US Navy refuses to deploy warship with unvaccinated Commanding Officer


An Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer

The U.S. Navy is refusing to deploy a destroyer while its commanding officer, who they cannot remove due to a court decision, is not vaccinated against COVID-19 despite the service’s vaccine mandate rules.

The unnamed destroyer captain is one of several service members involved in a lawsuit challenging the military-wide vaccine mandate and requesting they be granted religious exemptions to the mandate. Last month federal judge Steven D. Merryday granted the captain and a U.S. Marine officer a preliminary injunction, temporarily barring their respective services from taking any punitive action while their lawsuit continues. Unable to remove the captain, now the Navy is arguing that Merryday’s decision has sidelined the warship based out of Norfolk, Va.

Merryday’s injunction prevents the service from removing the destroyer commander from his post on the warship and replacing him. Until the lawsuit is ultimately resolved or the Navy allows the destroyer to deploy with its current commanding officer, the warship is stuck.

The most fitting commentary on this situation I’ve heard, so far, was “HAR!”

Worst county for COVID in America is in New Jersey


Barnegat Light, NJ – Karsten Moran/The New York Times

Ocean County, in central New Jersey, is a mixture of beach towns like Barnegat Light and exurban towns like Toms River and Lakewood. Household income in the county exceeds the U.S. average.

Yet Ocean County is among the least vaccinated places in the Northeast. Only 53% of residents have received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine (or one dose of Johnson & Johnson). Only 26% have received a booster shot.

The large number of unvaccinated residents in Ocean County has led to a horrific amount of COVID illness and death. Nearly 1 out of every 200 residents has died from the virus. That is worse than the toll in Mississippi, the U.S. state with the largest amount of COVID death per capita, and worse than in any country except for Peru.

What explains the vaccine skepticism in Ocean County? Politics, above all. The county is heavily Republican. Donald Trump won it by almost 30 percentage points in 2020, and many Republicans — including those who are older than 65 and vulnerable to severe COVID illness — are skeptical of the vaccines…

Only after the vaccines became widely available, in early 2021 — and liberals were much more willing to get shots than conservatives — did COVID become a disproportionately Republican illness. By the summer of 2021, the gap was soaring.

The toll has been even worse in counties where Trump won by a landslide than in counties that he won narrowly.

It is a tragedy — and preventable.

CBD prevented COVID-19 infections

Cannabidiol—the non-psychoactive cannabis compound better known as CBD—is a potent blocker of SARS-CoV-2 replication in human cells, new research shows. Not only that, but a survey of real-world patients taking prescribed CBD found a “significant” negative relationship between CBD consumption and COVID-19 infection.

As detailed in a paper published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances by a team of 33 researchers at the University of Chicago and University of Louisville, a survey of 1,212 U.S. patients taking prescribed CBD found that people taking 100 milligrams-per-milliliter oral doses of CBD returned positive COVID-19 tests at much lower rates than control groups with similar medical backgrounds who did not take CBD.

According to the study, all of the patients were people who had seizure-related conditions, which CBD is often prescribed to treat. Of this group, 6.2 percent returned positive COVID-19 tests or a diagnosis, compared to 8.9 percent in the control group. Among a smaller subset of patients who were likely taking CBD on the dates of their first COVID-19 test, the effect was even more pronounced: Only 4.9 percent of people taking CBD became infected with COVID-19, compared to 9 percent in the control group.

“Our results suggest that CBD and its metabolite 7-OH-CBD can block SARS-CoV-2 infection at early and even later stages of infection,” the study states.

Always good news when science-based testing, well-measured data, indicates additional benefits beyond the original study’s direction. A positive, albeit accidental, find.

Some white evangelicals immune to good sense about vaccination


Bob Enyart, anti-vax Christian, lied about COVID, died of COVID

White evangelical Christians have resisted getting vaccinated against COVID-19 at higher rates than other religious groups in the United States. A new study by Yale researchers provides evidence that persuading these vaccine holdouts to get their shots has only gotten more difficult.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, combines two survey experiments testing the effectiveness of various persuasive messages in shifting white evangelicals’ attitudes about vaccination. The first survey was conducted in October 2020, while Donald Trump was president and before the COVID-19 vaccines were approved for use in the United States, and the second occurred in May 2021, several months after people started getting jabs.

The initial survey, fielded on a nationally representative sample of 855 white evangelicals, gauged how various messages affected white evangelicals’ intentions to get vaccinated, their willingness to advise a friend to get the shots, and their judgments of people who refuse the vaccine…However, the same message(s) proved ineffective in the second survey, which was performed on a nationally representative sample of 2,419 unvaccinated white evangelicals.

Neither survey showed that values-based messaging was successful at persuading white evangelicals to get vaccinated, contrasting with prior research that has found that values-consistent messaging increased positive attitudes towards masking among members of the same group.

RTFA. Sad, but, true! An in-depth article is published this coming weekend in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Covid will stop expanding around the world when we’re all immune


Ilyas El Omari

So far, SARS-CoV-2’s most devastating impacts have been in developed countries. The U.S., U.K. and European Union have accounted for about a third of deaths, compared to their roughly 10% share of the world’s population. However, it’s been in the BRICS grouping of fast-growing middle- income nations where an outsized share of new variants of concern have been isolated and analyzed for the first time. From the original strain in China, to the Delta lineage picked up in India, the Gamma variety isolated in Brazil and the Beta and latest Nu strains from South Africa, only the U.K.-related Alpha variant has emerged outside these countries.

In part, that’s just a reflection of the fact that two out of five people in the planet live in one of the BRICS nations. It’s also no coincidence that new variants were first identified in countries with the sophisticated scientific infrastructure needed to spot them. The BRICS are some of the biggest players in the global market for generic drugs, and the likes of India and South Africa have performed a key role in debates over intellectual property waivers to increase access to medicines…

As natural and vaccine-derived immunity rises, viral evolution will have to get more and more ingenious to evade our defenses. So far, scarcely more than half of the world’s population has had a dose of a Covid vaccine. That means there’s still more than 3.4 billion people out there whose bodies the virus can treat as laboratories in which to develop new mutations. Until we reduce that number further, the odds aren’t as strongly in our favor as we’d like to think.

Read both linked article. El Omari link is below the image up top. Link in the first paragraph takes you to David Fickling, this article in Bloomberg…which requires a subscription much of the time.

Native Americans dying from COVID twice as fast as Anglos


Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune
Funeral in Standing Rock Sioux Nation

American Indians and Alaskan Natives are dying at almost twice the rate of white Americans, according to analysis by APM Research Lab shared exclusively with the Guardian.

Nationwide one in every 475 Native Americans has died from Covid since the start of the pandemic, compared with one in every 825 white Americans and one in every 645 Black Americans. Native Americans have suffered 211 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 121 white Americans per 100,000.

The true death toll is undoubtedly significantly higher as multiple states and cities provide patchy or no data on Native Americans lost to Covid. Of those that do, communities in Mississippi, New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas have been the hardest hit.

The findings are part of the Lab’s Color of Coronavirus project, and provide the clearest evidence to date that Indian Country has suffered terribly and disproportionately during the first year of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

Here in New Mexico, this is a daily story. Sometimes, more. Even folks like me – who has a “used to be” connection with one of the First Nations in the region still hears from folks on the res. Reading reports in local press, I search, first, for the Indian Health Service.

We all think we know why this is so, wholly or partly. Doesn’t mean anything useful is being done. Yet. On the local, statewide scale? Yes. By the Feds? Damned if I know.

Africa inspires pandemic masks

Millimeters-thick sheets of delicately etched bronze. Pleated, laser-cut coral collars. This isn’t haute couture, though it could be. These are face masks.

Nigeria-based architectural designer Tosin Oshinowo and U.K.-based textile designer Chrissa Amuah have created three gorgeous face masks, called Freedom to Move, commissioned by Lexus, which is an official automotive partner of the annual Design Miami show. The brief asked them to create a “design object of our times,” and what’s more fitting than a mask for 2020?

I get it. The photo up top is one of the images of my favorite. Please look through them all.