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Texas Coronavirus Politics Are Dangerously Broken – The Atlantic

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Updated at 10 a.m. ET on August 12, 2021.

A year and a half into the pandemic, Texas is running out of hospital beds.

The Texas Tribune reported on Tuesday that nearly 10,000 COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized, and that the state’s intensive-care units are being overwhelmed. Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order asking hospitals to delay elective procedures and authorizing local facilities to seek out-of-state medical staff to help with the coronavirus surge, which is approaching levels not seen since winter. Despite the desperate situation, Texas’s case rate is not even the worst in the nation—Louisiana and Florida have more cases per capita.

The coronavirus pandemic should have been over by now, but instead the U.S. is facing what some medical experts have described as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Last week, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff held a press conference urging residents to get vaccinated, offering a dramatic chart showing that close to 90 percent of new infections are among the unvaccinated, who in turn make up 95 percent of hospitalizations. Out of the nearly 9,000 Texans who died of the coronavirus from February 8 to July 14, just 43 were known to be vaccinated. In other words, unvaccinated people constituted 99.5 percent of coronavirus deaths in Texas during that period.

Calling it a pandemic of the unvaccinated, however, may mislead some people into believing that the current wave is merely a problem for those who haven’t gotten the shots. The surge is straining the state’s hospital capacity, forcing Texans to delay medical procedures. Children under 12 remain unvaccinated, and some adolescents and adults who have gotten the shot, including those who are immunocompromised, remain vulnerable to infection and serious illness because of the Delta variant. The longer so many people go unvaccinated, the more likely the evolution of even-more-deadly strains of the disease becomes. And, put simply, you should care when the people around you are dying in droves of a preventable illness.

As my colleague Ed Yong has written, being unvaccinated and being anti-vaccination are not the same. Startlingly consistent statistics across states, no matter which party is governing, show that low-income people are more likely to be unvaccinated, particularly if they are Black or Latino, than their wealthier peers. There is no silver bullet for increasing vaccination rates—mandates will help, but community-based outreach efforts are also necessary, and employers must give workers sufficient time to get the vaccine and recover from potential short term side-effects without having that affect their employment. The U.S. appears to be compounding one of the original tragedies of the pandemic: The essential workers who kept society functioning as the nation was ravaged by a plague were more likely to be felled by the illness, and they are now less likely to access the vaccine that could save their lives. America has failed them twice.

For this reason, the coronavirus surge is not entirely attributable to conservative media’s irresponsible campaign against vaccines, which makes the campaign no less reprehensible. Taking a cue from the once and future king of the conservative movement, Donald Trump, right-wing media outlets such as Fox News have devoted hours and hours to programming that is, if not outright anti-vaccine, at the very least anti-pro-vaccine. The same outlets have portrayed other mitigation efforts, such as mask requirements, as a form of tyranny. Some Republicans, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have responsibly sought to counter this messaging, but they are the exception.

Although this misinformation is a real issue, and has driven a partisan divide in vaccination, not every unvaccinated person is being brainwashed by conservative media. The larger issue is that the conservative media’s devotion to undermining vaccination encourages Republican elected officials with political ambitions to make irresponsible public-health decisions, because they understand how media coverage shapes the attitudes of the GOP’s voters. Vaccine mandates for things such as school and air travel are supported by more than 60 percent of Texans, despite the state’s conservative lean. But Republican elected leaders fear the wrath of the GOP primary electorate more than they fear thousands of residents of their states dying of COVID-19.

Abbott and Texas Republican legislators have undermined virtually every effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. In June, Abbott signed legislation that would deny state contracts or licenses to businesses that require proof of vaccination. Last month, he issued an executive order banning cities and other jurisdictions from enacting mask and vaccination mandates, even though schools across the state already and rightfully require other vaccinations for students to enroll. “The new Executive Order emphasizes that the path forward relies on personal responsibility rather than government mandates,” Abbott proclaimed, while issuing a government mandate. Many Texas cities are in revolt, instituting their own mask mandates in defiance of Abbott’s directives and taking the governor to court.

Abbott did, however, direct state troopers to stop vehicles suspected of transporting undocumented immigrants, a reaction to the widespread conservative falsehood that immigrants are propelling the pandemic surge. The primary step Abbott has taken to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, in other words, is to encourage armed agents of the state to engage in racial profiling. You know, in the name of freedom.

These efforts are not justifiable on the principles conservatives claim to hold. They are not small-government measures, given that they represent intrusive state intervention. They do not respect local control, given that they bar cities and other jurisdictions from taking measures that their residents want them to take. And they are not deferential to the free market, given that they seek to use the state to punish businesses that engage in mitigation efforts. They are designed solely to appeal to the culture-war shibboleths of right-wing media, no matter how many Texans die as a result.

A pathetic irony is that Texas Republicans such as Senator Ted Cruz, who has proposed banning vaccine mandates on the federal level, formerly insisted that the seriousness of the pandemic was a liberal plot to harm Trump and would subside when he left office, as would liberal support for mitigation measures. But now Cruz, ever the craven apparatchik, the type of man who kissed the ring of someone who smeared his father and insulted his wife, is opposing the policies that would more quickly end the pandemic and make such measures unnecessary.

But liberals should not allow themselves to indulge in smugness here. The consequences of this madness will fall on liberal and conservative alike, and disproportionately on working-class Americans of all backgrounds. It is not simply the most conservative areas of Texas that are lagging in vaccinations; Black and Latino communities across the state also have lower-than-average vaccination rates. And even the voters who support Abbott’s approach deserve better than his disastrous anti-governance; their lives are also worth saving.

Perhaps, you might say, this is democracy in action. Texas after all is a red state, and so Abbott acting according to the preferences of the right wing of his party is simply him being responsible to the public. Even if we set aside Texas Republicans’ careful and long-standing efforts to engineer a more conservative electorate, though, the present situation illustrates something deeply dysfunctional about our democracy. Something is wrong when an extreme primary electorate has such a stranglehold on a state of 29 million people that a public official believes it is against his interest to take basic steps to keep his own constituents alive.


This story originally stated that 10,000 COVID-19 patients are in Texas ICUs; in fact, that is the total number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

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Women in politics | Watch News Videos Online – Globalnews.ca

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Historically, women have been chronically under-represented in politics. Many are saying have two women in the race to become the next Manitoba PC Leader and Premier is a step in the right direction. But as Marney Blunt reports, there’s still a long way to go for equity in the political world.

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Texas politics takes over American politics – POLITICO

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A strict new abortion law kicked off a huge national backlash. Thousands of Haitian migrants seeking asylum prompted mass deportations and scrutiny on Border Patrol policy. State officials announced four new reviews of the 2020 vote.

And that was just in September — and just in Texas.

The massive, Republican-controlled state has dominated the national political spotlight this year, driving increasingly conservative policies into the heart of big debates over everything from voting to public health initiatives, critical race theory and more. These legislative moves have positioned Texas as a counterweight to Democratic-dominated Washington — and a leader charting the potential course of the Republican Party nationally.

This year, the state was one of the first to reverse mask mandates and block local Covid-19 vaccine requirements. In the summer, Democratic state lawmakers fled Texas for a month to delay GOP voting legislation, which passed shortly after they returned. Laws that allowed carrying a gun without a permit, penalized reducing police budgets in large cities and limited discussion of systemic racism in classrooms went into effect on Sept. 1.

And other times, big events in Texas took center stage: A massive winter storm exposed the state’s weak energy infrastructure in February, and Texas’ southern border has been at the front of this month’s national news.

Even for a big state, Texas has seen an outsized amount of political attention as conservatives try to break new ground, expanding on decades of GOP control and a national political environment that tilts toward Republicans. Two more key trends are also behind the attention-grabbing policy drive: The Republican governor is preparing to face primary challengers in his 2022 reelection race and potential presidential run, while conflicts are mushrooming between diverse, liberal cities and the Republican-dominated state government — mirroring the same tensions animating national politics.

“You put all those things together, and I think there’s been basically no lane markers for Republicans in this session,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project, which conducts public opinion polling in the state. “They’re very confident about the 2022 election given recent precedents and… a Democrat in the White House, so there have been no natural checks.”

Former President Donald Trump’s influence still looms large in the state’s politics — as seen in his open letter to GOP Gov. Greg Abbott last week. Trump demanded the state legislature pass House Bill 16, which would allow state officials to request an electoral audit for future elections as well as for 2020.

Despite Trump’s nearly 6-point win over Biden in Texas last year, the secretary of State’s office soon announced a “full and comprehensive forensic audit” of Collin, Dallas and Tarrant counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, as well as Houston’s Harris County. The release did not provide any details but said the agency expects the state legislature to fund the effort.

Former Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs, who previously called the 2020 election “smooth and secure,” resigned in May when the state Senate did not take up her nomination. The Texas secretary of State’s office is currently helmed by a former Abbott staffer on an interim basis.

In a Fox News Sunday interview, Abbott said election audits by the Texas secretary of State’s office already began “months ago.”

“There are audits of every aspect of government,” Abbott said when asked about the potential waste of taxpayer money. “Why do we audit everything in this world, but people raise their hands in concern when we audit elections, which is fundamental to our democracy?”

But the top executives in three of the four counties have called the move unnecessary: “It’s time to move on,” Republican Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley told the Texas Tribune.

After thousands of Haitian migrants fled to Del Rio this month, Abbott directed hundreds of state troopers and Texas National Guard members to create a “steel wall” with patrol vehicles to prevent more people from entering the country. The state has budgeted more than $3 billion over the next two years on border security, adding nearly $2 billion of that funding earlier this month.

“Because the Biden administration is refusing to do its duty to enforce the laws of the United States, they have left Texas in no position other than for us to step up and do what we have to do,” Abbott said of his decision to forcibly stop and imprison migrants this month.

“As much as these issues are in the national news, they’re very, very local,” said GOP state Rep. James White. The national attention after the recent border struggles, for example, could “move the discussion where we need it. … Maybe it moves [Biden] to really pick up his game.”

The past few months have also stirred up new engagement among Democrats, said Democratic state Rep. Ron Reynolds, one of the more than 50 lawmakers who walked out of the first special session in July to meet with federal lawmakers in Washington.

“All of these things play out, people really understand like, ‘Oh, this isn’t normal? You mean other states aren’t doing this?’” Reynolds said. “It helps lay people understand that this isn’t just politics, this isn’t normal.”

The scale of conservative policies has been a “game changer” for Democratic state Rep. Erin Zwiener’s constituents, she said. Legislation like Senate Bill 8, which allows virtually anyone to sue someone who had assisted with an abortion after six weeks, didn’t get as much fanfare during the regular legislative session this year because of the baseline confidence in Roe v. Wade.

Her district’s mix of suburban and rural constituents didn’t think they needed to vote on issues like those, Zwiener added. The onslaught of agenda items about gun control, voter rights and other Abbott priorities didn’t help, she said.

“It’s hard for anybody to decide what to pay attention to when there’s a new crisis every day,” the state representative said. “People just had a hard time keeping up with which thing they should be angry about that day.”

As for the governor’s seat, many in the state are still skeptical of the possibility of ousting Abbott, especially since assumed candidate Beto O’Rourke hasn’t even made an announcement yet. Reynolds said if O’Rourke maintains a centrist message, he could be in a good position to win over vulnerable moderates and independents that are increasingly disappointed in Abbott’s performance.

While some Democrats in the state are cautiously hopeful about a changing tide, Zwiener said it will take a much more concerted effort to prove Texas is more of a swing state than others assume.

“Democrats have been out-organized by Republicans, and we’re not going to start to win and win sustainably until we match them for that organizing and think beyond the next election,” Zwiener said.

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Letter: Playing politics with the virus – Cowichan Valley Citizen

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Playing politics with the virus

Have always been of the opinion that politicians worldwide chose to play politics with the COVID-19 virus instead of stopping it from spreading by closing their respective international borders. Either they learned nothing from the Spanish flu pandemic which spread worldwide via the soldiers returning from the First World War or they chose to ignore it?

It appears that these viruses have a definitive life cycle. The Spanish flu faded into oblivion after the forth wave. The P.H.O for B.C informed us that all pandemics have four waves. So if they knew how the COVID-19 virus would react, how many waves there would be etc. why did they not take steps to prevent it from arriving in Canada? Politics, is my opinion. How many elections have we had in Canada, called by political parties whose only ambition is extending their power base and time in office?

My cynicism and distrust of the motives for the handling of this virus were confirmed while reading the following.

Dame Sarah Gilbert, the lead scientist from Oxford University, and the brain behind the vaccine manufactured in India as Covishield, stated the following: “The virus cannot completely mutate because its spike protein has to interact with the ACE2 receptor on the surface of the human cell, in order to get inside it. If it changes its spike protein so much that it can’t interact with that receptor, then it’s not going to be able to get inside the cell. So, there aren’t many places for the virus to go to have something that will evade immunity but still remain infectious.”

Dr. Gilbert is reported as saying that the virus that causes COVID-19 will eventually become like the coronaviruses which circulate widely and cause the common cold.

She also stated, “What tends to happen over time is there’s just a slow drift, that’s what happens with flu viruses. You see small changes accumulating over a period of time and then we have the opportunity to react to that.”

“It has been pretty quiet since Delta emerged and it would be nice to think there won’t be any new variants of concern. If I was pushed to predict, I think there will be new variants emerging over time and I think there is still quite a lot of road to travel down with this virus,” she said.

So thanks to our political masters, we are going to have this virus around for some time. Wonder if they think the cost in financial and human terms was/is worth it?

Ian Kimm

Duncan

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