- 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)
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.