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Florida Residents React Angrily to Mask Mandate in Viral Videos as Outbreaks Grow

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  • Videos went viral Wednesday showing Palm Beach, Florida residents voicing frustrations about a local mask mandate during a meeting with county commissioners.
  • The same day, Florida recorded its highest single-day total of coronavirus cases with over 5,500 new reports, and the United States did the same, recording over 36,880 nationwide in a day.
  • Along with Florida, states like Texas, California, and Arizona have also seen record spikes, but the governors of all four states have been reluctant to re-impose restrictions or scale back reopening efforts.
  • President Trump, for his part, has continued to downplay the new cases, repeatedly claiming they are only the result of increased testing despite the fact that numerous health experts have said that is false.

Viral Videos

County commissioners in Palm Beach, Florida passed a new mandate Wednesday requiring people to wear masks inside public buildings, prompting outrage from locals whose rants against the move went viral.

“You literally cannot mandate somebody to wear a mask knowing that that mask is killing people” one woman claimed in a viral clip. “We the people are waking up, and we know what citizen’s arrest is. Because citizen’s arrests are already happening.

“Every single one of you that are obeying the devil’s laws are going to be arrested,” she said, warning that God would punish the commissioners for their orders.

“Six feet, like I said before, is military protocol, you’re trying to get the people, to train them, so when the cameras, the 5G comes out, what?”  the woman continued. “They’re going to scan everybody? We gotta get scanned? We gotta get temperatured?” 

“What happened to Bill Gates? Why is he not in jail? ” she went on.

Why is Hilary Clinton not in jail? Why are all of these pedophiles that are demanding you all to listen to their rules, why are they not in jail? Oh, is it because you are a part of them? Are you a part of the deep state? The deep state is going down and if any of you are in the deep state, you are going down with it.” 

Still, the commissioners voted unanimously to impose the mandate Palm Beach after hearing three hours of arguments.

“They want to throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door,” one woman said in another viral video.

“I don’t wear a mask for the same reason I don’t wear underwear: things gotta breathe,” argued another.

Cases Rise in Florida

The remarks were mocked online by people who pointed out that many the claims have been disproven by scientific evidence, and in some cases, have been debunked as conspiracy theories.

This recent example of the fierce opposition to wearing masks, which experts have said prevents the spread of the coronavirus, also comes as cases in Florida increased significantly in recent weeks.

On the same day the county commissioners meeting took place, Florida reported its single highest day of new cases with over 5,500. Over the last week or so, the state has repeatedly broken its previous record for new daily cases.

According to reports, before last Thursday, the state had never reported more than 3,000 new cases in a single day. Over the last week, more than 3,000 cases have been recorded every day but one.

Even compared to the week before, the growth has been significant. Data compiled by the state’s health department shows that there were 29,508 total new infections recorded from June 18 to June 24, which is nearly early double the 15,600 new cases confirmed in the week before.

For weeks, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed that the spikes were due to increased testing, an argument President Donald Trump has made repeatedly.

However, numerous experts have said that is not true. While more testing does mean more infections will be found, it is more important to look at the positivity rate— the percentage of tests that are coming back positive. Comparing how many tests are being done to the amount of those tests that are positive is a much more accurate indicator of where a given state is.

According to reports, the percentage of people testing positive in Florida has risen sharply— a fact DeSantis finally admitted after pushing false narratives about testing for weeks.

“Most of that is community transmission particularly amongst the 20- and 30-year-old group. They are testing more than they were, for sure, but they’re also testing positive at a higher rate than they were before,” he said in a press conference Tuesday. “So, that would tell you there’s been an escalation in transmission over the last seven to 10 days.”

However, DeSantis still said he is going ahead with his reopening plans, which have already been some of the earliest and most expansive in the country, and notably include reopening schools in August.

Separately, on Wednesday, when the state saw its highest number of cases ever, DeSantis refused to issue a statewide order requiring people to wear masks.

“Ultimately, you have to trust people to make good decisions,” he said.

Increases in Other States 

Florida is not the only state seeing huge spikes. Also on Wednesday, the U.S. as a whole broke its previous record for the highest single day of confirmed cases with 36,880.

Cases are also now rising in more than half of the states, but some have been hit worse than others. Among other states, California and Texas also broke their previous daily case records on Wednesday, with California reporting over 7,100 new cases and Texas reporting over 5,500.

Arizona is another state that has seen large increases in the last few weeks. On Tuesday, the state reported its highest single day of new cases with 3,600. The same day, President Trump held a rally at a megachurch in Phoenix, where he again insisted that testing was the reason for the spikes.

“When you have all those tests, you have more cases,” he said. “We want to do testing. We want to do everything, but they use it to make us look bad.”

Arizona has also seen a huge jump in hospitalizations. As of Monday, around 84% of the state’s ICU beds were in use. But, like DeSantis, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has refused to change his reopening plans.

Leaders of other states with rising cases have taken some actions. California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week issued a state-wide order requiring people throughout the state to wear masks in “high-risk settings.”

However, on Wednesday, Newsom said that he does not plan to pause the state’s reopening, though he is ready to re-impose restrictions if needed.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott basically did the exact opposite, announcing Thursday that he would pause the state’s reopening, but stressing that he does not plan on reversing any of the broad reopening phases he’s already allowed for. 

Some states have even taken it a step further. On Wendesday, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut issued a travel advisory requiring people arriving from states with high coronavirus cases to quarantine for 14 days.

Numerous experts and public health officials have said that the new spikes indicate that not only is the U.S. failing to contain the virus, but that it is getting worse.

President Trump, however, has ramped up his efforts to downplay the virus at all costs. In addition to pushing the false claim that the spikes are simply due to increased testing, he also said he directed his administration to slow down testing during a campaign rally over the weekend.

A White House official claimed the remark was a joke, but when asked by a reporter on Tuesday if he had been kidding, a straight-faced Trump responded, “I don’t kid.”

Hours later, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tried to walk back Trump’s remarks.

“He was making was a serious point, and that’s why he said ‘I don’t kid,’” she said. “He was making a serious point, but he was using sarcasm to do that at the rally.”

See what others are saying: (CNN) (USA Today) (The New York Times)

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College Board Changes AP African American Studies After Backlash From DeSantis Amid Education Culture War

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As requested by DeSantis, the College Board removed lessons on contemporary topics including Black Lives Matter, queer studies, and reparations.


College Board Rolls Out Curriculum

The College Board, which oversees Advanced Placement high school courses, announced an official curriculum framework for its new, landmark Advanced Placement African American studies on Wednesday.

The announcement, made on the first day of Black History Month, has faced scrutiny for seeming to scale back a number of relevant subjects that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other state education officials had criticized.

In January, DeSantis said that the new course would be banned in Florida unless changes were made, arguing that a draft version of the course was “woke.” 

Education officials claimed that the class, which had been in the making for nearly a decade, violated a recent state law dubbed the Stop WOKE Act. The legislation regulates public school instruction on race by banning critical race theory and any education that describes some groups as oppressed and others as privileged based on race or sex.

Democrats denounced DeSantis’ action as a political stunt and urged the College Board to maintain its principles.

According to reports, many historical topics like slavery largely remain intact from the previous draft. However, important contemporary issues like Black Lives Matter, affirmative action, queer studies, reparations, and intersectionality — all of which Florida leaders objected to — were removed from curriculum requirements and are no longer part of the AP exam.

Instead, those areas of study have been downgraded to be part of a list of options students can pursue for a mandatory research project. The College Board also added a new research project idea to that list that will certainly please the right: “Black conservatism.”

It has additionally been reported that the organization pulled names of multiple Black authors the state education officials had flagged as problematic, including many famous and pioneering Black scholars who wrote about critical race theory, the queer experience, and Black feminism. 

The College Board defended itself against criticism in a press release announcing the changes, claiming that the process of developing the framework “has operated independently from political pressure.”

DeSantis’ Ongoing Culture War

DeSantis’ attempts to influence the national curriculum of an AP course are just his latest in a much broader effort to control what is and is not taught in public schools.

Just one day before the College Board announced the revised course, the governor outlined what The New York Times described as “his most aggressive swing yet at the education establishment.”

Specifically, he proposed a massive overhaul to higher education in the state that would defund and eliminate diversity and equity programs, mandate courses on Western civilization, and reduce tenure protections that are essential to ensure professors have freedom of expression.

Furthermore, the effects of another law DeSantis signed last year are now just beginning to materialize. The policy, which went into effect this July, requires every school book to be age-appropriate, “free of pornography,” and “suited to student needs.” 

To follow those guidelines, school books have to be approved by a certified media specialist who has undergone specific training.

Notably, the law also states that teachers can be charged with third-degree felonies if they “knowingly or unknowingly” give students access to a book that the specialists say is harmful — meaning that they could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Last month, the state education department clarified that the rule does not just apply to school libraries, but also to any books a teacher keeps in their classroom too. 

Multiple outlets reported this week that records they obtained show at least two school districts have now directed teachers to either remove their books or hide them until review to avoid the possibility of going to jail.

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

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Biden Announces Plan to End COVID Emergency in May

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The decision would drastically change the government’s long-standing pandemic response and shift Americans’ access to COVID-related services.


Emergency Declarations at an End

In a statement Monday, The White House announced that it would be ending the COVID national emergency and public health emergency declarations on May 11.

The move will entirely restructure the federal government’s response to the pandemic to treat it as endemic and upend policies that have been in place for the last three years. Although more than 500 people in the U.S. are still dying from COVID on average each day — which is around two times the number of daily deaths during a bad flu season — life has largely returned to normal.

Most Americans are vaccinated, and even President Joe Biden himself said the pandemic was “over” back in September. The new announcement comes in part as a response to resolutions Republicans brought to the House floor last week that would end the declarations immediately.

“An abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans,” the White House argued.

Lapses in Coverage and Care

Federal officials decided that a phase-out would make more sense because the U.S. has come to rely on several systems and benefits under the emergencies.

One of the most significant changes that will have the biggest impact on Americans in their day-to-day lives is access to COVID tests, treatments, and vaccines that have been free throughout the pandemic.

Once the emergencies end, a very complex wave of changes will take place that differs from person to person depending on their insurance — or lack thereof — and even possibly what state they live in.

Currently, people with private health insurance or Medicare coverage have been allowed eight free COVID tests a month and insurers had to cover those tests, even if they were administered out of network.

Once the emergency ends, some Americans will have to pay out of pocket, as well as for antiviral COVID treatments like Paxlovid. 

Notably, it has been reported that vaccines will still be included for all those people covered by both private and public insurance. That, however, may not be the case for those without insurance — a group that is also more likely to be the most affected by rising costs for tests and treatments.

Jen Kates, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told The Washington Post that when the emergency declarations end, states that opted to provide Medicaid coverage for tests, treatments, and shots will lose the federal funds that matched costs at 100%.

“To me, that’s the biggest issue for the general public to think about,” she said. “The uninsured and underinsured have no guaranteed access to covid vaccines, tests or treatments.”

When it comes to vaccines, those costs could be significant. Moderna and Pfizer have both said they might charge as much as $130 per dose of vaccine once the federal government stops paying and the shots are transitioned to the private market. That figure is nearly quadruple what federal offices have paid for the doses.

The shift to the private market could happen fairly soon, especially because Republicans have refused Biden’s request that they put billions of dollars towards additional free COVID testing and shots to extend those efforts.

There could also be a spike in the number of uninsured or underinsured Americans because the $1.7 trillion spending bill passed last year ends a rule that banned states from kicking people off Medicaid, leaving millions at risk of losing coverage.

Other Possible Outcomes

Ending the declarations could also set up a battle around immigration because the Biden administration has said the move will bring an end to Title 42 — the Trump-era public health measure that placed restrictions on border crossings and other migrant policies.

Biden has previously tried to cut the program, but the Supreme Court kept it in place. House Republicans rejected the White House’s claim that the program would be terminated, arguing it is not tied to the public health emergency.

Beyond that, the termination of the declarations would require health providers to make numerous adjustments because many of the flexibilities they were allowed in a number of areas would be cut. 

As a result, the administration says a phase-out of those policies over the next few months is necessary, arguing that hospitals and nursing homes “will be plunged into chaos” if they are cut immediately. House Republicans, however, are insistent on moving forward their legislation that would do just that, though the Democratic-controlled Senate could block their proposals.

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

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Conservatives are Mad at “Woke” Xbox for Minor Climate-Related Updates

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The fury comes after Xbox announced it was slightly altering existing consoles to better utilize and save energy.


Same War, New Battlefield

Mere days after M&M canceled their “spokescandies” due to backlash from the right, led largely by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, conservatives have found a new front for their ongoing culture war: Xbox.

Carlson spent months complaining that small character redesigns were “woke” because they made the animated anthropomorphized M&M’s — in his own words — “less sexy.” His campaign finally proved successful on Monday when the company announced it would be doing away with the spokescandies and replacing them with actress Maya Rudolph.

Conservatives, now facing a sudden dearth of non-issues to complain about, quickly found a new issue to rage against. Xbox announced in a blog post earlier this month that it is making minor updates to lower its environmental impact as part of an effort to reach Microsoft’s goal of being carbon-negative by 2030.

Now, instead of having an Xbox wake up to update games, apps, and software during random times of the night, it will do that at a time of night when a user’s local energy grid is generating the most power it can from renewable sources. 

Xbox also said it would automatically update some older consoles to a power-saving mode that aims to reduce electricity consumption when it is turned off — a feature that is already the default on newer consoles.

According to The Verge, the only difference for users is that an Xbox in power-saving mode takes around 15 seconds to boot up instead of doing so immediately as the console does in “sleep” mode. The change is a small price to pay for what the outlet described as “significant” energy savings.

Xbox Under Fire

To many leading conservative voices, the minimal shifts were just another example of “woke” culture. 

While discussing M&M’s spokescandies Tuesday morning, “Fox and Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt brought up Xbox’s new changes with Fox radio host Jimmy Failla.

“So Xbox has also announced that they’re going woke too, you know, because of climate change,” Earhardt said.

“I mean, it’s crazy what they’re doing, but we understand what this is. It’s not that it’s actually going to offset emissions, okay — the level of reduction is infinitesimal,”  Failla claimed, without evidence. “But they’re trying to recruit your kids into climate politics at an earlier age; make them climate conscious now.”

“Yeah, I didn’t think of that — you’re right, they’re going after the children,” Earhardt agreed, despite the fact that internal data from Microsoft shows just around 10% of Xbox owners are under the age of 18.

Other prominent conservatives also did their part to bait Americans into anger on social media, including America’s Foundation, which posted a tweet stating that “the woke brigade is after video games.”

The post linked an article from the right-wing website TheBlaze, which asserted that “Xbox will force gamers to power down to fight climate change.”  That, however, is false — Xbox has said users can switch back and change the settings any time they want

Still, top lawmakers continued to share the article and spread its false claims, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.).

“First gas stoves, then your coffee, now they’re gunning for your Xbox,” he wrote in the post, which was flagged by Twitter and given an “added context” warning.

The same warning, however, was not placed in a very similar post by Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Tx.), who also shared the article.

“They want to take your guns. They want to take your gas stoves. And now they want to take your Xbox. What’s next?” he wrote.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Daily Beast) (VICE)

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