Analysis by Zachary B. Wolf, CNN
Updated: Tue, 02 Mar 2021 01:03:21 GMT
There is finally a sense of turning the corner on the pandemic, with the first batches of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine out for delivery and Covid cases beginning to plateau -- and as governments look to roll back some restrictions.
CNN's Dana Bash pointed this out to Dr. Anthony Fauci on "State of the Union" this weekend. She mentioned New York, Massachusetts and North Carolina, but there are a ton of stories like this:
New York movie theaters and pool halls can re-open Friday while weddings and other events can resume March 15. Massachusetts is entering a new phase that allows indoor concerts at 50% capacity and with fewer than 500 people. Pennsylvania is lifting travel restrictions and revising caps on gatherings. Virginia is upping its cap on outdoor gatherings to 25, increasing caps on outdoor entertainment venues, allowing restaurants to sell alcohol later at night and may allow sleep-away summer camp. North Carolina is relaxing capacity restrictions on indoor dining.
Google around. These stories are happening across the country in states that have been pretty much locked down.
Efforts to open cross party lines. Schools that had resisted hybrid learning are slowly moving to give kids an in-person option.
Daring California schools to leave money on the table. California kids, particularly younger kids, could be in school this month after the state's Gov. Gavin Newsom struck a deal with fellow Democratic lawmakers to set aside $6.6 billion for California schools. The catch is that the money will go to schools that open. They're not required to open. But if there's one thing all school districts need it is money.
Why aren't ALL American kids in school? Many are. Many are not. The US school system is extremely localized.
CNN's Katie Lobosco writes that new CDC guidelines were more specific, but have not exactly made it easier. They suggest six feet of separation for students. That's simply not possible in many crowded schools.
"In a way, being more clear can create specifics that may not fit everyone's parameters and justify closures," Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease physician at the University of California, San Francisco, told Lobosco.
3 feet vs. 6 feet. At the top of that story is a video package from inside an Ohio high school that's been back in session five days a week since the fall. They've emphasized three feet of distance, which is more achievable.
Bash asked Fauci if this is another premature pull back. He didn't say what I wanted to hear:
If you look at the curve, Dana, it's coming down sharply, but the last several days, it's kind of plateaued at around 70,000 new infections per day.
Let's look at what history has taught us. If you go back and look at the various surges, whenever we hit a peak and start coming down, understandably, totally understandably, you say, well, let's pull back.
We're going to ultimately be pulling back, but you want to get the level of baseline infections per day very low, because, if you look at that little plateau, particularly in the arena of having variants such as we have in California and such as we have in New York, it is really risky to say it's over, we're on the way out, let's pull back, because what we can see is that we turn up.
It isn't hypothetical, Dana, because just look historically at the late winter, early spring of 2020, at the summer of 2020. When we started to pull back prematurely, we saw the rebound. We definitely don't want that to happen.
Watch the whole exchange here.
Related: CDC director says Covid progress could be wiped out by variants
At some point soon, the problem of vaccines won't be access, but adoption. Right now it's hard for many Americans to find an appointment, assuming they even qualify under local rules. But that is a temporary problem. Eventually, every willing person will have the shot, and we will have to deal with people who aren't willing.
Read this New York Times report on younger service members, who are being given a choice about whether to take the Covid vaccine. About a third are saying no, thanks.
"The Army tells me what, how and when to do almost everything," Sgt. Tracey Carroll, who is based at Fort Sill, told the Times. "They finally asked me to do something and I actually have a choice, so I said no."
I was quite surprised that the Army, which routinely makes soldiers get shots, was giving them an option here.
Access will lead to acceptance. California Democratic Rep. Karen Bass, appearing on CNN Sunday, said it's important to focus on access now. When people hear about friends and neighbors getting vaccinated, it will increase acceptance, she said -- especially among Black Americans.
Some people will never get on board. A recent Kaiser poll showed growing acceptance of the vaccine, but still found 15% of Americans who said they would never get vaccinated and 7% who would only get the vaccine if required to for school or work.
In that Kaiser survey, Black and Latino Americans were more likely to be in the "wait and see" camp. Republicans and rural residents were more likely to say they won't get the shot or will get it only if forced.
The share of "wait and see" has shrunk in Kaiser surveys. The share of "definitely not" has stayed about the same.
There's a lot of politics going on, too. The overriding message from this weekend's CPAC convention -- a sort of proving ground for conservative ideas -- is that Republicans will try to turn being the party opposed to restrictions to their political gain. (More on CPAC in a moment.)
The minimum wage and the filibuster
It was a political gift for President Joe Biden. The Senate parliamentarian stripped the $15 minimum wage from Democrats' $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill.
Why? Democrats, who need complete party unity, didn't have the votes to pass the measure through the Senate with the minimum wage.
But it's also a policy nightmare. They've campaigned on raising the minimum wage and they'll have to find another way to do it.
Masschusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren agrees with House progressives that Vice President Kamala Harris should use her rarely invoked power to overrule the parliamentarian and add the wage back in.
"I agree," Warren said when asked by CNN if she supports the House members push for Harris to override the decision.
Related: There's a race to pass the stimulus by March 14. Here's what's at stake
The next drama this week. A GOP effort to amend the stimulus bill in the Senate. Democrats will struggle to stay unified to protect the core elements.
Warren's larger mission is to end the filibuster. It's the custom by which 60 votes are required for most major bills.
"The only reason that we're in this mess is because of the filibuster," Warren told CNN. "If we would get rid of the filibuster then we wouldn't have to keep trying to force the camel through the eye of a needle. Instead, we would do what the majority of Americans want us to do."
Usual suspects: Manchin and Sinema. It would take a majority to end the filibuster and the same senators who didn't want to raise the minimum wage -- Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema -- oppose ending it.
There will be a lot of talk about the filibuster during the next two years. Democrats in the House could pass proposals relating to voting rights and police reform this week.
The White House announced Biden's support for both proposals.
Neither seems likely to have 60 votes in the Senate, but both could probably find 50.
Tax the rich! Warren's new proposal for an ultra-millionaires' wealth tax would also almost certainly require blowing up the filibuster to pass. And even then it could struggle.
It would levy a 2% annual tax on the net worth of households and trusts between $50 million and $1 billion as well as a 1% annual surtax on assets above $1 billion, for a 3% tax overall on billionaires.
Exile has not changed Trump
CNN's Stephen Collinson watched former President Donald Trump's emergence from his own self-imposed Mar a Lago exile over the weekend so the rest of us didn't have to. (Check out Collinson's "Meanwhile in America" newsletter, which he writes with Caitlin Hu).
Trump's bent on revenge. That's the top takeaway I got from his analysis of Trump's speech at the CPAC convention, where Trump called out Republicans who supported his impeachment by name and pushed the lie that he won in November.
Here's a taste:
Last seen leaving Washington in disgrace, the ex-President's self-regarding wander through old political fights emphasized his obsession with revenge at a time when the attention of the majority of the nation not in his camp is concentrating on more immediate concerns.
We haven't heard the last of Trump. Writes Collinson:
His latest comments suggest that the fight to safeguard US democratic institutions and free elections did not end when he left the White House but will be a key struggle in the run-up to the next presidential election.
As local and state Republicans seek to narrow access to the polls, Trump, who tried to force officials in Georgia to steal the election for him, called on the GOP to outlaw mail-in and early voting to ensure "honest elections" and made racially motivated insinuations about irregularities in Detroit and Philadelphia. He demanded citizen tests for ballot access, said voting should only take place on Election Day and called for independent judges to be barred from adjudicating election disputes.