Fauci on coronavirus herd immunity: ‘That is nonsense and very dangerous’

https://www.yahoo.com/news/fauci-on-coronavirus-herd-immunity-132851933.html

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday denounced the concept of herd immunity — the notion that if a large enough group of people contract an infection, it will ultimately stop the disease from spreading — calling it “nonsense” during an interview with Yahoo News.

“Anybody who knows anything about epidemiology will tell you that is nonsense and very dangerous,” Fauci said, “because what will happen is that if you do that, by the time you get to herd immunity, you will have killed a lot of people that would have been avoidable.”

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House coronavirus task force, discussed the coronavirus pandemic and the country’s response to it during a live interview Thursday morning with Yahoo News Editor in Chief Daniel Klaidman and Chief Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff.

The coronavirus has killed more than 216,000 people in the U.S. and infected almost 8 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Now, more than seven months after the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, Fauci said Thursday that the U.S. is not in a good place.

“We talk about a second wave,” he said. “We’ve never really gotten out of the first wave. If you look at the baseline number of daily infections that we have had over the last several weeks, [it’s] been around 40,000 per day. It’s now gone up to about 50,000 per day. So right away, we have a very unfortunate baseline from which we need to deal.”

President Trump and his administration have been pushing the herd immunity approach as a possible solution to ending the pandemic, the New York Times reported Wednesday. During a call with reporters, two officials who requested anonymity cited a petition called the Great Barrington Declaration, which calls for states to lift coronavirus restrictions for the bulk of American citizens, the Times reported.

When asked about the herd immunity approach, Fauci said that while he agrees with what the declaration says about protecting the vulnerable and not closing down the country, virtually anyone with a solid understanding of epidemiology would disagree with the idea of letting everyone get infected.

“My position is known. Dr. Deborah Birx’s position is known, and Dr. [Robert] Redfield,” he said. “So you have me as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Debbie Birx, as the coordinator and a very experienced infectious disease person, the coordinator of the task force — and you have Bob Redfield, who’s the director of the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. All three of us very clearly are against that.”

Experts Slam The White House’s ‘Herd Immunity’ Plan

Experts warn Trump's misinformation about coronavirus is dangerous

The White House is reportedly embracing a herd-immunity approach focused on “protecting the elderly and the vulnerable” but experts are calling the plan dangerous, “unethical”, and equivalent to “mass murder”.

The news comes following a petition titled The Great Barrington Declaration, which argued against lockdowns and school and business closures and got almost 500,000 signatures – although some of them were fake.

“Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health,” the declaration states, adding, “The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.”

Essentially, herd immunity is when enough people are immune to a disease, like Covid-19, that the disease can’t be transmitted as easily and thus provides indirect protection.

It’s been rumoured that the government has been leaning towards this plan of action for some time now, although this is the first real admission.

In response to today’s news, experts around the world have been voicing their concerns.

And this isn’t the first time we’ve heard experts say herd immunity is not a good idea.

For example, the head of the World Health Organization said Monday that allowing the novel coronavirus to spread in an attempt to reach herd immunity was “simply unethical.”

Similarly, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Francis Collins also denounced herd immunity as a viable plan.

“What I worry about with this is it’s being presented as if it’s a major alternative view that’s held by large numbers of experts in the scientific community. That is not true. This is a fringe component of epidemiology. This is not mainstream science. It fits into the political views of certain parts of our confused political establishment,” he said in an interview.

Not to mention studies continue to show that Sweden’s attempts at herd immunity have failed and have resulted in a higher Covid-19 death toll than expected.

As more research comes out, scientists are starting to learn that Covid-19 immunity, even in those who were severely infected, can fade after a few weeks.

This is why we’ve seen cases of reinfection and why many experts are advising against a herd immunity plan.  

Currently less than 10% of the population in the U.S. are immune to Covid-19 but for herd immunity to be achieved most experts estimate between 40% to 80% of the population would need to be infected.

To put that into context, that means around 197 million people would need to be infected in America. And assuming that the Covid-19 fatality rate is somewhere between 0.5% and 1%, based on numbers from the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1 million people would die – at minimum.

William Haseltine, Chair and President of ACCESS Health International, told CNN “herd immunity is another word for mass murder. We are looking at two to six million Americans dead – not just this year but every year.”  

This is an unmitigated disaster for our country – to have people at the highest levels of our government countermanding our best public health officials. We know this epidemic can be put under control. Other countries have done it. We are doing the opposite.”

America’s most prestigious medical journal makes a political statement

https://mailchi.mp/45f15de483b9/the-weekly-gist-october-9-2020?e=d1e747d2d8

In Rare Step, Esteemed Medical Journal Urges Voters To Oust Trump | KPCW

For its first 208 years, the New England Journal of Medicine has never endorsed a political candidate. But this week the journal published an editorial outlining its political position in the upcoming Presidential election, signed unanimously by all editors who are US citizens.

The editors did not explicitly endorse former Vice President Biden, but rather offered a scathing condemnation of the current administration’s performance during the COVID pandemic: “Reasonable people will certainly disagree about the many political positions taken by candidates.

But truth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.” (Formally endorsing Biden last month, Scientific American also made the first political endorsement in its 175-year history.)
 
Much of the media coverage of the NEJM statement has centered on the question of whether medicine should involve itself in politics, or “live above it”

Medicine has been drawn into political disputes before, but now the nature of the involvement has changed. In the past, debates largely centered around regulation, payment or policy—but now the science itself has become a fundamentally political issue. 

The very nature of the coronavirus has become a matter of political belief, not just an indisputable scientific fact.

Public trust in both scientific institutions and the government, and their ability to work together, has been damaged. We fear this will lead to poorer health outcomes regardless of who wins the upcoming election.

Washington’s big contact tracing problem

Contact tracing grows across US | News, Sports, Jobs - The Vindicator

The D.C. Health Department is trying to jump-start contact tracing efforts around the White House’s coronavirus outbreak. Tracing has been inadequate so far even as cases spread deeper into the city, Axios’ Marisa Fernandez writes.

The big picture: The White House has decided not to move forward with recommended public health protocols of contact tracing and testing since President Trump tested positive for the virus. 

The state of play: Tracing has been done for people who had direct contact with Trump, White House spokesman Judd Deere told the Washington Post.

On Capitol Hill, there’s also no formalized contact tracing program in place, even as lawmakers themselves test positive.

  • Two infected staffers in Rep. Doug Lamborn’s (R-Colo.) office were told to not disclose to roommates they may have been exposed, WSJ reports.

The bottom line: The White House’s refusal to contact trace is “a missed opportunity to prevent additional spread,” Emily Wroe, a co-leader of a contact-tracing team at Partners in Health, told Nature.

COVID-19 sparks national security concerns with top brass in quarantine

https://thehill.com/policy/defense/520097-covid-19-sparks-national-security-concerns-with-top-brass-in-quarantine

COVID-19 sparks national security concerns with top brass in quarantine

The quarantining of most of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, coming on the heels of President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, is raising fears that U.S. adversaries might seek to exploit a perceived weakness.

Few expect any sort of overt military action, but there are other ways to wreak havoc on the United States.

Chief among them is disinformation. Experts have been warning ever since Trump tested positive for the coronavirus last week that disinformation is likely to kick into overdrive.

Now, with six of the seven members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff waylaid at home, warnings are being amplified about the national security implications of the growing COVID-19 outbreak among U.S. leadership.

“All these kinds of things are just a huge distraction for us where our national security apparatus is consumed with matters domestic and internal,” former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at a Washington Post event after news broke of the Joint Chiefs quarantining. “So this is an ideal time for adversaries, particularly in adversary intelligence services, to look for ways to further confuse us, to distract us.”

Adding that “you can bet particularly our good friends the Russians are doing this,” Clapper warned of them “further sowing seeds of disinformation.” 

“They will appeal to all the various tribes and continue to capitalize on the polarization in this country,” he said. “So it is a vulnerable time, and it’s an opportunity for them while we’re not looking and not being alert to further sow seeds of disinformation, casting doubt, discord, distrust in the country.”

The quarantining of top military officers stems from the Coast Guard’s No. 2 admiral contracting COVID-19. The Coast Guard announced Tuesday that its vice commandant, Adm. Charles Ray, tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday after feeling mild symptoms over the weekend.

The test result came after Ray met with most of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon on Friday.

That put Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley into quarantine, as well as the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Space Force and National Guard. The vice chairman, Gen. John Hyten, was also in the meetings and is quarantining.

The only member of the Joint Chiefs who didn’t meet with Ray was Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger, who was traveling.

Berger’s deputy, Gen. Gary Thomas, met with Ray instead and went into quarantine Tuesday. The Marine Corps announced Wednesday evening that he has tested positive for the virus.

Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, also met with Ray and went into quarantine.

It’s unclear exactly where Ray caught the virus, but his schedule within the incubation period included a visit to the White House, which is now considered the epicenter of a coronavirus outbreak that includes Trump himself.

Ray — along with Milley, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other top defense officials — attended a White House ceremony for Gold Star families on Sept. 27.

The event happened the day after Trump announced he was nominating Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court, a gathering for which several attendees have since been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Since Trump’s diagnosis, the Department of Defense has sought to allay any national security concerns.

When Trump’s positive test was first announced last week, the Pentagon insisted there has been “no change to DoD alert levels.”

After news broke Tuesday of the Joint Chiefs quarantining, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman reiterated that “there is no change to the operational readiness or mission capability of the U.S. Armed Forces.”

“Senior military leaders are able to remain fully mission capable and perform their duties from an alternative work location,” Hoffman said in a statement.

The military chiefs are well-equipped to work from home, and besides Ray and Thomas, none have tested positive for the virus yet.

But the development has raised questions about whether adversaries will try to take advantage of the situation nonetheless.

After the military quarantines were revealed, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said “the national security implications of the president’s recklessness cannot be overstated” even though the military “can still operate while leadership is quarantined.”

“Since announcing that he tested positive for the virus, the president’s antics have been downright reckless and harmful,” Smith said in a statement. “Our adversaries are always looking for any weakness to exploit. President Trump’s pathetic attempts to exude strength aren’t fooling anyone — Americans know he is weak and so do those who wish us harm.”

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), another senior member of the Armed Services Committee, questioned why so many senior military leaders were meeting in person in the first place, as well as attending a White House reception in which they were pictured maskless.

“What if the Joint Chiefs’ responsibilities cannot be done remotely while they are isolating?” Speier wrote in a series of questions on Twitter. “How many other senior military leaders have tested positive? Why weren’t we safeguarding the health of senior military leaders like the natural security asset that it clearly is?”

Barry Pavel, senior vice president and director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, stressed that there is “no degradation in operational command and control” from the Joint Chiefs quarantining.

But, he added, adversaries such as Russia and China could misperceive that the United States is distracted and decide to act. For example, he cited concerns about China moving against Taiwan or Russia trying to grab more territory.

Pavel also listed what he called Russia’s “non-kinetic war” against the United States in the cybersecurity, influence and disinformation realm.

“This is a KGB officer’s most wildest dream coming true almost on a daily basis,” he said. “And so I think it’s a big threat. Who knows what proportion of our current public divisions are sown by Russian influence and bots or are just part of our current division. I don’t know the answer to that question. But they’re certainly right now exploiting it.”

To diminish those concerns, Pavel said, the Pentagon should keep emphasizing its military readiness, as well as demonstrating it by taking actions like publicizing a previously planned exercise.

“It’s probably a good idea to keep repeating those messages,” he said, “to be reiterating those messages, sending them publicly, privately, by third parties and through various forms of military activity so adversaries have no misunderstanding about our readiness and capabilities despite the chairman being quarantined in his quarters.”

Cartoon – Come in We’re Open

No mask, no service | Opinion | dailyindependent.com

Ruth Bader Ginsburg helped shape the modern era of women’s rights – even before she went on the Supreme Court

https://theconversation.com/ruth-bader-ginsburg-helped-shape-the-modern-era-of-womens-rights-even-before-she-went-on-the-supreme-court-95705?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20September%2018%202020%20-%201736916802&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20September%2018%202020%20-%201736916802+Version+A+CID_e457010c9229c8655a12000ef21183e1&utm_source=campaign_monitor_us&utm_term=Ruth%20Bader%20Ginsburg%20helped%20shape%20the%20modern%20era%20of%20womens%20rights%20%20even%20before%20she%20went%20on%20the%20Supreme%20Court

Ruth Bader Ginsburg helped shape modern era of women's rights

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday, the Supreme Court announced.

Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement that “Our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature.”

Even before her appointment, she had reshaped American law. When he nominated Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, President Bill Clinton compared her legal work on behalf of women to the epochal work of Thurgood Marshall on behalf of African-Americans.

The comparison was entirely appropriate: As Marshall oversaw the legal strategy that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 case that outlawed segregated schools, Ginsburg coordinated a similar effort against sex discrimination.

Decades before she joined the court, Ginsburg’s work as an attorney in the 1970s fundamentally changed the Supreme Court’s approach to women’s rights, and the modern skepticism about sex-based policies stems in no small way from her lawyering. Ginsburg’s work helped to change the way we all think about women – and men, for that matter.

I’m a legal scholar who studies social reform movements and I served as a law clerk to Ginsburg when she was an appeals court judge. In my opinion – as remarkable as Marshall’s work on behalf of African-Americans was – in some ways Ginsburg faced more daunting prospects when she started.

Starting at zero

When Marshall began challenging segregation in the 1930s, the Supreme Court had rejected some forms of racial discrimination even though it had upheld segregation.

When Ginsburg started her work in the 1960s, the Supreme Court had never invalidated any type of sex-based rule. Worse, it had rejected every challenge to laws that treated women worse than men.

For instance, in 1873, the court allowed Illinois authorities to ban Myra Bradwell from becoming a lawyer because she was a woman. Justice Joseph P. Bradley, widely viewed as a progressive, wrote that women were too fragile to be lawyers: “The paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfil the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator.”

And in 1908, the court upheld an Oregon law that limited the number of hours that women – but not men – could work. The opinion relied heavily on a famous brief submitted by Louis Brandeis to support the notion that women needed protection to avoid harming their reproductive function.

As late as 1961, the court upheld a Florida law that for all practical purposes kept women from serving on juries because they were “the center of the home and family life” and therefore need not incur the burden of jury service.

Challenging paternalistic notions

Ginsburg followed Marshall’s approach to promote women’s rights – despite some important differences between segregation and gender discrimination.

Segregation rested on the racist notion that Black people were less than fully human and deserved to be treated like animals. Gender discrimination reflected paternalistic notions of female frailty. Those notions placed women on a pedestal – but also denied them opportunities.

Either way, though, Black Americans and women got the short end of the stick.

Ginsburg started with a seemingly inconsequential case. Reed v. Reed challenged an Idaho law requiring probate courts to appoint men to administer estates, even if there were a qualified woman who could perform that task.

Sally and Cecil Reed, the long-divorced parents of a teenage son who committed suicide while in his father’s custody, both applied to administer the boy’s tiny estate.

The probate judge appointed the father as required by state law. Sally Reed appealed the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

Ginsburg did not argue the case, but wrote the brief that persuaded a unanimous court in 1971 to invalidate the state’s preference for males. As the court’s decision stated, that preference was “the very kind of arbitrary legislative choice forbidden by the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.”

Two years later, Ginsburg won in her first appearance before the Supreme Court. She appeared on behalf of Air Force Lt. Sharron Frontiero. Frontiero was required by federal law to prove that her husband, Joseph, was dependent on her for at least half his economic support in order to qualify for housing, medical and dental benefits.

If Joseph Frontiero had been the soldier, the couple would have automatically qualified for those benefits. Ginsburg argued that sex-based classifications such as the one Sharron Frontiero challenged should be treated the same as the now-discredited race-based policies.

By an 8–1 vote, the court in Frontiero v. Richardson agreed that this sex-based rule was unconstitutional. But the justices could not agree on the legal test to use for evaluating the constitutionality of sex-based policies.

Strategy: Represent men

In 1974, Ginsburg suffered her only loss in the Supreme Court, in a case that she entered at the last minute.

Mel Kahn, a Florida widower, asked for the property tax exemption that state law allowed only to widows. The Florida courts ruled against him.

Ginsburg, working with the national ACLU, stepped in after the local affiliate brought the case to the Supreme Court. But a closely divided court upheld the exemption as compensation for women who had suffered economic discrimination over the years.

Despite the unfavorable result, the Kahn case showed an important aspect of Ginsburg’s approach: her willingness to work on behalf of men challenging gender discrimination. She reasoned that rigid attitudes about sex roles could harm everyone and that the all-male Supreme Court might more easily get the point in cases involving male plaintiffs.

She turned out to be correct, just not in the Kahn case.

Ginsburg represented widower Stephen Wiesenfeld in challenging a Social Security Act provision that provided parental benefits only to widows with minor children.

Wiesenfeld’s wife had died in childbirth, so he was denied benefits even though he faced all of the challenges of single parenthood that a mother would have faced. The Supreme Court gave Wiesenfeld and Ginsburg a win in 1975, unanimously ruling that sex-based distinction unconstitutional.

And two years later, Ginsburg successfully represented Leon Goldfarb in his challenge to another sex-based provision of the Social Security Act: Widows automatically received survivor’s benefits on the death of their husbands. But widowers could receive such benefits only if the men could prove that they were financially dependent on their wives’ earnings.

Ginsburg also wrote an influential brief in Craig v. Boren, the 1976 case that established the current standard for evaluating the constitutionality of sex-based laws.

Like Wiesenfeld and Goldfarb, the challengers in the Craig case were men. Their claim seemed trivial: They objected to an Oklahoma law that allowed women to buy low-alcohol beer at age 18 but required men to be 21 to buy the same product.

But this deceptively simple case illustrated the vices of sex stereotypes: Aggressive men (and boys) drink and drive, women (and girls) are demure passengers. And those stereotypes affected everyone’s behavior, including the enforcement decisions of police officers.

Under the standard delineated by the justices in the Boren case, such a law can be justified only if it is substantially related to an important governmental interest.

Among the few laws that satisfied this test was a California law that punished sex with an underage female but not with an underage male as a way to reduce the risk of teen pregnancy.

These are only some of the Supreme Court cases in which Ginsburg played a prominent part as a lawyer. She handled many lower-court cases as well. She had plenty of help along the way, but everyone recognized her as the key strategist.

In the century before Ginsburg won the Reed case, the Supreme Court never met a gender classification that it didn’t like. Since then, sex-based policies usually have been struck down.

I believe President Clinton was absolutely right in comparing Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s efforts to those of Thurgood Marshall, and in appointing her to the Supreme Court.