No one expected this but everyone should have expected this. This was never going to be over. There are too many angry people, so Los Angeles had to do this:
Last month, flanked by the “Transformers” robot hero Optimus Prime and a bevy of Minions from the “Despicable Me” movie franchise, Gov. Gavin Newsom triumphantly stood before the Universal Studios Hollywood globe, lifting more than a year’s worth of pandemic health restrictions and announcing California’s “grand reopening.”
“We are here today, June 15, to turn the page,” the governor said, his clean-shaven face mask-free in the Los Angeles sunshine.
On Saturday at midnight, Los Angeles County health authorities will turn back that page.
Just four weeks into California’s push for a return to normalcy, health officials in the state’s most populous county announced that face masks would again be required indoors starting this weekend, the first major county in America to restore indoor masking requirements regardless of vaccination status.
Las Vegas followed a few hours later – masks required indoors again – but here in Los Angeles everyone should have seen this coming:
Driven by the rise of the ultra-contagious Delta variant and pockets of low vaccination, the announcement, which affects more than 10 million Californians, led a wave of heightened health warnings in a state of 40 million people. It also reflected concern nationally that vaccine defiance, disinformation and the variant have been responsible for significant increases in coronavirus cases in Arkansas, Louisiana and elsewhere.
Defiance based on disinformation is the problem, and defiance is what defines Trump patriotism. And of course what everyone else sees as disinformation they see as truth. Donald Trump did win in a landslide. And nothing happened on January 6 – other than a Black police office shot and murdered, in cold blood, a wonderful young White woman just there to visit the place – another Black Lives Matter cold-blooded murder of a White woman, the start of the White genocide. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson says so – and don’t get him started on vaccines. THEY kill people. And they don’t work. And so on.
But he’s only part of a wider defiance:
On July Fourth, President Biden celebrated dramatic progress in the war on the coronavirus, with more than 150 million adults fully vaccinated and infections plunging 93 percent since Inauguration Day. “Together, we’re beating the virus,” Biden said at a party on the White House lawn.
But at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, attendees celebrated a different – essentially opposite – milestone: that Biden had missed his goal of vaccinating 70 percent of adults.
“Clearly they were hoping – the government was hoping – that they could sort of sucker 90 percent of the population into getting vaccinated,” activist Alex Berenson told the crowd Saturday, seeming to inflate Biden’s target. “And it isn’t happening.”
The crowd clapped and cheered at that failure.
Yes, this is war. This particular Washington Post item details that:
What began as “vaccine hesitancy” has morphed into outright vaccine hostility, as conservatives increasingly attack the White House’s coronavirus message, mischaracterize its vaccination campaign and, more and more, vow to skip the shots altogether.
The notion that the vaccine drive is pointless or harmful – or perhaps even a government plot – is increasingly an article of faith among supporters of former president Donald Trump…
That’s how you prove you’re a patriot:
Appearing at CPAC, Republican lawmakers such as Reps. Madison Cawthorn (N.C.) and Lauren Boebert (Colo.) took aim at Biden’s push for “door-to-door” vaccine outreach, framing efforts to boost inoculations as a creeping menace from big government.
“We’re here to tell government: We don’t want your benefits, we don’t want your welfare, don’t come knocking on my door with your Fauci ouchie,” Boebert said, referring to Biden’s top medical adviser, Anthony S. Fauci, her voice rising as she paced the stage and shook her finger. “You leave us the hell alone!”
But a week later this got more specific:
In Tennessee, health officials on Friday were ordered to halt outreach to adolescents for all vaccines – not just the coronavirus shot – after pressure from Republican lawmakers, as the Tennessean first reported. That prohibition extends to vaccines for the flu, human papillomavirus and other infectious diseases.
This also seems to extend to the usual array of childhood vaccinations required to enter kindergarten or first grade in all schools – vaccinations against measles and mumps and whatnot. The state may now stop that attack on freedom too. And then heads rolled:
Michelle Fiscus, Tennessee’s former top vaccine official, said in a statement Monday that she had just been fired for promoting immunizations. “I have been terminated for doing my job because some of our politicians have bought into the anti-vaccine misinformation campaign rather than taking the time to speak with the medical experts,” Fiscus said.
A Tennessee Department of Health spokeswoman said the agency is continuing to provide outreach and communication on vaccines, and that it recognizes their importance for childhood health.
Tennessee Republicans may now shut down and abolish that agency entirely. This is all about freedom for the damned government, and it’s everywhere now:
“Vaccine door-knocking instructions revealed,” read one headline Tuesday on One America News’s website, with an accompanying video that grappled with what to do if “Big Brother comes knocking.” Newsmax host Rob Schmitt suggested last week that vaccines go “against nature,” though the network later said it supports Biden’s efforts to distribute the vaccine.
He actually said this:
During an interview with cardiologist Peter A. McCullough, Schmitt declared himself to be vaccine-agnostic, neither “anti-vaxxer” or “pro-vaxxer.”
But, he said, “I feel like a vaccination in a weird way is just generally kind of going against nature. Like, I mean, if there is some disease out there – maybe there’s just an ebb and flow to life where something’s supposed to wipe out a certain amount of people, and that’s just kind of the way evolution goes. Vaccines kind of stand in the way of that.”
Millions should die, because that’s the natural thing that no one should mess with at all? He will not be invited back on Newsmax, and the Post item reports this:
The trend is unsettling public health experts, particularly as the outbreak worsens again. Confirmed U.S. coronavirus cases have more than doubled in the past week, with deaths rising 28 percent. Medical experts say those deaths are almost entirely among unvaccinated Americans.
“We always ask, what will be the last straw? What will be the moment that we lose the ability to communicate and cooperate and get things done?” said Frank Luntz, a longtime GOP pollster who’s been working to encourage vaccinations. “Well, we’ve reached it. This is it.”
He added: “Now, decisions are being made not because of evidence or facts or statistics, but strictly on political lines. And now people are going to die.”
And that statement may have ruined his career as a Republican communications expert. He’s on the other side now:
For months, public health experts have been hammering on one big message: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to stamp out the pandemic. But red and blue America have responded to these exhortations in different ways, leaving Trump country particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus, those experts say.
The Kaiser Family Foundation found last week that nearly 47 percent of residents in counties won by Biden were fully vaccinated, compared to 35 percent of residents in Trump counties. And that has pitted some traditional Republican lawmakers against those in the populist, Trump-aligned wing.
“I don’t know how many times you all heard me say this, but I’m a huge fan of vaccinations,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters on Monday, citing his own experience surviving polio. McConnell said he was “perplexed” by the slowdown in coronavirus shots.
Yeah, but Trump hates McConnell. His base will now mock Mitch,but Trump needs to be careful too:
On Sunday, onstage at CPAC as the final speaker, Trump bragged of pushing federal health agencies to make the vaccines a reality. “Thanks to the relentless efforts of my administration” – “and me,” he added after a slight pause – “we got miraculous therapeutics straight to patients with historic speed, and we produced three vaccines to end the pandemic in record time.”
The staunchly pro-Trump audience cheered. But in interviews, some attendees – all of them huge Trump fans – still said nothing could convince them to get their shots.
That makes sense. Trump kept telling them to be defiant about everything. They are that:
Gregory Chittum, a 58-year-old from Port Aransas, Tex., said he admires Trump but distrusts the vaccine because of the other people involved. “He depended on Fauci!” Chittum said of Trump.
Chittum, who rattled off misinformation about the coronavirus – claiming that it has killed only 12,000 people in the United States rather than the 607,000-plus deaths measured by the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention – vowed that his opposition to the vaccines would not melt away with more time and testing.
“You’re going to have to bury me to get it,” he said.
Why bother? It won’t do him or anyone much good when he’s dead. This does seem hopeless:
It remains unclear what a Democratic administration can do to reach those who still have no interest in getting vaccinated, especially as immunizations become the latest flash point in America’s bitter war over identity and culture.
“Anything that comes from the Biden administration will be rejected out of hand, regardless of what the message is,” said Celine Gounder, an epidemiologist at New York’s Bellevue Hospital and a member of Biden’s coronavirus transition task force. “That really requires conservatives to, in a sense, mobilize independently of the Biden administration. And who would it be to do that?”
There’s no one. And then there’s Florida:
Fox News host Tucker Carlson suggested that he should be criminally investigated. Republican members of Congress introduced a “Fire Fauci Act” to remove his salary.
Now White House medical adviser Anthony S. Fauci – a polarizing figure in the U.S. response to the coronavirus – is also part of a rising GOP star’s political branding.
“Don’t Fauci My Florida,” read drink koozies and T-shirts that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s preliminary campaign team rolled out just as his state sees some of the highest coronavirus hospitalizations, new infections and deaths per capita in the country. It’s the latest example of Republicans running on their opposition to virus-fueled shutdowns and mask mandates. A pandemic hero to some and villain to others, Fauci has become a high-profile target.
And that will make Ron DeSantis president one day:
While the merchandise is focused on Florida before the 2022 gubernatorial race there, DeSantis is seen as a potential front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. A key part of his pitch: He resisted public health experts’ calls for stricter measures against the spread of the coronavirus, spurring criticism on the left and praise from the right for keeping his state’s schools and economy comparatively open.
While discussing the Florida budget this summer, DeSantis said his state’s rosy financial outlook would not have been possible “if we had followed Fauci.”
“Instead we followed freedom,” he said.
And he’s off and running:
While the campaign has yet to officially launch, its “Team DeSantis” Twitter account announced the new merchandise Monday. The Fauci items are listed alongside “Keep Florida Free” hats and red koozies that take aim at face coverings with a DeSantis quote: “How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?”
That may be winner, but for this:
New coronavirus infection numbers plummeted in Florida after vaccinations became widely available, but they have ticked up in recent weeks. The state is reporting daily cases close to four times the national average – 26 new infections per 100,000 residents, the second-highest number in the country. The state’s latest covid-19 death rate is almost double the national figure, and it ranks fourth for current hospitalizations.
DeSantis might say those are lies:
DeSantis avoided statewide mask requirements even as leaders across the political spectrum embraced them amid growing evidence of their effectiveness. This spring, he suspended all virus-based local rules for businesses and individuals.
The governor has encouraged people to get vaccinated but also banned businesses from requiring proof of vaccination, arguing that such measures are a form of discrimination against people who refuse vaccines for medical or religious reasons.
All that was supposed to work. It must have worked. That doesn’t work anywhere at all:
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sounded the alarm over what she called a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are again on the rise across the U.S.
During a Friday news briefing, Rochelle Walensky warned that the latest seven-day average of new cases – tallying an increase of nearly 70% from the previous seven-day average – poses a risk to individuals who are not vaccinated for the coronavirus.
“There is a clear message that is coming through,” Walensky said. “This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated. We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk.”
Walensky noted that individuals who are fully vaccinated are protected against severe cases of COVID-19, including the contagious Delta variant.
That will change nothing:
Four states accounted for more than 40% of all cases in the past week, with one in five occurring in Florida alone, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said at the briefing.
“Unvaccinated Americans account for virtually all recent COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths,” Zients added.
Nor will this:
The current U.S.-wide seven-day average is about 26,300 cases per day, Walensky said, citing CDC data released Thursday.
The seven-day average of hospital admissions is about 2,790 daily, an increase of about 36% from the previous seven-day period.
The seven-day average of daily deaths has increased by 26% to about 211 per day, according to Walensky.
But that’s patriotism at work, isn’t it? the actual president now says that’s something else entirely:
President Biden unleashed his growing frustration with social media on Friday, saying that platforms like Facebook were “killing people” by allowing disinformation about the coronavirus vaccine to spread online.
Mr. Biden’s forceful statement capped weeks of anger in the White House over the dissemination of vaccine disinformation online, even as the pace of inoculations slows and health officials warn of the rising danger of the Delta variant.
Just before boarding Marine One for a weekend in Camp David in Maryland, Mr. Biden was asked what his message was to social media platforms when it came to Covid-19 disinformation.
“They’re killing people,” he said. “Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that – and they’re killing people.”
Facebook shrugged. They do what they can. Biden is upset at the wrong party. Or maybe not:
Mr. Biden’s comments signaled a more aggressive approach to vaccine hesitancy after weeks of coaxing Americans to get vaccinated and dispatching officials and volunteers door-to-door to encourage people to get shots. He spoke a day after the surgeon general of the United States used his first formal advisory to criticize tech and social media companies to stop dangerous health information that presents “an urgent threat to public health.”
The Biden administration has warned of the spread of misinformation about vaccines and the coronavirus from a range of sources, including politicians and news outlets. But this week, White House officials went further and singled out social media companies for allowing false information to proliferate. That came after weeks of failed attempts to get Facebook to turn over information detailing what mechanisms were in place to combat misinformation about the vaccine, according to a person familiar with the matter.
“Our point is that there is information that is leading to people not taking the vaccine, and people are dying as a result,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said before Mr. Biden made his comments. “And we have responsibility as a public health matter to raise that issue.”
And then that became a free-speech issue::
Conservative figures in the news media and political leaders have balked at the calls by Democrats to clamp down on people who spread false information, calling the actions censorship and politically biased.
A day before Mr. Biden’s statement, Ms. Psaki said the Biden administration had been flagging “problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation,” prompting questions over how the White House was balancing the First Amendment rights of those online with messaging that undermines public health.
They’re spying on people’s pubic posts sent out to wide world on a public forum open to everyone! Are no one’s public statements private anymore? That was hashed out in the next day’s press conference. There was a lot of shouting. There were more than a few giggles.
But there are no giggles in the hospitals:
Novel coronavirus cases are once again surging in the United States, and medical experts say the vast, vast majority of people who are ending up hospitalized because of the disease are unvaccinated.
In interviews with The Atlantic doctors and nurses who are treating COVID-19 patients in pandemic-stricken Missouri admit they’re starting to resent people who have come down with the disease after having refused to get vaccinated.
That too had to happen:
Nurse Tracy Hill told the magazine that her “sense of hope is dwindling” and that she’s “losing a little bit of faith in mankind” given how many unvaccinated people are winding up hospitalized after not taking the pandemic seriously.
Terrence Coulter, a critical-care medical director, similarly told the publication that he finds himself getting frustrated with unvaccinated patients.
“You’re just angry,” he said, “and you feel guilty for getting angry, because they’re sick and dying.”
But there’s a simple solution to this. Those who refuse to get vaccinated should have the common decency to file a notarized medical directive indicating that should they come down with this covid thing they will then refuse any and all medical care of any sort for their condition. If they are sure this is nothing, then what’s the problem with refusing any medical care, for what isn’t that big a deal at all? Act on your patriotic beliefs.
Or die. That solves the problem too.