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Tag: delta variant

New Kaiser Report Reveals Terrible Cost Of Vaccine Refusal

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

COVID-19 is now the second-leading cause of death in the United States, despite the availability of safe, effective, and free vaccines. The promise of those vaccines showed itself when they first became widely available and COVID-19 dropped to be seventh on the list of causes of death.
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Republicans Claim Fauci Wants To ‘Cancel Christmas’

Republican lawmakers are livid at President Joe Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci, accusing them of an attack on Christmas after Fauci noted that the pandemic might not be over by late December.

"The Biden Administration wants to cancel Christmas!" claimed Florida Sen. Rick Scott. "Americans are smart enough to make their own decisions. They don't want or need the federal government to decide how or when they spend time with their own families."

During a Sunday morning appearance on CBS News' Face the Nation, Fauci, the country's top epidemiologist, was asked by host Margaret Brennan whether it would be safe to hold family gatherings by Christmas. Fauci answered, "You know, Margaret, it's just too soon to tell.

We've just gotta [concentrate] on continuing to get those numbers down, and not try to jump ahead by weeks or months and say what we're gonna do at a particular time."

Fauci, who has served as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, has been a key member of the coronavirus response teams for both Biden and former President Donald Trump.

Last year, Christmas gatherings were followed by a major spike in COVID-19 cases.

With the Delta variant now dominant, the nation is still averaging more than 100,000 new reported cases daily. There is no evidence that the pandemic will be resolved in the next 11 weeks.

Still, an array of GOP lawmakers scolded Fauci and Biden and vowed to simply ignore public health concerns this December.

"I don't think anyone is going to be listening to Scrooge Fauci. I know I won't be," announced Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has frequently clashed with Fauci over whether to follow medical science.

"Fauci has lost all credibility with the American people," tweeted House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik. "We aren't waiting on his permission to celebrate Christmas together."

"I would like to inform Biden and Fauci that regardless of what they say, Americans are celebrating Christmas," announced New York Rep. Claudia Tenney.

"Guess this means I'm throwing a giant Christmas party," said Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw.

"No one elected Fauci to be Christmas Czar," mocked Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs.

"This Grinch can move right along, the Boebert household is celebrating Christmas no matter what he says," tweeted Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado. "And someone should let him know that tyrants only get coal in their stocking."

On Monday, Fauci told CNN that his urging Americans to get vaccinated "was misinterpreted as my saying we can't spend Christmas with our families, which was absolutely not the case. I will be spending Christmas with my family, I encourage people, particularly the vaccinated people who are protected, to have a good, normal Christmas with your family."

The attack on Fauci and Biden is the latest salvo in the GOP's claim that Democrats are waging a "war on Christmas."

In 2016, Donald Trump said during his campaign for president that he would make sure Americans said "Merry Christmas" again if elected — as if everyone had somehow stopped saying it. He declared mission accomplished on that promise in 2017.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Is Joe Biden’s Approval Rating In ‘Free Fall’? Nope

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Amid breathless reports of a political "free fall" and reeling from the White House's "summer from hell," the Beltway press has leaned into the idea that Joe Biden's presidency is unraveling — that his approval rating is in a state of collapse.

Except it's not true. Instead, it's the media falling in love with their favorite Dems In Disarray storyline. The same media that shrugged at Trump's chronically awful approval rating.

In a typical, overheated dispatch, a CNBC report recently announced, "Biden's Approval Ratings Have Plummeted, and That Could Spell trouble for Democrats in Congress." First off, the idea that Biden's approval rating in September 2021, is going to impact the outcome of November 2022 midterms makes no sense. Secondly, Biden's approval rating has fallen a grand total of four points in the past month, according to the polling average tabulated at FiveThirtyEight. So much for the "plummet."

Is Biden's' approval rating down this summer? It is, to 46 percent. Is he in some sort of manic freefall as the press suggests, fueled by the troop pullout from Afghanistan and the Delta surge? He is not.

A true ratings collapse would be like when President Ronald Reagan's approval dropped nine points in five days when the Iran Contra scandal broke. Or when George W. Bush's cratered 16 points in three months following the launch of the disastrous Iraq War.

Here are the Biden approval ratings from last 15 polls posted at FiveThirtyEight, minus the Rasmussen surveys, which are notoriously pro-Republican: 46, 44, 47, 47, 49, 47, 48, 42, 48, 49, 47, 44, 47, 50, 48.

If you take out the high (50) and the low (42) data points, the results have been markedly consistent this month. Where's the plummet?

When a recent Quinnipiac poll showed Biden's approval at 42 percent, Newsweek announced, "Joe Biden's Approval Rating Continues to Sink, Shows No Signs of Improving." Newsweek then ignored the fact that the next seven polls released after Quinnipiac all showed him improving.

The cherry picking seems intentional. When a NPR/PBS voter survey in early September showed Biden's approval at 43 percent, CNN's Chris Cillizza pounced: "This Poll Number Will Send Democrats Into a Panic." A week later though, Cillizza was silent when CNN's own poll found Biden's approval climbing to 52 percent.

CNN seemed to struggle with how to cover its good-news-for-Biden poll when the Beltway's preferred narrative was his "summer from hell." This was CNN's online headline for a story that showed Biden with a strong approval rating: "Americans Turn Pessimistic Amid Concerns Over Economy and Coronavirus." Later in a news segment, when a CNN anchor suggested the network's latest showing had Biden's rating at 43 percent, she had to be corrected by a guest who pointed out CNN's survey showed a 52 percent mark.

Biden's summertime slide has been fueled by Afghanistan and Covid, two unique and pressing challenges. But it also represents a natural progression for first term presidents as the so-called "honeymoon" with voters slowly wears off. Between being sworn in January 2009, and September 1 of that year, President Barack Obama, a successful two-term president, lost seven points on his approval rating, which is exactly how many points Biden has dipped since his inauguration.

Note that as with Biden, the press often obsessed over minor downward movements in Obama's approval in order to concoct a narrative about a president "sinking" and "plunging." At one point, a New York Times editorial was so anxious to push a narrative about Obama's supposedly broken presidency, it fabricated his approval rating, claiming it was 40 percent in a new poll, when it was actually 50 percent in that new survey.

The contrast with how the press has treated the popularity of the last two Democratic presidents with how they treated Trump's unpopularity couldn't be more startling.

When Biden's approval rating first fell below 50 percent this summer, it was considered newsworthy, as pundits weigh in on the approval "slide" and wondered if the Afghanistan story was going to doom his presidency. Rarely included in that heavy-handed analysis was the fact that at the same point in his presidency, Trump was sitting at a woeful 37 percent approval rating.

While Trump wallowed in abysmal ratings for most of his presidency (he never cracked 50 percent), the press mostly looked away, treating his poor standing as being usual. It was normalized.

Here's a quick example. In October, 2018 Politico published a piece about Trump's fire hose, "new media strategy," where he appeared on TV without pause and constantly answered reporters' shouted questions at the White House. In the eyes of Politico, it was a novel and winning strategy — it "worked" for Trump. And Politico even singled out Trump's top aide who was responsible for the approach.

Of course, what Politico never mentioned, and what the D.C. press didn't really think mattered in October 2018, was that Trump's approval stood at a lowly 41 percent.

Can you imagine today if Biden's approval fell five more points, to 41 percent, and the Beltway press started writing stories about how smart his communications strategy was? It's inconceivable because Democrats are held to a tougher media standard.

Beltway Press Fawned Over Trump Voters — Now They’re COVID Zombies

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Willfully risking death by refusing to take the miraculously safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine, Trump voters nationwide have embarked on one of the deadliest and most illogical movements in American history — they've morphed into QAnon-fueled, brainwashed, Covid zombies, immune to rational thought.

Fresh off of backing a deadly insurrection and trying to overturn free and fair elections, they have set their sights on extinguishing American norms.

President Joe Biden addressed the nation Thursday in hopes of creating a path forward out of the pandemic entirely because Covid zombies, a radical menace, refuse to get vaccinated. They, along with local Republican officials, help fuel the Delta surge, which has shuttered school districts nationwide and set off local mayhem as Trump voters wage war on mask mandates. "Fights broke out and at least one person was handcuffed after a Missouri school board voted unanimously to mandate masking in schools amid a surge of coronavirus cases in the area," read a recent dispatch.

The zombies are part of a deep-pocketed political and media crusade determined to keep the pandemic going, and gladly risking infections by embracing anti-science demagoguery.

What's telling is that while Trump was in the White House and the Beltway press glowingly profiled his supporters, preferably in red state diners, that's not the story the media were telling. Anxious to brush off claims of liberal media bias, reporters fanned out to Trump bastions to eagerly record every utterance from his supporters. We witnessed a conveyor belt of stories about blue-collar voters in virtually all-white counties inside red states announcing that they really, really like Trump. ("Hitting it out of the ballpark"; "I think he's doing a great job.")

Yet virtually none of that gentle coverage hinted at a radical, conspiratorial dark side at play. Routinely depicted as hard-working folks in search of a political path, and thankful for Trump leadership, the Trump voter coverage deliberately failed to pull back the curtain and reveal even small glimpses of today's manic, anti-mask and anti-vaccine mobs. Instead, the press presented a gauzy fantasy about what was going on in conservative America.

Committed to the idea that Trump's white voters were the most important, and most authentic, voices in American politics, the media spent years celebrating them, marveling at their loyalty in the face of Trump's erratic behavior.

It was relentless. Over the span of just four days in early 2017, the New York Times published a long profile on women who voted for Trump, a piece on Trump fans who traveled to the inauguration, and an adoring profile of a Trump voter who lied about Hillary Clinton during the campaign and profited from his fake news business. Later, even a Trump supporter who had nice things to say about Nazis received a gentle Times profile. (Actual Trump voter Times headlines: "These Guys Really Like Trump"; "Trump's Fights Are Their Fights. They Have His Back Unapologetically")

Today, those Trump voters have mobilized as Covid zombies and gone from insisting the pandemic was a hoax in 2020, to embracing every illogical anti-vaccine trope that Tucker Carlson regurgitates. And they still think the vaccine is more dangerous than the virus.

Trump voters have collectively lost their minds as the virus runs wild in red states. Even as some prominent anti-vaccine zealots kill themselves off, the close-minded hysteria intensifies as fanatics now physically assault local school board members, lodge countless death threats, and cause chaos for teachers and students. This is a kind of cult-like mania rarely seen in modern American history.

There have been unhinged right-wing political mobs before — think back to the Tea Party movement, which flourished as soon as America elected its first Black president. That however, was fueled by a willful misreading of Obama's economic policy and bailout strategy. The current day right-wing madness is more akin to the Salem witch trials, where hysterical, organized mobs conjure up imaginary demons and then set out to administer vigilante justice.

"Community groups within our conservative stronghold thought they could buck the Fox News narrative and persuade reluctant Republicans to get vaccinated," explained Dr. Rob Davidson, an emergency room physician in western Michigan. "They recruited local Republican leaders to encourage their supporters to get their shots. But instead of getting more people vaccinated, these public servants got death threats."

Yet the press is still normalizing the insanity. After documenting several instances of Trump voters storming school board meetings and comparing mask mandates to sex trafficking and to Hitler's rise to power ("This is what Hitler wants. Hitler wants everybody divided. If we all stay divided, who wins? Hitler wins"), the New York Times' Michelle Cottle insisted that what the Covid Zombies are doing "is nothing new." In reality, it's unprecedented.

In The Atlantic, Elizabeth Bruenig tsk-tsked liberals for "shaming" Trump voters who are bypassing an FDA-approved vaccine in order to ingest horse paste.

Five years ago, the press made excuses for Trump's bigoted base during the campaign by claiming they were motivated by "economic anxiety." Then news outlets spent four years courting Trump voters in cozy diners and presenting them as authentic voices from the heartland. Now they're Covid zombies, and the press missed the story.

Attacking Anti-V​​accine Obstruction, Biden Mandates Widespread COVID Shots

By Jeff Mason, Ahmed Aboulenein and Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden took aim on Thursday at vaccine resistance in America, announcing policies requiring most federal employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations and pushing large employers to have their workers inoculated or tested weekly.

The new measures, which Biden laid out in remarks from the White House, would apply to about two-thirds of all U.S. employees, those who work for businesses with more than 100 workers.

"We've been patient," Biden told the tens of millions of Americans who have declined to get coronavirus shots. "But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us."

Taken together, the policies and speech represented Biden's most aggressive steps yet to prod Americans resistant to getting shots as the fast-spreading Delta variant sparks a new wave of sickness and death.

The surge has posed increased risk not just to the country but to a president who ran on promises to get control of the pandemic. Biden's approval ratings have sagged since he said in July the United States was "closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus."

Biden's latest moves are expected to be the subject of political and legal challenges.

Despite a full-throttled campaign by the Biden administration urging Americans to get the free and widely available vaccines, just over 62 percent of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Thursday, Biden warned that "we're in a tough stretch and it could last for a while."

Infectious disease and health policy experts said the mandates are unlikely to significantly change infection rates quickly.

Still, they would help against potential future waves of the virus, reducing deaths and hospitalizations and alleviating the stress on the healthcare system, said Georgetown University's Dr. Jesse Goodman, a former chief scientist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"It's absolutely the right thing to do," he said. "Ideally everyone would have been vaccinated already."

'Fear, Control, And Mandates'

In a televised speech running a bit under half an hour, the Democratic president accused "a distinct minority of elected officials" who have resisted mask and vaccine mandates on freedom-of-choice and economic grounds as "making people sick."

The White House COVID-19 recovery plan was based on the vast majority of eligible Americans being vaccinated this year. But the public health issue has become politicized, with a vocal minority refusing the shots and mask mandates.

Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order in July blocking mask mandates in schools.

Administration medical officials have said over 97 percent of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are not vaccinated, and those people account for an even higher share of deaths.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the senior Republican on the House of Representatives committee that oversees health policy, said Biden "is using fear, control, and mandates."

The Republican National Committee said it intends to sue the Biden administration over the vaccine mandate.

Under Biden's plan, the administration will also require vaccinations for more than 17 million healthcare workers at hospitals and other institutions that participate in Medicare and Medicaid social programs for poor, disabled and older Americans.

Biden previously required that federal employees be vaccinated or get tested. Federal workers now have 75 days to get vaccinated, or face termination unless they fall into limited exemption categories.

Federal workers unions suggested on Thursday they would accept the vaccine mandate.

Substantial Fines

The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to take enforcement actions against private companies that do not comply with the vaccine mandate, with substantial fines of nearly $14,000 per violation.

The administration is also calling on entertainment venues to require tests or shots and for states to adopt mandates for school employees. It is also multiplying the fines https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-doubling-fines... charged to people who fail to wear masks on airplanes, trains and buses.

It plans as well to ramp up testing capacity for the virus.

Biden will use authority under the Defense Production Act to spur industry to accelerate production of the tests, and big retailers including Walmart Inc , Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> and Kroger Co are expected to sell the tests at cost for the next three months to make them more affordable.

Critics have said the Biden administration has not done enough on testing during its seven months in office. Still, the new demand for tests could tax already strained suppliers.

Administration officials believe the full recovery of the U.S economy depends on blunting the spread of the virus, the key focus of the president since entering office in January.

The disease has killed more than 654,000 people in the United States, and deaths and hospitalizations have been rising sharply as the easily transmissible Delta variant of the virus spreads.

The spread of the Delta variant has raised concerns as children head back to school, while also rattling investors, upending company return-to-office plans and tamping down hiring.

The White House also plans to offer booster shots providing additional protection to those who are fully vaccinated. But supplies are limited and the World Health Organization has begged rich countries to pause booster programs until more people worldwide are inoculated.

But with Delta causing more symptomatic breakthrough infections among fully inoculated individuals, most vaccinated Americans want a booster, a recent Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll found. Boosters could begin the week of September 20.

"Get vaccinated," Biden urged in closing his speech.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason, Ahmed Aboulenein and Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by Steve Holland, David Shepardson and Susan Heavey; Writing by Jeff Mason, Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Heather Timmons, Howard Goller and Peter Cooney)

Florida Judge Slaps Down DeSantis School Masking Ban, Again

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

A state circuit court judge who not only decimated Gov. Ron DeSantis late last month but his team of advisors and his administration's legal arguments over the Florida Republican's ban on mask mandates is back, and he's doubling down.

Judge John Cooper had ruled from the bench that DeSantis' ban on mask mandates was "arbitrary and capricious," and "without legal authority" – meaning, unlawful. He placed a stay on his ruling knowing that DeSantis would appeal.

On Wednesday afternoon Judge Cooper once again rued against DeSantis, explaining as he did the first time that the law is the law and DeSantis' ban on mask mandates violated a law DeSantis himself signed months earlier, the Parents' Bill of Rights.

"This isn't whether I agree with masking or not," Judge Cooper said Wednesday (video below). "The issue is, have I decided that the governor has to comply with the laws passed by the Florida legislature. I say, everybody has to do that."

"You can't take an action which violates the Florida Parents Bill of Rights," Cooper concluded, handing DeSantis another defeat.

"It's undisputed that the Delta variant is far more infectious than the prior to their prior version of the virus, and that children are more susceptible to the Delta variant than to the form from a year ago," Cooper said, as CNN reports. "In particular for children under 12, they cannot be vaccinated. Therefore, there's really only one or two means to protect them against the virus as either stay at home, or mask."

CNN adds that effective immediately, "the state of Florida must stop their enforcement of a mask ban, which ends sanctions against several school districts who have implemented mask mandates."

At least 13 school districts have implemented mask mandates to fight the coronavirus pandemic, which had been surging through Florida in per-capita numbers greater than any other state.

Kellyanne Blasted When She Pops Up To Mock Jobs Report

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former Trump White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway is getting blasted for gloating over a disappointing jobs report.

235,000 new jobs were created, and unemployment fell to 5.2 percent, the lowest in 18 months. President Joe Biden spoke about the report Friday morning, saying it "means that we have been adding an average of 750,000 jobs per month, on average, during the past three months."

"And in the three months before I became President? Well, we were adding 60,000 jobs a month," he noted, calling the "total job creation in the first seven months of my administration ... nearly double — double any prior first-year President."

But to Conway, it was all bad news – which appeared to delight her.

"Read it and weep," she tweeted, along with other remarks.

Many were angered by what they saw as her rooting for the economy to fail in order to prop up her former boss's horrific record.

In a rare moment of apparent anger, MSNBC host Chris Hayes unleashed his fury on Conway's comments, saying she worked in a White House "that was objectively pro Covid and helped get many many people killed unnecessarily."

"I hope," he added sardonically, she is "not spiritually haunted by the mass death and misery she so blithely facilitated."

Hayes was responding to Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell, who noted that "this is a strange thing to gloat about. the slowdown in hiring is driven by people refusing to get vaccinated and thereby enabling delta to spread (and kill people) faster."

Those "people refusing to get vaccinated" are in large part almost entirely Trump supporters.

Hayes and Rampell were far from the only ones angered or perplexed by Conway's remarks.

There’s One Path Forward — And It’s Mandatory

After Americans hoped that mass vaccination would bring COVID-19 under control — and permit the restoration of something like normal life — we are instead witnessing an explosion of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Despite the vaccine, the dangerous delta variant threatens younger people and even children, who escaped the worst of last year's carnage.

To an alarming degree, this crisis is the result of open sabotage of public health, coming from Republican politicians and right-wing media figures — who seem weirdly eager to doom their gullible constituents for a distorted conception of "freedom." No sane ideal includes the right to infect others with a deadly disease. Take it from George Washington, who ordered the compulsory vaccination of the Continental Army against smallpox during the American Revolution.

Now there is only one way, the George Washington way, to put an end to this nightmare: the mandatory vaccination of every eligible man, woman and child. The alternative is to endure a chronic disaster, as vaccine resistance promotes the growth of potentially more contagious and deadly viral mutations.

From the moment he became president, Joe Biden focused on outreach, persuasion and every means of encouraging voluntary vaccination. For a while that appeared to be working well, especially in parts of the country where science holds more sway than conspiracy theories and superstitions. But there is no way to cordon off the fools, dupes and charlatans from the rest of us. That is why infections are spiking even in places where vaccination and masking rates are high.

More recently, Biden has announced vaccination requirements for federal workers, employees of federal contractors and military personnel. He has also endorsed and even urged vaccination mandates by private corporations and other entities. But he has hesitated to insist on certain national policies that would lead to universal inoculation.

No doubt the president and his advisers dread the polarization that such measures would inevitably cause. They may fear an upsurge in anti-vaccination violence from the kind of pathological personalities who assault store clerks, teachers and even nurses for wearing masks.

But as he weighs next steps against the pandemic, Biden should keep in mind that despite the noise created by right-wing media, vaccine mandates are popular. In late July, 56 percent of adults said employers should require vaccination for both employees and customers, while only 32 percent objected, according to a Morning Consult poll. A July Gallup Poll found that 60 percent of adults believe that high school and middle school students should be vaccinated to return to school.

And earlier this summer, a survey by a consortium of universities found that 64 percent of adults support a national vaccine mandate for everyone. According to FiveThirtyEight, only three states didn't show majority support for the strictest requirement — North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Biden, of course, knows that his initial popularity stemmed largely from his handling of the pandemic, which contrasted so nobly with the feckless former guy. To regain that commanding position — and to fulfill the promises he made on taking office — he can demonstrate the strength to push back the forces imperiling the nation's recovery. He can start by renewing his call for mandatory vaccinations and bringing together government, business and labor to support that call, and by using his executive authority to establish vaccination requirements for anyone traveling interstate by air, rail, bus or boat.

Moreover, anyone who seeks to discourage vaccination by violence or threats should be subject to immediate prosecution by federal authorities, without exception.

Not only is mandatory vaccination morally sound and politically popular, but it also works. When French President Emmanuel Macron announced a new hard line on "vaccine passports" for access to all kinds of public venues, predictions of political disaster ensued. After all, France was the home of the "yellow vests," whose insurgency against fuel taxes came close to toppling his government two years ago.

Macron's new law has provoked some protests, but they have dissipated. During its first two days the mandate sparked a surge in vaccination appointments of 2 million, roughly the equivalent of 10 million in the United States. Across the continent, such statutes have allowed the European Union to rapidly surpass the U.S. in vaccine uptake.

There is only one path forward, and the nation is losing patience while we wait for Biden to lead us in that direction. The public interest demands even stronger action now to save all of our lives — including those of citizens who are resisting science and common sense.

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