Sunday, November 28

The War On Disinformation Heats Up As Covid-19 Cases Rise (Analysis)

(CNN) — As the coronavirus mounts a new assault on the United States, it is again widening the nation’s political divisions in a way that multiplies its own impact and makes clear, in a supposed summer of freedom, that the battle against the virus is far away. decide.

President Joe Biden is locked in a confrontation with Facebook over vaccine misinformation. His predecessor, Donald Trump, is now stepping in, linking his Big Lie about voter fraud to Biden’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis in a way that could raise even more questions about the vaccines that are causing thousands of Americans to fall apart. infect.

Conservative commentators, presidential hopefuls and Trump protégés have already exploited vaccine skepticism for political gain. And new fears of a need for a return to face masks and physical distancing in hotspots for covid, where many people have refused vaccinations, are reigniting partisan failures. Rising political discord threatens not only to tarnish and reverse Biden’s initial success in rolling out vaccines and cracking down on the virus, just two weeks after the president declared partial independence from COVID-19. This could present the White House with severe challenges in the event of a next wave of large-scale infections and deaths in the coming weeks.

Even if many of the people who get sick are anti-vaccine Republicans who are not their voters anyway, any imposed restrictions and business closures could disrupt the economic recovery the president is relying on to propel Democrats into action. next year’s midterm elections. Rampant infection rates would threaten children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated and increase the possibility of further disastrous disruptions in education for a generation whose education has been irretrievably disrupted.

And the pernicious nature of the most infectious delta variant is a warning of the possibility that dangerous mutations of the virus are more likely when it is widely spread. So while vaccine skeptics act on the basis of individual rights, their decisions could end up affecting all Americans, especially if a vaccine-resistant variant emerges.

The increasing cases in the United States come in what seems like a bleak moment in the grueling fight against the pandemic around the world. All remaining covid-19 restrictions are expected to be lifted in England this Monday, despite mounting infections. The London Government hopes to have broken the link between infections and hospitalizations and deaths as a result of a successful vaccination effort. In Tokyo, public opposition to the Olympics, which begin on Friday, has been exacerbated by the cases identified among various athletes. Meanwhile, much of the developing world remains highly vulnerable due to a lack of vaccines.

Disinformation ‘costs lives’

The Biden administration, mindful of the political and public health risks at stake, has targeted social media companies. Sanitation CEO Dr. Vivek Murthy, who appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” show on Sunday, defended Biden, who bluntly said Friday that social media was “killing people.” by allowing misinformation about vaccines to spread across their platforms. Murthy said that while Big Tech had made some efforts, the administration had also made it clear to them that “it’s not enough.”

“We know that health misinformation hurts people’s health. It costs them their lives,” Murthy told CNN’s Dana Bash.

Facebook reacted furiously to Biden’s call, possibly showing the president’s frustration that a significant minority of the population is refusing to protect themselves with free, safe and effective vaccines.

“President Biden’s goal was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4. Facebook is not the reason this goal was not met,” wrote Guy Rose, Facebook’s Vice President of Integrity, in a post. on the company’s website on Saturday.

He accused Biden of blaming a handful of social media at a time when Covid-19 cases are on the rise. This White House has tried not to politicize the pandemic, arguing that doing so could worsen doubts about vaccines. But his decision to send teams to hardest-hit states to push life-saving vaccines sparked outrage from conservatives and false claims that the government was trying to force people to get vaccinated against their will.

Trump, who consistently put his own political goals ahead of properly handling the crisis when he was president, weighed in on the issue Sunday, with an attack on Biden that will likely prompt his supporters and conservative media propagandists to follow suit.

“People refuse to get vaccinated because they don’t trust their administration, they don’t trust election results, and they certainly don’t trust fake news,” Trump said in a statement.

The former president frequently praises his own administration for the truly impressive feat of partnering with the private sector to produce COVID-19 vaccines in record time. But he spends much less time trying to convince his followers to get vaccinated in a way that can help end the pandemic.

One of the main architects of the Trump administration’s erratic anticovid effort, former Chief Health Officer Dr. Jerome Adams, has been warning in recent days that masks may need to be reused in some areas. He said he now regrets the advice that he and the government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, gave at the start of the pandemic that masks weren’t necessary. Later, the guide was superseded by evidence that masks could help prevent infection.

“I am concerned that the CDC has also made an equally premature, misinterpreted, but still damaging call for the use of face masks versus [la] delta variant, “Adams tweeted.

But speaking on “State of the Union,” Murthy said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guide told fully vaccinated Americans not to needed to wear masks or the physical distance was meant to provide flexibility for people in regions with a low level of COVID-19 cases.

“When you look at places like Los Angeles County and other parts of the country, where you see counties making face mask decisions that may be different from other counties, that’s okay,” Murthy said. “They are doing it based on what is happening in their communities, based on vaccination rates and case counts.”

But the idea of ​​reimplementing the use of masks prompted a swift response from a visible Republican, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, underscoring how the next phase of the pandemic is likely to be as politically contentious as previous ones.

“No. No. No. Hell NO,” Cruz, who accuses Biden of using Facebook, Google and Twitter to censor opinions he disagrees with, wrote on Twitter in response to Adams’ tweet.

US Director General of Health: ‘I’m worried’

The effects of misinformation are increasingly evident. Murthy painted a dire picture of what can happen in the US, after weeks of positive news about vaccines and the return of something akin to normal life was undermined by the spread of the delta variant.

“I’m worried about what’s to come, because we’re seeing an increase in cases, among the unvaccinated in particular,” Murthy told Bash.

“And although, if you are vaccinated, you are very well protected against hospitalization and death, unfortunately that is not true if you are not vaccinated.”

New cases of covid-19 are increasing in all 50 states, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The evolution of the virus means that it is now attacking younger people. Covid rooms are reopening at many hotspots. New infections are increasing in states as distant as California and Louisiana. Almost all serious illnesses and deaths are among the unvaccinated, so it is even more important that the slow inoculation effort be accelerated.

Former US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that there is now “an epidemic of unvaccinated people.”

“Most people will be vaccinated or pre-infected, or contract this delta variant,” Gottlieb said, presenting a grim scenario and adding that the number of new cases of the disease is likely being underestimated due to a lack of evidence. .

The hope will be that given the fact that 48.6% of Americans are now fully vaccinated, previous waves of deaths in the pandemic can be avoided. Twenty states, most of them run by Democrats, have fully vaccinated more than 50% of their population. But many others, especially in the conservative south, have yet to fully vaccinate even 40%, which means that the pool of potential victims of the delta variant is still significant.

The daily average of new infections has now climbed back to more than 39,000 a day, after bottoming out at around 8,000 almost a month ago. Deaths have also started to rise, but are usually delayed a few weeks in outbreaks of infection.

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