Under 50% of U.S. is Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19

At present, only 49% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (57.3% of people 12 and up and 59.9% of people 18 and up). President Biden had set a goal of 70% of U.S. adults having received at least one dose of vaccine by July 4, but that goal was not met, and the goal itself is not a sufficient target. First, adults are not the only people who can get or transmit COVID-19, and are not the only people that are currently eligible for it (people 12 and up can get the vaccine in the U.S.), and second, the Delta variant is more transmissible and now accounts for over 80% of cases, and people who have only gotten one dose of a two-dose regimen may not be adequately protected (treating people who have not completed their vaccination regimen as “vaccinated” may be creating a false sense of safety and security). Having received only one dose of Pfizer or Moderna is not enough; it’s critical that people receive both doses. It’s also likely that booster shots will be needed in the future to maintain protection, so the percentage of the population considered fully vaccinated could potentially drop in the future if people avoid or ignore boosters.

Vaccination rates have slowed down to the point where it’s possible that the U.S. will never reach a 70% rate unless something major changes. Unless you are medically unable to do so, please get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Data: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations

Pandemic and Mask Update

According to the CDC, over 83% of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are now due the Delta variant. In addition, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the Pfizer vaccine is about 88% effective against the Delta variant in preventing infections in those who have been fully vaccinated with two doses of the vaccine, but only 30.7% effective for those who have only received one dose. While this may be the case, a study out of Israel suggests that even though the Pfizer vaccine is still very effective in preventing severe disease, there may be decreased effectiveness over time. Thus, as expected and as we’ve seen over the past few months, while being fully vaccinated is great at preventing infections or severe disease, none of the vaccines are 100% effective and those who are vaccinated can still become sick, although the vast majority of new cases have still been in those who are not vaccinated.

In response to the recent surge in cases of COVID-19, many public health experts have called for the CDC to update their mask guidelines to reinstate previous mask-wearing recommendations. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has already moved beyond CDC guidelines, recommending that everyone over the age of 2 should be wearing masks regardless of vaccination status. In addition, the AAP recommends those who are eligible to be vaccinated to be vaccinated and that in-person learning should resume with these recommendations. Also, more cities have required masks, especially indoors. Chicago will require that masks be worn in its schools which are set to begin in late August. In addition, King County in Washington State has recommended that all individuals wear masks while indoors, regardless of vaccinations.

Many states with low vaccination rates have seen incredible surges in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. There are models that suggest that if things are allowed to continue as they are, deaths due to COVID-19 will surge as well. In Alabama, Governor Ivey, in a press conference, blamed the surge of cases in those unvaccinated and pushed for more vaccinations. There is currently no evidence, however, that she is looking to reinstate mask mandates. It is important that if you are able to get vaccinated that you do so, and to continue wearing masks indoors to better protect yourself and others from COVID-19. If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out!

More information:

DHS Will Administer Johnson & Johnson Vaccine to Immigrants in ICE Custody

Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security announced that they would begin administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to immigrants detained in Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities. Throughout the pandemic, prison and detention facilities have had high numbers of COVID-19 cases, basic precautions (masks, social distancing, etc.) have been ignored, and vaccination has been largely nonexistent. The move comes after three whistleblowers spoke out in response to the Biden administration’s failure to provide vaccines to those in ICE custody. According to the whistleblower letter from three medical experts working with DHS, "Immigrant detention settings...continue to be a significant source of spread for COVID and disproportionate harm to detainees, workers and the public, yet DHS has still not implemented a comprehensive plan to address the spread of COVID in immigration detention facilities."

There are currently over 27,000 people detained by ICE, a staggering and horrifying number, and over 1,500 are currently positive for COVID-19. The initial number of doses allocated to DHS is 10,000. The use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is concerning, as studies suggest that it may be less effective against the Delta variant, which now accounts for over 80% of COVDI-19 cases in the country.

More information:

In a Victory for Indigenous People, Cleveland Baseball Team Announces New Name

After years of public pressure from Indigenous communities across the U.S., the Cleveland Major League Baseball team officially announced a new name this week. The team, which had been known as the "Indians" since 1915 (it had gone by other names in prior years), will be known as the "Guardians" starting in the 2022 season. The team used a racist caricature known as "Chief Wahoo" as a logo starting in 1947, only retiring it in 2018 in response to pressure, protests, and lawsuits from Indigenous communities and civil rights groups. In December of 2020, five months after Washington's NFL team finally announced they were dropping their racist team name (that team ignored pressure from Indigenous groups for years, and only announced the change after sponsors demanded it), the Cleveland management announced that they would be retiring their team name after the 2021 season, and were considering replacement names. While the Cleveland baseball has now announced their new name, the Washington football team has not, and will be officially known as the "Washington Football Team" until they choose a new name.

More information:

Michigan Legislature Repeals Emergency Powers Act Using Process That Doesn’t Require Governor’s Signature

On Wednesday, the Michigan House of Representatives voted to repeal the law under which Governor Whitmer issued Executive Orders last year to protect people in the state from the COVID-19 pandemic by requiring masks, limiting gatherings, and temporarily closing restaurants, businesses, and events. The Senate had already voted in favor of repeal. The repeal is the result of a little-known process that allows the legislature to enact a law without the Governor's signature, bypassing the possibility of a veto. The action by the legislature was largely symbolic and a test of a process that is rarely used - the Michigan Supreme Court already ruled that the Emergency Powers Act of 1945 was unconstitutional last October, invalidating it and removing the Governor's power to enact the types of Executive Orders in question. The ruling (like this week's repeal) had no real effect; the restrictions that had originally come from the Governor were shifted to instead come from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which does have the power to enact them to control the impacts of an epidemic. The repeal also has no impact on a newer law that allows the Governor to declare a state of emergency for up to 28 before needing legislative approval.

The use of a petition to avoid the Governor's signature is likely to have major impacts in the coming months: Republicans in the state legislature are planning to use the same process to restrict voting rights in the state - using false claims about the 2020 election as an excuse to disenfranchise Black voters. They only need to find 340,000 supporters of Trump's false conspiracy theories to sign a petition, and there is no way for the Governor or Democrats in the state legislature to stop it. The process is terrible, but totally legal.

Here's how it works:

Legislation normally requires a majority of the state House and Senate voting to approve, followed by the Governor's signature. If the Governor vetoes the measure, 2/3rds of the House and Senate must vote to override her veto. Republicans currently hold narrow majorities in both the state House and Senate and the Governor is a Democrat, so new laws require at least some measure of bipartisan support to be approved when the normal process is followed. The alternate process that is now being used by Republicans merely requires 340,000 signatures on a petition, and then a simple majority of the state Senate and House vote in favor of it for it to become law, without any action from the Governor, and no need to win over any Democrats in the legislature to support it. 340,000 signatures is just 3.4% of the population of the state.

More information:

This Week's QM Round-Up Contributors (in alphabetical order):

    • Wilfredo Flores (he/him/his), fourth-year PhD candidate in Writing and Rhetoric, M.A. Technical Communication

    • Grey L. Pierce (they/them); M.A., Cognitive Psychology; Chair, Power of We Consortium

    • Francis Yang (he/him/his), M.S.-Global Medicine, Second-year medical student