War on disinformation intensifies as number of Covid cases rises


Conservative pundits, presidential candidates and Trump’s proteges have already exploited vaccine skepticism for political gain. And new fears that a return to masks and physical distancing is needed in hot areas of Covid, where many people have refused vaccines, are reigniting partisan fault lines. Growing political discord threatens not only to tarnish and reverse Biden’s early successes in vaccine deployment and virus containment – just two weeks after the president declared partial independence from Covid-19. This could present the White House with serious challenges in the event of a next wave of large-scale infections and deaths in the weeks to come.

Even though many sick people are anti-vaccine Republicans who aren’t his constituents anyway, any reimposed restrictions and business shutdowns could halt the economic recovery the president is counting on to boost Democrats in the mid-election. term of office next year. The Dow Jones was down more than 700 points on Monday morning due to virus concerns.

Endemic infection rates would also threaten children who are not yet eligible for vaccination – and raise the prospect of further disastrous disruption to schooling for a generation whose education has been irreparably interrupted. And the pernicious nature of the more infectious Delta variant is a warning to the possibility that dangerous mutations in the virus are more likely when it is widespread. So while vaccine skeptics act on the basis of individual rights, their decisions could end up affecting all Americans, especially if a vaccine-resistant variant emerges.

The increase in cases in the United States comes at what appears to be a dark time in the grueling fight against the pandemic across the globe. All remaining Covid-19 restrictions are expected to be lifted in England on Monday – despite the spike in infections. The London government hopes it has severed the link between infections, hospitalizations and deaths following a successful vaccination effort. In Tokyo, public opposition to the Olympics, which begin on Friday, has been exacerbated by identified cases among a number of athletes. Much of the developing world, meanwhile, remains highly vulnerable due to the lack of vaccines.

Disinformation “costs lives”

The Biden administration, aware of the public health and political risks involved, has taken on social media companies. US Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, defended Biden, who bluntly said on Friday that social media networks “are killing people” by allowing misinformation about vaccines to spread on their platforms. Murthy said that while Big Tech had made an effort, the administration had also made it clear to them that “this was not enough.”

“We know that health misinformation harms people’s health. It costs them their lives,” Murthy told CNN’s Dana Bash.

Facebook has reacted with fury to Biden’s call, which may have shown the president’s frustration that a significant minority of the population refuses to protect themselves with free, safe and effective vaccines.

“President Biden’s target was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4. Facebook is not the reason this target was missed,” wrote Guy Rose, vice president of integrity. from Facebook, in an article posted on the company’s website on Saturday.

He accused Biden of blaming a handful of social media networks at a time when Covid-19 cases are on the rise. This White House has tried not to politicize the pandemic on the grounds that it could exacerbate reluctance to vaccinate. But his decision to send teams to hard-hit states to push life-saving vaccines sparked outrage from conservatives and false claims the government was trying to force people to get vaccinated against their will.

Trump, who has always put his own political goals ahead of properly handling the crisis when he was president, weighed in on the issue on Sunday, with an attack on Biden likely to prompt his supporters and conservative media propagandists to follow suit. not.

“People refuse to take the vaccine because they don’t trust his administration, they don’t trust the election results, and they sure don’t trust the Fake News,” Trump said in a statement.

The former president frequently praises his own administration for the truly impressive feat of partnering with the private sector to produce Covid-19 vaccines in record time. But he is spending much less time trying to convince his supporters to get vaccinated in a way that could help end the pandemic.

US Surgeon General on Tech Company Measures to Combat Covid Misinformation:

One of the main architects of the Trump administration’s erratic anti-Covid effort, former surgeon general Dr Jerome Adams, has warned in recent days that a return to masking in some areas may be needed. He said he now regrets the advice he and the government’s top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci gave at the start of the pandemic that masks were not needed. The guidelines were then replaced with evidence that masks could help prevent infections.

“I’m afraid the CDC has also made an equally premature, misinterpreted, but still damaging call for masking in the face of (the) delta variant,” Adams tweeted.

But speaking on “the state of the union,” Murthy said guidelines from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that told fully vaccinated Americans they did not need to wear masks or social distancing were aimed at giving flexibility to people in areas with low numbers of Covid-19 cases.

“When you see places like LA County and other parts of the country, where you see counties making decisions about masks that may be different from other counties, that’s okay,” Murthy said. “They do it based on what’s going on in their communities, based on vaccination rates and the number of cases.”

But the idea of ​​reintroducing masking drew a swift response from a visible Republican, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, pointing out how the next phase of the pandemic is likely to be as politically controversial as the previous ones.

“No. No. No. No. Hell NO,” wrote Cruz, who accuses Biden of using Facebook, Google and Twitter to censor opinions he disagrees with, on Twitter in response to Adams’ tweet. .

US Surgeon General: “I’m concerned”

The effects of disinformation are increasingly apparent. Murthy painted a dire picture of what could be in the United States, after weeks of positive vaccine news and a return to something like normal life was compromised by the spread of the Delta variant.

“I’m worried about what’s going to happen, as we’re seeing more and more cases, especially among the unvaccinated,” Murthy told Bash.

“And while, if you are vaccinated, you are very well protected against hospitalization and death, unfortunately that is not true if you are not vaccinated.”

Biden says platforms like Facebook

New cases of Covid-19 are increasing in 50 states, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The evolution of the virus means that it now attacks the youngest. Covid services are being reopened in many hotspots. New infections are skyrocketing in states as far away as California and Louisiana. Almost all serious illnesses and deaths are among the unvaccinated, which makes it all the more important as the slowed-down vaccination effort accelerates.

Former US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that there was now “an epidemic of the unvaccinated.”

“Most people will get vaccinated or have already been infected, or they will get this Delta variant,” said Gottlieb, laying out a disheartening scenario and adding that the number of new cases of the disease is likely underestimated due to the lack of test.

The hope will be that since 48.6% of Americans are now fully vaccinated, previous waves of pandemic deaths can be avoided. Twenty states – most run by Democrats – have fully immunized more than 50% of their population. But many others, especially in the conservative South, have yet to fully immunize even 40%, meaning the pool of potential victims of the Delta variant remains large.

The daily average of new infections has now risen to more than 39,000 per day, after hitting a low of around 8,000 almost a month ago. Deaths have also started to increase, but are usually a few weeks behind the outbreaks of infection.


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