☕️ Coffee & Covid ☙ Saturday, December 18, 2021 ☙ BOING BOING 🦠
The OSHA Mandate injunction heads to the Supreme Court; a huge company drops its injection mandate; South Africa baffles experts, which is good news for us; DeSantis fills Florida's stocking, and more
It’s almost Christmas in Florida, which means it’s generally hot and humid. Enjoy your white Christmas, cold-weather C&C fans. I just put on a YouTube of Christmas music with snow in the background.
There’s a lot going on. Today’s roundup includes: a 3-judge panel on the Sixth Circuit vacates the OSHA mandate 2-1, and the case heads to the Supreme Court; another big company drops its injection mandate; experts are baffled by the numbers coming out of South Africa, and you know that means it’s good news; Governor DeSantis gives Floridians another Christmas present; issues with Omicron tests; an unintentionally hilarious Intelligencer article may be the best news ever; and a new Florida Covid data dump for all you data nerds.
🗞*COVID NEWS AND COMMENTARY* 🗞
👨⚖️ The Sixth Circuit, in a 2-1 split decision, granted Joe Biden’s motion to dissolve the OSHA Mandate injunction ordered by the Fifth Circuit. Since I’ve already done a bunch of legal analysis for you this week (a snoozer of a post for many readers), I won’t do that to you again. But I’ll make two comments and then explain where it goes next.
First, I’ve noticed you can always tell the court opinions that are going to support the mandates because they ALWAYS uncritically mention the official number of Covid “deaths” in the very first sentence. In this decision, the court said “The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across America, leading to the loss of over 800,000 lives, shutting down workplaces and jobs across the country, and threatening our economy.”
There you go. A dead giveaway the order is going to be a stinker.
The second point is Judge Larson, writing in dissent, pointed out that the majority’s core rationale was completely made up:
“The majority opinion describes the emergency rule at issue here as permitting employers ‘to determine for themselves how best to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19 in their workplaces.’ Maj. Op. at 7. With respect, that was the state of federal law /before/ the rule, not after.
Biden’s mandate lets employers determine for themselves? Please.
So what’s next? The plaintiff states must choose to ask the Sixth Circuit to hear the injunction issue “en banc,” which means ALL judges on the Sixth have to weigh in, or take it straight to the Supreme Court. I like their chances either way. UPDATE: late-breaking twitter reports say the appeal to the Supreme Court has already been made.
People have asked me, “but Jeff, the Supreme Court has been refusing to hear vaccine cases right and left. Why would you be optimistic about this case?”
The answer is simple. The previous cases have asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on STATE law mandates. As we know, the 1905 Jacobson Supreme Court case says vaccine mandates are a matter of STATE LAW. The primacy of state law is a conservative concept — of federalism. So, the Supreme Court has been consistent so far in staying out of state affairs. But the OSHA Mandate is a FEDERAL issue, and also an issue of over-reaching agency powers, of which the Supreme Court has been skeptical for the last couple decades, at least.
So, don’t worry. While there are no guarantees in this business, I think reason and logic and the facts all support a favorable decision from the US Supreme Court. The war goes on.
✈️ I had one of those moments this morning when a word just didn’t look right, no matter how many times I checked it. That word was Boeing, the airline, which late yesterday lifted its vaccine mandate off all its workers. In a press release, the manufacturing giant said, “after careful review, Boeing has suspended its vaccination requirement in line with a federal court’s decision prohibiting enforcement of the federal contractor executive order and a number of state laws.”
And then I was looking at the company’s name, and I was like, “Boeing?” Can that possibly be right? It looks like Boing, as in “boing, boing.” Who would name an airline after a cartoon sound? A cartoon sound of something DROPPING? How does that make sense?
Anyway. Boeing workers have been vocal in opposition to the mandate. Leaked documents showed workers allegedly planning a “FreedomFlu” sickout for every Friday beginning Oct. 15. Resist!
🦸♂️ Governor DeSantis announced ANOTHER Christmas present for Florida citizens yesterday. As part of the state’s continued “Early Treatment Saves Lives” campaign, Florida is expanding its successful monoclonal antibody (mAB) program to add a new EUA-approved treatment from GlaxxoSmithKline. The GSK mAB is a little different than the ones Florida is already offering.
The previous options, notably Regeneron, are available to people who’ve tested positive or been exposed to Covid, especially if symptoms are starting. All the reports I’ve heard suggest the drugs work wonders.
The new option, Astrazeneca’s Evusheld, is an antibody cocktail that works BEFORE you are infected. In other words, it prevents folks from catching the virus. In yet other words, it does what the injections were always supposed to do from the beginning. The FDA authorized the pre-exposure prophylactic on December 8, with limitations.
DeSantis explained that “In the clinical trials, it reduced the risk of developing COVID in the first instance by 77%.” The state’s goal is to have Evusheld available within a two hours’ drive of all Florida residents. The EUA authorizes the new treatment for anybody who can’t take the injections for whatever reason — such as being immunocompromised or having had a bad reaction to the first injections.
So, people who are at-risk of Covid and can’t take the injections should consider scheduling a free appointment for the new mAB. This should provide some comfort to all those empathetic people who were so tenderheartedly concerned about immunocompromised folks that they want everybody else to take the jabs too.
The Governor emphasized that Florida is going to focus on successful options for TREATING PEOPLE not failed policies like locking them down. “We are not going to indulge in any of the insanity that you see happening again in some parts of the country,” DeSantis stated, referencing colleges that are shutting down despite mask and injection mandates. “A lot of those heavy-handed policies have been total failures, and we’re certainly not going to be indulging that.”
If Florida embraces early treatment in a big way — and it looks like it is — then folks are going to have to talk about it. If folks start talking about early treatment, it will change the game.
🧪 There’s a teeny-tiny problem with the test for Omicron. According to the BBC, detecting the Omicron variant requires genetic analysis, which takes 4-5 days to turn around and is much more involved and expensive than the PCR tests.
Stay with me here. The PCR tests currently work by looking for three genetic sequences: the spike (S), the nucleocapsid, or inner part (N2), and the envelope, or “outer shell” (E). So, for a positive test, you need S + N2 + E.
But Omicron has a mutated spike protein that the PCR tests can’t see. So a positive PCR test with only N2 + E but not S “might be” Omicron. Or it could just be a negative test. So, as the BBC explains, further genetic analysis is needed to confirm whether the test actually detected Omicron or not.
Here’s the point. If the labs start counting previously negative tests (only positive for N2 + E) as positives for Covid/Omicron, without following through with the more time-consuming and expensive genetic analysis to confirm it’s Omicron, then we will see higher case numbers, even though a lot of them might not be Covid cases at all.
Calling an N2 + E test a “case” is like picking two letters out of the Scrabble bag and trying to play a three-letter word.
So far, the agencies have done a bang-up job of making sure that the PCR tests only show real Covid positive cases. Haven’t they? So there’s probably nothing to worry about. There’s no reason why anyone would want to artificially inflate the case reports, right? I mean, why would they? It would be so obvious, anyway. We’d see high cases and low hospitalizations. It would be a dead give-away.
🔥 News out of South Africa is extremely good, and it’s baffling the experts. Have you noticed that it seems like all the GOOD developments always baffle the experts? I think I could prove that to a jury.
Anyway, between November 18 and December 8, cases spiked like crazy in the Johannesburg / Pretoria area where the Omicron variant was first identified. By spiked I mean leapt from a hundred cases a day to ten thousand a day. But just as fast, it’s headed back down on a steep slope. Another positive indicator that has the experts scratching their heads is that South Africa’s R-naught, the measure of how fast the virus is spreading, is back under 1.0, which means the virus is retreating.
So, the wave looks to have been only a few weeks wide. That is MUCH narrower than previous waves. In fact, ALL metrics — cases, positivity rates, hospitalizations, and excess deaths — look extremely favorable compared to previous waves there.
Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner and now Pfizer board member, said this on twitter about the numbers out of South Africa:
“Epidemic curve in Johannesburg/Pretoria that was straight up and continues straight down suggests we’re missing something fundamental about variant. Either attack rate is narrowed to sub segment of population, we’re undercounting mild or asymptomatic infections, or something else.”
Missing something fundamental. Experts baffled! This can’t be right! It won’t be good for business, that’s for sure.
🔥 The New York Intelligencer ran an article yesterday headlined, “Well, I Guess It’s About Time to Get COVID.” Haha! Took them long enough. Remember, the Intelligencer is another one of those self-congratulatory magazines for smug people who think of themselves as very, very smart. It even has “intelligence” in the name, for Pete’s sake.
The author — a New York City resident — feels like he’s been hiding out but has now been arrested, by an Omicron virus officer:
“Suddenly this exceedingly transmissible variant has arrived at our door with a pistol in its hand to inform us that the jig is finally up. And right now, the only reasonable response seems to be a sheepish, ‘What took you so long?’”
The Intelligencer reports about a mysterious new philosophy that might be an alternative to Covid-phobia. It’s a rare and arcane philosophy that the magazine dubs, “realism:”
”Maybe it’s just realism. If you’ve been a quarantining, mask-wearing, vaccine-and-booster-getting member of society and have avoided COVID, you’ve really done about the best that can be expected of you throughout these long 19 months.”
Good boy! You’ve done your best. You’ve been SO smart, SO fortunate, and SO responsible. But now, it’s time to face the music:
“Thanks to your sense of civic responsibility and a hefty dose of socioeconomic luck, you’ve outwitted a highly contagious virus only to be confronted with a far more contagious version of it.”
Well, you’ve outwitted something. Maybe not the virus or your mental health. But SOMETHING. Then the intellectuals’ intellectual magazine admits something … remarkable … literally unbelievable … totally unexpected — it was ALWAYS unrealistic to think you could ever completely avoid Covid:
“You may not evade the coronavirus altogether — a possibility that seemed more likely a few weeks ago, even if it was perhaps ALWAYS UNREALISTIC.”
Always unrealistic. Always. This is all very funny, but there’s a serious point here. Whereas last year, every single new Covid development was met with terror and predictions of imminent doom, this new … inevitable … Covid-catching fate has inspired the Intelligencer to a brand new courageous sense of liberty:
“Beyond going back to the kind of extreme measures that most people reasonably gave up post-vaccine, there’s not much more you can do from a personal-risk standpoint. Personally speaking, there’s something weirdly liberating about that.”
Liberating! Personally, I liberated myself 19 months ago. But better late than never.
He says, “There’s not much more you can do from a personal-risk standpoint.” Thank goodness. PLEASE stop.
Here’s the best news: there are two themes — previously ubiquitous themes — wondrously omitted from this new-fangled formula for acceptance: (1) a rejection of the concept of “doubling-down,” and (2) no mention whatsoever of “doing it for the community.”
It’s kind of like the stages of grief or something. Except with Covid, it’s been the stages of psychotic paranoia and mass delusion. Maybe we’re — finally — getting to the final stage: acceptance.
📊 *COVID IN FLORIDA AND ALACHUA COUNTY* 📊
All right, data nerds. Since the Florida winter wave is clearly upon us, I included my chart going all the way back through the entire summer wave, so you can see how the non-emergency, non-overwhelming, seasonal Covid wave system works.
One significant difference this time is that Florida’s R-naught — the measure of how fast the virus is spreading — is about 60% of what it was in June: only 0.59% now, compared to 0.93% back in the summer. I’m not sure yet what this means, especially given the two-week spike in R-naught. But, South Africa saw a quick Omicron spike and then cases fell back down quickly and R-naught is now low right after spiking. So.
Also note that around November 18, I switched to reporting First Doses of injections instead of All Doses, because I think First Doses is a better metric at this point. So the pre- and post-November 18 numbers aren’t comparable.
For anybody who’s hysterical about rising “cases,” the chart shows how things are likely to go, except possibly it will be milder this time. But even if it’s the same, we’ll make it through, hospitals won’t be overwhelmed, and everything will be fine.
And again, people who are “Covid naive” should DO SOMETHING. Injected or not, if folks haven’t had Covid, they could take their vitamins, stock up on some ivermectin just in case, and watch Dr. McCullough’s interview on Rogan, where he suggests a simple beta-dyne nose rinse. And of course, at risk people should consider taking advantage of Florida’s new prophylactic GlaxxoSmithKline mAB therapy.
If you’re already a Covid survivor, you should be good!
Have a very merry pre-Christmas weekend, and I’ll catch you on the back side on Monday for more Coffee & Covid.
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