The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: anti vax republicans

Anti-Vax Republican Who Campaigned Against Vaccines Dies From Covid

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In Orange County, California south of Los Angeles, Kelly Ernby — a GOP activist known for her opposition to vaccine mandates — has died of COVID-19 at the age of 46, according to the Daily Pilot.

Ernby, who spent a decade as a deputy district attorney in Orange County, ran for a seat in the California State Assembly in 2020 and competed with Newport Beach Mayor Diane Dixon for the Republican nomination. Dixon narrowly defeated Ernby in that primary before losing to the incumbent Democrat, Cottie Petrie-Norris, in the general election.

Ernby’s opposition to vaccine mandates preceded the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, Ernby opposed a California law that created stricter immunization rules for schoolchildren, saying, “I don’t think that the government should be involved in mandating what vaccines people are taking. I think that’s a decision between doctors and their patients…. If the government is going to mandate vaccines, what else are they going to mandate?”


After losing in the California Assembly race in 2020, Ernby — who continued to speak out against vaccine mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic — was elected to the Orange County GOP’s central committee.

Back when California was still a red state, Orange County was known for being a hotbed of conservative Republican politics. Democrats in Los Angeles County, during the 1970s and 1980s, jokingly referred to Orange County as “behind the Orange Curtain.” But Orange County, like many other areas of California, has become increasingly Democratic in recent decades — and the last Republican candidate to carry California in a presidential election was George H.W. Bush in 1988.

Ernby reiterated her opposition to vaccine mandates during a December 4, 2021 rally outside of Irvine City Hall. According to the Daily Pilot, she planned to run for the California Assembly again.

Article reprinted with permission from Alternet

Why Do Republicans Keep Killing Their Own?

As the omicron variant threatens to inflict yet more suffering and death, it is maddening to realize how easily this next wave of the coronavirus could have been avoided or certainly mitigated if only more Americans had been fully vaccinated. And confronting that terribly obvious truth raises the most enduring enigma of the pandemic: the campaign by right-wing Republican leaders, in both politics and media, to herd their sheeplike followers into a suicidal rejection of vaccines.

The anti-vaccine campaign, a paranoid mindset once relegated to the kook fringes of American life, has been adopted in whole or in part by the Republican Party along with its media subsidiaries. They have taken that campaign well beyond any libertarian objection to coercive government, publicizing fake statistics to exaggerate the very minor perils of vaccination while promoting (and sometimes profiting from) medications that are more likely to kill than cure.

It is a crusade rife with contradictions at every level. As president, Donald Trump was responsible for financing the "Operation Warp Speed" effort to bring forth vaccines as rapidly as possible and could even claim some credit for its success. As soon as they became available, prominent conservatives such as Rupert Murdoch, the superannuated Fox News boss, went abroad to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Murdoch soon ordered all of his employees to either get vaccinated or submit to daily COVID-19 testing, despite the anti-vax propaganda constantly emanating from his network.

The weird hypocrisy of the inoculated vaccination opponents even enveloped anti-vaccine publicist Robert Kennedy Jr., when the invitation to a Christmas party at his home urged those planning to attend to get vaccinated. While he keeps fabricating scary statistics about mortality among the vaccinated, Kennedy himself refuses to disclose his own vaccination status, as if this is a matter of principle. So do his pal Tucker Carlson and many of Carlson's Fox colleagues.

It is reasonable to assume that all of these misleaders are, in fact, fully vaccinated and boosted, like any other moderately intelligent person. So why are they encouraging their followers to reject vaccination and risk death?

The bloody consequences of their demagoguery are starkly illustrated in real statistics as well as charts and graphs. Invariably displayed in shades of red and blue are the data showing that Republicans are succumbing to coronavirus at far higher rates than Democrats. Analysts can select any variety of geographic or political criteria to measure the rates of infection and death, but the answer is always essentially the same.

Today, according to the invaluable health analyst Charles Gaba, the rate of new infections in the most Republican areas of the country is nearly three times higher than in the most Democratic areas. The death rate in those reddest counties is nearly six times higher than in the bluest counties. Those same numbers can be plotted along lines of vaccinated versus unvaccinated, and of course they match almost perfectly.

Which again raises the unanswered question of why the Republicans have so eagerly adopted the anti-vaccine ideology once confined to a sideshow of barking crazies and grifters. Why are they fighting to ban vaccine mandates — even for health care and nursing home workers? Why are they promising to protect and even reward workers who refuse vaccination? Why are they forcing schools to abandon masking, vaccination, and other protective measures?

Why, as we surpass the morbid milestone of 800,000 dead, are they doing everything in their power to ensure that we will have to bury many more? The most plausible answer is so disturbing and so criminal that it is hard to believe, even hard to articulate.

But given the circumstances, it is equally hard to imagine any alternative explanation -- keeping in mind that the principal advocates of this insanity are themselves fully vaccinated.

Maybe the Republicans are seeking to keep death rates high in the hope that voters will blame President Joe Biden, who promised to stem the pandemic when he ran for president. Maybe they don't mind sacrificing their own sheeplike followers. They are betting that enough Americans will stupidly avoid vaccination, and more than enough will ignore the real causes and effects of that stupidity.

Right now they are winning that bet — and our country is losing.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Pennsylvania Republican Assists Vaccine Resisters As COVID Surges In Her District

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

With COVID-19’s Omicron variant spreading rapidly, Pennsylvania health officials and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf have been urging residents of the Keystone State to get vaccinated if they haven’t done so already — and booster shots for COVID-19 vaccines are widely available. But Rep. Leslie Rossi, a far-right MAGA Republican who serves in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, is pandering to anti-vaxxers by offering “vaccination exemption assistance” in her district.

Rossi, who represents an area of Western Pennsylvania where hospitals area being overwhelmed by COVID-19 infections, offered her “assistance” in a newsletter.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Deb Erdley explains, “State Rep. Leslie Rossi, R-Unity, said she offered help to those seeking vaccination exemptions in response to growing inquiries from fearful constituents in her district, which includes portions of eastern Westmoreland and western Somerset Counties. Her newsletter landed in local mailboxes as Westmoreland County emergency management officials warned of a ‘desperate’ situation in local hospitals, where COVID-19 infections have surged among unvaccinated residents, sparking overcrowding in emergency rooms and a scarcity of beds in inpatient and intensive care units.”

Dr. Carol Fox, who serves as chief medical officer of Excela Health, told the Tribune-Review, “It is important to do all that can be done to prevent individuals from contracting COVID-19.”That includes getting vaccinated, getting booster shots and wearing protective face masks in public places." Rossi, however, insists on pandering to anti-vaxxers.

Rossi is the wingnut who created the Trump House, a cultish shrine to former President Donald Trump in Youngstown, Pennsylvania, which is in Westmoreland County and shouldn’t be confused with Youngstown, Ohio. Westmoreland County is part of the Greater Pittsburgh Area, although Pittsburgh is in neighboring Allegheny County.

According to Erdley, “Thousands of vaccine-eligible residents in Westmoreland and Somerset Counties have yet to be fully vaccinated…. The most recent COVID-19 report from the Pennsylvania Department of Health pegged deaths among Westmoreland County residents at 1027 since March 2020, when the pandemic arrived. Excela’s weekly report for December 2 underscored the health threats unvaccinated individuals face. That week, the hospital system reported 88 individuals hospitalized at Excela hospitals in Greensburg, Latrobe and Mt. Pleasant. Only nine of those individuals were fully vaccinated, and not one of the 13 individuals on ventilators was fully vaccinated.”

Far-Right Michigan Republican Who Scorned Vaccine Infected And On Respirator

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Time and time again, far-right MAGA Republicans have railed against COVID-19 vaccines, mask mandates and social distancing measures and downplayed the pandemic's severity — only to be hospitalized with the potentially deadly coronavirus. A recent example is William Hartmann, former vice-chairman of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers in Michigan. The Detroit Metro Times is reporting that Hartmann, known for his anti-vaxxer views, is in intensive care after being infected with COVID-19.

On November 24, the Metro Times' Steve Neavling reported: "William Hartmann, former vice-chairman of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, has been on a ventilator since about November 6, according to his sister Elizabeth Hartmann. Two sources confirmed to Metro Times that Hartmann has been in intensive care since early November. The status of his health is unclear."

William Hartmann has repeatedly attacked Democratic vaccination campaigns from Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and President Joe Biden. Whitmer held a lottery to encourage vaccinations in her state, and on July 30, Hartmann visited Facebook and wrote, "If the ouchie is so great, why do they have to offer bribes?"

The MAGA Republican was engaging in coronavirus denial as far back as February 2020. In a Facebook February 27, 2020 Facebook post, William Hartmann wrote, "I was at the Doctor's the other day, yes again, and we were talking about the CoronaVirus. I asked if I should be concerned. He said it's just a virus like any other virus, nothing to be concerned about. So why all the hullabaloo in the media about it. He thinks it's all about the money. Follow the money. Lots of corporations and people are making a ton of money off this thing. Like always wash your hands if you go out. Just be health conscious."

The MAGA Republican was engaging in coronavirus denial as far back as February 2020. In a Facebook February 27, 2020 Facebook post, William Hartmann wrote, "I was at the Doctor's the other day, yes again, and we were talking about the CoronaVirus. I asked if I should be concerned. He said it's just a virus like any other virus, nothing to be concerned about. So why all the hullabaloo in the media about it. He thinks it's all about the money. Follow the money. Lots of corporations and people are making a ton of money off this thing. Like always wash your hands if you go out. Just be health conscious."

The virus that William Hartmann described as "nothing to be concerned about" has, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, killed more than 5.1 million people worldwide and over 775,000 people in the United States.

In addition to his anti-vaxxer and anti-masker views, William Hartmann has been a promoter of the Big Lie — the false, totally debunked conspiracy theory that Donald Trump really won the 2020 presidential election but was robbed of a victory because of widespread voter fraud. Hartmann, in November 2020, initially voted against certifying the presidential election results in Wayne County, but later agreed to certify them.

At this point, the majority of people being hospitalized with COVID-19 in Michigan are unvaccinated. Neavling noted that Hartmann has "criticized the vaccine and compared government COVID-19 efforts to Nazi Germany."

The Metro Times reporter wrote, "Hartmann's hospitalization is just the latest cautionary tale in a country where the virus and vaccine have become politicized and scientific research is often dismissed."

Newsmax Announces Vaccine Mandate For All Employees

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Newsmax has announced its intent to follow President Joe Biden's aggressive vaccine distribution plan by requiring its employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Read Now Show less

How Do We Finally Crush The Virus? A $50 Million Lottery!

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

In the United States, COVID-19 is rapidly becoming an endemic disease of Republicans. Over the last seven days, the nation has averaged 45.6 cases per 100,000 people, or just under 22,000 new cases per day. That means the average has now dipped below the measure on June 14, 2020, before the second wave swept across the South. In a few days, it's likely that the number will be down to a level matching that within weeks of the first large outbreak in this country (and a point where numbers were still largely constrained by lack of testing). That represents a tremendous drop from a national number that topped 750 cases/million, or roughly a quarter million a day, in January.

The reason for the decline is simple enough: As of Thursday, 62 percent of American adults had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. In 10 states, most of them in the Northeast, that number now exceeds 70 percent. However, a number of other states are lagging tremendously. That includes eight states where the rate is below 50 percent.

And the truth is, even the best of those number is not enough. That 70 percent of adults—which is only about 50 percent of the total population—is well short of what we need. Unless the U.S. can reach a number that's close to 80 percent of all people being vaccination, it is unlikely to achieve herd immunity given the high rate of transmission among more recent variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. If that number can't be achieved, COVID-19 numbers will go down but the community spread of the disease won't go away, and that has serious long term implications that go beyond questions of masks and frustrations about when it's safe to fully open X, Y, or Z.

How do we get enough people engaged to make that happen? Bribe them. Because it's worth it.

Last week, the Associated Press ran an article on the growing concern over this vaccination gap, which was careful to talk about the difference among states and the rural-urban gap within states while mostly tiptoeing around the cause. But there's really only one cause.

Ten states exceed 70 percent, but eight states are lagging below 50 percent.

According to Civiqs, 86 percent of Democrats say they've been vaccinated and eight percent say they will be vaccinated for a total of 94 percent. Half of the remainder is unsure, with only three percent saying no. But among Republicans, 47 percent say they have been vaccinated and four percent still say they will be vaccinated for a total of 51 percent. A full 40 percent of Republicans still give a flat no. Put it all together with independents, and 73 percent of American adults are committed to getting vaccinated while 21 percent say no. And 73 perceent of adults is simply not enough, not if we want to reach the point where COVID-19 cases are not just down, but the virus genuinely ceases to circulate in the community.

In the last six weeks, Pfizer's vaccine has been approved for use in those between ages of 12 and 18. Moderna's vaccine should be approved for the same age range within the next two weeks, with Johnson & Johnson close behind. About 6 million Americans between 12 and 18 have been vaccinated already, and that number should accelerate—especially if states or local school districts require vaccination before students can return to school in the fall. That change in the availability of vaccine is actually visible in the national rate of vaccine administration in the form of a little "bump" starting in mid-May.

Daily count of total doses administered and reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That the vaccine numbers peaked and then began to fall may seem like failure, but it's actually inevitable. After all, people can only get vaccinated once (or, you know, twice) and eventually everyone is vaccinated. The real problem with this chart is that the peak should have come about a month—and about 50 million Americans—later.

There is some indication that Republican resistance is softening. The numbers giving a definitive "no" began to fall slightly around the same time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cleared the vaccine for those aged 12, and there was a recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation showing that 40 percent of those in the "wait and see" group could tip to the "yes" category if the vaccines gain full FDA approval. Which is good. But it's still not enough, as that would only add three to four percent more to the totals.

Which brings us to incentives. Ohio has now announced its first million-dollar winner in a vaccine lottery, and as The New York Times reports, the idea is picking up steam across the country. That's because, as Axios has charted out, the idea seems to have worked. Ohio didn't just hand out $1 million to a lucky 22-year-old young female engineer, it also generated a measurable increase in vaccinations.

In fact, Ohio's experiment has been successful enough that California, Colorado, Maryland, and Oregon have signed up to offer similar incentives. And that's great. Except that these are some of the same states with high levels of vaccination already. The incentives might be able to push those areas above the magic number, but what it won't do is save us from where we're going right now—toward a point where COVID-19 is an endemic disease of Republican-dominated communities.

On the one hand, it may be easy to shrug off that result. On the other hand … no. Giving COVID-19 the chance to continue bouncing around between millions of Americans means not just more variants, but also more exposure for those who can't, for genuine medical reasons, be vaccinated.

So here's a simple solution: a national lottery. Toss $50 million into the pot and hand out a million-dollar prize to some lucky someone, anywhere in the nation, who has received a vaccine—with a new prize being awarded only when the nation goes up another percentage point in total vaccination. Televise it. Let President Joe Biden put his hand in a fishbowl. Do whatever it takes to get people to get a jab in the arm.

Seeing those who have spent months denying COVID-19, scoffing at the vaccine, and sneering at people wearing masks suffer the consequences may seem like karma. But it's also keeping the nation at risk.

National lottery. Let's do it.