Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Anti-Mask Ruling is Playing With Fire

Americans, it seems, are ready to move on from COVID-19 but if the disease doesn’t cooperate it will be this side of impossible to convince people to return to pandemic precautions, and there will be even more blood on the hands of people like GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, the far right fringe of so-called religious groups and the right wing media’s feeding frenzy.
For now, the south has won this battle, with DeSantis puffing out his chest with his gasconade of bluster that he is the posterboy in winning his epic battle against the “woke” Democrats. I’m surprised that DeSantis isn’t parading around while draped with his very own, pro-faith, 3-foot by 5-foot Christian flag, which is available for just $20 from the far right organization, Grassfire. A $40 contribution gets you three more flags, “absolutely free.”
The Christian Flag was designed in the early 20th century to represent much of Christianity and Christendom. The flag has a white field, with a red Latin cross inside a blue canton. The shade of red on the cross symbolizes the blood that Jesus shed on Calvary. The blue represents the waters of baptism as well as the faithfulness of Jesus. The white represents Jesus’ purity. But remember, there are limited quantities of the flag, so order now.
Maybe DeSantis also should be wearing his “unmasked, unmuzzled, unvaccinated, unafraid. Together we win” T-shirt with matching buttons.
The BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1 coronavirus variants are spreading throughout the region, causing an uptick in cases. Some experts suggest that the end of the travel mask mandate could accelerate the creation of more COVID-19 variants. There remains a lot of uncertainty over the pandemic, leading Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief pandemic scientist for the White House, to report, “It’s really tough to say what is going to happen. But there are going to be new variants.”
As of April 25, New Jersey had 1,684 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and two more deaths. In total, New Jersey has had 2,244,919 confirmed cases and 33,381 deaths. Nationally, as of April 25, there were 13,245 new cases, for a total of 80,869,032 confirmed cases along with 990,208 deaths. Around the world, there have been 507,045,234 confirmed cases and 6,207,815 people have died.
The right wing’s latest “victory” was when U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, coincidentally named to the court by trump, ruled that the Biden administration’s public transportation mask mandate was unenforceable. This means that masks can no longer be required on commercial jetliners, passenger rail systems, and other providers for mass transit which is lousy news for older adults, the ill and the immunocompromised, who face a much higher chance of being hospitalized or even dying if they contract COVID-19 from some ignoramus who has tossed his mask, though he feels physically lousy.
The federal government may no longer require masks at public transportation but private and public, non-federal agencies may still require visitors to wear protection. In the area, masks are still required for LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport, as well as the Port Authority Bus Terminal and PATH system. Masks also are required on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s subways, buses and commuter rail. NJ Transit, which runs in and out of New York City, no longer requires masks for riders.
American Airlines will no longer require masks for customers or employees at airports and on domestic flights. Southwest, United, Jetblue, Spirit, Delta and Frontier Airlines also will not be requiring masks onboard planes. Face masks are now optional for Uber riders and drivers in the United States.
In ruling, Mizel said the federal government is only authorized to deal with issues concerning “sanitation,” which she determined is limited to “measures that clean something.” Because wearing a mask doesn’t clean anything, she wrote, mask mandates are beyond the scope of the government’s authority. Outrageous.
Mizelle was 33 when trump put her on the bench, an appointment criticized by the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary which rated her as “not qualified” for the role, given that she had never tried a single federal case and had only been a practicing lawyer for a few years.
And now comes the latest report that a quarter of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths were probably preventable with vaccinations. The deaths come from a virus that trump famously called a “hoax.” More woke propaganda, would probably be the response of DeSantis and other despicable, political opportunists of the worst kind, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and right-wing media figures such as Fox News’s Tucker Carlson. They should tell that to the just over 234,000 unvaccinated Americans, or a quarter of the total death toll, could have lived had they been immunized against the virus, according to a new analysis from the Peterson Center on Healthcare and Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF).
North Korea and Eritrea are the only countries on the globe which do not offer a COVID-19 vaccine. North Korea is infamous for its dismal human rights record but Eritrea, in the Horn of Africa region of East Africa, is right down there. The Eritrean government’s human rights record is among the worst in the world, according to Human Rights Watch. With no vaccines at all, experts said that the two nations risk becoming the epicenter of new variants as a result of the population’s low immunity to the virus.
And while other countries offer the vaccine, a poll by Ipsos, a multinational market research and consulting firm based in Paris, France,has found that 27 percent of people globally would not want a COVID-19 vaccine.
Philip Bump, national correspondent for the Washington Post, reported on the latest KFF report and noted there are gaps in the likelihood of being vaccinated by age and race. But the broadest gap seen in KFF’s data is by party.
“Last November, it estimated that the unvaccinated were three times as likely to be Republican as to be Democrats,” Bump reported. “That correlates with where coronavirus deaths are occurring. During the period since September in which the delta and then omicron variants struck, it was consistently counties that voted for President Donald Trump in 2020 that saw more per capita deaths. Lower vaccination, more death.”
After a million deaths in the U.S. alone, the vaccine misinformation swamp seems as strong as ever or even more so as the pandemic has been politicized and weaponized to a shameful degree while charlatans make billions off misinformation by selling quackery.
The most common wrongheaded reasons that people avoid vaccinations and the rationale that is proving most difficult to kill, is the unfounded fear that the vaccine is more dangerous than the coronavirus and the belief that the government has no right to tell Americans what to do.
Further mistrust of the vaccine and the government is fertilized by the right wing media that attracts vast advertising dollars from making false yet spectacular claims, as in the one that says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) holds patents for a number of vaccines and is pushing the vaccines for financial and not medical reasons.
QAnon and other Internet sources feed the powerful need for vulnerable and frightened people to feel a part of a larger community that is supposedly standing up for their values in the face of the evil government, which translates into evil Democrats. People who feel disenfranchised flock to these communities like bees to honey.
But even scientific information from legitimate sources can be misleading as many cherry pick from the government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, known as VAERS. The Department of Health and Human Services, which co-sponsors the database with the CDC and FDA, says that a report alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event because anyone can file a report to the database with “incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental and unverified information.”
Additionally, if there is a need for additionally, the conspiracists and fellow fake marketers can be very canny in making all kinds of scientific claims that may seem to make sense to the uninformed who are desperate and hungry for answers. These scoundrels and their scams play into anxiety about COVID-19 that makes people more willing to “try anything.”
Can you spell chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, two anti-malarial drugs, that were promoted by trump for treating COVID-19. The FDA later clarified that it has not approved any therapeutics or drugs to treat COVID-19. Following trump’s claim, panic buying of chloroquine was reported from many countries in Africa, Latin America and South Asia, leading health officials across the world to issue warnings over the use of antimalarial drugs to treat the coronavirus.
The quacks are nothing if not creative. An “anti-coronavirus” mattress was advertised as being anti-fungal, anti-allergic, dustproof and waterproof and able to fight the coronavirus. Wrong.
Indian politician Swami Chakrapani claimed that drinking cow urine and applying cow dung on the body could cure COVID-19 but only Indian cows would do. Drinking camel urine has been advocated in the Middle East. Both really wrong.
And one of my favorite claims is that drinking alcohol will prevent or cure COVID-19. Were it only so, I would be totally protected. Wrong.
There are many fighting the good fight to save people from being conned and convinced and dying from COVID 19. One non-profit, Antidote, run by a Michigan woman, Diane Benscoter, seeks to help families whose loved ones have been taken over by cults and conspiratorial thinking. The organization offers support groups and individual counseling with professionals and links people with life coaches.
Benscoter is a former member of the Unification Church, commonly known as The Moonies. She joined the cult when she was 19 and with prodding by her parents and a deprogrammer, she left the cult after five years.
Benscotter said that conspiracy narratives like cults, provide reassurance and emotional stability. The Antidote website calls for a “a world where psychological manipulation is recognized as a public health concern and efforts are made, globally, to reduce its harmful effects.”
According to Measure of America, a non-partisan, non-profit initiative of the Social Science Research Council, disconnected youth are among the most vulnerable to being exploited. The group is defined as teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school. There are 4,881,500 disconnected youth in America today, or about one in nine teens and young adults (11.7 percent).
“Disconnected youth are among the most vulnerable to being exploited. Individuals or groups who utilize coercive or manipulative tactics specifically target disconnected youth with the intention of controlling these young people’s lives for the purpose of advancing their own interests,” says the Antidote website.

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Phil Garber

Phil Garber

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer