- At least two doctors were arrested after laying down and protesting in front of the U.S Customs and Border Protection’s San Diego headquarters.
- Those doctors, along with others demonstrating on the sidelines, wanted to be allowed to give free flu vaccinations to migrants detained in a nearby short-term detention facility.
- CBP officials denied the request, saying it was against policy and arguing that migrants are only held in that facility for 72 hours, but the agency later promised to pass on the request to CBP’s chief medical officer.
Doctors Push Vaccine Program Request
After three days of protests, doctors wishing to give flu shots to detained migrants have found some success, even after at least two were arrested during demonstrations.
On Wednesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials eased tensions after meeting briefly with protest leaders. In that meeting, officials told protesters that they would pass on a request to start a pilot program that would allow doctors to vaccinate detained migrants at a San Diego facility.
That request has now been forwarded to CBP’s chief medical officer, with officials telling the doctors to expect a follow-up call later this week.
The concession comes after an event Monday, where around 20 medical doctors walked up to a short-term migrant detention center in San Diego. Reportedly, those doctors carried coolers full of vaccines and were hoping to inoculate at least 100 individuals in the facility; however, they said they would vaccinate all willing migrants.
At the center, they were told to come back the following day to meet with border officials. When they reportedly again asked to be allowed to vaccinate migrants on Tuesday, CBP told them no.
“This is intentional cruelty,” Marie DeLuca, an emergency medicine research fellow, said. “People are needlessly suffering and dying. You can’t lock people up in inhumane conditions, watch them get sick, and then refuse them access to medical care.”
After being denied, they began to demonstrate outside of the Border Patrol headquarters. Six people then laid in front of the headquarters’ driveway, with others on the sidelines chanting: “Shame on you!”
Federal Protective Service officers gave those people a six-minute warning to get up, but they were eventually arrested when they refused. That group reportedly included at least two doctors.
Those people were soon released after being given a notice to appear in federal court and a citation “for failure to comply with the lawful directions of a federal police officer.”
California Border Patrol Says Vaccinations Don’t Align With Standing Policy
Later that day, the Department of Health and Human Services Press Secretary tweeted, “Of course Border Patrol isn’t going to let a random group of radical political activists show up and start injecting people with drugs.”
The CBP also told multiple news outlets that it has never vaccinated migrants in its custody because most migrants will either be released or transferred to a different federal agency within 72 hours of being detained. Because of that, a spokesperson said that “operating a vaccine program is not feasible.”
However, short-term detention centers are becoming increasingly congested, and many are struggling to push migrants through that three-day window. Border Patrol has even admitted to holding hundreds of children way past that date. Currently, the average wait time is about six days, twice the legal wait time.
Additionally, that spokesperson noted that long-term detention centers run by ICE and the Department of Homeland Security do vaccinate migrants.
“We would encourage those who wish to volunteer medical services to go to shelters and NGO facilities, both in the U.S. and in Mexico, to donate their time and services,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Although it has refused to offer flu shots, the CBP did say it followed a CDC recommendation to hire more nurses and physicians assistants, including increasing its staff from about 20 a year ago to 250 as of now.
Wednesday morning, Senator Kamala Harris tweeted about the incident, saying, “It makes no sense to deny flu vaccines to immigrant children in U.S. custody.”
The American Civil Liberties Union also responded to the tweet from the DHS Press Secretary later than evening.
“When our government refers to doctors as “radical political activists” and flu vaccines as “drugs,” it becomes clear how far we’ve slipped from the realm of reality.,” it said.
Migrant Children Are Dying of Flu at Higher Rates
Doctors for Closed Camps said it decided it wanted to distribute vaccines following a recent wave of migrant children dying from the flu either while in government custody or soon after their release. In August, it was reported that six migrant children had died, with three of those children dying from the flu.
In a letter penned by doctors with Harvard and Johns Hopkins, those doctors said, “Influenza deaths are fairly rare events for children living in the United States.”
“While comparisons are difficult for many reasons, this rate of death from influenza appears to be substantially less than the rate in detention facilities,” they added.
Last week, ProPublica obtained and published footage of the final moments of one of those children, 16-year-old Carlos Hernandez Vasquez.
In the video, Vasquez can be seen collapsing in his cell. According to Propublica, no guards ever came to check on them. Later, Vaquez gets up and goes to the bathroom, but again, he collapses.
According to the report, this is the last time he was ever seen moving. The video then goes blank for a few hours, with guards reportedly conducting three wellness checks in that time.
When the video starts again, Vasquez is in the same position. A cellmate later woke up to find Vasquez laying in the bathroom. He then called for a Border Patrol agent, who found that Vasquez did not have a pulse.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The San Diego Union-Tribune) (Fox 5 San Diego)
Biden Issues Targeted Eviction Moratorium for Counties With High Community Transmission
While more limited than the previous eviction ban, the new policy applies to all areas with “substantial” and “high” COVID transmission, which currently includes 80% of counties that compose 90% of the population.
New Eviction Ban
Three days after the federal eviction ban expired, the Biden administration issued a new, more limited moratorium that will extend until Oct. 3.
Unlike the last freeze, the latest version announced Tuesday only pertains to areas of the country experiencing what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled “substantial” and “high” cases of COVID-19.
However, the rule still applies to the majority of the country given the new surges driven by the delta variant.
According to the CDC, 80% of counties that make up 90% of the population are currently experiencing substantial or high community transmission.
While not a full ban, many housing still advocates cheered the Biden administration, which has faced immense pressure to help the millions of Americans who risked losing their homes once the previous freeze expired.
“This is a tremendous relief for millions of people who were on the cusp of losing their homes and, with them, their ability to stay safe during the pandemic,” Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in a statement Tuesday.
Still, others noted that there are outstanding issues with the new policy.
First and foremost, while the moratorium covers most Americans, it does not cover all. According to reports, there are counties in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York that are protected from evictions while neighboring counties are not.
The county-to-county patchwork also adds another layer of confusion for many people who are on the brink of eviction or who have already been evicted.
Tenants and landlords are now scrambling to see if the freeze applies to them, and because of the temporary lapse in protection, evictions resumed in some states and cities, meaning that some people who would now be covered under the ban have already been evicted.
Perhaps the most notable obstacle is the fact that the new moratorium will almost certainly face legal challenges.
The Biden administration previously argued that it did not have the jurisdiction to extend the eviction freeze unilaterally, citing a recent decision from the Supreme Court, which ruled that the CDC could not extend the ban past July and that Congressional action was needed.
Three days before the moratorium was set to expire, Biden asked Congress to pass legislation to extend it before leaving for their August recess. Republicans blocked the effort by unanimous consent, and Democratic leaders, frustrated with the president’s last-minute demand that left them with few options, said they did not have enough support for a formal vote.
Biden, for his part, has acknowledged that any freeze that comes from his administration would face this obstacle.
“Any call for [a] moratorium based on the Supreme Court’s recent decision is likely to face obstacles,” he told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve indicated to the CDC, I’d like them to look at other alternatives [other] than the one that is in existence, which the court has declared they’re not going to allow to continue.”
Any legal proceedings, however, will take time, meaning Congress could act before any disputes are resolved. The extended timeframe would also give state and local governments more leeway to distribute the nearly $47 billion in rental aid approved in the last two stimulus packages.
Only $3 billion of the funding has been distributed due to the numerous delays and hurdles municipalities have faced while struggling to create new systems to dole out the much-needed aid.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (CBS News)
Virtually All Emperor Penguins Doomed for Extinction by 2100, Study Finds
The new study comes as the U.S. The Fish and Wildlife Service moves to submit a proposal Wednesday to add the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species.
Concerns for Emperor Penguins
Nearly all of the world’s emperor penguin colonies may be pushed to the brink of extinction by 2100, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Global Change Biology.
More specifically, researchers behind the study said 98% of the colonies could be gone in the next 80 years if climate change continues causing sea ice to melt at its current pace. About 70% of colonies could die off by 2050, it added.
That is pretty huge news because Emperor penguins — the world’s largest penguin species —are a vital part of the Antarctic food chain. They prey on krill, squid, and small fish, and provide a source of food for leopard seals and killer whales.
However, the birds are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they depend on sea ice for viral activities like breeding, feeding, and molting, along with resting or seeking refuge from predators.
U.S. Moves To Protect the Species
The new study comes as the U.S. government considers adding the Emperor penguin to its list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to build off this new research, along with other data, for its proposal on Wednesday. Once published in the Federal Register, the proposal will be open to a 60-day public comment period.
If the classification is granted, the species would receive protections, including a ban on importations of the birds for commercial purposes.
“These penguins are hard hit by the climate crisis, and the U.S. government is finally recognizing that threat,” Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, told the Associated Press.
“Climate change, a priority challenge for this Administration, impacts a variety of species throughout the world,” said Martha Williams, principal deputy director of the wildlife service. “The decisions made by policymakers today and during the next few decades will determine the fate of the Emperor penguin.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (AP News)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.