USA: Political and Medical Effect of COVID-19 – Updates – By Politico Nightly

BY RENUKA RAYASAM AND MYAH WARD

November 13, 2010 – Politico Nightly

SHOOT ME NOW — Roughly 20 million people could be vaccinated against the coronavirus in December, the head of the Trump administration’s vaccine and drug accelerator said today.

Americans can expect that about 25 to 30 million people could be vaccinated each month afterward. That timeline depends on the Food and Drug Administration authorizing the emergency use of one or more vaccines.   

SCOOP — President-elect Joe Biden will restore the daily press briefing — and at least two women are under consideration to lead the new post-Trump show, according to people familiar with the deliberations. Kate Bedingfield is seen as having the inside track to become either White House communications director or press secretary. Symone Sanders could be offered the role of incoming press secretary, or slot into another position before winding up “at the podium” down the line.

THE DEFINITION OF INSANITY — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown shut down bars, restaurants and other businesses and limited gatherings today. In New York, curfews and gathering bans are going into effect later tonight. California, after reaching 1 million cases this week, joined Washington and Oregon today in asking residents to avoid out-of-state nonessential travel and urging those arriving to their states to quarantine for 14 days.

But as the pandemic plods on, that approach — mandates, curfews, shutdowns, travel restrictions and gathering bans — seems to be achieving diminishing returns.

In some places, the rules have been ignored. In others they’ve backfired, sparking outrage and litigation. They’re hard to enforce. Ten months since the country’s first Covid case, Americans are feeling more than pandemic fatigue. There’s confusion, resignation and denial.

“I think we know that shame doesn’t work,” said Saskia Popescu, an epidemiologist at the University of Arizona. “We have to get people to buy into something.”

Mark R. Schleiss, a pediatric infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota Medical School, said leaders should tap into the country’s patriotism and competitiveness: “Why can’t we make Covid-19 disease control a Sputnik moment?” he said.

It’s time for new tactics that make the old ones actually work, say many public health experts. Here are some ideas for changing how many Americans feel about Covid safety:

Mask mandates: Sixteen red state governors are opposing statewide mask mandates. Incoming freshman Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted today that “Masks are oppressive” along with “#FreeYourFace.” Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, suggested trying to change minds by engaging red-state cultural icons and community leaders: Think NASCAR drivers filming mask PSAs and church pastors imploring people to cover their faces.

Gathering bans: A New York Republican posted on Twitter that he’s defying Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 10 person limit for at-home gatherings: “I’ll be having more than 10 ppl at my house on Thanksgiving.” Democrats are setting bad examples, too: Both House Democrats and GOP leaders are holding indoor dinners with new members, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi defending the decision and calling it safe.

Harsher measures, like fines and jail time, for people who violate at home gathering bans have worked, Toner said. But Marilyn Felkner, a public health professor at the University of Texas, compares Covid restrictions to Prohibition. You can outlaw all these behaviors, but unless people buy into the idea it won’t work. Popescu suggests focusing on risk minimization: Don’t ban Thanksgiving. Instead promote holding family dinner outdoors while people wear masks. It won’t be foolproof, but it’s better than doing nothing. Also, top leaders modeling Covid-safe behavior is a good place to start.

Business closures: Many countries have paid businesses and their workers to shut down. At the start of the pandemic the U.S. did too. But there are less blunt measures that could be tried, like federal grants to businesses to improve ventilation or to build outdoor spaces.

The thing about soft power, though, is that even if it involves the Scorpions’ “Wind of Change,” it would probably take months before it works. It took decades to convince people they shouldn’t smoke and that they should wear seat belts. With the pandemic, the country has already run out of time. Thousands are dying daily. By Jan. 20, the country will record 360,000 deaths, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

“As a scientist, I hate to say this, but it’s your anecdotal experience, right?” Schleiss said. “People are more likely to wear seat belts if they’ve lost a loved one to a traffic accident. If you’ve had a Covid death in a loved one, a family member, it may resonate with you in a way that changes your behavior.”

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