Tuesday, January 4, 2022

 -A "friend" of J.D. Vance, on his cool new beard

The Omicron variant has been tearing across the country faster than test supplies or even Ron Johnson’s faith-based immunity forcefield can keep up with it, overwhelming leaders who had planned to proceed with business as usual. Here’s the latest:

  • The U.S. reported one-million new coronavirus cases on Monday, a record-breaking single-day total that could reflect delayed reporting from over the holiday weekend. It’s also likely a staggering undercount, as it doesn’t include the many Americans who only tested positive on a home rapid test or couldn’t get tested at all. The Omicron variant now accounts for 95.4 percent of new infections, according to updated CDC estimates.
  • In Tuesday remarks from the White House, President Biden urged schools to stay open amid the Omicron wave. While a small but growing number of school districts have shifted to remote learning, the vast majority have attempted to do just that. Supremely Normal New York City Mayor Eric Adams has remained, uh, swaggerily adamant that the nation’s largest school district stay open, despite pressure from union leaders to go remote and roughly a third of parents keeping their kids at home on Monday. 
  • Biden also announced that the U.S. will double its order for Paxlovid, Pfizer’s COVID antiviral pill. The new order will eventually provide enough pills for another 10 million Americans, but they won’t be available right away—only 35,000 of the extra courses would be delivered this month, during the expected peak of the Omicron surge. Doctors say that the limited initial supply likely won’t be enough to take the strain off of many overwhelmed hospitals.

Meanwhile, the CDC has seen your tweets, and decided to invite another round of them.

  • The CDC was expected to revise its guidance for how long people with COVID-19 should isolate themselves, after last week halving the length from 10 days to five days for folks without symptoms and triggering a wave of backlash from more or less everyone who isn’t the CEO of Delta Airlines. But instead of adding a requirement for people to get a negative test before re-entering public life, the CDC’s updated guidance simply provides more detail on how people who “have access” and “want to test” (haha) should interpret their results.
  • Of course, why agonize about doing the responsible thing when you can be an unrepentant sociopath, blame the resulting mess on Biden, and demand a federal bailout? Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) has asked the Biden administration to set up more testing sites, send extra medical personnel, and provide more monoclonal-antibody treatments, while continuing to fight the vaccine mandates that would have kept more Texans out of the hospital in the first place. 

While public health experts are heartened by relatively low hospitalization rates, they won’t be much of a comfort to overburdened medical staff or the most vulnerable Americans trying to stay safe without a financial safety net. The best news there is that the worst of the surge could be behind us by the end of the month.

If you’re finding it hard to keep up on COVID-19 headlines, we’ve got you covered. This week on America Dissected, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed offers his perspective on the latest COVID-19 updates, and talks to the doctors, scientists, culture makers, and policy leaders who are working at the edges of science and policy to protect us. New episodes of America Dissected drop every Tuesday. Listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Albany’s top prosecutor has dropped a groping charge against disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), eliminating one of the most serious legal threats he faced. Albany District Attorney David Soares said that while Cuomo’s accuser, his former aide Brittany Commisso, was credible, “after review of all the available evidence we have concluded that we cannot meet our burden at trial.” Soares is the third district attorney to decide in recent weeks to drop charges against Cuomo, after Long Island and Westchester County prosecutors announced in December that Cuomo wouldn’t face charges over separate, credible sexual-misconduct allegations. (It is at times like these that we must soberly ask ourselves, has #MeToo gone too far?) The Manhattan district attorney’s office has also closed an investigation into Cuomo’s handling of nursing home deaths early in the pandemic, according to Cuomo’s lawyer.

Facebook hosted a barrage of misinformation and threats of political violence in the leadup to January 6, if you can believe such a thing. Between Election Day and the insurrection, members of Facebook groups churned out at least 650,000 posts claiming President Biden wasn’t legitimately elected—averaging 10,000 posts per day, according to an investigation by ProPublica and the Washington Post. Many of the posts called for executions or other violence, all during a lull in enforcement after Facebook disbanded the Group Task Force charged with keeping an eye on political groups ahead of the election. Facebook executives have downplayed the platform’s role in the attack, rejected calls from its own Oversight Board to conduct an internal investigation, and have yet to turn over all the information requested by the January 6 committee.

Twenty-five states and 56 local jurisdictions will raise their minimum wage in 2022; many of those hikes went into effect on January 1. 

A new California law requiring grocery stores to donate surplus foods to food banks has gone into effect. 

The DC Council has approved legislation to stock free pads and tampons in school bathrooms. 

Sokhary Chau, the new mayor of Lowell, MA, has become the first Cambodian American mayor in the country.

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