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Tag: vaccine mandates

Poll: Most Americans Support Vaccine Mandates

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Despite loud GOP opposition to vaccine requirements issued by both private companies and the federal government, mandating the COVID-19 vaccine remains popular, with a CNN poll released Monday.

That survey found that 51 percent of Americans support requiring the COVID-19 jab for activities like going to work, shopping, or dining it a restaurant, saying it's "an acceptable way to increase the vaccination rate."

Higher numbers support vaccine requirements to participate in specific activities that are major fixtures of American life. For example, 55 percent of Americans support mandating that students get the COVID-19 jab to attend in-person classes — a six-point jump from April, when CNN last surveyed the issue. Another 55 percent back requiring the vaccine to go to a sporting event or concert — up eight points from April. And 54 percent support mandating workers get vaccinated before returning to the workplace, up nine points from April.

Companies that have imposed COVID-19 vaccine requirements say they have seen major jumps in the number of vaccinated workers. Delta Air Lines' chief health officer said on Thursday that the company's decision to impose $200 penalties for unvaccinated workers led to a "huge" surge in the 20,000 unvaccinated employees getting the vaccine.

"Just within the two weeks of the announcement, we've seen nearly 20 percent, or one-fifth, of that 20,000 decide to get the vaccine," Dr. Henry Ting said at a news conference held by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, accordingto a local media report. That surge means 78 percent of Delta employees are now vaccinated.

Tyson Foods saw an even bigger jump in vaccinated employees after announcing a mandate in August. Tyson employees who have at least one dose skyrocketed from 45 percent to 72 percent after the mandate was announced, according to a White House news release laying out President Joe Biden's vaccination mandate plan. In the early days of the pandemic, Tyson Foods saw massive COVID-19 outbreaks in their meatpacking plants that impacted the food supply chain.

Republicans, however, have railed against mandating the COVID-19 vaccine.

Even House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has gotten in on the politicization of the mandates, tweeting in all capital letters Sunday night, "NO VACCINE MANDATES."

A number of GOP lawmakers and candidates have even used violent rhetoric in their opposition to the new requirements.

Of course, vaccine mandates have been part of American life for more than 170 years.

Both public and private schools require students to be vaccinated against several communicable viruses in order to attend schools. The U.S. military also requires service members to get vaccinated against a host of different viruses.

The GOP opposition to mandates has led to a sharp divide in support for the requirements among the political parties, according to CNN's survey.

CNN found that 80 percent of Democrats say mandates are "an acceptable way to increase the vaccination rate," while just 23 percent of Republicans say the same.

Public health experts say that the pandemic is now one of the "unvaccinated," with nearly all recent deaths from COVID-19 coming from people who did not get the jab.

A new study released Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the unvaccinated are 11 times more likely to die from the disease than those who are fully vaccinated.

"Looking at cases over the past two months when the Delta variant was the predominant variant circulating in this country, those who were unvaccinated were about four and a half times more likely to get COVID-19, over 10 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 11 times more likely to die from the disease," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Friday at a news conference announcing the study's results, CBS News reported.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Suffer, Little Children: Anti-Vax, Anti-Masking, And The Faces Of Evil

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The origin of evil is an issue that would seem as difficult to fathom as the meaning of life, or the purpose of the universe. It's not. Evil is not simply when something bad happens. Hurricanes aren't evil. Not even a disease is evil. Evil takes understanding. Evil is when someone displays indifference or experiences pleasure in the face of suffering.

The worst sort of evil comes when empathy and consideration are replaced with a perverse joy, one that doesn't just refuse to acknowledge someone else's pain, but takes pride in dismissing the thought that others deserve consideration. And it looks like this.

What's happening in that Tennessee school board meeting is a tiny subset, a pixel in the larger picture, of what's happening on multiple issues across the country. Another part of that greater image can be seen when CNN asked Dr. Anthony Fauci about a statement by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. And in the responses of a school superintendent from Mississippi.

As CNN reports, children too young to be vaccinated now make up 26% of all new cases of COVID-19 cases. That number has grown enormously as schools have reopened for in-person instruction in districts where masks are not mandated and vaccination for staff is not a requirement. In fact, the total number of children infected across the course of the pandemic has grown by 10% in just the last two weeks.

That's because the reopening of schools, especially in areas where school boards have bowed to pressure—or the executive orders of Republican governors—and refused to institute mask mandates or vaccination requirements and are seeing an "explosions of cases." That explosion generated over 14,000 cases among students in Florida within the first week of classes. It resulted in thousands of cases in Texas, where district after district has been forced to suspend classes.

Florida and Texas may have been grabbing the headlines thanks to the deeply twisted statements from Govs. Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, but they're far from alone. In just four days in August, the Clarion Ledgerreports that over 5,700 students tested positive in a single week, putting over 30,000—6.5% of the state's total student population—into quarantine.

In this interview, Mississippi school superintendent John Strycker explains that he doesn't require masks in his school, even after a teacher died. Strycker says, "I'm confident in what we're doing."

Strycker: I wept. Okay? It's very hard on me. But when I'm making my decisions, I need to do the best I can to make non-emotional decisions.
Reporter: But your non-emotional decision is to do nothing.
Strycker: Right.

Strycker then claims that the children in his care are "safe relative to the other schools." In the first three week of school there, 6.4 percent of students have tested positive for COVID-19.

Following this interview, CNN moves to looking at the large Los Angeles unified school district where the superintendent has made very different decisions. At that school, every member of the staff is required to report their vaccination status and everyone—students, teachers, and visitors—is required to wear a mask. Over the same period, the infection rate in Los Angeles schools was 0.5 percent.

What's become clear across the nation is simply this: School districts that do not have a mandatory mask policy are very likely to see a high incidence of COVID-19 cases within a period of a few weeks. Those levels are very likely to lead to that school district being forced to quarantine a substantial subset of its student and staff population, and almost as likely to result in classes being suspended for a period.

The reason is simple enough: As much as anti-mask forces want to make wearing a mask an emblem of personal fear, it's not. The mask is simply societal responsibility. Masks reduce the rate of transmission of COVID-19, as well as other viruses, but they are really only highly effective if nearly everyone is wearing them. One person wearing a masks in a sea of bare faces gains very little, if anything, in the way of personal protection. If everyone is wearing masks, there is a large decrease in the spread of disease.

The same rule applies to vaccines. As NPR reports, DeSantis has repeatedly dismissed the role of vaccines as anything more than personal protection.

"At the end of the day though," said the Florida governor, "it's about your health and whether you want that protection or not. It really doesn't impact me or anyone else."

And as Dr. Anthony Fauci has made clear, DeSantis is "completely incorrect." Vaccines, like masks, do provide some protection to the individual, but their greater role is in breaking the chain of transmission. A high level of vaccination doesn't just protect the vaccinated, it protects everyone. Whether someone has been vaccinated definitely affects those around them.

"When you're dealing with an outbreak of an infectious disease, it isn't only about you," said Fauci. "There's a societal responsibility that we all have."

And there's that phrase again: societal responsibility—the need to take action that protects not just yourself or your family, but everyone in the greater society. What's missing from every insistence that masks or vaccines are a "personal choice" is that these choices have an impact on others. Saying that masks or vaccines don't affect anyone else is like saying that driving drunk doesn't affect anyone else. Or firing a weapon through a loaded room doesn't affect anyone else. These actions may nothave an immediate impact, but there is a recognized societal responsibility that makes them illegal even if they don't result in immediate loss.

What does evil look like? It looks like someone standing in front of a camera and saying that a decision that can cost the lives of thousands is a personal choice. It looks like that.

It also looks like these events at a charter school in Boise as reported by the Idaho Statesman.

At the beginning of the year, the board of the Peace Valley Charter School passed a mask mandate. But they rolled back that mandate after hearing from Dr. Ryan Cole—the same doctor who referred to COVID-19 vaccines as both "fake" and "needle rape." Following that statement, Cole was made a member of Idaho's Central District Health Board.

At a special meeting of the school board, Cole testified that masks didn't work and that there was "not one study" showing that masks could help stop a viral disease. Cole also testified that masks "retain carbon dioxide" and can cause "inflammation in the brain." None of these things has any basis in fact. (For reference, here's a large study showing that masks work and here's a broad review of the topic which confirms that effectiveness).

At that meeting, board members were also given a packet of documents, which included one titled "COVID-19 Masks Are a Crime Against Humanity and Child Abuse." The board reversed its vote, eliminating the mask mandate.

What does evil look like? It looks like a woman snickering at a child talking about his dead grandmother. It looks like a doctor knowingly passing along false information that places children and teacher in danger. Most of all, it looks like a governor denying that individuals have any obligation beyond self preservation, and pretending that societal responsibilities do not exist.

'Completely incorrect': Dr. Fauci pushes back on DeSantis' vaccine claim www.youtube.com

Wednesday, Sep 8, 2021 · 11:59:27 AM EDT · Mark Sumner

And as that Idaho school votes to drop mask mandates in response to disinformation …

Poll: Mandates Push Vaccine Resistance To New Low

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

A new Axios-Ipsos survey suggests that making it significantly more onerous to function in public as an unvaccinated person might actually be chipping away at stubborn vaccine hesitancy. The poll found that opposition to getting the vaccine had dropped to its lowest levels yet.

  • Only one in five (20 percent) Americans say they are not likely to get the coronavirus vaccine, the lowest level since we started tracking. Hard opposition, those not at all likely, has dropped to 14 percent of adults.
  • The number of parents who say they are likely to get their kids vaccinated has surged over the last week, now two-thirds (68 percent) report they are likely to vaccinate their kids or they already have. Opposition to vaccinating their kids has dropped to less than a third (31 percent) of parents.

The 20 percent of respondents who still say they're unlikely to get the vaccine has dropped from 34 percent in March and 23 percent two weeks ago.

Cliff Young, the president of Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs, believes the drop in hesitancy is less about vaccine conversion and more about the simple realities of living in a world that is compelling people to grapple with the greater issue of public health.

"Schools, organizations, companies, governments implementing mandates are forcing people to deal with them," Young said. "That's what going on."

White Nationalist Gab Now Sabotaging Vaccination Effort

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Gab's Andrew Torba, the CEO of a site known as a haven for white nationalists, has been using his platform to actively help people avoid getting coronavirus vaccines in response to possible mandates from government agencies and private companies.

Torba founded Gab in 2016 and it aimed to be a place for extremist content under the garb of free speech that other platforms had banned. Since then, the site has become a haven for white nationalists and extremist users, including the man accused of killing multiple people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Torba has also made his activity central to Gab. All Gab users follow his account by default and his blog posts are sent directly to their email accounts. Now, Torba is using the platform to encourage people to avoid getting coronavirus vaccines, which are safe and extremely effective at preventing hospitalization and death.

Torba has made his anti-vaccine views clear for months and spread misinformation about the vaccines in blog posts sent to the platform's users, falsely calling them "an experimental vaccine" and "the largest science experiment in history." Torba has also shared messages he claims are from active-duty military users or their family members worried about a vaccine mandate, and his avatar on Gab openly promotes that he is "not vaccinated." (He also emailed Gab users a viral video of a man at a town hall meeting sharing vaccine misinformation, thereby playing a significant role in its spread.)

But in recent weeks Torba has ramped up his opposition to the vaccines and is now sending users materials that can be used to avoid taking it. In late July, Torba shared documents he claimed he got from a Twitter user, writing in a post that they contained "what the creator of the documents calls an 'air tight religious exemption request' for the COVID vaccine if it is mandatory for you at work, school, or in the military." These documents featured vaccine misinformation and also cite Solari Report, a site run by Catherine Austin Fitts, the star of a viral coronavirus misinformation video. Torba encouraged Gab users to "share" the documents "everywhere." Later in a video, he bragged about the documents, saying, "We've had a lot of great feedback on these. People are very thankful that we put these out there. You're not going to find these anywhere else."

Torba exemption documents wanting shares post

Torba's post featuring the documents, besides being shared on Gab, has also received more than 24,000 Facebook engagements, according to the tracking tool CrowdTangle. MultipleQAnon influencers also shared the post and those received hundreds of thousands of combined views. (A former candidate for chair of the Colorado Republican Party also sharedthe post.) Additionally, a user on the far-right forum formerly known as "TheDonald" wrote that Torba's post helped a family member get an exemption from the vaccine at college.

More recently, Torba launched another anti-vax initiative, announcing a Gab group that is meant to serve as a job board "for employers who are hiring and do not require their employees to inject an experimental substance into their bodies in order to retain employment." The group, which has more than 30,000 members, has featured numerous job listings for people looking to avoid taking the vaccines, including a posting from far-right and antisemitic outletTruNews, which listed positions "that will NEVER require you to get the jab." Torba has also used the group to promote another site for jobs not requiring vaccines and one with "a great religious exemption template for employees." The Gab group job board was also promoted onthe far-right forum formerly known as "TheDonald."

Torba job board announcement post

Around the same time, on August 24, Torba sent users yet another vaccine exemption template, this time for college students, writing, "My twin brothers received a letter from their College letting them know six days before they start classes that the college will be mandating vaccines for all students. … I worked with them to draft their exemption request and thought it could be helpful to other college students out there who are facing the same insane abuse of their religious liberty and bodily autonomy." (The post was shared on Facebook by an Arizona county Republican Party chapter.)

Torba and his platform have repeatedly shown support for extremism, such as courting QAnon supporters and antisemites (as well as pushing antisemitism), repeatedly promoting content from white nationalist Nick Fuentes to users, and cheering on the January 6 insurrection at the United States Capitol as it was occurring. Torba has been trying to create his own services for Gab users who have been barred from using other sites for payment processing and more. These services include what Torba calls "an alternative to PayPal," Gab's own streaming service, and even its own phone. In his email announcing his anti-vax job board, Torba acknowledged these efforts, writing, "This job board aligns with Gab's vision of building infrastructure for a parallel economy and we hope to expand further on this job board initiative in the coming months."

Virus Outbreak Spurs Campus-Wide Quarantine At Liberty University

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In the United States, far-right white evangelicals and Christian nationalists have often been the first to downplay the severity of COVID-19, oppose social distancing measures, and push bogus anti-mask and anti-vax conspiracy theories. But in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University has enacted a temporary quarantine across the campus after being hit hard by a COVID-19 outbreak.

The Associated Press' Alicia Victoria Lozano reports, "The quarantine is scheduled to end September 10, the university said. There were 159 active COVID-19 cases among students and staff as of Saturday, (August 28), according to the school's coronavirus dashboard. The university has about 15,000 students and 5000 faculty or staff members on campus. The majority of infections, 124 cases, are among students."

According to Lozano, the current COVID-19 outbreak at Liberty University is even worse than the one it suffered in September 2020.

"Last week," Lozano observes, "40 students and staff members had tested positive for COVID. The current spike surpasses the previous high of 141 cases last September when nearly 1200 people connected with the campus were quarantined."

Liberty University doesn't have a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for either students or faculty, according to Lozano.

During the quarantine, classes at Liberty University will only be held online — not in person — and large indoor gatherings will be forbidden.

Liberty University was co-founded in 1971 by the late Jerry Falwell Sr., the former segregationist who also founded the Moral Majority and was one of the leaders of the Christian right movement during the 1980s and 1990s. His son, Jerry Falwell Jr., served as president of Liberty University before resigning in August 2020 because of a sex scandal.

So, Ron DeSantis Wants To Be President

Beyond the human price of COVID-19 is the financial toll of treating the sick. Back in the day, conservatives touted fiscal responsibility — that is, keeping the cost of government in check.

But now we have the extraordinary example of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, apparently looking to run for president in 2024, backing policies designed to waste the maximum number of taxpayer dollars. From a fiscal point of view, his opposition to vaccine and mask requirements is insanity.

Here are some numbers to consider:

The required two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines cost the U.S. government less than $40. Either vaccine protects most people from contracting the disease, and for those who do, it lessens the severity, keeping them out of the hospital.

Florida hospitals are now clogged with the COVID-19-infected, with over half of their intensive care beds taken by patients with the virus. The median cost for a stay at an ICU or being on a ventilator in Florida is $234,732 for those without insurance, according to FAIR Health. With insurance, it runs at $115,497.

Oh, but DeSantis now has a cheaper alternative to hospitalization. He is pushing for monoclonal antibody treatments for those already sick. These antibody cocktails, such as Regeneron, seem fairly effective at keeping COVID-19 patients out of the hospital. DeSantis has opened at least 18 clinics in his state to deliver them.

The expense of running these treatment centers aside, Regeneron charges about $2,100 per dose to treat a disease that, again, could have been prevented for under $40. And these numbers don't take into account the care provided to survivors who suffer "long" COVID-19 — people who show disabling symptoms long after the disease has run its normal course.

Across America, the cost of COVID-19 hospitalizations among unvaccinated adults came to an estimated $2.3 billion in June and July alone, according to a Peterson-KFF analysis. Some 84 percent of these hospital admissions were preventable.

Where does the money come from?

Government-run Medicare covers necessary hospital care for older Americans. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services expects hospital payments to go up by $3.7 billion in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, much of the rise due to COVID-19.

However one may feel about hospitalized adults who could have gotten shots but didn't, the fact remains that many will be handed significant bills for treatment. How much depends on their insurance plan, but some survivors are getting hit with bills in the hundreds of thousands.

If the patient dies, the providers may go after family members or the estate for payment. A man whose father died of the virus reportedly received bills of more than $1 million.

Gone are the days early in the pandemic when many insurers waived the copayment for COVID-19 treatment. And who can blame them? Why not ask patients to pay their share at a time when they could have had their free shots and not become patients?

Despite the enormous amounts Medicare pays for treatment, beneficiaries are still expected to cover hospital deductibles and copays.

DeSantis, meanwhile, continues to defend a law that bans private businesses from requiring vaccines for service — a pain especially for cruise companies trying to draw passengers to their crowded ships. Disney Cruise Line has just joined Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian in ignoring the law and are now demanding proof of vaccination for passengers 12 and older.

The Florida governor evidently believes the path to a Republican presidential nomination requires appeasing the right-wing nuts who recently booed even Donald Trump when the former president urged people to get their shots.

Taxpayers should know that they are paying for this idiocy and vote accordingly.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

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

Poll: Floridians In Revolt Against DeSantis Pandemic Failure

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' crusade against masking and other pandemic mitigation efforts isn't playing well for him among Floridians, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University.

The fact that 60 percent of Floridians support in-school masking, according to the poll, is nothing short of an indictment of DeSantis' failing leadership as his state suffers its most deadly period in the pandemic.

  • By 61 percent to 33 percent, Floridians say the recent spike in COVID-19 cases was preventable
  • 73 percent of Floridians currently view the surge as a serious problem
  • 59 percent say the pandemic's spread is out of control in the state

The public also broadly disagrees with the policies DeSantis has been pushing for months—policies that endanger their lives, including those of their children.

  • 68 percent say local officials should be able to require masks in indoor public spaces
  • 69 percent say it's a bad idea to withhold pay for school officials who vote to require masking (which the DeSantis administration is currently in the process of doing), while just 25 percent support it
  • 59 percent support requiring everyone to wear masks while in indoor public spaces
  • 63 percent say masking is primarily a public health issue, with just 33 percent saying it's more about personal freedom
  • 62 percent say health care workers should be required to get vaccinated, just 33 percent oppose it
  • 60 percent favor vaccine mandates for teachers, just 36 percent oppose them

The poll also found that DeSantis was underwater regarding whether residents think he is helping the situation or making it worse.

While 41 percent say that Governor Ron DeSantis is helping efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Florida, 46 percent say he is hurting efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Twelve percent did not offer an opinion.

DeSantis picked a fight on masking—choosing to champion the fringe 'personal freedom' crowd over the lives of children. He is now facing a massive revolt among Florida schools and, the polling suggests, a loss of confidence among the electorate.