’s out there in the media today.
At the Washington Post, Matt Viser has a piece on angry families who recently lost sons and daughters in Afghanistan: ‘Don’t you ever forget that name’: Biden’s tough meeting with grieving relatives.
In Florida, where Covid-19 is running rampant, Governor DeSantis has decided to ignore a court decision that his anti-mask orders are unconstitutional. The New York Times: Florida withholds money from school districts over mask mandates.
The Florida Department of Education has withheld funds from two school districts that made masks mandatory in classrooms this fall, state officials announced on Monday, making good on a threat that local school boards that required students to wear masks would be punished financially….
Richard Corcoran, the state education commissioner, said in a statement that the department would fight to protect parents’ rights to make health care decisions for their children, adding: “They know what is best for their children.”
The penalty applies to two school districts — Alachua County and Broward County — that went ahead with mask mandates in defiance of the governor’s order.
The department had indicated that it would withhold a monthly amount equivalent to school board members’ salaries. In Alachua County, members make about $40,000 a year, and in Broward County about $46,000, according to the State Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research.
However, because the state does not pay the salaries of local officials, it cannot withhold the salaries directly. Mr. Corcoran had previously said that he might recommend withholding funds “in an amount equal to the salaries of the superintendent and all the members of the school board.”
Also at The New York Times, Jamelle Bouie asks: Do Republicans Actually Want the Pandemic to End?
Joe Biden, in his 2020 campaign for president, promised to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. With additional aid to working families and free distribution of multiple effective vaccines, he would lead the United States out of its ongoing public health crisis….
Rather than work with him to vaccinate the country, Biden’s Republican opposition has, with only a few exceptions, done everything in its power to politicize the vaccine and make refusal to cooperate a test of partisan loyalty. The party is, for all practical purposes, pro-Covid. If it’s sincere, it is monstrous. And if it’s not, it is an unbelievably cynical and nihilistic strategy. Unfortunately for both Biden and the country, it appears to be working.
Naturally, some of the loudest vaccine-skeptical Republicans are in Congress. “Think about what those mechanisms could be used for,” Representative Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina said of the Biden administration’s plan for door-to-door vaccine ambassadors. “They could then go door-to-door to take your guns. They could go door-to-door to take your Bibles.”
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has similarly criticized the president’s effort to reach the unvaccinated. “People have a choice, they don’t need your medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations,” she tweeted. “You can’t force people to be part of the human experiment.”
Cawthorn and Greene are obviously fringe figures. But these days, the fringe is not far from the center of the Republican Party (if it ever was to begin with). Their rhetoric is not too different, in other words, from that of their more mainstream colleagues in the Senate.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has attacked vaccine mandates — “There should be no mandates, zero, concerning Covid,” he said in a recent interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity — while Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has urged Americans to “resist” efforts to stop the spread of the virus. “It’s time for us to resist,” Paul said in a video posted to Twitter. “They can’t arrest all of us. They can’t keep all of your kids home from school. They can’t keep every government building closed, although I’ve got a long list of ones they might keep closed or ought to keep closed.”
Republican rhetoric in Washington, however, is a sideshow to the real fight over Covid, in states like Florida and Texas.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Hurricane Ida has moved on, but Louisiana with be dealing with the aftereffects for a long time. Read about it and see photos at NPR: These Images Show Just How Bad Hurricane Ida Hit Louisiana’s Coastline.
Hurricane Ida’s fierce Category 4 winds and torrential rain left the Louisiana coastline badly beaten.
Images of the effected areasdays after the storm show crushed homes, debris scattered across streets, and flooded neighborhoods.
As cleanup is underway, officials are warning residents who evacuated not to return to their homes just yet due to the severe damage.
Out West, the devastating drought and resulting wildfires continue. The New York Times: Evacuations Ordered Near Lake Tahoe as the Caldor Fire Chokes Region.
A wildfire that had burned through remote areas in the Sierra Nevada for two weeks crested a ridge on Monday and began descending toward the major population centers along Lake Tahoe.
As the Caldor fire intensified amid dry and windy conditions, thousands of people along the lake’s southern and western shores were ordered to evacuate. Crews of firefighters sped to put out spot fires only miles from South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
Tourists normally swarm the lake on the California-Nevada border in the summer months for boating, fishing, hiking, eating and drinking. But by sunset on Monday, the community seemed to stand still.
On streets that were clogged only hours earlier, shops and businesses — motels, restaurants, supermarkets — were deserted. Roads were empty except for fire engines and television reporters documenting the eerie calm.
It was impossible to know when, if at all, the fire would reach the town. But people did not stay to test the fury of a blaze that fire officials estimate could threaten more than 20,000 structures.
Public safety officials warned that the Caldor fire, the latest to grip California during a particularly unforgiving summer for fire crews in the West, showed no signs of relenting. It had scorched more than 186,000 acres and was 15 percent contained on Monday.
The mandatory evacuation zone extended from Tahoma, Calif., on the western shore of the lake, to the Nevada border.
So those are the highlights of today’s news from my point of view. What stories are you following?
Thursday ReadsPosted: August 26, 2021 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Afghanistan, coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, Donald Trump, Florida, foreign policy, immigration, ISIS, Ivermectin, Joe Biden, SCOTUS, South Dakota, Sturgis rally, vaccines 18 Comments
News just broke of an explosion outside the Kabul airport in Afghanistan. The New York Times: An explosion is reported at Kabul airport, after warnings of a security threat.
An explosion rattled an area outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, the Pentagon confirmed, just hours after Western governments had warned of a security threat there.
Since the Taliban takeover of the city earlier this month, thousands of Afghan civilians and foreign citizens have gathered at the airport, which has a military and civilian side, desperate to be airlifted out of the country.
“We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport,” John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a post on Twitter. “Casualties are unclear at this time. We will provide additional details when we can.”
A U.S. military official confirmed that at least one explosion had occurred at the Abbey Gate, a main entryway to the international airport. Early reports indicated that the explosion was caused by at least one suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest. It was unclear how many people were injured or whether anyone was killed, but large crowds have been gathering at the gate in recent days.
I guess we’ll hear more details as the day goes on.
In other news, the Supreme Court’s conservative justices have decided to interfere with the U.S. President’s immigration powers. Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post: Opinion: Thanks to the Supreme Court, a federal judge in Texas is making foreign policy decisions.
Too bad all those Hillary haters refused to vote for her in 2016.
I hate to write about the pandemic again, but it’s still dominating the news because it’s getting worse.
The Washington Post: Hospitalizations hit 100,000 in United States for first time since January.
This is interesting, but not surprising from Joshua Green at Bloomberg News: Vaccinated Democratic Counties Are Leading the Economic Recovery.
With Covid-19 cases once again rising across the country, the U.S. is struggling to curb the latest, delta-driven surge, as hospitalizations and deaths have steadily climbed. But at least so far, the economy has proved highly resilient. There are many reasons for this, ranging from generous stimulus checks to the Federal Reserve’s commitment to buying bonds and holding interest rates low.
But some interesting new data on the overlap of electoral politics and economic dynamism suggest another reason: The geography of America’s economic engine is heavily concentrated in counties that Joe Biden won in 2020. These counties are much more heavily vaccinated than the rest of the country and thus better able to withstand the economic effects of Covid’s delta variant.
Read the rest at the link.
In the red counties and states, people are poisoning themselves rather than get vaccines. Miami Herald: Calls about animal dewormer as COVID treatment soar in Texas, poison center says.
The Texas Poison Center Network has received dozens of calls this month about people exposed to ivermectin, an animal dewormer some are using for COVID-19 treatment.
But the drug, which is flying off the shelves in many parts of the United States, is not a suitable treatment and health organizations are warning against its improper use….
Of the 150 people who have called the center this year regarding exposure to the drug, 54 said they intentionally misused it.
Common side effects of the drug are allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and hypotension, the center said.
“Patients who take concentrated forms that are used for large animals like horses and cows are more likely to experience severe side effects and toxicity,” Texas Poison Center said in a statement to McClatchy News. “Accidental poisonings in children may also occur when this medication is kept in the home and is improperly stored. As a result, the Texas Poison Center Network does not encourage the use of ivermectin outside of its intended use.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization have all also advised against using ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 outside controlled clinical trials, McClatchy News reported earlier this month.
A large dose of ivermectin intended for a horse could cause a human to have complications that include “low blood pressure, rapid heart rates, seizures” along with damage to the liver and layers of skin falling off, Dr. Shane Speights, site dean at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, told KAIT8.
Some doctors in Idaho and Arkansas are even prescribing this stuff. For Christ sake, why won’t these idiots just get the vaccine and wear masks?
Florida has become the Coronavirus epicenter of the U.S. The New York Times: In Florida, the pandemic is worse now than it has ever been before.
More people in Florida are catching the coronavirus, being hospitalized and dying of Covid-19 now than at any previous point in the pandemic, underscoring the perils of limiting public health measures as the Delta variant rips through the state.
This week, 227 virus deaths were being reported each day in Florida, on average, as of Tuesday, a record for the state and by far the most in the United States right now. The average for new known cases reached 23,314 a day on the weekend, 30 percent higher than the state’s previous peak in January, according to a New York Times database. Across the country, new deaths have climbed to more than 1,000 a day, on average….
And hospitalizations in Florida have almost tripled in the past month, according to federal data, stretching many hospitals to the breaking point. The surge prompted the mayor of Orlando to ask residents to conserve water to limit the strain on the city’s supply of liquid oxygen, which is needed both to purify drinking water and to treat Covid-19 patients.
Even as cases continue to surge, with more than 17,200 people hospitalized with the virus across Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has held firm on banning vaccine and mask mandates. Several school districts have gone ahead with mask mandates anyway.
I wonder if DeSantis reads the newspapers or watches anything other than Fox News?
WFLA.com: Bodies stacked to the ceiling as COVID-19 surge creates backlog at Florida funeral homes, crematories.
WINTER GARDEN, Fla. (WESH) — At West Side Crematory in Winter Garden, they’re overwhelmed with the remains of people that need to be cremated.
There’s an influx of bodies like they’ve never seen, worse than the first wave of COVID-19. The area where bodies are stored prior to being cremated is stacked to the ceiling. The staff is working day and night to honor the dead.
WESH 2 called 20 funeral homes and crematories and many were too busy to be part of our story. Some were too busy to even talk on the phone. One funeral director said that in a 30-minute period where he talked to his partner, four new cases came in.
Mike Marchetti, the area manager for Newcomer Funeral Homes, says as much as they don’t want to, sometimes they have to delay meetings with families and delay funerals because they only have so much staff.
“So the family comes in and they say we would like to have the funeral on Friday and we have to tell then ‘I’m sorry we can’t accommodate a funeral on Friday because our schedule is full,” Marchetti said.
A death care industry struggling to meet demands at a level they’ve never seen before, and families struggling to cope with grief at a level a community has ever seen before.
And then there’s South Dakota, where Governor Kristi Noem welcomed about 700,000 unmasked bikers to party in a a small town named Sturgis.
NBC News: South Dakota Covid cases quintuple after Sturgis motorcycle rally.
The Daily Beast: Warnings About the Sturgis Rally Have Come Tragically True.
In western South Dakota’s Meade County, more than one in three COVID-19 tests are currently returning positive, and over the last three weeks, seven-day average case counts have increased by 3,400 percent. This exponential growth in cases is likely attributable to the 81st Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which drew an estimated half a million visitors to Meade County and its environs from Aug. 6 through 15, potentially acting as a superspreader event….
…while Southern states have been the main drivers of this surge thus far, the recent spike in cases in South Dakota warrants special concern.
The state more broadly has witnessed a 686.8 percent increase in daily case counts over the past three weeks, currently more than 10 times the nationwide rate. Meade County’s post-Sturgis uptick is certainly a contributor to this state-level increase, but neighboring counties have experienced a sharp incline in cases, too—ranging from a 1,900 percent increase in the past three weeks in Butte to a 1,050 percent increase in Lawrence.
Those two counties are also key focal points for the rally, which is not, in reality, confined to Sturgis. And because the rally is widely attended by residents all across South Dakota, it’s not surprising that counties further away—like Charles Mix County, which saw a 1,500 percent increase—are experiencing an incline in cases, too.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally represents the perfect storm for a superspreader event across this region: a large gathering with no testing, no masks, and no vaccination requirements. Though many (but not all) of the goings-on occurred outdoors and thus offered more protection against SARS-CoV-2 transmission than if they hadn’t been, the South Dakota Department of Transportation reported that 525,768 vehicles entered Sturgis over the 10 days of the rally. The sheer number of people in attendance paired with a lack of additional precautions presented prime conditions for viral transmission.
There’s much more at the link.
Sorry about all the bad news. Take care and hang in there, Sky Dancers!!
Tuesday Reads: The Long War Against Covid-19Posted: August 3, 2021 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Centers for Disease Control, coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, Delta variant, eviction moratorium, Florida, Joe Biden, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas 12 Comments
Thanks to the Delta variant, and people refusing to be vaccinated, Covid-19 cases are rising around the country, particularly in Florida, Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. At least Louisiana’s Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards is trying to get the situation under control. But in the other three states, governors are working against public health.
The Advocate: ‘Do you give a damn?’ John Bel Edwards reissues mask mandate in dire COVID surge update.
When Gov. John Bel Edwards lifted Louisiana’s mask mandate at the end of April, he warned that loosening restrictions wasn’t a “one way street” and that he would reimpose the rules if COVID-19 came roaring back.
On Monday, as hospitals statewide buckled under an unprecedented surge in patients, Edwards followed through on his word.
Schools, businesses, universities, churches, and any other indoor public settings in Louisiana will require a face mask for entry beginning on Wednesday, under a proclamation Edwards signed that expires September 1.
“It has become extremely clear that our current recommendations on their own are not strong enough to deal with Louisiana’s fourth surge of COVID. In fact, nobody should be laboring under the misapprehension that this just another surge,” Edwards told reporters Monday in announcing the order he had already signed. “This is the worst one we’ve had thus far.”
The return to restrictions comes as the pandemic enters a new stage defined by the delta variant, a highly contagious strain of COVID-19 first identified in India that now accounts for most new cases in Louisiana. On Monday, the state reported 11,109 new confirmed and probable infections of COVID-19. More than 2,000 of those cases were among children.
CNN: Florida and Texas had one-third of all US Covid-19 cases in past week, official says.
One-third of all US Covid-19 cases reported in the past week were in just two states – Florida and Texas – according to White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients.
The cases are mainly in areas where vaccination rates remain low, Zients said at a briefing Monday.
“In fact, seven states with the lowest vaccination rates represent just about 8- 1/2% of the US population, but account for more than 17% of cases, and one in three cases nationwide occurred in Florida and Texas, this past week,” Zients said.
In the past two weeks, daily case rates have gone up fourfold, according to Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
The increase comes as the Delta variant spreads and the percentage of fully vaccinated Americans hovers around 49.7%, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitals are once again filling up with patients as the virus tears through the unvaccinated population.
“There are still about 90 million eligible Americans who are unvaccinated,” Zients said. “And we need them to do their part, roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated. Each and every shot matters.”
It doesn’t seem to matter to some Republican Governors.
Mother Jones: COVID Is Spiking in Florida and Mississippi. Their GOP Governors Are Waging War Against Masks.
On Saturday, Florida recorded 21,683 new cases of COVID-19, breaking its one-day record for new cases. But even as the state swells with fresh infections, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis remains hellbent on his war against mask mandates. He even recently barred school districts from instituting mask mandates when classes reconvene in August.
DeSantis feels so good about his war on masks, he’s even laughing about it. “Did you not get the CDC’s memo?” DeSantis joked to a largely maskless crowd at a conference for the American Legislative Exchange Council in Utah last week, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidelines recommending mask-wearing amid the surge of the Delta variant. “I don’t see you complying.”
He continued, prompting applause, “I think it’s very important that we say unequivocally, ‘No to lockdowns, no to school closures, no to restrictions, and no mandates.’ Floridians are free to choose and all Americans should be free to choose how they govern their affairs, how they take care of themselves and our families.”
The governor, who is reportedly eyeing a bid for president in 2024, has spent most of the pandemic fiercely opposing COVID safety measures—a stance public health officials say has allowed the virus to run rampant across the state and has now made Florida the epicenter of the pandemic in this country. To DeSantis’ sort-of credit, he has made recent efforts to boost vaccinations, though at the same time he’s selling anti-Anthony Fauci merchandise on his website.
In Mississippi, where ICU beds are nearing capacity with a surge of unvaccinated individuals, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves blasted the CDC’s mask guidelines as “foolish” and claimed that it reeked of “political panic.”
“It has nothing, let me say that again: It has nothing to do with rational science,” Reeves said on Thursday.
Except that it does. As Dr. Fauci warned on Sunday, “Things are going to get worse.” The country’s top expert on infectious diseases told ABC’s This Week, “You want them to wear a mask so that if in fact they do get infected, they don’t spread it to vulnerable people, perhaps in their own household, children, or people with underlying conditions.”
In Texas, Governor Abbott is also trying to kill his constitutents. The New York Times: Gov. Greg Abbott bars mandates for vaccinations and masks in Texas.
In an executive order issued on Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of the nation’s second-largest state, prohibited local governments and state agencies from mandating vaccines, saying that protection against the virus should be a matter of personal responsibility, not forced by a government edict.
The order also reinforced his prior directive prohibiting local officials from requiring face masks, despite growing calls from city leaders for greater flexibility to reverse the renewed spread of Covid.
The daily average of cases in Texas as of Friday was 8,820, according to a New York Times database, a 209 percent increase over the past 14 days. Cities across the state are facing a surge in hospitalizations reminiscent of the alarming spikes that occurred before Covid cases began nosing downward with the arrival of vaccines.
With 56 percent of the state’s population unvaccinated — including nearly five million children under 12 who are not eligible — health officials have expressed concern about the state’s vulnerability.
It was always going to be a long battle against the coronavirus, but many Americans didn’t want to face that fact. At STAT News, Megen Molteni writes: For many, the belated realization that Covid will be ‘a long war’ sparks anger and denial.
In May, when the CDC said fully vaccinated people could ditch masks and social distancing, it seemed to signal a return to normalcy. But epidemiologists cautioned at the time that the move wasn’t likely to be permanent, and shouldn’t be interpreted as the end of Covid-19 as a daily concern. Colder weather or a right hook in the virus’s evolution could bring restrictions right back.
Still, Americans seem shocked by the recent turn of events. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised everyone — even those who’ve gotten Covid-19 shots — to go back to indoor masking, a decision driven by new data showing the hyper-contagious Delta variant colonizes the nose and throat of some vaccinated people just as well as the unvaccinated, meaning they may just as easily spread this new version of the virus, while stilling being protected against the worst manifestations of the disease.
The prospect of contending with a prolonged outbreak phase — and adjusting again to a constantly evolving roster of restrictions — has brought back another feature of pandemic living in America: anger.
This time it’s not just the mostly Republican anti-masking refrain rearing its defiant head (though fights over school mask mandates have returned with a vengeance). Coast to coast, and across the political spectrum, contempt for unvaccinated people is rising. “It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, a Republican, said on July 22, as her state, with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, reeled from a 530% rise in Covid-19 hospitalizations in just three weeks.
Among the vaccinated, there’s a sense that the freedoms they gained by getting the shots — travel, eating out, concerts, sports, school, seeing friends — are now being jeopardized by those who are still holding out.
Though this new flavor of outrage might look and sound like righteous indignation, mental health professionals say that what’s behind it is fear.
“It’s scary to admit that somebody else has power over you and you’re at their mercy and you’re afraid of them, but showing that is not a very American ideal,” said David Rosmarin, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a clinician at McLean Hospital. “Instead of expressing that fear, it’s a lot more comfortable to blame somebody else.”
Anger is what people in his profession refer to as a “secondary emotion.” It’s a feeling that arises in response to a more primal emotion, like fear and anxiety over having some aspect of your life threatened. “The reality is that there are millions of people who are miseducated about something, they’re making a big mistake that will have massive consequences that might affect you and your family and that makes you scared,” Rosmarin said. “But nobody is saying that.”
Unfortunately, there’s another looming disaster caused by the pandemic: the CDC eviction ban is expiring, and in Washington everyone is accusing everyone else of being responsible for dealing with the situation. And it’s complicated by a Supreme Court ruling.
Yahoo News: White House says it has been unable to find way to extend eviction moratorium.
The White House said Monday that it was unable to find a legal means to extend the eviction moratorium, despite the fact that millions of Americans could soon lose their homes even as the Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has “been unable to find legal authority for a new, targeted eviction moratorium,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “Our team is redoubling efforts to identify all available legal authorities to provide necessary protections.”
Citing a Supreme Court decision issued in late June, the White House said it was unable to unilaterally extend the moratorium for evictions. Late last week, Psaki issued a statement pressuring Congress to act, but the House went into recess before a vote could be held. Were it to pass the House, it is unclear if an extension of the moratorium would be able to pass the Senate.
The federal eviction moratorium expired over the weekend, yet more than 6.5 million U.S. households are currently behind in rental payments totaling more than $20 billion, according to a study by the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project. Without federal protections in place, many renters will now need to pay months of back rent.
“On this particular issue, the president has not only kicked the tires, he has double, triple, quadruple checked,” Gene Sperling, the White House COVID-19 economic relief coordinator, said at a briefing on Monday, adding, “The rise off the Delta variant is particularly harmful for those who are most likely to face evictions, and as that reality became more clear going into the end of last week, I think all of us started asking what more can we do.”
Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: The Supreme Court Caused the Looming Eviction Disaster. Why Won’t Democrats Say So?
On July 31, the federal government’s eviction moratorium expired, potentially forcing millions of Americans out of their homes during yet another COVID surge. In the days before the eviction cliff, House Democrats attempted to extend the moratorium, but Republicans easily blocked their measure. Democratic lawmakers then spent the weekend arguing over who was to blame for the looming catastrophe.
Curiously, most Democrats chose not to focus on the primary culprit: the Supreme Court. In late June, five conservative justices signaled that they would not let the White House extend the eviction ban beyond July 31 absent further congressional authorization. These Republican-appointed justices set the terms of the debate, yet were largely absent from Democrats’ blame game. As a result, most vulnerable Americans will likely not understand they face homelessness in a pandemic because of SCOTUS. This strange dynamic is symptomatic of a deeper pathology in contemporary American politics: Democrats appear incapable of explaining how the Supreme Court stymies their own agenda—and the resulting confusion shields the court from criticism, consequences, and accountability when its decisions wreak havoc.
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Biden to extend the eviction moratorium on his own, she framed the issue as a matter of morality. But the president’s inaction was almost certainly a legal calculation. To understand his hesitation, it’s key to remember that the recently expired moratorium was not the same policy that had been in effect since the start of the pandemic. Congress passed its first eviction ban in March 2020, explicitly prohibiting landlords from kicking out tenants who could not afford rent because of the pandemic. After this provision expired that August, Donald Trump issued an executive order asking the CDC to take action. The CDC responded in September with its own eviction moratorium set to run through the end of 2020. It was rooted in a federal law that allows the agency “to make and enforce such regulations” that are “necessary to prevent” the “spread of communicable diseases” between states. In December, Congress passed legislation that explicitly extended the CDC’s moratorium through Jan. 31, 2021. The agency then extended the ban several more times.
While the CDC kept the moratorium in place, a group of landlords sued to block it, claiming it exceeded the agency’s authority. On May 5, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich sided with the plaintiffs against the ban but stayed her order. One month later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit court refused to block the ban. The plaintiffs then appealed to SCOTUS, which came within an inch of ending the moratorium. Five justices—Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett—believed it violated the law. But Kavanaugh, who cast the decisive fifth vote, wrote separately to explain that although he believed the CDC had “exceeded its existing statutory authority,” he would not invalidate the ban. Instead, weighing the “balance of equities,” he would allow it to remain for “a few weeks.”
“In my view,” the justice declared, “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31.”
Kavanaugh’s analysis is dubious at best. (Maybe that’s why Chief Justice John Roberts didn’t join it, instead quietly voting to keep the moratorium in place.) Congress already gave the CDC expansive powers to fight the “spread of communicable diseases” between states. The agency acted pursuant to this law when it determined that mass evictions would force many Americans to live unhoused or crammed together in close quarters, transmitting the virus more widely. Crucially, when Congress chose to extend the moratorium, it simply passed a law extending the CDC’s own ban. By doing so, lawmakers chose “to embrace” the agency’s action and “expressly recognized” that it had the authority to issue the ban, in the words of the D.C. Circuit. It would not make a lick of sense for Congress to extend the CDC’s moratorium if it did not believe the CDC had authority to issue it.
More eviction reads:
The Washington Post Editorial Board: Opinion: There’s plenty of money to avoid evictions. States just have to spend it.
NPR: White House Calls On States To Do More After Federal Eviction Ban Expires.
The Washington Post: Liberals erupt in fury at White House over end of eviction moratorium. [the “liberals” referred to in the headline are actually far left Bernie bro types]
The New York Times: Yellen and Pelosi will discuss rental assistance as an eviction crisis looms and Democrats demand answers.
That’s it for me today. Sorry this post is such a downer. As always, this is an open thread.
Tuesday Reads: Coronavirus NewsPosted: July 20, 2021 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, Delta variant, Fox News, Frida Kahlo, Olympics, vaccine hesitancy, vaccine passports, vaccines 33 Comments
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.
WCVB ABC 5: Massachusetts seeing COVID-19 surge; 717 new cases reported since Friday.
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.
Yahoo News: Unvaccinated Americans say COVID vaccines are riskier than the virus, even as Delta surges among them.
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.
Axios: Axios-Ipsos poll: Convincing the unvaccinated.
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.