As of yesterday, the U.S. had finally reached the 60% mark-- that's 60% of all U.S. residents fully vaccinated. The number varies widely, from ignorant, miserable, unproductive, superstitious Trump counties, where most people feel their lives are not worth living to vibrant, heathy counties that reject morbid Trumpism. The worst of the worst:
Barbour Co., West Virginia- 7% fully vaccinated (76.6% Trump)
Upshur Co., West Virginia- 9% fully vaccinated (76.0% Trump)
Marion Co., West Virginia- 9% fully vaccinated (63.2% Trump)
Slope Co., North Dakota- 10% fully vaccinated (89.0% Trump)
Wetzel Co., West Virginia- 11% fully vaccinated (74.9% Trump)
Marshall Co., West Virginia- 11% fully vaccinated (63.2% Trump)
Braxton Co., West Virginia- 12% fully vaccinated (72.7% Trump)
McPherson Co., Nebraska- 13% fully vaccinated (91.1% Trump)
McPherson Co., South Dakota- 13% fully vaccinated (81.2% Trump)
Calhoun Co., West Virginia- 13% fully vaccinated (79.6% Trump)
Ohio Co., West Virginia- 13% fully vaccinated (62.1% Trump)
Grant Co., West Virginia- 14% fully vaccinated (88.4% Trump)
Pleasants Co., West Virginia- 14% fully vaccinated (78.5% Trump)
The most vaccinated/herd immunity counties:
Santa Cruz Co., Arizona- 94% fully vaccinated (31.6% Trump)
Teton Co., Wyoming- 84% fully vaccinated (29.6% Trump)
Apache Co., Arizona- 83% fully vaccinated (32.4% Trump)
Presidio Co., Texas- 81% fully vaccinated (32.5% Trump)
Montgomery Co., Maryland- 80% fully vaccinated (19.0% Trump)
Cumberland Co., Maine- 80% fully vaccinated (30.7% Trump)
Marin Co., California- 80% fully vaccinated (15.8% Trump)
This morning, Morgan Chalfant, writing for The Hill, noted that federal courts stocked with reactionary Trumpist judges are emerging as a major obstacle to the implementation of Biden's vaccine mandates for private business, health care workers and federal contractors. All are tied up in court challenges from Republican officials. Even if the administration ultimately wins the fights, the implementation of the rules could be delayed, potentially significantly. The developments underscore the impact of the conservative-tilted federal bench, which was drastically molded by the fascist-oriented Federalist Society while Trump was in the White House.
"It’s the bitter fruit of Trump," said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor with expertise in federal courts. "This is where you are when Trump appointed almost a third of the federal appellate bench. This is what you’re going to see for some time."
Health experts have reacted furiously to the rulings, saying that the delays would set back the U.S. in the progress against the virus.
"I think the health impact is disastrous, and I have no doubt that the judges who have blocked these rules will have caused many deaths," said Lawrence Gostin, a public health law professor at Georgetown University, who argued the mandates have "strong legal backing" and attributed the rulings to "the political divisiveness of COVID-19 that has spilled over into the courts."
60% fully vaccinated is pretty piss-poor. 80% is needed for herd immunity, a goal-- due to severe societal dysfunction-- the U.S. has largely given up on. All the countries of Western Europe are doing better than the U.S., though just Portugal and Spain have reached the 80% mark so far.
But vaccine mandates and pandemic passports and restrictions in Europe is facing the same kind of opposition from low IQ, right-wing victims of disinformation and their own hatred of miserable, pointless lives. Almost every European country has its own versions of destructive, self-serving and opportunistic politicians like Ted Cruz.
John Nichols wrote Friday that "Attacking Big Bird didn’t work out so well for Cruz, the most notorious publicity hound in a Senate filled with headline-grabbers. So this week he’s gone back to the tried and true Republican strategy of attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci, the 80-year-old immunologist who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and serves as chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden. 'Fauci is an unelected technocrat who has distorted science and facts in order to exercise authoritarian control over millions of Americans,' tweeted Cruz on Sunday after the doctor appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation. 'He lives in a liberal world where his smug I REPRESENT science attitude is praised.' Cruz’s crusade to discredit the physician and scientists fits in with what columnist S.E. Cupp refers to as 'The right’s Fauci Derangement Syndrome.' In October, the senator went so far as to call for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate Fauci."
The language employed by the senator from Texas and his media echo chamber is so over the top that it’s easy to write off what Cruz says about Fauci as nothing more than the political claptrap that spews from the mouth of a once and future failed presidential contender. But there’s a serious side to what’s happening here. Cruz and other Republicans in prominent positions are seeking to discredit Fauci at precisely the point when Americans should be taking seriously the immunologist’s counsel about the need to get vaccinated and take precautions.
The pandemic is surging in many parts of the country-- especially in regions where vaccine hesitancy is high and vaccination rates are low-- and the death toll has surpassed 777,000. With a new variant in motion, the senator’s current assault on Fauci is more than a clash of personalities. Cruz is spreading misinformation that puts people in danger, especially conservatives who take the Texan at his word.
Public health experts have been counseling this week about the need to take precautions against the general spread of the virus, which is all but inevitable this time of year, and the Omicron variant, which has now arrived in the United States. Yet Cruz is using his platform as one of the best-known members of Congress to tell people to adopt a dismissive attitude toward existing threats and those that may develop.
...Cruz would have us believe that Anthony Fauci-- and Big Bird-- are spreading the virus of governmental overreach to the detriment of American freedom. In fact, Ted Cruz is spreading the virus of disinformation and distrust to the detriment of American health, and American lives.
Meanwhile, in Europe, where governments are taking far stricter approaches than Biden, demonstrations-- mostly from the right-wing fringe (like Austria's neo-Nazi Freedom Party-- are popping up across the continent. The NY Times reported today that "Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Vienna on Saturday, the second weekend of mass protesting over the Austrian government’s decision to impose a tough new lockdown and plan a sweeping nationwide vaccine mandate in the fight against a sharp surge in coronavirus cases and rising deaths. The crowd was over 40,000 strong... The far-right Freedom Party, the third-largest group in Parliament, has led the opposition to the new pandemic measures. The party has amplified conspiracy theories about the vaccines, spreading doubt about their effectiveness, while promoting ivermectin, a drug typically used to deworm animals that has repeatedly failed against the coronavirus in clinical trials. People carried signs that read, 'I will decide for myself,' and 'Make Austria Great Again.'"
Protesters gathered elsewhere in Europe on Saturday, notably in the Netherlands. Several thousand people gathered in the central Dutch town of Utrecht, 30 miles south of Amsterdam, to protest against new coronavirus restrictions on businesses that will be in place until Dec. 19. Two weeks earlier, Dutch marches turned violent over the government’s plan to ban most unvaccinated people from bars, restaurants and other public places.
Cases have fallen sharply in Austria since Nov. 22, when it became the first country in Western Europe to reimpose a lockdown, allowing people to leave home only to go to work or to procure groceries or medicine. A surge that began in the summer had quickly escalated, giving Austria its highest caseload of the pandemic and rising deaths. The lockdown is set to last until mid-December.
The moves come after months of struggling attempts to halt the contagion through widespread testing and partial restrictions. Austria had originally placed a lockdown on only those who were unvaccinated.
Austria has also announced that vaccination would become compulsory as of Feb. 1, making it the first Western country to take that step, and one of only a handful around the world. Some critics, including the editorial board of The Financial Times, have said the plan exacts too high a price in terms of individual freedom and see it a sign of political failure.
On Saturday, Austria was averaging more than 9,000 new cases daily, and average daily Covid deaths had reached more than 58, after falling to near zero during the summer, according to the Our World in Data project at Oxford University. About 67 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, a lower level than many of its Western European neighbors, but higher than many in the former Eastern bloc.
Today there were a couple of thousand right-wing idiots protesting health restrictions in Brussels. The police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd after violent radicals-- furious that nightclubs are closed and bars have to shut down by 11 pm-- looking for trouble attacked the police. Like the COVidiots in our own country, these sociopaths don't grasp the idea of a common good or the legitimacy of an elected government to institute measures to protect society as a whole. They are not just stupid and foolish; they are anti-patriotic and a danger to societal integrity. Austria even has a new anti-vaxx party, the People Freedom Fundamental Rights (MFG) which won 6.2% of the voters in a Linz Upper Austria regional election, a traditionally pro-Nazi area and which has the lowest vaccination rate in Austria. In other countries, leaders of the far right parties are leading the anti-vaxx movement, like the AfD in Germany-- essentially a modern day Nazi Party, lead by fascists Alexander Gauland and Jörg Meuthen-- anti-Semitic psychopath Thierry Baudet's Forum for Democracy (FvD) in Holland and Schild & Vrienden (Shield & Friends), the Belgian equivalent of a Nazi Party, led by Dries Van Langenhove.
Joost de Vries, writing for The Guardian, had a worthwhile piece about Baudet just before the Dutch elections in March. "Baudet," he wrote, "has now gone into full Trump mode. His anti-lockdown, anti-vaxxer rhetoric has become more extreme, more conspiracy minded, more anti-media, even suggesting that his followers use 'creative' solutions to optimise proxy voting to the party’s advantage. Since last week he’s even been donning a baseball cap. The one thing that was constantly said about Covid last year, was that it was a great revealer; it revealed the gap between rich and poor, the employed and the unemployed, the old and the young. Covid has also now revealed what Baudet really is; not just the flamboyant and outspoken intellectual that he wanted people to believe he is, but a conspiracy-mongering antisemitic populist, willing to undermine facts, health care, the free press and even democracy, to remain a focal point in Dutch politics. Is it working? Half of Forum voters now believe Covid was developed to suppress the civilian population. The problem for Baudet is there are not too many Forum voters left. He is marginalised in the polls and the media have moved on. Don’t be fooled by overblown reporting of the recent anti-lockdown, anti-curfew riots which are not a factor in the election. Baudet’s radical turn has lost him the support of more mainstream voters, because that’s also what Covid revealed: that the Netherlands is not a country for baseball caps and a paranoid style of politics."
On election day, Baudet's hopes were dashed-- at least partially. His party won 8 seats in the 150 seat parliament, just 5% of the vote. Maybe he shouldn't have claimed George Soros invented COVID to "steal freedom."
Last month, World Politics Review took a look at how clearly the majority of people are rejecting the far right's anti-mandate hysteria. "Across Europe," wrote Frida Ghitis, "the far right has jumped on the crisis-- and, in particular, on government-imposed vaccination requirements-- as a new source of outrage to motivate its political base. So far, though, the results have been disappointing, at best.
Nowhere in Europe are the far right’s efforts to mobilize around opposition to vaccine mandates more visible than in Italy, which has just imposed the strictest vaccine rules in Europe and perhaps the world. The new regulations, which were approved back in September and went into effect on Oct. 15, require all workers to show official proof of vaccination-- a COVID-19 Green Pass-- or face suspension from work without pay. The vaccine requirement is waived for anyone who has recently recovered from a COVID-19 infection or who has recently tested negative for the virus. But the government has also stopped paying for workers’ tests. The idea behind the plan was not just to make workplaces more secure, but also to pressure Italians to get vaccinated.
Anyone who has visited Italy in the past few months can attest to the widespread acceptance of coronavirus measures. Perhaps the country’s early, terrifying bout with the pandemic contributed to that attitude. Still, there is a fringe segment of the population that finds the national vaccine mandate unacceptable, whether because they oppose the inoculation itself or reject the government’s authority to require it. For Italy’s far-right politicians, targeting this segment seemed to give them the best opportunity to whip up citizen anger and increase their share of public support.
The new rules took effect as planned on Oct. 15-- but not before some far-right extremists made their opposition known through marches and riots that alarmed many Italians and ultimately proved counterproductive.
Protesters took to the streets in several cities, with a notably large demonstration in the northern port city of Trieste, where protesting dock workers rallied roughly 10,000 people.
Then, on Oct. 9, less than a week before the new rules went into effect, the controversy escalated. Thousands of people marched in Rome in a protest that quickly degenerated into a violent riot. Some 38 police officers were injured in street clashes. Demonstrators broke into the headquarters of CGIL-- Italy’s largest trade union, which had agreed to the vaccine requirements-- and trashed its offices.
TV news shows and social media networks buzzed with videos of protesters smashing vehicles, throwing objects at police and even flashing the Roman salute associated with fascist dictators Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. The images were chillingly reminiscent of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump. But for many Italians, they sparked memories that are older but closer to home, especially once it came to light that members of the neo-fascist party Forza Nuova, or New Force, had played a key role in the violence. The head of CGIL, Maurizio Landino, likened the assault to “an act of fascist thuggery, an attack on democracy.”
A week later, tens of thousands of Italians held their own march in Rome to repudiate fascism. By then, police had arrested at least a dozen people-- including the New Force leaders-- and the Italian Parliament had introduced a motion to outlaw the party. The New Force’s website was also taken down on the orders of state prosecutors, who claimed it had been used to instigate crimes.
More interesting, though, was what happened at the polls. Two days after the vaccine mandate was imposed, Italians in dozens of cities voted in runoff mayoral elections. It already looked like the right was going to suffer losses, but the results were far worse for them than anticipated. The center-left swept just about all of the key races, with the notable exception of Trieste’s.
The voters dealt a blow to the League, the rightist party led by Matteo Salvini, whose xenophobic, anti-migrant stances once seemed to place him on a direct trajectory to power. They also spurned the Brothers of Italy-- a party to the right of the League-- and its leader, Giorgia Meloni, as well as the populist Five Star Movement, which had done well in 2016 but was decimated in the mid-October vote.
Italy’s experience is not unique. Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, whose strong showing during the height of the refugee crisis made it the country’s largest opposition party, lost ground in September’s general election after months of railing against coronavirus restrictions. Once the new governing coalition is formed, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s currently ruling CDU party will replace the AfD as the main opposition party and claim the considerable advantages that come with it.
...It might still be too soon to declare that opposing vaccine mandates and other coronavirus restrictions has been a failing strategy for the far right. After all, for fringe parties, securing and fortifying a small but passionate following may well count as something of a victory.
Still, even if they strengthened the passion of their followers, they seem to have failed at expanding their appeal. They remain fringe parties, with limited influence.
There is certainly no sign that rejecting pandemic response measures has benefited any far-right European party as much as opposition to refugees did half a decade ago. Whether a similar dynamic will play out in the United States, where a significant number of political figures are using the same playbook, remains to be seen.