Tag Archives: vaccination

Zahawi issues warning on flu this winter ‘we’re launching mass vaccination programme’

Zahawi issues warning on flu this winter 'we're launching mass vaccination programme'

According to the Vaccines Minister, the Government is “planning a large-scale flu vaccination programme” to counter the threat.

The problem is particularly acute this winter time “because there has not been much flu circulating in communities because of the lockdown”, warned Mr Zahawi.

We’re making big plans to boost the antibody and T-cell protection of the most vulnerable in September and protect them against flu.”

The multi-pronged approach is to tackle both coronavirus and flu head-on, explained Mr Zahawi.

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This post originally posted here Daily Express :: Health
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With vaccination rates not at the levels needed to stop the spread of Covid, the Delta variant is so contagious, the unprotected will likely get it, an expert says

“And for most people who get this Delta variant, it’s going to be the most serious virus that they get in their lifetime in terms of the risk of putting them in the hospital,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration during the Trump administration, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.
Delta is the most transmissible Covid-19 variant yet, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN. And experts say it is exacerbating the rise in cases among unvaccinated Americans.
In Los Angeles County, the rate of new Covid-19 cases has increased 300% since July 4, the county health department said. Covid-19 hospitalizations have more than doubled from the previous month.
And 48 states are now seeing new case numbers surge at least 10% higher than the previous week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
That is concerning, Murthy said, because often a rise in cases and hospitalizations is followed by a rise in Covid-19 deaths. Experts are particularly worried about the unvaccinated populations, as 99.5% of the deaths from Covid-19 occur among people who have not been vaccinated, Murthy said.
The only way to stem the rise in cases is vaccination, Murthy told CNN’s Dana Bash Sunday.
The fight to increase vaccinations is transitioning to the hands of local leaders, Murthy said. Springfield, Missouri, Mayor Ken McClure told “Face the Nation” he hopes community leaders will convince people to get vaccinated before it is too late.
“So it gets down to the community leaders, the community institutions that people trust saying you have to get vaccination. That’s the only way that we are going to emerge from this,” McClure said.
Face mask signage is displayed outside the Trunks bar after midnight early Sunday morning in West Hollywood, California, alerting patrons masks are again required by the county indoors.

Delta variant sends younger people to the hospital

The Delta variant might spread faster than other strains of coronavirus because it makes more copies of itself inside our bodies at a faster pace, researchers found.
In research posted online, scientists examining 62 cases of the Delta variant found viral loads about 1,260 times higher than those found in 63 cases from the early epidemic wave in 2020.
The Delta variant is also sending younger and previously healthy people to hospitals — the vast majority of which have not been vaccinated, say doctors in several states suffering surges.
“This year’s virus is not last year’s virus,” said Dr. Catherine O’Neal, an infectious disease specialist at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“It’s attacking our 40-year-olds. It’s attacking our parents and young grandparents. And it’s getting our kids,” O’Neal said. She said her Covid-19 unit now has more patients in their 20s than previously during the pandemic.
In the face of rampant misinformation about the virus and the vaccine, McClure urged people to use trusted sources and to “make sure people have good information.”
Misinformation “takes away our freedom,” Murthy said, adding that the inaccurate information inhibits people’s power to make educated decisions about the health of themselves and their families.
And with the virus’ disproportionately higher impact among people who aren’t vaccinated, the consequences can be severe.
“All this misinformation that’s floating around is having a real cost that can be measured in lives lost, and that is tragic,” Murthy said.

Children under 12 likely won’t get vaccinations soon

One important reason adults should get vaccinated, experts have said, is to protect children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine.
Currently, Covid-19 vaccines are only authorized for children 12 and older, but studies are underway to test the safety and efficacy of vaccinating younger children.
On Saturday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, shed light on the timeline for approving Covid-19 vaccines for children younger than 12.
Right now, he told CNN’s Jim Acosta, scientists are conducting studies in de-escalating age groups, looking at children from 12 to 9-years-old, then 9 to 6, 6 to 2 and then 2-years to 6-months old.
“Thus far, things look good, but the final decision is going to be up to the FDA. And I would imagine that likely will not happen until we get well into the winter, towards the end of this year,” Fauci said.

11 people show up to three-hour vaccination event

In Alabama, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the US, a three-and-a-half-hour vaccination clinic at a church outside of Birmingham Sunday yielded little progress as only 11 people showed up.
MedsPlus, the health care provider on site, has been holding clinics at churches, business and community centers, in hopes of partnering with local leaders that people trust. But according to Alabama Public Health Department’s dashboard, the number of vaccines administered in the state has dropped off in a steep decline since the peak in March and April.
According to data from the CDC, just 33.7% of Alabama’s residents were fully vaccinated as of Sunday.
Since April 1, 529 people have died in Alabama from Covid-19. According to the Alabama Public Health department, about 96% of them were unvaccinated.
Shuntasia Williams, 15, said she got her first dose of vaccine at the event because she wants to be protected when school starts next month. She told CNN she’s proud of her friend group for being vaccinated, but she has also seen rumors online that her peers are falling for.
“I seen somebody that said their arm got so swollen, it had to get amputated off,” Williams said. “That is the most crazy thing. One thing about vaccines is they start spreading rumors about it, but you have to get out and see it for yourself.”
Williams said these are not first-hand accounts by people, but rather misleading posts and articles that continue to be shared.
“Take it from me. I’m 15 years old. Go get the vaccine. It’s not shocking. My arm is not swollen. I’m not getting my arm amputated. I’m actually feeling great,” she said.

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This post originally posted here CNN.com – RSS Channel – HP Hero

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is suing over the law that prohibits companies from requiring customers and employees to give documentation of Covid vaccination

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is suing over the law that prohibits companies from requiring customers and employees to give documentation of Covid vaccination
(CNN) — Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is suing Florida’s surgeon general over the state’s law that prohibits companies from requiring customers and employees to provide documentation of Covid-19 vaccination status.

According to the complaint filed Tuesday, NCLH says the lawsuit is a “last resort” because Florida had indicated it would prevent the company from “safely and soundly resuming passenger cruise operations” next month. It described the state law as an “anomalous, misguided intrusion.”

CNN has reached out to the Florida Department of Health for comment.

The NCLH complaint names Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees in his capacity as “the responsible state official.”

In April, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order banning the use of Covid-19 passports in the state. The order prohibited any government entity from issuing vaccine passports and blocks businesses from requiring any such documentation.
Senate Bill 2006 was signed into law on May 3, making that executive order official. “In Florida, your personal choice regarding vaccinations will be protected and no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your decision,” DeSantis said.

The cruise line, though, wants documentation that all passengers and crew members have been fully vaccinated.

“The upshot places NCLH in an impossible dilemma as it prepares to set sail from Florida: NCLH will find itself either on the wrong side of health and safety and the operative federal legal framework, or else on the wrong side of Florida law,” the complaint says.

NCLH is set to resume cruises from Florida on August 15 “in a way that will be safe, sound, and consistent with governing law,” the complaint says, citing regulations set by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The risk of transmission of COVID-19 among the unvaccinated in the close quarters of cruise ships coupled with the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in preventing the spread of COVID19 and in reducing the deaths caused by COVID-19 makes transmission of information about COVID-19 vaccines a matter of life and death,” the complaint says.

NCLH is asking the court to suspend Florida’s prohibition, according to the lawsuit, filed in US District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

In May, NCLH CEO Frank Del Rio said Florida’s law could cause the company to move its ships elsewhere.

“At the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers and rudders, and God forbid we can’t operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from, and we can operate from the Caribbean for a ship that otherwise would have gone to Florida,” he said during the company’s quarterly earnings call.

The CEO described the issue over the Covid regulations as a “classic state versus federal government issue.” He added, “Lawyers believe that federal law applies.”

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. operates three cruise lines: Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

CNN’s Theresa Waldrop contributed to this report.

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This post originally posted here CNN.com – RSS Channel – HP Hero

Vaccination update: 3,067,247 Norwegians have received the first dose of the corona vaccine

Vaccination update: 3,067,247 Norwegians have received the first dose of the corona vaccine

A total of 3,067,247 people have been vaccinated with the first dose of the corona vaccine in Norway, the FHI’s statistics show on Monday. Furthermore, 1,594,690 people have received the second dose.

According to the latest figures, 56.9% of the population has thus received the first dose, and 29.6% of the population are fully vaccinated.

Over the weekend, 33,311 people received the first dose, while 3,423 people received the second dose.

The first dose of the corona vaccine (Pfizer and BioNTech) was administered in Norway on December 27, 2020. On January 15, the first dose of the Moderna vaccine was administered, and on February 7, the AstraZeneca vaccine was introduced. 

On March 11, the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine was suspended. Then, on May 12, the Norwegian government announced that it would be permanently withdrawn from the country’s vaccination program due to the risk of severe blood clots.

The Janssen vaccine from the manufacturer Johnson & Johnson has also been removed from the Norwegian vaccine program following reports of serious side effects. However, volunteers are allowed to request it if strict health criteria are met.

Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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Covid cases are rising and where the vaccination rates are lower than 40%

Covid cases are rising and where the vaccination rates are lower than 40%
More than 9 million people live in counties where Covid cases are rising and where the vaccination rates are lower than 40%, CDC chief warns
“Somehow there has been this understanding that vaccination is just about you, and yes — it’s true, vaccination, of course, protects the individual very well against getting Covid-19 and getting severely ill,” she told CNN Saturday. “But we also get vaccinated to protect people around us … because we know that there is a risk of breakthrough infections.”
Experts have noted clear links between unvaccinated populations and higher incidence of Covid-19 cases, particularly of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who heads the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday that more than 9 million people live in counties where cases are rising and where the vaccination rates are lower than 40%.
“Many of these counties are also the same locations where the Delta variant represents the large majority of circulating virus,” she said.
Friday, the US surpassed 20,000 new Covid-19 cases for the fourth day in a row. The last time the country had back-to-back days of cases topping 20,000 was in May.

Missouri, Arkansas and Mississippi are hit hard

In Missouri, only about 40% of the population is fully vaccinated, and doctors there say the number of hospital rooms and available equipment is running low, especially as more young people become ill.
“We are seeing more people 30 years and older getting sicker and requiring hospitalization. Also, we have seen that in this wave, each person is getting sicker faster,” said Dr. Mayrol Juarez at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, where they’ve had to bring in ventilators from other hospitals due to the sharp increase in Covid-19 patients there.
The state’s health department estimates more than 70% of the virus circulating in the state is the Delta variant.
About 91% of the ICU patients at Mercy Hospital in Springfield are on ventilators, according to the hospital’s chief administrative officer, Erik Frederick.
“That is shocking to us, to have that kind of number,” he told CNN’s “Newsroom” on Saturday. “These are young patients — you have them in their 20s, 30s, 40s — again, it’s alarming, (and) a direct line to the vaccination rates.”
About 35% of Arkansas’ population is fully vaccinated, according to CDC data, and new daily case numbers have recently climbed back to more than a thousand a day, state health officials said.
“Arkansas is on the upward surge of a third wave of Covid-19 here in our state and it’s tilting towards younger people,” said Dr. Cam Patterson, chancellor for the University of Arkansas for medical sciences. “We’re also seeing breakthrough infections in individuals who are immunocompromised.”
A surge is also alarming officials in Mississippi, where only a third of the population is fully vaccinated.
“We’ve seen almost an entire takeover in the Delta variant,” said State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs.
Case numbers and hospitalizations are trending upward because of the spread of the virus mostly among those who are unvaccinated, State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers said.
While the number of deaths hasn’t risen, Byers said they anticipate that to change because death numbers tend to lag behind case numbers.
The state is advising seniors aged 65 and older to avoid mass gatherings until July 26, regardless of vaccination status.
Overall, 47.9% of the US population is fully vaccinated while 20 states have fully vaccinated more than half of their residents.

Will we need a booster?

After Pfizer announced Thursday that it’s working to develop a third vaccine booster shot, questions emerged about the long-term effectiveness of vaccines.
In response, Dr. Anthony Fauci said people should take booster advice from federal health officials.
“Certainly, they need to listen to the CDC and the FDA, the FDA being the regulatory authority that has control over this. And the CDC, in accordance with their advisory committee on immunization practices, will make the recommendation,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“We respect what the pharmaceutical company is doing, but the American public should take their advice from the CDC and the FDA,” he said.
Dr. Peter Hotez, chair of tropical pediatrics at Texas Children’s Hospital, said the current vaccines offer high protection.
“It looks like the two doses of the current vaccine are pretty robust against the Delta variant,” Hotez said Friday. “So yes, we’ll need a booster, but nothing to worry about right now in terms of vaccination.”
Pfizer said it was seeing waning immunity from its vaccine — manufactured in partnership with BioNTech — and was picking up its efforts to develop a booster shot to offer further protection against variants.

Federal guidance on school in fall encourages in-person learning

Meanwhile, the CDC on Friday said schools should prioritize in-person schooling in the fall but it was crucial to layer safety strategies such as masking and physical distancing, and most importantly, vaccinations for everyone eligible.
Schools that are ready to transition away from pandemic precautions as community transmission reaches low levels should do so gradually, the agency said in a draft of the guidance obtained by CNN.
“If localities decide to remove prevention strategies in schools based on local conditions, they should remove them one at a time and monitor closely (with adequate testing) for any increases in COVID-19 cases before removing the next prevention strategy,” the guidance says, adding that schools need to be transparent with families, staff and the community as they do so.
Fauci agrees, adding that unvaccinated children should wear masks.
“I think that the message from the CDC is clear and I totally agree with them,” Fauci told CNN. “We want all the children back in in-person classes in the fall term.”
Getting more people vaccinated will assist in that effort, many experts say.
“We have to remember that all of us from Little Rock Arkansas to New York City to San Francisco to Boston to Anchorage, we are all in this together,” said Dr. Robert Hopkins, chair of the National Vaccine Committee. “This is an international problem. We need everyone vaccinated, that can be vaccinated.”

A remarkable overlap between two maps shows states that voted for Biden have higher vaccination rates than those that went for Trump

A remarkable overlap between two maps shows states that voted for Biden have higher vaccination rates than those that went for Trump
A remarkable overlap between two maps shows states that voted for Biden have higher vaccination rates than those that went for Trump
Notice anything?
Assuming your brain is, well, working, you will notice the remarkable overlap between the two maps; states that voted for Joe Biden have higher vaccination rates while those that went for Donald Trump have far lower ones. And it’s not just that! In most cases, the stronger a state went for Biden, the higher the overall vaccination rate in that state is. That relationship is inversely proportional for Trump: The higher the former President’s winning percentage is in a state, the lower, generally speaking, the percentage of the population that has been vaccinated.
So, for example, Biden won 66% of the vote in Vermont in 2020. That same number — 66% — of Vermonters are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19. In Minnesota, Biden won with 52% of the vote. And, yup, you guessed it, 52% of the population has been fully vaccinated. In New Mexico, Biden took 54% of the vote in 2020; as of now, 55% of New Mexicans are vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The flip side is also true. In Idaho, Trump won 64% of the vote. Just 36% of the state is fully vaccinated. Trump won 65% in Oklahoma; less than 4 in 10 (39%) residents of the state are fully vaccinated.
And on and on (and on) it goes. (If you want to play around with the similarity of the two maps more, here’s the 2020 Electoral College map and here’s the current vaccination rate map.)
b) Depressing
c) Unnecessary
d) Revealing
The first three are obvious. The revealing part is this: EVERYTHING — including public health — is now best understood through a partisan lens.
In theory, there is absolutely no reason why states that voted heavily for Trump should be any less willing to take a vaccine to fight a virus that has killed more than 600,000 Americans than states that went strongly for Biden. After all, Covid-19 doesn’t check who you voted for in 2020 before infecting you. The virus is remarkably nonpartisan.
Unfortunately for all of us — but most especially for people in Trump states who are still not vaccinated — that’s not how lots and lots of people see it. Refusing the vaccine is regarded by some decent-sized chunk of Trump voters as a badge of honor — a statement of their freedom from government oppression, or something.
That’s true despite the fact that Trump himself has not only been infected with the virus but has also received the vaccination. And has even advocated for others to get it too! “I would recommend it and I would recommend it to a lot of people that don’t want to get it and a lot of those people voted for me, frankly,” he said back in March.
The problem, of course, is that the Trump/freedom train had long left the station by then. Trump spent so long downplaying the virus, brazenly flouting public health guidelines to prevent the spread and openly questioning the need to wear masks that anything and everything to do with Covid-19 became political. And that very much includes whether or not you should get a vaccine with an unbelievably high efficacy rate against a virus that has killed more than 4 million people globally.
Like I said above: Stupid. And a reflection that our partisan political moment is dangerous — in more ways than one.

Partisan Covid-19 vaccination gap widens, study shows

Partisan Covid-19 vaccination gap widens, study shows

Pfizer said Thursday it is seeing waning immunity from its coronavirus vaccine and says it is picking up its efforts to develop a booster dose that will protect people from variants.

“As seen in real world data released from the Israel Ministry of Health, vaccine efficacy in preventing both infection and symptomatic disease has declined six months post-vaccination, although efficacy in preventing serious illnesses remains high,” the company said in a statement emailed to CNN.

“Additionally, during this period the Delta variant is becoming the dominate variant in Israel as well as many other countries. These findings are consistent with an ongoing analysis from the Companies’ Phase 3 study,” it added.

“While protection against severe disease remained high across the full six months, a decline in efficacy against symptomatic disease over time and the continued emergence of variants are expected. Based on the totality of the data they have to date, Pfizer and BioNTech believe that a third dose may be beneficial within 6 to 12 months following the second dose to maintain highest levels of protection.”

A Pfizer spokesperson later told CNN the company planned to file for emergency use authorization for a booster dose with the US Food and Drug Administration in August.

Israel’s health ministry said in a statement earlier this week that it had seen efficacy of Pfizer’s vaccine drop from more than 90% to about 64% as the B.1.617.2 or Delta variant spread.

The company said booster doses of its vaccine, developed with BioNTech, produces levels of neutralizing antibodies that are five to 10 times higher than what’s produced after two doses.

“The companies expect to publish more definitive data soon as well as in a peer-reviewed journal and plan to submit the data to the FDA, EMA and other regulatory authorities in the coming weeks,” Pfizer said in a statement.

And it says it’s also developing a new formulation for a booster dose that may more thoroughly protect people from new variants.

“While Pfizer and BioNTech believe a third dose of BNT162b2 has the potential to preserve the highest levels of protective efficacy against all currently known variants including Delta, the companies are remaining vigilant and are developing an updated version of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine that targets the full spike protein of the Delta variant,” the company said. Current vaccines target just a piece of the spike protein – the part of the virus it uses to attach to cells.

“The first batch of the mRNA for the trial has already been manufactured at BioNTech’s facility in Mainz, Germany. The Companies anticipate the clinical studies to begin in August, subject to regulatory approvals.”

Author: By Veronica Rocha, Fernando Alfonso III and Meg Wagner, CNN
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Lottery Incentives Don’t Increase COVID-19 Vaccination Rates

Lottery Incentives Don't Increase COVID-19 Vaccination Rates

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Lottery-based incentives such as cash and prizes don’t appear to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates, according to a new research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In particular, researchers found that Ohio’s “Vax-a-Million” campaign wasn’t associated with an increase in vaccinations. In May, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced five $ 1 million cash prizes would go to vaccinated residents, and several states created similar programs to increase vaccination rates.

“State-based lotteries are of limited value in increasing vaccine uptake,” Allan Walkey, MD, one of the study authors and a professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, said in a statement.

“Therefore, the resources devoted to vaccine lotteries may be more successfully invested in programs that target underlying reasons for vaccine hesitancy and low vaccine uptake,” he said.

Walkey and colleagues used CDC data to evaluate trends in vaccination rates among adults. They compared vaccination rates before and after the Ohio lottery with other states that didn’t have vaccine incentive programs.

Between April 15 and June 9, the daily vaccination rates among adults declined from 485 per 100,000 people to 101 per 100,000 people in Ohio and from 700 per 100,000 people to 97 per 100,000 people in states without lottery programs. Daily vaccination rates declined in both Ohio and the U.S. throughout May, and even after the Ohio lottery announcement, adult vaccination rates didn’t increase significantly.

Overall, the research team found that lottery-based incentive programs weren’t associated with an increase in COVID-19 vaccinations and that other factors likely led to additional vaccinations, such as expanded eligibility for shots. For instance, the Ohio lottery program was announced on May 12, just days after the FDA expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to ages 12-15.

“Prior evaluations of the Ohio vaccine incentive lottery did not account for other changes in COVID-19 vaccination rates in the United States, such as those that may have been due to expansion of vaccination to ages 12-15,” Walkey said.

Walkey and colleagues said they hope the findings will lead to a shift in focus by moving away from ineffective lotteries and toward other programs that may reduce vaccine hesitancy and increase vaccinations.

Sources

JAMA: “Lottery-Based Incentive in Ohio and COVID-19 Vaccination Rates.”

Boston University School of Medicine, “Lottery-Based Incentives Do Not Increase COVID-19 Vaccination Rates.”

Author: Carolyn Crist
Read more here >>> Medscape Medical News

From vaccination rates to voting rights, blue and red states are hurtling in opposite directions at staggering speed, even as Biden calls for greater national unity

From vaccination rates to voting rights, blue and red states are hurtling in opposite directions at staggering speed, even as Biden calls for greater national unity
From vaccination rates to voting rights, from immigration policy to racial equity, blue and red states are hurtling in antithetical directions at staggering speed, even amid President Joe Biden’s persistent calls for greater national unity and his attempts to foster more bipartisan agreement in Washington. Across all of these issues, and more, Republican-controlled states are pursuing policies that amount to a wholesale effort to counter Biden’s direction at the national level — even as they look to block some of his key initiatives with lawsuits.
In some ways, the red state recoil from Biden’s agenda echoes the “resistance” that exploded in Democratic-controlled states to Donald Trump’s tumultuous presidency; in other ways, today’s actions in red states may constitute even greater evidence of the country pulling apart. Especially striking is that, as during last year’s lockdowns and mask mandates, the separation between red and blue America is occurring not only at the level of government policy, but also in individual behavior, with all studies showing Republicans are being vaccinated against the coronavirus at a much lower rate than Democrats.
Taken together, these centrifugal pressures call into question not only the ability of any president to unify the nation, but also his or her ability even to chart a common course for more than roughly half of the country — either red or blue America. This divergence, across a wide range of issues and personal choices, is rooted in the continuing political re-sorting that has divided the parties more sharply than ever along demographic and geographic lines and produced two political coalitions holding inimical views on the fundamental social and economic changes remaking America. And that destabilizing process shows no signs of slowing, much less reversing, even after Trump — who fomented division as a central component of his political strategy — has left the White House.
“This is the long arc of history,” says Lynn Vavreck, a political scientist at UCLA and one of the founders of the NationScape polling project studying American attitudes. “There are these moments that exacerbate things, like Trump running for that nomination in 2016: If he hadn’t run, the sorting would probably be taking a little longer. But it was always marching in that direction. You try to just ask yourself what stops it, or what reverses it, or what slows it? … I can’t come up with a good answer to that question.”

Presidential approval gap expands

The most common way to measure the daunting distance between red and blue America is through voting behavior and attitudes in public opinion polls. Polling has shown that the gap between voters from the two parties in their approval ratings for a newly elected president has steadily widened over recent decades. For Biden, despite all his efforts to govern as a unifying figure, that gap has reached a mountainous height: an ABC/Washington Post poll released on Saturday found that his approval rating among Democrats (at 94%) was 86 points above his rating among Republicans (8%).
These results came even as the nonpartisan Pew Research Center last week released its “validated voters” study, one of the most respected efforts to quantify how the key groups in the electorate voted in last November’s presidential election. Although the study found some shifts from the 2016 election (with Trump, for instance, improving among Hispanics and Biden gaining some ground among White men both with and without college degrees), mostly it recorded extraordinary stability in the lines of division between the parties over both elections. Other studies of the electorate’s behavior, from the media exit polls to the Cooperative Election Study sponsored by a consortium of academic researchers, have also concluded that continuity far exceeded change when comparing 2020 with 2016.
“To the extent we see differences between 2016 and 2020 we are talking about very marginal ones,” says Tufts University political scientist Brian Schaffner, a co-director of the Cooperative Election Study.
This stability may seem surprising after all the emotional and even unprecedented events of the Trump presidency, capped by a once-in-a-century pandemic that disrupted every aspect of daily life. But political scientists like Vavreck and Alan Abramowitz of Emory University say the continuity between the two elections reflects the intractability of the differences between voters in the two partisan coalitions. Reinforcing that picture is the striking finding that Biden’s current approval rating, both overall and among the electorate’s major groups, hasn’t really changed much from his vote among them last fall, even though Americans are expressing much more optimism about the country’s direction as society reopens and the economy recovers.
“I don’t think we are going to see an election anymore where a president wins with 52 or 53% of the vote and then has a 62% approval rating,” says Republican pollster Glen Bolger.
While some analysts have asserted that political polarization is driven primarily by leaders like Trump who encourage it, Abramowitz argues that today it is grounded in a much more intractable dynamic: As the electorate has sorted between the parties on lines of race, education, generation, religion and geography, the rank and file of each coalition now holds more ideologically consistent views on the core questions facing America — and those views are more consistently hostile to the perspective on the other side.
In an upcoming paper he shared with CNN, Abramowitz notes that long-term survey data shows that compared with the 1970s, voters in each party now hold much more negative views of the other party and its presidential nominee. That hostility, he argues, is rooted in these fundamentally clashing worldviews.
“One of the most important reasons why Democrats and Republicans intensely dislike each other is that they intensely disagree on a wide range of issues including the size and scope of the welfare state, abortion, gay and transgender rights, race relations, climate change, gun control and immigration,” Abramowitz writes. “As long as the parties remain on the opposite sides of almost all of the major issues facing the country, feelings of mistrust and animosity are unlikely to diminish even if Donald Trump ceases to play a major role in the political process.”

Moves to block Biden policies

This year’s sharp turn to the right in red states has provided immediate evidence to support that prediction. Red states have erupted in what looks like a spasm of resistance to the left-leaning tilt in national policy that Democrats are executing through their unified control of Washington.
As I’ve written, Republican-controlled states this year are advancing aggressively conservative initiatives across a panoramic array of issues. Among other things, red states are moving to loosen restrictions on gun owners and tighten (or even potentially eliminate) access to legal abortion; toughen penalties on public protesters; block transgender teens from competing in school sports; bar local governments from reducing their police budgets; and ban school curriculums that look to examine racism in American history.
Most of these policies steer in precisely the opposite direction that Biden is trying to set at the national level. Nine red states, for instance, have passed laws limiting or entirely blocking the ability of local law enforcement officials to enforce federal gun laws. But nowhere is this red state attempt to counter the President’s national direction more tangible than on immigration. As Biden has moved to reverse many of Trump’s hardline immigration policies, Republican attorneys general led by Texas’ Ken Paxton have already sued to block several of the new administration’s immigration initiatives.
Even more provocatively, Republican governors from states including Florida, Arkansas, Ohio and Tennessee have deployed National Guard troops or other law enforcement from their states to Texas’ border with Mexico in response to requests from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, even though the federal government retains sole enforcement power there and National Guard members cannot apprehend undocumented migrants.
“This is definitely red states saying we want the kind of restrictive policies that Biden is dismantling,” says Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute and former commissioner of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service for President Bill Clinton.
Meissner says it’s possible to interpret these deployments as the mirror image of the “sanctuary” policies that Democratic-controlled cities and the state of California instituted to limit their cooperation with Trump’s immigration enforcement agenda. But Republicans have taken their resistance to a new level, she notes, in also seeking to counter Biden’s plan by mobilizing private resources from politically sympathetic supporters.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, like Abbott a potential 2024 GOP presidential contender, announced last week that a conservative billionaire was funding the deployment of the South Dakota Guard to the Texas border. Abbott has already set up a website to solicit public donations to continue building the wall along the Texas border that Trump pursued but Biden has abandoned.

Emergence of 2-tier systems

As on immigration, red states are directly confronting Biden on voting rights. Republican-controlled states from Florida, Georgia and Arkansas to Iowa, Montana and Arizona this year have approved a torrent of measures making it more difficult to vote, almost all of them with virtually every state legislative Republican voting yes and nearly every Democrat voting no. Democrats have responded both by advancing legislation to establish a nationwide floor of voting rights — such as guaranteed early voting and on-demand absentee balloting — and with a Justice Department lawsuit against the Georgia law.
But after a GOP filibuster recently blocked the Democrats’ federal voting rights legislation, it’s uncertain whether the Democratic Senate majority will revise the chamber’s rules to enable them to pass a modified version of it. And the six Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices raised huge obstacles to the legal efforts to block the red state offensive on voting with their ruling last week weakening the Voting Rights Act.
Those twin barriers to national action raise the prospect that the months ahead will see the continued emergence of a two-tier system of American voting, with access becoming increasingly curtailed in red states even as blue states from Virginia to Washington take steps to expand it.
A two-tier system is exactly what’s already apparent in utilization of the coronavirus vaccine. All of the 20 states (plus the District of Columbia) where the highest shares of adults have received at least one shot were won last fall by Biden; 20 of the 21 states where the lowest percentage have obtained at least one shot were won by Trump (Georgia, the sole exception, is controlled by a Republican state government). The latest surveys — including polls from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation and the new ABC/Washington Post poll — find an enormous gulf between the share of Democrats (86% in the ABC/WP) and Republicans (45%) who say they have received at least one dose of the vaccine so far. Stunningly, almost all of the remaining Republicans say they do not expect to get vaccinated at any point.
A new study released last week by researchers at UCLA underscores how head-spinning these contrasts are. The paper, from a team of researchers led by anthropology professor Daniel Fessler and graduate student Theodore Samore, notes that studies typically have found that individuals who express socially conservative views typically display more, not less, concern than social liberals about threats like a virus outbreak. But that pattern shattered for the coronavirus outbreak: While the small number of Democrats who identified as social conservatives showed heightened sensitivity to the threat — measured by their willingness to take steps such as wearing masks and washing hands — socially conservative Republicans were less willing to engage in any of those behaviors.
The researchers, Samore said, found that rejection of those safety precautions was linked most closely with distrust of scientists, distrust of the mainstream media (and lack of exposure to it) and attitudes of economic conservatism (which may have translated into greater priority on reopening the economy than combating the virus). All of those, of course, are attitudes now common in the modern Republican coalition.
“What we think is going on here is a clash between people’s inclinations … and their political beliefs about trusting science or exposure to different media sources,” says Samore.
Fessler says these tendencies are reinforced by the social and political sorting that has diminished Americans’ exposure to neighbors of contrasting political views.
“You might be a liberal 20-something, and you might feel not particularly threatened, but if everyone around is saying, ‘I got vaxxed,’ you can get tipping point effects” that encourage you to do so as well, he says; the opposite, he adds, works in reducing appetite for the vaccine among conservatives.

Information niches

The latest Kaiser poll dramatically underlines Fessler’s observation. Kaiser found that while two-thirds of Democrats say they live in households where everyone has been vaccinated, that’s true for less than 40% of Republicans; nearly that many Republicans, in fact, say they live in households where no one has been vaccinated.
Fessler says these diverging attitudes on the value of vaccines, despite all the evidence of their effectiveness and safety, encapsulates a much larger problem: the development of information “niches” that allow falsehoods to take root for a large audience. The key “challenge facing democracies in the 21st century,” he argues, is that “while the internet promised the democratization of knowledge — the idea anyone can learn anything, and the connection of people regardless of geography and personal characteristics — instead the perverse result has been that it’s possible to occupy one’s own little niche in the information environment.”
Because “there are lots of other people occupying that” same space, he adds, no matter how implausible the ideas being presented in those circles, “our evolved psychology tells us this must be reality because everyone I am interacting with thinks the way that I do.”
That dynamic likely helps explain why such a staggeringly large percentage of Republicans accept Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen, even though courts uniformly have dismissed his “evidence.” It also helps explain why an ominously large share of Republican voters (especially those who most rely on far-right media sources) even accept the byzantine QAnon conspiracy theory.
Divergent information flows are not the only reason that red and blue America are pulling apart; the preference for contrasting information sources, in fact, may be more symptom than cause of the underlying demographic, generational and geographic separation of the parties. Taken together, all of these factors produced an Independence Day weekend when foundational questions of American unity and commitment to democracy seemed more fraught than at any time since the Civil War.
The Declaration of Independence that Americans celebrated over the weekend begins with the confident assertion that it is “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.” Today, it is unclear what set of principles, if any, America’s fractious 50 states might agree on across the widening red-blue divide.

Author: Analysis by Ronald Brownstein
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Vaccination Is the ‘Most Patriotic Thing,’ Biden Says on Independence Day

President Biden said on Sunday that getting vaccinated against the coronavirus was “the most patriotic thing” that Americans could do. In remarks addressed to a crowd attending a Fourth of July party on the White House’s South Lawn, and broadcast nationally, he said the United States was emerging from the darkness of the pandemic but stressed that the country was not yet fully clear of it.

He singled out the Delta virus variant as a particular threat.

Mr. Biden had hoped to turn the Fourth of July into a celebration not just of the nation’s independence, but also of reaching his administration’s ambitious goal to have 70 percent of adults at least partly inoculated against the coronavirus before the holiday.

He didn’t quite make it. As of Friday, about 67 percent of people in the country 18 and older had gotten at least one vaccine dose, according to a New York Times tracker. Almost 60 percent of adults were fully vaccinated, and the highly contagious Delta variant was creating hot spots, particularly in states with low vaccination rates, like Missouri.

The shortfall did not dampen the White House’s outlook. The president had pressed ahead with an optimistic message, signaling that this year’s July Fourth celebration would be about “independence from the virus” and a return to some semblance of normal life.

On Saturday, Mr. Biden visited Traverse City, Mich., as part of what the White House called the “America’s Back Together” celebration. On Sunday, he and his wife, Jill Biden, hosted a party whose invitation list included 1,000 military personnel and essential workers, on whom Mr. Biden lavished thanks during his speech.

A sense of a new day seems to be shared by many Americans, who returned to prepandemic Fourth of July rituals in droves, flocking to the roads and the skies in the stiffest test yet for the nation’s travel infrastructure since the pandemic mostly shut it down in March 2020.

The Transportation Security Administration screened 2.197 million people on July 3, the most since March 5, 2020, about a week before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic.

Despite the new variant’s spread, reports of new cases across the country have been holding steady at 12,000 a day, the lowest since testing became widely available. The U.S. average of fewer than 300 daily deaths from Covid-19 is a decline of 23 percent over the past two weeks. Hospitalizations are also dropping.

Some public health experts cautioned, however, that scenes of celebrations might send the wrong message when wide swaths of the population remain vulnerable.

The continuing threat was brought into sharp focus on Saturday when the authorities announced that six emergency medical workers helping with rescue efforts at the site of a collapsed condo in Surfside, Fla., had tested positive.

On Friday, Mr. Biden urged people who have yet to get vaccinated to “think about their family” and get a shot as the Delta variant spreads.

“I am concerned that people who have not gotten vaccinated have the capacity to catch the variant and spread the variant to other people who have not been vaccinated,” he said. “Don’t just think about yourself.”

An employee wearing a mask at a restaurant in New York last month while patrons were free to go without face coverings..
Sara Messinger for The New York Times

In the weeks since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its mask guidelines to allow fully vaccinated people to take their masks off in most indoor settings, a stark divide has emerged, particularly in wealthier enclaves where services are at a premium.

Those still wearing masks tend to be members of the service class — store clerks, waiters, janitors, manicurists, security guards, receptionists, hair stylists and drivers — while those without face coverings are often the well-to-do customers being wined and dined.

Employers are hesitant to discuss their mask policies, but there are sensible reasons for requiring staffers to keep their masks on.

Just under 50 percent of people in the United States are fully vaccinated. And coronavirus variants, some of which are highly infectious and may be more resistant to vaccines, are on the rise, said Dr. Lisa Maragakis, an epidemiologist and associate professor at Johns Hopkins University.

Food servers, retail clerks, grocery cashiers and other public-facing workers interact all day with customers, which can put their health (and the health of their customers) at risk. This creates not only potential liability issues for employers, but also could hamstring a business at a time of worker shortages.

Even at establishments that give vaccinated employees the choice to take their masks off, many are keeping them on. “Who knows who has had their shot and who hasn’t,” said Michelle Booker, a store clerk from the Bronx who works at a Verizon store in Midtown Manhattan.

An overnight vaccination drive for people on the margins of society, called Open Night, in Rome on Saturday.
Giuseppe Lami/EPA, via Shutterstock

Nearly 900 people tried to take advantage of an overnight vaccination drive, called Open Night, over the weekend in an inoculation effort organized by the health authorities in the Lazio region of Italy, which includes Rome.

The initiative, organized in a cloister of the Santo Spirito hospital, near the Vatican, was targeted at “people on the margins of society, the most fragile,” said Angelo Tanese, the director general of ASL Roma 1, the region’s largest local health unit.

To help draw in the crowds, a jazz pianist serenaded those present on Saturday night, while free espresso and cornetti — Italian croissants — were offered on Sunday morning.

Doctors and nurses administered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to homeless people, undocumented migrants, foreign students and foreigners who legally work in Rome but are not registered with the national health service.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which requires only one dose — unlike the two-shot regimens made by AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech — is especially useful for inoculating people who may be harder to reach or may not return for a second dose. About 80 percent of the people at the Santo Spirito clinic were undocumented migrants, Mr. Tanese said.

As of Sunday, nearly 20 million people in Italy had been fully vaccinated — about 32 percent of the total population.

The discount carrier BoltBus is folding because of low ridership during the pandemic.
Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

BoltBus, the bus service known for offering its passengers Wi-Fi and $ 1 lottery seats, is shutting down operations indefinitely after months of low ridership during the pandemic, according to Greyhound, its parent company.

The discount bus operator said last month that it was transferring most of its routes to Greyhound in order to “undergo renovations.” BoltBus had suspended service earlier in the pandemic, but its parent company said last week that the operator had no plans to put its buses back on the road.

“Currently there is not a timeline to return BoltBus operations,” Emma Kaiser, a Greyhound spokeswoman, told The Seattle Times.

Greyhound, which operates the largest intercity bus fleet in North America, teamed up with Peter Pan Bus Lines in 2008 to start BoltBus. The companies wanted to offer an affordable ride to people put off by grubbier alternatives.

At least one seat on every BoltBus ride sold for $ 1 plus a booking fee. Passengers could reserve seats, unlike on Greyhound. BoltBus offered passengers Wi-Fi, individual power outlets and extra legroom, according to its website.

Other cheap intercity bus operators that are still running, including FlixBus, Peter Pan and Megabus, may see a surge in riders, because domestic travel is on the rise as pandemic restrictions loosen.

Author: The New York Times
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