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20 States Hold Protests to Reopen the Economy, Many Governors Want More Testing First

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  • Following a handful of protests last week, demonstrators in 20 states held protests calling for leaders to reopen the economy and put employees back to work.
  • At one Colorado demonstration, two medical workers blocked lines of protesters in vehicles from approaching the state capital.
  • President Donald has issued support for these protesters, saying that some states’ governors have gone too far with stay-at-home orders.
  • Governors, in turn, have criticized and urged the Trump Administration to provide more testing materials so they can accurately gauge if they can start to reopen their economies.

Medical Workers Standoff With Colorado Protests

Demonstrators in multiple states held protests against state stay-at-home orders over the weekend, and in some cases, there were met with counter-protesters. 

Such was the case in Denver, where two medical workers stood at a crosswalk and blocked lines of vehicles filled with protesters aiming to clog the city streets around Colorado’s capital. 

“This is a free country!” one woman shouted at one of the medical workers as he stood in front of her truck. “Go to China if you want Communism! Go to China! You can go to work, why can’t I go to work?” 

That specific interaction later went viral, and “go to China” trended on Twitter Monday morning. 

Colorado’s protest invoked the same name used in similar protest in Michigan last week: Operation Gridlock. In these protests, designed to literally gridlock the streets around state capitol buildings, demonstrators have called for an end to lockdown measures and for nonessential businesses to reopen.

Since Michigan and a handful of other smaller state protests last week, at least 20 states have held gatherings aimed at relaxing coronavirus-related measures, including Texas, Maryland, Minnesota, Virgina, Tennessee, and Arizona.

Like in Michigan, a lot of people remained in their cars, socially distancing themselves from others; however, others also left their cars and marched in crowds, disregarding social distancing orders. 

In Texas, footage shows small children participating in such marches and even parents carrying infants. At that march, which was held on Saturday, protesters at times chanted, “Let us work!” and “Fire Fauci!”

“I think about the fear that was instilled in me from the initial shock of the outbreak, and it was too much,” protester Nathanael Curling told the Austin American-Statesman. “I don’t even get sick hardly anyways. I’m not going to catch the virus. I’m not rubbing up on people, coughing on people in public. You know, I’m not worried about transmitting a virus that’s just like another flu.” 

Health experts have repeatedly told people that this virus isn’t like the seasonal flu. This is because not only is this virus completely new and therefore easily spread, there also is no vaccine at the moment. 

Many people, however, are growing increasingly frustrated after losing their jobs or being furloughed until restrictions ease. For a lot of them, that means not being able to pay this month’s rent or other bills. As of Thursday, 22 million people have lost their jobs, wiping out a decade of job gains in the matter of a month.

But like Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has argued, protests like this might only cause stay-at-home orders to be extended if cities or states experience spikes afterward.

Trump Supports Protesters

Despite his current issue of a stay-at-home recommendation until April 30, President Donald Trump appeared to support protesters on Friday.

In the first of a series of tweets, he called to “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” Following that, Trump tweeted similar messages for Michigan and Virginia.

The president’s seeming support for such protests was met with intense criticism from Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D), who said the president’s tweets had the potential to incite violence. 

“The president’s statements this morning encourage illegal and dangerous acts,” Inslee said “He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19. His unhinged rantings and calls for people to “liberate” states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before.” 

“The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies – even while his own administration says the virus is real, it is deadly and we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted,” he added. 

On Sunday, at the direction of a reporter, Trump was sympathetic to those protesters’ cause and falsely said that all demonstrators had maintained social distancing. 

“If people feel that way, you’re allowed to protest,” he said. “I mean, they feel that way. I watched the protest, and they were all six feet apart. I mean, it was a very orderly group of people, but you know, some have gone too far. Some governors have gone too far. Some of the things that have happened are maybe not so appropriate, and I think in the end, it’s not going to matter because we’re starting to open up our states, and I think they’re going to open up very well. 

States Begin to Reopen

In fact, some states have already begun to issue preliminary rollbacks on closures. 

Notably, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) gave the green light for some cities and counties to reopen beaches with restricted hours. While people aren’t allowed to sunbathe, they can still walk, swim and even fish. Once those beaches were opened on Saturday people flocked. In Jacksonville, aerial footage shows the beach flooded with visitors.

DeSantis’ move has also received some pushback because the same day, Florida recorded a record number of cases with 1,400 within 24 hours. 

In Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz (D) signed an executive order reopening outdoor recreational businesses like golf courses and bait shops.

On Saturday, New York, Connectiticut, and New Jersey announced they would begin reopening marinas and boatyards.

Texas is also expected to lift some restrictions later this week by allowing what Governor Greb Abbott (R) calls “retail to-go,” which allows nonessential businesses to deliver or have customers pick up merchandise, though customers won’t be allowed to shop in store.

Trump and Governors Spar Over Testing

Still, things are moving slowly, and even with some of these reopenings, governors have criticized Trump for not doing enough to help states when it comes to testing. That includes providing equipment like swabs, reagents, and other chemical solutions required to run tests. 

The U.S. has been averaging about 146,000 tests a day, but state officials and public health experts have argued that number needs to be in the several hundred thousand or even millions each day. Last week, researchers at Harvard estimated that, in order to ease restrictions, testing needed to triple its current pace of testing. 

At the same time, though, Trump has said that governors are responsible for testing, also saying, “The United States has the most robust, advanced, and accurate testing system in anywhere in the world.”

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) later pushed back against those claims on CNN, saying, “To try to push this off to say that the governors have plenty of testing, and they should just get to work on testing, somehow we aren’t doing our job, is just absolutely false.

“Every governor in America has been pushing and fighting and clawing to get more tests, not only from the federal government, but from every private lab in America and from all across the world,” he added.

Virginia Governor and physician Ralph Northam (D) also criticized Trump’s response on CNN.

“We’ve been fighting for testing,” he said. “It’s not a straightforward test. We don’t even have enough swabs, believe it or not. And we’re ramping that up. But for the national level to say we have what we need, and really to have no guidance to the state levels is just irresponsible because we’re not there yet.” 

Others like Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) have argued that only the federal government has the decision to tell the FDA to prioritize companies that are“putting a slightly different formula together.” 

DeWine went on to say that if the FDA would do that, he could probably double or even triple testing in Ohio.

Following concerns like that, Trump announced Sunday that the federal government was preparing millions of more swabs, though he stopped short of saying he would provide reagents. 

“We also are going to be using, and we’re preparing to use the Defense Production Act to increase swab production in one U.S. facility by over 20 million additional swabs per month,” Trump said. “We’ve had a little difficulty with one. So we’re going to call in — as we have in the past, as you know, we’re calling in the Defense Production Act, and we’ll be getting swabs very easily. Swabs are easy.” 

“We have millions coming in,” Trump later added while defending himself and hitting back against critical governors. “They’re very easy. In all fairness, governors could get them themselves. But we are going to do it. We’ll work with the governors and if they can’t do it we’ll do it.” 

On Monday morning, Trump accused Democratic governors of playing “a very dangerous political game.”

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (CNN) (The Hill)

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Amazon Backs GOP Bill to Legalize Marijuana in Effort to Ramp Up Lobbying

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The proposal is the first Republican-sponsored marijuana bill Amazon has backed since the company first began lobbying for legalization last summer.


Amazon Endorses States Reform Act

Amazon announced Tuesday that it is endorsing a Republican-backed proposal to legalize marijuana.

The move comes as the e-commerce giant has ramped up its efforts to legalize cannabis on the federal level since it came out in support of the idea last summer. Amazon argues that the move would remove hiring barriers — which disproportionately impact people of color — and, in turn, could increase the company’s application pool and boost employee retention.

The company has previously backed similar proposals by forward by Democrats, but Tuesday’s announcement marks the first time Amazon has put its support behind a Republican-sponsored bill aimed at addressing the issue.

The legislation, called the States Reform Act, was authored by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.). Among other measures, it would remove cannabis as a Schedule I substance, allow states to create their own laws, impose an excise tax, and regulate the drug in a similar fashion to alcohol.

While Mace’s bill is fundamentally very similar to others put forth by Democrats, by proposing it herself, the Republican hopes to rally other members of her party around the idea that legalization is pro-business, pro-state’s rights, and anti-big government.

The measure has already received support from the highly influential conservative group, American’s for Prosperity, which is funded by the Koch brothers.

Potential Momentum

Mace and Amazon have painted the company’s endorsement as a game-changer for garnering more support — both from other large corporations and politicians on either side of the aisle. Mace specifically told reporters she believes Amazon’s decision will push other companies to do the same. If more major corporations like Amazon back the effort, other Republicans may be more persuaded to jump on board.

That sentiment was echoed by Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, who said in an interview with The Washington Post that the company was “particularly excited by Congresswoman Mace’s bill because it shows that there’s bipartisan support for this issue.”

Huseman also emphasized that, as part of its decision to back her bill, Amazon will use its powerful influence in Washington to try and drum up bipartisan support.

“We are talking with members of both parties, including Republicans, about why we think this is the right thing to do, especially from the standpoint of a major employer and what this means for our business and our employees and broadening the employee base,” he continued.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Forbes) (Marijuana Moment)

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CDC Data Shows Booster Shots Provide Effective Protection Against Omicron

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Public health experts have encouraged Americans to get boosted to protect themselves against the omicron variant, but less than 40% of fully vaccinated people who are eligible for their third shot have received it.


A First Glimpse of Official Data on Boosters and Omicron

COVID-19 booster shots are effective at preventing Americans from contracting omicron and protecting those who do become infected from severe illness, according to three reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published Friday.

The reports mark the first real-world data regarding the highly infectious variant and how it has impacted the U.S.

One of the CDC reports, which studied data from 25 state and local health departments, found that there were 149 cases per 100,000 people among those had been boosted on average each week. 

In comparison, the figure was 255 cases per 100,000 people in Americans who had only received two shots.

Another study that looked at nearly 88,000 hospitalizations in 10 states found that the third doses were 90% effective at preventing hospitalization. 

By contrast, those who received just two shots were only 57% protected against hospitalization by the time they were eligible for a booster six months after their second dose.

Additionally, the same report also found that the boosters were 82% effective at preventing visits to emergency rooms and urgent care centers, a marked increase from the 38% efficacy for those who were six months out from their two-shot regime and had not yet received a third.

Low Booster Shot Vaccination Rates

Public health officials hope that the new data will urge more Americans to get their booster shots.

Since the emergence of omicron, experts and leading political figures have renewed their efforts to encourage people to get their third shots, arguing they are the best form of protection. 

The CDC currently recommends that everyone 12 and older get a booster shot five months after their second shot of Pfizer and Moderna or two months after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Still, in the U.S., less than 40% of fully vaccinated individuals eligible for a third shot have gotten one.

While COVID cases in the country have begun to drop over the past several days from their peak of over 800,000 average daily infections, the figures are still nearly triple those seen in the largest previous surges.

Hospitalizations have also slowly begun to level out over the last week in places that were hit first, such as New York City and Boston, but medical resources still remain strained in many parts of the country that experienced later surges and have not yet seen cases slow.

Some experts predict that the U.S. will see a sharp decline in omicron cases, as experienced in South Africa and Britain. Still, they urge American’s to get boosted to ensure their continued protection from the variant, as well as other strains that will emerge.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (The New York Times)

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California Bill Would Allow Kids 12 and Up to Get Vaccinated Without Parental Consent

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Nearly one million California teens and preteens between the ages of 12 and 17 are not vaccinated against COVID-19. 


State Senator Proposes Legislation

Legislation proposed in California on Thursday would allow children age 12 and up to get vaccinated without parental consent. 

State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Bill 866 in the hope it could boost vaccination rates among teenagers. According to Wiener, nearly one million kids aged 12- to 17-years old remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 in the state of California. 

“Unvaccinated teens are at risk, put others at risk & make schools less safe,” Wiener tweeted. “They often can’t work, participate in sports, or go to friends’ homes.”

“Many want to get vaccinated but parents won’t let them or aren’t making the time to take them. Teens shouldn’t have to rely on parents’ views & availability to protect themselves from a deadly virus.”

Currently, teens in California can receive vaccines for human papillomavirus and hepatitis B without parental consent. They can also make other reproductive or mental healthcare choices without a guardian signing off. Wiener argues that their medical autonomy should expand to all vaccines, especially during a pandemic that has already killed roughly 78,000 Californians. 

Vaccine Consent Across the U.S.

“Teens shouldn’t have to plot, scheme or fight with their parents to get a vaccine,” he said. “They should simply be able to walk in & get vaccinated like anyone else.”

Bill 866 would allow any kids ages 12 and up to receive any vaccine approved or granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, Pfizer’s COVID vaccine has been fully approved by the FDA for those 16 and older. It has received emergency authorization for ages five through 15. 

Across the United States, vaccine consent ages vary. While the vast majority of states require parental approval for minors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, kids as young as 11 can get the jab on their own in Washington, D.C. In Alabama, kids can receive it without parental consent at 14, in Oregon at 15, and in Rhode Island and South Carolina at 16. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, providers can waive consent in certain cases in Arkansas, Idaho, Washington, and Tennesee.

In October, California became the first state to announce plans to require that students receive the COVID-19 vaccine to attend class. The mandate has yet to take effect, but under the guidelines, students will be “required to be vaccinated for in person learning starting the term following FDA full approval of the vaccine for their grade span.” 

In other words, once the FDA gives a vaccine full approval for those aged 12 and up, it will be required the following session for kids in grades 7-12. Once it does so for kids as young as five, the same process will happen for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. There will also be room for exemptions from the mandate. 

The Fight to Vaccinate California

This week, a group of California state legislators formed a Vaccine Work Group in order to boost public health policies in the state. Wiener is among the several members who are “examining data, hearing from experts, and engaging stakeholders to determine the best approaches to promote vaccines that have been proven to reduce serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.”

“Vaccines protect not only individuals but also whole communities when almost everyone is vaccinated at schools, workplaces and businesses, and safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines have already prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans,” Sen. Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) said in a press release. “Public safety is a paramount duty of government, and I am proud to join a talented group of legislators in the pro-science Vaccine Work Group who want to end this disastrous pandemic and protect Californians from death and disability by preventable diseases.”

While vaccine policies have been a divisive subject nationwide, including in California, state politicians and leaders are hopeful public health initiatives will prevail. 

“If we allow disinformation to drive our state policy making we will not only see more Americans needlessly suffer and die, but we will sacrifice the long term stability of our society having effectively abandoned the idea that we all must work together to protect each other in times of crisis.” Catherine Flores Martin, the Executive Director of the California Immunization Coalition, added. 

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (NBC News) (Sacramento Bee)

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