- Ohio State Rep. Nino Vitale said he is refusing to wear a mask because “people are created in the image and likeness of God” and “that image is seen the most by our face.”
- Vitale has repeatedly spread dangerous misinformation about the coronavirus, like claiming that people who wear masks are more likely to get sick and sharing conspiracy theories about Bill Gates on his campaign Facebook.
- Televangelist pastor Andrew Wommack made a similar comment, saying, “We’re supposed to see ourselves in Christ… And I just can’t even picture Jesus wearing a mask as he goes around praying for people.”
Vitale Mask Remarks
Ohio State Rep. Nino Vitale has said he will not wear a face mask, arguing that the face represents the image of God.
“When we think about the image and likeness of God— that we’re created in the image and likeness of God—when we think of image, do we think of a chest or our legs or our arms? We think of a face,” Vitale said in a video posted to Facebook Monday. “That’s the image of God right there, and I want to see it in my brothers and sisters.”
“This is not the entire world,” the lawmaker wrote in the same post. “This is the greatest nation on earth founded on Judeo-Christian Principles. One of those principles is that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. That image is seen the most by our face. I will not wear a mask.”
Vitale also called on counties to directly ignore the orders of state health officials, and said that stay-at-home orders were based on “fear and propaganda.”
“Every statistical, data driven study done in the last 2 weeks says death counts are low, the models were wrong, and this is more like the flu,” he wrote, without providing evidence.
Other Misinformation Shared by Vitale
Vitale has a long track record of not only downplaying the coronavirus and fighting against quarantine restrictions, but also sharing dangerous misinformation.
Last month, he attended an anti-stay-at-home protest, where he argued that Bill Gates may have created the coronavirus.
“We’ve seen a lot of 5G and Bill Gates together for a long time,” he said. “If you’re paying attention you’ve seen a lot of that. And Bill Gates spends a fortune of his money coming up with a solution to a medical health crisis that I question whether he creates or not or is in on it. I don’t know, I hope no one’s that evil.”
Around the same time, Vitale posted a conspiracy theory on his campaign Facebook page, writing that Gates “wants to lock us down and profit by charging us for mandatory vaccinations,” and claiming the billionaire “chose not to vaccinate his own kids.”
Shortly after that, Facebook temporarily shut down his page, reportedly because of “suspicious activity.”
When asked by reporters if he thought it was because of something he posted, Vitale responded, “I mean, there’s some people who posted some pretty awful stuff that I think are much more racist and stuff than I have, I don’t go in for that stuff at all.”
Also on Monday, Vitale told Newsweek that, based on his research, he found that wearing face masks does more harm than good, especially in hospitals.
“The one thing they did notice is the people who wore masks actually got sick more often,” he said, again failing to provide any of the studies he claimed to reference.
“So by putting a mask on someone, we’re actually putting them at a higher risk. One, because it makes it harder to breathe. If you have any type of lung and diaphragm restriction, you could actually be causing someone’s death sooner.”
Pastor Wommack’s Remarks
Vitale’s refusal to wear a mask was also echoed in remarks made by televangelist pastor Andrew Wommack in an interview with the Truth & Liberty Coalition earlier this week.
“We’re supposed to see ourselves in Christ, and let this mind be in us which was in Christ. And I just can’t even picture Jesus wearing a mask as he goes around praying for people. It just doesn’t compute for me,” he said.
Like Vitale, Wommack also has a record of sharing misinformation about the coronavirus.
Last month, he said that many Christians wait until they are sick to start seeking healing from God, adding, “But I think there’s something better than that, and that’s walking in divine health, to where— you know, this is kind of a Star Trek or science fiction kind of way of saying it— but it’s like you have a force field around you, and no sickness can penetrate that and get to you.”
“What about the people who are Christians and they love God and yet they’re sick? Even Christian leaders and stuff?” he continued. “Well, I’m not condemning anybody, but I can guarantee you God has provided healing. And if we get sick, it’s not God who failed, it’s me that failed.”
See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Newsweek) (The Daily Dot)
SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section
- The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June.
- The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
- Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary.
- It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.
College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay
College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.
Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”
The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary.
While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S.
Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.
With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.
The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test
In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.
In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.
According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.
For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)
Biden To Block Trump’s Order Lifting COVID-19 Travel Ban
- President Trump issued an executive order Monday lifting a ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil.
- Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when the CDC will start requiring all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.
- The move was cheered by the travel industry; however, incoming White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki warned that Biden’s administration does not intend to lift the travel restrictions.
Trump Order End To COVID-19 Travel Ban
President Donald Trump issued an executive order Monday ending his administration’s ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil.
That ban was put in place last spring in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. In his announcement, however, Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when new rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention go into effect.
Starting that day, the CDC will require all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.
The recommendation to lift the ban reportedly came from Alex Azar, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. According to Trump’s proclamation, “the Secretary reports high confidence that these jurisdictions will cooperate with the United States in the implementation of CDC’s January 12, 2021, order and that tests administered there will yield accurate results.”
It’s worth noting that the ban will stay in place for travelers from Iran and China. Still, Trump’s announcement was generally cheered by members of the travel industry who have been pushing to lift the ban and require preflight testing instead.
Biden To Block Trump’s Order
Soon after the news broke, the incoming White House press secretary for President-elect Joe Biden, Jennifer Psaki, warned that Biden would block Trump’s order.
“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she wrote on Twitter.
“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26. In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” she added.
With that, it seems unlikely that Trump’s order will actually take effect.
It’s also worth noting that this is one of many executive orders Trump has issued just before inauguration day.
Some of these orders could soon be overturned once Biden takes office Wednesday. Biden is also expected to roll out his own wave of executive orders in his first 10 days as president.
See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times) (CNN)
New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns
- The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
- The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
- The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.
CDC Issues Warning
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus.
The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.
Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.
Mitigating Spread of Variant
“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”
The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.
“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.
“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”