Tag Archives: COVID-19

Vaccine Passports: Let’s Pass

by Kerry Dougherty

Want a peek at what some of the more authoritarian types in the U.S. have planned for you?

Look no farther than St. Vincent, a lovely little archipelago in the Windward Islands.

At least it used to be a lovely little island. On April 9 the most dangerous volcano in the Caribbean exploded, leaving much of the island uninhabitable.

Water supplies have been cut, airspace is closed due to volcanic ash and there are reportedly rivers of lava and debris racing down the mountainsides.

The kind of place you’d want to leave – quickly – if you were one of the nation’s 110,589 inhabitants.

But get a load of this. On Saturday, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves made a startling announcement: Only those who could provide proof of a vaccination against Covid-19 could be evacuated to nearby islands. Cruise ships were standing by, ready to transport them. Continue reading

New COVID Data Dump

Source: Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association

by James A. Bacon

New Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA) data shows the impact of Governor Ralph Northam’s executive order banning elective surgeries last year. Hospital discharges across Virginia plunged from nearly 17,000 per week when the first COVID-19 cases were reported in the state to less than 12,000 — a drop of 31%. Then, after the ban was lifted, discharges rose to about 15,000 per week and stayed at that level — significantly lower than in previous years.

The discharge data, reported yesterday in a  VHHA report, “COVID Hospitalization & ED Visit Trends,” includes both elective and non-elective inpatient hospitalizations.

The freefall in elective procedures cannot be attributed entirely to Northam’s executive order, issued from a fear that the epidemic might overwhelm hospitals with COVID-19 patients. Many hospitals began restricting discretionary procedures before the governor issued the edict, and many patients chose voluntarily to delay procedures for fear of exposing themselves to the virus in a healthcare facility. Continue reading

Johnson & Johnson Danger: Same As Getting Struck By Lightning

A chart rarely shown in the mainstream media because it doesn’t gin up hysteria about the virus.

by Kerry Dougherty

Here’s a prediction: We’re going to see a drop-off in the number of people being vaccinated against COVID-19. Thanks to bungling and fear-mongering by government officials.

Currently 3.1 million Americans are getting the vaccines daily.

Analysts will try to blame and drop on the Johnson & Johnson blood-clot scare — more about that in a minute — but a bigger reason will be the relentless messages of gloom from the Prince of Darkness, Anthony Fauci.

First Fauci urged Americans to get vaccinated. Then he declared that vaccinated people should continue to wear masks, avoid crowds, they should not travel and they should stay away from indoor dining.

He “can’t predict” when life will get back to normal.

If that’s true, what’s the point in vaccinations? Either the shots work or they don’t. Continue reading

Where’s the Vaccine Outreach to Southwest Virginia?

by James A. Bacon

It turns out that blacks and Hispanics are not the only population sub-groups in Virginia who are resisting the idea of getting vaccinated against COVID-19. So are rural, non-college-educated whites in Appalachia, reports the Roanoke Times.

Hesitancy has dropped among blacks and Hispanics, but concerns among rural whites have increased that the vaccine was rushed to market and has widespread side effects. The problem has gotten so pronounced that a team of Virginia Tech researchers is working to determine if social media-driven misinformation fuels the resistance.

The Northam administration moved aggressively to address vaccine hesitancy among blacks and Hispanics by hiring marketing firms to push the pro-vaccine message in minority communities and setting up mobile and pop-up clinics in minority communities were vaccination rates were low. In Danville, the administration went so far as to ban out-of-towners from utilizing a pop-up clinic that was meant to serve local minorities even though it was administering only a fraction of the number of vaccines it had the capacity for.

So far, Southwest Virginia has seen no comparable demographically targeted initiatives from the Virginia Department of Health. Continue reading

Will Virginia COVID “Rescue” Be Big and Bold or Come in Dribs and Drabs?

by James A. Bacon

About two weeks ago, Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne floated a trial balloon on Bacon’s Rebellion, suggesting that Virginia do something “transformational” with the $6.8 billion the federal government is showering upon Virginia in the latest COVID-relief package, the American Rescue Plan.

Transformational? Like what? Like patching up Virginia’s under-funded unemployment insurance program, extending affordable broadband into every corner of the state, or fixing antiquated school buildings, Layne suggested.

Now others are beginning to entertain similar thoughts. Reports Michael Martz with the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

“This is an extraordinary opportunity to meet long-term obligations and challenges,” said Michelle Gowdy, executive director of the Virginia Municipal League, in a letter to General Assembly leaders on Tuesday that asks them to work with local governments and Gov. Ralph Northam to collaborate on using billions of dollars coming to them under the American Rescue Plan Act.

Continue reading

Back to Normal: Old Guys First

Number of cases by symptom onset. Source: Virginia Department of Health

The COVID-19 epidemic ain’t over, and new variants of the virus may be super contagious, but most of my old-guy friends have been double-vaccinated and, by Jove, we’re busting out of the house. Tonight I’m getting together with some buddies, all of whom have been double-vaccinated like myself, and we’re going to eat indoors! Like we did in the old days!

Life is still far from normal. People are getting stressed about the new virus variants, and the number of new cases is inching back up. Our neighborhood gym is still closed, which is a huge bummer because I’m yearning to get back in shape. I wear a mask at the grocery store and other places of trade, not because I think I need one but to avoid freaking other people out. My wife and I are still cautious interacting with younger people who may or may not have been vaccinated. But Virginia is inching back towards normality, and the old guys are leading the way! Continue reading

The New Racism at a Danville Vaccination Clinic

by James A. Bacon

Remember that COVID-vaccination clinic in Danville where so few locals were getting shots that people, mostly students, were driving in from out of town to avoid the long waits elsewhere? Concerned about the “equity” implications of all those white people getting vaccinated while blacks and Hispanics were not, the Northam administration restricted access for walk-ins. Only people properly scheduled through the state registration system would be allowed.

So, how’s that working out?

Danville’s state-run vaccination clinic has the capacity to administer up to 3,000 vaccinations per day. According to the Danville Register & Bee in an article published Saturday, it had averaged only 184 daily shots over the four previous days.

Well, that’s one way to ensure “equity” in vaccinations — prevent too many white people from getting them. Continue reading

Teachers, Your Commute Puts You at More Risk than In-Person Classes

The fatality risk of teaching a class in-person during the COVID-19 epidemic last fall was comparable to the risk of driving 16 miles in a car.

That is the top-line conclusion of a study based on extensive data from North Carolina, Wisconsin, Australia, England, and Israel covering almost 80 million person-days in school. That study. “The Incidence and Magnitude of the Health Costs of In-person Schooling during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” by University of Chicago economics professor Casey B. Mulligan, was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

For perspective, the average commuting distance (both ways) in Virginia is about 44 miles. Continue reading

Northam’s Vaccine Quotas

by Carol J. Bova

Reporter Sabrina Moreno asked Dr. Danny Avula at a Virginia Department of Health (VDH) teleconference on March 26 if Virginia planned to do what Maryland’s governor had done a few weeks previously in reserving a portion of doses at each of its COVID-19 vaccination sites “for priority populations, you know, Black and Latino populations, lower income areas, to kind of help with that equitable distribution.”

Dr. Avula, who is state vaccine coordinator, said:

We’ve been doing a lot of that in a lot of our mass vaccination events… We do a combination of weighting our pre-registration… Say for example, if we have a 2,000-person event in Richmond, we would set a certain number of those slots for people that are on the wait list, and then a certain number of those slots for people on the wait list who are African-Americans, so that we can more mirror the demographics of the population.

He went on to say that different health districts might vary in their weighting methodology, “but we definitely have been weighting the preregistration lists for African-American and Latino communities. And I think it’s made a difference.” Continue reading

Incautious Messaging and Cautious Optimism

This is the third column in a four-part series about COVID-19 at James Madison University.

by Joe Fitzgerald

Except for the occasional late-night Facebook message, James Madison University has rarely responded to anything I’ve written. And those messages are like drunk dials from an ex; I appreciate the attention, but I wish they still loved me in the morning. One exception came the week before the September meeting of the Board of Visitors, a Virginia term for what the rest of the world calls a Board of Trustees. A JMU senior communications official responded to a Facebook question on one of my threads from a JMU parent. The official said she could contact the Board of Visitors through a link that he provided.

My friend composed and sent a long discussion of her feelings about JMU’s reopening plans. She lives in Tidewater, but has family in Harrisonburg and follows my COVID numbers posts about cases here. Later she and others who’d commented at the link provided by JMU, found out through a story in the Richmond paper that the comments were never shown to the board members.

People were allowed to comment before the board meeting. The comments weren’t forwarded to the board. You can’t make this stuff up. There’s no law that says they have to allow comment at all, and no law that says anybody has to read the comments. One more reason Virginia should tighten FOI requirements. Continue reading

Everybody’s Next One

JMU President Jon Alger (center)

This is the second column in a four-part series about COVID-19 at James Madison University.

by Joe Fitzgerald

JMU was a first choice for many of its students, but has a perennial reputation as Virginia’s safety school. The joke is that JMU stands for “Just Missed UVA.” The acceptance rate has been rising since the 1980s and the enrollment rate, the “yield” in admissions terms, has been dropping at the same time. The two lines crossed sometime in the 1990s. The flip-side of “Born to Be Wild” was a song called “Everybody’s Next One.” The flip-side of U.Va., and of William and Mary, is JMU.

JMU isn’t often a leader or an innovator. Maybe it was in some ways when Ron Carrier was president. He could be bold to the point of brash and brash to the point of bullying. There were stories about him. There were fewer about his successor, Lin Rose, and none about the president in 2020, Jon Alger. A JMU communications official had once complained to a local newspaper editor about the difficulty of promoting the school with Alger at the helm, because Alger was seen as awkward and uninteresting. Continue reading

The Franchise and the Rat in the Cream

JMU block party pre-COVID

This is the first essay in a four-part series about the COVID epidemic at James Madison University.

by Joe Fitzgerald

The franchise. When the next friendly history of JMU is written, the booster writing it may include a chapter about the two visits by ESPN’s “Game Day” and how they helped introduce to a new audience the awesome campus and student body of James Madison University. The book may or may not mention the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. If it does, will the relevant adjective be “dynamic,” a favorite of the school’s communication team? Or will it be “bumbling,” “mendacious,” or “calamitous”?

It could go either way. For many years, those of us who worked at JMU got an email every summer telling us what parking lots we could use during the dynamic freshman orientation week. I realized every time that it had been written one year and used for ten more with the dates and maybe the parking lots changed. But the editor in me wanted to know why the adjective was there. Was it to distinguish it from the static orientation week? Or did the university’s communications people just love adjectives? Continue reading

Shhh! Don’t Ask! COVID-19 Equity Analysis Is for Governor’s Eyes Only

by Carol J. Bova

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) blog posted March 16 that the department and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) would open community vaccination centers in Danville, Portsmouth, Petersburg and Prince William. “The sites were selected after the Virginia Department of Emergency Management conducted an equity analysis to determine the communities with the largest number of vulnerable populations and communities with the largest percentage of vulnerable population and greatest COVID-19 impact.” (See Steve Haner on March 26.) I sent a FOIA request to VDEM for a copy of the equity analysis.

While waiting for the VDEM reply, I wrote on Bacon’s Rebellion March 17 that VDH should target vaccination efforts to neighborhoods with high rates of poverty where COVID-19 risk factors were most likely to be found rather than basing the sites on VDH’s flawed virus statistics of racial demographics.

I received a response from VDEM denying my request. Continue reading

Why Haven’t More Asians Been Vaccinated?

Vaccination stations at the Richmond Raceway around noon today.

by James A. Bacon

Asians comprise 7% of Virginia’s population, but according to the latest Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard, they account for only 3.6% of confirmed COVID cases, 4.5% of hospitalizations, and 1.5% of deaths.

That would seem to be good news for Asians and Asian-Americans. But never fear, the intrepid social-justice reporters at the Richmond Times-Dispatch can always find an angle supporting their narrative of racial oppression. An article published this morning focuses on the fact that Virginians with an Asian background are getting vaccinated at a lower rate than Whites, Blacks and Hispanics.

The RTD identifies some genuine obstacles that hinder Asians from getting vaccinated, such as the spread of rumors that non-citizens don’t qualify to get the vaccine, and limited proficiency in English, which makes it more difficult for public health authorities to combat misinformation. But the article also postulates some nonsensical reasons, such as the supposed “model minority” myth that all Asians are well educated and financially well off, and, in a total non sequitur, a supposed wave of of anti-Asian violence. Continue reading

Look in the Mirror, Fairfax School Board

by James A. Bacon

After months of condemning Asian students for dominating the merit-based testing process for admission into the Thomas Jefferson (TJ) High School for Science and Technology, the Fairfax County School Board has issued a statement condemning anti-Asian racism… which it blames on others. Stated the resolution:

The Fairfax County School Board condemns violence and discrimination targeting the Asian and Asian-American community; and rejects any language that associates the ongoing public health crisis with a particular national or ethnic group, recognizing that discriminatory language is counterproductive to defeating a virus that observes no national or ethnic boundaries.

But some parents of TJ students aren’t buying the proposition that COVID-19 has anything to do with the supposed surge in anti-Asian incidents. Helen Miller sent this message, widely copied, to the Fairfax school board, Secretary of Education Atif Qarni, and governor Ralph Northam. Continue reading