Walter Hinteler
Reply Sun 1 May, 2022 06:45 am
Rand Paul promises Covid review if Republicans retake Senate in midterms
Kentucky senator who has clashed publicly with Dr Anthony Fauci champions lab leak theory in remarks at rally

The Kentucky senator Rand Paul promised on Saturday to wage a vigorous review into the origins of the coronavirus if Republicans retake the Senate and he lands a committee chairmanship.

Speaking to supporters at a campaign rally, the senator denounced what he sees as government overreach in response to Covid-19. He applauded a recent judge’s order that voided the federal mask mandate on planes and trains and in travel hubs.

“Last week I was on an airplane for the first time in two years and didn’t have to wear a mask,” he said, drawing cheers. “And you know what I saw in the airport? I saw at least 97% of the other free individuals not wearing masks.”

Paul has clashed repeatedly with Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, over government policies and the origins of the virus.

Paul, who is seeking a third term, said he was in line to assume a committee chairmanship if the GOP wins Senate control. The Senate has a 50-50 split, with the vice-president, Kamala Harris, the tie-breaking vote.

“When we take over in November, I will be chairman of a committee and I will have subpoena power,” Paul said. “And we will get to the bottom of where this virus came from.”

The senator, an ophthalmologist before politics, continued to offer his theory about the origins of the virus.

“If you look at the evidence, overwhelmingly, not 100%, but overwhelmingly the evidence points to this virus being a leak from a lab,” Paul said.

Many US conservatives have accused Chinese scientists of developing Covid-19 in a lab and allowing it to leak.

US intelligence agencies remain divided on the origins of the coronavirus but believe China did not know about the virus before the start of the global pandemic, according a Biden-ordered review released last summer.

The scientific consensus remains that the virus most likely migrated from animals. So-called “spillover events” occur in nature and there are at least two coronaviruses that evolved in bats and caused human epidemics, SARS1 and MERS.
bobsal u1553115
Reply Sun 1 May, 2022 06:47 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Rand Paul. Isn't special, bless his pointed little head.
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Sun 1 May, 2022 08:34 am

Their mom died of COVID. They say conspiracy theories are what really killed her
April 24, 20225:01 AM ET

Laurie's mother, Stephanie, 75, died of COVID-19 in December. "I don't believe she was supposed to die," Laurie says. "I blame the misinformation." Stephanie had been wrapped up in a world of conspiracy theories online, which led her to refuse treatments for COVID.


One thing everyone agrees on is that Stephanie didn't have to die. Even months after it happened, her family is struggling to figure out why.

"There is no perfect puzzle piece," says Stephanie's daughter Laurie. "I literally go through this all the time."

Stephanie was 75 when she succumbed to COVID-19 this past December. But Laurie says it wasn't just COVID that killed her mother. In the years leading up to her death, Stephanie had become embroiled in conspiracy theories. Her belief in those far-out ideas caused her to avoid vaccination and led her to delay and even refuse some of the most effective treatments after she got sick.

"I don't believe she was supposed to die," Laurie says. "I blame the misinformation."

As America approaches a million deaths from COVID-19, many thousands of families have been left wondering whether available treatments and vaccines could have saved their loved ones. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 230,000 deaths could have been avoided if individuals had gotten vaccinated.

Not everyone who refuses a vaccine believes in elaborate conspiracy theories, but many likely do. Anti-vaccine advocates have leveraged the pandemic to sow mistrust and fear about the vaccines. Local papers across the country are dotted with stories of those who refused vaccination, only to find themselves fighting for their very lives against the disease.

Stephanie's family wanted to share what happened to her in the hope their story can help others. NPR agreed to use only family members' first names to allow them their privacy as they continue to grieve.

"I know we're not alone," says Laurie. "I know this is happening all over the place."

Stephanie was a native of the Bronx, and for almost 55 years she was married to a man named Arnold. They met shortly after he returned from the war in Vietnam. Her family's dry cleaning shop was just a few blocks from his parents' house.

Parking in the Bronx was always tricky, Arnold quips. "So I said, 'You know, this isn't bad — she's very attractive, she's pleasant to be with — maybe I'll start dating her and I won't lose my parking spot."

Arnold and Stephanie met in the Bronx in the late 1960s. Arnold had just returned from military service in Vietnam. One month later, they were engaged.

They got engaged after just one month. After a few years of marriage, they moved to Long Island and bought a fixer-upper home. They had two daughters, Laurie and Vikki, who Stephanie stayed home to raise. Vikki remembers Stephanie had an unwavering belief in her children's ability to achieve whatever they wanted.

"She just believed we could do anything, and I think that's really powerful as a parent," she recalls.

When the daughters reached high school, Stephanie began to get into astrology and tarot. She did readings to advise people about things like houses, kids and jobs. It was quirky, but Laurie says that Stephanie brought a lot of positivity and optimism to her sessions.

"Everybody loved it, because everybody is always trying to figure out their lives. There's always the struggles," she says. "She spread hope with people."

For all her star charts and spiritual ideas, Stephanie was practical when it came to her health. She went for regular checkups, and she was a big believer in vaccines. "She made sure I took the flu shots, we took the shingles shot, we took the pneumonia shot," Arnold recalls. "I mean, I was like a pincushion."

The family lived for many happy years this way. The daughters grew and started families of their own. Arnold retired from a job working for the gas company.

Then, just before the pandemic began, there was a change in Stephanie. Nobody can exactly pinpoint when it happened. Part of it was physical. Throughout her life, she had played tennis. But it had taken a toll on her knees. She was finding it hard to walk and had to have a stair lift installed in her house.

The loss of tennis from her life also had a psychological impact, says Vikki. "It was her everything. It's where she felt really valued and strong and important."

Perhaps partially because she was isolated and feeling down, Stephanie got into watching strange videos and sending them to the rest of the family. Vikki says it was Laurie who was really the first to notice.

"She called me up one day and was like, 'All right, have you been watching these videos that Mom is sending us?'"

The videos covered a wide range of far-fetched conspiracy theories: JFK Jr. is still alive; reptilian aliens control the government. Arnold says he wouldn't even look at them: "Watching them, to my way of thinking, would have reinforced that they were valid. Even if I'd argued against them, she wouldn't have accepted my argument."

Stephanie's fringe ideas were troubling, but the family still hung out. Laurie says sometimes they fought over her beliefs, but often they kept the conversation on things like the grandkids.

Then came the pandemic, and everything changed. Stephanie's videos told her COVID was a hoax. But Laurie and Vikki took it seriously. They were worried about giving their parents the virus. So they stayed away, trying to keep them safe.

"We just stopped seeing each other as a family," Laurie says. "We didn't do Thanksgiving that first year."

While the family stayed away, others did not. Through her astrology, Stephanie had formed a spiritual group that met weekly at her house. And like Stephanie, other members of that group didn't believe the virus was real.

The more time they spent together, the more Stephanie became invested in her beliefs. Arnold says it was "tribal": "Staying in the same clique, reinforcing each other, and not getting outside opinions."

"A couple of times I tried to speak to her on an analytical basis," Arnold says. "But I could see she was getting defensive, and I didn't want to alienate myself from her."

When the COVID vaccines came along, Stephanie absolutely refused to get one because she falsely thought the shots contained tiny microchips. Moreover, she began avoiding her daughters, who had gotten vaccinated, because she believed false information that the vaccines were being used to somehow spread COVID.

Arnold didn't get vaccinated, to try and keep the peace.

The family felt stuck. They didn't know how to shake Stephanie out of her beliefs. And they are hardly alone. Diane Benscoter runs a nonprofit called Antidote, which seeks to help families whose loved ones have been taken over by cults and conspiratorial thinking. She says she's inundated with emails from families facing the same struggles.

"My inbox," she says. "It's horrible."

Much of the public conversation around misinformation focuses on fact-checking and flagging false posts online. But these methods don't provide much help for people like Stephanie, says Sander van der Linden, a professor of social psychology at the University of Cambridge in the U.K.

"Most people who are really into disinformation and conspiracy theories don't believe in a single conspiracy theory," he says. Rather, they're drawn into a self-reinforcing conspiratorial worldview in which conspiracies build on one another. While the theories can seem disparate, they often have unifying themes: They feed distrust in sources of authority; they claim insider knowledge that makes the believer feel valuable; and frequently, that knowledge includes a secret plan to defeat the forces of evil.

Van der Linden says there are three major reasons why people are drawn into this world in the first place: fear and anxiety about the future, a desire to have a simple explanation for complex or seemingly random events, and the social support that communities around conspiracy theories can provide.

Stephanie got into astrology as a hobby when Vikki and Laurie were in high school. Over the years, her interest turned more professional — she gave tarot readings to hundreds of clients who turned to her for insight on houses, jobs and kids.

While it's impossible to say exactly what drove Stephanie, her daughters identify several things that seem to roughly correspond to those broad categories of motivations. First, they say Stephanie suffered from a lot of anxiety throughout her life. With her tennis days behind her, much of her self-esteem now lay with her astrology work and her spiritual group. And that group was clearly playing the role of echo chamber, reinforcing her ideas and beliefs.

Benscoter thinks the pandemic has also pushed many people further into the shadows of conspiracies. "The pandemic increases fear, and fear is a really hard emotion. And isolation is a really hard place to be," she says.

Benscoter herself is a former cult member. She says the conspiracy narratives provide reassurance. Even if the facts seem crazy, they can provide emotional stability. Speaking of her own past, she says these tales gave clarity because they turned complex problems into simple questions of good versus evil.

"It feels so good; I never felt so secure. I mean I knew what was right and wrong. There was no question," she says.

Stephanie's interest in star charts, numerology, tarot and singing bowls (right) were quirky but her sessions gave people a lot of hope and positivity, Laurie says.

Because those motivations are all about psychological needs, arguing the facts around individual conspiracies will do little to shake people out of their beliefs. Moreover, "when you try to pull on one, the whole thing collapses for people," van der Linden says. "So the resistance becomes much stronger."

Efforts to dissuade Stephanie from her beliefs were frequently met with outbursts of rage, her family says. "She was angry that we weren't listening to her and believing what she believed," Vikki says. "A couple of times I tried to speak to her on an analytical basis," Arnold says. "But I could see she was getting defensive, and I didn't want to alienate myself from her."

Both Benscoter and van der Linden say there is no surefire way to get someone from abandoning conspiratorial thinking. They also say one of the best strategies is to try and get a person to question the messenger, not the message. "People, especially these kinds of people, don't want to feel like they're being manipulated," van der Linden says. He says it's good to ask questions like: "Do you think it's possible that other people are profiting off you?"

It was a strategy Stephanie's family said they tried a few times. But even then, van der Linden says, these interventions take time. People can't change their thinking instantly, and often will backslide as they talk again to their fellow conspiracy theorists.

"It's an extensive process," he says.

Unfortunately for Stephanie, she did not have time. In November of 2021, just before Thanksgiving, Arnold and Stephanie met two other couples for dinner at a popular local restaurant.

"Afterwards, she started developing symptoms," Arnold says.

But she refused to get tested. Instead, she ordered drugs online from a natural healer in Florida. Two of the drugs, ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, are ineffective against COVID, but many conspiracy theorists believe they work. Stephanie waited for the pills to come.

"She was waiting for the pills and I said, 'Why wait? You could go to the doctor right now. You have amazing health insurance. You don't have to wait,'" Laurie says.

All the while, she was getting sicker and sicker. The daughters got her a device to check her blood-oxygen level: It was at just 77%.

Vikki called a friend who was a nurse: "She said, '77?! You need to get your mom to the hospital. She could die!' And I said, 'Really?'"

Stephanie still didn't want to go, but after hearing she could die, she eventually gave in. Arnold drove her to the hospital.

The pills Stephanie received in the mail were labeled as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. They appeared to come from manufacturers in India.

Even after she was admitted, she turned down some effective treatments for COVID. One drug, called remdesivir, has been proven to reduce the severity of COVID, but Stephanie believed conspiracy theories claiming the drug was actually being used to kill COVID patients. Stephanie also refused another treatment shown to be very effective for patients with COVID-19: monoclonal antibodies. Laurie remembers how one doctor responded when he learned that Stephanie had refused the drugs:

"He was like, 'Why didn't you take any of the treatments Stephanie?' She found every little piece of energy in her and yelled back at him, 'BECAUSE IT'LL KILL ME!'"

Meanwhile, Arnold had developed symptoms and was getting sicker and weaker. He eventually asked his daughters for help.

Vikki drove him to get monoclonal antibodies. He worsened overnight, and the next day, he was admitted to the same hospital that Stephanie was staying in. Unlike his wife, Arnold accepted every treatment he was offered.

"He said yes to everything. He said yes to every treatment they were willing to give him," says Vikki. "My Mom said no."

He was discharged after just five days.

"I felt hopeful, because I told her I was going home. I told her, 'I'll be waiting for you.' And then, everything started deteriorating," Arnold recalls.

"She was fighting a fight without any defenses," says Perihan El Shanawany, a doctor with Northwell Health, who was part of the team that cared for Stephanie. As Stephanie grew sicker, she started developing blood clots on her lungs. El Shanawany knew that as things progressed, Stephanie would only suffer more.

"Patients at that point feel like they're suffocating, they're drowning," El Shanawany says. "It's a horrible way to die."

The only option Stephanie had left was to go on a ventilator. So Dr. El Shanawany sat down with her and asked her what she wanted.

"She did say that she's had enough. That's her words, 'I've had enough. This is not a life. I can't live like this anymore'," El Shanawany says.

During a video call, Laurie heard her mother's wishes. She had been urging Stephanie to fight because she felt it wasn't her time. But hearing those words, "I can't live like this anymore," something changed. For years they had been battling over the lies and conspiracies. Laurie knew it was time to make peace with the mother she loved.

And that meant helping Stephanie to die comfortably. "My whole mission after hearing that was to help her get her wishes," she says.

Laurie stayed by her mother's side, reading text messages from friends and relatives who wanted to say goodbye. At one point, seeing she was suffering, Laurie played her some music written by a family member: "She gave me a thumbs up," Laurie recalls. "She was there."

"We all said goodbye and told her she was the best," Laurie says.

Stephanie died the next day. It was Dec. 28, a few days after Christmas.

At the funeral, Arnold heard from scores of people whom Stephanie had helped over the years, through her astrology, and just her advice and friendship.

"They all said, 'She changed my life,' " he says tearfully.

Laurie says she's "a lot less angry" now. But she still thinks about those who continue to make the kinds of videos her mother watched. In the months since Stephanie's death, she's moved closer to her father and sister.

In the months since Stephanie died, the family has begun the long road to healing. Arnold has received the COVID vaccine. And Laurie recently bought a home closer to her father and sister. "We'll be able to be in each other's lives more," she says.

She also says she's slowly making her peace with Stephanie's death.

"I'm a lot less angry," she says.

But she still thinks about the people who make the paranoia-laced videos that her mother consumed day after day. She understands that something inside her mother drew her to those voices, but Laurie still sees Stephanie mainly as a victim of the grifters and attention-seekers who generate many hours of falsehoods every day to grab money, likes and shares.

"Whoever is creating all this content, is on some level waging a war — here in America — inside of every family," she says. "I think people need to wake up to that."
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Mon 2 May, 2022 02:26 pm
New York City enters a higher coronavirus risk level as case numbers rise.


By Sharon Otterman and Emma G. Fitzsimmons

As coronavirus cases continue to rise in New York City, the city entered a higher risk level for the virus on Monday, a troubling reminder that the pandemic is not over and that the virus still has the power to harm New Yorkers.

The city moved into the medium, or yellow, risk category for virus transmission, a development that could trigger the return of public health restrictions, although they are not required to be reinstated at this point.

Mayor Eric Adams, who last month contracted his first known case of the virus, will face difficult decisions over whether to bring back mask and vaccine mandates at a time when he is focused on the city’s economic recovery and workers are returning to offices.

The city is now seeing nearly 2,500 new cases per day, a significant jump from about 600 daily cases in early March. The latest rise, fueled by the highly contagious Omicron subvariant known as BA.2, does not rival the first Omicron surge in December and January, but recorded case levels are as high as they were when the Delta variant swept through the city last year.

What’s more, case levels in New York City, and around the country, are probably much higher than the official statistics because many residents are testing at home, and positive at-home tests are not typically included in official tallies.

Mr. Adams has emphasized that hospitalizations and deaths remain low; there are currently more than 50 new hospitalizations and four or five deaths on average in the city each day. In January, new hospitalizations rose to 1,000 per day, and deaths to more than 120 per day.

New Yorkers had celebrated a six-week lull in cases that began in mid-February, and many of the normal routines of life returned. Friends gathered for celebrations. Workers roamed offices without masks. Subway ridership crept up.

In early March, Mr. Adams rolled back longstanding restrictions, including mask mandates at schools and proof-of-vaccination requirements at restaurants, gyms and movie theaters. The mayor stood in Times Square and declared: “It’s time to reopen our city.”

But cases soon began to rise again, and Mr. Adams reversed his plans to end mask requirements at preschools and day cares. Several Broadway shows shut down as the virus spread throughout their casts.

Mr. Adams, a Democrat who took office in January, appears reluctant to bring back mandates.

At a traffic safety announcement in Brooklyn on Monday, Mr. Adams said that officials continued to keep a close eye on cases numbers, hospitalizations and deaths from Covid. He said that the city had no immediate plans to reinstitute indoor vaccine mandates for public spaces.

“We’re not there yet,” the mayor said, adding: “We can’t close down the city again. If we make the right decisions, we’re not going to have to worry about doing that.”

Earlier in the briefing, he urged New Yorkers to follow his own example when it comes to weathering Covid. The mayor, who says he is vaccinated and boosted, recently emerged from isolation after his bout of the disease.

“I was able to exercise in the morning, no loss of breath, and no conditions other than that,” he said.

“I had a tickle in my throat, immediately went to get tested, found out it was Covid, I went home and stayed home,” he added. “That is where the winning ticket is for our city.”

Mr. Adams has said that he supports keeping a mask mandate on the subway, which Ms. Hochul has maintained for all public transit across the state.

Many New Yorkers might be ready to move past the pandemic, but the virus is spreading rapidly again. As a result, the city should consider bringing back some public health restrictions that lapsed, said Gregg Gonsalves, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health.

“People can be fed up, angry, tired and frustrated — I am too,” he said. “But wishing the pandemic away doesn’t make it so.”

Mr. Adams introduced the color-coded alert system in March, based on parameters set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New York had remained since then at the lowest level of risk, represented by the color green, meaning virus cases had mostly stayed below 200 per 100,000 residents per week; the city has now surpassed that threshold, Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the health commissioner, said Monday.

The alert system lists several steps that Mr. Adams should consider at the medium level: Requiring masks in schools again, and bringing back the city’s system for checking for proof of vaccination at restaurants, gyms and indoor entertainment sites, known as Key to N.Y.C.

If the city enters the high risk level, represented by the color orange, then Mr. Adams should consider requiring face masks in all public indoor settings, according to the alert system.

Mr. Adams said last month that the key word in the guidance was “consider,” and that the rules were merely guidance.

“I’m going to factor in all the information, and then after meeting with my health team, we’re going to make a determination,” he said.

State health officials recently announced a troubling new development: Two new versions of the subvariant — BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1, which seem to spread more rapidly than BA.2 — seem to be behind steep case increases in upstate New York, where more than 30 counties, including those that contain Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Binghamton, have already entered the high community transmission level, according to the C.D.C.

The city’s warning system is also based on a new C.D.C. color-coded system that increased the number of cases needed to ascend an alert level. Under the older version, most of the Northeast, including New York City, would already be considered red, or high transmission areas.

Dr. Jay Varma, the director of the Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response, said that he was skeptical about the utility of the alert level, because changes to it do not trigger actual policy shifts, and because it doesn’t take into account the rate at which things are worsening.

“The problem is that moving from low to medium on the health department’s website doesn’t really change anything,” said Dr. Varma, who was also a special adviser to former Mayor Bill de Blasio. “It’s very difficult to make an alert level that is not seen as an actual trigger for direct action.”

Nearly 88 percent of adults in the city are fully vaccinated, but the rates are lower among children. Only about 45 percent of adults have received booster doses, which experts say are crucial as protection from initial doses wanes.

Elected officials should not frame the debate as a choice between keeping the economy open and implementing protective measures, Mr. Gonsalves said, noting that when more New Yorkers get sick, it means they cannot go to work.

“Nobody is suggesting that Mayor Adams or Governor Hochul should be shutting down things or going back to April 2020,” he said. “Modest measures to protect the health of New Yorkers are warranted.”
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Tue 10 May, 2022 07:15 pm
Conspiracy Theorist Allegedly Killed Family ‘Over Fake Vaccine Certificate’

German authorities say the man turned a gun on his family and then himself because he was scared the state would take his kids away.


by Mack Lamoureux
Toronto, CA
December 9, 2021, 12:14pm

A German man involved in the COVID-19 conspiracy community killed his wife and three daughters after his wife was caught with a fake vaccination card, police say.

A German man involved in the COVID-19 conspiracy community killed his wife and three daughters after his wife was caught with a fake vaccination card, police say.

German police say they believe a man, who has been referred to as Devid R., committed the quadruple murder-suicide last week. Prosecutor Gernot Bantleon told the German Press Agency on Tuesday that in a suicide note, the man indicated the couple was worried that the government would take their kids away because his wife was found with a fake vaccination certificate he’d provided to her.

Police say they believe Devid shot his daughters—aged 4, 8, and 10—and his wife, before turning the gun on himself. The 40-year-old man did not have a gun license, and police are investigating where the weapon came from. The man was reportedly a part of the anti-vaccine COVID-19 conspiracy group Querdenker, one of the central groups opposing COVID-19 regulations in Germany.

Like much of the rest of the world, Germany is in the midst of tightening up its regulations in light of the latest COVID variant of concern, Omicron. Residents are required to provide proof of vaccination to access some amenities, and some jobs also require their employees to be vaccinated. This was true of Devid’s wife, who was employed at a technical university. Her university noticed the fake vaccination card and asked her about it.

Local media reports that the punishment for faking a vaccination certificate is a year in prison or a fine and that authorities said Devid would have just been fined for providing her with the fake certificate.

A story by German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel reported that shortly before the deaths, a man with the name Devid joined a Querdenker (which translates to lateral thinkers) conspiracy group on Telegram focused on COVID-19 conspiracies and rallying against pandemic regulations. His last post came before the night of the violence. After the deaths, one of the members of the Telegram group wrote that the Querdenker had lost “a friend” and a “party member.”
0 Replies
Region Philbis
Reply Tue 17 May, 2022 09:07 am

FDA authorizes Pfizer Covid booster shots for kids 5-11

Biden administration makes 8 more free Covid tests
available to US households

bobsal u1553115
Reply Tue 17 May, 2022 08:22 pm
@Region Philbis,
News flash from an alternative reality US:

Covid Commissar Dr Oz reported today President Trump played four rounds of golf and is well onto the record number of rounds played during national emergencies, and that herd immunity seems right around the corner, and that the only question is how little of a herd will be left."
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Tue 17 May, 2022 09:20 pm

The magnitude of the country’s loss is nearly impossible to grasp.


More Americans have died of Covid-19 than in two decades of car crashes or on battlefields in all of the country’s wars combined.

Experts say deaths were all but inevitable from a new virus of such severity and transmissibility. Yet, one million dead is a stunning toll, even for a country the size of the United States, and the true number is almost certainly higher because of undercounting.

It is the result of many factors, including elected officials who played down the threat posed by the coronavirus and resisted safety measures; a decentralized, overburdened health care system that struggled with testing, tracing and treatment; and lower vaccination and booster rates than other rich countries, partly the result of widespread mistrust and resistance fanned by right-wing media and politicians.

The virus did not claim lives evenly, or randomly. The New York Times analyzed 25 months of data on deaths during the pandemic and found that some demographic groups, occupations and communities were far more vulnerable than others. A significant proportion of the nation’s oldest residents died, making up about three-quarters of the total deaths. And among younger adults across the nation, Black and Hispanic people died at much higher rates than white people.

Understanding the toll — who makes up the one million and how the country failed them — is essential as the pandemic continues. More than 300 people are still dying of Covid every day.

“We are a country with the best doctors in the world, we got a vaccine in an astoundingly short period of time, and yet we’ve had so many deaths,” said Mary T. Bassett, the health commissioner for New York State.

“It really should be a moment for us all to reflect on what sort of society we want to have,” she added.

The Chaotic Beginning

“I don’t think any of us understood the scale of it.”

The first wave of deaths was concentrated in the Northeast, especially New York City and its suburbs. No one knew much in those early months. Doctors were not sure how best to treat the disease. Hospitals were overwhelmed. Deaths climbed sharply.

New York City was hit harder in March and April 2020 than any other city in the country has been during the pandemic. At the height of this outbreak, a New Yorker was dying of Covid almost every two minutes — nearly 800 people per day, a rate five times as high as the city’s normal pace of death.

Among them was Dr. Jay Galst, 69, an otherwise healthy ophthalmologist in Manhattan, who most likely contracted Covid from a patient. His widow, Joann Galst, blamed President Donald J. Trump, who sought to quell concern about the virus in early March, asserting that it would go away with rising temperatures. She also blamed federal health officials, who declined to recommend masks for the public in those earliest days.

“Does it give me consolation that he was doing the work that he loved?” Dr. Galst asked of her husband’s death. “That he was following preventive measures that we both thought was the best he could have done at the time? Not really, since I now know, had we been honestly informed of the immense danger we were all facing in New York City, we could have and would have done more.”

About 60 percent of all deaths at the beginning of the pandemic happened in the Northeast, as the virus tore through cities and suburbs on the Eastern Seaboard.

Epidemiologists have pointed to New York’s density and its role as an international hub of commerce and tourism to explain the early spike in cases and deaths. Still, the earliest surge also took an acute toll in cities including Detroit, New Orleans and Albany, Ga.

A spike in emergency room visits to New York City hospitals by people who had “flu-like symptoms” in early March suggested that thousands of city residents were infected.
Health workers at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City in late March 2020. Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

On March 15, Mayor Bill de Blasio shuttered bars and restaurants and announced that public schools would close the next day. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo imposed broad restrictions on nonessential businesses on March 22. Those near-lockdown measures were most likely responsible for a more than 50 percent reduction in transmission of the virus, a Columbia University study found.

By summer, New York was garnering praise as a model of infection control. Death rates in New York City would never rise as high as they did in the early wave.

But Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, a former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a former commissioner of New York City’s Health Department, said he believed that restrictions came too late. More than half of the New Yorkers who died in the earliest days might have lived, he estimated, had officials put the lockdown measures in place even a week or two earlier. “Cases were doubling every two days, and every two days you were doubling the impact,” he said.

New York’s political leaders cited lack of direction from the federal government, inconsistent messages from public health experts and the daunting task of getting the public on board with a massive disruption of everyday life for the timing of restrictions.

“I don’t think any of us understood the scale of it,” Dr. Mitch Katz, who runs New York City’s public hospitals and participated in the de Blasio administration’s meetings, told The Times in March.

Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Mr. Cuomo, said a lack of tests and the Trump administration’s failure to shut down international travel “seeded Covid in New York for two months before our first confirmed case.’’

In an interview, Mr. de Blasio said, “It is hard to say to people when no one had died and the cases are limited, ‘We’re closing down your livelihood, we don’t know when it’s going to come back. We don’t know what’s going to happen to your life, we don’t know what’s going to happen to your family.’” He added, “It’s not something you do lightly.”

A High Toll Among the Unvaccinated

“We’re seeing a lack of benefit from therapy that we know is accessible.”

Becky Bennett said she and her father, Barrie, were like “peas in a pod,” hiking, biking and shooting together in the Blackfoot, Idaho, area. But vaccines were something they could not agree on.

“Please, kitten, don’t get the shot,” she recalled him telling her. “You don’t know what’s in it.”

He told her that the vaccines were a government scheme to “test her compliance,” citing YouTube videos.

Even after Mr. Bennett, 72, contracted Covid in December last year and was struggling to breathe, his daughter said he was unwilling to promise her that he would get a shot if he recovered.
Becky Bennett, left, and her sister Celestia Hadley tried to persuade their father to get vaccinated. Lindsay D’Addato for The New York Times

Mr. Bennett, who was athletic and in good health, was eventually put on a ventilator in an intensive care unit. He died in January.

Among wealthy countries, the United States has been notably unsuccessful at persuading residents to get fully vaccinated and boosted. Today, about a third of people across the United States have not been fully vaccinated, and some 70 percent of the population has not received a booster. (By contrast, 17 percent of people in Canada have not been fully vaccinated, and 46 percent have not had boosters.)

Nearly half of the deaths from Covid in the United States occurred after vaccines were made widely available. The failure to vaccinate, epidemiologists say, contributed to hundreds of thousands of deaths. During the Omicron wave in December 2021 and January 2022, for instance, the Covid death rate in the United States was higher than in Germany, France, Britain or Canada, which had each fully vaccinated and boosted larger shares of their populations.

More than 429,000 people have died of Covid since all adults in the United States became eligible for vaccination in April 2021.

A majority of them were unvaccinated, but as the virus has continued to spread, it has killed thousands of vaccinated people, too.

“It’s just sobering that in a country with remarkable resources like ours that we are seeing deaths like this,” said Dr. Lisa Cooper, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity. “And we’re seeing a lack of benefit from therapy that we know is accessible.”

Public health experts say the government failed to do enough to help the public understand how effective the vaccines are, or to combat misinformation and conspiracy theories by some right-wing media and politicians.

The vaccines have been shown to be largely effective at preventing severe disease and death. But Debra Furr-Holden, an epidemiologist at Michigan State University and the incoming dean of New York University’s school of global public health, said that deaths among vaccinated people had not been explained well and had exacerbated fears surrounding the vaccine and distrust of the government.

The C.D.C. has received data on deaths by vaccination status from only about half of the states, so it is impossible to know exactly how many vaccinated people are among the million who have died. But at least 50,000 vaccinated people, many of them older or without booster shots, were among the deaths reported since late April 2021, when vaccines became widely available.

Still, vaccinated people have had a much lower death rate — unvaccinated people have been at least nine times as likely to die since April 2021.

Covid-19 death rates by vaccination status {A very telling graphic availble at the link.

In recent months, states have scaled back on vaccination campaigns and incentives, and also dropped masking requirements and other mitigation measures that help protect the unvaccinated and other vulnerable people.

Dr. Furr-Holden said the rush to get close to a prepandemic normal — to put people back in restaurants, stadiums and offices — had overshadowed more time-consuming efforts to persuade people who were still unsure about shots. And she worried that government-ordered employer vaccine mandates drove some people away from the vaccines.

“Instead of blaming, shaming and trying to ostracize those people, it would be better to do the work to try to remedy their concerns,” she said.

“The product of policies and public health failings, and just not caring.”

Like many in her age group, Germaine St. John, 87, of Laramie, Wyo., counts several friends lost to Covid. One had moved to California. One had lived on the outskirts of Laramie. Another had had a second shot. She has spotted the obituaries of other acquaintances, too, in the local newspaper, The Laramie Boomerang.

In her 82 years as a Laramie resident she has raised a son, started a senior community theater group, enjoyed a career at the local bank, found common cause with fellow political conservatives and, in the early 1980s, served as mayor. But well before the pandemic, she said, she had begun to feel sidelined because of her age. And the way some younger neighbors have declined to wear masks or refrain from large gatherings when cases were on the rise seemed to diminish the lives of those most vulnerable.

“This idea of ‘we’re going to die anyway,’” she said. “That is awful to say about any age group.”

To protect herself, Ms. St. John, a widow, has kept mostly to herself, enduring bouts of extreme loneliness. She has found solace, she said, in an online community of older adults who share stories and take fitness classes. But if Covid fades, she plans to start getting out more.
Germaine St. John lives in a quiet senior housing community not far from the University of Wyoming campus. Matthew Defeo for The New York Times

“We’re in the last trimester of life, I sometimes say,” she said. “And I’m going to do what I can to fulfill my commitments to my son, my friends, my community.”

Older people tend to have weaker organ function and immune systems, leaving them more vulnerable to disease and less likely to respond to vaccines. Indeed, age has sometimes been a bigger risk factor than vaccine status during the pandemic. People 80 and older who had gotten shots were almost twice as likely to die at the height of the Omicron wave as those in their 50s or early 60s who had not, according to C.D.C. data.

But public health experts said the reluctance of others to adapt their behavior was a contributing factor to the large number of deaths among older people over the course of the pandemic.

“A lot of what has effectively been a slaughter has been the product of policies and public health failings, and just not caring,” said Dr. Louise Aronson, a geriatrician at the University of California, San Francisco.

A common refrain, Dr. Aronson said, is that older Americans might have died of something else — cancer, heart disease or old age — had Covid not hit them. But that does not mean, she said, that their final years were not cut short. In the two years before the pandemic, an average of 877,000 people over 85 died each year. In 2020 and 2021, the same age group saw 100,000 more deaths than that each year.

Comparisons to the impact of the flu, which overwhelmingly kills older people, do not hold up either. Covid has killed at least eight times as many people as the flu and pneumonia do in a comparable timespan, according to Andrew Noymer, an associate professor of public health at the University of California, Irvine.

“If I die of Covid today, my death is borrowed against future deaths,” Dr. Noymer said. “But the point is, it may be borrowed 10 years in advance.”

A Lasting Racial Disparity

“I could see the toll it was taking on the African American population.”

By March 2021, Howard Jenkins, the pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church in Providence, R.I., already felt, he said, “bombarded by death.”

He had consoled numerous congregants whose family members had died of Covid. He had eulogized a personal friend who had died of Covid. Appalled at the toll the virus was taking on Black people, he said, he had overcome his own reluctance to get vaccinated so that he could encourage others to do so.
Howard Jenkins has witnessed how Covid has disproportionately affected his Black and Latino neighbors. Sophie Park for The New York Times

At 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. prayer sessions with his congregation, Mr. Jenkins said, he would hear from family members who had lost loved ones. “I could see the toll it was taking on the African American population, in the state and outside the state.”

Black and Hispanic people in every age group have died at higher rates than white people. The racial disparity in deaths was especially extreme at the beginning of the pandemic, but the gaps remain today.

Another shocking chart at the link.

Hispanic people ages 25 to 54 died at a rate more than four times as high as white people of the same age group before vaccines became widely available. Black people of the same age group died at more than three times the rate during that period.

In part, that is because a disproportionate share of essential workers are people of color, public health experts said.

Another reason for persistent disparities in deaths was lower vaccination rates. White people were significantly more likely to be vaccinated than Black and Hispanic people in the first months of the vaccine rollout.

The gap between Black and white people has since narrowed to about six percentage points, while Hispanic people now have a slightly higher rate of vaccination than white people, according to a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

David Hayes-Bautista, a professor of medicine and the director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the University of California, Los Angeles, said more crowded housing might also have contributed to higher transmission rates, hospitalizations and deaths in Black and Hispanic families.

In early 2021, at an east Los Angeles hospital that serves mostly Latino residents, “I could see it right there in front of my eyes,” Dr. Hayes-Bautista said.

“About the third week of January, we thought, ‘We can’t add one more patient.’”

In part, that is because a disproportionate share of essential workers are people of color, public health experts said.

Another reason for persistent disparities in deaths was lower vaccination rates. White people were significantly more likely to be vaccinated than Black and Hispanic people in the first months of the vaccine rollout.

The gap between Black and white people has since narrowed to about six percentage points, while Hispanic people now have a slightly higher rate of vaccination than white people, according to a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

David Hayes-Bautista, a professor of medicine and the director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the University of California, Los Angeles, said more crowded housing might also have contributed to higher transmission rates, hospitalizations and deaths in Black and Hispanic families.

In early 2021, at an east Los Angeles hospital that serves mostly Latino residents, “I could see it right there in front of my eyes,” Dr. Hayes-Bautista said.

“About the third week of January, we thought, ‘We can’t add one more patient.’”

Meat-packing workers had been dying of Covid. Transit workers had been dying of Covid. Farm workers had been dying of Covid. At the Ralphs grocery store where Carmen Portillo worked as a cashier, the bakery manager had died of Covid.

“If you don’t have to come back, don’t come back,” Ms. Portillo, 53, recalled her co-workers telling her after she took a short leave. “Because this is bad.”

But like many workers who came to be known as “essential” because their jobs required in-person work, Ms. Portillo felt she had no choice. Her husband, a restaurant worker, was making less because of closures, and they had a mortgage on their home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Van Nuys.
Carmen Portillo has been a grocery store worker at Ralphs for the past 32 years. Mark Abramson for The New York Times

Even as she silently raged at some customers who refused to wear masks, she said she took satisfaction in the praise she received from others.

“Not a single day passed by that someone didn’t say, ‘You guys are heroes,’” she said.

Ms. Portillo survived a bout of Covid in the fall of 2020, but a close friend, Jose Sanchez, a janitor at a Los Angeles-area mall, did not. Mr. Sanchez had tested positive a few days after accepting a ride home with a co-worker who was later found to have had Covid, Ms. Portillo said.

“They worked late, till 1 a.m.,” Ms. Portillo said. “There were no buses at that time.”

Nearly 80 percent of workers ages 20 to 64 who died of Covid in 2020 worked in industries designated as essential, according to data obtained by a team of researchers led by Yea-Hung Chen, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. Workers in 11 sectors that were exempt from stay-at-home orders — including food services, health care, construction, transportation, agriculture and manufacturing — were almost twice as likely to die from Covid as others the same age, the researchers found. About two-thirds of workers in the United States are employed in industries that fall within the classification.

“These workers were by definition more exposed, but the extent of the disparities was striking,” Dr. Chen said.

Income is also a predictor of a person’s risk of dying of Covid in this country. People without a college degree and those who live in poorer neighborhoods have been more likely to die of Covid than those with a college degree and people who live in wealthier ZIP codes.

Data from the country’s three largest cities shows that the highest-income neighborhoods have generally seen the least death over the course of the pandemic, while the poorest neighborhoods have seen the most.

Lower incomes also correlate with a lower likelihood of vaccination, which is in turn associated with Covid deaths. For example, while Republicans have been far more likely to go unvaccinated than Democrats, a divide also exists between high-earning Republicans and poorer ones: According to one survey of self-identified Republican voters in June 2021 conducted by Abram Wagner, a University of Michigan epidemiologist, Republicans with monthly incomes of under $2,000 were twice as likely to be unvaccinated as those with monthly incomes of $5,000 or above.

The United States is far from the only country that has suffered a staggering death toll. The World Health Organization estimates that 4.7 million more people died in India during the pandemic than would have in normal times, and that one million more died in both Russia and Indonesia. Several smaller countries also have experienced higher death rates than the United States.

But there is little doubt that America fared worse than almost all wealthy nations, with one of the highest rates of infection, according to an analysis in The Lancet. Among working-age people, Dr. Chen said, essential workers “bore the brunt of these exposures.”

Early on, a shocking 43 percent of all Covid deaths were among residents and staff members at long-term care facilities. The proportion would shrink, but the deaths continued to rise.

In total, more than 200,000 deaths — about one in five of all who have died — have been associated with these facilities.

Deaths in nursing homes slowed sharply in January 2021, weeks after vaccines were introduced. But they did not vanish entirely.

As Delta and then Omicron swept the country months later, deaths in nursing homes rose again, though never to the levels seen before vaccinations.

Some experts blamed relatively low vaccination rates among nursing home workers before shots were mandated by the federal government. But experts also pointed to problems that existed before the pandemic, like crowding, underfunding and staffing shortages.

Industry leaders have called on the federal government to make a major investment to protect nursing homes by improving staffing and care.

But Dr. David Gifford, the chief medical officer for the American Health Care Association, which represents thousands of long-term care facilities, is not optimistic.

“It’s baffling,” he said, “that public health and government officials point out that there was a large proportion of the deaths from nursing homes, and then when asked to provide resources, they’re combative.”

Dr. Jim Wright, who was the medical director at a Richmond, Va., nursing home where 51 people died, said that Covid had exposed failings in the country’s system of long-term care centers that had yet to be widely addressed.

“What have we done to prevent 200,000 nursing home deaths from the next virus?” Dr. Wright, who now works at two different care facilities, asked. “We didn’t do much.”

Randolph Seals, 39, was elected the coroner for Bolivar County, in rural western Mississippi, in 2015. But the relentlessness of the deaths linked to Covid, and his personal ties to so many who were dying, brought him to the brink of quitting in the fall of 2020.

By early 2021, when the South’s death rate spiked again, he wished he had. Then came the Delta variant, and the Omicron wave, and it just got worse.

“It was a disaster that was coming back and back and back,” Mr. Seals said.
Randolph Seals almost quit his job as a coroner in Mississippi during the pandemic. Houston Cofield for The New York Times

As hospitals overflowed, many residents died in their homes. The ripple effect of the pandemic was evident, too, as Mr. Seals began recording the deaths of people with heart or kidney disease for whom there were no hospital beds. Now, he said, he is handling the deaths of people who had Covid and never quite recovered.

The South has also experienced the highest death rates from Covid of any region. In part, that is because it is home to some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Since vaccines became available, the average death rate fell everywhere but the South, where it rose by about 4 percent.

Epidemiologists also pointed to less stringent responses — lockdowns that ended sooner and masking restrictions that were not enforced as strictly, even when they were in place.

The South has also suffered because the share of adults with three or more chronic health conditions is higher on average than in any other region. Many chronic health problems are risk factors for the coronavirus, and several studies have suggested that 30 percent to 40 percent of all Covid deaths in the United States involved people with diabetes.

Mississippi has the highest Covid death rate of any state, and one of the lowest vaccination rates. Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state’s health officer, said that even given the catastrophic problems with underlying illnesses in Mississippi, persuading more people to get vaccinated would have helped prevent many deaths.

It has been an uphill battle, Dr. Dobbs said, to compete with misinformation, especially on social media, and with people who tried to downplay the seriousness of the pandemic. Polarization around the virus and vaccines, he said, was devastating.

“Either you were fully on board or you did absolutely nothing and ran headlong into the buzz saw that was Covid,” he said.

For Mr. Seals, the coroner, the scale of loss has been hard to wrap his mind around.

“When I ran for county coroner, my biggest fear was a plane falling in my county, or a school bus crash,” he said. “Only the grace of God and my faith kept me grounded.”

I thank G*D for the suspension of the worst of the deniers and misinformers, thank you A2K from the bottom of heart.

0 Replies
Reply Wed 18 May, 2022 02:00 am
In Japan, Covid compensation money intended for 463 households was erroneously paid to one man who gambled it all away on online casinos.

bobsal u1553115
Reply Wed 18 May, 2022 06:20 am
Don't start digging here in the US - billions went out to huckster individuals and corporations.
Reply Wed 18 May, 2022 06:21 am
@bobsal u1553115,
He wasn't a huckster, he was the beneficiary of bureaucratic incompetence.
bobsal u1553115
Reply Wed 18 May, 2022 06:25 am
We have a much larger huckster proportion here. And then, there's scale in that Japan has a smaller population, smaller Covid count, less incompetents and criminals.
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 19 May, 2022 02:11 am
Just out a ruling by Germany's highest court, the Federal Constitutional Court:

In the midst of the discussion about a general Corona vaccination obligation, the Federal Constitutional Court has announced an important decision on the controversial Infection Protection Act: The highest German court has confirmed the compulsory vaccination in care/nursing homes and rejected a constitutional complaint against corresponding parts of the Infection Protection Act.

Press release by the court (in English): Unsuccessful constitutional complaint challenging the obligation for staff in the health and care sectors to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19
0 Replies
Reply Fri 20 May, 2022 02:10 am
North Korea is treating its unvaccinated population with tea and salt water.
bobsal u1553115
Reply Fri 20 May, 2022 06:37 am
Beats horse de-wormer and chloriquinine.

Not as harmful but not effective, either.

What a chance is possible here - the UN or US should make vax available to North Korea.
Reply Fri 20 May, 2022 08:10 am
@bobsal u1553115,
Hot drinks and gargling with brine do help to alleviate the symptoms, but thst's about it.
0 Replies
Reply Fri 20 May, 2022 08:52 am
@bobsal u1553115,
Both COVAX and China have already made vaccines available to N. Korea. They turned down the COVAX vaccines because they don't trust foreign vaccines and the Chinese ones because they say they don't work.
Reply Fri 20 May, 2022 09:36 am
They've been offered the Astra Zenecka jab too.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 20 May, 2022 09:59 am
In a 2019 study of the ability of national healthcare systems to deal with an epidemic, which was conducted by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, North Korea ranked 193 of 195 countries in its capability to cope with a healthcare crisis.
0 Replies
Region Philbis
Reply Sat 18 Jun, 2022 03:57 pm

FDA has authorized Covid-19 vaccines for children under 5
0 Replies

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