Politics As Delta variant spreads, some conservatives course correct on vaccines ahead of 2022 midterms
New York Mayor Touts Vaccine Effort Success as Delta Variant Cases Rise
New York City's COVID-19 positivity rate is at 1.3 percent after weeks of all-time lows. The seven-day average number of daily confirmed cases has increased to 288. De Blasio said the city still has more work to do to ensure New Yorkers get vaccinated. "We know the challenge," the mayor said during the media availability. "We understand the challenge of the Delta variant. We understand that challenge is particularly clear and sharp for unvaccinated people—that's where the problem is.
Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey'sthat unvaccinated people are letting the nation down capped a week where finally seemed ready to abandon their dangerous coddling of Covid-19 vaccine skeptics and push Americans to get the shot.
"Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks," Ivey said in frustration Thursday as she spoke from the least vaccinated state in the nation. "It's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down."
Covid-19 pandemic 'is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,' CDC director says
With Covid-19 cases rising in all 50 states, health officials say it's clear that unvaccinated people are both driving the increase in cases and are most at risk. © Damian Dovarganes/AP File - In this June 11, 2021 file photo customers wear face masks in an outdoor mall with closed business amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Los Angeles. Coronavirus cases have jumped 500% in Los Angeles County over the past month and health officials warned Tuesday, July 13, 2021, that the especially contagious delta variant of the disease continues to spread rapidly among California's unvaccinated population.
Ivey's deliverance of hard truth followed a week of, when some other Republican governors also redoubled their efforts to get their constituents vaccinated, including Missouri's Mike Parson, West Virginia's Jim Justice and . At the same time -- while speaking the gospel of "personal responsibility -- many GOP governors have resisted calls for mask mandates or future shutdowns. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana -- the No. 2 Republican in the House -- finally got his first Covid-19 vaccine shot after watching cases rise and talked about it publicly. Even Fox News host seemed to encourage viewers to get vaccinated on his show this week, underscoring that he believes in the science of vaccination.
Lambda COVID Variant Detected in Texas Hospital
A patient at Houston Methodist Hospital was confirmed to be infected with the Lambda variant, which is rapidly spreading in South America.A patient at Houston Methodist Hospital was confirmed to be infected with the Lambda variant, which first emerged in Peru in 2020, KHOU11 reported.
The surprising course correction cannot come soon enough, as the highly contagiousravages in the country at a time when only 48.9% of the US population is fully vaccinated. Only 20 states have fully vaccinated more than half their residents. At the lower end of the spectrum, Alabama and Mississippi are the only states to have fully vaccinated less than 35% of their residents -- and Ivey pointed out this week that almost 100% of new hospitalizations are unvaccinated patients.
Though the Trump administration oversaw the historic push to produce Covid-19 vaccines in record time, myths about vaccines have flourished in conservative circles on social media and were given oxygen on Fox News, where television hosts routinely questioned public safety measures that were meant to curb the spread of the virus.
Those voices are often the loudest among GOP base voters. But by siding with vaccine skeptics, Republicans faced an untenable position as they headed into the midterms -- one that would have given them little room to maneuver or criticize the Biden administration's Covid response. They have repeatedly charged Democrats with government overreach for enforcing mask mandates and lockdowns at the state level. But if those drastic measures became necessary again -- Republican governors would have only had their own constituents to blame for refusing to get vaccinated and allowing the resurgence of the virus.
Delta variant spreads globally as Covid cases soar
With low global vaccination rates, the variant's spread is threatening to overwhelm health systems.It is expected to become the dominant variant globally in the coming months, with the WHO predicting that there could be more than 200 million confirmed cases within a matter of weeks.
"It's fairly obvious that that polling must have started to reflect that the American people, (a) believe in the vaccines, and (b) don't understand why the party of Trump -- which developed the vaccine -- is now all of a sudden against vaccines," said Republican strategist Scott Jennings, a CNN contributor. "I have a feeling that politically -- that was taking its toll."
Jennings added that there is no desire among Republican lawmakers or governors to "go back into lockdown or mask mandate mode, when there is a clear and easy, accessible tool that would prevent us from having to do that."
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey underscored the GOP message about personal responsibility Friday as he urged constituents to acknowledge that the nation is in a new and worrisome phase of the pandemic.
"Please get the vaccine," Ducey said in a statement. "We have made it clear from the very beginning that we will never mandate the vaccine, and we've taken action to prevent vaccine passports or mandates," noting that he would not be listening to "the lockdown lobby."
"We have a proven solution with the vaccine. I strongly encourage every Arizonan who is eligible for the vaccine to get it so they can protect themselves and our whole state," the Republican governor said.
The Mask Mandate Debate Is Back. Here’s What to Know.
Amid the Delta-fueled wave of U.S. COVID cases, universal mask mandates are back on the table and as politically fraught as ever.A week ago, Los Angeles County became the first major metropolitan area to reinstate a mask mandate in indoor public spaces for both unvaccinated and vaccinated residents. And amid a nationwide surge of new COVID-19 fueled by the more transmissible Delta variant, America’s largest county isn’t the only place where universal mask mandates are back on the table. The Delta wave has thus reignited the already politically charged debate over face mask mandates.
GOP lawmakers and strategists insist there was no single catalyst for the messaging shift, or shared set of talking points. Instead, they say there was simply rising alarm about the increase in deaths and hospitalizations among unvaccinated constituents and a sense that they needed to do more to move the needle.
Video: GOP lawmaker gets upset with reporters. See Don Lemon's reaction (CNN)
"We need to up our game," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina. "This thing is pretty bad." Asked whether there has been any coordination between conservative media and lawmakers, Graham laughed: "Not that I know of." The White House, however, hasabout their pandemic coverage as they try to persuade viewers who might favor Fox News about the benefits of Covid-19 vaccines.
There has been a wide variation in messaging on vaccines from GOP lawmakers in recent months -- from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who hasfor Americans to get vaccinated, to members of the House Republican Conference -- still won't say publicly whether they are vaccinated.
The average number of new Covid-19 cases in the US each day is up to 43,746, according to Johns Hopkins University -- a 65% increase over last week -- and topping that 40,000 mark for the first time since early May. At a news conference this week, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters that just three states with lower vaccination rates -- Florida, Texas and Missouri -- accounted for.
The pandemic turning point the White House didn't want
President Joe Biden is tired of wearing a mask. © Susan Walsh/AP President Joe Biden holds his face mask as he speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Stepping into the East Room on Thursday, his face covered in black surgical fabric for the first time in weeks, the President made no attempt to disguise his disappointment at returning to the most charged symbol of the pandemic era.
Florida Sen. Rick Scott, the leader of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told CNN that lawmakers began speaking up organically as they heard the dire warnings from public health officials on Capitol Hill and watched the climbing case counts in their states. Only about 250,000 people are being fully vaccinated per day, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That daily average is the lowest since the end of January, when the US had only been vaccinating for about six weeks.
The newfound praise for vaccines among some Republicans could serve as a potential game changer in wearing down vaccine resistance among rural and conservative voters, who have been among the most reluctant to get vaccinated. It is also an important antidote to the messaging from former President Donald Trump, who still carries enormous influence among some conservative voters.
The former President, along with many of his more outspoken acolytes like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida, has routinely undermined science and ridiculed public safety measures that were intended to curb the spread of the virus over the past year. Thoughbefore he left the White House, he has mentioned that fact only in passing and in their effort to publicize the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.
Some Republicans wanted to serve as a counterweight to the constant barrage of stories about the wild Covid-19 pronouncements of figures like Greene, who has made false claims about vaccine-related deaths, along with others like Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul -- who relish their high-profile standoffs against the Biden administration or Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert.
Countries must 'improve vaccine coverage' to combat delta variant
Global health officials are scrambling to curb the spread of the highly infectious COVID-19 delta variant. Dr. Michael Marks, a researcher at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine joined The World's host Marco Werman to discuss the new challenges.A sign advises shoppers to wear masks outside of a store in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles, July 19, 2021. Infections are climbing across the US and mask mandates and other COVID-19 prevention measures are making a comeback in some places as health officials issue increasingly dire warnings about the highly contagious delta variant.
"We want to make sure we aren't associated with the loud, anti-vaccine types," one GOP aide said.
The increasing fear among Americans about the rise of the Delta variant, paired with a rocky start of the week on Wall Street, also led to new worries among GOP lawmakers that the economy could sputter if the country can't eradicate the virus.
At the start of a Senate hearing with Fauci this past week, Sen. Richard Burr, the ranking Republican on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, implored Americans to get vaccinated.
"Covid-19 won't just go away. We need all Americans who can get the vaccine to get the vaccine," said the North Carolina Republican, who's not running for re-election. "If you won't do it for yourself, do it for your friends and family, for your neighbors and your local community. Do it so your grandchildren can go back to school or so your grandparents can go out to dinner."
A few hours later, at the end of a Senate GOP conference lunch, another senator applauded Burr's message. The headlines from the hearing had been about. But for some Republicans, Burr's message was what resonated and deserved to be amplified. A source familiar with the GOP lunch told CNN that the lawmaker thanked Burr and told him that he was going to use that back home.
has welcomed the positive input from Republicans about vaccines. During Friday night in Virginia -- where he appeared on behalf of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe -- President Joe Biden echoed his comments from a CNN town hall earlier in the week when he said that "a lot of our very conservative friends" have finally had "an altar call."
"They've seen the Lord, whether it's on Fox News, or whether it's the most conservative commentators or governors," the President said Friday. Though he did not mention Ivey by name, he referenced her comments and said he was "genuinely complimenting her."
"It's not about red states or blue states," he said, speaking over protesters in the audience, "or guys like that hollering. It's about life and it's about death."
The U.K.’s Delta Surge Is Collapsing. Will Ours? .
Why the variant’s spread may be less pervasive than we currently expect.To those who’d been following the science of Delta closely, the slides didn’t break much news. We’ve known for a while that Delta is dramatically more transmissible than the “wild” strain of SARS-CoV-2 and much more transmissible than even some of the earlier variants, also distinguished by their transmissibility. And there’d been signs for a week or so that, while vaccines were doing remarkably well protecting against severe disease, hospitalization, and death, and pretty well protecting against symptomatic disease, they were doing less well in protecting against transmission.