- Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has hired an anti-masker and conspiracy theorist to a data analysis role.
- That role, while not exclusively devoted to COVID-19 research, will lively involve projects involving COVID-19 data.
- The controversial hire, Kyle Lamb, is a sports blogger and Uber driver from Ohio. He started hosting a COVID-19 podcast and regularly posts tweets undermining data from health experts and scientists.
- According to the Miami Herald, the debunked conspiracy theories he touts include the idea that masks and lockdowns are ineffective at stopping the spread of the virus, that the virus is less deadly than the flu and does not harm children, and that it might be part of Chinese biowar.
Conspiracy Theorist Hired
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has hired an anti-masker and conspiracy theorist to a data analysis role that will likely involve working on COVID-19 data.
The controversial hire is 40-year-old Kyle Lamb, a sports blogger and Uber driver from Ohio. According to the Miami Herald Lamb has touted a variety of unsubstantiated theories, including the idea that masks do not prevent the spread of coronavirus and that lockdowns are ineffective. He also claimed that hydroxychloroquine, a drug boasted by President Donald Trump but denounced by medical experts, can treat the virus. He has also falsely said that the virus is less deadly than the flu, that it is not dangerous for children, and that it might be part of Chinese biowar.
The coronavirus has infected 10.3 million Americans and killed 240,000. According to data from the New York Times, the seven-day average of cases has reached over 123,000, a 69% increase from the average two weeks ago. Nationwide, hospitalizations are on the rise. In Florida alone, hospitalizations have gone up 25% in the past two weeks. The state has seen a total of 182,000 cases and over 17,000 deaths.
The theories Lamb has been touting have been debunked by scientists time and time again and play into the harmful narrative that continues to allow people to deny the severity of the virus. Governor DeSantis is among the many who have downplayed the risks the coronavirus poses.
On a website Lamb made for a COVID-19 podcast he started hosting, he admitted himself that he is not an “expert” when it comes to the disease.
“I have no qualms about being a ‘sports guy’ moonlighting as a Covid-19 analyst,” he wrote in a bio about himself. “Fact is, I’m not an ‘expert.’ I’m not a doctor, epidemiologist, virologist or scientist. I also don’t need to be.”
Former Colleagues Call Him “Unghinged”
Those in Lamb’s circle have doubted his qualifications for the position. The Herald spoke to sports writers in Ohio who called him “unhinged,” a “crackpot” and an “amateur, basement epidemiologist.”
The Washington Post spoke Ryan Donnelly, a former coworker who worked a sports publication with Lamb two years ago.
“He is totally unfit for the role and appears to have been hired because he enjoyed posting charts and graphs on Twitter and offering misleading analysis alongside them,” Donnelly told the outlet.
A spokesperson for DeSantis’ office, Fred Piccolo, told the Herald that Lamb’s role is an entry level position and that his work will go through the hands of around ten people before landing on the Governor’s desk. He also said that the work is not exclusively focused on the virus and that he was not “a COVID-19 hire.”
According to Lamb, though, he will be “doing data analysis on several fronts for them including but not limited to Covid-19 research and other projects.”
Emilio M. Bruna, a professor at the University of Florida tweeted that the thought of Lamb working in this capacity made him start “hyperventilating into my mask.”
Lamb’s Twitter page is filled with charts and commentary aimed at undermining the data provided to the nation by top health experts. While he claims to be providing context to these figures, most of what he alleges contradicts the messaging of medical leaders. He has also written for a conservative blog that claims Florida is over counting their COVID-19 deaths, a claim with no scientific backing.
That blog has been cited by people in the Governor’s office. Piccolo has cited it himself. He said he was not sure who first thought to hire him, but noted his work with data online.
Lamb’s LinkedIn shows that he graduated from the Ohio Center for Broadcasting in 2002 but boasts no other education.
“I don’t know what the governor has this gentleman doing, but I certainly don’t believe that there is anything that is not above board, 100 percent,” Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson told the Herald.
See what others are saying: (Miami Herald) (Washington Post) (Tampa Bay Times)
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.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.