Tag Archives: COVID-19

God, COVID and the Rage Against the Unvaccinated

by James A. Bacon

“There is a growing rage among the people who are vaccinated about the people who have refused a free and effective vaccine,” Stephen Farnsworth, an oft-quoted political science professor at the University of Mary Washington, said recently. “We’re all going back toward lockdowns because of the selfishness of a few.”

As Farnsworth notes, there may be political fallout from the rage against the unvaccinated. The people who feel this righteous anger carry an image of the unvaccinated as White don’t-tread-on-me Donald Trump voters putting their personal liberties ahead of the common good… Except when they acknowledge that a few of the unvaccinated are Black. They view Black vaccination resistance more charitably as an understandable, if misguided, response to the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study that ended a half century ago.

But I wonder. How many unvaccinated Blacks cite the Tuskegee study? How many are wary of “systemic racism” in the healthcare system? Are such tropes widely shared view among Blacks — or a construct of journalists, academics and other members of America’s clerisy?

After a lengthy conversation with an African-American tradesman who is active in my neighborhood, I have come to question the Tuskegee talking point. And I suspect that vaccination resistance among many Blacks likely arises from their religious faith. Viewing the world through a secular lens, America’s clerisy may be downplaying the influence of religious thinking among the unvaccinated. Continue reading

Another Sick Idea: Vaccine Passports for Domestic Travel

by Kerry Dougherty

Oh look. Rep. Don Beyer, a Virginia car dealer who served eight years as Virginia’s lieutenant governor and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1997 against Jim Gilmore, is in the news. The congressman who represents the second-most Democratic district in the commonwealth — the 8th — has joined the Biden administration in trying to completely balkanize America into the vaxxed and unvaxxed.

As if Biden’s likely illegal mandates to force federal workers — excluding postal workers or members of congress — to be vaccinated wasn’t a strong enough start on a medical apartheid system in the U.S., Beyer wants to go full Fauci on the unvaxxed.

To that end, Beyer has introduced a bill that he’s dubbed “Safe Travel Act,” which would ban the unvaccinated from commercial flights and Amtrak unless they can produce a negative COVID test not more than 72 hours old.

This bill may be masquerading as a safety measure, but it is purely punitive. Continue reading

UVa, COVID, and Jim Ryan’s $200,000 Bonus

Source: University of Virginia COVID Tracker

by James A. Bacon

Like many other University of Virginia alumni, I was taken aback to hear that the Board of Visitors had granted President Jim Ryan a $200,000 bonus for the great job UVa had done in addressing the COVID-19 epidemic.

Rector Whittington Clement put it this way: “When the situation this year became clearer and we had a highly successful handling of COVID-19, we think the University did as well as, if not better, than any institution of higher learning in making the adjustments necessary to COVID-19, we thought that it was appropriate to give him a bonus.”

I don’t want to prejudge whether Team Ryan has done a great job of addressing COVID-19 or not. To be sure, UVa has resumed in-person learning, but it also has instituted a draconian lockdown, including mandated vaccination for students, the unenrollment of those who did not comply, mask wearing required both indoors and outdoors, and mandated isolation and quarantine for those who test positive and/or been exposed. UVa is a laboratory testbed for the individual-liberties-be-damned approach to public health that some would like to see for the entire country. Continue reading

COVID, Vaccinations and Risk

Vaccine doses received Pfizer, Moderna and JJ). Source Virginia Department of Health.

by James A. Bacon

A new feature of the Virginia Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard compares the rate of infections, hospitalizations and deaths among vaccinated and unvaccinated people. We’ll get to that in just a moment. By way of preface, it’s worth noting that every Virginian who wants the vaccine has it.

The graph above shows the number of vaccines given since December 1. Shots given declined to almost zero in July and early August. As the Delta variant created a new surge in infections, a few hold-outs began getting the jab. At this point in time, about 4.9 million Virginians — about 57% of the population — are described as “fully” vaccinated. That number is not likely to change much, although the classification of “fully” vaccinated could change as vaccinations lose their potency and we are urged to get boosters.

Maybe the numbers that follow will jar some of the hitherto unwilling into thinking differently about the risks they face. The next chart shows the differences in the COVID infection rates broken down by vaccination status: fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated, and unvaccinated. Continue reading

Hospitals Experiencing a COVID Crunch

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Virginia. Source: Virginia Department of Health

The media is full of stories about how the rebound in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant is putting hospitals under the most stress since the peak of the epidemic in February. Hospitals are rapidly filling up. Some are reporting shortages of beds, others of staff. Making matters worse, hospitals from other states, also inundated by COVID, are so desperate they are poaching nurses from Virginia.

In no way do I minimize the current challenges facing hospitals. But it is important to maintain clarity about what’s going on. Hospitals are not feeling a crunch because hospitalizations have reached the same level as during the peak. You can see clearly in the graph above that hospitalizations are running about one-third the level of February.  Continue reading

Fairfax Schools to Spend $188 Million Undoing Shutdown Damage

Source: Fairfax County “ESSER III Spending Plan”

by James A. Bacon

Fairfax County Public Schools are getting $188 million in federal helicopter COVID-19 relief funds, and school officials propose spending about 88% of the sum undoing the damage caused by the system’s COVID-19 shutdowns. Eighty-six million will go toward addressing “unfinished learning,” and another $78 million to “academic, social, emotional and mental health needs.”

“Disruptions to learning during COVID-19 have resulted in significant ‘unfinished learning’ or ‘learning loss,'” states the proposed ESSER III Spending Plan. (ESSER stands for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief.) Studies predict that students will return this fall with roughly 70% of learning gains in reading achievement compared to a typical school year and 50% of the gains in mathematics, the document says.

The pandemic and “initial school closures” had a disproportionate impact on students with disabilities, English Language Learners, students of color, and economically disadvantaged students, the document says. Nationally, White students likely lost four to eight months, while students of color lost six to twelve months. Continue reading

Closing Schools Made Children Fatter, More Vulnerable to COVID

by Hans Bader

Many kids became fatter when schools closed to in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic. “Overweight or obesity increased among 5- through 11-year-olds from 36.2% to 45.7% during the pandemic, an absolute increase of 8.7% and relative increase of 23.8%,” noted the Journal of the American Medical Association.

That’s making the effects of the pandemic much worse. “The evidence linking obesity to adverse COVID-19 outcomes is ‘overwhelmingly clear,’” say health experts. More than half of all people hospitalized for the coronavirus are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Children very rarely die of the coronavirus, but they can suffer a lot from it, especially if they are fat. Obese people are much more likely to require hospitalization when they contract the coronavirus.

“Pediatric COVID-19 cases are surging, pushing hospitals — and health care workers — to their breaking points,” reports Time Magazine. New Orleans is one of America’s fattest cities, and is located in one of America’s least vaccinated states. Predictably, Children’s Hospital of New Orleans (CHNO) is facing a surge in hospitalizations. Continue reading

What Impact Did COVID Have on the SOLs?

by James A. Bacon

Most Virginia news media duly reported the release of the latest Standards of Learning (SOL) data showing the biggest collapse in pass rates in the history of the SOLs. Most accepted the Northam administration’s spin that the decline was due mainly to COVID-19-related disruptions, and that Virginians should not read too much into the results. Then the media dropped the story. K-12 news coverage moved on to other topics such as the shortage of teachers and bus drivers. (The Washington Post did not deem the SOL story worthy of coverage of any kind.)

You’d think that a collapse of the magnitude seen in the 2020-21 school year — 46% of all students failed to pass their math SOLs — would generate greater interest. You’d think widening racial gap in educational achievement — 66% of Black students failed their math exams — would prompt more scrutiny. Perhaps if the governor were a Republican, the media would be more interested in exploring the story.

Whatever the reasons for the media’s lack of interest in the most important K-12 education story of the year, Bacon’s Rebellion is prepared to step in.

Every school district faced the COVID-19 pandemic. Every school district had to make tough choices based on imperfect and evolving information about whether to continue in-person classes, shift to remote learning, or cobble together a hybrid of the two. But in some districts, the decline in SOL performance was far worse than in others. Continue reading

UVa as Petri Dish for COVID-Fighting Policy

New cases reported at the University of Virginia. Source: “UVA COVID Tracker”

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia is engaging in an interesting real-world experiment in the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine mandates. UVa’s must-vaccinate rule for students is similar to policies at almost every other university in Virginia and many employers as well. But UVa’s COVID tracker, which is updated daily, provides a finer-grained insight into what’s happening in its community of students, faculty and staff than other dashboards I’ve viewed.

Recall that one year ago, UVa relied upon a combination of testing, masking, social distancing, online classes, and quarantining to contain the spread of the virus. Three very big changes have occurred since then. First, vaccines were introduced. Second, the super-transmissible Delta mutation became the dominant COVID-19 virus in the United States. And third, UVa reinstituted in-person classes.

This academic year, UVa went “all in” on vaccinations, requiring all students (save a handful with medical or religious exemptions) to get the jab. Students who failed to comply were “unenrolled.” Faculty and staff were “strongly urged” to take the shot. As of last week, reported UVA Today, 97% of UVa students were fully vaccinated, as was 92% of the teaching and research faculty. Additionally, everyone is required to wear masks in public indoor places. The policies and protocols are much stricter than for Virginia as a whole.

How are they working out? Continue reading

Side Effects? What Side Effects?

by Walter Smith

Have you noticed that pharmacy ads on TV close with a long list of side effects and warn you to ask your doctor if BigPharma XYZ is right for you? How come there is no similar warning for COVID shots?

You must be an anti-vaxxer, I imagine you are thinking right now. A conspiracy theorist! A government hater! No, I am a sentient human being with a brain, and a finely attuned lie detector from being a lawyer for large companies for more than 30 years.

Some people are making a big deal out of the fact that the FDA has given the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccination its full approval, not just an authorization for emergency use. It’s approved, they say. Hopefully more people will get the jab now.

But consider: the treatment got the thumbs up after less than a year when “vaccines” historically have taken ten to 15 years to gain approval. If anyone believes the government is inefficient, it is me… But a 1,500% improvement? Color me skeptical.

The FDA press release announcing the Pfizer-BioNTech approval aroused my suspicions. The tip-off: you have to get to paragraphs 13 and 14 to read about myocarditis, pericarditis and the ongoing studies conducted to ensure that “safety concerns continue [are] identified and evaluated in a timely manner.” Continue reading

Another Sign of the Education Apocalypse

Source: State Council of Higher Education for Virginia

by James A. Bacon

Tom Allison, a staff analyst with the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) has uncovered quite the conundrum. How does the Commonwealth reverse the plummeting rate at which low-income students are completing the Free Application for Federal Student Assistance (FAFSA) form?  The free-fall in applications, which are necessary to qualify for federal financial aid to attend college, could presage a decline in actual college attendance.

Nationally, FAFSA completions are down 4.4% from this time last year. Virginia under-performed the nation, with completions down 4.9%, writes Allison in a new SCHEV publication, Insights, which draws upon SCHEV’s in-depth data collection to inform policy making.

What really concerns Allison is the fact that at Title 1 schools (schools with high concentrations of low-income students) in Virginia FAFSA completion is down 22.3% — three times the national average for Title 1 schools.

“Virginia’s low-income students already enroll in college at lower rates, and these data indicate they are likely to fall further behind,” he writes. Continue reading

Let Me Get This Straight…

COVID ID cards

by Paula Harkins

Let me get this straight. I’ve got to show a valid ID to dine out or take a spin class… but not to vote?

A growing number of Virginia businesses, restaurants, and venues are requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination and a photo ID to enter. Richmond was the first Virginia locality to mandate vaccination of its state employees, including those who telework. Private organizations across the state are requiring their employees to be vaccinated or provide a negative COVID-19 test regularly, often at the cost of the employee. D.C. venues like Kennedy Center and Lincoln Theater require vaccination proof or a negative COVID-19 test along with a matching photo ID to attend live shows. Gyms such as Equinox and SoulCycle are requiring proof of vaccination to enter and workout at their facilities. The SoulCycle Standard states, “When it came down to putting new safety measures in place, we went above and beyond the guidelines.”

Fairfax County’s “COVID-19 for Businesses, Organizations and Employees” webpage states, “Vaccines are good for SALES: As people begin to return to a new normal way of life and revisit their favorite places, knowing that the people who work at the establishments they frequent is reassuring.” Continue reading

2020-21 SOLs: the Racial Gap Widens

Here is a pro forma breakdown of Standards of Learning pass rates by race and subject. I say “pro forma” because these numbers do not reflect the fact that one-fifth to one-quarter of public school students failed to take the test in the 2020-21 school year. Adjusted numbers might prove to be even more dismal, although I am too early in my analysis to suggest that is, in fact, the case.

Two things are abundantly clear. First, test scores fell across the board — all races and all subjects. Second, the racial gap widened. As anyone could have predicted, test scores among Asians fell the least of any racial/ethnic group — although the decline was big enough to be profoundly discouraging. Pass rates for whites fell significantly more, while pass rates for Blacks and Hispanics went into free-fall.

A 34% pass rate in math SOLs for Blacks is nothing less than catastrophic. It is difficult to imagine how thousands of Black students can ever recover from this setback. Continue reading

Virginia Leads Nation in Distributing Rent-Relief Funds

by James A. Bacon

Virginia has done a better job than any other state in distributing its share of $46.5 billion in federal COVID-relief aid to renters, according to Treasury Department data published in the Wall Street Journal. Virginia has gotten 53% of its dollars into the hands of renters and landlords compared to 10% nationally.

Over the past four months alone, Virginia has distributed $235 million to nearly 35,400 families.

The program is administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Chesterfield County runs its own program, accounting for $7.9 million in distributions, as does Fairfax County, which has  passed out another $4 million, according to Treasury Department data

In contrast to the abysmal job of getting unemployment insurance payments to out-of-work Virginians, the distribution of rent relief appears to be a Northam administration success story. Continue reading

Bacon Bits: Follow Ups

Facebook face plant. On more than one occasion, I have complained on Bacon’s Rebellion that Facebook had blocked advertisements promoting the blog on the social media platform. I conflated the restrictions with the de-platforming experienced by other conservative outlets. I can now report that after a brain-numbing exercise, that Bacon’s Rebellion is now qualified to advertise. The hang-up was a restriction on anyone promoting “Social Issues, Elections or Politics.” To over-simplify, I had to prove that I was not a Russian bot. It wasn’t easy, let me tell you. The Facebook administrative interface for advertisers is labyrinthine in its complexity. I had to repeatedly call upon the Facebook help desk for assistance (which is not easy to find) as I waded step by step through the morass of links, unclear language and instructions that did not match up with what I was seeing on my screen. But those obstacles apply to everyone, not just conservatives. A special call out to “Mimi” for carrying me across the finish line. Here’s hoping Bacon’s Rebellion can grow big and influential enough to warrant a genuine de-platforming!

Proof of vaccination. Two weeks ago I blogged about my less-than-satisfactory experience using the Virginia Department of Health’s online portal to obtain a certified proof of vaccination. I was required to submit an online request. Would VDH respond or would my request disappear into the ether? I promised to report back. A VDH employee did call me. I emailed scanned copies of my vaccination card, the data was duly entered into the VDH database, and I now possess a PDF certification. The system isn’t scam-proof, and if something can be scammed, you can be sure that someone will try to scam it. A clever person undoubtedly could forge a a digital certification. Therefore, it makes eminent sense that VDH is developing a QR-code system that connects directly from smart phone to VDH database without intervening digital documents. All in all, it was a positive encounter with the state bureaucracy.