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Wake Up To Politics - September 7, 2021

Wake Up To Politics: Welcome to (another) Covid Autumn
Wake Up To Politics - September 7, 2021

Good morning! It’s Tuesday, September 7, 2021. Election Day 2022 is 427 days away. Election Day 2024 is 1,155 days away.

I hope you all had a nice Labor Day weekend. L’Shana Tova to all who are celebrating Rosh Hashanah today. May it be a happy and sweet new year — even if there are some less-than-sweet things going on in the world, as we’ll cover in this morning’s newsletter.

Welcome to (another) Covid Autumn

When spring turned to summer, the United States had reached its all-time low of new coronavirus cases, averaging only about 11,000 new infections each day.

But just a few months later, after the unofficial Labor Day transition from summer to fall, Covid-19 is surging in the U.S. once again. Far from the promises of normalcy at the beginning of summer, the nation is now averaging about 160,000 new confirmed cases a day.

Remember when President Biden declared “independence from the virus” on the Fourth of July? It feels like a distant memory now, as Americans gird themselves for yet another season in what has felt like an endless cycle where valleys in the case counts are only ever followed by new peaks.

New Covid cases by day. (CDC)

Here is the latest news to know about coronavirus in America:

About 1,500 Americans are dying from Covid each day, a stark increase from the 300 or so deaths reported each day at the beginning of summer. As the Washington Post tragically notes, the virus’ recent victims include “two Texas teachers at a junior high, who died last week within days of each other; a 13-year-old middle schoolboy from Georgia; and a nurse, 37, in Southern California who left behind five children, including a newborn.”

Many hospitals are struggling to combat this latest wave. According to the New York Times, states including Oregon and Idaho are running out of ICU beds to treat critical patients. “We are dangerously close to activating statewide criss standards of care,” Idaho Gov. Brad Little said in a statement. “In essence, someone would have to decide who can be treated and who cannot.”

As in-person classes resume across the country, parents are fearing once again whether schools pose a risk to their children. Per the Wall Street Journal, at least 1,000 schools across 31 states have already experienced closures this school year due to Covid clusters, with growing reports of teachers and students testing positive.

The U.S. reached a hefty milestone on Sunday, as the nation surpassed 40 million Covid cases logged since the pandemic began last year. At the same time, vaccination rates are slowly inching up, with 62.3% of Americans — and 74.8% of adults — now having received at least one vaccine dose. The vaccines are also continuing to work, although the U.S. is preparing to widely distribute Pfizer booster shots later this month in response to some reports of waning vaccine efficacy.

The Rundown

What else you need to know this morning.

Afghanistan. “The Taliban claimed victory on Monday in the last part of Afghanistan still holding out against their rule, declaring that the capture of the Panjshir valley completed their takeover of the country and they would unveil a new government soon.” Reuters

  • New York Times: “U.S. citizens and Afghans wait for evacuation flights from country’s north”
  • Associated Press: “Taliban stop planes of evacuees from leaving but unclear why”

Climate. “Nearly 1 in 3 Americans live in a county hit by a weather disaster in the past three months, according to a new Washington Post analysis of federal disaster declarations. On top of that, 64 percent live in places that experienced a multiday heat wave — phenomena that are not officially deemed disasters but are considered the most dangerous form of extreme weather.” Washington Post

Hurricane Ida flooding in Pennsylvania. (Michael Stokes)

Economy. Wake Up To Politics economic contributor Davis Giangiulio writes in: “The economy added 235,000 jobs in August, missing high expectations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday released the disappointing report, which was expected to reveal as many as 720,000 new jobs created. Most concerning in the data dump is that the leisure and hospitality sector netted zero jobs, which seems to be the perfect example of a Delta variant effect on the economy.”

  • “While the unemployment rate fell to 5.2 percent, Black unemployment rose to 8.8 percent. The total job growth for the previous two months was revised upwards by 134,000 jobs, but the sudden weaker growth in August is leading to questions about the strength of the economy.”

Policy Roundup: Education

On Tuesdays, Wake Up To Politics contributor Kirsten Shaw Mettler writes in with the week’s top education headlines:

Some K-12 schools are struggling with rising Covid-19 cases. A number of districts closed in-person operations temporarily this week due to rising local case levels and deaths. Even schools remaining open have been driven to adjust their remote learning policies to allow greater flexibility for student quarantines.

While many parents still wish to send their children to in-person classes, some parents, especially parents of color, are asking for the return of virtual options in light of the Delta variant. In-person schooling for children under the age of 12 is proving especially challenging, as the group is not yet approved for the COVID-19 vaccine.

20 states have sued the Education Department over its Title IX interpretation. Earlier this year, the Biden administration announced that it interpreted Title IX, the sex discrimination law, as protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination in educational environments. A number of predominately conservative states, led by Tennessee, are challenging this interpretation through a new lawsuit.

A custodian at a Des Moines school cleans a classroom. (Phil Roeder)

More education policy headlines, via Kirsten:

  • Last week’s legal victory for transgender students has been followed by a loss in a separate case: the Virginia Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that called for the reinstatement of a physical education instructor who refused to use a transgender student’s requested pronouns.
  • A California scandal has led to a national investigation after it came to light that bots were flooding the state’s community college application portals in attempts to fraudulently receive federal student aid funds.


What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern)
Executive Branch
President Joe Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing at 8:30 a.m. before departing the White House at 9:50 a.m. for Hillsborough Township, New Jersey. At 11:40 a.m., Biden will arrive in Hillsborough Township. At 12:15 p.m., he will receive a briefing from local leaders on the impact of Hurricane Ida. At 2:10 p.m., he will tour a neighborhood in Manville, New Jersey, to survey the damage from Ida.

At 3:10 p.m., Biden will depart New Jersey, arriving at 3:35 p.m. in Queens, New York. At 4 p.m., he will tour a neighborhood in Queens and deliver remarks on his administration’s response to Ida. At 5:40 p.m., Biden will depart New York, returning to the White House at 7:15 p.m.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold a press gaggle aboard Air Force One during the flight to Queens.
Legislative Branch
The Senate will convene briefly at 1 p.m. for a pro forma session. The chamber will not fully convene again until September 13.  

The House will convene briefly at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session. The chamber will not fully convene again until September 20.  
Judicial Branch
The Supreme Court is on recess until October 4.

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