Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Last Call For Florida Goes Viral Again, Con't

More evidence unfolding that Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis undercounted COVID-19 deaths by nearly 5,000 as the state now faces a fourth viral surge in new cases.

New research published earlier this month in the American Journal of Public Health argues that Florida is undercounting the number of people who died from COVID-19 by thousands of cases, casting new doubt on claims that Gov. Ron DeSantis navigated the coronavirus pandemic successfully.

Conservatives have celebrated DeSantis for his handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 30,000 residents of the state. Critics of the combative governor, meanwhile, say that many of those deaths would have been prevented if he had listened more diligently to health experts. DeSantis resisted lockdowns, downplayed masks and has made it increasingly difficult for localities to institute public health measures of their own.

And the state could be on the cusp of a new coronavirus surge.

The impact of the pandemic in Florida “is significantly greater than the official COVID-19 data suggest,” the researchers wrote. They came to that conclusion by comparing the number of estimated deaths for a six-month period in 2020, from March to September, to the actual number of deaths that occurred, a figure known as “excess deaths” because they exceed the estimate.

There were 400,000 excess deaths across the United States in 2020, a spike closely correlated to the coronavirus pandemic.

The lack of testing early in the pandemic may also have undercounted COVID-19 deaths, explains Daniel Weinberger, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health who has also studied the coronavirus and excess deaths.

The issue was further complicated because each state has its own death-counting methodology. “Some states classify a death as due to COVID if a positive molecular test was obtained, while other states allow the death to be classified as due to COVID if there is a suspicion that it was caused by COVID (even without a molecular test),” Weinberger wrote in an email to Yahoo News.

Polymerase chain reaction tests — another name for the molecular tests Weinberger referenced — are the most reliable way to tell if a person, dead or living, has been infected with the coronavirus.

In the case of Florida, the researchers say, 4,924 excess deaths should have been counted as resulting from COVID-19 but for the most part were ruled as having been caused by something else, thus lowering Florida’s coronavirus fatality count. That’s possible because people who die from COVID-19 often have comorbidities, such as diabetes and asthma. That leaves some discretion for medical examiners, who have sometimes struggled with conflicting science and been subject to political pressures during the pandemic.

In Florida, the state’s 25 district medical examiners are directly appointed by the governor. Last spring, the DeSantis administration was accused of trying to keep those medical examiners from releasing complete coronavirus data. (In August, the state said coronavirus deaths no longer required certification from a medical examiner.)


In other words, DeSantis, like a dozen other Republicans (and even a few Democrats, looking at you Andrew Cuomo) fudged the COVID-19 numbers to look better.

They can't stop lying about this, because none of these governors can admit the fact that the GOP failed miserable at the local, state, and national level when it came to COVID. If they do, they're done, and they know it.

So they lie, we get articles like these on a regular basis, and it becomes a "both sides disagree" issue, only it's about hundreds of thousands of dead Americans.

It's barbaric.

Blowing Back Beshear

Kentucky Republican state lawmakers, with both a two-thirds supermajority in the state House and a three-fourths chunk of the state Senate, have had no issue this year overriding Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear's vetoes on a raft of bills that strip his office of most of its regulatory and appointment powers not locked in by the state constitution. The latest override: giving the state legislature sole power to name candidates to replace a US senator should they no longer be able to serve.

The Republican-run Kentucky legislature on Monday easily overrode Gov. Andy Beshear's veto of a notable bill that restricts his ability to fill any vacancies that arise if one of the state's U.S. senators dies or leaves office early.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the commonwealth's powerful senior senator, threw his support behind Senate Bill 228. That sparked speculation that the 79-year-old statesman, who just got reelected last fall, might be eyeing the exits.

However, Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, SB 228's lead sponsor, has said the longtime senator plans to stick around and McConnell himself has never given any public indication he doesn't plan to serve out his new six-year term.

Historically, Kentucky's governor has been able to choose anyone — of any political party — to fill in temporarily if a vacancy pops up in the Senate, whether that happens by the senator's choice, expulsion or death.

SB 228 changes that appointment process in key ways. Most notably, it requires the governor to pick a temporary successor who shares the same political party as the departing senator.

It also makes them select that person from a list of three names provided by the executive committee of the departing senator's state party.

SB 228 also includes fresh stipulations about how long the governor's appointment to the Senate can last before voters get to elect someone to take over that seat — which depend largely on when the vacancy happens — as well as new rules about how such elections would work.

Kentucky hasn't had a Democratic senator since January 1999, when former Sen. Wendell Ford retired. And with the state's increasingly conservative electorate, SB 228 is designed to ensure the governor can't appoint a Democrat to what's likely to be a safe seat for Republicans.

When Beshear vetoed SB 228 earlier this month, he claimed the bill violates the U.S. Constitution's 17th Amendment, which aimed "to remove the power to select U.S. senators from political party bosses."

Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, likewise cited the 17th Amendment Monday night when she objected to overriding the veto. She also noted how SB 228 is part of a batch of bills GOP lawmakers have passed lately that strip Beshear of power.

"It wouldn't be happening if we had a Republican governor," Minter said of SB 228. "It’s a blatant power grab, and it’s something that strikes right at the heart of what people dislike about the political system."

The issue for me is that the General Assembly in the commonwealth is being run like there's going to be a permanent GOP supermajority for the rest of time. They are laying down the foundation for single-party rule for decades, if not generations.

It's the arrogance that really burns me, a tacit admission that Democrats simply don't matter. In fact, unlike other states, Republicans here aren't threatened at all by expanding voting rights, because they know it will help them win by even larger margins.

The Kentucky General Assembly passed significant legislation Monday night that will make three days of widespread early voting a regular part of the state's future elections and expand people's access to the ballot in other ways while also instituting new security measures.

The state House of Representatives' Republican and Democrat members overwhelmingly voted late Monday night, in a 91-3 decision, to give House Bill 574 final passage and send it to Gov. Andy Beshear's desk.

As long as the governor doesn't veto it, HB 574 will make significant changes to state law, including:
  • Establishing three days of in-person early voting on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before Election Day;
  • Letting people "cure" their absentee ballots if a problem, such as a mismatched signature, would otherwise cause it to be thrown out;
  • Making the online portal through which Kentuckians requested — and government officials tracked — absentee ballots in 2020 a standard feature of future elections;
  • Letting counties offer vote centers where residents from any precinct can cast their ballot;
  • Allowing for secure drop-boxes where people can turn in their absentee ballots;
  • Requiring counties to gradually phase out electronic-only voting systems and switch to equipment that can process paper ballots;
  • Letting state officials quickly remove someone from the voter rolls if they're notified that person moved to and registered to vote in another state.

Beshear and Secretary of State Michael Adams made notable but temporary changes to Kentucky's elections last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. HB 574 will adopt some of those things, such as no-excuse early voting and the online portal for absentee ballots, for the long term. 
Adams, who advocated heavily for HB 574, recently told The Courier Journal this legislation significantly revises the commonwealth's election system, which dates back to the "horse-and-buggy era."

"My campaign slogan was 'make it easy to vote and hard to cheat,' and this bill does both," he said. "We take a model based in the 1800s and update it to the modern reality of people’s busy lives, and we do it in a way that actually makes the elections more secure than they used to be."

And again, Republicans are happy to pass legislation like this here in Kentucky because they saw that the early voting and absentee ballot changes in 2020 gave Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump even larger margins of victory. 

It's the arrogance.

The Separation Of Church And State

The most recent Gallup poll on Americans and religion finds that for the first time in recent history, church-going Americans are now a minority of American adults.

Americans' membership in houses of worship continued to decline last year, dropping below 50% for the first time in Gallup's eight-decade trend. In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999.

U.S. church membership was 73% when Gallup first measured it in 1937 and remained near 70% for the next six decades, before beginning a steady decline around the turn of the 21st century.

As many Americans celebrate Easter and Passover this week, Gallup updates a 2019 analysis that examined the decline in church membership over the past 20 years.

Gallup asks Americans a battery of questions on their religious attitudes and practices twice each year. The following analysis of declines in church membership relies on three-year aggregates from 1998-2000 (when church membership averaged 69%), 2008-2010 (62%), and 2018-2020 (49%). The aggregates allow for reliable estimates by subgroup, with each three-year period consisting of data from more than 6,000 U.S. adults.

The decline in church membership is primarily a function of the increasing number of Americans who express no religious preference. Over the past two decades, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has grown from 8% in 1998-2000 to 13% in 2008-2010 and 21% over the past three years.

As would be expected, Americans without a religious preference are highly unlikely to belong to a church, synagogue or mosque, although a small proportion -- 4% in the 2018-2020 data -- say they do. That figure is down from 10% between 1998 and 2000.

Given the nearly perfect alignment between not having a religious preference and not belonging to a church, the 13-percentage-point increase in no religious affiliation since 1998-2000 appears to account for more than half of the 20-point decline in church membership over the same time.

Most of the rest of the drop can be attributed to a decline in formal church membership among Americans who do have a religious preference. Between 1998 and 2000, an average of 73% of religious Americans belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque. Over the past three years, the average has fallen to 60%.


People my generation or younger are not churchgoers. That trend has continued to the point that the national average is now under 50%. I don't see it recovering anytime in my lifetime either, now with the way evangelical Christian outfits are being run today with their open antagonism towards LGBTQ+, Hispanic, and increasingly, Black communities. Oh, and let's not forget decades of Catholic church sexual predator scandals involving kids.

It seems these days, that pastors, priests, and bishops, and even a few imams and rabbis, are more interested in telling you who they don't want to be part of their various congregations. And that's fine with me, I haven't attended a religious ceremony in two decades and I have no desire to do so.


Related Posts with Thumbnails