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Wake Up To Politics - July 19, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: “A pandemic of the unvaccinated”
Wake Up To Politics - July 19, 2021

Good morning! It’s Monday, July 19, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 477 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,205 days away.

“Pandemic of the unvaccinated”: A guide to the latest COVID-19 outbreak

Just weeks after Americans celebrated their “summer of normalcy” on Memorial Day and “independence from the virus” on July 4th, rising infections, hospitalizations, and deaths across the country have offered a searing reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over.

Here’s your guide to the latest COVID news as the pandemic, now 16 months old, roars back to the forefront of the national conversation:

By the numbers. The 7-day average of new coronavirus cases in the United States stood at 31,745 on Sunday — almost three times as many new cases as were being reported just three weeks before (11,880), according to the New York Times dashboard.

  • Other metrics are on the rise as well, with about 20,000 new patients being hospitalized for COVID-19 each day and about 270 new deaths being recorded each day due to the virus.
  • Meanwhile, the nationwide vaccination rate is stalling: last week, an average of 512,673 vaccine doses were administered per day, according to Bloomberg, down from a daily average above 1 million at the beginning of the month.
  • Per the CDC, 48.6% of Americans are fully vaccinated, while 56% have had at least one dose. 59.4% of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated and 68.2% have had at least one dose — still shy of the 70% goal that President Biden had been hoping to meet more than two weeks ago on July 4th.

Where to watch. New coronavirus cases are currently increasing in all 50 states, but the latest outbreak has been particularly pronounced in some states. The states with the most new cases per capita are Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, Louisiana, and Nevada; Florida alone accounts for 20% of all new cases in the U.S., according to the White House.

  • Cases are rising fastest in places where there are the lowest vaccination rates. Half of U.S. states have fully vaccinated more than 60% of their residents and five have even vaccinated more than 70%; none of the five hotspot states have fully vaccinated more than 55% of their residents.
  • This dynamic, further exacerbated by the more infectious Delta variant, led CDC director Rochelle Walensky to declare Friday that “this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
New confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States fell throughout May, stagnated in June, and have quickly risen in July. (Chart by Our World in Data)

What’s next on vaccines. Pfizer announced on Friday that the FDA had granted priority review to their application for full approval of their COVID-19 vaccine. According to CNN, “a decision on full approval is likely to come within two months.” All COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. are currently approved only for emergency use.

  • Full approval could persuade some hesitant Americans to take the shots and is expected to open the way for more institutions (such as the military, schools, and businesses) to require vaccinations.
  • The U.S. vaccination campaign is expected to receive another boost when vaccines are younger children are able to be vaccinated. The FDA said last week that emergency authorization for children under 12 to be vaccinated is likely to come this winter.
  • Meanwhile, officials continue to deliberate over whether vaccine booster shots will be needed, especially for immunocompromised individuals. For now, health agencies have pushed back on Pfizer’s claim that booster shots will be needed soon, although U.S. officials reportedly see booster shots as an inevitability.

More Covid headlines:

  • “Covid Still Killing Americans Faster Than Guns, Cars and Flu Combined” Bloomberg
  • “ They’re Killing People’: Biden Denounces Social Media for Virus Disinformation” New York Times
  • “Days Before the Olympics, More Athletes Test Positive for Covid-19” Wall Street Journal

The Rundown

More stories driving the news this morning.

U.S. accuses China of cyberattacks. “The United States, European Union, NATO and other world powers on Monday accused the Chinese government of a broad array of malicious cyber activities, blaming its Ministry of State Security and affiliated criminals for a sophisticated attack on Microsoft’s widely used email server software earlier this year.” Washington Post

  • More from the Post: “The condemnations represent the first time NATO, a 30-nation alliance, has denounced alleged Chinese cyberattacks following the Biden administration’s pledge in June to rally U.S. allies against Beijing’s malign behavior. The number of nations involved amounts to the largest condemnation of China’s cyber aggressions to date, U.S. officials said.”

The latest from the border. “U.S. Border Patrol has made more than 1 million arrests of migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border since last October, after June set a 20-year record for that month, according to government data released on Friday.” Axios

A transfer from Gitmo. “The Biden administration on Monday transferred a Guantánamo Bay detainee to his home country for the first time, a policy shift from the Trump presidency that repatriated a Moroccan man years after he was recommended for discharge.” Associated Press

A group of migrants are processed by Border Patrol after crossing the Rio Grande into the U.S. earlier this month. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Policy Roundup: Economics

On Mondays, Wake Up To Politics contributor Davis Giangiulio offers a roundup on the latest economic news to know:

A key inflation indicator soared once again in June, setting off a new round of inflation fears. The Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed on Tuesday that the Consumer Price Index rose 5.4 percent in June compared to last year, the biggest jump since August 2008. A concerning figure in the report is the 0.5 percent jump in shelter prices compared to last month, the largest since October 2005. Some of this is driven by an increase in hotel rates, which are likely temporary, but it’s concerning especially for renters who will have to start paying rent next month, as the eviction moratorium ends on July 31.

Amid a global microchip shotrage that has disturbed the automotive supply chain, prices for used cars and trucks increased by 10.5 percent in June, making up more than a third of the month’s inflation.

Inflation fear is seeping into the White House too, where in the past they’ve tried to downplay figures like these. The New York Times reports that despite the Biden administration’s public position that the price increases are temporary, some aides now privately concede they could last longer than a year.

White House officials also met last week with Larry Summers, a top Democratic economist who has assailed Biden’s costly spending proposals and said they would fuel an inflation surge. The White House has previously dismissed his concerns, but aides are reportedly giving his views a second look.

Inflation spiked once again in June. Used car price rises alone made up a third of the jump. (David Zalubowski/AP)

Meanwhile, at the Federal Reserve, positions aren’t shifting. Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell maintained in congressional testimony on Wednesday that he still viewed this inflation surge as temporary, although Republican lawmakers offered pushback. “The families and businesses that I represent… aren’t feeling that these price spikes are very temporary,” Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) said.

Powell did once again concede that the inflationary period is larger than he expected, but said it wouldn’t last long “because we have tools to address that.” He also said it would be wrong for the Fed to “act prematurely” and fight inflation when they expect it to be temporary.


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern)
Executive Branch
→ President Joe Biden will host King Abdullah II of Jordan today. According to a statement, the visit will “highlight the enduring and strategic partnership between the United States and Jordan” and provide an “opportunity to discuss the many challenges facing the Middle East and showcase Jordan’s leadership role in promoting peace and stability in the region.” The king will be the first Middle Eastern leader to visit Biden at the White House.

At 10 a.m., Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing. At 11:30 a.m., he will deliver remarks celebrating the economic growth under his administration and laying out why the bipartisan infrastructure plan and Democratic reconciliation package are needed to sustain those gains.

At 1:45 p.m., Biden will host a welcome ceremony for King Abdullah II, his wife Queen Rania, and their son Crown Prince Hussein. At 2:15 p.m., Biden and King Abdullah II will participate in a bilateral meeting. At 2:30 p.m., the president and the king will participate in an expanded bilateral meeting.

First Lady Jill Biden will join her husband for the welcome ceremony for the Jordanian royals. She will also host Queen Rania for tea.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 12:30 p.m.

Biden and Abdullah in 2016. (Raad Adayleh/AP)

Legislative Branch
The Senate will vote on a Biden judicial nominee; if confirmed, she will become his 8th nominee to join the federal bench.

At 3 p.m., the chamber will convene for Leader remarks, followed by “morning business,” in which senators are permitted to speak for up to 10 minutes each. At about 5:30 p.m., the Senate will vote on the confirmation of Chicago attorney Tiffany P. Cunningham to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Federal Circuit.

If confirmed, Cunningham will be the first African-American judge to sit on the Federal Circuit, which is the only circuit court to have its jurisdiction based on subject matter rather than jurisdiction location. The court mainly hears cases regarding patent law, as well as other disputes involving certain administrative agencies.

The House will return today after two weeks of recess.

At 2 p.m., the chamber will convene for “one minutes,” when 15 members from each party will be able to speak for one minute each. The House will then consider 14 pieces of legislation under “suspension of the rules,” which allows non-controversial bills to be fast-tracked. Such measures are generally passed by voice vote, but if recorded votes are forced on any of the bills, they will be held at 6:30 p.m.

The bills slated for votes today are:

  • H.R. 3119, the Energy Emergency Leadership Act
  • H.R. 2931, the Enhancing Grid Security through Public-Private Partnerships Act
  • H.R. 2928, the Cyber Sense Act
  • H.R. 678, the PHONE Act
  • H.R. 1250, the Emergency Reporting Act
  • H.R. 1754, the MEDIA Diversity Act
  • H.Res. 277, a resolution “reaffirming the commitment to media diversity and pledging to work with media entities and diverse stakeholders to develop common ground solutions to eliminate barriers to media diversity”
  • H.R. 3003, the Promoting United States Wireless Leadership Act
  • H.R. 1158, the Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act
  • H.R. 826, the Divided Families Reunification Act
  • H.Res. 294, a resolution “encouraging reunions of divided Korean-American families”
  • H.R. 2118, the Securing America From Epidemics Act
  • H.R. 1079, the Desert Locust Control Act
  • H.R. 1036, the Bassam Barabandi Rewards for Justice Act

On the committee level:

The Senate Rules Committee will hold a field hearing on voting rights in Atlanta, Georgia, at 10 a.m. According to the New York Times, it will be the committee’s first field hearing in 20 years, as part of an effort by Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to elevate the normally low-key panel.
Judicial Branch
The Supreme Court is on recess until October.

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