Toon is my closest friend in Amsterdam, where I lived for nearly 4 years. This morning he wrote that the pandemic is raging again in Holland. "Vaccinations went fine so almost all restrictions were loosened. Far too abrupt, from nothing to all. So what happened? A sky high curve of Covid infections, from 400 to 13,000 a day in a very short period of time. Politicians wash their hands but stink like hell. They knew about the delta variety showing up. They knew about the consequences of our so called 'free' behavior. We don't do well at all on European scale. On a Covid map we will turn red next week for almost sure." He went on to warn that mutual friends going there for a visit will need "the necessary jabs and papers. They will need them to enter countries and cross borders. Some facilities might close, ask for reservations or use time locks. Countries might want extra testing, might restrict movements. It's unclear what will happen..."
Yes, unclear. Saturday, Holland reported 10,283 new cases, boosting the per capita caseload over 100,000. So far 1,719,120 have been infected, 17,765 have died and 86 patients are in critical condition. Holland was one of 11 countries in the world with over 10,000 new cases on Saturday, led by Brazil, India, Indonesia, the U.K. and Russia. The U.S. was back in the top 10 with 14,535. Sunday saw another 9,318 new cases in Holland. A lack of reporting from Florida, the worst of the U.S. states in terms of new cases, makes American nationwide statistics unreliable, button everyone know that Missouri is back in pandemic mode, with hospital rooms and ICU beds filled to capacity, especially in the southwest part of the state.
This morning, writing for Bloomberg, Yueqi Yang reported that Fauci is blaming "ideological rigidity" for low vaccination levels in red counties. "It’s not an easy solution. We’ve got to get away from this divisiveness that has really been a problem right from the very beginning with this outbreak." Meanwhile CPAC celebrated the U.S. failing to meet vaccination goals in heavily Republican counties where the pandemic is starting to rage again.
Former congressman, Charlie Dent, a Pennsylvania mainstream conservative was on CNN this morning denouncing CPAC. "This CPAC has always been kind of an odd gathering and now it's been taken over by a bunch of radicals, anti-vaxxers. It's a land of misfit toys, it's a political freak show, it's like the Star Wars bar. This is just bizarre. The fact that we're celebrating that we're not meeting our vaccination targets is actually reprehensible, we all know this. I can't imagine-- serious people are not showing up to this thing. I mean, look what happens. They have their stupid straw poll and have a ranked-choice straw poll too apparently now. But this whole group it's not serious and one doesn't know if you should laugh or cry or be alarmed about what we're watching and witnessing at these CPAC gatherings. I stayed away from them when I was in Congress... I never wanted to be associated with some of the types who showed up there, but again, it says a lot that serious aspirational presidential [Republican] candidates weren't there."
One of the most dangerous of the CPAC speakers was South Dakota governor Kristi Noem, a deranged Trumpist whose pandemic policies infected not just South Dakota, but the whole upper Midwest. She led her state to one of the world's most horrific cases per million residents stats-- 140,892. Now she's disparaging other Republican governors for enacting pandemic restrictions to stop the spread of disease in their states. Republican governors who were the opposite of Noem had far less COVID catastrophe than she did.
Phil Scott (R-VT)- 39,195 cases per million residents
Chris Sununu (R-NH)- 73,330 cases per million residents
Larry Hogan (R-MD)- 76,601 cases per million residents
Jim Justice (R-WV)- 91,770 cases per million residents
Mike Dunleavy (R-AK)- 94,035 cases per million residents
Mike DeWine (R-OH)- 95,325 cases per million residents
CNN reported Noem's comments: "'We've got Republican governors across this country pretending they didn't shut down their states; that they didn't close their regions; that they didn't mandate masks,' said the potential 2024 White House contender as she drew an implicit but obvious contrast to leaders like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who took a more restrictive approach in their states. 'Now I'm not picking fights with Republican governors. All I'm saying is that we need leaders with grit. That their first instinct is the right instinct... Demand honesty from your leaders and make sure that every one of them is willing to make the tough decisions,' added Noem, who repeatedly touted her hands-off approach to Covid-19 throughout her speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference-- highlighting the fact that she never ordered a 'single business' to close. 'South Dakota did not do any of those (measures). We didn't mandate. We trusted our people and it told them that personal responsibility was the best answer.'"
This morning, Juan Cole noted at Informed Comment that "the Republican Party and its media arms such as Fox, Newsmax and OAN, are playing the wicked witch to GOP voters’ Hansel and Gretel, fattening them up for the kiln by trying to convince them not to get vaccinated and never to wear masks or socially distance... [I]n states with large numbers of Trump voters, the vaccination rates are very low."
[N]ot only is the Delta variant likely to become the primary one in the U.S., and not only is it much more likely to spread and put people in the hospital than its predecessors, and not only are some 1,000 U.S. counties with low vaccination rates sitting ducks for it, but to boot, many Republican governors and lawmakers are so hostile to lockdowns, masking, social distancing, vaccinations and other mitigation measures that the stricken states may not even find it easy to deal with a Delta Wave. That is, the Deep South and other Trumpian parts of the country may be even more vulnerable and more of a tragic story than Hindu India (bad as its Second Wave was).
To the extent that this vulnerability will especially hit Evangelicals, and not only their elderly, it could well accelerate the decline of that form of religion in the United States.
What a shame! And Fox just keeps on pumping out the anti-vaccine narrative that is killing Trump voters. If enough Trump voters get infected and die, there are 3 huge GOP states that could flip blue, just based on numbers of dead Republicans: North Carolina (Trump 49.9%), Florida (Trump 51.2%) and Texas (Trump 52.1%) and possibly a 4th, Ohio (Trump 53.3%).
Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham are leading Fox News' anti-vaccine charge. Fox should lose its broadcast licenses because the company is endangering the public safety. "Carlson, Ingraham and guests on their programs," wrote Tiffany Hsu, "have said on the air that the vaccines could be dangerous; that people are justified in refusing them; and that public authorities have overstepped in their attempts to deliver them. Carlson and Ingraham last week criticized a plan by the Biden administration to increase vaccinations by having health care workers and volunteers go door to door to try to persuade the reluctant to get shots... Carlson, the highest-rated Fox News host, with an average of 2.9 million viewers, said the Biden plan was an attempt to 'force people to take medicine they don’t want or need.' He called the initiative 'the greatest scandal in my lifetime, by far.'"
Opposition to vaccines was once relegated to the fringes of American politics, and the rhetoric on Fox News has coincided with efforts by right-wing extremists to bash vaccination efforts.
Served up to an audience that is more likely than the general population to be wary of Covid vaccines, the remarks by Carlson and Ingraham echoed a now-common conservative talking point-- that the government-led effort to raise vaccination rates amounted to a violation of civil liberties and a waste of taxpayer dollars.
The comments by the Fox News hosts and their guests may have also helped cement vaccine skepticism in the conservative mainstream, even as the Biden administration’s campaign to inoculate the public is running into resistance in many parts of the country.
Public health experts have said that a strong vaccination effort is critical for the United States to outrun the virus, which has killed more than four million people worldwide and continues to mutate.
The amplification of vaccine skepticism through conservative media channels could harden the reluctance of those who might otherwise have been persuaded to get a shot, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
“If you have constant exposure to an outlet that is raising vaccination hesitancy, raising questions about vaccinations, that is something to anchor you in your position that says, ‘I’m not going to take the vaccine,’” Jamieson said.
A Fox News spokeswoman provided past statements by Mr. Carlson voicing his general support for vaccines. “I’ve had a million vaccines in my life, as we all have,” the host said on an April show. “I think vaccines are great.” The spokeswoman also noted that Ingraham had spoken in favor of adults choosing to receive vaccines if they wanted them.
White House officials said on Thursday that virtually all new coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths nationwide involved unvaccinated people. The five states with the worst outbreaks as of Wednesday had below-average vaccination rates; four of them voted for Trump in the 2020 election.
Vaccine resistance was greater among Republicans than Democrats, according to an April study by the Public Religion Research Institute. Among Republicans who watch Fox News, 45 percent said they were hesitant or unwilling to get a Covid-19 shot, compared with 68 percent of viewers who watch the niche right-wing news channels Newsmax or One America News Network.
On his Wednesday program, Carlson went after colleges that have required students to be vaccinated before their return to campus.
“They shouldn’t get the shot,” said Carlson, who has not disclosed whether he is vaccinated against Covid-19. “It’s not good for them. There’s a risk involved, much higher than of Covid, but colleges are forcing them anyway.”
His guest for the segment, Charlie Kirk, a founder of the conservative group Turning Point USA, compared the campus precautions to “almost this apartheid-style open-air hostage situation, like: ‘Oh, you can have your freedom back if you get the jab.’”
...Fox News is not the only outlet that has been critical of vaccine efforts. Newsmax covered Biden’s outreach plan on its website with the headline “Biden Blasted for ‘Sick’ Door-to-Door Vaccine Campaign”; One America News Network greeted the proposal with the headline “Joe Biden To Send Operatives To Harass Americans Into Taking COVID-19 Vaccines.”
Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, a public health professor at Johns Hopkins, called the rhetoric against vaccine campaigns “a terrible development.”
“We have such strong political opinions in this country,” he said, “and if people associate their political identity with a position on a public intervention, it’s very hard to penetrate that with good information.”
The remarks against vaccination efforts on Tucker Carlson Tonight and The Ingraham Angle have come during a ratings resurgence for Fox News.
For years, Mr. Murdoch’s channel was the ratings leader among cable news networks-- only to fall behind CNN in the wake of the 2020 election, when Fox News was the first news organization to project Biden as the winner of Arizona, a key swing state.
Newsmax, which was more frankly pro-Trump in its coverage, gained viewers in the weeks after Election Day. At the same time, One America News accused Fox News of joining “the mainstream media” in an effort to recruit the channel’s disaffected fans.
Now the old ratings order has been restored: Fox News finished far ahead of its main rivals, CNN and MSNBC, with an average of nearly 2.2 million viewers during prime time in the second quarter of 2021, according to Nielsen.
Its return to the top came thanks, in part, to a programming strategy that gave more hours per week to opinion shows, rather than news broadcasts. And as it climbed back to ratings dominance, the commentator Donna Brazile, a former Democratic Party chairwoman, departed the network, and Juan Williams, a moderate pundit, left his role as a co-host of The Five. Both had served as foils to the channel’s conservative voices.
In a recent opinion essay for the Daily Beast, Preston Padden, a former high-level executive at Fox Broadcasting, wrote that Fox News had “contributed substantially and directly” to “the unnecessary deaths of many Americans by fueling hesitation and doubt about the efficacy and safety of lifesaving Covid-19 vaccines.” He singled out the channel’s prime-time opinion programs for blame.
And who's falling for this and putting their lives and their families' and friends' lives in jeopardy: the people with the least education and the least income, often people with miserable, unfulfilling lives who feel they have the least to live for. Axios reported this morning that "More than half of unvaccinated Americans live in households that make less than $50,000 annually... Making it easier for the working poor to get the COVID-19 vaccine, without dinging their already-low incomes, could help boost the country's vaccination rates... Most low-income workers still want to get vaccinated. It's just not always easy. Almost two-thirds of unvaccinated people who make less than $50,000 still say they either 'definitely' or 'probably' will get the vaccine."