Thursday, March 17, 2022

The Biden Administration Goes Viral, Con't

The Biden Administration is shifting from COVID-19 as crisis to COVID-19 as manageable health care issue, and that means current Biden COVID czar Jeff Zients is leaving next month, to be replaced by Brown University med school dean Dr. Ashish Jha.

Jeffrey D. Zients, an entrepreneur and management consultant who steered President Biden’s coronavirus response through successive pandemic waves and the largest vaccination campaign in American history, plans to leave the White House in April to return to private life, President Biden said in a statement.

Mr. Biden called Mr. Zients “a man of service” and praised his work to “build the infrastructure we needed to deliver vaccines, tests, treatment and masks to hundreds of millions of Americans.”

Mr. Zients will be replaced as the White House Covid coordinator by Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and a practicing internist who has urged an aggressive approach to the pandemic in frequent television appearances.

Dr. Jha, who is also a health policy researcher with expertise in pandemic preparedness and response, will coordinate the government’s Covid response from inside the White House, officials said. But the selection of a veteran public health expert signaled that Mr. Biden believes the country has moved into a new phase of the fight against the virus.

With much of the country vaccinated, officials said the federal response would become more of a long-term public health effort and less of a moment-by-moment crisis requiring rapid government action. If new variants of the virus spread, they said, Dr. Jha will be able to draw upon the tools his predecessor put in place during the past 14 months.

In his statement, Mr. Biden said that “Americans are safely moving back to more normal routines, using the effective new tools we have to enable us to reduce severe Covid cases and make workplaces and schools safer.”

But he added that “our work in combating Covid is far from done” and called Dr. Jha the “perfect person” to fight the virus “as we enter a new moment in the pandemic.”

Officials said his background as a medical doctor makes him the right choice as the virus becomes more an endemic part of the country’s health challenges. In 2014, Dr. Jha was a co-chair of an international commission on the global response to the Ebola outbreak. And he has argued that agencies like the World Health Organization are critical in dealing with diseases like Ebola and Zika.

Mr. Zients, 55, became one of the unlikely faces of the Biden administration’s response to the deadly virus, a somber-sounding businessman presiding over weekly updates with public health officials that were streamed live on the White House website. He had committed to working in the West Wing for a limited time as Mr. Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, and extended his stay several times at the president’s request, officials said.

Mr. Zients’s deputy, Natalie Quillian, will also depart in April.

Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, called Mr. Zients a “once-in-a-generation managerial talent” and a “warmhearted friend.” He praised Mr. Zients for his work on getting Americans access to vaccines and tests.

“Today, over 215 million Americans are fully vaccinated, Americans have received over one billion at-home tests, 98 percent of schools are open and our economy is recovering,” Mr. Klain said in a statement. “Through the ups and downs of this past year, Jeff met every challenge with a level head and laser-focused execution. Because of that, lives have been saved here at home and in countless other countries.”
The good news is that Dr. Jha is a well-respected medical expert, and that the general consensus is that Biden hit it out of the park by getting him on board. 

The bad news is that leaves a good one-third of American adults unvaccinated, who will never take the vaccine, and we're still seeing 10k deaths from COVID per week, so I guess we're just moving on into the "this is acceptable" stage of hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths a year.

Oh, and Omicron BA2 variant is on the loose and is even more contagious than regular Omicron.

While some would like to think the coronavirus pandemic is behind us, a new form of the Omicron variant is rapidly spreading.

What's known as BA.2 -- a sub-lineage of Omicron -- now makes up nearly a quarter of new COVID infections nationwide.

The CDC says it's particularly a problem in New York and New Jersey, where 39% of the virus in circulation is BA.2.

It's also dominating new case worldwide, and some countries are facing a renewed surge of infects, just as they move to lift pandemic restrictions.

While COVID cases have been declining recently, positivity rates in our area have been slowly on the rise.

On Sunday in the New York City region, the positivity rate was at 0.96. It moved up to 1.23 on Monday and 1.28 on Tuesday.

In Manhattan, the positivity rate was at 1.33 percent on Sunday, 1.67 on Monday and 1.73 on Tuesday.
By Easter we're going to be smack in the middle of another major COVID surge and with mask mandates and social distancing gone in 90% of the country, it's going to spread like a wildfire in a popsicle stick factory.
Expect millions more COVID cases -- and deaths -- in the months ahead. With SCOTUS having killed national mandates and state and local elected on both sides of the aisle pretending this is all over, I expect this Spring will be another nightmare leading to a 9/11's worth of deaths a day again for weeks, if not months later this spring, but hey...

...crisis is over!


Sold My Soul To The Company Store

The only question I have about Amazon building "affordable housing" is how much profit they intend to make off the sale.

Amazon said Tuesday it will spend more than $120 million to build affordable-housing units close to transit stations near Seattle and Washington, D.C, the latest example of a tech company trying to address the affordable housing crisis critics say the industry has exacerbated.

Amazon said it is working with Sound Transit and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to construct a total of 1,060 homes near four public transit sites. The Washington state sites are in SeaTac and Bellevue. The other sites are Maryland in the cities of New Carrollton and College Park.

Amazon is building out another corporate hub in Arlington, Virginia, and is expanding operations in Bellevue, near its Seattle headquarters.

“We know that our investment in these areas brings many economic opportunities for residents in the region, but we also acknowledge that this growth needs to benefit everyone in the community,” Catherine Buell, director of the Amazon Housing Equity Fund, said in a statement.

That funding comes from a commitment Amazon made in January 2021 to launch its Housing Equity Fund, a $2 billion initiative to preserve and create 20,000 affordable homes.


Now, back of the napkin math means Amazon would have to sell the homes for about $115,000 each in order to make their money back, because Amazon is sure as hell not going to build a company town and lose money on it.  If that's how things really work out, that's great. If the housing is under the transit authorities and subject to HUD grants and loans and they are the landlords, that's great too.

But I don't think that's going to happen.

Specifically, I think nearby residents are going to go the full Karen on zoning boards, and the project is going to get scrapped. Nobody is going to vote to lower their own property values by hundreds of thousands of dollars on purpose.

We'll see, but the devil here is definitely in the details. I don't trust the company or Bezos, even when they are actually doing the right thing, and there's no way we should, either.



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