I've got a bad feeling about this
I'm no expert, but...
Let’s start by saying that I hope I’m very wrong and my worries turn out to be completely and totally unfounded.
I don’t write or tweet much about COVID. I’m not an expert, and there are likely millions of people out there better suited to answer questions or examine data associated with this toddler of a pandemic (Happy 2nd birthday, COVID!). What I am, however, is a person with a Twitter account who has a bad feeling about this.
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Scrolling through social media, as I am wont to do, I saw this thread from NPR warning that the federal government is pretty much out of money to help fight the pandemic. The tl;dr of it is that Congress didn’t include any of the $22.5 billion in funding the White House asked for in the omnibus spending bill it passed this week.1 This means that federal programs aimed at testing, treating, and vaccinating Americans will shutter unless Congress pushes through a standalone bill to fund it. Passage of such a bill is unlikely, to say the least.2
To the Biden administration’s credit, it asked for the money back in February. That’s extremely cold comfort to anyone who gets sick moving forward.
Lawmakers aren’t eager to spend big — again — on a pandemic many would just as soon declare over.
President Joe Biden’s cabinet members and public health experts say they are running out of money to battle Covid-19 and need tens of billions more dollars to continue vaccination, testing and medicine distribution efforts at home and abroad.
But the push for a Covid supplemental bill, which would ride alongside the package to fund the government through September that Congress is trying to pass by mid-March, is encountering bipartisan resistance. GOP lawmakers argue more spending will exacerbate inflation and that the worst of the pandemic is in the past. And even Democrats who support the additional public health funds worry the effort could derail the fragile negotiations on the core bill to fund the government by injecting partisan disagreements about how to address the pandemic into discussions over funding the military and federal agencies.
Don’t get me wrong. I want the pandemic to be over, and I sure as hell hope that “the worst of the pandemic is in the past,” but that’s not really a matter of choice.
Pundits like David Leonhardt have repeatedly assured readers that the pandemic has been “in retreat,” but as Jacob Bacharach’s great piece over at The New Republic illustrates, Leonhardt may simply be wishcasting.
He memorably complained about the news media’s “bad news bias” in March 2021, arguing that journalists were paying too much attention to places where cases of Covid-19 were rising and were not paying enough attention to promising developments. He devoted several installments of his own newsletter to heralding the good news. On February 11, 2021, The Morning carried the headline, “Pandemic in Retreat.” By April of the same year, Leonhardt was castigating the “many vaccinated people [who] continue to obsess over the risks from Covid,” offering what we now know to be a highly inaccurate picture of the vaccines’ effectiveness at reducing transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and experimenting with an argument that would become a recurring favorite: that we easily accept tens of thousands of road deaths every year, so why should Covid be any different? He soon announced that “the pandemic may now be in permanent retreat in the U.S.” He acknowledged that “globally, the situation is not as encouraging,” but he could not imagine this as anything but a problem for poor countries with “lower vaccination rates.” Ten days after that column, the World Health Organization named B.1.617.2 the delta variant, and just a few weeks after that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designated it a “variant of concern.” In June, the WHO announced that it was becoming the dominant global strain.
The next item in my Twitter feed was a CNBC story about COVID cases on the rise worldwide.
The story is about the BA.2 subvariant of the omicron variant (BA.1). According to the article, “Danish scientists believe that the BA.2 subvariant is 1½ times more transmissible than the original omicron strain, and is already overtaking it. The BA.2 variant is now responsible for over half of the new cases in Germany and makes up around 11% of cases in the U.S.”
And then there’s this…
So, you know… good times all around. Maybe it’s nothing. Sewer data can be, uh, murky, apparently. But I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
“A Decade Under the Influence” by Taking Back Sunday
The bill included things like $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine, $782 billion in defense funding, $17.5 billion for low-income K-12 schools, and more. CNN has a pretty decent rundown.
Democrats introduced a bill that would provide $15.6 billion in COVID-related funding. The bill will almost certainly pass the House but Republicans have indicated that they will filibuster it in the Senate, preventing it from getting an up or down vote.