The war against the coronavirus is now a 'war against ourselves:' Doctor


Government officials and health experts are leaning on the private sector to lead the U.S. out of a coronavirus surge caused by the highly infectious Delta variant.

The reason lies largely in the fact that the federal government won't issue a blanket mask or vaccine mandate, and some states are actively fighting mitigation measures.

"We don't have the ability to function as a country," said Dr. Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute and a top infectious disease expert.

We are facing a "formidable version of the virus, and we have no unity in the battle against it," he added.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said as much on MSNBC Tuesday, noting that while the federal government won't implement mandates, "under certain circumstances, mandates should be done" in the U.S.

New York and Washington are among states mandating government employees be fully vaccinated, while Florida's governor has threatened to withhold funding to schools and salaries of school officials that try to implement mask mandates.

On the flip side, the private sector has taken on the burden to implement mandates — whether it be mask mandates in buildings or vaccinations for employees.

Netflix (NFLX) and Citigroup (C) are among the latest to join the ranks, while Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCLH) is embroiled in a legal battle with Florida as it seeks to mandate passengers be fully vaccinated — which goes against Florida's vaccine passport ban.

"I think it's sad that it's come to that, we shouldn't need to do that," said Dr. Paul Offit, professor of pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and a top vaccine expert.

[Read more: Vaccine mandates: Here are the companies requiring proof of inoculation from employees]

Offit told Yahoo Finance that in addition, vaccination certificates or vaccine passports — required in some European countries and, similarly in New York City — are another key tool the U.S. is not implementing.

It's why the steps Norwegian has taken against Florida could just be the first of many, as the private sector takes on the role of public health officiant, he said.

"That's the fight you're about to see," Offit said.

"It's hard to watch us fight in this because it's not a war just against the virus. In many ways, it's become a war against ourselves," he said. 

Offit had particularly strong words for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for his school mask moratorium. “The governor of Florida has served as a friend of SARS-CoV-2 virus," he sad. “For children less than 12 years of age, the only chance they have of avoiding this virus is to mask. That’s it.”

Florida, along with Arkansas and Louisiana, currently have the most new reported COVID-19 cases in the past week (based on population).

Though while the surge is mostly in the South, it could move north, Topol said.

Another concern is that the U.S. is unable to accurately track cases — as it is not monitoring how many breakthrough cases of vaccinated individuals are among the newly reported cases. 

Topol said the U.S. is "flying blind," setting the nation up for an even more difficult experience. And reports that the vaccine is 99.99% effective against breakthroughs leading to hospitalizations are misleading Americans into a false sense of security, 

The vaccine trials didn't turn up similar results, so the reports are "a bad, disingenuous presentation of data," Topol said.

The one silver lining, he noted, is that other countries have seen a short burn time for Delta surges, so it could be a few more weeks before the rise in cases tapers. 

"I still think within three to four weeks we may see things get better," Topol said. "Everywhere the Delta is, it makes an abrupt turn at some point because it burns through. It's so efficient, and it doesn't find any more hosts."

But until then, the full picture is out of view.

"We don't know what's going on. We just know that it's bad," Topol said.



Texas GOP Leader Hospitalized For COVID-19 Dies Days After Mocking Vaccines

Dickinson City Council member, outspoken critic of vaccines and masks, dies  of COVID-19

“I hope to live a long time. I have a lot of things I want to do and experience with my wife and my friends and my family,” H. Scott Apley wrote last month.

A Texas Republican leader who was hospitalized earlier this week with COVID-19 has died just days after he posted an anti-vaccination message — and previously shared an image touting a “mask burning” event.

H. Scott Apley, 45, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee and Dickinson City Council, died Wednesday, the Galveston County Republican Party announced in a Facebook post with an “extremely heavy heart.” 

The post didn’t mention the cause of death. But Apley was admitted to a local hospital last Sunday with “pneumonia-like symptoms and tested positive for COVID,” and was placed on a ventilator, according to a GoFundMe page set up for his family.

Apley’s widow, Melissa, also tested positive for the coronavirus but has not been hospitalized, according to the GoFundMe page. They recently had a baby son, Reid.

“A tragedy,” the GOP Facebook post read. ” Please pray for Melissa and Reid and their family. God remains in control, although this is yet another tough one to swallow.”

The Texas Republican Party issued a statement saying members were “incredibly saddened” to learn of Apley’s death.

A week ago Apley had reposted a mocking commentary about the changing COVID-19 vaccination situation, noting that in six months the nation had gone from “the vax ending the pandemic to ... you can still die of COVID if you get vaxxed ... to the unvaxxed are killing the vaxxed.”

“Better get the jab,” one person responded.

Another responded after Apley’s death: “Rest in peace. Wish you would have got vaccinated so your family doesn’t have to mourn you.”

The Republican leader also posted a message claiming that Germany “plans to force people who won’t quarantine into camps.”

In April, Apley slammed news on Twitter about the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine.

In one particularly heartbreaking post in early July, Apley wrote: “Nothing makes you contemplate your mortality like attending the funeral of a friend. I hope to live a long time. I have a lot of things that I want to do, and see, and experience with my wife and my friends, and my family. And I have a lot of hopes and dreams for my son Reid.”


Biden Signs Bill Awarding Gold Medals To Police Who Responded To Capitol Attack

U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, Metropolitan Police Department Officer Michael Fanone, U.S. Capitol Police Officer

The nation’s highest congressional honor will be given to the U.S. Capitol Police and D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department.

President Joe Biden signed a bill Thursday to award Congressional Gold Medals to police departments that responded to the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The Gold Medal, the nation’s highest congressional honor, will be awarded to the Capitol Police and to Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department. A third Gold Medal will be given to the Smithsonian Institution, to be put on display with a plaque that lists all the law enforcement agencies that defended the Capitol. A fourth will be awarded to the Architect of the Capitol, the federal agency that maintains the building.

Biden signed the bill following a unanimous vote in the Senate on Wednesday to move forward with the honor. Senators voted unanimously in February to give a Gold Medal to Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who was captured on video by HuffPost’s Igor Bobic leading a violent mob of Donald Trump supporters away from the Senate chamber the day of the attack.

Five people died during or soon after the attack, and 140 officers were injured. Four officers later died by suicide. Testimony given by multiple officers who responded to the attack described the racism and violence that permeated that day.

“No one had ever ― ever ― called me a ‘n****r’ while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer” until Jan. 6, Capitol Officer Henry Dunn said during July testimony to a House select committee investigating the attack.

During a ceremony for the bill signing on Thursday, Biden praised the responding officers, and described the attack as an insurrection.

“I know each time you put on that shield in the morning, whenever you show up for work, you families wonder whether they’re gonna get a call that day, a call they don’t want to receive, hoping you’ll come home safely,” Biden said. “It breaks my heart. It breaks the heart of the nation, to remember you were assaulted by thousands of violent insurrectionists at the Capitol of the United States of America.”

In June, the House bill to award the Gold Medals was approved by 406 lawmakers of both parties and opposed by 21 Republicans. Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) blasted those GOP holdouts earlier this week.

“The same folks who screamed the loudest about the dangers of defunding the police refused to defend the police, the very police that shielded them from the vicious mob on January 6,” Schumer said. “For the life of me, I don’t know how they sleep at night.”

Despite the accolades, plenty of controversy still surrounds the police response on Jan. 6. The Capitol Police rejected offers of additional help before the attack despite warnings of potential violence, and a Senate report from June detailed sweeping law enforcement failures surrounding the attack. The Capitol Police also launched an investigation of dozens of its own officers over their actions on Jan. 6 and suspended six of them in February.

Authorities have still failed to identify a person who placed two pipe bombs outside the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee headquarters the night before the attack.



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