Wednesday, Aug 10, 2022

The Omicron Challenge

Two years after Covid-19 arrived on these shores, the omicron variant is spreading at the rate of more than 700,000 new cases a day, outstripping the ability of President Biden’s administration to keep up with the demands from the American people for more of the effective new Covid treatments and rapid testing kits which are in short supply.

Almost two years after the start of the pandemic, Americans are now facing the same severe difficulties in securing Covid tests. The avoidable shortage has been further aggravated by the government-imposed testing mandates that now put millions of the American workers at risk of losing their jobs if they don’t comply. Adding insult to injury, we now also know that the Biden administration had rejected a plan submitted in October to distribute free rapid Covid antibody tests to every home in America before the end of 2021.

President Biden has publicly admitted that he wishes he had thought of ordering more testing kits months ago, while failing to explain why his White House had rejected just such a proposal. On December 21, he promised to make 500 million testing kits available free of change to every American household starting by the end of this month. However, the website through which people are supposed to order the free test kits is not yet up and running, the first two federal contracts with companies to begin producing the kits weren’t signed until the end of last week, and Biden administration officials now admit it will take months before all 500 million of the promised kits can be produced and mailed out.

Similarly, the Biden administration failed to arrange for the rapid mass production of the Glaxo-Smith-Kline monoclonal antibody treatment, after its emergency use was authorized by the FDA last May. It is now the only such treatment that is effective against the dominant omicron variant, which is now spreading so fast that there are not nearly enough courses of treatment to meet the demand.

The FDA’s recent approval of the new Pfizer oral anti-Covid pill, Paxlovid, which has been 95% effective in treating Covid in its early stages, was the most important treatment breakthrough since the arrival of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines a year ago. But Paxlovid won’t be available in large enough quantities for use by all infected Americans for another six months.

MEETING THE NEW OMICRON CHALLENGE

Meanwhile, the explosive growth in the number of daily new omicron infections has threatened to close down our schools and economy once again.

Worldwide supply chains are still broken, and businesses are closing early due to too many infected workers calling in sick. Public school classrooms in Chicago were closed again at the beginning of this week due to the refusal of unionized teachers to do their jobs. During the end-of-year holiday travel season, airline flight schedules were massively disrupted because of a Covid-induced lack of staff. People are once again reluctant to travel, go to restaurants, or attend family gatherings, because of the tidal wave of breakthrough infections due to omicron.

Most troubling of all are the growing indications that the omicron variant is largely immune to existing vaccines and booster shots, undermining the foundation of President Biden’s declared strategy to end the pandemic.

In late December, as the omicron variant was fast becoming the dominant strain of the virus, the Biden administration still refused to change course.

White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeffrey Zients issued a statement which began by reassuring “the vaccinated” that “you’ve done the right thing, and we will get through this,” followed by another dire warning to the roughly 30% of still unvaccinated Americans that, “you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm.”

While there was plenty to criticize in President Trump’s Covid messaging to the American people at the outset of the pandemic, it did quickly generate a nationwide feeling as the pandemic reached its first peak in the spring of 2020 that “we’re all in this together.”

BIDEN’S COUNTERPRODUCTIVE ANGER

But that largely upbeat initial public attitude was reversed a year later, after President Biden’s highly touted nationwide vaccination campaign stalled due to public skepticism about the safety and efficacy of the new vaccines. When further cajoling by Biden failed to change their minds, Biden’s rhetoric directed at the vaccine skeptics — who made up 25% of the nation’s citizens — turned angrier and increasingly counterproductive.

Biden began to claim that the victims were at fault for the continuation of the “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” rather than admit that his faulty Covid policies could be to blame. Even after breakthrough infections began to surge before the arrival of the omicron variant, Biden refused to acknowledge the possibility that the vaccines were not nearly as effective as he had promised the American people they would be.

The Biden administration’s constantly changing messaging about the pandemic began to sound more like partisan political propaganda than a reasoned explanation of the science to a concerned American public.

The often confused and contradictory messaging from CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and Biden’s chief Covid medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, served as repeated, self-inflicted blows to the Biden administration and to the professional reputations of those once-widely respected scientists.

A PREMATURE PANDEMIC VICTORY CELEBRATION

Six months after he took office, Biden decided to turn his first White House July 4 celebration into what today looks like a premature victory lap for his vaccination-based anti-Covid policies. In a nationally televised speech during prime time, Biden told the American people:

“This year, the Fourth of July is a day of special celebration, for we are emerging from the darkness of years; a year of pandemic and isolation; a year of pain, fear, and heartbreaking loss. Just think back to where this nation was a year ago. . . And think about how far we’ve come.

“From silent streets to crowded parade routes lined with people waving American flags; from empty stadiums and arenas to fans back to their seats cheering together again; from [divided] families pressing hands against a window to grandparents hugging their grandchildren once again.

“We’re back traveling again. We’re back seeing one another again. Businesses are opening and hiring again. We’re seeing record job creation and record economic growth, the best in four decades and, I might add, the best in the world. Today, all across this nation, we can say with confidence: America is coming back together.

“Two hundred and forty-five years ago, we declared our independence from a distant king. Today, we’re closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus. That’s not to say the battle against Covid-19 is over. We’ve got a lot more work to do. But just as our Declaration in 1776 was a call to action, not a reason for complacency or a claim of victory, the same is true today.

“Back then, we had the power of an idea on our side. Today, we have the power of science.  Thanks to our heroic vaccine effort, we’ve gained the upper hand against this virus. We can live our lives, our kids can go back to school, our economy is roaring back.

“Don’t get me wrong, Covid-19 has not been vanquished. We all know powerful variants have emerged, like the delta variant, but the best defense against these variants is to get vaccinated. My fellow Americans, it’s the most patriotic thing you can do. So, please, if you haven’t gotten vaccinated, do it now for yourself, for your loved ones, for your community, and for your country. . .

“So, today, while the virus hasn’t been vanquished, we know this: It no longer controls our lives. It no longer paralyzes our nation. And it’s within our power to make sure it never does again.”

But Biden had totally misread the situation. The relatively low level of new Covid infections at that time was only a temporary lull, before a new wave of more intense delta variant-based infections reignited pandemic fears.

BIDEN’S SEARCH FOR REPUBLICAN SCAPEGOATS

One by one, the small victories over Covid that Biden had touted in his July 4 speech were reversed. The pace of small business and restaurant re-openings slowed. Vaccinated Americans, who had been assured by Biden that they could safely gather together again and put away their masks, were now being told to put them back on again, because the end of the pandemic that Biden had foreseen that July 4 was not yet in sight after all.

Later in the summer of 2021, when it became painfully obvious that Biden was incapable of keeping his promise to end the pandemic, he desperately tried to shift the blame for that failure to the popular Republican governors of Florida and Texas, who had refused to allow the pandemic to shut down normal life and the schools in their states.

Biden accused the GOP governors of recklessly endangering the lives of their citizens. He predicted that the seasonal rise of Covid infections being seen in their states would turn into a full-fledged disaster — but that did not occur, either. Without most Covid restrictions, life in Florida and Texas continued to thrive while the economic recovery in Democrat-governed portions of the country continued to limp along at half speed.

It also became apparent that the Biden-supported, unnecessarily extended lockdowns and school closures ordered by Democrat officials across the country had inflicted a terribly high social price on American families and the education of its public-school children.

Biden’s July 4 White House speech turned out to be his embarrassing “Mission Accomplished” moment, a reminder of President George W. Bush’s prematurely declared victory for the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which soon turn into a guerilla war quagmire for Bush’s presidency.

When Biden’s claim that his policies had gotten the pandemic under control was no longer credible, he started to blame that failure on the tens of millions of Americans whom he had been unable to convince to take the vaccine, accusing them of threatening the nation’s health by rejecting the vaccine, and its political stability by continuing to support former President Trump.

BIDEN’S DISAPPOINTING SUMMER

It was soon to become a disastrous summer for Biden’s presidency in one policy area after another.

The moves by local Democrat officials to carry out the progressive calls to defund the police and accusing them of systemic racism increased the spike in murders and disregard for law and order in cities across the country.

The Biden administration encountered increasing difficulty in trying to deny the reality of the humanitarian disaster it had created along the southern border with Mexico by dismantling Trump’s border security policies, tacitly encouraging the steadily increasing waves of illegal immigrants.

Worst of all, Biden seriously embarrassed America in the eyes of its foreign friends and foes alike — and destroyed his own personal reputation for competency — by his administration’s gross mishandling of the US military withdrawal he had ordered from Afghanistan, and its disastrous consequences.

The videos of desperate Afghans trying to cling to the last American transport planes taking off from Kabul’s airport shocked the country, destroyed Biden’s positive job approval ratings, and raised troubling old questions once again about his mental competency to continue carrying out the duties of his high office.

By the end of that summer, the American economy was showing the first clear signs of what the Biden administration for too long insisted was a “transitory” rise in the rate of inflation. As Republicans had predicted, the inflation was driven by the reckless spending in Biden’s Covid relief bill that had been passed by Democrats in Congress that March, as well as the Federal Reserve’s zero-interest, expansionary monetary policies.

But most of all, the continued failure of Biden’s constantly changing anti-Covid policies reinforced the growing impression, even among some of his longtime Democrat and media supporters, that his presidency was collapsing.

COVID FRUSTRATIONS BOIL OVER

On September 9, in a fit of pique, Biden said at the beginning of a report to the American people “about where we are in the battle against Covid-19, the progress we’ve made, and the work we have left to do. . . [that] many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated, even though the vaccine is safe, effective, and free.”

Biden insisted that his anti-Covid policies were working. After ticking off a series of statistics about job growth and other signs of fast economic recovery, he declared, “This progress is real. But while America is in much better shape than it was seven months ago when I took office… We’re in a tough stretch, and it could last for a while,” recognizing the growing impatience of American voters with his failure to end the pandemic.

Later in the same speech, Biden told those who have refused the vaccines, “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us. So, please, do the right thing. . . My message to unvaccinated Americans is this: What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see? We’ve made vaccinations free, safe, and convenient.

IT REALLY ISN’T “A PANDEMIC OF THE UNVACCINATED”

President Biden then repeated a phrase which became the central dogma of his administration’s understanding of the Covid threat: “This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And it’s caused by the fact that despite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program. . . we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot.”

Biden has continued to use the claim that, “This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” even though it has now been proven false by the tremendous surge in breakthrough infections of fully vaccinated people due to the omicron variant.

Biden then falsely accused unnamed “elected officials,” by which he clearly meant Republican governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Gregg Abbott of Texas, of “actively working to undermine the fight against Covid-19. Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they’re ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from Covid in their communities.” These libelous allegations against the most popular and successful Republican critics of his administration’s Covid policies were clearly untrue, but the mainstream media refused to challenge Biden’s false statement.

BIDEN’S REVENGE: THE VACCINE MANDATES

The president then announced he would use his executive powers to expand an employee vaccine mandate he had already imposed on nursing employees to cover all 17 million American workers for health care providers serving federal Medicare and Medicaid recipients.

Biden then went further, and declared that, “My job as president is to protect all Americans.” He announced a presidential executive order to the Department of Labor’s OSHA workplace safety agency, instruction it to develop, “an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees, that together employ over 80 million workers, to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week. . .

“The bottom line: We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers,” Biden said.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the president’s speech was its divisive message. Biden seemed to be separating the American people into two opposing groups — the good guys, referring to the 75% of the population which had heeded his calls by that time to get vaccinated, and the bad guys, who had refused to meet their moral obligation, according to Biden, to get vaccinated as well.

The president also seemed to be openly encouraging hostility between the two groups, when he said, “For the vast majority of you who have gotten vaccinated, I understand your anger at those who haven’t gotten vaccinated. I understand the anxiety about getting a breakthrough case.”

DIVISIVE “US VS. THEM” RHETORIC

Biden then tried to reassure the vaccinated “good guys” by telling them that “as the science makes clear, if you’re fully vaccinated, you’re highly protected from severe illness, even if you get Covid-19.” That statement is still accurate, despite the recent rise of the omicron variant. The president also announced that his administration would begin pushing for a universal booster shot program to give the vaccinated added protection against breakthrough infections. However, the actual effectiveness of boosters in protecting against infection by the omicron variant now seems to be very limited.

Soon after Biden’s September speech, House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy accused the president of having previously lied to the American people about imposing vaccine mandates. McCarthy backed up that claim with a news video of then President-elect Biden being asked by a reporter on December 4, 2020, “Do you want vaccines to be mandatory?” Biden then answered, “No, I don’t think it should be mandatory, I wouldn’t demand it be mandatory.”

Republican and business community opponents of the new vaccine mandates immediately announced that they would challenge Biden’s authority to impose them in the federal courts. Those challenges led to a rare special session of oral arguments on the issue at the Supreme Court in Washington last Friday, just a few days before Biden’s vaccine mandates on private employers was scheduled to take effect.

A BRIEF LEGAL HISTORY OF VACCINE MANDATES

There is a landmark 1905 Supreme Court decision (Jacobson v. Massachusetts) confirming the right of a state government to impose medical treatment on its unwilling citizens to stop a deadly and highly contagious epidemic (in that case, vaccination to stop a smallpox epidemic). However, the 1905 ruling is silent on the question of whether the federal government has the constitutional authority to intervene in the same circumstances.

Therefore, Biden imposed his medical sector vaccination mandate only on workers for health care providers which receive direct Medicare or Medicaid payments, based upon the argument that the federal government has an implicit right to impose conditions on how its money is being spent. In addition, many health care institutions had already instituted vaccine mandates on their employees on their own initiative, out of a sense of responsibility for the health of their patients who would otherwise be involuntarily exposed to unvaccinated workers who might infect them with Covid.

But Biden’s imposition of a vaccine mandate on workers for private companies was harder to legally justify. Firstly, federal payments were not involved. Second, Biden’s executive order was issued as a directive to OSHA, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to issue the vaccination mandate as a new type of workplace safety regulation. This was a function that was never envisioned by Congress in the legislation that set up the agency in 1971.

The private workplace vaccine mandate was therefore inherently more vulnerable to legal challenges, based upon the contention that Congress had never intended to authorize OSHA to impose such an intrusive new health measure on the employees of private companies, even as the Biden administration has been attempting to sell it by pretending that it’s just another OSHA safety regulation.

During last Friday’s special Supreme Court session to hear the oral arguments over Biden’s sweeping vaccine mandates, the six-member majority of conservative justices seemed to be skeptical about the legal legitimacy of the OSHA order.

A CYNICAL VACCINE MANDATE “WORKAROUND”

Chief Justice John Roberts, who was initially appointed the court as a conservative, but who has often acted as the decisive swing vote in controversial cases in which the justices had split along conservative-liberal lines, raised a concern during the oral arguments over a social media comment by Ron Klain, Biden’s White House Chief of Staff.

Klain had admitted that using OSHA to legitimize the vaccination mandate on private employers was a “workaround,” intended to expand the power of the White House-controlled agency far beyond what Congress had envisioned when it authorized OSHA to set minimum safety standards in private workplaces.

During the oral arguments on Friday, Justice Roberts commented, “This [the vaccination mandate] is something the federal government has never done before. . . It seems to me that the government is trying to work across the waterfront and is just going agency by agency [to find any justification for imposing a vaccine mandate]. I mean, this has been referred to as a ‘workaround’ and I’m wondering what it is you’re trying to work around.”

Several of the other conservative Supreme Court justices, including Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, expressed similar concerns that by imposing a vaccine mandate on private workplaces, the Biden administration was overstepping its constitutional authority.

LIBERAL JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR OUT OF TOUCH WITH THE FACTS

Judging by their comments during the oral arguments, the three liberal justices on the court, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer, seemed to be united in their determination to uphold Biden’s authority to issue vaccine mandates based upon his overall responsibility as president to protect public safety.

However, a clearly erroneous statement by Justice Sotomayor, which grossly exaggerated the number of young children who have become seriously ill after being infected by the omicron variant, undermined the liberal case in support of Biden’s mandates.

At one point during the special session, Justice Sotomayor stated, “We have over 100,000 children,” she claimed, “…in serious condition, and many on ventilators.”

But according to the latest data from the Department of Health and Human Services, there are now fewer than 3,500 confirmed pediatric Covid hospitalizations, including children who tested positive but were initially hospitalized for other reasons. According to the CDC, since the start of the pandemic, only “694 children between the ages of 0-17 have died with Covid. As to hospitalizations,” the CDC report added, “many children are hospitalized who are found to have Covid, but are not admitted with Covid symptoms as a cause.”

While many public health officials have expressed concern about the sharp recent increase in the number of hospital admissions of very young children diagnosed with Covid, which was very rare before the arrival of the omicron variant, the CDC says this may be due to the overall surge in infections due to omicron, rather than an indication of a general increase in the severity of Covid cases in young children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does confirm Justice Sotomayor’s general impression that, “Covid-19 cases among US children are increasing exponentially, far exceeding the peak of past waves of the pandemic.” But there is no factual basis for her claim that many of the infected children are in serious conditions and have been placed on ventilators. As the AAP wrote in a January 4 report, “At this time, it appears that severe illness due to Covid-19 is [still] uncommon among children.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci recently conceded that many hospitalized children who have been identified as Covid patients initially entered the hospital for a variety of other reasons without showing any Covid symptoms, and were only diagnosed with Covid when they were later routinely tested for the virus.

MISLEADING COVID STATISTICS

The confusion over which patients became sick because of Covid, rather than being hospitalized for another reason while also testing positive for the virus, is not limited to children.

Yale School of Public Health epidemiologist Harvey Risch told reporter John Solomon on a podcast that such problems with official Covid statistics are far more widespread than is commonly realized. “The CDC has played fast and loose with a lot of studies and data,” Risch said. “We have not been careful or objective with our data. We don’t even know, for example, the mortality from Covid,” which the CDC says is responsible for more than 800,000 deaths in this country since the pandemic started.

Risch claims that the CDC has been telling physicians to list Covid as the primary cause on death certificates regardless of whether they think the virus was the main culprit or not. He also says that hospital data frequently conflates admissions “with” Covid and admissions “from” Covid, casting doubt on the accuracy of those statistics as well.

Risch says that the United Kingdom is far more careful than the United States in tracking its Covid cases. Its data confirms recent numbers from other European countries showing that vaccinated adults now constitute the majority of new Covid cases, and that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are now at roughly comparable risk of hospitalization after being infected with the omicron variant.

While Risch does not dispute the usefulness of vaccines as a “potential and reasonable component” of any effective strategy for containing the risk from Covid, he does suspect that their large-scale deployment has driven the emergence of an unexpected number of “mutant strains” which have extended the pandemic and increased its mortality rate.

  1. FAUCI’S CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

Risch is also an outspoken critic of Biden’s chief medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, claiming that the scientist has a serious conflict of interest because of his decades-long tenure as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a division of the federal National Institute of Health. That conflict of interest became painfully obvious during the Senate committee hearings last year, in which Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) grilled Fauci on alleged NIH-funded gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Virology Lab, which many people now believe was likely the point of origin for the virus.

Risch also blames Fauci for initially suppressing the widespread treatment of Covid outpatients with existing, inexpensive drugs that were already FDA-approved for use against other conditions, such as the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and the anti-parasite drug ivermectin. He also blames Fauci for discrediting these medications, despite widespread anecdotal evidence that they do work, based upon the results of “fake studies” designed to “distort the playing field” in favor of more expensive and potentially dangerous new medications and vaccines from which the drugmakers holding the patents stand to make a fortune. Risch claims that hydroxychloroquine is both safe and effective for treating Covid in outpatients, but we were never given the chance to prove it because the FDA banned that usage at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

Risch claims that both the FDA and the CDC have been captured by the pharmaceutical industry which funds much of their research. He also said the agencies of publishing reports which “look like science but are not,” and tend to support the drug makers’ financial interests.

The arguments presented by both sides during last week’s Supreme Court session were based largely on an issue of administrative law. Specifically, do OSHA and CMS (the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) have sufficient jurisdiction to impose those mandates on private employers in the first case, and federally funded health care providers in the second case?

THE OMICRON VARIANT CREATED NEW REALITIES

The 1905 Supreme Court ruling authorizing vaccine mandates for public safety was based on the presumption that the vaccine could protect workers in both industries from the threat of a deadly infection by the coronavirus. While that was true on November 5, when the mandates were issued by HHS and OSHA while the delta variant was dominant, it was no longer true last week when the Supreme Court held its special session. At that point, the CDC said, 95% of the new infections were being caused by the omicron variant, whose possible resistance to the available vaccines was a growing concern.

On December 20, the CDC reported that genetic analysis of the omicron variant revealed that at least some of the 50 mutations it carries compared to previous variants might enable omicron to overcome the antibodies in the current Covid vaccines. More than 30 of those mutations have altered the virus’s distinctive spike protein, which is the specific target of the vaccine antibodies. As a result, the CDC conceded, “we don’t yet know . . . how well available vaccines and medications work against it.”

In fact, it was quickly discovered that only the Glaxo-Smith-Kline version of the three different monoclonal antibody treatments, which had all worked well against the original and earlier variants of the virus, was still effective at preventing patients who had been infected by the omicron variant from becoming seriously ill.

Furthermore, the early clinical study data collected so far about the ability of current vaccines and booster shots to prevent infection by the omicron variant is not at all encouraging. If those initial findings are confirmed, and the existing vaccines are proven not to be effective at preventing infection by the omicron variant, it would have a decisive impact on the decision by the Supreme Court’s as to whether Biden has the authority to impose the vaccine mandates on both health workers and employees of private companies.

DESTROYING THE LEGAL BASIS FOR VACCINE MANDATES

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed cowritten by Dr. Luc Montagnier, who won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering the human immunodeficiency virus, and constitutional scholar Jed Rubenfeld, they explain that the precedent-setting 1905 decision authorizing the government to impose a universal vaccine mandate is predicated on the assumption that it would be certain to stop the spread of the virus. But while that may have been true when the mandate was first proposed, and the delta variant was dominant, it is no longer true today, when it appears that even two doses of the vaccination with a third booster shot may not be able to provide long-term protection against infection.

Montagnier and Rubenfeld argue that even if the vaccines still provide protection against those infected by the omicron variant from the need for hospitalization or death, that is not a sufficient legal justification, under the 1905 ruling, to suspend the civil rights of employees and coerce them to get vaccinated against their will by threatening to fire them from their jobs if they refuse.

They write that, “mandating a vaccine to stop the spread of a disease requires evidence that the vaccines will prevent infection or transmission. . . As the World Health Organization puts it, ‘if mandatory vaccination is considered necessary to interrupt transmission chains and prevent harm to others, there should be sufficient evidence that the vaccine is efficacious in preventing serious infection and/or transmission.’”

But the bottom line of their argument is that, “for omicron, there is as yet no such evidence.”

CAN VACCINES STOP INFECTIONS?

We now know that the omicron variant is far more contagious than previous forms of the virus, even in the large majority of those infected who are suffering from relatively mild Covid symptoms. Fully vaccinated and boosted people who have suffered breakthrough infections are just as infectious as those Covid patients who were never vaccinated at all.

As CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has explained it, the viral load in the noses and throats of vaccinated people who have been infected is “indistinguishable” from that of unvaccinated people. At that point, “what [the vaccines] can’t do anymore is prevent transmission.”

During the oral arguments last week, Justice Breyer also seemed to be seriously misinformed about the current realities of the pandemic driven by the omicron variant, when he suggested that approving the vaccine mandate would enable us to eliminate all 750,000 new cases being reported nationwide every day.

But this is not true. The latest available clinical data from Europe suggests that the measure of protection against infection by the omicron variant afforded by two shots of the currently available vaccines fades very quickly, even after being augmented with a booster shot.

Former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson, another liberal victim of the progressive cancel culture, writes on his blog, Unreported Truths, that not only does the new data show that the vaccines fail to prevent omicron breakthrough infections, there is some evidence from several countries showing that omicron infection rates are actually higher in vaccinated people than they are in unvaccinated people.

That is not a mistake. According to Berenson, recently reported clinical data from Iceland, Denmark, and Canada all show the same disturbing pattern. More than three months after people have received their second dose of the vaccine, they become more likely to be infected by omicron than unvaccinated people.

The new infection pattern created by the omicron variant also stands as a direct refutation of President Biden’s claim, repeated as recently as last week, that we are experiencing “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” According to the new clinical data cited by Berenson, the opposite now seems to be the case.

Berenson writes: “The Danish government reported on January 3 that only 24 percent of the people hospitalized with omicron during late November and December were unvaccinated — while 76 percent were vaccinated, including 18 percent who were boosted. During the same period, unvaccinated people made up 45 percent of those hospitalized with earlier variants — yet more proof the vaccines simply do not work as well against omicron as earlier variants.”

TIME TO GO BACK TO SQUARE ONE

Assuming that the liberal Supreme Court justices will do their homework before rendering their decision on Biden’s vaccine mandates, what are they most likely to decide to do?

In their Wall Street Journal op-ed, Montagnier and Rubenfeld suggest that they will follow usual course of action when the key underlying facts of a case change after the arguments have been made, but before a final decision has been handed down by the court. They will suspend judgement and send the proposed new “regulations back to the [agencies that proposed them] for reconsideration in light of dramatically changed circumstances.”

In last week’s arguments over the Biden’s proposed vaccine mandates, neither side made much mention of the omicron variant. Their arguments were based on the facts when the delta variant, against which the existing vaccines remain highly effective, was still responsible for the majority of new infections.

That reality has now changed, prompting Montagnier and Rubenfeld to conclude, “It would be irrational, legally indefensible and contrary to the public interest for government to mandate vaccines absent any evidence that the vaccines are effective in stopping the spread of the pathogen they target.”

So what do they think the Biden administration should do next in response to the new omicron realities? Noting the CDC report that “the overwhelming majority of symptomatic US omicron cases reported so far have been mild,” Montagnier and Rubenfeld suggest that, “the best policy might be to let omicron run its course while protecting the most vulnerable. . . As Sir Andrew Pollard, head of the Great Britain’s Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, said in a recent interview, ‘We can’t vaccinate the planet every four or six months. It’s not sustainable or affordable.’”

IS BIDEN GETTING THE MESSAGE YET?

This raises the obvious question — is the Biden administration sufficiently aware of these developments, and the fundamental changes the omicron variant has made in the nature of the Covid threat? And more importantly, is President Biden willing to modify his failed anti-Covid policies and goals accordingly?

In this regard, there were some encouraging signs coming out to the extended Biden camp last week, suggesting that the president’s advisors recognize that it may no longer be possible for vaccines and new medications alone to end the pandemic, and that it is time for the administration to begin learning how to live with the virus for the foreseeable future.

In a series of opinion articles published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, six of Biden’s health policy advisors during the post-2020 presidential election transition described possible next steps that the administration could take to create a “new normal” as the pandemic continues, by reducing the rate of transmission of the virus and its negative impacts on the economy and daily life, and accepting its continuing presence at a sufficiently lowered level.

Biden’s former advisors also suggested that his administration should take specific measures to better enable the country to respond more quickly and effectively to new Covid outbreaks. The measures would include making low-cost or free rapid testing more widely accessible, upgrading ventilation and air filtration systems in all public places where people tend to congregate, and encouraging the public to make wider use of the N95 and KN-95 masks, which offer more protection against infection than the common cloth masks.

Another suggestion was that the administration publicly recognize that Covid “is but one of several circulating respiratory viruses that include influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)” that are now permanently embedded in our health environment.

SMALL SIGNS OF LONG OVERDUE CHANGE

In his own recent public comments, President Biden has stepped back from some of his more controversial early Covid policies, such as his support last year for demands by teachers’ union officials to keep public schools closed, regardless of the severe negative impact of the closures on their students.

But the administration still has a serious problem in trying to deliver clear messaging to the public explaining why some of its Covid policies must change in reaction to important new developments, such as the emergence of a new variant.

Yet Biden still resists accepting direct responsibility for any of his many serious policy mistakes — and not just regarding Covid. For example, when speaking to the American public about the pandemic on Tuesday, January 4, Biden was still emphasizing vaccinations and booster shots as the best way “you can control how big an impact omicron is going to have on your health.”

But he also offered encouragement to local officials to keep their public schools open despite sharply rising omicron infection rates. He also wants to build up the supply of rapid Covid self-testing kits, and Pfizer’s anti-viral Paxlovid pill to prevent those showing early symptoms of Covid from developing serious illness.

Still, parts of his speech were disappointing. Biden’s message, especially to those who refuse to be vaccinated, was still meant to frighten more than to reassure. For example, he said that inoculated Americans should be “concerned about omicron” but not alarmed. “[I]f you’re unvaccinated, you have some reason to be alarmed. Many of you will experience severe illness, in many cases, if you get Covid if you’re not vaccinated. Some will needlessly die,” the president again grimly warmed.

THE ELECTORAL CLOCKS ARE TICKING

Biden and his advisors understand that the American people will, in large part, judge the success or failure of his presidency by the ultimate outcome of the pandemic, including how many Americans will ultimately become very sick or die, and how much of a lasting impact it will have on the American economy and way of life.

President Biden now has 10 months left before the November midterm elections, and another two years before his current term of office ends, to change the negative impression his failed Covid policies have made so far. And the recent small changes in the direction of his Covid policies do indicate that those in his White House can now hear that clock ticking.

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