Category Archives: Public safety & health

Did Mandated Vaxes at UVa Reduce COVID Transmission?

by James A. Bacon

Well, well, well. The indefatigable Walter Smith has obtained new data from the University of Virginia through the Freedom of Information Act that put the efficacy of the university’s mandated COVID vaccinations in a new light.

Recall that the university “disenrolled” 238 students for declining to get double vaccinated or qualifying for rare medical and religious exemptions. UVa announced last August, just before the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year, that 96.6% of UVa students were “vaccinated against COVID-19,” including 97.1% living on the Grounds, 92% of the academic division staff, and 96% of the teaching and research faculty.

The Ryan administration justified the mandate on two grounds: that the vaccines would (1) “prevent infection” and (2) prevent hospitalizations and other serious outcomes. UVa’s director of hospital epidemiology, Dr. Costi Sifri, acknowledged at the time to UVA Today that “breakthrough cases – vaccinated people contracting and getting sick from the delta variant – would make news, but were not a reason to panic.”

Back in June I called into question the efficacy of the vaccines in halting transmission of the virus by citing the large number of reported COVID-19 cases. However, the data I cited did not enable me to compare the infection rates of the vaccinated with those of the unvaccinated. The data revealed to Smith allow us to do that. Continue reading

So, How Did UVa’s Vaccine Mandate Work Out?

Confirmed COVID cases. Source: University of Virginia COVID Tracker. Arrow indicates when 238 students were disenrolled for having failed to comply with UVa’s vaccination mandate.

by James A. Bacon

Readers may recall that last August the University of Virginia “disenrolled” 238 students for not complying with the university’s COVID vaccination mandate. (Of those, 49 had enrolled at the time the decision was made. The intentions of the others were not known. Many likely had made other arrangements knowing that the mandate was in the works.)

“Our most effective tools to limit the spread of the virus within our community are vaccines and booster shots for those who have already been vaccinated,” the university explained in a vaccination update to UVa faculty and staff.

So, how did UVa’s forced vaccination policy, which extended to faculty and staff, work out?

We can get a sense from the graph above, which is taken from the University of Virginia’s COVID tracker dashboard. The arrow indicates roughly when the purge of unvaccinated students went into effect, around August 20, 2021. Continue reading

What’s Causing Virginia’s Excess Deaths? Whatever It Is, It’s Not Just COVID

Virginia has high vaccination rates, and deaths from COVID-19 are a small fraction of what they were at the height of the pandemic. Yet “excess” deaths in Virginia — the number that would be predicted based upon projections from pre-COVID years — are running 13.4% higher than expected this year.

According to Centers for Disease Control data, excess mortality shot higher during the first year of the pandemic, ran even higher in the second year, and continues without let-up in the third year. Is there a common thread underlying this threat to the public health? Could the increase in non-COVID deaths be tied to how American society responded to the pandemic?

In a newly released video Delegate Karen Greenhalgh, R-Virginia Beach, who sits on the Joint Commission on Health Care, says she wants to understand these numbers better. Continue reading

Medicaid, Public Health and Chronic Disease Management

UVa Hospital

by James C. Sherlock

From the CDC:

Chronic diseases have significant health and economic costs in the United States. Preventing chronic diseases, or managing symptoms when prevention is not possible, can reduce these costs.

Virginia pays a great deal of money every year to contractors who manage the care of its Medicaid population.

It is a hard job, but even though the challenges are tough, it has appeared to me for a long time that we are not getting our money’s worth from $18 billion annually in Medicaid payments for the populations managed by these contractors.

A white paper, “Prevent Costly Chronic Disease Through Member Engagement” caught my eye as the basis for a follow up to my earlier report on public health and Medicaid managed care in Petersburg.

This is that update. Continue reading

COVID: It’s Baaack! But Relatively Few Deaths So Far

Source: Virginia Department of Health

by James A. Bacon

Just a reminder, people: COVID-19 may have receded from the headlines, but it hasn’t gone away. After bottoming out in April at less than 1,000 daily confirmed cases, the seven-day moving average in Virginia has climbed back up to 3,200 or more. You can be double vaxxed — as much of the population has been — but you can still carry the virus in your schnoz and and you can still transmit it.

Hospitalizations are up, too. Fortunately, deaths remain subdued. But if you consider yourself at risk, it may be time to take precautions again. Continue reading

One of the World’s Stupidest Inventions Now Illegal in Virginia

Who says Virginia’s polarized legislature can’t get anything done? Governor Glenn Youngkin has signed a bill banning the vehicle modification known as “Carolina Squat.” The law was inspired by the death of Virginian BJ Upton in a car accident involving such a vehicle.

The modification raises the front of the vehicle significantly higher than the rear, affecting its handling. Headlights are pointed to the sky rather than illuminating the road ahead, the driver’s view is compromised, and the modification alters the dispersion of mechanical force in a collision.

The Carolina Squat apparently is Redneck America’s answer to Mexican-American lowriders, which California made illegal in 1957 for similar reasons: the configuration altered handling characteristics. But the Carolina Squat looks far more dangerous than lowriders. The Governor’s press release touting the signing of the bill didn’t detail the causes of the accident that killed Upton, but it’s a good bet that driver visibility was an issue.  Continue reading

When COVID Hysteria Meets Safetyism

by James A. Bacon

The percentage of Northern Virginia’s adult population grappling with anxiety and depression more than tripled during the COVID-19 epidemic — from 8% to 28% — according to data published by the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia. The percentage peaked at 39% in February 2020, affecting 755,000 individuals, but abated to 545,000 individuals by October.

Including other types of mental illness, the Community Foundation estimates that, all told, 750,000 Northern Virginia adults, or 39% of the adult population, have mental health needs. An estimated 370,000 want therapy or counseling but the region’s 5,100 mental health professionals can’t come close to meeting the demand. And they charge so much — around $215 per 45-minute session for self-pay — that many people can’t afford them anyway.


Let those numbers sink in. Northern Virginia is one of the most affluent metropolitan regions in the country, yet nearly two out of five residents suffer from mental illness. Anxiety and depression are endemic. There’s a lot to unpack here. Continue reading

Bad Memories: 15 Days to Slow the Spread

by Kerry Dougherty

Happy anniversary, America. It was two years ago today that we surrendered our civil liberties due to hysteria over a virus.

Yep, it was March 16, 2020 that we were told to stay home for 15 days to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Health officials demonstrated how this would work using an illustration of a series of matches igniting until one match went missing and the fires went out. By staying home we could “flatten the curve” they assured us.

We believed them. We did our part. What worked for burning matches didn’t work for a virus.

But once government officials and bureaucratic health officials realized that Americans would merrily give up their rights if they were terrified enough, the goalposts moved and a COVID-hysteria industry was born. Continue reading

When the Numbers Stopped

by Joe Fitzgerald

The Virginia Department of Health began posting daily COVID numbers on March 17, 2020, and effectively quit Thursday. A press release on the VDH website explains the changes, but doesn’t include enough real information to make it worth the trouble of linking there.

For two years, though, VDH produced daily information that made it possible to produce snapshots of information about the history, current state, and projected trajectory of the pandemic down to the zip code level.

A math degree and journalistic experience made it fairly simple for me to figure out what was relevant to the central Shenandoah Valley every day so that Deb and I could make personal decisions based on more than our reading about national and worldwide trends and about efforts on the various medical fronts. Continue reading

Torturing Statistics Until They Confess: An RTD Primer

Image credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

Sabrina Moreno with the Richmond Times-Dispatch has written a three-piece series arguing that disinvestment in the Virginia Department of Health led Latinos to being “the most likely to get infected, hospitalized and die” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fourth paragraph of the story makes the following extraordinary assertion:

Three months after Virginia’s first case, Latinos in Richmond were 38 times more likely to be infected than white residents and 17 times more likely to be hospitalized, according to a Richmond Times-Dispatch analysis of COVID cases and hospitalizations.

That would be an extraordinary indictment of Virginia’s public health system, if true. But it’s not. Even if those particular factoids happen to be accurate for a particular place in time, which I question, it is monstrously misleading. The article did not publish the data, taken from the VDH COVID dashboard, that I now present you… Continue reading

The Incredible Shrinking Virus

Virginia confirmed COVID cases. (Shaded gray areas indicate illnesses may not have been reported yet.) Source: Virginia Department of Health

It’s amazing how quickly COVID-19 has faded from the headlines.

I guess good news is no news.

A recent Centers for Disease Control study estimates, based on antibody testing, that 43% of all Americans have been infected by the virus. Naturally acquired resistance plus the high percentage of the population that has been vaccinated (76% at least one dose, 64% fully vaccinated, 28% boosted nationally) creates a lot of protection. Combine that with warmer weather, and we can expect COVID to largely fade from the scene this spring. From a peak of more than 120,000 confirmed and probably cases in early January, there were about 13,000 total  cases reported in the week ending Feb. 17. That number was undoubtedly lower the past week.

On the other hand, 57% of the population has not yet been infected, and the efficacy of the vaccine does diminish over time, so COVID is not going away. Continue reading

The Governor’s Surge

We’ll know soon if the rest of us get what the unvaxed voted for.

by Joe Fitzgerald

Virginia’s governor ran on a platform to protect children from critical race theory and expose them to COVID. The first goal was moot, since CRT wasn’t often mentioned in public schools to begin with. How well the second succeeds should be apparent by the Ides of March.

It’s been known from the outset of the pandemic that masking, social distancing, and vaccines were the primary defenses against COVID. A year after vaccines became widely available the pandemic could have been effectively over, had rightist demagogues not discovered something new to rail against. If the 1950s were like this, iron lungs would dot America’s red counties like coal-rolling pickups.

And it is in the coal-rolling counties that the Republican freedom-to-infect mandate will be tested beginning Tuesday. Statewide, red counties are less vaccinated. The nearest example is comparing the age 5-17 populations in blue Harrisonburg and red Rockingham, 60% and 34% vaccinated, respectively. Let’s be judgmental, and assume that there is some overlap between the intentionally unvaxed and those who think spewing COVID aerosols is enshrined in some amendment they haven’t read. Continue reading

Everybody Wins – Nurse Practitioners for Underserved Communities

by James C. Sherlock

The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing has instituted a terrific program thanks to a wealthy alum who gave $125 million to recruit and train nurse practitioners to practice in underserved communities.

The Leonard A. Louder Community Care Nurse Practitioner Fellows program will be tuition-free and students who still need help will be granted stipends. The program will start with 10 enrollees next year, eventually reach an annual target enrollment of 40 Fellows, and will be sustained by income from the grant. (See the link above for additional details.)

What attracted me to this is the need in Virginia.

The program fits like a glove with a parallel program, Health Enterprise Zones, which in Maryland has saved enough Medicaid money to fund a Virginia Nurse Practitioner Fellows Program here. Continue reading

Next Up: Strike Down the Airline Mask Mandate

by Kerry Dougherty

Hang in there’re kids. Just eight more school days until you can see the smiles of your classmates again and breathe freely.

On Tuesday, the Virginia State Senate approved Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s emergency clause to the mask-optional bill that will make the law go live on March 1.

Three Democrats joined the GOP in approving the governor’s request: state Senators Chap Petersen, Joe Morrissey and Lynwood Lewis. Well done, gents.

All that remains for the measure to become law is for the House of Delegates to vote. It will easily pass the House with its GOP majority.

Remember, kids. It’s Democrats who want you to keep wearing masks indefinitely. They know that cloth masks don’t stop viruses. They do not care. Masks are a sign of obedience. They want to get you accustomed to authoritarian government measures while you’re young. Continue reading

Democratic Flip-Floppers Voted Yes Before They Voted No

by Kerry Dougherty

Tired of masks? Me too. But this is important.

Imagine how hard the teachers’ unions must have lobbied their indentured Democratic servants in the Virginia State Senate to get seven who voted to end forced masking of school children on Tuesday to vote against the same exact bill on Wednesday.

It passed without their votes, of course. But their bizarre behavior needs to be highlighted.

And never forgotten.

Who caved? John Bell, Loudoun County. John S. Edwards, Roanoke. Ghazala Hashmi, Richmond. Janet Howell, Fairfax. Richard Saslaw, Alexandria. Lionel Spruill, Chesapeake. And Scott Surovell, Fairfax.

Which Dems stayed strong? Chap Petersen of Fairfax, of course, the driver behind this move to end mask mandates. Joined by Lynwood Lewis of Accomac and Joe Morrissey, Richmond. Continue reading