In the late spring, as coronavirus cases in the U.S. were trending way down and vaccination rates were trending up, Dr. Lucy McBride and three of her colleagues authored an optimistic Washington Post op-ed with a clear and straightforward message: “It’s time for children to finally get back to normal life.”
The risk to children was too low to justify burdensome restrictions over the summer. And when school begins, kids should return “without masks and regardless of their vaccination status,” the four doctors wrote. “Even small steps toward normality can have a large impact on a child.”
After more than a year of confusion, fear, death, school closures, and mask mandates, here, finally, was a group of respected doctors, writing in one of the nation’s most respected newspapers, that the time had come for kids to get back to just being kids, no masks required.
Fast-forward three months: The highly contagious Delta variant is surging, particularly in hot Southern states and in states with low vaccination rates. Intensive-care units are overflowing, and COVID-19-associated hospitalizations of kids and teenagers are at an all-time high. Virus-related deaths are rising again.
And with the change in conditions, McBride’s messaging has changed along with it.
“Right now, with Delta running roughshod through the country, I think it’s appropriate for unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors in areas where transmission is high,” McBride, a Harvard-trained physician and practicing Washington, D.C., internist, told National Review. “I would want to mask my unvaccinated child in a state like Mississippi or Florida at this moment.”
This latest coronavirus surge began in the weeks before schools reopened in many states, leading to statehouse fights and heated school-board debates over mask mandates and parental freedom.
In Florida, the school boards in at least five counties have voted to defy governor Ron DeSantis’s order, which empowers parents to decide if they want their kids to be masked in school. In Hillsborough County, more than 10,000 students and 300 school staff members were quarantined last week. Earlier in the month, before classes resumed, three unvaccinated Broward County teachers died in a 24-hour span. DeSantis has questioned the effectiveness of mask mandates in schools, saying, “There’s not much science behind it.”
In Mississippi, 13-year-old Mkayla Robinson died of coronavirus complications in mid-August after attending eighth grade for a week at a school where masks weren’t required. It’s unclear if the teen contracted the virus at school. Her mother told a local TV station that Mkayla was a healthy kid with no pre-existing illnesses. Mkayla’s death came on the heels of 16-year-old Jenna Lyn Jeansonne’s death in the state in late July.
Some Mississippi schools already have reverted to virtual learning because of COVID outbreaks. Only 36 percent of eligible Mississippians are vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in the country.
The Delta surge has left parents confused, and it has scrambled the way many of them are thinking about how they should protect their families.
The Delta surge also has led to a renewed debate in the medical community about just how effective a COVID-19 mitigation effort masks really are for kids, with some doctors saying there isn’t enough science to back universal mandates in schools, and arguing that for some kids the masks may do more harm than good. Other medical professionals argue that the protection that masks provide — however small — far outweighs their downsides.
“People have very strongly held opinions on masks and children with very little information,” Dr. Marty Makary, a surgeon and professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told National Review. The effectiveness of masks on children has been woefully understudied, so most of what we know about the benefits for kids is extrapolated from adults, Makary said.
In July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for schools, recommending that all adults and children wear makes indoors. The CDC reports that multi-layered cloth masks can block up to 80 percent of respiratory droplets. A recent Duke University study found that widespread mask use in schools can effectively prevent COVID transmission.
But a New York Times Magazine article published on Friday noted that a groundbreaking CDC study published in May found no statistically significant benefit from requiring students to wear masks. The Times article also criticized the Duke study for not using a comparison group of unmasked students, making it impossible to isolate the effects of masks. A National Institutes of Health review last year found that cloth masks have limited efficacy in preventing viral infections, depending on the materials used, the number of layers, and how the mask fits.
Many European countries, including the U.K., France, Switzerland, and all of Scandinavia, have exempted children from wearing masks in classrooms, with no evidence of more outbreaks in those schools compared with U.S. schools where masks were required last year, the Times reports.
Makary recently co-authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed that ran under the headline “The Case Against Masks for Children.” But Makary said the headline is not exactly representative of his position. He is not an opponent of masks for children generally. He’s been an advocate of most people wearing masks since the beginning of the pandemic. As a surgeon, he wears a mask.All Our Opinion in Your Inbox
“Masks reduce transmission, and I believe even the very flimsy, low-value cloth masks do something for kids,” he said. “I would say that wearing them in an area of an active outbreak is a good idea, even though the benefit may be minimal.”
But children are not homogenous. Some live with adults who are vaccinated, some don’t. Some live in communities where major outbreaks are occurring, some don’t.
Makary’s concern is for kids who legitimately struggle with masks: kids with physical and cognitive disabilities, kids with myopia whose glasses get fogged when they’re masked, kids with severe acne, kids with anxiety and depression from wearing masks, kids with hearing impairments or issues with phonetic development. He worries that covering the faces of children, particularly young kids and children with disabilities, could lead to developmental delays.
In some cases, the risk-to-benefit ratio falls on the side of a child not wearing a mask, he said.
In terms of effective mitigation measures to protect kids from the virus, masks are pretty far down on the list, behind vaccinating adults and teens, ventilation, social distancing, podding kids in school, and hygiene, Makary said.
“So, we have had this massive culture war over maybe what’s the sixth mitigation step, which has a small impact if any, and has not been formally studied,” he said.
Most kids who contract COVID-19 manifest with mild symptoms, and often no symptoms at all. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been fewer than 500 deaths involving children under 18, out of more than 600,000 total deaths nationwide, according to CDC data. For the week of July 31, the rate of hospitalization with COVID of children five to 17 was 0.5 per 100,000, according to the Wall Street Journal. A study of children and young people in England found kids generally have a lower risk of death or serious outcome from COVID than even vaccinated 30-year-olds. But children are making up a growing share of serious COVID cases now.
“A percentage of a larger number is a larger number,” said Dr. Charlotte Hobbs, a pediatric disease specialist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and an advocate for universal masking in schools. There are concerns for kids besides just death from COVID, she said.
As of July 30, the CDC reported that more than 4,400 children in the U.S. have contracted post-COVID Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, a potentially lethal condition that causes parts of the body — including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, and eyes — to become inflamed. And Hobbs noted the long-term effects of COVID still are not well understood, though a large British study published this month found that only about 4.4 percent of infected kids had symptoms for longer than 28 days, with the most common symptoms being fatigue, headaches, and loss of smell. Less than 2 percent had any symptoms after 56 days.
Because kids under 12 aren’t eligible for a vaccine, adults need to do everything they can to protect them, including getting vaccinated and supporting masks in schools, she said.
Some people who got vaccinated earlier in the year and thought they could put away their masks for good are having second thoughts amid the Delta-variant surge.
Jeff Navarro, 68, who has twin 16-year-old sons in high school in Amory, Miss., was looking forward to life without masks, after he, his wife, and his kids all got vaccinated. But as an older parent, Delta has him worried, and he supports the mask mandate his school district imposed.
“I’ve learned at 68 years old that no one is bulletproof,” he said. “I take it seriously. I follow the science. I certainly do not understand it enough to dispute it; therefore, I have to accept it.”
Sean Kruer, a father of two young children in Huntsville, Ala., has been a strong supporter of a school mask mandate in his community. He and his wife had serious discussions about pulling their kids out of school if there was no masking requirement.
“From a public-health policy perspective, universal mask mandates absolutely make sense,” Kruer said. “So, as much as I understand that it would be nice if things had continued the way that it looked like they might in May, that’s not the reality. And continuing as if it were and being petulant about it isn’t helping anybody.”
Melissa Bernhardt, the mother of a high-school student and an elementary-school student in Jacksonville, Fla., said she questions the science around masks. She’s not against people wearing masks, she said, but she doesn’t believe they should be forced on all kids.
She described one of her sons as particularly high energy, but she said he became lethargic and fatigued during school last year. She believes it’s because he had to wear a mask.
Bernhardt’s kids attend private school because she thought they wouldn’t impose a mask requirement. But, she said, she was wrong.
“The private schools really disappointed me,” she said. “They have committees with doctors, and all the doctors that are on the committees are not only pro-mask, they’re pro-vaccine.”
Bernhardt declined to discuss her vaccination status, but she said she feels protected because she contracted COVID early in the pandemic and has antibodies.
Hobbs said that even though kids don’t frequently get as sick from COVID as adults, “they can and they do, and we’ve had kids who have died. . . . Any pediatric death in my mind is one too many, especially when we know that this is preventable. We have a vaccine for those who are eligible, and we know that masking works.”
McBride, the D.C. internist, said parents need to know that there is an off-ramp down the road. She believes the CDC and other public-health agencies need to offer clear metrics about when schools can start rolling back mitigation efforts, including mask mandates.
“After all, COVID-19 isn’t going away. It’s going to be an endemic virus, and we know that there are enormous downsides (of pandemic restrictions, particularly) for kids,” she said. “We can’t mask indefinitely, nor should we.”
Hobbs said it’s too soon to say when that off-ramp will arrive. No one predicted the emergence of the hyper-transmissible Delta variant six months ago, and no one knows what variants will emerge in the future amid a backdrop of unvaccinated populations. Only 51 percent of Americans of all ages are fully vaccinated, including people not eligible for the vaccine.
“Until we basically have all of those eligible to get vaccinated vaccinated, it is most likely that we will not see the end of this anytime soon,” she said. “In the absence of people getting vaccinated and doing what they can to mitigate the spread of the virus, which itself will lead to continued emergence of new variants, then I don’t know what the end of this road will be.”
Parents are entitled to worry about the virus, McBride said. “It’s how we survive,” she said. “But we also have to acknowledge that worry can take on a life of its own and cause its own problems. I think it’s a very hard time for everyone.”
Now more than ever, she said, it’s important for people to have a trusted pediatrician or family doctor to help them take public-health advice and make nuanced personal health decisions.
“There’s no way the CDC can possibly speak to every individual,” she said.
The mask debate, she said, has become divisive and political. McBride agrees with Hobbs and Makary that the most important thing adults can do at the moment to protect kids is to trust the science, listen to their doctors, and get vaccinated.
“What we really need to be doing,” McBride said, “is getting dose one into people who are unvaccinated.”
As America begins to put the COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview, the lesson from this once-in-a-generation crisis couldn’t be clearer: We need less, not more, central planning in our lives.
For example, a study earlier this year by health economist Casey Mulligan revealed that economic lockdowns mandated by government were counterproductive, given the significant steps workplaces took to prevent the virus from spreading.
The same is true with health care. By now, most folks know the story of how Operation Warp Speed — the previous administration’s unprecedented plan to trim bureaucracy from the vaccine development process — resulted in the creation of multiple safe and effective vaccines in record time. But an equally important storyline is how states took a sledgehammer to their own bureaucracies to expand access to care for those in need.
Thirty-eight states increased the availably of telehealth in response to the pandemic. Another 24 states waived certificate-of-need laws, which require hospitals to receive a permission slip from the government before they can open or add new facilities.
COVID-19 is forcing a long-overdue transformation of how health care is delivered in our country. As University of Michigan professor Rashid Bashur recently put it, “the genie’s out of the bottle.”
And yet, President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and others in Congress are remarkably missing this point. Even though their big government approach to health care hasn’t increased access to affordable care, they claim the solution is to double down on this failed path. The far left is pushing Biden to adopt even more radical ideas, like putting government in complete control of health care.
Instead of an even more centralized system, let’s give voters what they deserve — a personal option that keeps what they like about their health care, fixes what they don’t like, and puts people, not bureaucrats, in control of their care.
One important improvement would be to expand tax-free health savings accounts. HSAs save people at least 15 percent each time they make a health care purchase. Yet, given the current constraints, only one in 10 Americans are eligible for an HSA at any given time. By expanding eligibility, more Americans would be able to save for health care costs. For those with less income, Congress could directly fund their accounts.
There is strong bipartisan support for expanding the use of telehealth, which has the ability to level the playing field in terms of location and access. While it has seen an uptick during the COVID-19 pandemic, this technology is still not available to all, especially in underserved rural and urban communities. There is bipartisan support for giving more Americans access to virtual care. Lawmakers should waste no time getting it done.
While short-term coverage is, by definition, not a long-term solution, it is a viable option for people and families, especially when the policy holder is between jobs. In some states, short-term plans cost up to 80 percent less than traditional health insurance plans. While opponents feared short-term plans would drive up prices on the ACA exchanges, the only states where premiums have gone up are in the five that prohibit short-term plans.
For far too long, the Food and Drug Administration has taken its time in approving drugs and medical devices that were approved in other advanced countries, such as Japan and in the EU. In addition, the FDA won’t allow the sharing of valid scientific information about promising experimental or “off-label” uses of already approved drugs and devices. Changing these processes could save many lives and result in cost savings.
All of this builds on reforms proposed last year in Healthcare For You, and these ideas resonate strongly with Americans. A recent poll by Public Option Strategies shows that voters prefer a personal option to the “public option” or “Medicare for All” by nearly 40 points. Among independents, the poll found that a personal option outperformed “Medicare for All” by 60 points and the “public option” by more than 35 points
The point is, there are smarter, more effective, and more popular ways to reduce costs and give people more options than simply expanding government’s grip over the system.
For years, opponents of government-run health care have made this argument but haven’t sold the public on a compelling enough alternative. That alternative has arrived.
It’s time to deliver a health care system that works for everyone. It’s time for a personal option.
Just when we thought it was safe, COVID is back. The delta variant is sweeping through the unvaccinated portion of the population, sending people to the hospital at an alarming rate. Government experts are once again talking openly about the need for masking protocols and the possibility of additional lockdowns just as the U.S. economy is starting to get back on its feet.
It’s clear America never really understood the disease, how it moved through the population, and why so many people died from it. It’s true the government’s response through two administrations have been uneven, sometimes swinging widely from one extreme to the other on important questions but the real blame for the public’s lack of comprehension of the dangers we face lies those to whom we look to explain what is going and why.
The surge in the number of people testing possible for the delta variant is once again dominating the national conversation as is the number of those people who end up hospitalized. Left out of the conversation is how this same variant appears to be considerably less lethal than the iteration of the disease believed by many to have originated in Wuhan, China.
You might think “More People Infected Yet Far Fewer Are Dying” would be a welcome headline. Most of us have yet to see it or anything like it. Whether that’s by design or another clue that the reporters and the experts who they interview about COVID aren’t as up to speed on what’s going on as they appear to be is something that itself probably needs to be investigated. Misinformation has been a problem throughout America’s COVID crisis and has led people to make all sorts of unwise decisions – the worst of which is probably the decision not to take the vaccine when there’s no valid medical or religious reason for abstaining.
As bad as that is, the push to have everyone take the vaccine regardless of the possible consequences does a near equal disservice to the American public. The failure of the “talking heads” to address various concerns people may have about the various vaccines while cheerleading for everyone to get vaccinated doesn’t help get people over their fears, real or imagined.
The root cause for all this is the public’s distrust of the media, which has been growing by leaps and bounds on both sides of the ideological aisle for more than a decade. Reporters promoting an agenda inside their reporting have shaken the average news consumer’s confidence they can be trusted to a significant degree. And when the coverage turns to “life and death” issues like the pandemic, that mistrust can produce fatal results.
A poll released Monday by Rasmussen Reports suggests it is the media rather than policymakers who are responsible for the COVID confusion. “Only 42 percent of Americans rate the media’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic excellent or good, and many have concerns about the accuracy of reporting on vaccine safety,” the pollster said. In a time of true crisis, a number that low should have news executives and network heads hanging their heads in shame.
Polls are not definitive but the trends they reflect tell us a great deal. According to Rasmussen Reports, the latest numbers are down from where they were in December 2020, when fully half the country said the coverage of the pandemic was “excellent or good.”
At the same time, the lack of confidence in COVID reporting may also be responsible for the spread of misinformation about the vaccine and the virus. “The number of Americans who think the media are exaggerating the COVID-19 threat has increased since December,” the polling firm reported, with the numbers now “dead even – 44 percent believe the media are exaggerating the coronavirus threat and the same percentage don’t think so.”
The poll found the distrust of the media to be generalized. “Among those who think the media are exaggerating the COVID-19 threat,” the polling firm found, “59 percent also don’t believe the media are accurately reporting about vaccine safety. By comparison, among those who don’t believe the media have exaggerated the coronavirus threat, 67 percent think the media are reporting accurately about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.”
The fact younger Americans are choosing to reject the vaccine, something policymakers say is a significant factor in the way the number of confirmed cases of COVID-Delta has spiked over recent weeks, also appears correlated to attitudes about the media. In the poll, 48 percent of those under age 40 said they believed “the COVID-19 threat is exaggerated by the media,” while just 34 percent of those aged 65 and older said it was. Additionally, 38 percent of those participating in the survey said they thought “the media aren’t reporting accurately about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines,” which probably explains a lot about why so many Americans have chosen not to be vaccinated.
The survey of 1,000 U.S. American Adults was conducted on July 21-22, 2021, by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.
The rapid spread of the COVID-19 delta variant has spooked people who thought the pandemic had ended. Policymakers have called the rise in new infections associated with the strain first encountered in India alarming even though the data suggest strongly the latest variant strain, while perhaps easier to contract, is far less lethal than the original.
Like the disease for which it is named, America’s COVID crisis continues to evolve. The end of the lockdowns in most states has people back to work, unmasked, and happy – even as some public health professionals are urging a renewed mandate to put them back on. All that, combined with the lack of clarity coming from groups like the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers means that no parent can be sure the schools run by the government will offer full-time, in-class instruction when and if they reopen in the fall.
All this could have been avoided if the rush to lockdowns had been slowed and while greater thought was given to a plan to segregate out and protect the most vulnerable populations which, it has been lost on some people, does not include K thru 12 school-age children. Given the difference in approach to containing COVID taken by the governors of red states compared to those who lead blue states, it is not surprising to learn Democrats are hoping that masks and vaccines not yet approved for children under the age of 18 will be mandated before schools are allowed to return to pre-COVID instruction.
According to a recent survey by Rasmussen reports, just over a third of all Americans said they believed children should have to be vaccinated for COVID before they can return to the classroom. Of those, more than half – 56 percent – were Democrats. Only 29 percent of Republicans agreed.
The data, Rasmussen reports said, showed a “strong correlation” between support for masking children and for forcing them to be vaccinated. “Among Americans who think schools should require children to wear masks to protect against the coronavirus, 68 percent also think schools should require children to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Among those who oppose schools requiring children to wear masks, 79 percent are also against schools requiring children to get the coronavirus vaccination.”
The split along party lines on the issues is clear. Majorities of Republicans (61 percent) and independents (52 percent) said they opposed a vaccine requirement. Likewise, on the issue of masks, 58 percent of Democrats said they thought masks should be required as part of the basic back-to-school outfit while only 27 percent of Republicans thought this would be a good idea. Almost two-thirds of GOPers – 60 percent – and as well as a plurality of independents, the polling firm reported, said they were opposed to the mandatory classroom masking in K thru 12 classrooms.
The pollster found white Americans “slightly more in favor of schools requiring children to get the COVID-19 vaccine than blacks or other minorities” while blacks were “more supportive” than whites or other minorities regarding a requirement children wear masks. And that upper-income Americans were more in favor of requiring children to get vaccinated, with 48 percent of those earning $200,000 a year or more “favoring mandatory vaccination” while just 36 percent of those earning less than $30,000 a year agreed.The survey of 1,000 U.S. American Adults was conducted on July 13-14, 2021. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.
Engage Taiwan, boycott the 2022 Olympics, and impose a carbon tariff
The debate over the origins of the coronavirus—did it come from a wet market in Wuhan or from the virology lab nearby—has exposed the bias of media and technology companies and the potential danger of so-called gain of function research. But it also has led to something of an intellectual cul-de-sac. Barring a high-level defection from the Chinese Communist Party, we are unlikely ever to learn the answer. And even if we did have conclusive evidence one way or another, we still would have to decide what to do about it. The real question isn’t whether the pandemic is China’s fault. It’s whether China will pay a price for the catastrophic damage it caused the world.
Wherever the virus came from, we know that the Chinese government lied about it for weeks. Dr. Ai Fen shared information about a novel coronavirus with her colleagues on December 30, 2019. The next day, as Lawrence Wright recounts in The Plague Year, China removed social media posts that mentioned “unknown Wuhan pneumonia” or “Wuhan Seafood Market.” Dr. Li Wenliang, who warned the public that the virus could be transmitted from human to human, was arrested and forced to deliver a televised confession. He died of COVID-19 on February 6, 2020.
Beijing prevaricated for a month while the deadly pandemic spread. China did not allow the World Health Organization to visit Wuhan until January 20, 2020. The same day, one of China’s top doctors finally admitted the obvious: COVID-19 is a communicable disease. By the time the Communist leadership took action, it was too late. On January 21, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed the first case of coronavirus in America. China did not quarantine Wuhan until January 22. “By that time,” according to Wright, “nearly half the population of Wuhan had already left the city for Chinese New Year.”
The dishonesty and incompetence of the Chinese Communist Party turned a national crisis into a global one. A March 2020 study estimated that cases might have been reduced by anywhere from 66 percent to 95 percent if Chinese authorities had acted earlier. Why was Beijing slow to move? Because bureaucratic collectivist societies such as Communist China are especially prone to delays and coverups as underlings attempt to avoid punishment from above. The same powers of draconian coercion that China used to lock down its population inspired fear among the midlevel and regional officials who allowed the virus to leave China in the first place. The problem wasn’t scientific. It was political. And punishment is deserved.
What to do? Writing in the Washington Post, Mike Pompeo and Scooter Libby call on the “leading democracies” to “act together,” leveraging “their great economic power” to “persuade China to curb its dangerous viral research activities, cooperate with the investigation of the coronavirus’s origins, and, over time, pay some measure of the pandemic’s damages to other nations.” It’s a worthy strategy with a potentially fatal flaw: The other democracies might put economics ahead of accountability.
Another proposal in Congress would strip China of its sovereign immunity and make it liable for damages in U.S. courts. That plan would also leave American foreign policy dependent on outside actors—in this case, judges. And millions of potential claimants attempting to seize Chinese assets in the United States could make for a mess.
China never will volunteer to open its labs. Nor will it compensate either nations or individuals for the havoc it unleashed. Costs must be imposed that Beijing cannot avoid.
I have three suggestions. Each is more controversial than the last. But all of them would ensure that China paid some price for its lax hygiene and sanitation standards, loosey-goosey research protocols, and reckless attitude toward human freedom and human life.
Engage Taiwan. To its credit, the Biden administration has continued the stepped-up engagement with Taiwan that began under President Trump. In April, Biden sent an unofficial delegation to the island that included his close friend Chris Dodd. Most recently, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai raised the prospect of new trade talks in a conversation with her Taiwanese counterpart. This pattern of contacts bothers mainland China to no end.
Keep it up. But also do more to train and equip Taiwanese military forces, as my American Enterprise Institute colleagues Gary Schmitt and Michael Mazza suggested last year in The Dispatch. Taiwan is a reminder that Chinese people can be free and that open societies can deal effectively with pandemics. The very existence of Chinese democracy in Taiwan is a threat to the legitimacy of Communist rule in the mainland. It’s an obstacle to Beijing’s ambitions in the Pacific. Taiwan’s defense is imperative.
Boycott the Olympics. One day before he left office, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Chinese Communist Party “has committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uighurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.” Here, too, the Biden administration has not deviated from its predecessor’s course. The United States openly accuses its arch-rival of crimes against humanity. This is a pretty big deal, is it not?
Well, start acting like it. Why the participation of U.S. officials in the Beijing Olympics next year is even up for debate is a mystery. The White House has said that it is not exploring a boycott. That needs to change. On June 7 a bipartisan resolution was introduced in Congress demanding that the International Olympic Committee explore other venues. A declaration that no U.S. government personnel will participate because of China’s actions at home and abroad would embarrass Beijing. It would encourage other democracies to do the same. China deserves neither the honor of nor the revenue from the participation of U.S. officials. Let the athletes compete. But cheer them on from home.
Impose a carbon tariff. President Biden has also maintained the tariffs that President Trump levied against Chinese goods. Economist Irwin Stelzer of the Hudson Institute has a better plan. He would replace these tariffs with a border tax on the carbon content of Chinese exports. The strategy has appeal for environmentalists and China hawks alike. Everyone knows that China is the world’s largest emitter. Everyone knows that China’s promise of greenhouse gas reduction is worthless. Beijing won’t do anything that jeopardizes the economic growth on which it bases its claim to rule.
“In effect,” writes Stelzer, “by selling us ‘dirty’ products, China is adding to the competitive advantage it has from selling us stuff made by slave and other laborers paid wages with which we cannot decently compete, around $2 per hour in Beijing.” The EU already is at work on what it calls a “Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism” on Chinese exports. By pushing for a carbon tariff of its own, the Biden administration would please not only hawks and greens, but also the European allies whose opinion it values so highly.
The problem with a “carbon border adjustment mechanism,” of course, is that the process of calculating a good’s carbon content might turn out to be overly complicated, bureaucratic, and subject to politicization. I’m not in the habit of taking economic advice from Brussels. But these problems must be weighed against the justice and potential benefits of such a tax. And the additional cost could be rebated to low-income U.S. consumers along the lines that Senator Tom Cotton proposed in a slightly different context in 2019.
In the end, whether or not the United States adopts a tax on Chinese carbon is less important than moving the debate from the pandemic’s origins to the pandemic’s endgame. The despotic regime whose malign indifference killed so many and cost so much cannot be allowed to pretend that nothing happened. We can hold China responsible. And we can make China pay.
The Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) released a national poll Monday of likely voters that found a strong majority of voters support limits on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy and the rejection of abortion on demand.
The poll, which was conducted on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement it would review Mississippi’s 15-week abortion limit and consider the question of whether all “pre-viability” bans on abortion are unconstitutional also found likely voters much more likely to support Republican candidates who back a 15-week limit on abortion versus Democratic candidates who back unlimited abortion.
“Among other findings, this survey of 1,200 likely voters showed that there is a strong center-right coalition that supports the Supreme Court allowing significant limits on abortion. In short, a strong majority of voters oppose unrestricted, abortion on demand, throughout pregnancy. Additionally, this study strongly indicates that the pro-life side of the issue enjoys significantly more intensity than the pro-choice side. Politically, the pendulum has swung decisively in our direction,” said the polling firm OnMessage Inc., in its analysis of the data.
Among the key poll findings:
-53 percent of likely voters said they were more likely to vote for a Republican candidate who supports a 15-week limit on abortion versus just 28 percent of voters who prefer a Democratic candidate who supports unlimited abortion up until the moment of birth. Independent voters break strongly to the GOP side by a 54 percent to 18 percent margin.
-55 percent of likely voters say they are more likely to support a 15-week limit on abortion when they learn that an unborn child has the capacity to feel pain.
-43 percent of likely pro-life voters identified abortion as being “very important” (10 on a 1-10 importance scale) in deciding their vote for an elected official, while only 29 percent of pro-choice voters said the same.
“The majority of voters reject late-term abortion and the Democratic candidates who shamefully advocate for it. At 15 weeks, unborn children can feel pain, and most European countries limit abortions at this point. There is strong support among the American people for our nation’s laws to finally catch up with science and international norms,” SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement announcing the results.
SBA List recently launched a $2 million video ad campaign asserting the humanity of unborn children. The 30 spot is airing on national cable, including on Lifetime and Bravo networks, as well as select streaming services, and in the Washington, D.C. media market on top news stations.
The case before the U.S. Supreme Court is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The world benefited because a pro-liberty, pro-human rights nation won the Cold War and became the world’s sole superpower. Had that superpower been totalitarian, the world would be a much less free, happy and prosperous place.
Thanos, who sought to kill half of those living, was the ultimate supervillain in the Marvel movies. Of course, Thanos is a make-believe villain. But there are real-life villains who brutally repress and kill those they see as their subjects. When evil regimes have power, the people suffer. History proves that. The world is a better, happier, more peaceful and more prosperous place when those who have power value freedom, human dignity and human rights.
It is not inconsequential or coincidental that the U.S. also won the race to the moon. Being able to defend yourself from hostile powers has always been easier when you have the high ground and the superior technology. While no battles were fought on the surface of the moon, the technological advances that we obtained by making the journey helped our nation win the Cold War and benefited the globe’s population.
This is one of the reasons space exploration isn’t simply a fun hobby or a matter of national pride. Looking at history, when Thomas Jefferson was president, it is clear that the Lewis and Clark exploration of America’s vast Western frontier (1803-1807) was about more than just mapping the western frontier. Part of the mission was establishing our national presence in the West so that European powers couldn’t easily claim it as their own, and weaken our nation’s security. Jefferson wasn’t imagining the risk. Only a few years later, the British attacked America.
Space exploration serves many vital national interests. China very much wants to overtake us in space exploration and their motives are not about advancing the cause of mankind. If you don’t believe me, ask one of the critics of China’s repressive and violent domination of Hong Kong.
The good news is that the U.S. is making important strides to reestablish its leadership role in space. We just witnessed a very important and successful test of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) on March 18, a megarocket that will eventually send astronauts to the moon. America is the world’s most capable nation in space exploration. We cannot afford to lose the momentum. We need for national leaders to fully support our efforts in space.
One thing that most Americans don’t understand is that as interesting as it has been to watch the development of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur and SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy from Elon Musk, they are not capable of taking us to the moon or Mars and beyond. In fact, the lift capacity of SLS is currently twice what SpaceX can offer. The next generation SLS will have three times the lift capacity.
And while it is true that SpaceX has lowered the cost of a generic space launch, the truth is that SLS can get us to the moon and Mars and beyond and neither the Vulcan or Falcon have the lift capability to do that. Moreover, if we were to build the International Space Station (ISS) now, using SLS to send the parts and equipment into space, we could do it with only three launches. Even though each individual launch would be more expensive, SLS’s vastly superior lift capability would make the entire mission far less expensive. It took more than 30 launches to build the ISS with less capable space vehicles.
If you were moving across the country, a single trip in a small commuter car might be the cheapest option. But if you were hoping to move a house full of furniture, you’d quickly find that a larger more capable vehicle would actually be far cheaper to accomplish the mission. Making 40 trips in an economy car would cost a lot more than one trip in a moving van. And in this analogy, the economy car can’t even make the trip all the way to your destination.
The bottom line is that America needs SLS if we hope to maintain our advantage in space and continue to be the world’s high technology leader. The new Biden Administration and Congress must continue to support American leadership in space. It isn’t merely a matter of national pride or a geeky hobby. We, of course, learn so much in science, health, medicine, and technology when we explore. And history has proven over and over that we must always lead in technology and have the high ground if we hope to keep the world’s despots and totalitarians at bay.
Is China weakening US intellectual property protection?
There is a global effort afoot to get the United States to suspend intellectual property rights (IP) for any and all COVID-19 medical innovations. Interestingly, China is a big backer of this global effort and has been using the World Trade Organization (WTO) to put pressure on the US. The Biden Administration fairly predictably is now backing the China backed pressure campaign. The communist Chinese state-controlled media has praised President Biden for giving into “global pressure.”
The US can certainly help the rest of the world deal with the COVID virus. Humanitarian efforts are about helping save lives, not giving the Chinese regime billions in intellectual property. The US now has a surplus of vaccines and we have the supply chain and the manufacturing set up to continue pumping out the vaccine for the rest of the world. If China and others wanted access to the vaccine as quickly as possible, that’s already available to them — all they need to do is ask.
But stealing the IP of those who invested billions in developing it won’t help the rest of the world because it would take them a year, or two, or more to set up the manufacturing process and organize the supply chains to replicate what the US is currently is able to do. If nations need help to deal with the virus, it isn’t in a year or two — it is now. So what the WTO and China are pushing for won’t help them solve any immediate problem or save lives. But it will help the communist Chinese regime access billions in research and development which they can use to undercut American jobs and innovation for decades to come.
So that’s how you know the global effort isn’t about helping vaccinate the world. It is about stealing the IP rights of American innovators. China has made a living stealing American IP and it has not only harmed us economically, but it has also endangered our national security. And one thing that the Chinese regime is very good at is using every tool at its disposal to weaken America and seek its own long-term advantage. If we don’t wake up to this, we will live to regret it.
If people are interested in helping those around the globe get vaccinated, let’s do that. But why is stealing IP part of that discussion? Especially, since it won’t provide any vaccinations for a year or more from now. But will be used by hostile regimes to undermine American innovation and American jobs.
The bottom line is that suspending intellectual property rights is bad policy. It does nothing to help those around the globe who need a vaccine right away. And it also undermines American medical innovation, and American jobs. Plus, under our Constitution, the government may not unilaterally take the property of its citizens without just compensation. The Constitution specially provides for the protection of intellectual property. And that is why America has been the world’s greatest engine of innovation. Let’s not kill the goose that lays golden eggs.
The very reason American pharmaceutical companies were able to provide vaccines so quickly to deal with the COVID-19 virus is because our system of intellectual property told them that investing billions of dollars in finding a cure was a good idea. If we remove that, future innovations and future discoveries will be far less likely. If we hope to continue to find new earth-breaking cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, etc, and new vaccines for the next horrible disease, we had better keep our intellectual property protections strong.
There is a why the United States leads the world in innovation — we’ve historically had the most robust intellectual property protections. As we’ve allowed those protections to slide, we’ve seen our innovation advantage start to slide as well. So rather than abrogating IP rights, we should be strengthening and reinvigorating them.
This global initiative to pressure the US into voluntarily destroying its system of intellectual property protections would be very costly — not only the US, but to the entire world because our innovation ultimately benefits the entire globe. Let’s hope Congress puts a stop to this foolishness. The Biden Administration has already caved in and signaled its willingness to compromise American law and American strength. Sure, America can, and should help the rest of the world. No one is suggesting that we hide the vaccine or prevent it from other nations or peoples. But using the pandemic as an excuse to kill off American IP protections and violate US law is akin to a beggar demanding access to your home equity loan when asking for help to buy dinner. You offer him a nice meal, and he says, “No, I want your home equity loan! Don’t you want to help a guy down on his luck?!” Beware, it’s a scam!
Dr. Anthony Fauci is going to get a lot of grief about his seeming about-face on whether it is possible that the COVID-19 pandemic can be traced back to an accident at a Chinese laboratory. But it is much better that America’s most famous doctor — the face of the nation’s pandemic response — is keeping an open mind rather than, as he was previously, prematurely ruling out a realistic possibility.
A little more than a year ago, Fauci gave an interview to National Geographic where he said, “If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what’s out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated. . . . Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species.” The article noted that Fauci “also doesn’t entertain an alternate theory — that someone found the coronavirus in the wild, brought it to a lab, and then it accidentally escaped.”
Since the lab-leak theory arose, there’s been a frustratingly persistent pattern of conflating “created in a lab,” the more remote possibility, and “accidentally released from a lab.” It is worth keeping in mind that certain types of gain-of-function research do not necessarily involve human-driven alteration of the genetic code of a virus. One form of this research, “serial passaging,” consists of taking a pathogen, exposing it to substances or cell hosts, finding the minority of viruses that can survive that threat, taking that tougher and hardier minority, and then repeating the process over and over again to isolate the mutations that make the pathogen most hardy, virulent, contagious, etc. Serial passaging amounts to speeding up the evolutionary process. Laboratory efforts like this would not necessarily “leave fingerprints,” and scientists have noted with concern that, compared with previous viruses such as SARS and MERS, this virus is nearly optimized for infecting the human respiratory tract.
At an event earlier this month, PolitiFact’s Katie Sanders noted that there is still “a lot of cloudiness around the origins of COVID-19” and asked Fauci whether he is “still confident that it developed naturally.” He answered,
No, actually, I am not convinced about that. I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened. . . . Certainly, the people who investigated it say it likely was the emergence from an animal reservoir that then infected individuals, but it could have been something else, and we need to find that out. So, you know, that’s the reason why I said I’m perfectly in favor of any investigation that looks into the origin of the virus.
Recent weeks have brought a sudden and spectacular public reconsideration of the plausibility of a lab leak from the scientific and journalistic establishment. “More investigation is still needed to determine the origin of the pandemic. Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable,” 18 reputable scientists wrote to Science magazine. The editorial board of the Washington Post concluded, “If the laboratory leak theory is wrong, China could easily clarify the situation by being more open and transparent. Instead, it acts as if there is something to hide.” Donald G. McNeil Jr., the prize-winning but now “canceled” former science reporter for the New York Times, concluded that “the argument that [SARS-CoV-2] could have leaked out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology or a sister lab in Wuhan has become considerably stronger than it was a year ago, when the screaming was so loud that it drowned out serious discussion.” This comes a few months after the previous director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, told CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, “I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory, escaped.”
Welcome to the party, everyone.
It is good that the lab-leak theory is no longer being reflexively dismissed as a conspiracy theory, paranoid nuttiness, or ipso facto evidence of an anti-Asian bias. But this reconsideration is belated. Yes, some evidence has accumulated in the past year — the U.S. State Department memos warning about a lack of trained personnel at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), the claim that cellphone use in part of the WIV stopped for three weeks in October 17, and the World Health Organization investigation concluding that some WIV staffers got sick with flu-like symptoms in autumn of 2019. When the WHO team went to Wuhan, Chinese medical authorities refused to hand over raw data about the earliest patients. But little of that represents a game-changer in the facts on the ground. From the beginning, the world has been confronting a novel coronavirus closest to those found in bats that first emerged in a city that housed not one but two state-run labs researching novel coronaviruses found in bats.
Nicholson Baker’s lengthy cover piece in New York magazine contended that the lab-leak theory became a culture-war football, and scientists feared that discussing the plausibility of the theory could end up benefiting a president they detested:
Everyone took sides; everyone thought of the new disease as one more episode in an ongoing partisan struggle. Think of Mike Pompeo, that landmass of Cold War truculence; think of Donald Trump himself. They stood at their microphones saying, in a winking, I-know-something-you-don’t-know sort of way, that this disease escaped from a Chinese laboratory. Whatever they were saying must be wrong. It became impermissible, almost taboo, to admit that, of course, SARS-2 could have come from a lab accident. “The administration’s claim that the virus spread from a Wuhan lab has made the notion politically toxic, even among scientists who say it could have happened,” wrote science journalist Mara Hvistendahl in the Intercept.
Obviously, the evidence regarding such an important matter shouldn’t be evaluated differently based on who is president of the United States. “TRUST THE SCIENCE” has been a simplistic and not-all-that-illuminating slogan for much of this pandemic. This is another case where many of the same people who used that slogan most readily haven’t hewed to it themselves. There should be a reckoning over this rank failure, and instead of relying on WHO, which is compromised in important respects, U.S. authorities should investigate the origins of the virus to the extent possible.
Now that the rigid conventional wisdom on this issue is finally giving way, we should seek the truth without fear, favor, or politically motivated preconceptions.
Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, it has been learned, used a private jet provided by wealthy Detroit business leaders to travel to Florida three times while her state was in severe lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The trips, gubernatorial spokesman Bobby Leddy said, were taken so that the governor might visit her elderly father at the same time she was discouraging Michigan residents to stay in their homes and while hospital safety precautions kept people from visiting elderly relatives hospitalized because of the virus.
According to Deadline Detroit, Whitmer avoided a private plane fee of as much as $20,000 by arranging for Michigan billionaires to fly her where she wanted to go. Use of the jet she took is estimated to cost as much as $40,000, an estimated 25 percent of Whitmer’s pre-tax gubernatorial salary. “We wondered why she reached out to us instead of booking a private charter,” one of the owners of the plane is reported to have said. “You can’t tell a governor no. Who needs that kind of trouble?”
Whitmer, who was recently notified she would be receiving a 2021 Profiles in Courage award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation for her work fighting the spread of COVID, has declined to say whether the people who provided the plane have been reimbursed for the cost of the flights.
“I’ve said everything I’m going to say about my trip to check on my father,” she told a reporter from WWTV. “I’ve got nothing to add. We don’t discuss my travel. I have received an incredible number of death threats over the last year and a half. There are a lot of reasons we don’t discuss how I travel and when I travel.”
Whitmer has come under fire multiple times for her management of state affairs during the pandemic. Her husband Marc Mallory reportedly tried to have his boat placed in the water before Memorial Day weekend in 2020 in an apparent violation of what some have called “the most draconian stay-at-home orders in the nation” and while exercising privileges available only to those who belong to “the aristocracy of pull.”
Whitmer’s evasions aside, the governor’s conduct brings her under further scrutiny over her haven’t bent or broken rules she was encouraging the residents of her state to follow. According to The Federalist’s Gabe Kaminsky, the Michigan chief executive had not been vaccinated before her four day trip to Florida, which took her from the state capital in Lansing to West Palm Beach – this after expressing repeated concerns that GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis had irresponsibly allowed the Sunshine State to reopen too much and too fast as the pandemic appeared to spread.
“Governor Whitmer lied about her trip to Florida and is compounding her lies by refusing to disclose the cost of the private plane she used, if she paid for her personal trip, and what the fair market value of that payment was,” Michigan GOP executive director Jason Roe said.
In 2007, it was discovered that the People’s Republic of China was shipping children’s toys to America (and other nations) that were painted with lead paint — a poison that can cause severe health consequences — including death. As the scandal expanded, it was learned that it wasn’t just children’s toys that were tainted. A wide variety of products from the PRC — such as pet food, toothpaste, lipstick, and even certain types of food for human consumption — were tainted with various poisons.
China has also poisoned America’s pets. In 2007, the FDA investigated pet food that was believed to have killed dogs and cats, not only in the U.S. but in Canada and Europe, and around the globe. It turned out that Chinese manufacturers secretly added melamine which in nutrition testing looks like protein so that they could claim that their pet food had higher protein content. But melamine isn’t a protein, it simply appears in tests as if it were protein. And in high concentrations melamine apparently can cause organ failure and death. More than 60 million packages of pet food were recalled.
Of course, the Chinese government denied any wrongdoing — just as they did in 2020 with the COVID-19 virus. The totalitarian regime lied about it and blamed others and never accepted any responsibility for the harm that they had done. That’s how dictators and autocrats roll.
Given this history, you’d think that FDA would be on alert for products with potential links to China that could put the health of Americans, especially children, at risk. Unfortunately, a recent congressional report concluded that the FDA has been asleep at the wheel. The report saidthat baby food companies “may be adding ingredients that have high levels of toxic heavy metals into their products, such as vitamin/mineral pre-mix.”
Most people don’t know that in 2019 alone, China produced nearly 350,000 tons of vitamins, which accounted for 77 percent of the total global output.China is also the big player when it comes to sourcing ingredients and raw materials for the global dietary supplement industry. But the country also has a severe problem with soil pollution, which means that its agricultural sector that produces the raw materials for vitamins and dietary supplements and food in general is systematically tainted. Experts say that at least one-sixth of China’s farmland is heavily or severely polluted with heavy metals.
Is anything coming from China safe? China has proven itself over and over to be willing to compromise the health and interests of consumers for its own gain. Even its electronics often contain backdoors that give the PRC access to private information. Most nations would make sure that the products it exports are safe. But the Chinese regime clearly doesn’t care. If it is caught it denies any wrongdoing and often shifts the blame — just as we saw them do last year.
The bottom line is that China cannot be trusted. The PRC doesn’t even care about keeping its own children safe from contaminated baby food. The FDA needs to treat everything that comes from China with suspicion. The U.S. government must realize that everything in China is done to advantage the PRC and the communist regime. We simply cannot trust in their goodwill.
Hopefully, the Biden Administration will not turn a blind eye to the very real and very serious risks posed by China. It simply will not do to dismiss China’s horrific record as a matter of “different norms.” And it is not acceptable to downplay the threat that China poses by telling Americans “they’re not bad folks.” The evidence is overwhelming and America must wake up and protect itself — its children, its babies, its dogs, and cats. We must see the PRC for what it is.
How many Deaths is an elected official allowed before he/she is assigned an accurate but less than complimentary Nom De Plume which reflects his/her accomplishment ? If you are Ron DeSantis of Florida the number is probably zero. However, If you are Andrew Cuomo , the number is in the thousands.
The exact number may never be known since the quality of the recordkeeping and reporting is suspect – but published reports of the effect of the his now infamous March 25, 2021 order, put the number into the thousands. For those who don’t remember, Gov. Cuomo ordered Nursing homes to accept, without testing, medically stable patients without regard as to their COVID 19 status. Nursing homes were specifically prohibited from requiring testing of a hospitalized resident determined to be medically stable.
The stated reason for this policy was the urgent need for hospital beds, yet , the Javits Center opened with a 1,000 bed capacity two days after the order was issued. The USNS Comfort , with an additional 1,000 beds arrived March 30. It left New York waters on April 30 having cared for 282 patients, less than 30% of it’s capacity. Yet the order stayed on.
The Javits center closed on May 8, 2020. The order requiring Nursing Homes to take COVID 19 positive patients remained in place until May 27, 2020 after NY had registered one of if not the highest death rate in the Nation.
Now many are suggesting that Gov. Cuomo be investigated for attempting to cover-up his handling of the news concerning his lethal order.
The time is overdue for Mr. Cuomo to receive a Nom De Plum worthy of his actions. Henceforth he shall be known as The Butcher of Albany.
Serious consideration should be given to criminal prosecution for the untold number of persons who died because of his infamous order. Their cries for justice are deafening.
Despite admin pledge to reopen schools, nominee sides with unions to keep San Diego public schools closed
President Joe Biden’s pick to be deputy secretary of education is still fighting to keep students out of the classroom in San Diego, where she’s school superintendent.
Cindy Marten, the longtime superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, has been a vocal opponent of bringing back in-person instruction for public school students. The district had pledged to give a timeline for reopening on Jan. 13, but Marten failed to follow through, announcing after the deadline that no date for return will be set.
“Despite the progress that is being made and all of the best efforts of all of our employees, it’s important that we recognize that the virus continues to spread and it’s out of control in our communities,” Marten said. “This is not the time to let up on our efforts to defeat this deadly virus.”
Marten’s refusal to set a timeline for schools to reopen is in direct contradiction with Biden, who has vowed to have schools reopen within the first hundred days of his presidency. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, has said the government’s “default position” should be to get kids back in the classroom.
Recent peer-reviewed studies confirm that transmission of COVID-19 in schools is “extremely rare,” but teachers in some of the biggest districts in the country continue to resist going back to the classroom until there is mass vaccination of both teachers and students.
Former San Diego county supervisor Kristin Gaspar, a Republican who lost her district race in November, praised Marten’s “passion” for her work but said she has been hamstrung by her commitment to pleasing the unions.
“Superintendent Marten should be praised for her passion at the reins of San Diego schools,” Gaspar told the Washington Free Beacon. “Unfortunately, Marten has consistently favored the loudest voice at the decision-making table, and that is the teachers’ union. It’s alarming to us as parents to witness the strong influence of labor unions on the continued closure of public schools.”
As she works to keep public schools closed, Marten, who also serves on the board of the California Teachers Association benefits organization, continues to make over $300,000 in the taxpayer-funded role, between salary and benefits. While San Diego’s public schools continue their restrictions on in-person education, a majority of their private counterparts have opened their doors for in-person learning. A November survey found that 84 percent of San Diego students in private schools are attending in person to varying degrees, compared with only 32 percent of those in San Diego public schools.ADVERTISING
The actual curriculum of San Diego Unified School District’s classes may pose additional hurdles to Marten’s nomination. A report from the City Journal found that, amid a global pandemic, the district has prioritized abolishing deadlines for homework, mandating diversity trainings where teachers were told they are guilty of “spirit murdering” black children, and instituting an ethnic studies curriculum.
Five years into her tenure as superintendent, a Voice of San Diego report found that “gains have been incremental and difficult to measure” and that “the achievement gap Marten pledged to tackle at the outset has gone virtually unchanged.” Katrina Hasan Hamilton, the local NAACP education chair, criticized Marten’s “historical pattern of allowing the excessive suspension and expulsion of black students in San Diego.”
Marten has received support from her fellow California Democrats, including Tony Thurmond, California’s superintendent of public instruction, who has made institutionalizing sex education a priority from kindergarten onward.
Gaspar said she hopes Marten will reverse course if confirmed as deputy secretary of education and make the well-being of children her top priority.
“The inability to open our schools has led to severe increases in anxiety, depression, higher incidences of child abuse, doubling of child sex trafficking, and a rapidly growing socioeconomic divide,” she said. “As deputy secretary of education, may Cindy Marten find the strength and grace to first prioritize the well-being of students across this country that will be entrusted to her care.”
Marten’s confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled. Neither Marten nor the White House returned requests for comment.
Last year, 621 people died of drug overdoses in San Francisco. To put this in perspective, 173 people died from COVID-19, which is identified as the primary public health crisis in the Bay Area.
For years, San Francisco has tacitly encouraged drug abuse with remarkably lenient policies, and those policies are now inadvertently killing hundreds of people annually. San Francisco uses a policy approach called “harm reduction,” which stresses “culturally competent, non-judgmental treatment that demonstrates respect and dignity for the individual.”
But this approach, as it is practiced within San Francisco, is inhumane and cruel. It is destroying the dignity of the lives that some could have with more sensible policies. In addition to overdose deaths skyrocketing, drug abuse has increased in San Francisco, and it is becoming more difficult for addicts to affect positive change.
If you spend much time in San Francisco, you know this, as several areas of the city have become de facto open-air drug bazaars, with drug abuse and drug sales taking place for all to see. Harm-reduction policies are expanding drug use among youths through the dispensation to homeless adolescents of “safe snorting kits” and “safe smoking kits” for crack use. As if any crack use could be considered “safe.”
There are an estimated 25,000 drug users in San Francisco, which if anything is too low of a count since that estimate is nearly two years old. This exceeds San Francisco’s high school population by more than 50 percent and works out to about 522 drug users per city block. Sadly, thousands of human tragedies unfold every day, eviscerating those who use drugs, and forever affecting the lives of those who see it daily, including many children.
Drug abuse is challenging to treat, but a recent handbook of best practices for substance abuse treatment by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that targeted treatment can be very effective, particularly when intervention occurs early.
But a drawback to San Francisco’s acceptance and facilitation of drug use is that it prevents early intervention. Unless San Francisco completely changes how it views drug abuse, these numbers will become even worse. The country’s most progressive city needs to understand that their policies are creating implicit death sentences for many who could be helped with a different policy approach.
Understanding this begins with the simple economics about drug use, which highlights why harm reduction has failed. On the demand side, drug users come to San Francisco from elsewhere because they know the city tolerates and facilitates drug use, which includes providing free hypodermic needles. While giving away nearly 5 million clean needles annually (which boils down to nearly 6 needles for every San Franciscan) admirably reduces communicable diseases, it has created a public health hazard, because about two million used needles are disposed of on city sidewalks. Over $30 million has been spent on dealing with drug abuse within the public transit system, but one could hardly tell this by viewing transit stations that anything has been done to deal with this issue.
On the supply side, selling drugs in San Francisco has become extremely profitable, given a demand side of 25,000 consumers and the city’s tolerant policies. In contrast to most other cities, the drug trade in San Francisco operates within what is almost a normal marketplace setting, where buyers and sellers can find each other easily, and with a relatively small chance of being arrested. Both of these factors promote relatively low prices, which stimulate demand, and high profits, which stimulate supply.
By normalizing drug abuse, San Francisco has created a perfect storm of a vibrant, well-functioning market of buyers and sellers who trade drugs much like a basket of fruit is traded at a farmer’s market. Unfortunately, the basket that is being traded in San Francisco’s drug bazaar is increasingly becoming the opioid Fentanyl, which can be 100 times more powerful than morphine.
Fentanyl is sufficiently strong that much less than one milligram is used as general anesthesia during major surgery. Just two milligrams—the equivalent of about 25 grains of sand—can be lethal. Emergency personnel responding to a Fentanyl overdose must take precautions so that they do not accidentally inhale Fentanyl. And yet Fentanyl is now being widely traded every day in San Francisco, driving up overdose deaths to about two daily.
What to do? Drug addiction can be treated medically and compassionately without viewing it as part of normal, everyday life, which is what is being practiced today in San Francisco. The city currently allocates over $5 billion to community health and human welfare.
Surely those budgets can be repurposed to treat drug abuse using best practices as outlined by the Department of Health and Human Services in conjunction with greater efforts to identify family members who can assist with treatment and support. At the same time, the city must reduce the amount of Fentanyl and other lethal drugs that are being sold routinely in open-air markets.
Many of San Francisco’s drug users have lost control over their lives. The last thing that drug addicts need is another drug pusher, but this is what San Francisco’s policies have created. Lives can be saved, but not unless policies are changed.
With safe and effective vaccines starting to be distributed, the public can see light at the end of the very long and dark COVID-19 tunnel. Not so fast, our moral betters are starting to say.
In recent days, as people start to benefit from the modern medical miracle of a vaccine developed within a year, so-called experts are lining up to warn people against thinking that they can begin to resume normal activity soon.
“Just because you get vaccinated with that second dose does not mean you should be participating in things like traveling in the middle of an out-of-control pandemic or that you’re liberated from masks,” Vin Gupta, an assistant professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said on MSNBC. “Everything still applies until all of us hit the two-dose regimen, and we don’t think that’s going to happen until June/July.”
Similar warnings are starting to proliferate in the scaremongering news media.
Even now, many of the restrictions on activity are arbitrary, and often, the most sanctimonious leaders are the ones caught abusing their own draconian measures. Schools remain closed in much of the country despite a mountain of evidence showing that children have low odds of getting seriously ill or widely spreading the virus, and that remote learning is having a devastating impact on educational and emotional development, particularly among the least privileged.
To be clear, there is no doubt that we are now in a difficult stage of the pandemic, with outbreaks throughout the nation and a daily death toll of around 3,000 people. It is conceivable that we’ll end up with a half-million COVID-19 deaths by the time vaccination has become widespread.
But we will be in a much different place a few months from now. Based on the commitments already made and the expected speed of distribution, it is anticipated that roughly 100 million members of the public will be able to be vaccinated in this country by the end of March. That should be more than enough to offer protection to the populations most vulnerable to COVID-19.
There are about 50 million people aged 65 years and older, and that group has accounted for about 80% of coronavirus deaths. So, not only should there be enough doses to vaccinate everybody in this group as well as medical workers in the coming months, but there will still be tens of millions of more doses available to administer to those under 65 who have some sort of health condition that leaves them more vulnerable to the disease.
On top of that, there are tens of millions of people who have already had COVID-19, and over a million a week are getting it. That means in addition to the 100 million vaccinated by spring, there will be millions of others who have developed antibodies from having survived the virus.
By the end of March, the worst of winter will be over, and most parts of the country will start to see warmer weather.
None of this means COVID-19 will be eradicated or that we will have achieved herd immunity. But it does mean that, barring any setbacks in vaccination, the virus should cease by April to be the danger it was when the whole country was shut down.
If we flashback to March, the original justification for draconian lockdown orders was that it was necessary to flatten the infection curve so there wasn’t a huge spike at any given time sufficient to overwhelm the medical system. Severe restrictions persisted well beyond that, and the justification was that the disease still posed too much risk to older and vulnerable populations.
If the older and vulnerable are vaccinated by the spring, however, there is absolutely zero reason to justify maintaining public restrictions until everybody gets vaccinated, a process that could spill into the fall or later.
If you take 100 million of the most vulnerable people out of the equation, the fatality rate will plunge, and the virus will start to resemble the seasonal flu in its effects, which we endure without shutdowns.
Political leaders keep shifting the goal posts on COVID-19. It was about flattening the curve. It was about slowing the spread. It was about protecting the most vulnerable. Now that we have a vaccine that carries the promise of protecting the most vulnerable within months, the goal post must not be allowed to shift again to universal vaccination.