Social media companies are still struggling to limit the spread of harmful medical misinformation
Social media companies are still struggling to limit the spread of harmful medical misinformation
Lara Logan, the Fox Nation host who calls herself an “award-winning Investigative journalist,” deliberately fear mongered that the Haitian migrants gathered in Del Rio, Texas are the equivalent of a biological weapon that’s going to kill us all.
For a Fox twofer, Logan first equated the migrant crisis with Afghanistan. “When you consider that the U.S. just put a terrorist superstate in power in Afghanistan – you know, those things are seen together,” she said on Fox News. Host Martha MacCallum, whom Fox touts as embodying “ultimate” “journalistic integrity and professionalism,” did not
question that dubious assertion or ask who sees those two things together.
Instead, MacCallum nodded as Logan railed about Americans not knowing the truth about that connection if they only watch network news. Then she moved on to call the migrants a “virus bomb,” still with MacCallum’s tacit approval. Media Matters caught the fear mongering and scapegoating:
Exhausted healthcare workers admit they feel demoralized as the fourth surge spreads across the US
Last February, Dr Bryce Meck, 30, would lock herself in the bathroom to cry for five minutes when her patients, whom she had watched over for weeks in the medical intensive care unit, were dying from Covid-19. They begged her to tell people in their community to get vaccinated. Of the 20 patients with Covid-19 in her care, only three survived.
Each week, Meck’s frustration grew when she saw patients in a Columbia, Missouri, primary care clinic. They expressed vaccine hesitancy, shared misinformation or told her that their friends were pressuring them to remain unvaccinated. “If only the patients in the clinic could just meet the people who are suffering in the hospital,” said Meck, who continues to experience long-term effects of the virus herself.
Due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, the state of Idaho is facing a health emergency so dire that doctors and nurses are attempting to transport patients to other states.
The Idaho Department of Health and Wellness declared on Thursday that the state is experiencing a hospital resource crisis. That declaration allows medical facilities to ration resources and the care of triage patients in order to adequately deal with the crush of hospitalizations due to COVID.
According to reporting from NBC News, doctors and nurses in Idaho have been contacting hospitals in other states across the West to see if they can transfer individual patients — with some calling 30 or more hospitals, across multiple states, in order to find space for even a single patient.
The situation is so urgent that doctors and nurses have reached out to medical facilities in states like Texas and Georgia. The crisis endangers both coronavirus patients and those who are hospitalized with unrelated ailments.
“We don’t have enough resources to adequately treat the patients in our hospitals, whether you are there for COVID-19, or a heart attack, or because of a car accident,” said Dave Jeppesen, the director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
Hospitals are also being forced to improvise when it comes to patient care. A hospital in the city of Coeur d’Alene has tried to attract nurses to come and work at its location by offering a pay rate of $250 per hour. The hospital has also converted a conference room into a COVID overflow unit.
The state is currently identifying 69 new cases of coronavirus per day for every 100,000 of its residents — a rate that makes it the ninth highest in the nation, in terms of new cases being identified. Idaho has a COVID mortality rate that is 81 percent higher than the national average and the state ranks sixth highest for coronavirus per capita deaths per day.
The state’s leaders have proven that they cannot be depended on to mitigate the spread of the virus. Republican Gov. Brad Little, for instance, has promoted vaccines but doesn’t believe in vaccination mandates, and has not issued a statewide mask order in light of the crisis. In fact, he is planning to take legal action against the Biden administration over proposed vaccination rules for companies that employ over 100 workers.
Other leaders in the state, including health officials, have spread misinformation about COVID-19, possibly contributing to the worsening crisis.
Ryan Cole, a dermopathologist with no public health history, was appointed to Idaho’s Central District Board of Health (CDH) earlier this month. Cole, whom many describe as an anti-vaxxer, gave a presentation to America’s Frontline Doctors last month, an organization that is notorious for peddling falsehoods about the coronavirus. During the event, Cole called COVID vaccinations “clot shots,” and described vaccines as “needle rape.”
Cole’s fear mongering lies about the danger of vaccines may have also resulted in the state’s residents adopting an anti-vaccination stance. Despite the emergency resource crisis Idaho’s hospitals face, as of Thursday, only 40 percent of Idahoans are fully vaccinated.
As COVID cases spike yet again in the U.S., the country has reached another somber milestone in its fight against the pandemic. Since the first reported case in the U.S., 1 in 500 Americans has died from COVID-19.
According to analysis by CNN, and citing data from Johns Hopkins University, as of Tuesday night, there have been 663,913 deaths due to COVID in the U.S. The U.S.’s population is approximately 331 million, according to the Census Bureau. The milestone comes just weeks after the country hit a new peak in COVID hospitalizations, with over 100,000 hospitalized over a two-week average at the end of August.
COVID infections and deaths were on the rise since the beginning of July, after a period when cases appeared to be tapering off early in the summer. According to the New York Times’s COVID tracker, over the past two weeks, infections and deaths across the country have been trending very slightly downward again on average. But as cases are still on the rise in states like Ohio and Minnesota, public health officials are warning against complacency, saying that cases and deaths could begin to rise again at any point.
Vaccination rates have largely plateaued since the original rush to get shots in arms in the spring. Across all age groups, including those that aren’t eligible to be vaccinated, only 54 percent of the country is fully vaccinated. Among those eligible, 63 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the New York Times’s vaccine tracker.
As children return to in-person schooling, and since those under 12 years of age still can’t be vaccinated against COVID, children have made up a large share of the current infections across the country. Data released by the American Academy of Pediatrics last week showed that, in the week ending September 9, 28.9 percent of reported cases in the U.S. were among children. This means that children were disproportionately represented in COVID cases; according to the Census Bureau, children make up about 22.2 percent of the U.S. population.
However, there is hope that the case numbers may fall soon as new vaccine mandates go into place and as vaccine manufacturers prepare to expand age eligibility.
The CEO of Pfizer has said that the company will submit trial data on vaccinations in children between the ages of 5 and 12 to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as early as the end of this month, and it plans to release trial data on children between 6 months and 5 years old in late October. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Monday that she hopes vaccines for children under 12 will be approved by the end of the year.
While approval for COVID vaccines for children is pending, new mandates may have a more immediate effect in suppressing cases. President Joe Biden announced a new executive order last week that will require all federal workers and federal contractors to be vaccinated, with no options to opt-out. The order also mandates that companies with over 100 employees must require vaccinations for their employees, or else they must be subjected to weekly testing.
With full FDA approval for the Pfizer vaccine last month, vaccine hesitancy also appears to be lightening up slightly. A poll released in late August found that only 20 percent of adults say that they won’t get vaccinated, down from 34 percent in March and 23 percent earlier that month. Experts also say that vaccine mandates are effective in getting more people vaccinated, so the new mandate from Biden may soon begin to have an effect.
Not all opponents of mask mandates and anti-vaccine activists are alike. They constitute a diverse and heterogeneous group. But a certain segment of the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers comprise extremists who represent a violent and nefarious influence in our country as we work to defeat this seemingly endless pandemic.
There is a small but loud and forceful group of people who object to wearing masks. Studies indicate that those people generally believe they are ineffective and are violating their civil liberties. Some of those people are increasingly behaving in violent and dangerous ways.
As early as July 2020, the Retail Industry Leaders Association expressed alarm over the number of instances of hostility and violence experienced by front-line employees. That same month, a survey of McDonald’s employees showed that 44% had experienced verbal or physical abuse from customers not wearing masks.
These repeated incidents necessitated the CDC to offer new guidance for retailers and restaurants on how to prevent workplace violence from customers. These suggestions included installing panic buttons and cameras, and recognizing the signs that angry customers might be on the verge of violence.
Things since then have only worsened.
In June 2021, a customer shot and killed a cashier and wounded a sheriff’s deputy at a supermarket after an argument about face masks.
In August 2021, Christopher Key, who calls himself the “vaccine police,” live streamed himself and his “Missouri Crew” entering a Walmart Supercenter. The group was targeting the pharmacists who they believe should be “executed” for administering the COVID-19 vaccine. They berated the workers, informing them they have been put “on notice” and that “if they give one more vaccine … they can be hung up … and executed.”
The group brought with them “sworn affidavits” that supposedly proved that 45,000 people had died within days of being vaccinated against COVID-19. That belief is based on a lawsuit filed by a group called America’s Frontline Doctors (AFLD), recently described in a Time magazine expose as “the 21st-century, digital version of snake-oil salesmen.” AFLD was founded by Dr. Simone Gold, who was arrested for her participation in the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.
A COVID-19 drive-through testing and vaccination site in Georgia was recently forced to shut down after being threatened by a group of anti-vax protesters. Reports indicated that the health care workers were harassed via email and on social media.
Health care workers have repeatedly faced threats for promoting vaccines, especially prominent public health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Peter Hotez. Both have faced serious death threats. A man was arrested for allegedly sending threatening messages to Dr. Fauci, saying that he and his family would be “dragged into the street, beaten to death and set on fire.” Dr. Hotez notes that the threats faced by health care workers have created “an unprecedented culture of antiscience intimidation.”
Three men recently ambushed the principal of a school in Arizona. They brought plastic handcuffs, ready to perform a “citizen’s arrest.” They were upset about the “injustice” of the principal asking a child to quarantine because of possible exposure to COVID-19. One of the men, Kelly Walker, a well-known anti-masker, live-streamed the event on his business Instagram page.
That same victimized principal described some of the death threats she has been receiving, including this ominous warning: “Next time it will be a barrel pointed at your Nazi face.”
At a recent school board meeting in Florida, a woman stated that anyone who believes in vaccines or mask mandates in schools is a “demonic entity” and bears “the mark of the beast.” She then warned that “all of us Christians are sticking together to take them all out” adding that “all the police officers that kick us out … will also be going down with them.”
Not all anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers will become violent. But these cases illustrate the propensity of some to threaten and erupt into violence as they attempt to overwhelm others with their positions.
It may be easy to laugh off or dismiss these incidents, but minimizing or denying the potential violence associated with these groups and individuals is a grave mistake. Pretending it does not exist is irresponsible and gives implicit permission for further violence and destruction.
Losing a war undermines the public’s trust in any leader. But the setback causing the most damage to Joe Biden’s political standing likely isn’t the U.S. military defeat in Afghanistan—it’s the frustrating home-front struggle against the resurgent coronavirus pandemic.
Support for Biden’s performance as president has tumbled in the most recent batch of polling. For the first time since he took office, a higher percentage of people disapprove of the job he’s doing than approve, according to the RealClearPolitics average. (Biden remains just a hair above water in the FiveThirtyEight trend line.) On Tuesday, a USA Today/Suffolk University poll found his approval rating at 41 percent—a dismal showing more commonly associated with Biden’s unpopular predecessor, Donald Trump, who never won the support of a majority of voters.
The easy explanation for these numbers is that the public is blaming Biden for the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. Voters seem to be siding with critics who say the president botched the withdrawal of U.S. forces and endangered both American citizens and Afghan allies who now are desperate to escape Kabul. Surely, the chaos overseas has played a part in Biden’s diminished standing. How could it not? Scenes of heartbreak and despair have dominated headlines and newscasts for the past 10 days, accompanied by grim comparisons to Vietnam and reminders that Biden had flatly ruled out such a nightmare scenario barely a month earlier. Just one-quarter of respondents approved of Biden’s handling of Afghanistan in an NBC News poll released on Sunday.
A closer look at these surveys, however, suggests that the larger—and, for Biden, potentially more worrisome—factor in his declining support remains the pandemic. The NBC poll asked respondents what they considered the most important issue facing the country; the coronavirus was the top choice while Afghanistan didn’t even make the list. The public also still supports Biden’s decision to withdraw American forces, recent surveys show. Simon Jaworski, the president of the U.S. office of Leger, which regularly conducts polls for The Atlantic, told me that Biden’s approval rating in its surveys had fallen significantly in the month before the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan.
One data point has jumped out to pollsters more than any other. From April to August, the percentage of people in the NBC poll who said the worst of the pandemic was behind us plummeted by 24 points (from 61 percent to 37 percent). “These days, we just don’t see shifts like that in a lot of political measurements,” Jeff Horwitt, the Democratic half of the bipartisan polling team that ran the survey, told me. Leger measured a similar sentiment and saw an even more dramatic dip, from 60 percent in early July to just 32 percent about five weeks later.
For many Americans, the surging Delta variant has snuffed out the optimism they had in the spring. Consumer confidence has dropped sharply during the summer, as has the public’s overall assessment of the economy. People are naturally taking out their frustration on the president. Approval of Biden’s handling of both the pandemic and the economy has declined in recent polls. “This is really much more about COVID and people’s feelings about how this has been handled—the trajectory of the virus,” Horwitt said.
Voters elected Biden in no small part to get control of the pandemic, and to provide steady leadership that could steer the country to a return to normalcy. But the rise of Delta despite a mass-vaccination campaign has shown the limits of his ability to control the virus. Much of the resurgence isn’t Biden’s fault; millions of Americans, egged on by the skepticism and disinformation of conservative elites, have refused the inoculations, and COVID-19 is spreading fastest in places where vaccination rates are lowest. But Delta is everywhere now, and cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to rise nationwide. Even in highly vaccinated places, the virus’s spread is wreaking havoc with schools and travel, stunting return-to-office plans, and prompting an intense debate over the question of vaccine mandates.
Experts are worried about another seasonal spike at the end of the year, and the CDC is readying another blitz to provide booster shots to the entire country. The worst might be behind us, but the pandemic isn’t over. For Democrats, that reality is politically ominous. On Monday, Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, told NPR that the U.S. might not get the virus under control until fall 2022, and only then if the “overwhelming” majority of Americans are vaccinated. He later clarified that statement, saying he meant to say the spring. “My bad,” Fauci told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. But the damage was done.
Next spring is certainly better than next fall, but either scenario is bad for Biden. Democrats are already favored to lose their slim congressional majorities in the midterm elections, thanks to the GOP’s advantage in gerrymandering and a historical disadvantage for the party in power. Their best hope is to be able to campaign on having defeated the virus and restored a booming, more equitable economy. The latest projections put that plan in serious doubt. Biden’s political gamble on Afghanistan, as my colleague Peter Nicholas reported, is that it was better to rip the bandage off now, to end a war that the public had soured on even if doing so meant short-term chaos. The White House believes that the public’s attention span is fleeting, and that the images of carnage in Kabul will soon give way to other headlines.
Biden could easily win that bet: Americans might well forget about Afghanistan by the time they go to the polls next year. But for Democrats, it might not matter. The pandemic and the economy are top of mind for voters, and come the midterms, they could be casting their ballots in the midst of another long stalemate much closer to home.
More than a third of labour force unemployed as economists warn unrest could fuel further rise
During the COVID pandemic, life expectancy for Black Americans fell by 2.9 years. Latinx Americans, who typically live longer than Black Americans and whites, lost three years of their lives. Now, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published Friday found that Black, Latinx, and Native Americans/Alaskan Native adults have died at startlingly higher rates during the COVID pandemic than in typical years, illuminating the disparate suffering communities of color have faced in the last year and a half.
In the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, researchers looked at the excess mortality incidence rates, a wonky term that means the number of people who have died in a population above their community’s expected number of deaths. They assessed the number of excess deaths per 100,000 people across the US between December 2019 and January 2021 by race and age and observed changes in death trends over the course of the pandemic.
The researchers found that for adults older than 65 years old, Black Americans died at an excess rate of 1,033 per 100,000 people while Latinx adults died at an excess rate of 1,007 per 100,000—a far cry from white Americans, who died at an excess rate of 500.1 per 100,000. And for Black adults over 65 years old, 78.7 percent of excess deaths were directly attributed to COVID. For Latinx adults over 65, the percentage was 85 percent. And for white Americans over 65, that percentage stood at 93 percent.
As researchers zoomed in on younger adults, though, the disparities in excess death rates became starker. While white Americans between 25 years old and 64 died at an excess rate of 51.2 per 100,000, Latinx Americans died at nearly 99 per 100,000 and Black Americans died at a startling excess rate 133 per 100,000. What’s more, excess deaths among Alaskan Natives and Native American adults between 25 and 64 occurred at a staggering rate of 221 per 100,000.
This is a lot to digest. Let me share a graph with you.
The numbers are complicated, but the resulting message isn’t. Researchers concluded that the findings could help “guide targeted public health messaging and mitigation efforts to reduce [COVID] disparities” and “highlight the importance of timely data to address inequities in social determinants of health that increase the risk for death from COVID-19 among racial/ethnic minority groups.” The CDC study affirmed what Black, Latinx, and Native American/Alaskan Native communities have experienced since early 2020: Unprecedented death and despair, thanks in large part to a pandemic that has exposed just how unequal the country is.