Cases Continue to Drop. Accountability Begins.

The New York legislature proceeded to strip Governor Andrew Cuomo of COVID emergency powers, following revelations that the governor’s office withheld data about the COVID death toll among nursing home residents in addition to mounting sexual harassment allegations.

According to a state attorney general report, Cuomo’s administration underreported the number of COVID deaths among New York long-term care patients and delayed sharing potentially damaging information with state lawmakers.

In other news:

  • National COVID cases have dropped by a stunning 74% since its January 11th peak.  
  • San Francisco has finally begun allowing indoor dining, gyms, movie theaters and museums to open to the public for the first time since last fall.
  • A study found that in about 800 NFL and NCAA football games, there was no significant community spread of COVID that resulted from attendance.
  • Scientists and doctors who study infectious disease in children largely agree schools should open.
    • The scientific consensus is clear: children should be in school. But an estimated 18 million kids haven’t set foot inside. Why? asks Reason journalist Robby Soave.
  • A year later it’s clear that most media and government experts were dead wrong, says David Catron at The American Spectator.
  • We are on a slippery slope with the idea of a health passport, a dangerous trammeling of human rights, says public defender Jenin Younes.

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COVID News

New York state lawmakers moving to repeal Cuomo’s expanded executive powers

https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/02/politics/cuomo-expanded-executive-powers-covid/index.html

(CNN)New York state lawmakers are moving to repeal Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s expanded executive powers related to the coronavirus pandemic, the top figures in the legislature announced Tuesday.

The bill, announced by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, was introduced on Tuesday. Under the legislation, the governor will no longer be able to issue new executive directives. Any modifications or renewals of current pandemic-related executive directives will be subject to legislative review.

“I think everyone understands where we were back in March and where we are now. We certainly see the need for a quick response but also want to move toward a system of increased oversight and review. The public deserves to have checks and balances. Our proposal would create a system with increased input while at the same time ensuring New Yorkers continue to be protected,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement.

“A year into the pandemic, and as New Yorkers receive the vaccine, the temporary emergency powers have served their purpose — it is time for them to be repealed,” Heastie added. “These temporary emergency powers were granted as New York was devastated by a virus we knew nothing about. Now it is time for our government to return to regular order.”

The bill is expected to pass quickly and go to the governor’s desk within a week and Democrats have a veto-proof majority in the legislature, should Cuomo try to nix it.

In Their Own Words: Why Health Experts Say Elementary Schools Should Open

Scientists and doctors who study infectious disease in children largely agreed, in a recent New York Times survey about school openings, that elementary school students should be able to attend in-person school now. With safety measures like masking and opening windows, the benefits outweigh the risks, the majority of the 175 respondents said.

In some ways, they were more supportive of broad reopening than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was in recently published guidelines. But the experts pointed to the large share of schools in the United States and worldwide that have opened with minimal in-school spread while using such precautions.

Below are a representative range of their comments on key topics, including the risks to children of being out of school; the risks to teachers of being in school; whether vaccines are necessary before opening schools; how to achieve distance in crowded classrooms; what kind of ventilation is needed; and whether their own children’s school districts got it right.

In addition to their daily work on Covid-19, most of the experts had school-aged children themselves, half of whom were attending in-person school.

San Francisco Reopens Indoor Dining, Gyms As Coronavirus Cases Drop

https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/03/03/973144946/san-francisco-reopens-indoor-dining-gyms-as-coronavirus-cases-drop

For the first time since a late fall spike of COVID-19 infections, San Francisco will allow indoor dining and, gyms, movie theaters and museums to open to the public Wednesday morning.

Mayor London Breed and Grant Colfax, San Francisco Director of Health, announced the easing of coronavirus restrictions Tuesday. The changes will allow many businesses that were forced to shut last fall to reopen at some capacity, a news release said.

“Thanks to everyone in our City acting responsibly and doing their part, we can take another step towards reopening and beginning our recovery,” Breed said. “This year has been incredibly hard on our residents and small businesses, so every step forward is critical to making sure they can survive this pandemic.”

Many regular, daily activities suspended during the pandemic will resume Wednesday, albeit with social distancing restrictions. Indoor dining at restaurants, bars and coffee shops will be limited to groups from the same household with a cap of four people. Indoor services must end by 10 p.m.

Commentary/Analysis

America’s Lost Generation

https://bariweiss.substack.com/p/americas-lost-generation

Nothing — not the botched vaccine rollout; not the forced small business closures; not the fact that we’ve watched until the end of Netflix — deserves more of our collective outrage than the fact that thousands of American public schools remain closed a year into this pandemic.

Over the past 12 months, an estimated 18 million American kids haven’t set foot inside of a classroom or have just started coming back for one day a week. That’s about one-third of all public school students, which number about 50 million. What’s most enraging is that this was entirely avoidable. The country’s teachers unions are committing a generational crime against the nations’ young. 

When President Joe Biden was inaugurated on January 20, he pledged that in-person education would resume for most children within his first 100 days as president. To support school reopening efforts, the president asked Congress to allocate $130 billion in new funding for protective equipment, better ventilation, more space inside classrooms, and whatever else educators need.

Fast forward to today. The White House has all but given up on the goal of reopening schools. Last month, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, clarified that the president would consider the goal met if more than half of all schools were open for in-person instruction at least one day a week. To say that one-day-a-week in-person instruction is a reopening of schools is to lie.

Lockdowns: Which ‘Experts’ Were Right?

It has now been nearly a year since “public health experts” began appearing on television talk shows insisting that, to survive COVID-19, the nation would have to pursue unprecedented mitigation policies. They told us that our salvation required draconian measures such as school closures, stay-at-home orders, and business lockdowns. Moreover, we were advised not to expect a fast return to our normal lives. In early April 2020, for example, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel solemnly assured us, “We will not be able to return to normalcy until we find a vaccine…. We need to prepare ourselves for this to last 18 months or so and for the toll that it will take.”

The good doctor didn’t mention that, for a man of his means, “the toll that it will take” would be negligible even as it disrupted the education of millions of children, rendered their parents unemployed, and wreaked social and psychological havoc throughout society. The sainted Dr. Anthony Fauci echoed Dr. Zeke: “I know it’s difficult … this is inconvenient from an economic and a personal standpoint, but we just have to do it.” Not coincidentally, Fauci is the highest-paid bureaucrat in Washington. But not all public health experts accepted the cost-benefit analyses offered by Drs. Emanuel and Fauci.

Among the first actual epidemiologists who advised that more information was needed before draconian mitigation measures could be scientifically justified was Dr. John P. A. Ioannidis of the Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Ioannidis questioned the reasoning used by people like Emanuel and Fauci in an essay published in STAT, where he wrote that the precipitous response to the pandemic was “a once-in-a-century evidence fiasco” and that decisions of monumental significance were being made without truly dependable data concerning how many people had been infected:

Your Right to Refuse a Health Passport

At a press conference this afternoon, New York’s now disgraced Governor Andrew Cuomo provided details of the health passport program he had announced a day prior. The scheme should send chills down the spine of anyone who believes in the importance of civil liberties and the integrity of the individual.

In order to attend events of a certain size, attendees will have to demonstrate either that they have been vaccinated or tested negative for Covid-19 within the past 72 hours. Incidentally, the only way to provide such evidence is to download the “Excelsior Pass,” developed “in partnership with IBM.” In an irony that would be hilarious were it not so disturbing, the Governor’s website promises “[r]obust privacy protections . . . woven throughout the digital health pass solution.” A cynic might also note that once again, a big tech company is benefitting from illiberal policies enacted in response to the pandemic.

The authoritarian nature of this program should not be underestimated. Anyone who enjoys attending or plans to attend a large event is now under enormous pressure to get vaccinated. 

I am by no means anti-vaccine as a general matter, and I believe that the Covid-19 vaccines can provide a substantial benefit to many people, especially vulnerable populations. But there are real risks to receiving it, especially given the new nature of the technology employed by the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and the fact that they have received emergency use authorizations rather than full market approval. As evolutionary biologists Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein have explained, public health authorities tend to downplay the dangers of immunizations in order to convince more people to get them – a version of game theory – in order to achieve herd immunity through inoculation.

Research

Nursing Home Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/2021-nursinghomesreport.pdf

This report is based on preliminary findings of the Office of Attorney General Letitia James (OAG)1 from a review of information available through November 16, 2020. The report includes facts from the OAG’s preliminary investigations of allegations of COVID-19-related neglect of nursing home residents across New York state and health data maintained as a matter of law by nursing homes and the New York State Department of Health (DOH). In early March,2 OAG received and began to investigate allegations of COVID-19-related neglect of residents in nursing homes. On April 23, OAG set up a hotline to receive complaints relating to communications by nursing homes with family members prohibited from in-person visits to nursing homes.3 OAG received 774 complaints on the hotline through August 3 (an additional 179 complaints were received through November 16). OAG also continued to receive allegations of COVID-19-related neglect of residents through pre-existing reporting systems. During this time, OAG received complaints regarding nursing homes across the state, with a greater volume of complaints regarding nursing homes in geographic areas with higher rates of community-based transmission of COVID-19.

The Effect of NFL and NCAA Football Games on the Spread of COVID-19 in the United States: An Empirical Analysis

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.02.15.21251745v1

Key points

Question: Did NFL and NCAA football games with limited in-person attendance cause a substantial increase in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in the U.S. counties where the games were held?

Findings: This time-series, cross-sectional study of U.S. counties with NFL and NCAA football games used matching and difference-in-differences design to estimate the effect of games with limited in-person attendance on county-level COVID-19 spread. Our study does not find an increase in county-level COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents due to NFL and NCAA football games held with limited in- person attendance.

Meaning: This study suggests that NFL and NCAA games held with limited in-person attendance do not cause an increase in COVID-19 cases in the counties they are held.

Charts and Graphics

Total COVID Cases Per Million

Comparing 4 major states (2 w/mask mandates and 2 without), all ended up in the same place with ~9% total COVID cases.

Daily New Confirmed COVID Cases

International News

Australia Just Extended Its COVID Travel Ban for Another 3 Months

https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-news/australia-extends-travel-ban-coronavirus

Australia is officially extending its international travel ban for three more months.

Australia’s government announced Tuesday that it is extending the travel ban through June 17, 2021. The initial ban had been set to expire on March 17, however, the government noted fear that the rest of the world “continues to pose an unacceptable public health risk” to its borders, Australia’s 7 News reported.

“The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee has advised the Australian Government the COVID-19 situation overseas continues to pose an unacceptable public health risk to Australia, including the emergence of more highly transmissible variants,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement. “The extension of the emergency period for a further three months is about mitigating that risk for everyone’s health and safety.”

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