- Experts and celebrities alike have been encouraging social distancing – the practice of not going to public spaces, staying six feet away from others, and avoiding crowds– to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
- Some, including actor Kumail Nanjiani, have compared what is happening in the U.S. to what was going on in Italy not long ago, noting that we could soon face their level of cases and lockdown if we don’t take precautions now.
- Other celebrities like Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande also encouraged people to take social distancing seriously.
- Meanwhile, several states and cities have laid out strict measures, closing schools, bars, restaurants, and other public spaces.
Bars and Restaurants Close
While states and cities are closing bars, restaurants, and other public spaces, celebrities are also doing their part to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus spread.
Massachusetts, California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Ohio and Michigan have all mandated that restaurants and bars close for dine-in services to further prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Other states and municipalities have also taken their own similar measures.
The goal of this is to prevent people from congregating in large public groups and to promote social distancing – a tactic experts believe is effective in slowing the spread of disease. Social distancing involves not going to public spaces, crowded areas, or anywhere where you cannot be at least six feet away from someone. This distance makes it harder for the infection to spread.
“What we can’t have is people congregating and seated. Every day we delay, more people will die,” Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said in a statement. “If we do not act and get some distance between people, our health care system in Ohio will not hold up. The loss won’t only be those impacted by COVID19, but the danger is also to everyone else who needs hospital care for other issues.”
Why Social Distancing?
Containing the spread of COVID-19 has been a difficult challenge for leaders as some people may be carrying the virus without even knowing or exhibiting symptoms.
“We now know that asymptomatic transmission likely [plays] an important role in spreading this virus,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota explained CNN. Because of this, the virus is “very difficult to control.”
Asymptomatic transmission can be made especially dangerous because someone who believes they are in perfect health could then infect a more vulnerable party, like someone with pre-existing conditions, a weak immune system, or an elderly person. Despite efforts to spread this knowledge, bars and restaurants still saw crowds over the weekend.
Out of concern for this, journalists and internet users warned that continued public appearances could lead the United States down a similar path that Italy is on. Currently, Italy has seen over 24,000 cases and over 1,800 deaths. The whole country is also on lockdown. According to data from Vox, the rate of case increases in the U.S. is on pace with that of Italy.
Many began to share videos of people in Italy congregating in areas just days before they were put on lockdown as proof that if the U.S. does not practice social distancing, they will find themselves in the same situation. Actor and writer Kumail Nanjiani was among them.
“These tweets are from Italy 2 weeks ago. 10 days later, the entire country was in lockdown. We are on the exact same path,” he said. “We can learn from Italy’s mistake.”
“Stay away from crowds. It’s our responsibility to protect those in at risk groups,” he added.
Celebrities Encourage Social Distancing
Nanjiani’s wife, Emily Gordon, is among those at risk, as she has a rare disease that makes her immunocompromised. Their Oscar-nominated film, The Big Sick, which they wrote together, discusses this illness. Because of it, Nanjiani feels a certain responsibility to encourage social distancing.
“People get upset and annoyed at me when I tweet about the coronavirus, when I urge people to stay in and avoid crowds,” he wrote. “My favorite person in the world is immunocompromised.”
He was not the only celebrity telling people to stay at home. Ariana Grande told her fans that “it’s incredibly dangerous and selfish to take this situation that lightly.”
“I keep hearing from a surprising amount of people statements like ‘this isn’t a big deal’ / ‘we’ll be fine’… ‘we still have to go about our lives’ and it’s really blowing my mind,” she wrote. She also told followers the plans they have now are not important in light of the virus.
Taylor Swift also addressed her concerns on her Instagram story.
“I’m seeing lots of get togethers and hangs and parties still happening,” the pop star wrote. “This is the time to cancel plans, actually truly isolate as much as you can, and don’t assume that because you don’t feel sick that you aren’t possibly passing something onto someone elderly or vulnerable to this.”
“It’s a really scary time but we need to make social sacrifices right now,” she added.
Data and research on the benefits of social distancing back up the calls from these celebrities. Tomas Pueyo, an author and designer wrote a Medium post about its effects. Taking a look at theoretical data, he illustrated that social distancing flattens the curves on cases, and by practicing social distancing sooner, fewer cases come up.
Pueyo also looked at the way different cities handed the 1918 flu pandemic. Philadelphia, which allowed public gatherings, saw far more cases that St. Louis, which took measures to encourage social distancing.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (Axios) (Aljazeera)
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.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.