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.
I’m getting a late start today. The news this week has been so awful; I feel really exhausted and drained of energy.
Using the computer has gotten more difficult for me as I’ve gotten older. I can’t believe I just turned 74. Reading on the computer really bothers my eyes now; fortunately I have a tablet with a large screen as well as a Kindle. I can still read things with those and my phone. I use computer glasses and have turned down the brightness on my laptop, but I still can’t stay on the computer for more than a couple of hours without getting eyestrain and a headache. That’s why I don’t comment as much as I used to.
I still love writing these posts. It helps me to deal with all the bad news by trying to organize it a bit in my mind. It also helps to be able to share the frustration with you guys. We have gone through so much together since 2008. It’s hard to believe all that has happened. Things are still really awful in our politics, but we have to hang in there and keep hope alive. What other choice do we have?
In Today’s News
Today is the anniversary of the murders of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark by the Chicago Police in 1969. The murders were part of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI COINTELPRO program, which infiltrated and undermined social justice groups–civil rights, feminists, anti-war, you name it. Hampton and Clark were members of the Black Panther Party. This is from the Equal Justice Initiative calendar for December 4: Chicago Police Assassinate Black Panther Party Leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in Pre-Dawn Raid.
Around 4:30 am on December 4, 1969, plainclothes officers from the Chicago Police Department armed with shotguns and machine guns kicked down the door of the Chicago apartment where several Black Panther Party members were staying and opened fire on them. Though the Party members were asleep at the time and posed no threat, the officers fired over 90 bullets into the apartment, killing Fred Hampton, 21, and Mark Clark, 22—two leaders of the Black Panther Party—and critically wounding four other Party members. Mr. Hampton had been asleep next to his fiancé, who was eight-months-pregnant when he was killed.
Following Mr. Hampton and Mr. Clark’s assassinations on December 4, seven Panthers at the apartment that night, who had allegedly wounded two officers, were charged with attempted murder. In a statement released after the shooting, Edward Hanrahan, the Cook County state’s attorney who had ordered the violent raid, said: “The immediate, violent, criminal reaction of the occupants in shooting at announced police officers emphasizes the extreme viciousness of the Black Panther Party.”
Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in Oakland, California, in 1966. Spurning civil rights tactics of marches, sit-ins, and boycotts, the Black Panther Party was inspired by the self-determination philosophy of Malcolm X and the “Black Power” speeches of Kwame Ture (born Stokely Carmichael). The Party founded youth centers and free breakfast programs, organized legally-armed patrols to guard against police brutality in Black neighborhoods, and became popular among Black urban youth as chapters spread throughout the country. In the 1968-69 school year, the Black Panther Party fed as many as 20,000 children.
Despite their goals of community empowerment and self-help, the Party was condemned by President Lyndon B. Johnson and other national leaders. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover called the group “the most dangerous threat to the internal security of the country” in the late 1960s. The FBI also launched an aggressive counter-intelligence program aimed at dismantling the Black Panther Party through misinformation, infiltration, and by facilitating violent attacks against the group.
Just four days after the Chicago shooting, on December 8, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) violently raided the Black Panther Party’s headquarters in Los Angeles, California. In 1968, as urban riots were spreading across the country in response to police brutality, the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party formed to help combat the growing threat. The Party established monitoring patrols in Black neighborhoods and worked to ensure police accountability.
Read more at the link. If you would like to know more about the Black Panther Party and their work, I highly recommend Bobby Seale’s autobiography Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton. You can learn a bit more about Mark Clark from his sister at HBCU.org: 50 Years After His Death, Mark Clark’s Sister Shares His Story With Peoria And the World. Both these men were only in their early 20s when they were murdered.
The parents of Michigan school shooter Ethan Crumbley were located early this morning after they fled involuntary manslaughter charges, leaving their deeply troubled 15-year-old son to fend for himself. Detroit Free Press: James and Jennifer Crumbley caught, arrested after vehicle is found in Detroit.
James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of the teen charged in the Oxford High School shooting, were located and arrested early Saturday in Detroit after a citizen saw their vehicle and called police.
“Yes, they are both in custody and will be on the way to the Oakland County Jail soon,” said Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe. “Kudos to Detroit PD and all the other agencies that assisted.”
Police arrived at the scene, in the area of the 1100 block of Bellevue near E. Lafayette, about 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m., Detroit Police Chief James White told reporters about 3 a.m. Saturday morning.
It’s believed the Crumbleys — facing charges of involuntary manslaughter connected to the Oxford High School mass shooting in which their son is accused — were let into a commercial building by someone, White said.
Police know who that someone is and those who aided the couple could face criminal charges, White said.
The Crumbleys were found hiding inside and were “distressed” White said. They were unarmed.
He said security video had helped officers by revealing one of the Crumbleys entering the building.
Authorities had been searching for the Crumbleys most of the day Friday after they were charged with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting deaths at the high school in northern suburban Detroit. Their son, Ethan Crumbley, is charged with terrorism and first-degree murder in the case.
The Crumbley parents did not show for their arraignment Friday afternoon in Rochester Hills and the U.S. Marshals Service offered a reward for information leading to their arrests.
Of course they are Trump supporters. What kids have to go through in school these days is horrible. What kind of a country and world are we leaving them with? Republicans are ruining this country with their refusal to do anything about guns, the environment, and anything else that helps make life worth living.
Have you heard the latest from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis? He wants to start a state militia at taxpayers’ expense that would answer to him alone. Michael Daly at The Daily Beast: The Disgusting Reality Behind Ron DeSantis’ New ‘Army.’
As governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis is understandably big on gators.
He had a gator logo along with the words “Don’t Tread on Florida” stenciled onto a sign he unveiled in October when calling for a special session of the legislature to counter federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
And his office had that gator’s twin on another sign with the words “Let Us Alone” affixed to the podium at a national guard armory in Pensacola on Thursday. The staging was completed with a huge American flag and a dozen national guardsmen who stood at attention as DeSantis entered.
“At ease,” he quietly told them.
The soldiers immediately obeyed, for they are under his command unless nationalized by presidential order. He was there to announce increased funding for the Florida National Guard.
But he also made known a plan to revive a state military unit whose uniforms will say FLORIDA rather than U.S. ARMY like those worn by the soldiers who stood at ease behind him as he now took to the podium. No matter what the president might want, the Florida State Guard will answer only to the governor—meaning DeSantis.
Call it Ron’s army.
“The Florida State Guard will act as a civilian volunteer force that will have the ability to assist the national guard in state-specific emergencies,” DeSantis said.
Like what? Beating up protesters? DeSantis has already signed a law that allows people to drive their cars into protests without punishment. A bit of history:
Back at the start of World War II, the federal government authorized the states to form military units to fill in for the National Guard, which had been incorporated into the U.S military to fight in Europe and the Pacific. The Florida Guard was formed in 1941. Its motto, “Let Us Alone,” invoked fealty to Florida, not to America, even though this was a time that called for national unity against a common enemy.
Those same three words had appeared on a flag that Florida’s first governor, William Moseley, flew at his inauguration in 1841. But, perhaps because Florida’s leading business people were actively engaged in trade with folks from beyond its borders, the state senate took exception to the words and never officially approved the flag.
The words reappeared on April 8, 1861, when members of the Florida militia took control of Fort Clinch in Fernandina Beach. That was four days before the Battle of Fort Sumter in South Carolina marked the start of the Civil War.
“Hurrah for Florida, Let Us Alone,” this banner read.
There’s much more at the link.
Vladimir Putin has been busy. The Washington Post: Russia planning massive military offensive against Ukraine involving 175,000 troops, U.S. intelligence warns.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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!!
Right now the Southern states are experiencing the kind of surges that hit us in the Northeast at the beginning of the pandemic. Unfortunately these states are dealing with the Delta variant, which spreads much more easily than the early versions of the virus. That’s bad enough, but many Republican governors are making it worse by fighting against simple mitigation strategies that can protect their citizens.
Dakinikat sent me this article from Yahoo News: Southern Hospitals, Crushed By Delta Strain, Report Running Out Of ICU Beds.
Hospitals across the southern United States are reporting dramatic surges in coronavirus patients, forcing some to close their emergency rooms and others to treat more patients than they have capacity for as the delta variant of the virus continues to wreak havoc on regions with large swaths of unvaccinated residents.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Monday said the state had “very startling” figures showing the largest, single-day increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations since the pandemic began. He said state hospitals had just eight beds in the ICU left for severely ill patients.
In Louisiana, an epicenter of the current wave, hospitalizations were climbing at the fastest rate since the pandemic started. Last week, the head of the state’s largest hospital described recent weeks as the “darkest” thus far, saying doctors were no longer able to provide patients adequate care under a crush in admissions.
“When you come inside our walls, it is quite obvious to you that these are the darkest days of this pandemic,” Dr. Catherine O’Neal, who runs the Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge, said last Monday.
O’Neal added later that week that dozens of children and young adults were now in the hospital, a reality that’s new under the delta variant. Half of the 12 children admitted were under the age of 2, The Advocate reported.
At least Louisiana has a Democratic Governor–Jon Bel Edwards–who actually cares about the situation. Not so in Florida and Texas, where Ron DeSantis and Gregg Abbott seem determined to kill as many of their citizens as possible.
Florida reported similar circumstances, with many hospitals over capacity. The Wall Street Journal reported that at least 43% of the state’s intensive care beds are filled with coronavirus patients, prompting complex logistical issues as hospital workers race to find space for a tide of sick residents.
And in Texas several hospitals said they were closing their emergency rooms due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, directing patients elsewhere.
The delta variant has upended the country’s reopening plans, prompting cities and states nationwide to reinstate social distancing measures and mask mandates that were relaxed just months ago and meant to usher in an era of relative freedom. Now, COVID-19 cases are rising in every state in the U.S. and hit the highest levels this week since February, averaging more than 100,000 a day.
Many of the states with the biggest outbreaks have some of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates and are led by Republican governors and legislatures that have made it much more difficult to protect their citizens. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has banned vaccine passports and mask mandates for some businesses and schools. Arkansas’ Hutchinson said he made an error when he barred new mask mandates in April, and Texas’ Greg Abbott (R) has faced revolt from some school districts who have threatened to sue over his order to ban mask mandates.
Stephen Collinson at CNN: Kids are the victims of new GOP bid to politicize the pandemic.
America is being forced yet again to learn the same, repetitive lesson of the pandemic: Fighting a raging, evolving virus with cynicism-laced politics rather than medical data only leads to the same result – a prolonged national nightmare.
School kids are the latest victims as Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, the Republican governors of Florida and Texas, prioritize ideology over public health guidance. The governors are clashing with local officials who are resisting their orders banning school mask mandates, which appear to directly contradict traditional conservative resistance to distant, centralized power.
The Delta variant of Covid-19 is challenging the long-held belief that children don’t get hit hard by the coronavirus. The American Association of Pediatrics reported last week that the US had an 84% increase in new Covid-19 cases among children from July 22 to 29, and Dr. Aileen Marty – an infectious disease expert at Florida International University – told CNN last week that children’s hospitals in the Sunshine State are “completely overwhelmed.”
As the Delta variant scythes across the country – especially less-vaccinated Republican states – there are increasing signs that leaders like DeSantis and Abbott have locked themselves into absolutist positions that they will be unable to water down without sustaining serious personal and political damage. But the price for their path is more sickness and death in crowded Covid-19 units among people they were elected to serve.
“For any other disease, you would not turn to your political leader for medical advice,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told CNN’s Pamela Brown on Monday. “Politicians should really let the public health and physician leaders move forward on how to get this thing under control.” [….]
The irony is that by resisting similar measures, these Republicans have proved true warnings by federal health officials that the Delta variant represents a grave threat. Now the same dynamic may play out again, as they ignore CDC advice that all kids in schools should wear masks.
Both governors enjoy strong support in conservative media. DeSantis was recently celebrated by right-wing pundits for his handling of the pandemic and is seen as a possible alternative nominee in 2024 if ex-President Donald Trump decides not to run again. ThSo their refusal to change course as conditions worsen only bolsters the impression that those who want a political future in the GOP must now demonstrate their contempt for common-sense health measures, just as surely as they must repeatedly prove their devotion to Trump.
There’s much more at the CNN link.
Both Abbott and DeSantis have ordered school districts not to require masks; some school officials are resisting. DeSantis is even threatening to defund schools that require masks. CNN: Florida governor’s office says state could withhold salaries of officials who enact school mask mandates.
In a move that escalated Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ fight over mask mandates, the governor’s office said Monday that the state board of education could move to withhold the salaries of superintendents and school board members who disregard the governor’s executive order that effectively prohibits mask mandates in school districts.
Last month DeSantis, a Republican, issued an executive order requiring the state’s health and education departments to create rules based on parents’ rights to make the health care decisions for their children who are students. Several lawsuits have since been filed challenging the constitutionality of the executive order.
Several school districts are considering mask mandates and a few have said masks will be required, with some opt-out exceptions.
A statement from the governor’s office on Monday says the state board of education “could move to withhold the salary of the district superintendent or school board members.”
His spokeswoman, Christina Pushaw, pinned a tweet Monday that reads: “Ultimately — Education funding is for the students. The kids didn’t make the decision to encroach upon parents’ rights. So any financial penalties for breaking the rule would be targeted to those officials who made that decision.”
It’s close, but I’d have to say DeSantis is the worst. How bad is Covid in Florida? Newsweek: Florida’s COVID Death Rate Is More Than 32 States Combined.
According to a COVID tracker created by The New York Times, Florida is currently recording a seven-day average of 122.1 deaths in the state from the virus, a figure larger than 32 other states combined.
Florida’s figure is also more than double that of the second most affected state, Texas, which is currently recording a seven-day average of 57.6, closely followed by California with around 42 people dying every day.
Louisiana and Missouri have also been badly affected, with average death rates of 33.4 and 25.1 each, while Maine and Vermont are faring the best, reporting figures of 0.1 and 0.3 respectively.
Most Florida children are returning to school in areas where COVID-19 outbreaks are far more intense than they were when school started last year.
In most counties, cases are at least four times higher than a year ago, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. Five counties report a more than tenfold increase.
Cases among children are surging too, raising questions about the health consequences of students returning to campuses and a state ban on school mask mandates while vaccines are available for only some of the schoolchildren.
Public health experts and pediatricians said last fall that the most important factor to consider when deciding whether to start classes in-person was the amount of viral spread in the community at large. With cases so much higher than last year, districts are going against those recommendations by welcoming students to campus and limiting online learning options. Those moves follow instructions from the state government, which also prohibited schools from requiring masks for all children.
Over the seven days prior to last Friday’s state report, Florida saw 13,596 cases among children under 12, and 13,858 cases among ages 12 to 19.
Philip Bump at The Washington Post: When it comes to the new coronavirus surge, Florida is an obvious outlier.
The Texas governor, Greg Abbott, appealed for out-of-state help to fight the third wave of Covid-19 in his state amid dire warnings while two more of the state’s largest school districts announced mask mandates in defiance of the increasingly hardline Republican.
Abbott’s request came on Monday as a county-owned hospital in Houston raised tents to accommodate their coronavirus patient overflow.
Private hospitals in the county already were requiring their staff to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the Dallas and Austin school districts announced Monday that they would require students and staff to wear face masks. The Houston school district already announced a mask mandate for its students and staff later this week if its board approves.
The highly contagious Delta variant is fueling the wave.
The Republican governor has directed the Texas department of state health services to use staffing agencies to find additional medical staff from beyond the state’s borders as the Delta wave began to overwhelm its present staffing resources.
He also has sent a letter to the Texas Hospital Association to request that hospitals postpone all elective medical procedures voluntarily.
As a result of the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the state of Florida requested 300 ventilators from the federal government, according to a Department of Health and Human Services planning document obtained by ABC News.
The request was made on Friday “to replace expended state stores,” the document said.
The ventilators were expected to be delivered on Monday, though it was not said how they will be allocated.
It comes as doctors are stressed and hospitals are tapped for resources, their beds continuing to fill with unvaccinated patients infected with the virus.
“The nurses, the physicians, they have passed burnout a long time ago,” said Dr. Joshua Lenchus, Broward Health’s chief medical officer. “This is sheer exhaustion”
Florida reported an average of over 19,000 new coronavirus cases per day last week, and more than 13,000 hospitalizations were reported across the state Sunday.
CDC metrics on Monday showed five consecutive days with more than 20,000 new infections.
I feel for the citizens of Texas and Florida–especially the young children, who are at the mercy of their parents’ political ideologies as they return to school. This is completely insane!
That’s my rant for today. Thanks for reading, and I hope you stay safe and healthy wherever you live.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
That’s it for me today. Sorry this post is such a downer. As always, this is an open thread.