The Associated Press ran an important story late yesterday: Houston hospital workers fired, resign over COVID-19 vaccine: 153 employees at a Houston hospital system who refused to get a COVID-19 vaccine have been fired or resigned after a judge dismissed an employee lawsuit over the vaccine requirement, many of them yesterday.
Earlier this month, a federal judge threw out the lawsuit filed by 117 employees over the requirement.
The case over how far health care institutions can go to protect patients and others against the coronavirus has been closely watched. It’s is believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S. But it won’t be the end of the debate.
In the June 12 ruling, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes of Houston deemed lead plaintiff Jennifer Bridges’ contention that the vaccines are “experimental and dangerous” to be false and otherwise irrelevant. He also found that her likening the vaccination requirement to the Nazis’ forced medical experimentation on concentration camp captives during the Holocaust to be “reprehensible.”
The judge said that if employees of the hospital system didn’t like the requirement, they could go work elsewhere.
The hospital workers who filed the lawsuit have already appealed the judge’s dismal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The hospital system had required employees to complete their immunization by June 7. After that, 178 employees were suspended for two weeks without pay for not complying.
I suspect there are some people-- Trump voters primarily-- who might be surprised if anyone ever tells them that in areas where people have been resisting vaccines, COVID cases and hospitalizations are spiking. It's too soon for deaths to start spiking; that may happen in a couple of weeks. Or maybe not, since so many of the unvaccinated are younger and more healthy than the people most likely to die from being infected. On the other hand, CNN reported yesterday that "The Delta coronavirus variant, which is highly transmissible and possibly more dangerous than current predominant variants, now makes up more than 20% of all samples sequenced in the United States after the percentage doubled in a recent two-week period, Dr. Anthony Fauci said. The country seems to be following a pattern seen in the United Kingdom, both with a variant first seen there-- the B.1.1.7 Alpha-- and now with the Delta variant, said the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases."
Bloomberg's Jonathan Levin reported data showing that in Trump areas people are shunning vaccinations and, catching the disease. "Covid-19 transmission," he wrote, "is accelerating in several poorly vaccinated states, primarily in the South plus Missouri and Utah, and more young people are turning up at hospitals. The data present the clearest sign of a rebound in the U.S. in months. In Missouri, Arkansas and Utah, the seven-day average of hospital admissions with confirmed Covid-19 has increased more than 30% in the past two weeks, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. In Mississippi, the hospitalization rate is up 5% in the period. The jump in hospitalization is particularly jarring among 18- to 29-year-olds in the outlier states.
An analysis by the genomics firm Helix suggests that the highly contagious delta variant in particular, which has prompted concern worldwide as it leads to new surges of Covid-19 across the globe, is spreading in under-vaccinated pockets of the U.S.
The U.S. has made extraordinary progress in its vaccine push, giving at least one jab to more than 53% of the population. But all the states with mounting transmission trail the national average, and Mississippi has given a single jab to just 35%. Young people are less likely to be vaccinated than older groups.
In Arkansas, Missouri and Utah, reported Covid-19 cases mirror the concerning trends in hospitalizations. In other places-- namely, Mississippi-- they don’t. Testing has dropped off significantly, with the seven-day average nationwide plummeting 55% in the past three months, which makes case counts a less reliable indicator.
Most Covid-19 projections expect subdued transmission during the summer, thanks in part to the seasonal nature of the virus. But the so-called Sun Belt surge last year showed that many Southern states can remain vulnerable as hot summer days drive people indoors in search of air-conditioning.
Yesterday, Florida-- as is often the case lately-- didn't report its numbers. Florida has the most new cases day after day. Texas usually follows close behind. Yesterday, Texas had 1,897 new cases, the most of any state, and 27 new deaths, also the most of any state. (Florida would probably have topped both numbers.) Among the states where anti-vaccination psychosis is prevalent Missouri, Arkansas and Arizona were in the third, fourth and fifth positions for most new cases.
Should people refusing to be vaccinated be fired, as they were in the Texas hospitals? I would prefer another solution: rounded up and dumped on a desert island where they can happily infect each other without endangering normal people. Bonus: the GOP would lose a significant portion of its voter base. And what's taking so long for the cowardly politicians to begin a vaccine "passport" program?
A passage from Yasmeen Abutaleb's and Damian Paletta's explosive new book, Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration's Response to the Pandemic That Changed History: "Trump had tried to joke about the virus for months, sometimes even mocking people who had become ill… At one meeting several months before Trump got sick, NEC director Larry Kudlow had stifled a cough. The room had frozen… Trump had waved his hands in front of his face, as if to jokingly ward off any flying virus particles, and then cracked a smile. 'I was just kidding,' he’d said. 'Larry will never get COVID. He will defeat it with his optimism.' … 'John Bolton,' he had said … 'Hopefully COVID takes out John.'"