Tag Archives: America

“People should be worried about natural mutations of Covid-19” says Dr. Kavita Patel

Thanks to natural mutations, more-infectious and potentially deadlier variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are now racing around the globe and are threatening to turn back the recent progress against the disease due to vaccination.

Last week Houston became the first big American city to report the presence of all five variants that have medical experts worried — a California strain called B.1.427/B.1.429, a New York variant classified as B.1.526, the Brazilian P.1 strain, a strain called B.1.351 that is believed to have originated in South Africa, and the U.K. mutation B.1.1.7, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts will become the dominant strain in the U.S. by the end of the month.

Each new variant comes with new, worrisome features. P.1, for instance, has been found to make reinfection easier, while new studies show that B.1.1.7 extends the infectious period beyond the original strain.

With so many questions being raised by the growing number of mutations, Yahoo News turned to resident medical expert Dr. Kavita Patel for answers. (The following interview was edited for clarity.)

Dr. Kavita Patel: I think people should be worried. There’s a large number, a majority of the population that has not been vaccinated. They should be very worried, because they are prime targets for these viruses with the variants to reproduce.

Remember, the goal of a virus is not to kill people, it’s actually just to continue to stay alive, and the only way it does that is by infecting people. People who are not vaccinated should be incredibly worried, which is why I, in turn, am very worried about the variants as I watch now 12 states and counting, very big states including Texas and Florida, lifting any sort of mask requirements or leaving it to individuals or businesses. That’s a group that should be very worried.

Even people who are vaccinated should have some concern because all these [vaccine] trials that went on, the majority of them did not happen when we had experience with these variants. So, we are all happy that the vaccines work to some degree against the variants, but we’re not quite sure how long it will last, whether we need a booster. All the manufacturers are already talking about booster vaccines, so getting a vaccine, like I did, is a ton of relief mentally, but, I’ll be honest with you, I’m still worried when I leave my house, mostly because of these variants.

To date, a little over 16 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Is there a level at which mutations won’t pose as big of a threat?

We do know that in just kind of normal virology or infectious disease that over 50 percent and higher, the more people who are vaccinated, [the more] decreased the rate of infectivity becomes. The R naught or the Rt, which is [the measure of] how many people, if you get the infection, you will infect, that number is already coming down and will continue to go down. It won’t get to zero, but it will be pretty darn close. So that if you get infected there’s basically no chance of you infecting anyone else when we get to a certain level of immunity.

Everybody’s asking, ‘Is that herd immunity?’ But it’s not a light switch, so above 50 percent, the higher we go, the more the chances of getting infected decrease. That’s good news. We’re getting closer and closer, but we’re not going to get there in the next — it’s going to be weeks if not months before we get to that point.

Poll shows Americans’ trust in the Black Lives Matter Movement has fallen #BLM

Americans’ trust in the Black Lives Matter movement has fallen and their faith in local law enforcement has risen since protests demanding social justice swept the nation last year, according to an exclusive USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll.

The debate over the intersection of racism and policing will be in the spotlight again as jury selection opens Monday in the Minneapolis trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, which sparked nationwide marches last year.

The debate over the intersection of racism and policing will be in the spotlight again as jury selection opens Monday in the Minneapolis trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, which sparked nationwide marches last year.

The survey finds complicated and shifting views about Chauvin’s actions and broader questions of race. On many issues, there is a chasm in the perspective between Black people and white people.

Last June, 60% in a USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll described Floyd’s death as murder; that percentage has now dropped by double digits to 36%. Uncertainty has grown about how to characterize the incident, caught on video, when Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck and ignored his protests that he couldn’t breathe. Last year, 4% said they didn’t know how to describe it; that number has climbed to 17%.

“There were eight minutes that the officer could have made a different decision, and he willfully held a man,” said Valda Pugh, a 67-year-old retiree from Louisville who is Black. She was among those surveyed. “It was a murder. It was willful – maybe not premeditated. Nonetheless, the young man died.”

Kevin Hayworth, 66, of Garner, Iowa, who is white, disagreed. “I think it was a police officer doing his job,” he said in a follow-up phone interview. “It was just a tragedy, but I think he was within the limits of his duty of jurisdiction.”

Nearly two-thirds of Black Americans, 64%, view Floyd’s death as murder; fewer than one-third of white people, 28%, feel that way. White Americans are more likely to describe it instead as the police officer’s “negligence,” 33% compared with 16% of Black respondents.

That said, Americans who have heard at least something about Chauvin’s trial say 4 to 1, or 60%-15%, that they hope Chauvin is convicted. That included 54% of white Americans and 76% of Black Americans.

The online poll of 1,165 adults, taken Monday and Tuesday, has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

[Full Story] Did Biden Just Called Abbott a Neanderthal?

President Joe Biden on Wednesday slammed states that repealed Covid-19 restrictions on businesses and rescinded mask mandates for residents, calling the moves a “big mistake.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, both republicans announced Tuesday they would allow buisness to reopen at 100% capacity and lift mask mandates. Biden’s remarks were in response to shouted questions from the press specifically about the two states.

“Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now these masks make a difference,” Biden told reporters at the White House. “We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms… The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking, that, ‘In the meantime, everything’s fine. Take off your mask. Forget it.’ It still matters.”

He added that it is “critical, critical, critical” that state officials “follow the science” and encourage Americans to continue to wear masks and follow all public health guidelines.

“I know you all know that,” Biden told reporters. “I wish the heck some of our elected officials would.”

In response to Biden’s remarks, Reeves tweeted that “Mississippians don’t need handlers. As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them.”

In announcing their decisions, Reeves and Abbott both cited the declining number of new Covid-19 cases and the increasing availability of vaccines as reasons for ending the restrictions. But federal officials have been warning that the decline in new cases appears to be stalling out and that the emergence of new coronavirus variants could lead to a resurgence.

“It is clear from the recoveries, the vaccinations, the reduced hospitalizations, and the safe practices that Texans are using, that state mandates are no longer needed,” Renae Eze, Abbott’s press secretary, said in a statement to CNBC. “We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans. The Governor’s focus has been, and always will be, protecting the lives and livelihoods of Texans.”

She added that Texas have “the tools and knowledge to combat” Covid-19 and can make their own decisions. Eze said the “Governor was clear in telling Texans that COVID hasn’t ended, and that all Texans should follow medical advice and safe practices” during the pandemic.

Both governors struck a similar tone in making their announcements Tuesday, saying that people should still follow public health guidance, but that statewide mandates are not appropriate. Despite the rollback of the restrictions some businesses in both states have said they will still require masking in their stores.

On Monday, before the two governors made their announcements, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned state officials against lifting public health restrictions too quickly.

Over the past seven days, the U.S. reported an average of more than 65,400 daily new cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. That’s far below the peak of about 250,000 new cases every day that the country was reporting in early January, but it’s still well above the rate of infection the U.S. saw over the summer when the virus swept across the Sun Belt.

“At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” Walensky said Monday. “With these statistics, I am really worried about more states rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from Covid-19.”

“Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” she said.

Apparently Ted Cruz Not Only Abandoned Texas but Also his poodle, #Snowflake #TedCruz #Abandon

After jaunting off to Cancún with his family Wednesday night, Senator Ted Cruz explained that he was merely escorting his teenage girls on a vacation trip with their friends. In an apparent bid for sympathy, he noted that, like millions of other Texans, “our family lost heat and water.” Cynics immediately cast doubt on this claim, so this afternoon I decided to check out the senator’s power situation for myself. Supplied with Cruz’s address by a knowledgeable friend, I drove the fifteen minutes from my Houston apartment to the uber-rich River Oaks neighborhood where Cruz lives.

From the street, Cruz’s white, Colonial Revival-style mansion looked dark and uninhabited. A neighbor informed me that the block had indeed lost power before finally getting it back late Wednesday night. A glance at the lighted lanterns flanking the doorways of other homes on the block confirmed this. The senator’s story appeared to check out. But then I heard barking and noticed a small, white dog looking out the bottom right pane of glass in the senator’s front door. Had Cruz left his dog behind?

As I approached to knock, a man stepped out of the Suburban parked in Cruz’s driveway. “Is this Senator Cruz’s house?” I asked. He said it was, that Cruz wasn’t home, and identified himself as a security guard. When asked who was taking care of the dog, the guard volunteered that he was. Reassured of the dog’s well-being, I returned to my car. Before leaving, though, I took a photo of the house from my car window, making sure not to include the house address.

A 2014 Facebook post by Cruz, apparently showing a picture of the dog, identifies it as a rescue puppy named, aptly enough, Snowflake (gender unknown). Some on Twitter have questioned whether the dog is in fact a poodle, suggesting alternative breeds such as a Bichon Frise. I couldn’t get close enough to tell, and I’m no canine expert, but “Ted Cruz’s poodle” just sounds funny.

As soon as I posted the photo on Twitter, noting that Cruz “appears to have left behind the family poodle,” all hell broke loose. “Tell me they really didn’t leave that dog home alone,” one person replied. “That pooch deserves better,” grumbled another. People tagged the ASPCA and PETA. Then there were what I have come to call the Poodle Truthers. “Where’s the snow and ice?” “I don’t think this is really @tedcruz house, where’s the snow?” I tried to explain that after two sunny, 40-degree days, the snow and ice had melted, but some continued to insist the photo was fake.

For most, though, especially Texans like me who have suffered through a week without heat or water in freezing overnight weather, the notion of Cruz leaving his dog behind to hit the beach was all too much — especially the thought of the power being out when they left. (The New York Times reported that Cruz’s wife Heidi had complained that the house was “FREEZING” in a group chat to friends and neighbors that proposed leaving the blackout behind for the Ritz-Carlton in Cancún.)

Like far too many of us, I’ve been without power and water for most of the week. I spent one night at the apartment of a friend who still has power, but the rest of the time I’ve been bundled up in multiple layers of clothing, shivering beneath four blankets, leaving the apartment only to charge devices in my car. With only an electric stove, I couldn’t heat up food. I haven’t showered since Sunday. And it could be worse — my parents in Austin still have no power or water, and yesterday one of their pipes burst, flooding the first floor of their house. To watch our junior senator escape to Cancun while the rest of us freeze is the ultimate indignity.