Analysis: COVID-19, China, the CDC, and Trumpist Politics / Policies

stephen jonasWe at the Justice Integrity Project are pleased to present this guest column on a most timely topic by Steven Jonas, right, MD, MPH, MS, a professor emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook Medicine (NY) and author /co-author / editor / co-editor of over 35 books. He has been published also on many current affairs news sites. His own political website,stevenjonaspolitics.com, will eventually be an archive of the close to 1,000 political columns he has published since 2004.

He was also a stony brook medicine2career triathlete (36 seasons, 256 multi-sport races), now retired from the sport.

Dr. Jonas’ latest book is Ending the ‘Drug War’; Solving the Drug Problem: The Public Health Approach, Brewster, NY: Punto Press Publishing, (Brewster, NY, 2016, is available on Kindle from Amazon, and also in hardcover from Amazon). In 1996, he published a ‘future history’ of the United States entitled The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A Futuristic Novel (Third Edition published by Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, Brewster, NY), and available on Amazon.

  

By Dr. Steven Jonas

Dr. Deborah Birx speaks at a White House press conference in the spring of 2020 as then President Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci look on.

Dr. Deborah Birx speaks at a White House press conference in the spring of 2020 as then President Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci look on.

I wrote frequently on this subject in 2020, as Donald Trump appeared to be fumbling the ball-of-control.

But then I came to the conclusion that what he was doing/not doing was all part of a plan, to the degree that Trump ever plans for anything, like, let us say, dealing with his upcoming probable indictment[s] in New York City and/or State, other than by a) screaming about how he is being persecuted politically and otherwise (poor baby); b) creating his WMD --- Weapons of Mass Distraction; and c) figuring out who else he can blame/finger/get-to-go-to-prison for him (see Manafort, Cohen, and etc.).

As I said back in March of 2020:

"Apparently the COVID-19 virus broke out publicly in epidemic form in China sometime in early January 2020. At least its existence became public at that time. Given the power of the US international intelligence services various authorities in the United States likely knew of it before then. And that knowledge ought to have made it to the desk of the Director of National Intelligence, and then to the china flagdesk of the President. However, nothing much happened in the U.S. in terms of a response until about a month later. At the same time, there was significant international spread, to countries such as South Korea, which, for example, undertook a swift and massive response to the threat.

"However, while both China and South Korea were responding vigorously to the rapidly expanding epidemic, as is well-known the U.S. President was telling his people and the world that there was nothing much to worry about. This in the face of the fact that various infectious disease/epidemic experts outside the government were sounding the alarm very loudly, both about the possible extent of the epidemic and the likely major deficiencies in the U.S. response to it were it to occur here.

For example, in a Jan. 28, 2020 article entitled "Act Now to Prevent an American Epidemic," from the American Enterprise Institute of all places, published here in the Wall Street Journal of all places, Luciana Borio and Scott Gottlieb said:

" 'The novel coronavirus now epidemic in China has features that may make it very difficult to control. If public-health authorities don't interrupt the spread soon, the virus could infect many thousands more around the globe, disrupt air travel, overwhelm health-care systems, and, worst of all, claim more lives. The good news: There's still an opening to prevent a grim outcome.' [Emphasis added.]"

In January of 2020 Joe Biden himself published a warning both about the oncoming epi/pandemic and dealing how ill-equipped Trump and his people were to deal with it.

Of course Trump didn't follow the control-the-pandemic road (although if he had done, as I said in March 2020 in the title of the column of mine from which I quoted just above: "An Ounce of Prevention --- and Trump Could Have Been on a Glide-path the Re-election"). It did take me some time to figure out what, in my view anyway, what was Trump's plan for winning the November election (the only thing he ever cared about during 2020 --- hardly an original observation[!]). In the end, after considering a variety of alternatives, I decided that it was to create chaos (as I said in my Oct. 8, 2020 column entitled "Trump, COVID-19, the Election, and Planned Chaos").

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2And so, in the meantime he set about doing just that, with a variety of measures. The cause was the "China virus" or the "Kung Flu." And claimed, and does to this day with a generous assist from Hannity (over and over again) that he stopped it by his early "China ban" (except that his version was not that early and was certainly quite leaky). In fact, the "Ban" was described as "closing the barn door after the horse has gone" [which is as original to me as anything Trump did to effectively deal with COVID-19 was original to him --- which of course wasn't much]). And we all know what Trump did and didn't do deal with COVID-19 in the U.S., which eventually led to cases/disease numbers considerably out of proportion to those that occurred in any other advanced capitalist nation.

So where did the virus come from?

As is quite well known, the pandemic originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Since the beginning of the outbreak, most scientists believed that there was some kind of animal (bats, maybe) to human transmission. A few thought that it came from the Virology Lab in Wuhan, through an accidental release. However, based on the evidence available at the time, that hypothesis was widely dismissed, but now --- using science --- oh my, Sean and Tucker (who haven't the foggiest notion of what science is) --- science does change its mind, and changes minds-attuned-to-science, over time, --- it is thought that that hypothesis has enough validity to be further examined. And so, the sudden uproar from the Trumpites.

world health organization logo Custom"See it's the dastardly Chinese and their dastardly cohorts in the World Health Organization, who are covering up for them." (You know, those dastardly WHO docs [non-white, of course] who offered the U.S. a rapid accurate, cheap COVID-19 test right at the beginning of the outbreak at the end of January, 2020, which the Trumpites turned down in favor of a CDC test which, as it happens, the CDC couldn't get going for a month [and then of course the Turmpites refused to set up a national testing program of any kind. But that's another story, which can be followed above in the "did" and "didn't do" references.]) Of course, the Chinese continue to deny that such a story has any validity.

So of course too, the Trumpites are now yelling and screaming once again about the "China flu" and the intentional release or leak or what have you, and "the President [Trump] was right all along," it was just the 'fake news' that was out to get him, and the WHO, and Biden, and, and, and, anybody or agency other than Trump and the Trumpites, who as it happened, to repeat, just happened to have had no national program even for testing, allowed the PPE shortages, who "let the Governors do it" especially the Right-wing ones neglecting the that, for some reason or another, viruses just don't recognize State boundaries), kept telling us that it was going to be over by --- Easter, Memorial Day (Pence), July 4, "the Fall" [just in time for the elections, of course] and so on and so forth.

And so now, as Trump prepares for another Presidential run (he continues to want to use politics to try to stay out of jail just as much as Bibi does), he is unloading once again one of the Six Magic Tricks by which he has lived his life, a WMD: Weapon of Mass Distraction.

Not that where SARS-V-2 virus initially came from --- bats, other animal, accidental or intentional release from a lab --- would make one whit of difference in how the virus got into the atmosphere and ultimately spread in the U.S. once it got here, and what effect it has had on difference our whole society since it did get here. Whether it came from a bat or a lab or somewhere else, a) it has caused, b) is still causing, untold misery around the globe, and the Trump Program for dealing with it was a disaster (as reviewed above).

cdc logo CustomWhich brings us to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colloquially known as "The CDC" (without the "P"). Ah yes, the perfect villain, as Michael Lewis tell us in his new book The Premonition: A Pandemic Story. It wasn't Trump so much; it was all the CDC's fault. You know, all those "government scientists" who don't know what they are doing --- except of course for the career CDC officer Nancy Messonier, who did get it right, early, who did speak out and of course was severely shut up by Trump and her the Trump appointed bosses. (And of course, Messonier wasn't by herself as an experienced scientist within the agency. But Lewis just conveniently ignores them. By Lewis, she doesn't count.) And so, we have Lewis' big conclusion that is being trumpeted everywhere: Trump was just "a comorbidity" in the pandemic that has killed so many U.S. It was all the CDC' fault. Oh really?

Let's just take a quick look at what Trump and the Trumpites did --- to the CDC on which Lewis puts so much of the blame. Over time they cut its budget by about a third. They functionally closed the pandemic-preparedness office that Pres. Obama had created in the White House, presumably because it had Obama's name on it (and after all, Kenya is the source of many infectious diseases, is it not?)

Robert RedfieldThey chose as the new Director one Dr. Robert Redfield, left, who a) had no experience running a large organization (which the CDC is), b) was a well-known Christian Rightist (probably his leading qualification for the Trumpsters for whom Lewis is apologizing), and c) was (believe it or not) dumped off Reagan's very tardily-appointed AIDS task force for proposing that the single most important deborah birx profile palmer Customintervention for dealing the HIV/AIDS epidemic was abstinence.

Then there was, also from the outside, the now-infamous Dr. Debra Birx, right, also prominent on the Trump Team as an original member (even though it must be said in all fairness she was in a very difficult position and did try to inject science into the Trump Tank without success, of course for which hanging-on to try to do the right thing she has paid dearly in terms of her reputation), who was largely side-lined.

Then for a period of time we had Little Scotty Atlas, the neuroradiologist who thought that "herd immunity" (that is when enough people in the population are immune to the disease so that the virus doesn't have "enough spots to land") was to be achieved by enough people are getting sick and dying, rather than understanding that its true historical meaning goes back to herds of cows and BCG immunization against tuberculosis in France, to be achieved in the COVID-19 pandemics by, duh, widespread immunization. Further, it wasn't the CDC that was pushing hydroxychloroquine. It wasn't the CDC that was recommending the internal (!!!) application of ultra-violet light and the injection of disinfectant. It was the CDC that had no way to push back against the Trumpites' no-mask message.

This is what Trump gave us. Trump was much more than "co-morbid." For the U.S., Trump was the engine of the pandemic (as were his would-be-Trumps in Brazil, the United Kingdom [for a time], and India [other than the Communist-led State of Kerala]).

No, Mr. Lewis. It is not the CDC that was at fault. It was Trump's version of the CDC that was at fault. We can see this clearly now, as the Biden Administration, with a major role being played by a professionally-led CDC, is rapidly bringing the pandemic under control --- to the extent that that can be done, of course, with the constant opposition of so many Republican government officials and politicians (did anyone say Marjorie Taylor Greene, McCarthy’s Fascist-out-in-front?) False stories about how the CDC "made things worse" can only politically inhibit, in a major way, how the CDC can now, finally, help make things better.

Editor's note: This column was originally published here by OpEdNews, which also published extensive links for reference purposes as well as a reader comment section.

 

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Related News and Commentary

Recent health-related news and comment is provided below in reverse chronological order via selections by the Justice Integrity Project. Dr. Jonas is not responsible for the selections:

 

October

 

October

Oct. 3

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Chris Mora of California sits amid the art installation “In America: Remember,” which features flags representing every death from covid-19 in the United States, on the National Mall on Sept. 24. (Craig Hudson/For the Washington Post)

Oct. 2

Virus Victims, Responses

Oct. 1

Virus Victims, Responses

 

September

Sept. 30

Virus Victims, Responses

 Sept. 29

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 28

Sept. 27

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 26

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 25

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 24

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 23

Virus Victims, Responses

 

Sept. 22

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 20

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 19

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 18

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 17

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 16

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Sept. 15

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 14

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 13

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 12

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 11

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 9

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 8

Virus Victims, Responses

Sept. 7

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Sept. 6

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Sept. 5

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Sept. 4

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Sept. 3

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Sept. 2

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Sept. 1

Virus Victims, Responses

 

August

Aug. 31

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Aug. 30

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Aug. 29

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Aug. 28

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Aug. 27

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Aug. 26

Aug. 24

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Aug. 23

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Aug. 22

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Aug. 21

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Aug. 20

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Aug. 19

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Aug. 18

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Aug. 17

Virus Victims, Responses

 Aug. 16

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Aug. 15

Aug. 14

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Aug. 13

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Aug. 12

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Aug. 11

Aug. 10

Aug. 9

Aug. 8

Aug. 7

Aug. 6

Aug. 5

Aug. 4

Aug. 3

Aug. 2

Aug. 1

 

July

July 31

Virus Victims, Responses

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Where the Delta Variant and Low Vaccination Rates Are Colliding, Lauren Leatherby, July 31, 2021. Many places in the U.S. that are seeing more new cases than at any point in the outbreak also have some of the country’s lowest vaccination rates.The Branson, Mo., and Harrison, Ark., areas have both set records this month, and Louisiana now has daily case rates more than 10 times higher than in June.

The highly contagious Delta variant is now responsible for almost all new Covid-19 cases in the United States, and cases are rising rapidly. For the first time since February, there were more than 100,000 confirmed cases on Tuesday, the same day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that vaccinated people should resume wearing masks in public indoor spaces in communities where the virus is surging.

That updated guidance was based in part on a new internal report that cited evidence that vaccinated people experiencing breakthrough infections of the Delta variant, which remain infrequent, may be as capable of spreading the virus as infected unvaccinated people.

Several studies, including ones referenced in the C.D.C.’s presentation, have shown that vaccines remain effective against the Delta variant, particularly against hospitalization and death. That has held true in the real world: About 97 percent of those recently hospitalized by the virus were unvaccinated, the C.D.C. said. But in counties where vaccination rates are low, cases are rising fast, and deaths are also on the rise.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ban on evictions expires as renters face rising covid cases, lack of aid, Rachel Siegel, July 31, 2021. Moody’s data shows there are still well over 6 million renters behind on payments.

The federal ban on evictions expires Saturday, marking a new, worrisome phase in the race to keep people in their homes amid the slow trickle of emergency rental aid and surging coronavirus cases.

The moratorium — put in place almost 11 months ago by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — has created new divisions pitting landlords against tenants, judges versus housing advocates, Republicans versus Democrats. While parts of the economy show signs of strength, the recovery has not carried everyone equally. Almost a year and a half since the pandemic began, many renters still haven’t caught up on their bills or gotten access to federal aid.

It’s difficult to know how many people could be served with eviction notices in the coming days and weeks, housing experts say. Moody’s data shows there are still well over 6 million renters behind on payments.

Evictions are about to restart as tenants wait on billions in unspent rental aid

In June, the CDC extended the ban for one final month, intensifying pressure on the Biden administration, along with state and local governments, to significantly ramp up the amount of rental assistance reaching tenants and landlords. All together, Congress appropriated $46 billion toward emergency rental aid. Only a fraction has been spent.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vaccinated People With Rare Breakthrough Cases Can Spread Virus, C.D.C. Reports, Apoorva Mandavilli, Updated July 31, 2021. The proof is an outbreak in Provincetown, Mass., the agency said. An internal C.D.C. document paints an even more harrowing picture.
In yet another unexpected and unwelcome twist in the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Friday a report strongly suggesting that fully immunized people with so-called breakthrough infections of the Delta variant can spread the virus to others just as readily as unvaccinated people.

cdc logo CustomThe vaccines remain powerfully effective against severe illness and death, and the agency said infections in vaccinated people were comparatively rare. But the revelation follows a series of other recent findings about the Delta variant that have upended scientists’ understanding of the coronavirus.

In the new report, which was intended to explain the agency’s sudden revision to its masking advice for vaccinated Americans, the C.D.C. described an outbreak in Provincetown, Mass., this month that quickly mushroomed to 470 cases in Massachusetts alone, as of Thursday.

Three-quarters of the infected were fully immunized, and the Delta variant was found in most of the samples that were genetically analyzed. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people who were infected carried high levels of the virus, the agency reported.

ny times logoNew York Times, New Rule Raises Question: Who’ll Pay for All the Covid Tests? Sarah Kliff, July 31, 2021.  With the Delta variant surging, many companies decide that unvaccinated workers will need to get regular testing.

Spurred by rising Covid cases and the Delta variant’s spread, a wave of major employers announced the same rule for unvaccinated workers this week: They will need to submit to regular surveillance testing. The new requirement raises a thorny question: Who pays for those coronavirus tests?

Doctors typically charge about $50 to $100 for the tests, so the costs of weekly testing could add up quickly. Federal law requires insurers to fully cover the tests when ordered by a health care provider, but routine workplace tests are exempt from that provision.

“It’s really up to the employer,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms. “They can require employees to pick up the tab.”

Employers have so far taken a range of approaches, from fully covering the costs to having unvaccinated workers pay full freight.

joe biden black background resized serious fileThe U.S. government will pay for its unvaccinated workers’ coronavirus testing, Karine Jean-Pierre, the deputy White House press secretary, said at a news briefing Friday.

President Biden announced rules on Thursday that amount to a two-tier system for the country’s four million federal employees. Those who do not get vaccinated will have to social-distance, wear face coverings and comply with limits on official travel. Those who do get vaccinated will have no such requirements.

washington post logoWashington Post, Disney, Walmart mandate workers to be vaccinated as cases spike nationwide, Timothy Bella, July 31, 2021 (print ed.). Disney and Walmart announced Friday that they are implementing coronavirus vaccine mandates for some of their employees, as two of the largest U.S. companies became the latest corporate giants to embrace vaccination in the face of renewed pandemic restrictions.

Disney, the world’s largest entertainment company, said it is requiring all salaried and nonunion hourly employees working in the country to be fully vaccinated to help fight against the deadly delta variant. The same mandate will go for new hires who are required to be fully vaccinated before they begin working at Disney, the company said.

Those Disney employees who are working at one of the company’s sites but remain unvaccinated must do so within the next 60 days to comply with the new mandate, according to a company statement. Disney added that it has reached out to unions representing its employees regarding a vaccine mandate to be included under collective bargaining agreements, Bloomberg News reported.

washington post logoWashington Post, Vaccine holdouts relent as delta variant takes hold, Ariana Eunjung Cha, Rose Hansen and Jacqueline Dupree, July 31, 2021 (print ed.).  Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri and other states have seen increases in coronavirus vaccinations recently.

“My friend works at the hospital, and she told me there’s 18-year-olds on ventilators. That scared me,” said Tyler Sprenkle, a recent high school graduate in Goodman, Mo., who got a shot this month.

More than 4.7 million newly vaccinated Americans have made similar calculations in the past two weeks, as misgivings about the shots based on ideology, apathy or fear have taken a back seat to the desire to protect themselves and their loved ones.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘We can’t take another blow’: Some restaurants may not survive renewed mask mandates, Laura Reiley, July 31, 2021 (print ed.). A spike in Delta variant infections is making restaurant goers leery of dining in, which may bankrupt already-strapped eateries

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2

washington post logoWashington Post, 189.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 31, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 163.9 million people fully vaccinated, 49.4 % of the eligible population.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 31, 2021, with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds): 

World Cases: 198,196,583, Deaths: 4,228,175
U.S. Cases:    35,688,597, Deaths:     629,065
India Cases:    31,613,993, Deaths:     423,842
Brazil Cases:   19,880,273, Deaths:     555,512

 

 

July 30

Virus Victims, Responses

July 29

Virus Victims, Responses

July 28

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, New CDC mask guidance could upend economy, return-to-work plans, David J. Lynch and Abha Bhattarai, July 28, 2021. Corporate chief executives are growing worried about bringing workers back into crowded offices, with some privately discussing mandatory vaccination. The federal government’s abrupt about-face on the need for indoor mask-wearing is clouding prospects for Americans to return to the office in large numbers, raising fears that the ultra-infectious delta variant could threaten the economic recovery.

What just weeks ago seemed like a smooth return to pre-pandemic life suddenly felt shaky on Tuesday following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s call for vaccinated individuals to resume indoor mask-wearing in high-risk areas.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mask mandates are coming back, including in Vegas. Tourists aren’t happy, Bryan Pietsch, July 28, 2021. Nevada reinstalled a statewide mask mandate within hours of a CDC announcement that even vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in public in high-transmission areas.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Reversal, C.D.C. to Recommend Some Vaccinated People Wear Masks Indoors, Staff report, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). The agency is expected to reverse course on a decision made two months ago, saying that vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in certain areas of the country. Details are expected later today. The change follows surges in areas with low vaccination rates and reports of breakthrough infections with the Delta variant.

Reversing a decision made just two months ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to recommend on Tuesday that people vaccinated for the coronavirus resume wearing masks indoors in certain areas of the country.

cdc logo CustomThe change follows reports of rising breakthrough infections with the Delta variant of the virus in people who were fully immunized, and case surges in regions with low vaccination rates. The vaccines remain effective against the worst outcomes of infection with the virus, including those involving the Delta variant.

But the new guidance, the details of which are expected later Tuesday, would mark a sharp turnabout from the agency’s position since May that vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most indoor spaces.

As recently as last week, an agency spokesman said that the C.D.C. had no plans to change its guidance, unless there were a significant change in the science. Federal officials met on Sunday night to review new evidence that may have prompted the reversal, CNN reported on Tuesday.

“I think that’s great,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York. Based on what scientists are learning about the Delta variant’s ability to cause breakthrough infections, she said, “this is a move in the right direction.”

  • As worries mount over the Delta variant, the U.S. retains travel bans and weighs tougher steps.
  • A program to aid the economy brings Mexican workers into San Diego for vaccinations.
  • New virus cases are falling in the U.K., baffling scientists.
  • U.S. students ended the pandemic school year 4 to 5 months behind, a new report finds.
  • As virus cases rise, another contagion spreads among the vaccinated: anger.
  • Lockdowns ease in parts of Australia, but Sydney’s outbreak swells.
  • Against the odds, tiny Bhutan rolls out a second round of mass vaccinations.
  • Outside the Olympic bubble, Tokyo sets a new daily record in coronavirus cases.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Cases Rise, a New Feeling Spreads Among the Vaccinated: Anger, Roni Caryn Rabin, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). The rising sentiment is contributing to support for more coercive measures, such as vaccine mandates. But experts warn that a tougher stance may backfire.

As coronavirus cases resurge across the country, many inoculated Americans are losing patience with vaccine holdouts who, they say, are neglecting a civic duty or clinging to conspiracy theories and misinformation even as new patients arrive in emergency rooms and the nation renews mask advisories.

The country seemed to be exiting the pandemic; barely a month ago, a sense of celebration was palpable. Now many of the vaccinated fear for their unvaccinated children and worry that they are at risk themselves for breakthrough infections. Rising case rates are upending plans for school and workplace reopenings, and threatening another wave of infections that may overwhelm hospitals in many communities.

“It’s like the sun has come up in the morning and everyone is arguing about it,” said Jim Taylor, 66, a retired civil servant in Baton Rouge, La., a state in which fewer than half of adults are fully vaccinated.

“The virus is here and it’s killing people, and we have a time-tested way to stop it — and we won’t do it. It’s an outrage.”

The rising sentiment is contributing to support for more coercive measures. Scientists, business leaders and government officials are calling for vaccine mandates — if not by the federal government, then by local jurisdictions, schools, employers and businesses.

“I’ve become angrier as time has gone on,” said Doug Robertson, 39, a teacher who lives outside Portland, Ore., and has three children too young to be vaccinated, including a toddler with a serious health condition.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden plans to require federal workers to be vaccinated or undergo repeated tests, Eli Rosenberg and Tyler Pager, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). New directive, planned for Thursday, comes as the White House tries to arrest the delta variant’s spread The plan is part of a change in tack by the White House in recent days as the delta variant has spread markedly through parts of the United States, particularly among unvaccinated Americans.

washington post logoWashington Post, Evangelical pastor tells churchgoers to ditch their masks: ‘Don’t believe this delta variant nonsense,’ Jaclyn Peiser, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). Since the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, Greg Locke, the pastor at a Nashville-area church, has repeatedly called covid a hoax, undermined emergency mandates and refused to comply with guidance from public health officials.

This week, Locke took his defiance a step further, making a sharp warning regarding mask-wearing.

If “you start showing up [with] all these masks and all this nonsense, I will ask you to leave,” Locke, 45, told scores of Global Vision Bible Church parishioners during his sermon on Sunday. His statement was followed by cheers and applause.

“I am not playing these Democrat games up in this church,” he added.

Locke’s fiery five-minute diatribe, in which he also denied the existence of the delta variant, comes as vaccination rates in his home state slow and infection rates climb. So far, about 44 percent of Tennesseans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Washington Post’s vaccine tracker, making it among the states with the lowest rate. The state recently reported that 98 percent of people who died of covid and 97 percent of covid hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated.

Locke’s evangelical church in Mount Juliet, Tenn., about 20 miles east of downtown Nashville, has grown during the pandemic, CNN reported. The pastor’s controversial commentary on covid and the 2020 presidential election has attracted far-right churchgoers.

During a sermon last month, Locke called President Biden a fraud and “a sex trafficking, demon-possessed mongrel,” a reference to QAnon, an extremist ideology based on false claims.

He h+as also falsely claimed the pandemic is “fake,” the death count is “manipulated,” and the vaccine is a “dangerous scam.”

And the pastor has preached misinformation about the vaccine, including falsely claiming it’s made of “aborted fetal tissue.”

washington post logoWashington Post, 189.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 288 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 163.6 million people fully vaccinated.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 27, 2021, with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds): 

World Cases: 196,155,146, Deaths: 4,196,619
U.S. Cases:     35,353,923, Deaths:    627,351
India Cases:     31,484,605, Deaths:    422,054
Brazil Cases:    19,749,073, Deaths:    551,906

July 26

Top Headlines

 

Articles 

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: New York Will Require Vaccines or Weekly Tests for City Workers, Staff Reports, July 26, 2021. The move by Mayor Bill de Blasio, with a mid-September deadline, comes days after a similar mandate for public health care workers.

New York City will require all municipal workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by the time schools reopen in mid-September or face weekly testing, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday bill de blasio 11 2 2013morning.

Last week, Mr. de Blasio, left, announced a similar mandate for public health care workers — part of an effort to speed up vaccinations as the city faces a third wave of coronavirus cases driven by the spread of the Delta variant.

The new requirement will apply to roughly 340,000 city workers, including teachers and police officers. The Sept. 13 deadline, when about a million students are set to return to classrooms, shows the importance of the reopening of schools for the city’s recovery and for Mr. de Blasio’s legacy.

Speaking at his morning news conference, Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat in his final year in office, also reiterated his call to private employers to set similar or stronger vaccine mandates for their workers.

“September is the pivot point of the recovery,” Mr. de Blasio said, “and so on Sept. 13, the first day of school, every single city employee will be expected to be either vaccinated or be tested weekly." 

In other news:

  • Coronavirus cases in Tokyo continue to pull athletes out of competition.
  • In Louisiana, vaccine misinformation is a huge challenge for public health workers.
  • France approves a contentious law making health passes mandatory.
  • Requests for U.S. college aid are down, with experts linking the drop to the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Here’s the latest on Covid-19

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans unleashed a deadly vaccine skepticism. Can they now contain it? E.J. Dionne Jr., right, July 26, 2021 (print ed.).  Bad news is leading to at least a bit of good news: ej dionne w open neckThe surge of the coronavirus delta variant seems to have lit a fire under many Republican politicians. As the virus spreads largely in GOP regions with low vaccination rates, leaders of a party where anti-vax sentiment has run rampant have started sounding the alarm: Not getting vaccinated really can kill you.

One of the most unequivocal statements came from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “These shots need to get in everybody’s arm as rapidly as possible,” he said last week, adding a swipe at those pushing falsehoods about vaccines, who happen to include many in his own party:

djt maga hat“I want to encourage everybody . . . to ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice.”

As Republican pollster Whit Ayres notes, McConnell, who endured polio as a child, has always embraced the power of vaccination. More surprising was a vaccine plug from Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, a longtime baiter of federal authorities whose reelection campaign is selling merchandise mocking Anthony S. Fauci, the White House health adviser.

Yes, even the man peddling “Don’t Fauci My Florida” T-shirts seems to have noticed that over the past two weeks, 20 percent of all the nation’s new covid-19 cases were in his state.

washington post logoWashington Post, 188.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 26, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 163 million people fully vaccinated, representing 49.1 %of the eligible population and with 58.8 %  with at least one dose.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 26, 2021, with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds): 

World Cases: 194,985,522, Deaths: 4,178,555
U.S. Cases:     35,199,465, Deaths:     626,762
India Cases:    31,411,262, Deaths:     420,996
Brazil Cases:   19,688,663, Deaths:     549,999

washington post logoWashington Post, Australian prime minister calls lockdown-violating protests ‘selfish and self-defeating,’ Miriam Berger, July 26, 2021 (print ed.). Though many had looked forward to the easing of social and economic restrictions with the advent of coronavirus vaccines, the emergence of highly transmissible variants has upended expectations. 

This weekend’s anti-lockdown protests in Sydney were “selfish and self-defeating,” Australia’s prime minister said Sunday, amid a global wave of renewed restrictions and resulting demonstrations as the highly contagious delta variant spreads.

Some 3,500 people protested Saturday in Sydney after New South Wales tightened its regulations last week in response to rising coronavirus cases, even as the city’s lockdown enters its fifth week. The demonstrations violated the region’s strict stay-at-home orders, restrictions on public gatherings and face mask mandates.

Authorities are warning it could have been a superspreader event.

New South Wales police said Sunday on their website that they had arrested 63 people allegedly involved in the protest and charged 35 for violations such as resisting, assaulting and obstructing officers. Two men were charged with striking a police horse and refused bail.

washington post logoWashington Post, An activewear company told customers its clothes repelled covid. The false claims led to a $3.7 million fine, Jonathan Edwards, July 26, 2021 (print ed.). Pandemic fear racked Australia last summer. The virus had ripped through nursing homes. A government official warned of more funeral homes and hospitals being overrun. One headline screamed about the virus’s deadliest day — a record that stood for four days, until a higher death toll replaced it.

No one knew if coronavirus cases were about to explode.

Amid the uncertainty, an Australian clothing company started trumpeting its “anti-virus activewear.” That July, Lorna Jane launched an advertising campaign for apparel covered in a “groundbreaking” spray called LJ Shield that the company claimed would eliminate and repel covid and other viruses, bacteria and fungus.

“Cure for the Spread of COVID-19? Lorna Jane Thinks So,” one advertisement read.

“With Lorna Jane Shield on our garments it meant that we were completely eliminating the possibility of spreading any deadly viruses,” another claimed.

Except there was no scientific evidence Lorna Jane’s clothes did any of those things, government regulators said. On Friday, a federal judge ordered the company to pay $3.7 million for violating the country’s consumer protection laws, calling the clothing maker’s conduct “exploitative, predatory and potentially dangerous.”

“This was dreadful conduct as it involved making serious claims regarding public health when there was no basis for them,” said Rod Sims, chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the regulatory agency that took the company to court.

Lorna Jane admitted it had made several false claims during the peak of the pandemic’s second wave in Australia but blamed a supplier for giving it bad information, the Guardian reported. The company won’t fight the court’s decision, according to BBC News.

washington post logoWashington Post, An unvaccinated radio host is sick with covid. His family is ‘elated’ listeners are now getting the vaccine, Katie Shepherd, July 26, 2021. When his brother first caught the novel coronavirus, Mark Valentine did not think he was suffering too much.

Phil Valentine continued posting regularly on Facebook, joked about his condition and even hosted a segment for his conservative talk radio show on WTN-FM in Nashville. He had chosen not to get the vaccine and frequently mocked Democrats’ campaigns to drive more people to get the shot. When the brothers spoke on the phone a few days after Phil tested positive in early July, he told Mark that he was already feeling better.

“He said, ‘I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal,’" Mark Valentine told The Washington Post on Sunday. “I frankly quit worrying about it.”

But by the end of the week, after nearly recovering, Phil Valentine’s health began a rapid descent. His family persuaded the 62-year-old to check into the emergency room. Medical scans showed the coronavirus infection had caused pneumonia in his right lung, Mark Valentine told The Post.

July 25

Top Headlines

Top Victim Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Variant Keeps Spreading, but Vaccine Refusal Is the Real Threat, Apoorva Mandavilli, July 25, 2021. The United States is again at a crossroads in the pandemic: Infections are up, and the country may again see overflowing hospitals and needless deaths. The contagious Delta variant may be getting the blame, but fueling its rise is vaccine hesitancy and refusal, long pervasive among Americans.

After an all too brief respite, the United States is again at a crossroads in the pandemic. The number of infections has ticked up — slowly at first, then swiftly — to 51,000 cases per day, on average, more than four times the rate a month ago. The country may again see overflowing hospitals, exhausted health care workers and thousands of needless deaths.

The more contagious Delta variant may be getting the blame, but fueling its rise is an older, more familiar foe: vaccine hesitancy and refusal, long pervasive in the United States. Were a wider swath of the population vaccinated, there would be no resurgence — of the Delta variant, or Alpha variant, or any other version of the coronavirus.

While mild breakthrough infections may be more common than once thought, the vaccines effectively prevent severe illness and death. Yet nearly half of the population remains unvaccinated and unprotected. About 30 percent of adults have not received even a single dose, and the percentage is much higher in some parts of the country.

America is one of the few countries with enough vaccines at its disposal to protect every resident — and yet it has highest rates of vaccine hesitance or refusal of any nation except Russia.

Public health experts have fruitlessly warned for months that the virus — any version of it — would resurge if the country did not vaccinate enough of the population quickly enough. Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, predicted in January that Florida might have a rough summer. Now one in five new infections nationwide is in Florida.

True, the speed and ferocity with which the Delta variant is tearing through Asia, Europe, Africa and now North America has taken many experts by surprise. It now accounts for about 83 percent of the infections in the United States.

But Delta is by no means the wickedest variant out there. Gamma and Lambda are waiting in the wings, and who knows what frightful versions are already flourishing undetected in the far corners of the world, perhaps even here in America.

Every infected person, anywhere in the world, offers the coronavirus another opportunity to morph into a new variant. The more infections there are globally, the more likely new variants will arise.

washington post logoWashington Post, Summer music festivals have returned — just in time for the latest coronavirus surge, Kim Bellware, July 25, 2021. Over 16 months after summer music festivals were silenced by the coronavirus pandemic, a more infectious variant is showing up to this year’s gatherings like an unwelcome gate-crasher.

As of Friday, the seven-day average for new daily cases in the United States jumped 57 percent from the previous week, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. With the delta variant pushing new infections and hospitalization rates upward, the horns of triumph for summer music festivals are starting to sound more like a sad trombone.

After 2020′s summer of shutdowns, fans, musicians and promoters are eager to return to the stage — as are many of the cities that host the lucrative events. It’s made major music festivals seem like an unstoppable force and, to health experts, an avoidable risk.

“I would probably not recommend [going],” said Maria Alcaide, an infectious-disease specialist who directs the Infectious Diseases Research Unit with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She cited the “significant” uptick in the number of new cases and hospitalizations, primarily driven by unvaccinated people.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Most Influential Spreader of Coronavirus Misinformation Online, Sheera Frenkel, July 25, 2021 (print ed.). Researchers and regulators say Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician, creates and profits from misleading claims about Covid-19 vaccines.

The article that appeared online on Feb. 9 began with a seemingly innocuous question about the legal definition of vaccines. Then over its next 3,400 words, it declared coronavirus vaccines were “a medical fraud” and said the injections did not prevent infections, provide immunity or stop transmission of the disease.

joseph mercolaInstead, the article claimed, the shots “alter your genetic coding, turning you into a viral protein factory that has no off-switch.”

Its assertions were easily disprovable. No matter. Over the next few hours, the article was translated from English into Spanish and Polish. It appeared on dozens of blogs and was picked up by anti-vaccination activists, who repeated the false claims online. The article also made its way to Facebook, where it reached 400,000 people, according to data from CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned tool.

The entire effort traced back to one person: Joseph Mercola.

Dr. Mercola, 67, right, an osteopathic physician in Cape Coral, Fla., has long been a subject of criticism and government regulatory actions for his promotion of unproven or unapproved treatments. But most recently, he has become the chief spreader of coronavirus misinformation online, according to researchers.

An internet-savvy entrepreneur who employs dozens, Dr. Mercola has published over 600 articles on Facebook that cast doubt on Covid-19 vaccines since the pandemic began, reaching a far larger audience than other vaccine skeptics, an analysis by The New York Times found. His claims have been widely echoed on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

The activity has earned Dr. Mercola, a natural health proponent with an Everyman demeanor, the dubious distinction of the top spot in the “Disinformation Dozen,” a list of 12 people responsible for sharing 65 percent of all anti-vaccine messaging on social media, said the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate. Others on the list include Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a longtime anti-vaccine activist, and Erin Elizabeth, the founder of the website Health Nut News, who is also Dr. Mercola’s girlfriend.

“Mercola is the pioneer of the anti-vaccine movement,” said Kolina Koltai, a researcher at the University of Washington who studies online conspiracy theories. “He’s a master of capitalizing on periods of uncertainty, like the pandemic, to grow his movement.”

Some high-profile media figures have promoted skepticism of the vaccines, notably Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham of Fox News, though other Fox personalities have urged viewers to get the shots. Now, Dr. Mercola and others in the “Disinformation Dozen” are in the spotlight as vaccinations in the United States slow, just as the highly infectious Delta variant has fueled a resurgence in coronavirus cases. More than 97 percent of people hospitalized for Covid-19 are unvaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

washington post logoWashington Post, 188.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 25, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 163 million people fully vaccinated, representing 49.1 %of the eligible population and with 58.8 %  with at least one dose.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 25, 2021, with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds): 

World Cases: 194,582,835, Deaths: 4,171,672
U.S. Cases:     35,184,671, Deaths:     626,713
India Cases:    31,371,901, Deaths:     420,585
Brazil Cases:   19,670,534, Deaths:     549,500

washington post logoWashington Post, Australian prime minister calls lockdown-violating protests ‘selfish and self-defeating,’ Miriam Berger, July 25, 2021. Though many had looked forward to the easing of social and economic restrictions with the advent of coronavirus vaccines, the emergence of highly transmissible variants has upended expectations. 

This weekend’s anti-lockdown protests in Sydney were “selfish and self-defeating,” Australia’s prime minister said Sunday, amid a global wave of renewed restrictions and resulting demonstrations as the highly contagious delta variant spreads.

Some 3,500 people protested Saturday in Sydney after New South Wales tightened its regulations last week in response to rising coronavirus cases, even as the city’s lockdown enters its fifth week. The demonstrations violated the region’s strict stay-at-home orders, restrictions on public gatherings and face mask mandates.

Authorities are warning it could have been a superspreader event.

New South Wales police said Sunday on their website that they had arrested 63 people allegedly involved in the protest and charged 35 for violations such as resisting, assaulting and obstructing officers. Two men were charged with striking a police horse and refused bail.

July 22

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

USA Today, Scientists discover more than 30 viruses frozen in ice, most never seen before, Jordan Mendoza, July 22, 2021 (print ed.).  A group of scientists discovered ancient viruses frozen in two ice samples taken from the Tibetan Plateau in China, and most of them are unlike anything ever seen before.

usa today logoThe findings, published Wednesday in the journal Microbiome, came from ice cores taken in 2015 that scientists said began to freeze at least 14,400 years ago.

“These glaciers were formed gradually, and along with dust and gases, many, many viruses were also deposited in that ice," Zhi-Ping Zhong, lead author and researcher at the Ohio State University Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, said in a statement. "The glaciers in western China are not well-studied, and our goal is to use this information to reflect past environments. And viruses are a part of those environments."

When researchers analyzed the ice, they found genetic codes for 33 viruses. Of the 33, genetic codes for four of them showed they are part of virus families that typically infect bacteria. Up to 28 were novel, meaning they had never before been identified.

The group said it doesn't believe the viruses originated from animals or humans but came from the soil or plants. The scientists said roughly half of them survived because of the ice.

"These are viruses that would have thrived in extreme environments,” said Matthew Sullivan, co-author of the study and director of Ohio State’s Center of Microbiome Science. “These viruses have signatures of genes that help them infect cells in cold environments – just surreal genetic signatures for how a virus is able to survive in extreme conditions."

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 187.2 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 22, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 162.2 million people (48.8 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 56.4 % with at least one dose.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 22, 2021, with some governments reporting lower numbers than the totals here and some experts saying the numbers are far higher, as the New York Times reported in India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds): 

World Cases: 192,974,202, Deaths: 4,145,502
U.S. Cases:     35,146,476, Deaths:    625,808
India Cases:     31,257,720, Deaths:    419,021
Brazil Cases:     6,054,711, Deaths:     151,501

ny times logoNew York Times, Rising Rents Threaten to Prop Up Inflation as Pandemic Limits End, Coral Murphy Marcos, Jeanna Smialek and Jim Tankersley, July 22, 2021. As people move out on their own again or return to cities, and as tenants find they can’t afford to buy, demand for rentals is rebounding.

If rents continue to take off, it could be bad news both for those seeking housing and for the nation’s inflation outlook. Rents last month rose 7 percent nationally from a year earlier, Zillow data shows. While that was measured against a weak June 2020, the gain was also a robust 1.8 percent from May.

washington post logoWashington Post, Unemployment claims jumped to 419,000 last week, a sudden increase that shows labor market remains unsettled, Eli Rosenberg, July 22, 2021. White House officials and economists are watching to see the delta variant’s impact on economy. The number of new claims grew to 419,000 from 360,000, the third time in six weeks that they had ticked up, according to data from the Department of Labor.

 

July 21

Top Headlines

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, India’s true pandemic death toll is likely to be well over 3 million, a new study finds, Karan Deep Singh, A comprehensive effort to estimate excess deaths in the country during the pandemic produced figures 10 times the government’s official coronavirus toll.

india flag mapThe number of people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic in India so far is likely to exceed three million — nearly 10 times the official Covid-19 death toll — making it one of the worst human tragedies in the nation’s history, according to a new study.

In a comprehensive examination of the true toll of the pandemic in the sprawling nation of 1.4 billion, the Center for Global Development, a Washington research institute, attempted to quantify excess deaths from all causes during the pandemic based on state data, international estimates, serological studies and household surveys.

“True deaths are likely to be in the several millions, not hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India’s worst human tragedy,” said its authors, one of whom is a former chief economic adviser to the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The official government numbers have been called into question repeatedly. Even as funeral pyres lit up the night sky and bodies washed up on the Ganges River, with death all around, the Indian government was widely underreporting the scale of the devastation.

A chorus of experts have said the country’s official estimates are a gross understatement.

washington post logoWashington Post, Driven by covid deaths, U.S. life expectancy dropped by 1.5 years in 2020, Allyson Chiu, Lindsey Bever and Ariana Eunjung Cha, July 21, 2021. The decline, which is the largest seen in a single year since World War II, reflects the pandemic’s sustained toll on Americans, particularly the disproportionate impact of covid-19 on communities of color.

Life expectancy in the United States dropped by a year and a half in 2020 — a continuation of a worrisome decline that was observed in the first half of last year as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the country, according to federal data released Wednesday.

The decline, which is the largest seen in a single year since World War II, reflects the pandemic’s sustained toll on Americans, particularly the disproportionate impact of covid-19 on communities of color. Black Americans lost 2.9 years of life expectancy while Latinos, who have longer life expectancy than non-Hispanic Blacks or Whites, saw a drop of three years. There was a decrease of 1.2 years among White people.

‘I just pray God will help me’: Racial, ethnic minorities reel from higher covid-19 death rates

“It’s horrific,” said Anne Case, a professor emeritus of economics and public affairs at Princeton University. “It’s not entirely unexpected given what we have already seen about mortality rates as the year went on, but that still doesn’t stop it from being just horrific, especially for non-Hispanic Blacks and for Hispanics.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Republican Lawmakers Let Vaccine Skepticism Flourish, Jonathan Weisman and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). As  the Delta variant rips through conservative U.S. communities, most Republicans remain reluctant to confront vaccine misinformation in their midst.
On Tuesday, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican who said he had received his first Pfizer vaccine shot only on Sunday, blamed the hesitance on Mr. Biden and his criticism of Donald J. Trump’s vaccine drive last year. Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, said skeptics would not get their shots until “this administration acknowledges the efforts of the last one.”

And Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas pointed the finger at the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci.

“Every time Jen Psaki opens her mouth or Dr. Fauci opens his mouth,” he said, “10,000 more people say I’m never going to take the vaccine.”

Some elected Republicans are the ones spreading the falsehoods. Representative Jason Smith of Missouri, a Senate candidate, warned on Twitter of “KGB-style” agents knocking on the doors of unvaccinated Americans — a reference to Mr. Biden’s door-to-door vaccine outreach campaign.

Such statements, and the widespread silence by Republicans in the face of vaccine skepticism, are beginning to alarm some strategists and party leaders.

Mitchell_McConnell“The way to avoid getting back into the hospital is to get vaccinated,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, left, the Republican leader and a polio survivor, pleaded on Tuesday, one of the few members of his party to take a different approach. “And I want to encourage everybody to do that and to ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice.”

Nationally, the average of new coronavirus infections has surged nearly 200 percent in 14 days, to more than 35,000 on Monday, and deaths — a lagging number — are up 44 percent from two weeks ago. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated on Tuesday that the Delta variant accounted for 83 percent of all new cases.

The political disparity in vaccine hesitancy is stark. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported at the end of June that 86 percent of Democrats had at least one shot, compared with 52 percent of Republicans. An analysis by The New York Times in April found that the least vaccinated counties in the country had one thing in common: They voted for Mr. Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Growing number of Republican lawmakers urge vaccinations amid delta surge, Marianna Sotomayor, Jacqueline Alemany and Mike DeBonis, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). A shift in messaging among some GOP leaders comes after months of misinformation and anti-vaccine rhetoric among conservatives.

republican elephant logoA growing number of top Republicans are urging GOP supporters to get vaccinated as the delta coronavirus variant surges across the United States, marking a notable shift away from the anti-vaccine conspiracy theorizing that has gripped much of the party in opposition to the Biden administration’s efforts to combat the virus.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was part of the rising chorus on Tuesday, stressing the need for unvaccinated Americans to receive coronavirus shots and warning that the country could reverse its progress in moving on from the pandemic.

“These shots need to get in everybody’s arm as rapidly as possible, or we’re going to be back in a situation in the fall that we don’t yearn for, that we went through last year,” McConnell said during his weekly news conference. “I want to encourage everybody to do that and to ignore all of these other voices that are giving demonstrably bad advice.”

The remarks from McConnell followed comments in recent days from other top Republicans and from conservative voices urging people to get vaccinated, even as other members of the GOP continue to sound notes of skepticism and spread misinformation about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.

Among the most notable voices was Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican in House leadership, who received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine over the weekend and urged others to follow suit. Scalise had long resisted vaccination, claiming protection from antibodies and saying earlier this year that he wanted to ensure his constituents had a chance to be vaccinated first.

In an interview Tuesday, Scalise said “there shouldn’t be any hesitancy over whether or not it’s safe and effective.” He said he was compelled to get the shot in light of the recent spread of the delta variant and the associated spike in cases — and that politics was not a consideration.

And on the airwaves, some Fox News hosts who have helped amplify skepticism about the vaccines’ efficacy and slammed the idea of vaccination mandates by businesses are now pushing their viewers to get vaccinated immediately.

“I can’t say it enough. Enough people have died. We don’t need any more death,” Sean Hannity, who previously called the virus a hoax, said Monday on his broadcast. “And it absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated. I believe in science. I believe in the science of vaccination.”

A survey of all 535 members of Congress by CNN found that in May, 100 percent of Democrats from both chambers were fully vaccinated, while only 44.8 percent of House Republicans and 92 percent of Republican senators could claim the same. Democrats say the lag in vaccinations among conservatives has been holding them back in easing restrictions on Capitol Hill.

washington post logoWashington Post, In latest clash over Wuhan lab, Fauci tells Sen. Rand Paul: ‘You do not know what you’re talking about,’ Reis Thebault, July 21, 2021 (print ed.). Anthony S. Fauci and Sen. Rand Paul, who have a history of heated exchanges, accused each other of lying about U.S. funding of the Wuhan lab in a hearing Tuesday.

anthony fauci CustomIt’s a tone not typically taken in the august chambers of the U.S. Senate — except when Anthony S. Fauci, right, and Sen. Rand Paul square off.

The two men — the country’s top infectious-diseases doctor and the junior Republican senator from Kentucky — have a history of heated exchanges and escalating accusations, with Paul, left, often using the congressional hearings to inveigh against Fauci over his Rand Paulhandling of the coronavirus pandemic and Fauci responding with an increasingly vigorous defense.

On Tuesday, they traded their most barbed public remarks yet, accusing each other of lying during a fierce debate over U.S. funding for a lab in Wuhan, China.

“Senator Paul, you do not know what you’re talking about, quite frankly, and I want to say that officially,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at one point. “You do not know what you are talking about.”

us senate logoThe argument, which echoed an earlier dust-up, centered on Paul’s claim that the National Institutes of Health awarded a grant that partially funded a project that relied on “gain-of-function” research, a controversial practice that involves enhancing a virus in a lab to try to anticipate future pandemics. This type of experimentation has come under growing scrutiny as U.S. intelligence agencies investigate the origins of the novel coronavirus and the theory that it could have accidentally leaked from a lab.

Officials have repeatedly denied Paul’s allegations, and in a hearing in May, Fauci told the senator that the National Institutes of Health “has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research” at the Chinese lab, the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

washington post logoWashington Post, 186 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 21, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 161.2 million people (48.6 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 56 % with at least one dose.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 21, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 192,396,522, Deaths: 4,136,699
U.S. Cases:     35,081,719, Deaths:    625,363
India Cases:     31,216,337, Deaths:    418,511
Brazil Cases:    19,419,741, Deaths:    544,302

 

July 20

Top Headlines

 

Stories: Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Mask mandates make a return — along with controversy, Dan Diamond, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). The growing calls to reinstate mask mandates have renewed their status as a cultural and health flashpoint a year and a half after the virus landed in the United States.

cdc logo CustomTwo months after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said vaccinated individuals didn’t need to wear masks in most settings, a growing number of experts are warning it’s time to put them back on.

First, there was Los Angeles County, where the rising menace posed by the delta variant of the coronavirus prompted health officials to reimpose a mask mandate. Then, Bay Area health officers on Friday recommended that residents of seven counties and the city of Berkeley, Calif., resume wearing masks indoors. Mask mandates are being discussed, too, in coronavirus hot spots such as Arkansas and Missouri, where cases have sharply increased in recent weeks and many residents remain unvaccinated.

“Universal masking indoors is a way of taking care of each other while we get more people vaccinated,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which last week moved to reinstate an indoor mask mandate. “It really doesn’t disrupt any business practices. It allows us to remain fully open — while we acknowledge that the delta variant [is] spreading like wildfire here.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Delta variant fears send Dow tumbling in worst one-day decline of 2021, Taylor Telford and Hamza Shaban, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). Biden says Fed ‘should take whatever steps it deems necessary’ on inflation.

Global stock markets swooned Monday, with the Dow slumping more than 700 points, as investors grow increasingly anxious about a delta-led resurgence in coronavirus cases and its potential to derail the economic recovery. Oil prices also fell sharply.

The delta variant is now the dominant strain worldwide and surging rapidly, even in countries with high vaccination rates. New coronavirus infections in the United States rose nearly 70 percent in a single week, officials reported Friday, and nearly every state has reported an increase in cases. Japan declared a state of emergency in Tokyo during the Summer Games — which kick off later this week — and banned spectators, but there have been several positive coronavirus tests at the Olympic Village and an alternate for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team has tested positive.

washington post logoWashington Post, Delta variant takes hold in U.S. as coronavirus cases rise nearly 70 percent, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Frances Stead Sellers, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,’ CDC director says. Federal health officials sounded an alarm about a surge in infections fueled by the twin threats posed by the delta variant and a stagnation in efforts to vaccinate as many Americans as possible.

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Judge Affirms Indiana University’s Student Vaccine Requirement, Stephanie Saul, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). 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.

“What we have here is the government forcing you to do something that you strenuously object to and have your body invaded in the process,” said the lawyer, James Bopp Jr.

indiana universityHe 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.

Universities around the country have taken different positions on the question of requiring coronavirus vaccines, with about 400 campuses mandating vaccines. Students on several campuses have filed or threatened lawsuits.

ny times logoNew York Times, On England’s ‘Freedom Day,’ Rising Virus Cases and a Prime Minister in Isolation, Mark Landler, July 20, 2021 (print ed.).  In a breathtaking gamble, the country has now lifted all but a few pandemic restrictions.

United Kingdom flag“Freedom Day” arrived in England on Monday with its chief architect, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, confined in quarantine, millions of Britons facing the same prospect and untold people more anxious about the risks of liberation.

Such were the incongruities on the long-awaited day when the government lifted all but a few remaining coronavirus restrictions — a day when the virus infected 39,950 people and swept up tens of thousands more who were notified by the National Health Service’s cellphone app after they were in contact with an infected person.

Mr. Johnson defended the decision to reopen from his country residence, Chequers, where he has been in se

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Republicans Have Their Own Private Autocracy, Paul Krugman, right, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). Many people, myself included, have declared for years that the G.O.P. is no longer paul krugmana normal political party. It doesn’t look anything like, say, Dwight Eisenhower’s Republican Party or Germany’s Christian Democrats. But it bears a growing resemblance to the ruling parties of autocratic regimes.

djt maga hatThe only unusual thing about the G.O.P.’s wholesale adoption of the Leader Principle is that the party doesn’t have a monopoly on power; in fact, it controls neither Congress nor the White House. Politicians suspected of insufficient loyalty to Donald Trump and Trumpism in general aren’t sent to the gulag. At most, they stand to lose intraparty offices and, possibly, future primaries. Yet such is the timidity of Republican politicians that these mild threats are apparently enough to make many of them behave like Caligula’s courtiers.

Unfortunately, all this loyalty signaling is putting the whole nation at risk. In fact, it will almost surely kill large numbers of Americans in the next few months.

The stalling of America’s initially successful vaccination drive isn’t entirely driven by partisanship — some people, especially members of minority groups, are failing to get vaccinated for reasons having little to do with current politics.

But politics is nonetheless clearly a key factor: Republican politicians and Republican-oriented influencers have driven much of the opposition to Covid-19 vaccines, in some cases engaging in what amounts to outright sabotage. And there is a stunning negative correlation between Trump’s share of a county’s vote in 2020 and its current vaccination rate.

washington post logoWashington Post, 186 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 20, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 161.2 million people (48.6 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 56 % with at least one dose.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 20, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 191,736,914, Deaths: 4,113,086
U.S. Cases:     35,018,600, Deaths:    624,983
India Cases:     31,174,322, Deaths:    414,513
Brazil Cases:   19,391,845, Deaths:     542,877

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter suspends Marjorie Taylor Greene for spreading covid-19 misinformation, Bryan Pietsch, July 20, 2021|Updated today at 1:59 a.m. EDT. Twitter temporarily suspended Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), right, for violating its covid-19 misinformation policy after she falsely claimed that the coronavirus was “not dangerous” for some people.

twitter bird CustomA Twitter spokesperson confirmed Monday evening that the company had taken “enforcement action” on Greene’s personal account for violations of its policies.

marjorie taylor greene headshotThe account was put on “read-only” mode for 12 hours, which according to Twitter’s rules happens “if it seems like an otherwise healthy account is in the middle of an abusive episode.”

The 12-hour suspension is the shortest of Twitter’s read-only penalties, which its website says can range from 12 hours to seven days, “depending on the nature of the violation.” Greene’s account had violated the misinformation policy multiple times, according to Twitter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Dolly Parton Tried. But Tennessee Is Squandering a Miracle, Margaret Renkl, July 20, 2021 (print ed.). When Dolly Parton, below right, received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine at Vanderbilt University, where her million-dollar donation helped to fund the research, she sang an updated version of her iconic song “Jolene.” The tongue-in-cheek lyrics were meant to inspire people to get vaccinated.

She gave it a good try, a heroic try, but somehow the bonehead politicians running this state managed to overcome even the good will generated by its favorite daughter.

dolly partonRemember how hopeful we were this year when the new Covid-19 vaccines arrived so astonishingly quickly, and were so astonishingly effective and safe? As a nation — politically, institutionally, too often personally — we’d botched almost everything about this pandemic, and we did not deserve a miracle. The miracle arrived anyway.

Tennessee’s governor, Bill Lee, understood what was going on. Mr. Lee is vaccinated, but he refused to be photographed getting the shot — the Covid shot, that is. Not a word about protecting children from the deadliest pandemic in a hundred years.

From the beginning, white people in rural Tennessee have been so skeptical of this vaccine that last month state officials returned an allotment of three million doses to the federal stockpile. “The rate of daily coronavirus infections in Tennessee has more than tripled in the past three weeks — one of the largest increases in the entire nation — as the virus shows signs of renewed spread,” wrote The Tennessean’s indefatigable health reporter Brett Kelman last week. “The state’s average test positivity rate and count of active infections also climbed sharply in the same time period.”

Conservative Tennessee legislators responded, it’s true, but not by working to reduce vaccine hesitancy. Instead, they pressured state health officials to cancel vaccination events aimed at teenagers and retract social media posts urging adolescents to get vaccinated. Worse, these anti-vaccination efforts weren’t limited to the Covid-19 vaccine. Conservative lawmakers also urged the Tennessee Department of Health to halt outreach efforts designed to inform teenagers about all vaccines.

Worse still, they arranged the firing of Dr. Michelle Fiscus. As medical director of the vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization program at the Department of Health, Dr. Fiscus was the state’s top vaccine authority. “

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How to Reach the Unvaccinated, Ross Douthat, right, July 20, 2021. Late last week Michael Brendan Dougherty of National Review stirred up a mix of interest and outrage among journalists by arguing that more understanding should be extended to unvaccinated Americans, whose ross douthathesitancy about getting Pfizered or Modernafied often reflects a reasonable uncertainty and wariness after a year of shifting public-health rhetoric, blunders and misleading messaging.

The alternative perspective, judging from responses to his column, regards the great mass of the unvaccinated as victims of deliberately manufactured paranoia, the blame for which can be laid partly on their own partisan self-delusion and partly on wicked actors in the right-wing media complex — from conspiracy theorists flourishing online to vaccine skeptics interviewed by Tucker Carlson to Republican politicians who have pandered to vaccine resistance.

The sheer numbers of unvaccinated Americans — upward of 80 million adults — means that these perspectives can be somewhat reconciled. On the one hand, there is clearly a hard core of vaccine resistance, based around tribal right-wing identity, that’s being nourished by both online conspiracy theories and the bad arguments and arguers that some Fox News hosts and right-wing personalities have elevated.
But if the unvaccinated and their motivations are complex and heterogeneous, then these strategies are more fraught. Censoring the internet will have little effect if many of the vaccine-hesitant are disconnected rather than very online or drawing on personal experience rather than anti-vaxxer memes. (As Facebook noted in defending itself against Biden administration attacks, its users are more vaccine-friendly than the national average.)

So is there a way to substantially expand vaccinations in the narrow window of the next six months without going in for heavy-handed, possibly counterproductive interventions? To me the only major idea that seems worth considering is the simplest one: We could start paying people to take a vaccine — not just in lottery tickets or even the savings bonds issued by West Virginia but in big fat gobs of cash.

 

July 19

Stories: Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, England marks ‘Freedom Day’ as experts blast lifting of coronavirus restrictions, Jennifer Hassan and Erin Cunningham, July 19, 2021. New cases are soaring to some of the highest levels in months.

England on Monday lifted almost all of its remaining coronavirus restrictions, including an indoor mask mandate, even as new cases soared to some of the highest levels in months and several senior government officials — including Prime Minister Boris Johnson — were in quarantine after British Health Secretary Sajid Javid tested positive for the virus.

United Kingdom flagThe final stage of reopening, widely referred to as “Freedom Day,” brought joy to some eager for a return to normal life and a growing sense of anxiety to others who deemed the government’s decision reckless and irresponsible.

Professor Neil Ferguson, a prominent scientist whose modeling helped shape England’s lockdown strategy, told the BBC on Sunday that it was “almost inevitable” that the latest easing of restrictions would bring on 100,000 daily cases, with about 1,000 hospitalizations, despite the fact that nearly half the population is fully vaccinated.

Earlier this month, a group of medical experts deemed the decision “dangerous and premature” and called for reopening to be delayed until more people — especially younger people — are inoculated.

washington post logoWashington Post, 186 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 18, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 161.2 million people (48.6 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 56 % with at least one dose.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 18, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):   

World Cases: 191,322,425, Deaths: 4,108,240
U.S. Cases:     34,963,907, Deaths:     624,746
India Cases:     31,144,229, Deaths:     414,141
Brazil Cases:   19,376,574, Deaths:     542,262

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawsuits challenge D.C. law allowing kids to get vaccines without parental permission, Justin Wm. Moyer and Julie Zauzmer, July 19, 2021 (print ed.). Two lawsuits filed in D.C. federal court this month challenged a city law passed last year that allows minors to be vaccinated without their parents’ knowledge, saying the legislation violates religious liberty.

The litigation comes as health officials across the country debate how much information minors should be given about vaccines, with at least one state seeking to limit teenagers’ access to shots that would protect them from covid-19 and other illnesses.

In October, the District passed the Minor Consent to Vaccinations Amendments Act, which allows children as young as 11 to get vaccines without their parents’ knowledge if a doctor determines that they are capable of informed consent.

The law was passed before coronavirus vaccines became available and was meant to allow teenagers to get shots such as the HPV vaccine, which protects against a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cancer, and the meningitis vaccine, which is recommended for teens.

On Monday, four parents of children who attend or planned to enroll at D.C. public and charter schools sued Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and other public officials, saying the law “subverts the right and duty of parents to make informed decisions about whether their children should receive vaccinations.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, cited parents’ religious objections to coronavirus vaccines and other immunizations. It said the law violates their religious liberty and “their fundamental right to direct the care and upbringing of their children.”

robert f kennedy jr gage skidmoreJessie Hill, a Case Western Reserve University law professor who has written on children’s legal rights to make some medical decisions for themselves, said that if the D.C. cases make it to court, they might pose novel questions on whether parents can impose their religious beliefs on children who disagree.

The lawsuit, which asked the court to declare the law unconstitutional and stop the city from enforcing it, was brought by Children’s Health Defense, an organization run by anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., right, who has supported debunked vaccine conspiracy theories and is listed as an attorney on the complaint.

The suit followed another, also filed in D.C. federal court, by a Maryland man who said his daughter sought a vaccine in the District without his knowledge and despite his religious objections to vaccines.

Children’s independent access to vaccines varies widely by state. Some states allow minors to get vaccinated without parental consent only when they are seeking the HPV vaccine, not other immunizations recommended for their age. Some states allow youths to make independent medical decisions at certain ages, such as 16 and up, but not as young as the District’s law.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Dolly Parton Tried. But Tennessee Is Squandering a Miracle, Margaret Renkl, July 19, 2021. When Dolly Parton received her first dose of the Moderna vaccine at Vanderbilt University, where her million-dollar donation helped to fund the research, she sang an updated version of her iconic song “Jolene.” The tongue-in-cheek lyrics were meant to inspire people to get vaccinated.

She gave it a good try, a heroic try, but somehow the bonehead politicians running this state managed to overcome even the good will generated by its favorite daughter.

Remember how hopeful we were this year when the new Covid-19 vaccines arrived so astonishingly quickly, and were so astonishingly effective and safe? As a nation — politically, institutionally, too often personally — we’d botched almost everything about this pandemic, and we did not deserve a miracle. The miracle arrived anyway.

Tennessee’s governor, Bill Lee, understood what was going on. Mr. Lee is vaccinated, but he refused to be photographed getting the shot — the Covid shot, that is. Not a word about protecting children from the deadliest pandemic in a hundred years.

From the beginning, white people in rural Tennessee have been so skeptical of this vaccine that last month state officials returned an allotment of three million doses to the federal stockpile. “The rate of daily coronavirus infections in Tennessee has more than tripled in the past three weeks — one of the largest increases in the entire nation — as the virus shows signs of renewed spread,” wrote The Tennessean’s indefatigable health reporter Brett Kelman last week. “The state’s average test positivity rate and count of active infections also climbed sharply in the same time period.”

Conservative Tennessee legislators responded, it’s true, but not by working to reduce vaccine hesitancy. Instead, they pressured state health officials to cancel vaccination events aimed at teenagers and retract social media posts urging adolescents to get vaccinated. Worse, these anti-vaccination efforts weren’t limited to the Covid-19 vaccine. Conservative lawmakers also urged the Tennessee Department of Health to halt outreach efforts designed to inform teenagers about all vaccines.

Worse still, they arranged the firing of Dr. Michelle Fiscus. As medical director of the vaccine-preventable diseases and immunization program at the Department of Health, Dr. Fiscus was the state’s top vaccine authority. “

July 18

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 185.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 18, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 160.4 million people (48.3 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 55.8 % with at least one dose.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 18, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):   

World Cases: 190,922,094, Deaths: 4,101,605
U.S. Cases:     34,953,937, Deaths:    624,715
India Cases:     31,106,065, Deaths:    413,640
Brazil Cases:   19,342,448, Deaths:     541,323

washington post logoolympics japan logoWashington Post, Two athletes in Olympic Village test positive for covid, the first instances of athlete infections in Village, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, July 18, 2021 (print ed.). The test results underscore growing fears about the spread of the virus during the Games that are set to begin in five days

 

July 17

Top Headlines

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Delta variant takes hold in U.S. as virus cases rise nearly 70 percent, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Frances Stead Sellers, cdc logo CustomJuly 17, 2021 (print ed.). ‘This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,’ CDC director says.

Federal health officials sounded an alarm Friday about a surge in U.S. coronavirus infections fueled by the twin threats posed by the highly transmissible rochelle walensky 2delta variant and a stagnation in efforts to vaccinate as many Americans as possible.

During a White House briefing, Rochelle Walensky, left, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the seven-day average of coronavirus infections soared nearly 70 percent in just one week, to about 26,300 cases a day. The seven-day average for hospitalizations has increased, too, climbing about 36 percent from the previous seven-day period, she said.

“There is a clear message that is coming through: This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Walensky said. “We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk, and communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well.”

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘They’re killing people’: Biden aims blistering attack at tech companies over vaccine falsehoods, Matt Viser, Rachel Lerman and Tyler Pager, July 17, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden on Friday unleashed a forceful new attack against social media companies for allowing the spread of misinformation about coronavirus vaccines, explicitly blaming them for the deaths of many Americans of covid-19.

joe biden black background resized serious file“They’re killing people,” Biden said on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One on his way to Camp David for the weekend. “Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they’re killing people.”

Biden’s comments marked a far more combative tone than he had taken previously on the pandemic and came a day after Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy issued a broader warning against health misinformation, saying that tech companies were partially responsible for the falsehoods spreading online and causing large numbers of Americans to avoid getting vaccinated.

The salvo immediately placed Biden in a public argument with Facebook, the world’s largest social media platform, on an issue that has consumed his presidency and is showing new signs of resurgence.

“We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts,” Facebook spokeswoman Dani Lever said in a statement, pointing to the website’s tools for helping users to get authoritative information and find vaccination sites.

“The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives,” Lever said. “Period.”

The remarkable multi-front attack over the course of about 24 hours — from the president, his surgeon general and his press secretary — is a notable change in strategy for Biden. For six months, he has taken a gentler tone, praising Americans for getting vaccinated, imploring the hesitant to get the shots and avoiding attacks on figures who are falsely questioning the vaccines.

  • Washington Post, Utah’s GOP governor denounces anti-vaccine ‘propaganda,’ July 17, 2021 (print ed.).

washington post logoWashington Post, 185.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 17, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 160.4 million people (48.3 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 55.8 % with at least one dose.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 17, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):   

World Cases: 190,435,149, Deaths: 4,094,523
U.S. Cases:     34,929,856, Deaths:    624,606
India Cases:     31,064,908, Deaths:    413,123
Brazil Cases:    9,308,109, Deaths:     540,500

 

July 16

Headlines

Stories: Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Vaccine hesitancy’ grows into hostility as conservatives attack efforts, Dan Diamond, Hannah Knowles and Tyler Pager, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). The notion of coronavirus vaccines as unnecessary or harmful is increasingly embraced by Trump supporters, complicating President Biden’s push to boost the public’s immunity before autumn.

washington post logoWashington Post, The delta variant is ravaging this Missouri city. Many residents are still wary of vaccines, Fenit Nirappil, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). Experts fear Springfield, Mo., is a harbinger of tensions to come as people refuse to get vaccinated and downplay the pandemic even in the face of overwhelmed hospitals and preventable death.

The worst of the pandemic seemed behind Mercy Hospital, those weeks last winter when the coronavirus wards were full of people struggling to breathe.

But after months of reprieve, the virus has come roaring back, sending unvaccinated young adults and middle-aged patients from across southwest Missouri there in droves as the highly transmissible delta variant tears through the region. The hospital has been treating more than 130 covid-19 patients each day since Sunday — more than the winter surge — and had to open a sixth ward. It came close to running out of ventilators earlier this month.

“We’re just very disheartened. This was all pretty avoidable,” said Wanda Brown, a nurse unit manager. “Last year, we were looking forward to the vaccine coming out because we really thought that that was going to be helpful for our community. We feel like we’ve taken giant leaps backward.”

Springfield, a city of 170,000 nestled in the Ozarks, has become a cautionary tale for how the more transmissible delta variant, now estimated to account for half of all new cases nationwide, can ravage poorly vaccinated communities and return them to the darkest days of the pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Delta Variant Fuels Rising U.S. Caseload as Vaccinations Slow, Staff Reports, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). Recorded infections are up in almost every state, though millions of inoculated Americans are largely protected. Here’s the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.

  • As vaccinations slow in the U.S., the Delta variant is driving a rise in cases.
  • Haiti receives its first shipment of vaccines: 500,000 doses from the U.S.
  • Millions of children missed out on basic vaccinations during the pandemic.
  • Thousands marched in France and Greece after new vaccination rules were issued.
  • Some Republican leaders are speaking out in favor of Covid vaccines.
  • A blame game intensifies over Australia’s sluggish immunization campaign.
  • A human case of bird flu is reported in China.

washington post logoWashington Post, Alabama military base is first in the U.S. to require vaccination proof amid rising covid-19 rates, Max Hauptman, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). The new guidance at Fort Rucker comes as the delta variant continues to drive infection rates higher.

An Alabama military base is taking increased actions to combat the ongoing prevalence of coronavirus infections, authorizing leaders to ask for proof of vaccination of service members not wearing a mask while on duty. It is the first military base in the continental United States to allow leaders to check the vaccination status of those in uniform.

The new guidance at Fort Rucker comes as the new delta variant of the virus continues to drive infection rates and now accounts for a majority of cases in the United States. The base is among facilities, including Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, Fort Sill in Oklahoma and Fort Jackson in South Carolina, where less than half of the surrounding populations have been vaccinated.

The order issued Tuesday by Maj. Gen. David Francis, commanding general of Fort Rucker, states that unmasked uniformed personnel “must be prepared to show proof of vaccination” when on the base.

washington post logoWashington Post, Los Angeles County reimposes indoor mask mandate as coronavirus cases rise nationwide, Fenit Nirappil, July 16, 2021 (print ed.). The order, which will take effect late Saturday night in the county of 10 million people, marks the most dramatic reversal of the country’s reopening this summer as experts fear a new wave of the virus.

washington post logoWashington Post, 185.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 16, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 160.4 million people (48.3 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 55.8 % with at least one dose.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 16, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):   

World Cases: 189,888,496, Deaths: 4,085,912
U.S. Cases:     34,887,155, Deaths:    624,214
India Cases:    31,026,829, Deaths:    412,563
Brazil Cases:   19,262,518, Deaths:    539,050

 

July 15

Top Headlines

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Vaccine hesitancy’ grows into hostility as conservatives attack efforts, Dan Diamond, Hannah Knowles and Tyler Pager, July 15, 2021. The notion of coronavirus vaccines as unnecessary or harmful is increasingly embraced by Trump supporters, complicating President Biden’s push to boost the public’s immunity before autumn.

washington post logoWashington Post, The delta variant is ravaging this Missouri city. Many residents are still wary of vaccines, Fenit Nirappil, July 15, 2021.  Experts fear Springfield, Mo., is a harbinger of tensions to come as people refuse to get vaccinated and downplay the pandemic even in the face of overwhelmed hospitals and preventable death.

The worst of the pandemic seemed behind Mercy Hospital, those weeks last winter when the coronavirus wards were full of people struggling to breathe.

But after months of reprieve, the virus has come roaring back, sending unvaccinated young adults and middle-aged patients from across southwest Missouri there in droves as the highly transmissible delta variant tears through the region. The hospital has been treating more than 130 covid-19 patients each day since Sunday — more than the winter surge — and had to open a sixth ward. It came close to running out of ventilators earlier this month.

“We’re just very disheartened. This was all pretty avoidable,” said Wanda Brown, a nurse unit manager. “Last year, we were looking forward to the vaccine coming out because we really thought that that was going to be helpful for our community. We feel like we’ve taken giant leaps backward.”

Springfield, a city of 170,000 nestled in the Ozarks, has become a cautionary tale for how the more transmissible delta variant, now estimated to account for half of all new cases nationwide, can ravage poorly vaccinated communities and return them to the darkest days of the pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Delta Variant Fuels Rising U.S. Caseload as Vaccinations Slow, Staff Reports, July 15, 2021. Recorded infections are up in almost every state, though millions of inoculated Americans are largely protected. Here’s the latest on the coronavirus pandemic.

  • As vaccinations slow in the U.S., the Delta variant is driving a rise in cases.
  • Haiti receives its first shipment of vaccines: 500,000 doses from the U.S.
  • Millions of children missed out on basic vaccinations during the pandemic.
  • Thousands marched in France and Greece after new vaccination rules were issued.
  • Some Republican leaders are speaking out in favor of Covid vaccines.
  • A blame game intensifies over Australia’s sluggish immunization campaign.
  • A human case of bird flu is reported in China.
  • Delta does not appear more severe than earlier virus

washington post logoWashington Post, Alabama military base is first in the U.S. to require vaccination proof amid rising covid-19 rates, Max Hauptman, July 15, 2021. The new guidance at Fort Rucker comes as the delta variant continues to drive infection rates higher.

An Alabama military base is taking increased actions to combat the ongoing prevalence of coronavirus infections, authorizing leaders to ask for proof of vaccination of service members not wearing a mask while on duty. It is the first military base in the continental United States to allow leaders to check the vaccination status of those in uniform.

The new guidance at Fort Rucker comes as the new delta variant of the virus continues to drive infection rates and now accounts for a majority of cases in the United States. The base is among facilities, including Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, Fort Sill in Oklahoma and Fort Jackson in South Carolina, where less than half of the surrounding populations have been vaccinated.

The order issued Tuesday by Maj. Gen. David Francis, commanding general of Fort Rucker, states that unmasked uniformed personnel “must be prepared to show proof of vaccination” when on the base.

washington post logoWashington Post, Los Angeles County reimposes indoor mask mandate as coronavirus cases rise nationwide, Fenit Nirappil, July 15, 2021. The order, which will take effect late Saturday night in the county of 10 million people, marks the most dramatic reversal of the country’s reopening this summer as experts fear a new wave of the virus.

washington post logoworld health organization logo CustomWashington Post, WHO to correct errors in virus report, including details of early covid patients in Wuhan, Eva Dou and Emily Rauhala, July 15, 2021. A spokesman said the findings will be updated after “editing errors” were made, but that the agency can’t resolve a discrepancy in the location of the first official case.

washington post logoWashington Post, 185.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 15, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 160.4 million people (48.3 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 55.8 % with at least one dose.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 15, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):   

World Cases: 189,350,411, Deaths: 4,077,320
U.S. Cases:      34,848,068, Deaths:   623,838
India Cases:      30,987,880, Deaths:   412,019
Brazil Cases:    19,209,729, Deaths:   537,498

 

July 14

washington post logoWashington Post, 184.8 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 14, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 160.1 million people (48.2 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 55.7 % with at least one dose.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 14, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):   

World Cases: 188,696,349, Deaths: 4,067,199
U.S. Cases:     34,807,813, Deaths:    623,435
India Cases:    30,946,074, Deaths:    411,439
Brazil Cases:   19,152,065, Deaths:    535,924

 

July 13

Headlines

 

GOP Opposition To Vaccines

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: GOP anti-vaxxers are sacrificing citizens’ lives for political gain, Michael Gerson (right, former chief speechwriter for GOP President George W. Bush), July 13, 2021 (print ed.). michael gerson file photoHere is perhaps the most important medical and political fact of our time: 99.5 percent of all covid-19-related deaths in the United States occur among unvaccinated people; 0.5 percent of covid deaths occur among vaccinated people. If you tell people not to be vaccinated, you add to the former category.

In this light, the recent outbreak of applause at the Conservative Political Action Conference for the United States’ failure to meet its vaccination target was macabre. Here were political activists — many of whom would call themselves “pro-life” — cheering for the advance of death. How did we get to such a strange, desperate place?

I don’t want to discount the possibility that some people are just badly misinformed. They think the vaccines come with itsy-bitsy tracking chips, or make you magnetic, or render you infertile — all of which are pure rubbish. Ignorance is a form of moral mitigation, but it is still, well, ignorance.

There are also some who oppose vaccination out of a tragically misapplied libertarianism. They somehow think the defense of freedom requires the rejection of sound medical advice from the government. They seek a rarefied form of liberation — liberation from rational rules, from prudent precautions, from scientific reality and from moral responsibility for their neighbors’ well-being. This is the degraded version of a proud tradition: Live free and let someone else die.

But others in conservative media and elected office must know precisely what they’re doing. They’re rational enough to recognize the timeline the rest of us inhabit, on which we desperately needed miraculous vaccines, miraculously got them and expeditiously distributed them to the willing.

fox news logo SmallIn the case of Fox News celebrities in particular, they must know that discouraging vaccination — by exaggerating risks, highlighting unproven alternative therapies and normalizing anti-vaccine voices — will result in additional, unnecessary deaths. This is hard to get my head around. If someone were to pay me as a columnist to argue that cigarette smoking is healthy for children, or to encourage teenagers to take naps on railroad tracks after underage drinking, I don’t think I could make an ethical case for accepting the deal. Should it matter if I belonged to a news network where producing child smokers and trisected teens were institutional policies? Or if one-half of a major political party endorsed such goals? I don’t see why.

For years, I’ve been saying to myself that GOP politics can’t go lower. I am perpetually wrong. Americans should never forget this moment — or let guilty Republicans forget it. When Republican activists cheered for death at CPAC, they were cheering for disproportionately Republican deaths. When elected Republicans feed doubts about safe, effective vaccines, they are making it more physically dangerous to be a Republican in America.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tenn. health official fired in retaliation for coronavirus vaccine guidance for teens, she says, Paulina Villegas, July 13, 2021 (print ed.). Tennessee fired its top immunization official Monday, the official said, in retaliation for her attempts to let teenagers choose whether to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

Michelle Fiscus said she was fired from her job as director of immunization programs at the Tennessee Department of Health on Monday afternoon as retaliation for the department’s efforts to vaccinate teenagers against the coronavirus, a plan that angered several state lawmakers.

“This is about a partisan issue around covid vaccines and around people in power in Tennessee not believing in the importance in vaccinating the people, and so they terminated the person in charge of getting it done,” Fiscus told The Washington Post on Monday evening.

“The government is sacrificing public health to be in the good graces of our legislators; it’s a horrid dereliction of duty,” she said. According to Fiscus, lawmakers took offense when she sent a memo in which she explained to medical providers the state’s “Mature Minor Doctrine,” a legal mechanism by which they are allowed to inoculate minors 14 and above without consent from their parents.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans refusing to get vaccinated are owning no one but themselves, Eugene Robinson, right, July 13, 2021 (print ed.). What used to be the conservative movement in this eugene robinson headshot Customcountry is becoming a death cult. The measure of its power is less in ballots cast than in how many people die needlessly in service of this twisted worldview.

This reality was on view over the weekend in Dallas at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where attendees cheered when Alex Berenson, who has made himself a Fox News folk hero for spreading misinformation about covid-19 vaccines, crowed about the fact that fewer Americans were getting their shots than public health officials had hoped.

“It’s horrifying,” Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “I mean, they are cheering about someone saying that it’s a good thing for people not to try and save their lives. … Everybody starts screaming and clapping. I just don’t get that. I mean, and I don’t think that anybody who is thinking clearly can get that. What is that all about?”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Kristi Noem leans into her people-can-choose-to-die-if-they-want-to 2024 messaging, Philip Bump, July 13, 2021 (print ed.). Two different Republican governors with obvious designs on the 2024 presidential primary are leveraging their response to the coronavirus pandemic in an effort to bolster their conservative credentials.

ron desantis oOne, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, has successfully parlayed his balance of loose pandemic restrictions with Fox-News-friendly culture fights to consistently lead in (very) early primary polling, at least when former president Donald Trump isn’t included in the mix. The other, South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem, left, has attempted the same dance but without the same result.

kristi noemThat may be in part because she represents a small state with limited opportunities for national attention. It may also be that her state handled the pandemic particularly poorly, at least when measured on the metric of “not having people die.”

Linking to a CNN article covering her speech at a Conservative Political Action Conference event in Texas on Sunday, Noem spun her state’s response to the pandemic as nothing short of ideal.

“South Dakota did not do any mandates,” she wrote on Twitter. “We trusted our people, gave them all the information and told them that personal responsibility was the best answer.”

That was largely a quote from the speech itself, in which she targeted DeSantis (though not by name).

More On Virus Victims, Responses

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Human Immuno-System and Global Climatic Collapse: The signs are everywhere, Wayne Madsen, left, July 13, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2021. One does not have to be an on-line gold bug, silver futures shyster, or an end-times religious kook to appreciate that the world around us is undergoing a rapid change for the worse.

Fascists around the world are using the pandemic and habitat collapse to appeal to the worst instincts of humanity to rebel against common sense and democratic government. The results of such cynical policies are seen in the end of democratic rule in Hong Kong, American states like Florida, Georgia, and Texas, Turkey, and, increasingly, in India, Brazil, and the Philippines.

A paper, titled "The COVID-19 lockdowns: a window into the Earth System," published July 29, 2020 in the highly-respected journal Nature, takes note of the interlocking relationships between Covid-19 and the cascading international political and environmental collapse. The paper's 30 authors point out that "the most important consequences are the public health crisis and associated economic and humanitarian disasters, which are having historic impacts on human well-being."

The authors of the paper foresaw some of the long-term calamities that would strike the planet.

washington post logoWashington Post, 184.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 12, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 159.3 million people (47.9 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 55.4 % with at least one dose. In the last week, an average of 1.04 million doses per day were administered, a 25 % increase over the week before. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 12, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):   

World Cases: 188,210,482, Deaths: 4,058,101
U.S. Cases:     34,766,404, Deaths:    623,029
India Cases:    30,907,282, Deaths:    409,338
Brazil Cases:   19,106,971, Deaths:    534,311

 

July 12

Top Stories: Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Despite Outbreaks Among Unvaccinated, Fox News Hosts Smear Shots, Tiffany Hsu, July 12, 2021 (print ed.). rupert murdoch 2011 shankbone Back in December, before the queen of England and the president-elect of the United States had their turns, the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, right, received a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Afterward, he urged everyone else to get it, too.

Since then, a different message has been a repeated refrain on the prime-time shows hosted by Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham on Mr. Murdoch’s Fox News Channel — a message at odds with the recommendations of health experts, even as the virus’s Delta variant and other mutations fuel outbreaks in areas where vaccination rates are below the national average.

fox news logo SmallMr. Carlson, Ms. Ingraham and guests on their programs have said on the air that the vaccines could be dangerous; that people are justified in refusing them; and that public authorities have overstepped in their attempts to deliver them.

Mr. Carlson and Ms. Ingraham last week criticized a plan by the Biden administration to increase vaccinations by having health care workers and volunteers go door to door to try to persuade the reluctant to get shots.

“Going door-to-door?” Ms. Ingraham said. “This is creepy stuff.”

Mr. Carlson, the highest-rated Fox News host, with an average of 2.9 million viewers, said the Biden plan was an attempt to “force people to take medicine they don’t want or need.” He called the initiative “the greatest scandal in my lifetime, by far.”

Mr. Carlson’s guest on that episode, the veteran Fox News political analyst Brit Hume, pushed back slightly, saying, “What they’re trying to do is make it as easy as possible for people to get the vaccine and, for people who are hesitant, to perhaps encourage them that they have nothing to fear.” Mr. Hume was quick to add that “vaccines do have side effects” and said those who are hesitant “should be respected.”

Opposition to vaccines was once relegated to the fringes of American politics, and the rhetoric on Fox News has coincided with efforts by right-wing extremists to bash vaccination efforts.

washington post logoWashington Post, 184.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 12, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 159.3 million people (47.9 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 55.4 % with at least one dose. In the last week, an average of 1.04 million doses per day were administered, a 25 % increase over the week before. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 12, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):   

World Cases: 187,793,166, Deaths: 4,051,689
U.S. Cases:     34,732,753, Deaths:    622,845
India Cases:    30,874,376, Deaths:    408,792
Brazil Cases:   19,089,940, Deaths:    533,546

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Yes, the delta variant is taking over. But the vaccines still work, Monica Gandhi ( an infectious-diseases specialist and a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco), Updated July 12, 2021. As something resembling normal life resumes in the United States, many Americans are wondering how concerned they should be about the delta variant of the coronavirus. Reports from Britain and Israel suggest that this mutation is more contagious than previous versions of the virus, and it is already on the rise in this country. But there is good news: The vaccines work against this frightening new variant, and they remain our best, most powerful tool to extinguish the pandemic here and worldwide.

First, it’s important to understand how this version of the virus arose. The coronavirus can mutate when it replicates, especially when circulating at high rates. There have been different variants of concern, starting with the alpha variant, which was prevalent in the United States in the spring. But the delta variant, which was first detected in India this year, is now the most common version.

All three vaccines authorized in the United States (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) have been shown in clinical studies to produce strong neutralizing antibody responses against the variants. A report published Thursday in the journal Nature showed that people who received both shots of the two-dose vaccines retained significant protection against the delta variant.

 

July 11

washington post logoWashington Post, Europe is racing to vaccinate residents. But in some countries, undocumented immigrants have been left out, Claire Parker, July 11, 2021. A patchwork of policies across the continent and history of discrimination are preventing many undocumented immigrants from receiving coronavirus vaccines, advocates say.

washington post logoWashington Post, 183.8 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 11, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 159 million people (47.9 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 55.4 % with at least one dose. In the last week, an average of 1.04 million doses per day were administered, a 25 % increase over the week before. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 11, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):  

World Cases: 187,488,936, Deaths: 4,046,493
U.S. Cases:     34,726,259, Deaths:    622,825
India Cases:    30,871,507, Deaths:   408,763
Brazil Cases:   19,069,003, Deaths:   532,949

 

July 10

Stories: Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Africa suffers ‘worst pandemic week ever’ as cases surge and vaccinations lag, Erin Cunningham, July 10, 2021 (print ed.). Amid a surge in new coronavirus cases and deaths, Africa is now suffering its worst period of the pandemic, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

world health organization logo CustomThe continent’s latest wave of infections is being driven in part by more contagious variants such as delta, health experts say, and is sending more young people to the hospital as countries struggle to acquire vaccine doses.

For seven consecutive weeks, cases have risen across the continent, according to WHO data. Infections climbed 20 percent in the seven days ending July 4 compared to the prior week, the agency said, adding that the African region also reported a sharp 23 percent increase in fatalities over the same period.

“Africa has just marked the continent’s most dire pandemic week ever, ” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said in a statement. “But the worst is yet to come as the fast-moving third wave continues to gain speed and new ground.”

washington post logoWashington Post, 183.8 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 10, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 159 million people (47.9 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 55.4 % with at least one dose. In the last week, an average of 1.04 million doses per day were administered, a 25 % increase over the week before. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 10, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):  

World Cases: 186,946,098, Deaths: 4,037,443
U.S. Cases:      34,711,416, Deaths:    622,708
India Cases:     30,795,716, Deaths:    407,173
Brazil Cases:    19,020,499, Deaths:    531,777

 

July 8

Headlines

 

Stories: Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logoWashington Post, Delta variant study highlights challenges, importance of both shots, Joel Achenbach, July 8, 2021. Research published in the journal Nature found the two-shot regimen of Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines induces robust protection against the delta variant, but a single shot of those two vaccines “barely” offers any protection.

astrazeneca logoNew laboratory research on the swiftly spreading delta variant of the coronavirus is highlighting the threats posed by viral mutations, adding urgency to calls to accelerate vaccination efforts across the planet.

pfizer logoA peer-reviewed report from scientists in France, published Thursday in the journal Nature, found that the delta variant has mutations that allow it to evade some of the neutralizing antibodies produced by vaccines or by a natural infection. A single shot of a two-dose vaccine “barely” offers any protection.

But the experiments found that fully vaccinated people — with the recommended regimen of two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine — should retain significant protection against the delta variant. That echoes another report written by a collaboration of scientists in the United States and published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

olympics japan logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Spectators at Tokyo Olympics May Be Barred Amid New Covid Emergency, Ben Dooley, July 8, 2021. Organizers announced in June that domestic fans would be allowed, despite concerns. A sudden spike in cases has upended those plans.

The Japanese government declared a new state of emergency in Tokyo on Thursday after a sudden spike in coronavirus cases, wreaking fresh havoc on preparations for an Olympic Games that organizers have insisted can be held safely amid a pandemic.

The decision could force officials to abandon plans announced late last month to allow domestic spectators at Olympic events, a move that had been met with public opposition over concerns that the Games would become a petri dish for new variants of the virus.

Tokyo reported 920 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, the highest number since May, when the case count briefly rose over 1,000. The state of emergency will start on Monday and be in effect for the duration of the Tokyo Olympics, which begin on July 23.

It is the fourth time that Tokyo has been put under a state of emergency since the beginning of the pandemic. The most recent one began in late April, and most restrictions were lifted by the end of June. Tokyo had since been under a quasi-emergency that was set to be lifted next Sunday.

The impact of Covid-19 on Japan has been relatively mild compared to the effect on the rest of the world — a success that experts attribute to ubiquitous mask wearing, among other things. The death toll, at just over 14,800, is far lower than that of the United States, and Japan has never gone into the kinds of hard lockdowns seen in places like Australia and Singapore.

washington post logoWashington Post, WHO sounds alarm as toll tops 4 million, delta spreads to 100 countries, Erin Cunningham, July 8, 2021 (print ed.).  WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that more contagious variants are “currently winning the race against vaccines” with much of the world’s population unvaccinated.

world health organization logo CustomWorld Health Organization officials issued stern warnings Wednesday to nations planning to relax coronavirus restrictions as global deaths from the virus topped 4 million and the more virulent delta variant was spotted in more than 100 countries, including those with high vaccination rates.

Speaking at a briefing, the officials cautioned that more contagious variants were “currently winning the race against vaccines” as most of the world’s population has yet to be immunized.

Even the delta variant, which was first identified in India and is now tearing through unvaccinated populations around the globe, “is itself mutating and will continue to do so,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead at the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program.

“There are more than two dozen countries that have epidemic curves that are almost vertical right now,” she said. “We’re not in a good place.”

  • What you need to know about the highly contagious delta variant

washington post logoWashington Post, 182.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 8, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 157.9 million people (47.4 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 54.9 % with at least one dose. In the last week, an average of 1.04 million doses per day were administered, a 25 % increase over the week before. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 7, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):  

World Cases: 185,974,785, Deaths: 4,020,252
U.S. Cases:     34,646,741, Deaths:    621,904
India Cases:    30,709,557, Deaths:    405,057
Brazil Cases:   18,909,037, Deaths:    528,611

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Over 2,700 Inmates Reportedly Died of Covid. The Real Toll May Be Higher, Maura Turcotte, Rachel Sherman, Rebecca Griesbach, Ann Hinga Klein, Brendon Derr and Timothy Williams, July 8, 2021 (print ed.). Some deaths were not counted as part of prison virus tallies in the U.S. because hospitalized inmates were officially released from custody before they died.

Richard Williamson, 86, was rushed from a Florida jail to a hospital last July. Within two weeks, he had died of Covid-19.

Hours after Cameron Melius, 26, was released from a Virginia jail in October, he was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he died. The coronavirus, the authorities said, was a contributing factor.

And in New York City, Juan Cruz, 57, who fell ill with Covid-19 while in jail, was moved from a hospital’s jail ward into its regular unit before dying.

None of these deaths have been included in official Covid-19 mortality tolls of the jails where the men had been detained. And these cases are not unique. The New York Times identified dozens of people around the country who died under similar circumstances but were not included in official counts.

 

July 7

Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

marjorii taylor greene gun

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) makes new Nazi-era comparison in opposing vaccination push, Felicia Sonmez, July 7, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), shown above in a campaign promo, on Tuesday used a Nazi-era comparison in opposing the Biden administration’s push to encourage all Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, calling the individuals leading those efforts “medical brown shirts.”

Members of the paramilitary organization that helped Hitler and the Nazi Party rise to power were known as “brownshirts.”

Greene’s remarks, made in a tweet, came weeks after she visited the Holocaust Museum and apologized for previously comparing coronavirus face-mask policies to the Nazi practice of labeling Jews with Star of David badges.

“Biden pushing a vaccine that is NOT FDA approved shows covid is a political tool used to control people,” Greene tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “People have a choice, they don’t need your medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations. You can’t force people to be part of the human experiment.”

Greene was responding to a speech earlier Tuesday in which Biden said, “Now we need to go community-by-community, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, and oft times door-to-door — literally knocking on doors — to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus.”

It was not immediately clear what Greene meant with her reference to “a vaccine that is NOT FDA approved.” All three of the coronavirus vaccines in use in the United States were approved under the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization last winter.

The three vaccines have not been granted full approval, however, and pressure has been mounting on the FDA to speed up its process, with some experts arguing that doing so will reduce vaccine hesitancy and make it easier for employers, universities and the military to mandate vaccines.

washington post logoWashington Post, 182.4 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 7, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 157.3 million people (47.4 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 54.9 % with at least one dose. In the last week, an average of 1.04 million doses per day were administered, a 25 % increase over the week before. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 7, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 185,522,180, Deaths: 4,012,012
U.S. Cases:     34,622,728, Deaths:    621,562
India Cases:    30,663,665, Deaths:    404,240
Brazil Cases:   18,855,015, Deaths:    527,016

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Over 2,700 Inmates Reportedly Died of Covid. The Real Toll May Be Higher, Maura Turcotte, Rachel Sherman, Rebecca Griesbach, Ann Hinga Klein, Brendon Derr and Timothy Williams, July 7, 2021. Some deaths were not counted as part of prison virus tallies in the U.S. because hospitalized inmates were officially released from custody before they died.

Richard Williamson, 86, was rushed from a Florida jail to a hospital last July. Within two weeks, he had died of Covid-19.

Hours after Cameron Melius, 26, was released from a Virginia jail in October, he was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he died. The coronavirus, the authorities said, was a contributing factor.

And in New York City, Juan Cruz, 57, who fell ill with Covid-19 while in jail, was moved from a hospital’s jail ward into its regular unit before dying.

None of these deaths have been included in official Covid-19 mortality tolls of the jails where the men had been detained. And these cases are not unique. The New York Times identified dozens of people around the country who died under similar circumstances but were not included in official counts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vaccines Are Effective Against the Delta Variant, Studies Show, Carl Zimmer, July 7, 2021 (print ed.). h Though Israel reported that the Pfizer vaccine was 64 percent effective against the Delta variant, other studies suggested a higher rate.

ny times logoNew York Times, Covid updates: The highly contagious Delta variant is now the dominant virus variant in the U.S., according to the C.D.C., July 7, 2021. Research suggests that most vaccines still provide good protection against it and remain highly effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths. New virus numbers are significantly down across the country from the devastating peaks during previous national surges. The island nation of Fiji is seeing a surge in cases and hospitalizations.

 

July 6

Virus Victims, Responses, Jobs 

 

July 5

Headlines

 

Stories: Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP governors implore residents to get vaccinated, Amy B Wang and Nick Miroff, July 5, 2021 (print ed.).Polling shows that vaccine hesitancy has been driven by Republicans.

GOP governors implored their residents on Sunday to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, as polling shows that vaccine hesitancy has been driven by Republicans and as the virus’s new, more contagious delta variant has caused recent upticks in covid-19 cases in areas with low vaccination rates.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Sunday expressed concern about possible “trouble” ahead for Arkansans if the state did not accelerate its vaccination rate. In Arkansas, about 53 percent of adults have at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with about two-thirds of adults nationally. The state has seen a recent spike in covid cases and hospitalizations, driven mostly by the delta variant.

“The solution is the vaccinations,” Hutchinson said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that while many of the state’s senior citizens have gotten vaccinated, the delta variant was now hitting Arkansas’ younger, unvaccinated adults. “It is a great concern.”

Hutchinson avoided saying whether he would reimpose mask mandates if the state’s numbers did not improve and also stopped short of saying Arkansas was about to experience a third wave of covid cases and deaths.

However, he did emphasize that the state would continue to make vaccines accessible — including, for example, offering free shots at the state’s July Fourth “Pops on the River” celebration on Sunday.

“We are in a race,” Hutchinson said. “And if we stopped right here, and we didn’t get greater percent of our population vaccinated, then we’re going to have trouble in the next school year and over the winter. So, we want to get ahead of that curve. Working very hard to do that.”

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll showed 74 percent of people who haven’t been vaccinated say they probably or definitely won’t get vaccinated — and that the divide fell sharply along party lines. According to the survey, 86 percent of Democrats have received at least one vaccine shot compared with 45 percent of Republicans. Only 6 percent of Democrats said they are not likely to get vaccinated, compared with 47 percent of Republicans, including 38 percent of Republicans overall who said they definitely will not get the vaccine.

washington post logoWashington Post, If you got the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, should you get a booster dose of Pfizer or Moderna? Ben Guarino and Allyson Chiu, July 5, 2021 (print ed.). Two weeks ago, virologist Angela Rasmussen received a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to boost her immune system, which was already primed by a Johnson & Johnson shot.

johnson johnson logoNo U.S. health agency has recommended this vaccine combo. And Rasmussen, a research scientist at the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization in Canada, remains confident in data that show one J&J dose will prevent her from getting hospitalized with covid-19, the illness caused by the virus.

But she was concerned about a rare post-vaccination breakthrough infection — though not because she worried it would make her sick. Instead, if she were exposed and her immune system did not roundly defeat the infection, she feared any surviving pathogens may have the opportunity to evolve into more resistant strains. The emergence of the delta variant, a version of the coronavirus that more easily spreads from person to person, troubled Rasmussen. The Pfizer shot, she said, could reinforce her protection against that variant or help stop her from spreading it.

Rasmussen received one of the 12 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered in the United States so far. Meanwhile, 130 million Moderna and 175 million Pfizer shots had been administered to people in the United States by mid-June, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Numerous studies have shown that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which belong to a class of vaccines that use molecules called mRNA, are effective against delta and other variants. Fewer studies address J&J’s strength against variants.

washington post logoWashington Post, 182.4 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 5, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 157.3 million people (47.4 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 54.9 % with at least one dose. In the last week, an average of 1.04 million doses per day were administered, a 25 % increase over the week before. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 5, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 184,690,663, Deaths: 3,995,599
U.S. Cases:     34,592,377, Deaths:     621,293
India Cases:    30,585,229, Deaths:     402,758
Brazil Cases:   18,769,808, Deaths:     524,475

ny times logoUnited Kingdom flagNew York Times, Live Updates: England Is Set to End Coronavirus Restrictions, Staff Reports, July 5, 2021 (print ed.). The changes are expected to take effect on July 19. The country has endured one of the world’s longest lockdowns. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

washington post logoWashington Post, Britain to end legal mandates for masks and social distancing on July 19, William Booth, July 5, 2021. The government will now treat covid more like the seasonal flu, with ministers telling the public to “learn to live with the virus.” About 85 percent of Britain's adult population has had a first vaccine dose.

Boris Johnson on Monday announced that Britain was set to soon end virtually all government mandates to control the spread of the coronavirus, telling people that in two weeks it would likely be completely up to them whether to wear a face mask or socially distance.

At an evening news conference, the British prime minister said England was ready to move beyond one of longest, most restrictive series of lockdowns on the planet, turning away from legally binding rules to personal responsibility.

He cautioned that the pandemic was not over, but it was time for restrictions to end soon. He said this was possible because the vaccines were doing their job and protecting the population from infection and serious illness.

If the current trends hold, and Johnson suggested they would, then he expected the full reopening for July 19.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP governors implore residents to get vaccinated, Amy B Wang and Nick Miroff, July 5, 2021 (print ed.). Polling shows that vaccine hesitancy has been driven by Republicans.

GOP governors implored their residents on Sunday to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, as polling shows that vaccine hesitancy has been driven by Republicans and as the virus’s new, more contagious delta variant has caused recent upticks in covid-19 cases in areas with low vaccination rates.

asa hutchinsonArkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), right, on Sunday expressed concern about possible “trouble” ahead for Arkansans if the state did not accelerate its vaccination rate. In Arkansas, about 53 percent of adults have at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with about two-thirds of adults nationally. The state has seen a recent spike in covid cases and hospitalizations, driven mostly by the delta variant.

“The solution is the vaccinations,” Hutchinson said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that while many of the state’s senior citizens have gotten vaccinated, the delta variant was now hitting Arkansas’ younger, unvaccinated adults. “It is a great concern.”

Hutchinson avoided saying whether he would reimpose mask mandates if the state’s numbers did not improve and also stopped short of saying Arkansas was about to experience a third wave of covid cases and deaths.

However, he did emphasize that the state would continue to make vaccines accessible — including, for example, offering free shots at the state’s July Fourth “Pops on the River” celebration on Sunday.

“We are in a race,” Hutchinson said. “And if we stopped right here, and we didn’t get greater percent of our population vaccinated, then we’re going to have trouble in the next school year and over the winter. So, we want to get ahead of that curve. Working very hard to do that.”

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll showed 74 percent of people who haven’t been vaccinated say they probably or definitely won’t get vaccinated — and that the divide fell sharply along party lines. According to the survey, 86 percent of Democrats have received at least one vaccine shot compared with 45 percent of Republicans. Only 6 percent of Democrats said they are not likely to get vaccinated, compared with 47 percent of Republicans, including 38 percent of Republicans overall who said they definitely will not get the vaccine.

July 4

Headlines  

 

Top Stories: Virus Victims, Responsess

washington post logojoe biden resized oWashington Post, As Biden prepares to host 1,000 for Fourth of July, desire to declare victory collides with need for caution, Annie Linskey and Dan Diamond, July 4, 2021 (print ed.).  A victory lap could suggest the crisis is over, a potentially dangerous message.

washington post logoWashington Post, Poll: Biden earns high marks for handling the pandemic, Dan Balz and Emily Guskin, July 4, 2021 (print ed.). More than 6 in 10 Americans say they approve of the job the president has done in dealing with the pandemic. But the government’s vaccination effort faces hurdles, including resistance among people who identify as Republicans, according to a Post-ABC News poll.

washington post logoWashington Post, 182.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 4, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 157 million people (47.3 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 54.9 % with at least one dose. In the last week, an average of 1.12 million doses per day were administered, a 46% increase over the week before. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 4, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 184,336,038, Deaths: 3,989,211
U.S. Cases:     34,588,176, Deaths:    621,255
India Cases:    30,545,433, Deaths:    402,015
Brazil Cases:   18,742,025, Deaths:    523,699

  

July 3

Virus Victims, Responses, Jobs 

 

July 2

Headlines 

 

Stories: Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logoWashington Post, India’s death toll tops 400,000 as delta variant gains ground worldwide, Erin Cunningham, July 2, 2021. India’s official coronavirus death toll crossed the 400,000 mark, as the nation continued to grapple with the fallout of a devastating spring surge in cases, an outbreak that was driven in part by the more contagious delta variant now gaining ground in the United States and around the world.

india flag mapAt least 400,312 people have died of the virus in India since the pandemic began, the government said Friday, out of more than 30 million confirmed infections. Experts believe both figures are vast undercounts, as record numbers of patients and deaths overwhelmed the country’s health-care system.

While the outbreak appears to have peaked in India — with 853 deaths recorded over the past 24 hours — the more virulent variant that spurred its spring wave is now seeding new virus clusters from Moscow to Jakarta to rural Missouri.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facing the delta variant wave with few vaccine doses, African countries suffer — and bristle with anger, Lesley Wroughton, Max Bearak, Halima Athumani and Danielle Paquette, July 2, 2021. The variant-driven coronavirus outbreak that public health officials across Africa had warned about for months is underway — and it’s happening without the urgently needed ramping up of the continent’s access to vaccines.

The delta coronavirus variant is driving a sharp increase in infections across each of Africa’s main regions, with only a trickle of vaccination donations coming in from wealthy countries. Major moves to quicken commercial vaccine rollout across the continent have come too late to prevent calamities, officials said.

So far, 41.5 million Africans have received at least one dose and 11.5 million have received two doses.

washington post logoWashington Post, Johnson & Johnson says its coronavirus vaccine is effective against delta variant, Katerina Ang, July 2, 2021. The Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine provides effective johnson johnson logoprotection against the delta variant, according to a small study, offering hope to many developing economies facing a summer surge of the highly contagious strand.

Blood samples obtained from eight inoculated people who participated in a laboratory study showed that Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot generated a strong immune response against the delta variant, the New Brunswick, N.J.-based company said. (The results have not been peer reviewed.) Earlier clinical trials had shown the vaccine offered 66 percent protection against symptomatic infection.

washington post logoWashington Post, 180.3 million U.S. vaccinated, as of July 2, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 155.9 million people (47 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 54.6 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated July 2, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 183,484,950, Deaths: 3,972,783
U.S. Cases:     34,561,403, Deaths:    620,645
India Cases:     30,458,251, Deaths:    400,312
Brazil Cases:   18,622,304, Deaths:    520,189

 

July 1

Headlines

 

 

June 30

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logoWashington Post, Los Angeles urges a return to masking, even for vaccinated, citing delta variant, Fenit Nirappil, June 30, 2021. The high-profile move by the county of 10 million marks an abrupt shift in tone after states and localities have dropped most mask mandates and social distancing requirements.

Los Angeles County public health authorities are urging unvaccinated and vaccinated people alike to don masks again inside restaurants, stores and other public indoor spaces because of the growing threat posed by the more contagious delta variant of the novel coronavirus.

washington post logomoderna logoWashington Post, Moderna says vaccine works against delta variant, Erin Cunningham, June 30, 2021.  As much of the world still awaits vaccines, the delta variant is tearing through unvaccinated populations everywhere from Britain to the United States to South Africa.

washington post logoWashington Post, On narrow vote, Supreme Court leaves CDC ban on evictions in place, Robert Barnes, June 30, 2021 (print ed.).  The Supreme Court voted 5 to 4 on Tuesday night to leave in place the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ban on evictions, imposed to combat the coronavirus pandemic and prevent homelessness.

cdc logo CustomThe ban has just been extended another month, until the end of July, and the Biden administration said it will end then.

A group of landlords, real estate companies and real estate trade associations in Alabama and Georgia convinced U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich in the spring that the CDC lacked authority to impose the moratorium.

But Friedrich stayed her order to allow appeals to continue. A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit kept it in place, saying it believed the government was likely to prevail.

washington post logoWashington Post, 179.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 30, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 154.2 million people (46.4 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 54.2 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 30, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 182,663,043, Deaths: 3,955,540
U.S. Cases:     34,527,493, Deaths:     619,980
India Cases:     30,362,848, Deaths:    398,484
Brazil Cases:    18,513,305, Deaths:    516,119

 

June 29

Top Headlines 

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Vaccine Mandates Are Coming. Good, Aaron E. Carroll (right, chief health officer for Indiana University), June 29, 2021 (print ed.). It would be nice if the United States could reach herd immunity with just vaccination incentives like tickets to ballgames and free beer. Americans don’t like to be told what to do, and public officials would almost always rather hand out cash than have aaron carrollto punish.

Some even view vaccine mandates as un-American, but they are part of our foundational fabric. During the Revolutionary War, inoculation against smallpox was common in Europe. Because of this, the British Army was largely safe from the disease, but the colonists’ army was not.

Gen. George Washington recognized that mandated mass inoculation was necessary to win the war, though, and told Congress so in 1777. Although he met resistance, his mandate worked. While smallpox outbreaks were common over the next few years and massively affected those who were susceptible to infection, no revolutionary regiments were incapacitated by the disease during the southern campaign, and the mandate arguably helped win the yearslong war.

Today, vaccination rates are stalling in many areas of the United States, and now nearly all Covid-19 deaths are among the unvaccinated. In Indiana, where I live, only half of people 18 or older are fully vaccinated.

Some states, including neighboring Ohio, have engaged in lotteries or prize giveaways in an attempt to entice people to get vaccinated. Those are carrots, or positive behavioral nudges. When it comes to incentives, most people like carrots. Sometimes, though, people need sticks.

When the United States was fighting smallpox long ago, it took mandates to get enough people vaccinated. To eradicate polio, the same was true. Nearly all major infectious diseases in the country — measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, diphtheria and more — have been managed through vaccine mandates by schools. The result is that the vast majority of children are vaccinated, and in time, they grow into adults who are vaccinated. That’s how the country achieves real herd immunity.

But this process can take decades. Covid-19 is an emergency, and we don’t have that much time.

The mRNA vaccines, made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, will likely get full approval for use from the Food and Drug Administration soon, which may be necessary for broader vaccine mandates. Although the vaccines are already known to be safe and effective, after being given to hundreds of millions of people, with full approval, more groups will begin mandating that their employees get vaccinated. It’s unlikely the United States can overcome the pandemic without such actions.

The U.S. experience with diseases for which vaccination isn’t mandated is also instructional: In those cases, vaccination rates have remained much lower than desired. The human papillomavirus vaccine approved in the United States, for example, protects against an extremely widespread and often asymptomatic sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cancer. Despite calls to mandate HPV vaccination, it is required for school only in a few states; Washington, D.C.; and Puerto Rico and has never been mandated outside the school environment, where it would do more good.

Although the vaccine was approved in 2006, only about half of teens are currently covered. What’s worse, only 22 percent of 18- to 26-year-olds, who are most at risk for infection, are fully vaccinated. Influenza vaccination is another that has rarely been mandated, and the United States has never achieved anywhere near the rates of protection that health experts would like, even during pandemics.

When it comes to herd immunity, community matters. The rate of vaccination at the national or state level is less important than the rate among people you live or interact with. This means that smaller groups can still take action to protect themselves and those around them from Covid-19. A number of hospitals and health care settings have mandated vaccination because those settings involve higher risk.

Some colleges and universities have also required students, professors and other staff members to be vaccinated before returning to campus. The schools want to return to full classrooms, busy dining halls and a vibrant campus life. They want students to be able to go to football games, events and even parties without fear of outbreaks. The only way to do that is to achieve significant levels of immunity. The only way to do that quickly and safely is through vaccination.

More than 500 colleges and universities in the United States have mandated Covid vaccination so far. My school, Indiana University, where I am the chief health officer, is one of them. Schools like ours believe that the only way to get to the level of safety we need to reopen without outbreaks or worse is to get nearly everyone immunized.

Some private companies have done the same. Many of our health care systems in Indiana have mandated vaccination.

There will be pushback against mandates. (Some students have filed a lawsuit against Indiana University, for example.) But it’s important to understand that mandates don’t mean people will be held down and given shots against their will. The mandate for the Affordable Care Act was a tax. Other mandates, such as those imposed by cruise ship companies, mean you will be unable to take certain vacations this year without vaccination.

And there must be exemptions to vaccine mandates. Some people can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons. Others have religious objections, and such exemptions are protected by law as well as custom. We should all be comfortable with that. To get to herd immunity, even to eradicate diseases, we don’t need vaccination rates of 100 percent. We just need to get to high enough levels that those who are immune protect those who aren’t. And in much of the country, we’re not even close.

When vaccination is the default, most people will get vaccinated. Mandates still aren’t popular; few public health measures are. But they work.

ny times logoNew York Times, Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines May Offer Lasting Protection, Study Finds, Staff Reports, June 29, 2021 (print ed.).  The two mRNA shots’ effects could last for years, a detailed pfizer logolook at immune responses suggested. Here’s the latest pandemic news.moderna logo

  • Thousands of inmates sent home because of Covid may have to return to prison. 
  • Two start-ups reaped billions in fees on loans aimed at helping small businesses.
  • Young adults are among the biggest barriers to mass immunity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Young Adults Are Among the Biggest Barriers to Mass Immunity, Mitch Smith, Giulia Heyward and Sophie Kasakove, June 29, 2021. Many are foregoing Covid-19 vaccines for a complex mix of reasons. Health officials are racing to find ways to change their minds.

washington post logoWashington Post, 179.6 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 29, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 153 million people (46.1 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 54 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 29, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 182,276,265, Deaths: 3,947,630
U.S. Cases:     34,511,636, Deaths:    619,595
India Cases:    30,316,897, Deaths:    397,668
Brazil Cases:    18,448,402, Deaths:   514,202

 

June 28

Top Headlines

 

Top Stories on Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logoWashington Post, Spread of delta variant prompts new coronavirus restrictions worldwide, Erin Cunningham, June 28, 2021 (print ed.). The new curbs on travel and daily life stretched from Australia and Bangladesh to South Africa and Germany. The World Health Organization urged faster deployment of coronavirus vaccines.

Here are some other developments:

  • australian flag wavingAustralia is on the verge of a national coronavirus outbreak just as most other developed economies are emerging from restrictions, with the delta variant of the virus seeding new clusters across the continent.
  • Italy on Monday lifted its outdoor mask mandate as cases drop and vaccinations rise, marking a major milestone for one of the earliest and hardest-hit hotbeds of the pandemic.
  • Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who had taken time off to recuperate from fatigue, will be off-duty for a few more days than planned. The Tokyo 2020 Games begin in 25 days, and infections have started rising again in the Japanese capital.
  • Bogus vaccination certificates are booming in Russia as Moscow orders 60 percent of workers who interact with the public to get inoculated or get different jobs. The capital on Sunday logged a record 144 covid-19 deaths in 24 hours.
  • The United States is providing Honduras with 1.5 million doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted Sunday. The nation of about 10 million has one of the lowest inoculation rates in Latin America, with fewer than 1 percent of the population fully inoculated.

washington post logoWashington Post, 179.3 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 28, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 153 million people (46.1 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 54 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 28, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 181,946,305, Deaths: 3,940,743
U.S. Cases:     34,494,677, Deaths:     619,424
India Cases:    30,279,331, Deaths:     396,761
Brazil Cases:   18,420,598, Deaths:     513,544

 

June 27

Virus Victims Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 178.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 27, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150.8 million people (45.7 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.8 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 27, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 181,647,175, Deaths: 3,934,960
U.S. Cases:     34,490,134, Deaths:   619,343
India Cases:     30,233,183, Deaths:   395,780
Brazil Cases:   18,386,894, Deaths:   512,819

 

June 26

Virus Victims Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Where Did the Coronavirus Come From? What We Already Know Is Troubling, Zeynep Tufekci (Dr. Tufekci is a contributing Opinion writer who has extensively examined the Covid-19 pandemic.), June 26, 2021 (print ed.). There were curious characteristics about the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 1977-78, which emerged from northeastern Asia and killed an estimated 700,000 people around the world.

For one, it almost exclusively affected people in their mid-20s or younger. Scientists discovered another oddity that could explain the first: It was virtually identical to a strain that circulated in the 1950s. People born before that had immunity that protected them, and younger people didn’t.

But how on earth had it remained so steady genetically, since viruses continually mutate? Scientists guessed that it had been frozen in a lab. It was often found to be sensitive to temperature, something expected for viruses used in vaccine research.

It was only in 2004 that a prominent virologist, Peter Palese, wrote that Chi-Ming Chu, a respected virologist and a former member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told him that “the introduction of this 1977 H1N1 virus” was indeed thought to be due to vaccine trials involving “the challenge of several thousand military recruits with live H1N1 virus.”

For the first time, science itself seemed to have caused a pandemic while trying to prepare for it.

Now, for the second time in 50 years, there are questions about whether we are dealing with a pandemic caused by scientific research.

ny times logo

New York Times, Indonesia’s Doctors Got Vaccinated With Sinovac, and Got Sick, Hannah Beech and Muktita Suhartono, June 26, 2021 (print ed.). Facing increased cases and a deadly variant, the Indonesian health system is under strain, as doctors become patients.

washington post logoWashington Post, 178.5 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 26, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150.8 million people (45.7 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.8 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 26, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 181,269,620, Deaths: 3,927,175
U.S. Cases:     34,482,672, Deaths:    619,152
India Cases:    30,183,143, Deaths:    394,524
Brazil Cases:   18,322,760, Deaths:    511,272

 

June 25

Headlines: Virus Victims, Responses

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Reports: More U.S. States Try Lotteries to Tackle Vaccine Hesitancy, Staff Reports, June 25, 2021. Louisiana, where vaccinations have lagged, is among the latest to dangle cash prizes and scholarships in return for getting a shot. Israel, a world leader in fighting the virus, is grappling with a new outbreak. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 25, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150.8 million people (45.4 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.6 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 25, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 180,845,468, Deaths: 3,917,897
U.S. Cases:     34,464,956, Deaths:    618,685
India Cases:    30,134,445, Deaths:    393,338
Brazil Cases:   18,243,483, Deaths:    509,282

 

June 24

Headlines: Virus Victims, Responses  

 

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, Spread of delta variant renews danger to regions with low vaccination rates, Ariana Eunjung Cha, Karla Adam, Ben Guarino and Lenny Bernstein, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). The rapid spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus is poised to divide the United States again, with highly vaccinated areas continuing toward post-pandemic freedom and poorly vaccinated regions threatened by greater caseloads and hospitalizations, health officials warned this week.

The highly transmissible variant is taxing hospitals in a rural, lightly vaccinated part of Missouri, and caseloads and hospitalizations are on the rise in states such as Arkansas, Nevada and Utah, where less than 50 percent of the eligible population has received at least one dose of vaccine, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.

One influential model, produced by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, predicts a modest overall surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths this fall. Scott Gottlieb, a former head of the Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday that a fall surge could occur even if 75 percent of the eligible population is vaccinated.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: Even the world’s most successful vaccination programs are hitting hurdles, June 24, 2021 (print ed.).

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal health officials cite ‘likely association’ between coronavirus vaccines and rare heart issues in teens, young adults, Lena H. Sun, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). They say the benefits far outweigh risks, and ‘strongly encourage’ vaccination for those 12 and older.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The benefits of vaccination in young adults far outweigh the risks, including for myocarditis, Leana S. Wen, M.D., right, June 24, 2021 (print ed.). Advisers to the Centers of leana wenDisease Control and Prevention met on Wednesday to discuss the possible link between myocarditis — inflammation of the heart muscle — and the two coronavirus vaccines that use mRNA, Pfizer and Moderna. They determined that while there is an association between the vaccines and myocarditis, all age groups eligible to receive them should continue to, including adolescents 12 and over.

This was the right decision based on a thoughtful weighing of risks and benefits. While myocarditis and an associated condition, pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart), could be serious, the likelihood of this occurring is low and most cases are mild. By comparison, the risk of severe and lasting outcomes from covid-19 are much higher and can be prevented through vaccination.

Here’s what the CDC reported: Of the more than 300 million doses of the mRNA vaccines administered in the United States, there have been 323 documented cases of myocarditis, pericarditis or both, in those under 30. Most occurred after the second of the two-dose vaccination. The median age for those diagnosed with the conditions after the second dose was 24 years old, and 79 percent occurred in males. Symptoms generally started within three to four days. Of these 323 reports, nearly 80 percent are known to have recovered from their symptoms at this time. Nine are still hospitalized and two are in intensive care. No one has died.

Leana Wen, M.D., is a visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of the forthcoming book "Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for the Public's Health." 

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 24, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150.8 million people (45.4 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.6 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 24, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 180,450,521, Deaths: 3,909,314
U.S. Cases:     34,449,004, Deaths:   618,294
India Cases:     30,082,778, Deaths:   392,014
Brazil Cases:   18,170,778, Deaths:    507,240

ny times logobrazil flag wavingNew York Times, Brazil Passes 500,000 Covid Deaths, a Tragedy With No Sign of Letup, Ernesto Londoño and Flávia Milhorance, Photographs by Mauricio Lima, June 24, 2021. With 2.7 percent of the world’s population, Brazil has suffered 13 percent of the Covid-19 fatalities, and the pandemic there is not abating.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Sydney Outbreak Prompts Travel Ban and Mask-Wearing, Staff Reports, June 24, 2021. A Covid-19 cluster in Sydney has grown to 49 cases, prompting a travel ban for the city’s five million residents. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

  • The International Monetary Fund has a proposal to rescue poor countries from the pandemic.
  • The White House plans to send 3 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine to Brazil on Thursday.
  • Angela Merkel tells Europeans to ‘remain vigilant,’ and other news from around the world.
  • San Francisco will require all city employees to be vaccinated.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Coronavirus Epidemic Hit 20,000 Years Ago, New Study Finds, Carl Zimmer, June 24, 2021. A few dozen human genes rapidly evolved in ancient East Asia to thwart coronavirus infections, scientists say. Those genes could be crucial to today’s pandemic.

Researchers have found evidence that a coronavirus epidemic swept East Asia some 20,000 years ago and was devastating enough to leave an evolutionary imprint on the DNA of people alive today.
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The new study suggests that an ancient coronavirus plagued the region for many years, researchers say. The finding could have dire implications for the Covid-19 pandemic if it’s not brought under control soon through vaccination.

“It should make us worry,” said David Enard, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona who led the study, which was published on Thursday in the journal Current Biology. “What is going on right now might be going on for generations and generations.”

Until now, researchers could not look back very far into the history of this family of pathogens. Over the past 20 years, three coronaviruses have adapted to infect humans and cause severe respiratory disease: Covid-19, SARS and MERS. Studies on each of these coronaviruses indicate that they jumped into our species from bats or other mammals.

Four other coronaviruses can also infect people, but they usually cause only mild colds. Scientists did not directly observe these coronaviruses becoming human pathogens, so they have relied on indirect clues to estimate when the jumps happened. Coronaviruses gain new mutations at a roughly regular rate, and so comparing their genetic variation makes it possible to determine when they diverged from a common ancestor.

The most recent of these mild coronaviruses, called HCoV-HKU1, crossed the species barrier in the 1950s. The oldest, called HCoV-NL63, may date back as far as 820 years.

But before that point, the coronavirus trail went cold — until Dr. Enard and his colleagues applied a new method to the search. Instead of looking at the genes of the coronaviruses, the researchers looked at the effects on the DNA of their human hosts.

Over generations, viruses drive enormous amounts of change in the human genome. A mutation that protects against a viral infection may well mean the difference between life and death, and it will be passed down to offspring. A lifesaving mutation, for example, might allow people to chop apart a virus’s proteins.

But viruses can evolve, too. Their proteins can change shape to overcome a host’s defenses. And those changes might spur the host to evolve even more counteroffensives, leading to more mutations.

When a random new mutation happens to provide resistance to a virus, it can swiftly become more common from one generation to the next. And other versions of that gene, in turn, become rarer. So if one version of a gene dominates all others in large groups of people, scientists know that is most likely a signature of rapid evolution in the past.

In recent years, Dr. Enard and his colleagues have searched the human genome for these patterns of genetic variation in order to reconstruct the history of an array of viruses. When the pandemic struck, he wondered whether ancient coronaviruses had left a distinctive mark of their own.

He and his colleagues compared the DNA of thousands of people across 26 different populations around the world, looking at a combination of genes known to be crucial for coronaviruses but not other kinds of pathogens. In East Asian populations, the scientists found that 42 of these genes had a dominant version. That was a strong signal that people in East Asia had adapted to an ancient coronavirus.

But whatever happened in East Asia seemed to have been limited to that region. “When we compared them to populations around the world, we couldn’t find the signal,” said Yassine Souilmi, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Adelaide in Australia and a co-author of the new study.

The scientists then tried to estimate how long ago East Asians had adapted to a coronavirus. They took advantage of the fact that once a dominant version of a gene starts being passed down through the generations, it can gain harmless random mutations. As more time passes, more of those mutations accumulate.

Dr. Enard and his colleagues found that the 42 genes all had about the same number of mutations. That meant that they had all rapidly evolved at about the same time. “This is a signal we should absolutely not expect by chance,” Dr. Enard said.

They estimated that all of those genes evolved their antiviral mutations sometime between 20,000 and 25,000 years ago, most likely over the course of a few centuries. It’s a surprising finding, since East Asians at the time were not living in dense communities but instead formed small bands of hunter-gatherers.

 

June 23

Headlines: Virus Victims, Responses 

Top Stories

Roll Call, White House concedes it will fall short of Biden’s July 4 vaccination goal, Ariel Cohen and Niels Lesniewski, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). Younger adults' slow approach to vaccination raises risks. The White House will fall short of its goal of getting at least 70 percent of the adult population partially vaccinated by July 4, White House officials announced Tuesday, largely because younger adults are refusing the COVID-19 shot.

The administration has hit its 70 percent partially vaccinated target for Americans ages 30 and older and is expected to reach that threshold for Americans ages 27 and older by July 4, said Jeff Zients, jeffrey zients o obama national economic councilright, the head of the White House COVID-19 response team. But it will take a few more weeks to get Americans ages 18 to 26 up to that level.

“The reality is, many younger Americans have felt like COVID-19 is not something that impacts them and have been less eager to get the shot,” Zients told reporters on Tuesday. NBC News first reported the delay.

The White House still is planning a celebration for the holiday weekend featuring health care workers and members of the military. Zients said President Joe Biden will host about 1,000 people on the White House lawn.

Members of the administration have been crisscrossing the country to promote the vaccination campaign. On Tuesday, first lady Jill Biden is scheduled to join Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., for a tour of a vaccination site in Jackson, Miss. Then the first lady will head north to Nashville, Tenn., for a similar event with country music star Brad Paisley at the Ole Smokey Distillery.

Vaccine clinics at places like breweries and distilleries, as well as incentives for getting the vaccines, have had some success, but the White House plans to double down on its efforts to reach younger populations.

“We are not stopping at 70 percent, and we are not stopping on July 4,” Zients said.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said the ultimate goal is “crushing the outbreak completely in the United States.” This will require an intense focus on convincing unvaccinated younger people to get the shot.

Fauci said highly contagious virus variants could spread rapidly among unvaccinated individuals. But Fauci also predicted that any resurgence this fall will be limited to regional pockets where vaccination rates are low.

The country is now averaging 10,350 new COVID cases per day over the past week, a decrease of nearly 18 percent over the prior seven-week average. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said that deaths also continue to decrease, averaging 270 per day.

Young adults in Generation Z have been among the most vaccine-hesitant groups in America and, unlike people in other age groups, their reluctance to get the shot has increased over time.

The young and healthy were not prioritized for vaccinations in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many young adults said they didn’t see a need to rush as they watched case numbers fall, mask restrictions let up and life begin to return to normal.

The Biden administration recently began to take notice of the younger generation’s reluctance, and Biden encouraged young adults to get the shot.

“For young people who may think this doesn’t affect you, listen up, please: This virus, even a mild case, can be with you for months. It will impact on your social life,” Biden said earlier this month. “It could have long-term implications for your health.”

Public health experts caution that even though younger adults have a lower risk of contracting serious disease from COVID-19, remaining unvaccinated could have serious consequences for those who have lingering effects, known as “long COVID.”

The unvaccinated also further the spread of the virus and fuel new variants.

“If we get vaccinated now, it's hard for the new strains to get in here, but if they're in here and ... really are easy to transmit, then there's more of a risk,” said Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center.

The highly contagious delta variant, which first originated in India, has infected many young people, but Amesh Adalja, a physician and a Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security senior scholar, says this is because more young people are unvaccinated, not because the variant specifically targets young people’s immune systems.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Jill Biden tours the South to encourage vaccination as cases among the young mount, Katerina Ang, June 23, 2021. First lady Jill Biden headed to two Southern states on Tuesday to encourage vaccination, as the White House scrambles to raise inoculation levels in a region where relatively few people have received their shots.

Biden’s visits to Mississippi and Tennessee, both states where under 35 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, come as health experts warn that young people in the South are increasingly being hospitalized because of the coronavirus. There are fears that the more virulent delta variant could become the dominant strain this summer.

In Mississippi, the seven-day average of people 18 to 29 years old hospitalized for covid has quadrupled in the month to June 19, federal government data show. In Arkansas, the figure has more than doubled in the same time period. In other news:

  • Tokyo bans alcohol at Olympic games following outcry
  • Israel struggles to get children vaccinated as delta variant spreads

washington post logoWashington Post, Dozens of Texas health workers quit, fired after refusing to get vaccinated, Dan Diamond, June 23, 2021 (print ed.). Houston Methodist — one of the first health systems to require the coronavirus shots — parted ways with 153 workers Tuesday, a spokeswoman said. She declined to specify how many were in each category.

The hospital system announced April 1 that staffers would need to be vaccinated to keep their jobs. While 24,947 workers did get vaccinated by earlier deadlines, Houston Methodist suspended 178 workers who had failed to do so on June 7, giving them an additional two weeks to prove they had been immunized. Twenty-five of those employees did get vaccinated, Smith said.

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.6 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 23, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150.4 million people (45.3 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.5 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 23, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 179,997,274, Deaths: 3,899,731
U.S. Cases:     34,434,803, Deaths:   617,875
India Cases:     30,028,709, Deaths:   390,691
Brazil Cases:   18,056,639, Deaths:    504,897

washington post logoWashington Post, Coronavirus cases surge in Cornwall, England, after G-7 summit, sparking fury, Miriam Berger, June 23, 2021 (print ed.).Coronavirus cases are rising in Cornwall — but Downing Street says the Group of Seven summit held in the British town earlier this month is not to blame.

The seven-day case rate in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has soared from 4.9 per 100,000 people in early June to 130.6 per 100,000 people on June 16, the Guardian reported. Rates g7 logo uk 2021of infections are particularly high in Carbis Bay, where the summit was held, and several nearby areas where delegates to the gathering of world leaders stayed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson on Monday denied any direct causation between the G-7 summit — with its influx of journalists, police officers and support staff — and the rise in coronavirus infection rates.

“We are confident that there were no cases of transmission to the local residents,” the unidentified spokesperson told the Guardian. “All attendees were tested, everyone involved in the G-7 work were also tested during their work on the summit.”

 

June 22

Headlines: Virus Victims, Responses 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.3 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 22, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 150 million people (45.2 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.4 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 22, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 179,635,172, Deaths: 3,890,556
U.S. Cases:     34,419,838, Deaths:    617,463
India Cases:    29,977,861, Deaths:    389,302
Brazil Cases:   17,969,806, Deaths:    502,817

washington post logoWashington Post, Book offers fresh details about chaos, conflicts in Trump pandemic response, Dan Diamond, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). At one point, the president mused about transferring infected American citizens in Asia to Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, as White House officials debated whether to bring infected Americans home for care, President Donald Trump suggested his own plan for where to send them, eager to suppress the numbers on U.S. soil.

“Don’t we have an island that we own?” the president reportedly asked those assembled in the Situation Room in February 2020, before the U.S. outbreak would explode. “What about Guantánamo?”

“We import goods,” Trump specified, lecturing his staff. “We are not going to import a virus.”

Aides were stunned, and when Trump brought it up a second time, they quickly scuttled the idea, worried about a backlash over quarantining American tourists on the same Caribbean base where the United States holds terrorism suspects.

Such insider conversations are among the revelations in “Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History,” a new book by Washington Post journalists Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta that captures the dysfunctional response to the unfolding pandemic.

The book offers new insights about Trump as the president careened between embracing miracle coronavirus cures in his quest for good news, grappling with his own illness — which was far more serious than officials acknowledged — and fretting about the outbreak’s implications for his reelection bid.

CNNCNN, A coronavirus outbreak hit a Florida government building. Two people are dead but a vaccinated employee wasn't infected, Jamiel Lynch, June 22, 2021. Two people are dead and four of their coworkers were hospitalized after a Covid-19 outbreak swept through a government building in Manatee County, Florida.

The outbreak began in the IT department, according to Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes, who is also an epidemiologist. Another person who worked on the same floor but in a different department also tested positive for coronavirus last week.

The only exposed employee in the IT office who was vaccinated did not get infected, Hopes said.

"The clinical presentation gives me concern that we're dealing with a very infectious variant that is quite deadly," Hopes told Burnett.

The government building was closed on Friday as a precaution. It reopened Monday but officials didn't implement a mask requirement, instead keeping them optional.Hopes said he's encouraging workers who aren't vaccinated to wear a mask and the county is making them available to employees and visitors.

"Clearly masks work, but the vaccine is more important at this point," Hopes said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Philippines’ Duterte threatens to arrest anyone refusing to get vaccinated, Regine Cabato, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). While vaccinations remain voluntary in the country, the president’s spokesman said that could change.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to arrest anyone who refuses to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, as the country grapples with both vaccine hesitancy and a lack of supplies.

rodrigo duterte philippines president“I will order their arrest,” Duterte, left, said late Monday. “To protect the people, I have to sequester you in jail. Now choose — get vaccinated, or I’ll lock you up in a cell.”

“If you don’t want to be vaccinated, I’ll have you arrested and have the vaccine shot into your [buttocks],” he said, using a vulgar term.

philippines flagHe also expressed impatience with any kind of anti-vaccine sentiment, suggesting that if people felt that way, they should leave.

“If you don’t get vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India if you want, or somewhere, America,” he added.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra clarified Tuesday that refusing vaccination was not against the law.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wuhan lab’s classified work complicates search for pandemic’s origins, Eva Dou, June 22, 2021 (print ed.). The Wuhan lab has drawn global scrutiny because of its research on bat coronaviruses in the city where the pandemic began. The events have shined a light on a research niche that — in China, the United States and elsewhere — operates with heightened secrecy because of the national security risks of handling deadly pathogens.

 

June 21

Headlines: Virus Victims, Responses 

Top Stories 

washington post logoWashington Post, Scientists battle over the ultimate origin story: Where did the coronavirus come from? Joel Achenbach, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). Stanley Perlman, who has been studying coronaviruses for 39 years, got a nasty email June 4: “Dr. Frankenstein just wants more public money and wants to research things he shouldn’t be messing with. THANKS A LOT FOR CORONA LOSER.”

Perlman, a mild-mannered, grandfatherly virologist at the University of Iowa, didn’t know the author of the dyspeptic email and had nothing to do with the emergence of the coronavirus. But he had co-signed a letter to the Lancet in February 2020 saying SARS-CoV-2 was not a bioengineered virus and condemning “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”

That remains the consensus of many scientists — but the “lab leak” theory has never gone away and has become louder than ever. It is not a theory so much as a constellation of scenarios that imagine how the virus may have emanated from a laboratory in China, ranging from the accidental to the sinister.

ny times logoNew York Times, Sway Podcast, Kara Swisher Interviews Anthony Fauci, June 21, 2021. Anthony Fauci doesn’t have a Twitter account. But he does have a lot to say about the recent scrutiny following the release of his emails from 2020 — an especially busy time in his tenure as America’s chief immunologist.

Republicans like Ron DeSantis have used the emails as fodder for criticism, accusing him of “faucism” (yes, that’s a play on fascism). Fauci’s response: “Here’s a guy whose entire life has been devoted to saving lives. And now you’re telling me he’s like Hitler? Come on, folks. Get real.”

[You can listen to this episode of “Sway” on Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

In this conversation, Kara Swisher and Fauci parse the science from the politics. She presses him on the Wuhan lab leak theory, which critics claim Fauci and the media were too quick to dismiss. They discuss what went wrong with his early mask-wearing guidance and whether there is room for error or evolution of advice when it comes to public health in a social media age. And of course, they dig into some of the 4,000 or so pages of Fauci’s emails, including exchanges with Sylvia Burwell, the former Health and Human Services secretary, and Mark Zuckerberg. (No, he was not asking Zuck for help with his Instagram.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: China passes 1 billion vaccinations amid tightened curbs, questions on shots’ efficacy, Katerina Ang and Miriam Berger, June 21, 2021.  Hundreds of thousands of deaths appear to be missing from India’s coronavirus toll, state figures indicate

China has administered more than 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines, a state health body said, marking a milestone for one of the world’s fastest inoculation drives even as questions persist about how much protection against symptomatic infection is provided by Chinese-developed shots.

Beijing has offered other countries tens of millions of doses as part of a “vaccine diplomacy” competition with Washington, although reports have emerged in Brazil of people turning down available Chinese-developed Sinovac shots in hopes of receiving the coronavirus vaccine developed by U.S. firm Pfizer with German partner BioNTech. Hundreds of Indonesian health-care workers were recently infected after being inoculated with Sinovac shots — with dozens requiring hospitalization. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are also offering Pfizer-BioNTech boosters to many people vaccinated with Chinese-developed Sinopharm doses.

Despite vaccinating millions of people daily, China is still focused on a virus-elimination strategy. International borders remain largely sealed and the economic hub of Shenzhen over the weekend moved to step up enforcement of social distancing measures after a small increase in infections.

In related news:

  • Excess deaths in just two Indian states over the past year are 360,000 above normal levels, suggesting a massive undercount of covid-19 deaths across the country.
  • Olympic organizers will allow spectators at this summer’s Tokyo Games but cap attendance at 10,000 people or 50 percent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is smaller, they announced on Monday.
  • Hong Kong will cut the quarantine period for some vaccinated travelers starting June 30, as the beleaguered semiautonomous Chinese city seeks to keep its place as a global economic hub.
  • Cuba says late-phase trial of its Soberana 2 vaccine showing promising results.

washington post logoWashington Post, Models predict U.S. coronavirus infections could surge this fall if vaccination rates lag, former FDA chief says, Jeanne Whalen, June 21, 2021 (print ed.). Scott Gottlieb also expressed concern about U.K. study showing brain-tissue shrinkage after covid-19.

The transmission of the more contagious delta variant in the United States could spur a fall surge in coronavirus infections if only 75 percent of the country’s eligible population is vaccinated, former Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb said Sunday.

Although Gottlieb cited one projection forecasting an increase in infections reaching as high as 20 percent of last winter’s peak, he called that an “aggressive estimate,” saying he doesn’t “think it’ll be quite that dire.” But he said states with low vaccination rates already are showing a concerning rise in cases with the spreading of delta, which is up to 60 percent more contagious than earlier variants.

Delta variant could become dominant strain in U.S. this summer, CDC head says

“So Connecticut, for example, where I am, shows no upsurge of infection, but Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri show very substantial upsurges of infections. That’s based entirely on how much population-wide immunity you have based on vaccination,” Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program.

He urged a renewed vaccination push closer to the fall, as people prepare to return to school and work, when he said they may be more open to the shots.

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 21, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 149.7 million people (45.1 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.3 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 21, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 179,320,883, Deaths: 3,883,427
U.S. Cases:     34,406,001, Deaths:    617,166
India Cases:    29,935,221, Deaths:    388,164
Brazil Cases:   17,927,928, Deaths:    501,918

washington post logoWashington Post, Recovering U.S. economy is drastically changed and it’s not going back, Heather Long, June 21, 2021 (print ed.) A new economic era has arrived, and it features greater worker power, higher housing costs and very different ways of doing business. Policymakers are also contending with inflation and how Americans will react to high rates.

In late February 2020, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, inflation was tame, wages were rising and American companies were attempting to recover from a multiyear trade war.

The pandemic disrupted everything, damaging some parts of the economy much more than others. But a mass vaccination effort and the virus’s steady retreat this year has allowed many businesses and communities to reopen.

What Americans are encountering, though, is almost unrecognizable from just 16 months ago. Prices are up. Housing is scarce. It takes months longer than normal to get furniture, appliances and numerous parts delivered. And there is a great dislocation between millions of unemployed workers and millions of vacant jobs.

The post-covid luxury spending boom has begun. It’s already reshaping the economy.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell acknowledged all the uncertainty this week, saying that policymakers had misjudged parts of the recovery and that they aren’t certain what exactly will happen next.

 

June 20

Virus Victims, Responses

washington post logoWashington Post, 177.1 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 20, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 149.7 million people (45.1 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53.3 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 20, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 179,041,697, Deaths: 3,877,237
U.S. Cases:     34,401,712, Deaths:    617,083
India Cases:    29,881,965, Deaths:    386,740
Brazil Cases:   17,883,750, Deaths:    500,868

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why so many Republicans talk about nonsense, Jennifer Rubin, right, June 20, 2021. The latest numbers on vaccination rates are telling: Mississippi has the lowest percentage of vaccinated residents, followed by Alabama, Arkansas, Wyoming, Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee. All except Louisiana have both Republican governors and legislatures, as do the next seven on jennifer rubin new headshotthe list. Among the 14 U.S. senators representing the bottom seven, only two (both in Georgia) are Democrats. The Post reports, “Ten states, concentrated in the Deep South and rural West, report fewer than 35 percent of residents are fully immunized.”

Health care in these deep-red states is generally dreadful. Among the 12 states that have neither expanded nor voted to expand Medicaid, all but three have GOP governors and in those three (North Carolina, Kansas and Wisconsin), a Democratic governor faces a GOP legislature.

Of the 15 poorest states, all but two (Maine and New Mexico) are also deep red. Among the 30 Senate seats from those states, 27 are held by Republicans.

By these or just about any other measures, Republican states are failing to meet the basic needs of their residents. Among unvaccinated Americans, infection rates are climbing. More will get sick in those places, and some will die. Republicans are unwilling or incapable of meeting the challenge.

This sorry sight is unsurprising given that Republicans have all but given up on the notion of governance. At the national level, they consume themselves with race-baiting (e.g., scaring Americans about immigration and critical race theory), assailing private companies (e.g., corporations that defend voting rights, social media platforms, book publishers) and perpetrating the most ludicrous and dangerous lie in memory — that the 2020 election was stolen.

As Reason Magazine’s Peter Suderman wrote recently for the New York Times, the GOP “no longer has a cognizable theory of government.” They claim to be economic populists but oppose raising any taxes on the rich and corporations, decry union organizing and attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. “Freedom” used to be a central theme, but they are on a crusade to criminalize abortion and compel unwilling women to endure nine months of pregnancy — even in cases of rape or incest. They are also in favor of ordering teachers not to teach unfavorable facts about America.

 

June 19

Headlines: Virus Victims, Responses:

 

Top Stories 

ny times logoNew York Times, With Vaccination Goal in Doubt, Biden Warns of Variant’s Threat, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Noah Weiland, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). The U.S. is unlikely to partly vaccinate 70 percent of its adults by July 4. President Biden has ramped up his drive for Americans to get their shots.

joe biden black background resized serious fileWith the United States unlikely to reach his self-imposed deadline of having 70 percent of adults partly vaccinated against the coronavirus by July 4, President Biden on Friday stepped up his drive for Americans to get their shots, warning that those who decline risk becoming infected by a highly contagious and potentially deadly variant.

In an afternoon appearance at the White House, Mr. Biden avoided mentioning the 70 percent target that he set in early May and instead trumpeted a different milestone: 300 million shots in his first 150 days in office. But even as he hailed the vaccination campaign’s success, he sounded a somber note about the worrisome Delta variant, which is spreading in states with low vaccination rates.

“The best way to protect yourself against these variants is to get vaccinated,” the president declared.

His remarks came as his administration begins a final push to reach the July 4 goal over the next two weeks. Vice President Kamala Harris and Xavier Becerra, the health and human services secretary, were both on the road on Friday, trying to drum up enthusiasm for the vaccine. Ms. Harris went to Atlanta, where she noted that less than half of people in Fulton County, where the city is, had at least one shot, and Mr. Becerra to Colorado.

washington post logoWashington Post, 175.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 19, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 147.8 million people (44.5 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 19, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 178,668,986, Deaths: 3,868,508
U.S. Cases:     34,393,269, Deaths:    616,920
India Cases:    29,823,546, Deaths:    385,167
Brazil Cases:   17,802,176, Deaths:    498,621

ny times logoeuropean union logo rectangleNew York Times, E.U. Recommends Opening to Americans to Rescue the Summer, Monika Pronczuk, June 19, 2021 (print ed.). The European Union recommended its 27 member nations lift a ban on nonessential travel from the United States, but each country will decide for itself. 

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Disorder and Chaos’ in N.Y.C. Jails as Pandemic Recedes, Jan Ransom, June 19, 2021. Six people have died, a murder suspect was accidentally released and a captain was charged with homicide. The future of Rikers Island remains unclear.

Violence on Rikers Island is surging. Exhausted guards are working triple shifts. And staffing shortages have triggered lockdowns at some of the jail’s largest facilities.

More than a year after the coronavirus sickened thousands in New York City’s jail system, the Department of Correction has plunged further into crisis as complaints of severe mismanagement, persistent violence and deaths of incarcerated people continue to mount.

Correction officers and incarcerated people alike have described a tumultuous first half of the year: Six detainees have died, including at least two by suicide, compared with seven through all of 2020. Guards have been forced to work triple and occasionally quadruple shifts, staying on duty for 24 hours or longer, to make up for staffing shortages.

Last month, a report by a federal monitor appointed to oversee the troubled jails described a system in a state of disorder, and expressed grave concern about the agency’s ability to change course.

ny times logoNew York Times, Brazil, Besieged by Covid, Now Faces a Severe Drought, Manuela Andreoni and Ernesto Londoño, June 19, 2021.  Brazilians are paying more for electricity, dealing with the possibility of water rationing and expecting a destructive fire season in the Amazon.

Crops have shriveled up under searing heat. Immense water reservoirs, which generate the bulk of Brazil’s electricity, are growing alarmingly shallow. And the world’s largest waterfall system, Iguaçu Falls, has been reduced from a torrent to a trickle.

brazil flag wavingAs Brazil approaches 500,000 deaths from Covid-19, a worsening drought is imperiling the country’s ability to jump-start its beleaguered economy, and may set the stage for another intensely destructive fire season in the Amazon rainforest.

Several states in the country are facing the worst drought in at least 90 years. The crisis has led to higher electricity prices, the threat of water rationing and a disruption of crop growing cycles. Agriculture, an economic engine of the nation — which relies heavily on hydropower — is now at risk.

Experts said the arid landscape, which coincided with a rise in illegal deforestation over the past months in the Amazon rainforest, could lead to a devastating fire season. Enforcement of environmental regulations is weak in the rainforest, and fire season traditionally begins in July.

 

June 18

Top Stories  

ny times logoNew York Times, High Hopes for Johnson & Johnson’s Covid Vaccine Have Fizzled, Noah Weiland, June 18, 2021.The “one and done” Janssen vaccine has made up less than 4 percent of the U.S.’s total administered doses so far. Millions of vials will soon expire. The vaccine’s appeal has dropped after several controversies, and experts now say that the U.S. has missed a big opportunity to tackle health disparities.

When Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine was authorized for emergency use in late February, ​it was seen as a breakthrough for reaching vulnerable and isolated Americans, a crucial alternative to vaccines that require two shots weeks apart and fussier storage. It was soon popular on college campuses, in door-to-door campaigns and with harder-to-reach communities that often struggle with access to health care.

johnson johnson logoBut with only 11.8 million doses administered in the United States so far — less than 4 percent of the total — the “one and done” vaccine has fallen flat. States have warned for weeks that they may not find recipients for millions of doses that will soon expire, partly because the vaccine’s appeal dropped after it was linked to a rare but serious blood-clotting disorder and injections were paused for 10 days in April.

The vaccine took another hit last week, when regulators told Johnson & Johnson that it should throw out tens of millions of additional doses produced at a plant in Baltimore because they might be contaminated. The diminished supply and enthusiasm for the shot mean that its role in the United States is fading fast, even though millions of Americans have yet to be vaccinated.

“It’s just not what I think anybody would have hoped it would be when it came out,” said Dave Baden, the chief financial officer of the Oregon Health Authority.

Health officials in a number of other states presented a similarly discouraging picture. The pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, they said, effectively kicked it aside for good; only about 3.5 million doses have been used since the pause was lifted on April 23. Kim Deti, a spokeswoman for the Wyoming Health Department, said the graph of uptake in her state told the vaccine’s story: a significant climb in the early weeks of its rollout, followed by a plateau that began around the pause.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: China’s road to 1 billion vaccine doses: eggs, water bottles, free rides, Staff Reports, June 18, 2021. The country’s inoculation effort accounts for more than a third of all China Flagshots globally. While the E.U. said that American tourists should be allowed easier entry, Lisbon was forced into a weekend lockdown.

  • Israel is to bolster the Palestinian vaccination drive, trading a million doses.
  • Suspicion about vaccination videos fuels attacks on health workers in Kashmir.
  • In Taiwan, some foreign tech workers are confined indoors to tackle an outbreak.
  • Vaccinations are now mandatory for frontline workers in Moscow.
  • Isolated in the South Pacific, Fiji struggles as infections rise

washington post logoWashington Post, 175.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 18, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 147.8 million people (44.5 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53 % with at least one dose. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 18, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 178,267,584, Deaths: 3,859,419
U.S. Cases:     34,377,592, Deaths:    616,440
India Cases:    29,762,793, Deaths:    383,521
Brazil Cases:   17,704,041, Deaths:    496,172

ny times logoeuropean union logo rectangleNew York Times, E.U. Recommends Opening to Americans to Rescue the Summer, Monika Pronczuk, June 18, 2021. The European Union recommended its 27 member nations lift a ban on nonessential travel from the United States, but each country will decide for itself 

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge strikes down CDC cruise rules in ‘major victory’ for DeSantis, Hannah Sampson, June 18, 2021. A federal judge said Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can’t enforce its rules for coronavirus-era sailing against cruise ships in Florida starting July 18.

The decision was hailed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — who filed suit against the public health agency in April — as a “major victory.”

Under the ruling from U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday, the CDC’s conditional sail order will become a “ 'nonbinding ‘consideration,’ 'recommendation’ or 'guideline’ ” when applied to Florida sailings on July 18.

As part of its conditional sailing order, the CDC says operators can sail quickly if 95 percent of crew and passengers are vaccinated. If not, the agency requires cruise lines to take volunteers on “test” cruises to show they can mitigate the risks of covid.

Cruise ships have not been allowed to carry passengers from the United States since March of 2020, after high-profile outbreaks on ships around the world.

The agency can propose “a narrower injunction” by July 2 “to further safeguard the public’s health while this action pends,” the ruling said. CDC spokeswoman Caitlin Shockey declined to comment Friday afternoon.

In a statement, DeSantis said the industry would soon be allowed to sail again thanks to the lawsuit that he and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed. In reality, some cruise ships are preparing to sail as soon as next week with the CDC’s blessing after meeting their requirements.

It wasn’t clear if cruise operators would change anything about their plans after July 18 given the ruling. Roger Frizzell, spokesman for industry giant Carnival Corp., said the company was in the process of reviewing the decision.

 

June 17 

Top Stories  

ny times logoNew York Times, Why American Women Everywhere Are Delaying Motherhood, Sabrina Tavernise, Claire Cain Miller, Quoctrung Bui and Robert Gebeloff, June 17, 2021 (print ed.). Falling birthrates have led to the slowest growth of the American population since the 1930s, and a profound change in American motherhood.

For decades, delaying parenthood was the domain of upper-middle-class Americans, especially in big, coastal cities. Highly educated women put off having a baby until their careers were on track, often until their early 30s. But over the past decade, as more women of all social classes have prioritized education and career, delaying childbearing has become a broad pattern among American women almost everywhere.

washington post logocovad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Washington Post, 175.9 million U.S. vaccinated, as of June 17, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. This includes more than 147.8 million people (44.5 % of the eligible population) fully vaccinated and 53 % with at least one dose. See about your state. 

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated June 17, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here): 

World Cases: 177,885,850, Deaths: 3,850,529
U.S. Cases:     34,365,985, Deaths:    616,150
India Cases:    29,700,313, Deaths:    381,931
Brazil Cases:   17,629,714, Deaths:    493,837

romano didulo recent screenshots

The Canadian agitator Romana Didulo who is threatening health care workers, shown in two screenshots from her recent videos on YouTube.

Vice, Investigation: The woman whom thousands of Canadians believe is their secret ruler isn't afraid to tell her followers she's calling for the executions of the health-care workers and politicians behind the vaccination rollout, Mack Lamoureux, June 17, 2021. QAnons Are Harassing People at the Whim of a Woman They Say Is Canada’s Queen. A woman who claims she is the secret ruler of Canada has, thanks to QAnon influencers, thousands of followers, some of which are extremely active offline and harassing Canadians.

The woman whom thousands of Canadians believe is their secret ruler isn’t afraid to tell her followers she’s calling for the executions of health care workers and politicians behind the vaccination rollout.

canadian flag“At the firing squad, the military firing squad, you will receive not one, but two bullets on your forehead for each child that you have harmed as a result of injecting this experimental vaccine,” said Romana Didulo to those involved in vaccination efforts in a recent video on Telegram. “So when you go home tonight, think about how many bullets.”

Didulo, a B.C.-based woman in her 50s, has recently built up a following of thousands of people who listen to her claims of having been put in control of the Great White North by the same forces that QAnon believers think are fighting the deep state in America. QAnon, for the uninitiated, is a wide-ranging, wildly unfactual conspiracy centred upon Donald Trump’s secret fight against an international cabal of elitist pedophiles. Didulo was recently thrust into her position by several well-known QAnon figures who helped anoint her as a leader and in turns sent a swarm of followers her way.

But despite her following being only weeks old, Didulo has rallied her Canadian followers to real-life action. They’re in the midst of filing hundreds of “cease and desist” notices demanding businesses, governments, and police forces stop all activities related to combating the pandemic. They have organized themselves into localized groups to email their demands out en masse, send them via registered letter, or simply make their way to stores or police stations in order to physically hand them out.

One particularly riled-up group of conspiracy theorists in Cochrane, Alberta, went to over 30 businesses last week to hand out the notices. On June 10 they decided to go to a K-8 school—while children were present—and hand the notices and anti-vax flyers out. They eventually were kicked out and Cochrane RCMP confirmed to VICE World News that two people received trespassing tickets for their actions. The group complained about its mistreatment by police inside its Telegram chat and mulled over “bombarding” the school’s principal with letters.

Didulo has said that if the people who received the cease and desist orders from her followers break them, they will be executed.

“Peace, prosperity, or perish,” is one of her slogans, after all.

It’s not Didulo who is necessarily important, but her growing and active audience.

QAnon, which may, according to a recent poll, have as many as 30 million followers in the U.S. as well as more outside of it, has contributed to real-world violence, including the Capitol Hill uprising. Only a few short years ago, Didulo could have been simply ignored as someone with a grift or a tenuous grip of reality posting videos, but now, thanks to the new QAnon ecosystem, she’s a figure of consequence. In this modern environment, someone claiming to be the secret ruler of Canada and to be holding military tribunals and executions can rapidly gain thousands of followers, some willing to follow her off the deepest creases of the internet and into the real world.

To know the volatility of her followers, however, you must first know who they’re following. Didulo is the “leader” of an online political party called the Canada1st Party of Canada—which does not appear to have been officially registered anywhere but has been turned into a corporation by Didulo. She began posting about the party and making videos about her policy in late 2020, during the second wave of the pandemic. However, the party never took off, and she languished in obscurity for some time.

That all changed in May when she changed tactics and switched her rhetoric to fit several popular QAnon narratives. After getting noticed by a couple of well-known QAnon figures, her profile has been growing rapidly.

She now has almost 20,000 followers on Telegram, her primary channel, and a growing and engaged audience. The audience consists of an intersection of QAnon believers, anti-lockdown zealots, and “sovereign citizens” (people who think government laws do not apply to them, especially ones related to taxes). And her audience is not a passive one.

“Hello, Canada, I’m Ramona Didulo, I'm the founder and leader of Canada1st. As of February this year, 2021, I am the head of state and commander in chief of Canada, the Republic,” she said in her announcement video. “The people who appointed me are the white hats and the U.S. military, together with the global allied troops and their governments—the same group of people who have helped President Trump.”

She speaks to her audience either through Telegram posts or via poorly produced videos in which she sits on a couch in front of an empty beige wall. In a follow-up video to her initial decree, Didulo declares herself not only the “the head of state,” “commander in chief,” and “head of government,” but also the “Queen of Canada, replacing Queen Elizabeth II of England who has now been executed for crimes against humanity.”

ny times logoNew York Times, The U.S. Is Betting on a Pill to Treat Covid-19, Carl Zimmer, June 17, 2021. A $3.2 billion program will support the development of antiviral pills, which could start arriving by the end of this year.

 

 

June 10

Selected Stories   

seth pendley facebook

washington post logoWashington Post, He brought a sawed-off rifle to the Capitol on Jan. 6. Then he plotted to bomb Amazon data centers, Katie Shepherd, June 10, 2021. For weeks this spring, 28-year-old Seth Aaron Pendley had plotted an attack on Amazon data centers in Virginia. He had already taken a sawed-off rifle to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Now, he hoped to cripple much of the Internet and take down government networks.

Last April, he finally arranged a meeting with a man promising to provide the C-4 explosive devices. When they met in Fort Worth, Tex., the man showed Pendley how to arm and detonate the powerful bombs.But just as Pendley placed the devices into his Pontiac, federal agents swarmed in and arrested him. The bomb seller was actually an FBI plant who had helped unravel a plan Pendley believed could “kill off about 70 percent of the internet.”

On Wednesday, Pendley (shown above in a Facebook photo) pleaded guilty to planning to bomb Amazon facilities in an attempt to undermine the U.S. government and to spark a rebellion against the “oligarchy” he believed to be running the country.

amazon logo smallThe case underscores the dramatic rise in domestic terrorism driven by right-wing extremists and raises concerns about those who participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection plotting new attacks. Domestic attacks peaked in 2020, mostly driven by white-supremacist, anti-Muslim and anti-government extremists. Those far-right attacks have killed 91 people since 2015, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

Justice Department officials on Wednesday said Pendley’s plans could have injured or killed workers at the Amazon facilities if the FBI hadn’t intervened.

“Due in large part to the meticulous work of the FBI’s undercover agents, the Justice Department was able to expose Mr. Pendley’s twisted plot and apprehend the defendant before he was able to inflict any real harm,” Prerak Shah, the acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said in a statement. “We may never know how many tech workers’ lives were saved through this operation — and we’re grateful we never had to find out.”

Pendley’s plot against the government began to take shape in January, according to investigators. He said he traveled to D.C. on Jan. 6 with a sawed-off rifle concealed in a backpack. As a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, he decided to leave the gun in his car and never entered the building, according to court records. But he later boasted about taking a piece of broken glass from the federal building home to Texas with him.

Under his plea agreement, Pendley faces between five and 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and three years of probation and will be banned from owning firearms.

 

June 9 

sherri tenpenny ohio

Ohio Capital Journal, ‘5G towers,’ other conspiracies flourish at hearing on vaccine bill, Jake Zuckerman, June 9, 2021. Supporters crammed into the House Health Committee room June 8 in support of House Bill 248, which weakens state vaccination laws.

A doctor warned that vaccinated people might be magnetized and pose a health risk to unvaccinated people around them.

A pastor said vaccines contain ingredients like formaldehyde and fetal cells.

A nurse sought to prove the truth of “magnetic vaccine crystals.”

These statements — none of which are true — came during the Ohio House Health Committee’s review Tuesday of House Bill 248, a broad weakening of state vaccination laws. The five-hour hearing, limited to proponent testimony, devolved into a forum of fear-stoking, speculation, and conspiracy theorizing around the COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, shown above, a board-certified physician from the Cleveland area, repeatedly raised unfounded claims of deaths, strokes and other “horrendous side effects” from the vaccine. The Center for Countering Digital Hate identified Tenpenny as one of a dozen of the most prolific anti-vaccination disinformers “who play leading roles in spreading digital misinformation about Covid vaccines.” The report is linked here and excerpted below:  Advocacy Special Report: The Disinformation Dozen: Why Platforms Must Act On Twelve Leading Online Anti-Vaxxers

At one point, Tenpenny made a claim to lawmakers, with no evidence behind it, that vaccinated people are somehow magnetized.

“They can put a key on their forehead, it sticks. They can put spoons and forks all over them and they can stick, because now we think there’s a metal piece to that,” she said. “There’s been people who have long suspected that there was some sort of an interface, yet to be defined interface, between what’s being injected in these shots and all of the 5G towers.”

Shortly thereafter, Tom Renz, a lawyer, testified in support of the bill as well. Renz has filed lawsuits in states around the U.S. crying foul of an array of government practices related to COVID-19 and vaccination.

He filed one such case in Ohio, which he withdrew after U.S. District Judge James Carr called Renz’s arguments nearly “incomprehensible” and his supporting evidence “a jumble of alleged facts, conclusory and speculative assertions, personal and third-party allegations, opinions, and articles of dubious provenance and admissibility.”

Renz, like several other witnesses, accused health officials of secretly profiting from vaccines while covering up their dangers.

House Bill 248, co-sponsored by 16 House Republicans, would prohibit any of the following institutions from mandating, incentivizing, or “otherwise requesting” their employees, customers or students get vaccinated: businesses, hospitals, nursing homes, colleges, day-care centers, and insurers.

It also:

  • Prohibits a person from mandating, requiring, or otherwise requesting that an individual receive a vaccine.
  • Compels public schools, which already accept exemptions for non-medical and medical reasons, to emphasize vaccine exemptions “in the same timing and manner, including text size and font, as it
  • provides notice of the requirements.”
  • Blocks businesses from separating patrons by vaccination status or asking whether they’ve been vaccinated.

Rep. Jennifer Gross, R-West Chester, the bill’s lead sponsor, has said she isn’t opposed to vaccination, but people should have the right to choose. “This is not a scientific bill,” she said last month. “This is a freedom bill.”

Several public health experts have warned in interviews that the legislation will likely lead to sagging vaccination rates, and in turn, outbreaks of infectious disease.

mike dewine oIn the last two weeks, Gov. Mike DeWine, right, Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud, and ODH Medical Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff declined to comment on the legislation.

At a press call last week, a physician joined Vanderhoff for a largely unrelated press conference encouraging vaccination against COVID-19. When asked by a reporter about the bill, she didn’t share Vanderhoff’s reticence.

“I’ll be very direct and say this bill threatens how we take care of children, and how we keep them healthy, and how we keep them alive,” said Dr. Patty Manning-Courtney, the chief of staff at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“To limit and restrict the ability to require vaccinations in schools or to check vaccination status, it’s almost unthinkable in a pediatric community to think that one of the best tools we have at prevention would be limited, restricted, or discussed in a way that is negative.”

Similarly, a “vaccine coalition” of business groups along with the largest medical groups and associations in the state — including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Hospital Association, the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, Anthem, OhioHealth, and others — issued a public letter warning the legislation puts all children at risk.

“At its core, this proposal would destroy our current public health framework that prevents outbreaks of potentially lethal diseases, threaten the stability of our economy as it recovers from a devastating pandemic, and jeopardize the way we live, learn, work and celebrate life,” the coalition wrote.

An item that fully escaped the committee’s attention: during the hearing itself, the CDC published an early release of a report analyzing COVID-19 infections by age group and vaccination status.

The researchers found occurrences of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death plummeted among Americans aged 65-and-up (about 82% of whom are vaccinated) compared to those aged 18-49 (about 42% of whom are vaccinated).

The finding builds on mounting evidence of the COVID-19 vaccines’ safety and efficacy.

The legislation drew immense support including more than 800 pieces of written testimony. The hearing room was virtually full, requiring two overflow rooms for supporters. At a lunch recess, a man stood outside the statehouse passing out faux vaccination cards with a vulgarity on the flip side.

“Mandatory vaccines and masks are a joke … much like this card!” it states.

In an interview after the hearing, House Health Chairman Scott Lipps, R-Franklin, said it’d be tough but possible to see the bill passed out of committee before lawmakers break for summer recess at the end of the month.

He indicated looming amendments might narrow the bill, possibly restricting its focus solely to the flu or COVID-19 vaccine as opposed to its current form of all vaccinations.

“If you could trim this bill down, you could pass it,” he said.

During the hearing, Lipps tried to steer witness testimony and lawmakers’ inquiries toward the philosophical questions about the role of government in public health as opposed to litigating the safety and efficacy of vaccines. The attempts were largely unsuccessful with both proponents and opponents.

He distanced himself from Tenpenny’s remarks.

“I do believe Representative Gross requested Dr. Tenpenny to speak, and she got a little off balance, I think she got a little outside the lines of what we were intending or hoping to keep her in,” he said. “I hope that didn’t harm her credibility, but I think some committee members walked away with big questions.”

Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), Advocacy Special Report: The Disinformation Dozen: Why Platforms Must Act On Twelve Leading Online Anti-Vaxxers, Imran Ahmed, March 24, 2021. The Disinformation Dozen are twelve anti-vaxxers who play leading roles in spreading digital misinformation about Covid vaccines. They were selected because they have large numbers of followers, produce high volumes of anti-vaccine content or have seen rapid growth of their social media accounts in the last two months.

Analysis of a sample of anti-vaccine content that was shared or posted on Facebook and Twitter a total of 812,000 times between 1 February and 16 March 2021 shows that 65 percent of anti-vaccinecontent is attributable to the Disinformation Dozen.

Despite repeatedly violating Facebook, Instagram and Twitter’s terms of service agreements, nine of the Disinformation Dozen remain on all three platforms, while just three have been comprehensively removed from just one platform.

This is the product of a series of failures from social media platforms

a. Research conducted by CCDH last year has shown that platforms fail to act on 95 percent of the Covid and vaccine misinformation reported to them.
b. CCDH’s recent report, Malgorithm, uncovered evidence that Instagram’s algorithm actively recommends similar misinformation.
c. Tracking of 425 anti-vaccine accounts by CCDH shows that their total following across platforms now stood at 59.2 million in December, an increase of 877,000 more than they had in June.
d. CCDH’s ongoing tracking shows that the 20 anti-vaxxers with the largest followings account for over two-thirds of this total cross-platform following of 59.2 million.

Analysis of anti-vaccine content posted to Facebook over 689,000 times in the last two months shows that up to 73 percent of that content originates with members of the Disinformation Dozen of leading online anti-vaxxers.

facebook logoFacebook’s own internal analysis of vaccine hesitant content on its platform is likely to underestimate the influence of leading anti-vaxxers by failing to address the ultimate source of this content, and by the recorded failure of its algorithms to identify content concerning vaccines.

Analysis of over 120,000 anti-vaccine tweets collected in the last two months shows that up to 17 percent feature the Disinformation Dozen of leading online anti-vaxxers.

The most effective and efficient way to stop the dissemination of harmful information is to deplatform the most highly visible repeat offenders, who we term the Disinformation Dozen. This should also include the organisations these individuals control or fund, as well as any backup accounts they have established to evade removal.

Platforms should establish a clear threshold for enforcement action, such as two strikes, after which restrictions are applied to accounts short of deplaforming them.

Users should be presented with warning screens when attempting to follow links to sites known to host vaccine misinformation, and users exposed to posts containing misinformation should be shown effective corrections.

Facebook should not allow private and secret anti-vaccine Groupswhere dangerous anti-vaccine disinformation can be spread with impunity.

The Disinformation Dozen are responsible for up to 65% of anti-vaccine contentAt the outset of this research, we identified a dozen individuals who appeared to be extremely influential creators of digital anti-vaccine content.

These individuals were selected either because they run anti-vaccine social media accounts with large numbers of followers, because they produce high volumes of anti-vaccine content or because their growth was accelerating rapidly at the outset of our research in February.Full profiles of each are available at the end of this report.


1. Joseph Mercola
robert f kennedy jr gage skidmore2. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (shown at right in a Gage Skidmore portrait)
3. Ty and Charlene Bollinger
4. Sherri Tenpenny
5. Rizza Islam
6. Rashid Buttar
7. Erin Elizabeth
8. Sayer Ji
9. Kelly Brogan
10. Christiane Northrup
11. Ben Tapper
12. Kevin Jenkins

The Disinformation Dozen are responsible for up to 65% of anti-vaccine content.

Our analysis of over 812,000 posts extracted from Facebook and Twitter between 1 February and 16 March 2021 shows that 65 percent of anti-vaccine content is attributable to the Disinformation Dozen.This shows that while many people might spread anti-vaccine content on social media platforms, the content they share often comes from a much more limited range of sources.

Exposure to even a small amount of online vaccine misinformation has been shown by the Vaccine Confidence Project to reduce the number of people willing to take a Covid vaccine by up to 8.8 percent.

Platforms have failed to act on the Disinformation Dozen

Despite repeatedly violating Facebook, Instagram and Twitter’s terms of service agreements, nine of the Disinformation Dozen remain on all three platforms, while just three have been comprehensively removed from just one platform. This is an extension of platforms’ failure to act on vaccine misinformation. Research conducted by CCDH last year has shown that platforms fail to act on 95 percent of the Covid and vaccine misinformation reported to them, and we have uncovered evidence that Instagram’s algorithm actively recommends similar misinformation.

Tracking of 425 anti-vaccine accounts by CCDH shows that their total following across platforms now stands at 59.2 millionas a result of these failures.

The 20 anti-vaxxers with the largest followings account for over two-thirds of this total.

Up to 17% of anti-vaccine tweets feature the Disinformation Dozen

Analysis of over 120,000 anti-vaccine tweets collected in the last two months shows that up to 17 percent feature the Disinformation Dozen of leading online anti-vaxxers. This analysis is based on a representative sample of 123,494 anti-vaccine tweets identified by analysis of their text contents.

We collected this sample using Brandwatch, an enterprise social listening tool, to extract anti-vaccine tweets posted between 1 February and 16 March 2021 based on text analysis.

Retweets and quote tweets were also extracted to discover which pieces of anti-vaccine content were shared most frequently.

Tweets were selected based on their use of anti-vaccine keywords, phrases and hashtags, as well as selecting tweets about vaccines from known anti-vaxxers including those who are not members of the Disinformation Dozen. This process selected tweets using phrases commonly used by anti-vaxxers such as “informed consent” and “casedemic” in combination with more common terms regarding Covid vaccines.

This sample was then analysed using an automated set of rules to tag those that featured the name or username of a member of the Disinformation Dozen, or contained a link to a website controlled by or related to one of them.Tweets that were extracted and tagged using these methodswere then checked by researchers on a daily basis to maintain the quality of our data.

This analysis showed that 21,351 of the tweets in our sample featured members of the Disinformation Dozen equivalent to 17.3% of the whole sample.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate is a not-for-profit NGO that seeks to disrupt the architecture of online hate and misinformation. Digital technology has changed forever the way we communicate, build relationships, share knowledge, set social standards, and negotiate and assert our society's values.

Digital spaces have been colonised and their unique dynamics exploited by fringe movements that instrumentalise hate and misinformation. These movements are opportunistic, agile and confident in exerting influence and persuading people. Over time these actors, advocating diverse causes --from anti-feminism to ethnic nationalism to denial of scientific consensus -- have formed a Digital Counter Enlightenment. Their trolling, disinformation and skilled advocacy of their causes has resocialised the offline world for the worse.

The Center's work combines both analysis and active disruption of these networks. CCDH's solutions seek to increase the economic, political and social costs of all parts of the infrastructure -- the actors, systems and culture -- that support, and often profit from hate and misinformation.