Friday, July 23, 2021
BY SARAH LAZARUS, BRIAN BEUTLER, & CROOKED MEDIA
** -A relatable Senate staffer ([link removed]) on the state of the infrastructure deal
As America comes to grips with a fourth coronavirus surge ([link removed]) , driven overwhelmingly by Delta-variant outbreaks in Trump-loyal enclaves, Republicans want you to know: We’re all trying to find the guy who did this!
* Take Gov. Kay Ivey (R-AL), who blamed soaring case numbers in her state on Alabamans who have refused to get the vaccine. “It's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down," she told reporters Thursday ([link removed]) . Pressed to say what more the state could do to boost its vaccination rate, Ivey barked ([link removed]) , “I don’t know, you tell me,” passing the buck right back to the reporter who was polite enough not to say “stop governing your state the way you think Donald Trump would want you to,” or “repeal the vaccine passport ban you signed two months ago ([link removed]) .”
* The Tennessee health department just had a similar come-to-Jesus moment ([link removed]) . It announced Friday that it had abruptly resumed nearly all of its vaccine-outreach efforts, including outreach to adolescents and vaccination drives on campuses, after just as abruptly halting those efforts in response to right-wing and GOP pressure. “We put a pause on many things,” said the state’s health commissioner, “and then we have resumed all of those.” We’re all just trying to find the guy who did this.
* Why the sudden about-face? It probably has at least something to do with all the overrun hospitals and dead people in their states. Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are rising in general, but way, way faster in places where Republicans have fed vaccine skepticism for political gain. Hospitalizations and deaths are running 50 percent higher per capita in Trump-voting counties than in blue counties ([link removed]) . And as hard as they pretend to be trying to find the guy who did this, most Americans are under no illusions: Covid would’ve been effectively over in America, even with the Delta variant, if Republicans hadn’t fostered anti-vaccine sentiment to sabotage the recovery. That created another outbreak among the unvaccinated which is now causing setbacks for all Americans, even responsible ones.
Better late than never? Maybe—if this newfound sense of Republican urgency lasts longer than their condemnation of, say, the January 6 insurrection.
* Unfortunately it’s never wise to bet on Republicans doing the right thing for more than a few days. Or in Sean Hannity’s case, one day. After months of encouraging vaccine hesitancy, the Fox host said one semi-responsible thing about vaccines this week, winning him an undeserved round of applause from the beltway pundit class. Less than 24 hours later, he took it all back to assure his presumably confused listeners that he was not in any way “urging people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.” ([link removed]) Folks, I think we found (one of) the guy(s) who did this?
* Any urgency is better than none. For one thing the Delta variant is 1,000 times more contagious than O.G. Covid. One infectious-disease expert put it like this ([link removed]) , “At the beginning of the pandemic, the CDC said that a close contact was somebody that you’re indoors with unmasked for 15 minutes or more. The equivalent of that with the Delta variant is not 15 minutes, it’s one second.” For another, U.K. scientists have just identified a new “variant of concern,” ([link removed]) though they note there’s no evidence to suggest it eludes vaccines.
The right-wing war on vaccines is and was unconscionable, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t spook well meaning leaders out of doing more than they could have to require or induce vaccinations. We even sent 100 unvaccinated olympians to Japan! ([link removed]) Let’s correct that mistake. As Republicans try very hard to find the guy who did this, we should treat it as our window to make going unvaccinated a bigger inconvenience than it is.
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A group of 150 civil-rights organizations wrote a letter to President Biden on Thursday ([link removed]) urging him to support the passage of voting-rights legislation “by whatever means necessary,” pointing out the discrepancies between his rhetoric on the filibuster and his reluctance to push for its elimination. Activists are worried that the infrastructure-focused Biden administration has accepted GOP anti-voting laws as a given, and White House officials have privately told voting rights groups that it’s possible to “out-organize voter suppression.” While it’s true that voter-suppression measures have backfired in the short term, research suggests ([link removed]) that that backlash is temporary, and might not manifest in all of the groups that Republicans aim to shut out from the polls. It’s also not super clear how anyone can “out-organize” partisan
gerrymandering, or state legislatures bent on overturning unfavorable election results. That’s not to say grassroots organizing won’t be hugely important in 2022, but to hang the whole future of democracy on it would be a) unwise and b) an insult to the organizers who have put Democrats in a position to do much more.
* President Biden headed to Virginia on Friday to campaign for the once-and-future-Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) ([link removed]) , in his first appearance on the campaign trail since taking office.
* Severe flooding in central China has killed at least 33 people and displaced more than 250,000 ([link removed]) . Floodwaters trapped hundreds of passengers ([link removed]) on the subway in Zhengzhou on Tuesday.
* Cleveland’s baseball team will change its name from the Indians to the Guardians ([link removed]) , after this very good, non-racist bridge ([link removed]) .
* The Biden administration has imposed new sanctions on Cuba’s defense minister and a government special-forces brigade ([link removed]) over their crackdown on protesters earlier this month.
* Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-TX) has endorsed an audit of the state’s 2020 election results ([link removed]) , days after Texas Republicans introduced a bill to bring the Maricopa County Show to counties that voted for Joe Biden.
* Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s PAC has raised some $75 million through promises to Reveal the Fraudulent Truth behind his election loss ([link removed]) , and appears to have spent exactly none of that money on ballot review efforts.
* Trump advisors say that he is extremely unlikely to run with Mike Pence ([link removed]) —the target of his neck-bearded murder mob—on the ticket in 2024, if you can believe it.
* CIA Director William Burns has stepped up the agency’s efforts to find out what the fuck Havana Syndrome is ([link removed]) , tapping an officer who helped track down Osama bin Laden to lead a What The Fuck Is Havana Syndrome task force.
* Facebook has finally cracked down on the platform's most dangerous cell: Gardeners trying to talk about hoes ([link removed]) . Take it to Telegram, you green-thumbed sickos.
Just a quick counter to the deluge of breathless headlines about “breakthrough infections” and what they tell us about vaccine efficacy against the Delta variant: Public-health experts say we’re probably thinking about that term wrong ([link removed]) . There’s a big difference between breakthrough infections, which encompass all detected cases even with no or very mild symptoms, and breakthrough disease—vaccinated people who nevertheless have significant symptoms and wind up hospitalized. We’re seeing predictably higher numbers of mild breakthrough infections as more people get vaccinated, because statistics, but severe cases among vaccinated people remain extremely rare ([link removed]) , meaning the vaccines are working. The most worrying unknown is whether vaccinated
folks with asymptomatic or mild cases can still transmit the virus; the lower viral load suggests it’s less likely, but studies are still underway. The big takeaway is that while it may be worth layering protections while the Delta variant is afoot, there’s no reason to panic.
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The five states ([link removed]) with the highest coronavirus case rates had a higher rate of vaccination over the past two weeks than the national average.
The Senate ([link removed]) has confirmed Gina Ortiz Jones and Shawn Skelly to top military positions, both in LGBTQ+ firsts.
Argentina ([link removed]) has become the first country in Latin America to formally recognize gender nonbinary people on national identity documents.
Lil Nas X ([link removed]) is using his “Industry Baby” music video as a fundraiser for the Bail Project.