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Health Experts Warn of Possible “Tripledemic” Amid Skyrocketing Cases of RSV. Here’s What You Need to Know

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Officials are worried that the surging frequency and severity of RSV cases coupled with COVID and seasonal viruses will put a large burden on the nation’s hospitals.


A Spike in RSV Cases

Public health experts are warning American about the possibility of a “tripledemic” this holiday season as cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) have surged to unusually high numbers in recent months, threatening to overwhelm hospitals already preparing for the expected wintertime spike in other respiratory viruses like the flu and COVID-19.

Although RSV is a common seasonal respiratory infection that typically manifests like a cold with very mild symptoms in healthy adults, it can cause lung inflammation or infections like bronchitis and pneumonia in young children, older adults, and the immunocompromised.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that around 58,000 children under the age of five are hospitalized each year with RSV, resulting in between 100 to 500 deaths. Among Americans 65 and older, about 177,000 are hospitalized annually, leading to around 14,000 deaths.

This year, however, the CDC has reported that detected RSV cases have tripled nationwide just in the last two months, already reaching peak levels seen in 2021. The caseloads are especially alarming among young children.

Preliminary figures from the agency show that nearly one in every 500 babies six months and younger was hospitalized with RSV since the beginning of October. The numbers overall are likely higher because many who have been infected do not get tested, even if they have been hospitalized.

It is currently uncertain why so many more children than normal are becoming sick — and seriously sick — with RSV. Health experts, however, generally believe the reason is due to the broad rollback of COVID restrictions.

Kids who would have normally been exposed to RSV and able to build up immunities have been insulated because of COVID precautions like masking, social distancing, increased hand-washing, and other measures.

Strain on Hospitals

The tremendous, national wave of young children being hospitalized in emergency rooms and pediatric intensive care units is putting a serious strain on hospitals that are already dealing with seasonal spikes in respiratory viruses like colds, influenzas, and COVID. 

“It is particularly challenging in regions where pediatric units have shrunk or have even been shuttered in recent years, creating bottlenecks in emergency rooms and shifting the strain to children’s hospitals that focus on specialized services like cancer treatment or heart surgery,” The New York Times reported.

The impact is already being seen in some places. Multiple pediatric hospitals are already at capacity, including Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, as well as others in Lubbock, Texas; Seattle; and Orange County, California.

Officials in Orange County declared a public health emergency Tuesday as the rapid spread of viral infections — in part driven by RSV — have caused pediatric hospitalizations and daily emergency room visits to surge to record levels.

Meanwhile, Boston Children’s Hospital has reportedly postponed some elective surgeries so it can make room for more patients that have respiratory illnesses.

Vaccine & Prevention

While there is currently no vaccine for RSV, Pfizer announced Tuesday that it has made an inoculation that can protect babies from the virus.

The pharmaceutical company claims its vaccine is 81.8% effective at preventing severe illness in newborns during their first three months of life and 69.4% effective for six months. Pfizer said that it plans to file for vaccine approval with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

However, because it takes an average of eight to ten months for the agency to issue a decision on a new vaccine, the product will not be helpful for this year’s surge in RSV. If the shot is approved and all goes as planned, it could be on the market by next year.

In the meantime, health officials say the best way to prevent RSV is through precautions commonly encouraged to mitigate the risk of viral infections and COVID, like handwashing, drinking water, disinfecting surfaces, and avoiding touching one’s face.

Other experts have also said that getting flu shots and updated COVID boosters are also very effective ways for both children and adults to stay healthy during the winter. Protecting against COVID and the flu will further drive down hospitalizations for those illnesses and help alleviate hospital capacity for cases of RSV.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (Vox)

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Senate Approves Respect for Marriage Act, Clearing Path for Finalization

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The bill was passed 61-36 with bipartisan support from 12 Republicans and is expected to be approved by the House next week.


Respect for Marriage Act

The Senate passed a landmark bill Tuesday that will codify the right to same-sex and interracial marriage into federal law.

The legislation, called the Respect for Marriage Act, was passed in a bipartisan vote of 61-36 with 12 Republicans bucking pressure from many of their colleagues and powerful conservative groups.

The bill would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman. While it will not require all states to allow for same-sex marriage, it does mandate that they recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages performed legally in states that do allow them.

Furthermore, the proposal contains a provision that Republican supporters insisted on, which clarifies that religious nonprofit organizations do not have to provide goods or services for same-sex marriages and that the federal government is not authorized to recognize polygamous marriages, among other measures.

Lawmakers introduced the bill after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, stirring concerns that the high court could come after other basic rights. In his decision to overturn Roe, Justice Clarence Thomas said he believes the court should reconsider Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 case that established gay marriage.

Many Republicans initially opposed the Respect for Marriage Act, claiming it was not necessary because Obergefell was still in place, and accused Democrats of trying to pull off a political stunt ahead of the midterms.

The accusations prompted the bipartisan group of Senators driving the push to postpone a vote on the matter until after the elections. 

“I feel like we were told in pretty clear terms that we would have some people support only if the vote came after the midterms,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wi.), who led the effort, told Rogue Rocket after the decision in October.

An earlier version of the bill passed the House this summer, though the changes to the language of the policy require the lower chamber to vote on it again.

That passage is all but assured as Democrats still hold the House and the last version was approved with a broad bipartisan majority that included 47 Republicans. President Joe Biden, for his part, applauded the Senate vote and said he looks forward to signing the bill.

Shift in Opinion

Other proponents of the bill also cheered its passage in the Senate, which just two decades ago would have been unimaginable, and not just because of Republican opposition.

Democrats, too, have only more recently shifted to support same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ rights more broadly. President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, signed DOMA into law, and President Barack Obama first voiced his support for same-sex marriage while running for his second term in 2012. 

The transformation in public opinion has happened relatively fast, especially when compared to other civil rights movements. When Clinton signed DOMA in 1996, gay marriage had the support of just 27% of the public. Now, polling shows seven in ten Americans support legal recognition.

Still, the Republican party appears to lag behind the times, with 70% of senate Republicans having opposed the Respect for Marriage Act. 

“This is a great example of politicians following public opinion rather than leading it,” Sasha Issenberg, author of “The Engagement: America’s Quarter-Century Struggle over Same-Sex Marriage,” told Axios

“Now it’s Republicans who are torn between placating some of their loudest activists and taking a position that aligns with where general-election voters are.”

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

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Kathy Griffin, Ethan Klein, More Suspended From Twitter Over Elon Musk Impersonations

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Many have pretended to be Musk in an attempt to highlight the potential issues paid-for verifications could cause on the platform.


Musk Takes on Impersonations

Comedian Kathy Griffin and internet personality Ethan Klein are among the many Twitter users that have been permanently suspended for impersonating the platform’s new CEO, Elon Musk.

Impersonation has long been against Twitter’s rules, but on Sunday, the billionaire took the policy a step further by announcing that “any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended.”

“Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning,” Musk explained. “This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue.”

Musk also said that any user who changes their name will temporarily lose their verification check mark. 

The announcement came as many verified users began mocking Musk by changing their name and photo to match his, then tweeting jokes that were either absurd or out of character for the business mogul. Many did this to protest Musk’s plan to charge an $8 monthly subscription fee that would allow any Twitter user to become verified. 

Klein was one of many who changed his name to “Elon Musk” and made a photo of the CEO his profile image. The podcast host sent out several jokes, including one referencing the increased use of the N-word on the platform since Musk’s takeover, and another referencing Jeffrey Epstein.

“Even though Jeffrey Epstein committed horrible crimes, I do still miss him on nights like this for his warmth and camaraderie. Rest In Peace old Friend,” he wrote. 

His account was quickly banned, but Klein defended himself on TikTok, arguing that both his cover photo and bio labeled his account as “parody” and therefore should be acceptable under Musk’s guidelines. 

“What more do you want from me?” he asked. “Comedy is dead. And Elon Musk dug the grave.” 

Protests of Musk’s Twitter Control

For her part, Griffin likewise tweeted while masquerading as Musk, writing that after “spirited discussion with the females in my life, I’ve decided that voting blue for their choice is only right.”

Musk joked that she was actually “suspended for impersonating a comedian” and added that she can have her account back if she pays for the $8 subscription. Griffin, however, found another way around the ban.

The comedian logged into her late mother’s Twitter account and began using the hashtag #FreeKathy while calling out Musk. 

“Mad Men” actor Rich Sommer and podcaster Griffin Newman have also had their accounts suspended for tweeting as Musk. Other celebrities, including TV producer Shonda Rhimes, musician Sara Bareilles, and model Gigi Hadid have protested Musk’s Twitter reign by leaving the platform altogether.

“For a long time, but especially with its new leadership, it’s becoming more and more of a cesspool of hate & bigotry, and it’s not a place I want to be a part of,” Hadid wrote on Instagram over the weekend. 

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Variety) (The Verge)

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AOC Says Twitter Notifications “Conveniently” Disabled After Criticizing Musk

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“What’s good? Doesn’t seem very free speechy to me,” she tweeted at the new CEO.


AOC Vs. Elon Musk

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said several of her Twitter features are “conveniently not working” after feuding with the platform’s new owner, billionaire Elon Musk.

Ocasio-Cortez has never been shy about her views on Musk. After he officially took charge of Twitter last week, the congresswoman began criticizing his new proposals for the social networking site, specifically his plan to charge an $8 subscription fee for verification. 

“Lmao at a billionaire earnestly trying to sell people on the idea that ‘free speech’ is actually a $8/mo subscription plan,” she wrote on Tuesday.

“Your feedback is appreciated, now pay $8,” Musk replied the following day.

Around an hour later, the business mogul sent another tweet appearing to call Ocasio-Cortez out for selling $58 sweatshirts. 

“Proud of this and always will be,” she shot back. “My workers are union, make a living wage, have full healthcare, and aren’t subject to racist treatment in their workplaces. Items are made in USA. Team AOC honors and respects working people. You should try it sometime instead of union-busting.”

In a follow-up tweet, she noted that proceeds go to community organizing programs, including one that tutors students who are falling behind because of COVID-19.

AOC’s Mentions Not Working

On Wednesday evening, just hours after her back-and-forth with Musk, Ocasio-Cortez told her followers that her “Twitter mentions/notifications conveniently aren’t working tonight.”

“I was informed via text that I seem to have gotten under a certain billionaire’s skin,” she added. “Just a reminder that money will never [buy] your way out of insecurity, folks.” 

The issue seemingly continued into Thursday morning when the Democrat tweeted a screenshot of her notifications page, which loaded no results. 

Why should people pay $8 just for their app to get bricked when they say something you don’t like?” she tweeted at Musk. “This is what my app has looked like ever since my tweet upset you yesterday. What’s good? Doesn’t seem very free speechy to me.”

Musk has repeatedly claimed that one of his primary motives to buy Twitter was to protect free speech. Once taking the reigns as CEO, though, he did say he would start a content moderation council and make decisions jointly with them.

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (Insider)

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