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Face Mask Standoffs Go Viral Over Memorial Day Weekend

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  • In a series of viral incidents over the weekend, Americans seemed to be taking firm stands on each side of the face mask requirement debate.
  • Video from a Staten Island grocery store shows customers yelling at a woman for not wearing a mask, demanding that she leave.
  • A performance artist in Los Angeles held photoshoots outside grocery stores while wearing a bikini made of surgical masks, notably while not covering her mouth with one.
  • The debate became political when President Trump, who opted not to wear a mask at Memorial day ceremonies, retweeted a post mocking Joe Biden for his choice to wear a mask.

Staten Island Grocery Store

Along with Memorial Day weekend’s slew of crowded beaches and pools came a series of viral incidents addressing one of the pandemic’s greatest debates: the importance of wearing a mask in public. 

One viral video from Staten Island, New York showed grocery store customers yelling at a woman who went to the store without a mask.

“Get the fuck out of here,” a herd of voices can be heard saying in the clip. 

People in the state are currently required to wear a face-covering when in public spaces where social distancing is not possible because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The video went viral after it was posted to Faceboook and Twitter this weekend, where it has raked in over 675,000 views and 7 million views respectively.

Though the clip was first posted Saturday, the incident actually happened at a Staten Island ShopRite two weeks ago.  ShopRite told CBS News that store management reported the event to authorities. A spokesperson for the store also advised that customers who see people without a face covering should notify customer service instead of taking matters into their own hands. 

“Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is a shared responsibility,” ShopRite’s statement to CBS continued. “At ShopRite, we continue to adhere to our sanitation and social distancing protocols to ensure our stores remain a safe place for associates and customers to work and shop. We are all in this together and we ask for everyone to be patient and understanding during this difficult time.”

Wearing a mask is something that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been very insistent about. He regularly tweets about the importance of protecting oneself and others during the pandemic. 

According to Cuomo, in his state, even though they are among the most exposed, frontline workers have a lower infection rate, likely because they are wearing personal protective equipment.

This viral video from ShopRite prompted a wide range of reactions reactions, many of which found humor in the loud New Yorker spirit captured in the clip.

“Never been prouder of growing up in Staten Island,” said actress and activist Alyssa Milano.

Actor Jeffrey Wright noted that even though Staten Island is the most conservative borough in New York City, they are likely more willing to follow mask regulations because of the high death rate in their area.

Mask Bikini Photo Shoot

The west coast had a mask controversy of its own when a performance artist named DaVida Sal in Los Angeles posted photos of herself wearing a tiny bikini made of surgical masks. In the photos, Sal is standing outside of grocery stores. She also has masks covering her ankles and eyes, but notably not her mouth. 

Source: Facebook, DaVida Sal

In a Facebook post she titled this photo series “The New Abnormal.”

Source: Facebook, DaVida Sal

“Abnormal Becoming the New Normal. She blindly obeyed,” she wrote.  “If the MASKS work, WHY the 6 feet? If the 6 feet works, WHY the Masks? If BOTH work, WHY the LOCKDOWN?”

Source: Facebook, DaVida Sal

These photos prompted quick backlash online, where model and TV personality Chrissy Teigen said they made her want to fly straight to Mars. 

Others said they thought these photos showed a complete lack of empathy. 

Her stunt is an insult to the doctors, nurses, patients & families of those who have succumbed to the Coronavirus,” one person wrote. 

Trump Vs. Biden

The mask debate took a turned political when President Donald Trump retweeted criticism of candidate Joe Biden’s decision to wear a mask in public. 

Fox News analyst Brit Hume shared a photo of Biden wearing a mask on Memorial Day. He said this photo “might help explain why Trump doesn’t like to wear a mask in public.”

The picture was taken while Biden, along with his wife Jill, went to lay a wreath at Delaware Memorial Bridge Veterans Memorial Park. During Trump’s Memorial Day ceremonies, he opted to not cover his face. 

After retweeting the remarks about Biden’s mask, Trump sent out a tweet criticizing the former Vice President’s response to the swine flu.

Many believed that Trump is trying to structure a narrative that he is strong for not wearing a mask while Biden, his presumptive Democratic opponent in November, is weak for doing so. However, a handful of Republican politicians have slammed the idea that wearing a mask should be a matter of the left versus the right. 

“I would really love to see in North Dakota that we could just skip this thing that other parts of the nation are going through, where they’re creating a divide — either it’s ideological or political or something — around mask versus no mask,” North Dakota’s Republican Governor Doug Burgum during a press briefing. 

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who is also a Repulican, has expressed the same sentiment.”

“This is not about politics,” he said in a statement.

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (Washington Post) (Toronto Sun)

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Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan

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The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”


Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify

A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. 

Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts. 

Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”

“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”

Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation

Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.

“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote. 

“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”

Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”

“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”

Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)

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Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.

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In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.


New Cases Flattening

After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.

Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days. 

New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.

Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.

Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.

According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.

In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.

Concerns Remain 

Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit. 

While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country. 

Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)

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COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open

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While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.


Schools Respond to Omicron Surge

U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.

According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.

That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.

Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.

In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.

Teachers Protest In-Person Learning

Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.

One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).

Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.

On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.

Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”

Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.

On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.

See what others are saying: (The Chicago Tribune) (CNN) (The New York Times)

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