COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Now Full. Due to overwhelming demand, the schedule of for the Benicia COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic for Seniors on Tuesday, February 2, is now full.
Solano Public Health is working daily to schedule additional vaccine events. If you would like to add your name to an interest list to be notified of upcoming local vaccination clinics, go to www.tinyurl.com/beniciavaccine.
As vaccinations bring the first flicker of light at the end of the Covid tunnel, the emergence of more transmissible and somewhat vaccine-resistant variants seem to stand in the way.
But there’s a path forward. In fact, as a matter of both principle and self-preservation, it’s the only path: Go global. Get the whole world vaccinated much more quickly than currently planned.
Going global is vital because, as explained in a recent Washington Post article, “A [coronavirus] mutation in any location [on the planet] will likely spread everywhere.” Inoculations in America will buy valuable time. But until we control Covid via worldwide vaccinations, we may have to keep striving to stay one step ahead of such mutations.
Drawing in part on a fine Foreign Affairs article decrying “vaccine nationalism,” a Fareed Zakaria op-ed accordingly makes a case for a massive international effort to inoculate the entire world as soon as possible. Among his primary points:
“[O]ur current trajectory [which features a much faster vaccine roll-out for richer nations than the rest of the world] virtually guarantees that we will never really defeat the coronavirus. It will stay alive and keep mutating and surging across the globe.”
“The basic problem is in how the vaccine is being distributed around the world — not based on where there is the most need, but the most money…Rich countries make up 16 percent of the world’s population, yet they have locked up 60 percent of the world’s vaccine supply.”
“Duke University researchers say [that at the currently planned vaccination rate] many developing countries will not be fully vaccinated until 2024, which means the virus will have years to spread and mutate. In their annual letter, Bill and Melinda Gates note that low- and middle-income countries will be able to vaccinate only 1 out of every 5 people by the end of 2021.”
“The International Chamber of Commerce has released a study showing that this lopsided vaccination of the world will cause global economic losses of $1.5 trillion to $9.2 trillion, of which half could be borne by the richest countries…Another study estimates that for every dollar rich countries invest in vaccines for the developing world, they would get back about $5 in economic output.”
“Bollyky and Bown lay out an excellent plan in Foreign Affairs. They argue that the United States should use the lessons from Operation Warp Speed to ramp up production and distribution of the vaccine worldwide…There is now a global vaccination effort to help developing countries, COVAX, which provides a powerful framework for action. President Donald Trump refused to join this effort [surprise, surprise] despite the participation of over 180 nations, but President Biden has reversed that decision.”
Biden can and probably will do more. The question is whether he, other world leaders and pharmaceutical firms will commit to doing much, much more, by bolstering vaccine production and distribution to inoculate the entire planet well before 2024.
A key step would be to persuade or compel such firms to convert existing facilities into plants that manufacture Covid vaccines or other supplies crucial to the inoculation efforts. There’s already a precedent for this: A French firm, Sanofi, is making a Frankfurt pharmaceutical plant available to increase production of Pfizer’s vaccine.
Where persuasion or shared profit-making prove insufficient incentives for drug makers to boost production via factory conversion, Biden could invoke the Defense Production Act to force them to do so. His staff was reportedly considering that option during the transition period and is continuing those deliberations now.
Neither Gleeful Nor Glum
Word of the potentially more dangerous South African variant, and of other new strains, might make us wonder whether we can get a handle on the pandemic’s spread in America, much less the rest of the world. This is indeed cause for concern, putting us in a “race to vaccinate” in order to limit the spreads of such strains. The recent decisions of California and other states to start opening up again could prove premature, to put it mildly.
But there’s good news. With research findings indicating the Johnson & Johnson vaccine protects against Covid – albeit not quite as well as the Pfizer and Moderna drugs or as well against the South African variant as it does against other strains – the potential for ramped-up supplies to reach all of the world just became much more realizable.
There are yet more reasons to be, if not gleeful, then not entirely glum regarding prospects for protecting both America and the world. More vaccines are already available to various degrees abroad, or are on the way. And the technology utilized for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is such that they can be adapted to fight virus variants in about six weeks (though regulatory and manufacturing hurdles can add time to their becoming widely available).
To be clear, ongoing vigilance and extra precautions against the new variants are well warranted. More people, perhaps many more, may die because of those mutations. My main point here is that we should not give up on helping the rest of the world, regardless of what happens here in coming months. In fact, a turn for the worse here is all the more reason to go global.
Principle and Self-preservation
A case for aiding the entire human race does not only boil down to humanitarian principle – though saving millions of lives sounds pretty persuasive to me. Since Covid could remain a looming threat here as long as it surges elsewhere, self-interest and self-preservation might be the better selling points for those Americans (and other nationalities) who insist that “charity begins at home.” (That’s why, regarding another global challenge, Biden often frames fighting climate change in terms of jobs.)
Regardless, the battle against Covid demonstrates that we can’t hide behind the “America First” wall that fortunately lost out in November but still haunts this land. It’s not just Covid and our health, as crucial as they are. To a good degree, our economy, environment and security hinge on how the rest of the world is doing.
As Bill and Melinda Gates put it, “[L]ike it or not, we’re all in this together.”
Benicia resident Stephen Golub offers excellent perspective on his blog, A Promised Land: Politics. Policy. America as a Developing Country. To access his other posts or subscribe, please go to his blog site, A Promised Land.
“It has the potential to be the most significant action Biden took on day one.” That’s what Senior Policy Analyst James Goodwin of the Center for Progressive Reform said about the executive order called Modernizing Regulatory Review (MRR)—although he recognized such a statement might sound “absurd” given everything else the new president did on that day. Goodwin was talking about an executive order (EO) that got little attention from mainstream journalists other than the HuffPost reporter who interviewed him. I initially heard about it thanks to Tim Corrimal’s show, but the Brookings Institute’s in-depth analysis of the MRR also generally tracks with the optimistic assessment from Goodwin. Cass Sunstein, who ran the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) during President Obama’s first term, also strongly praised the change in a post at Bloomberg.
The memo directs the OIRA, which is housed in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to take a new approach when doing its job—namely reviewing regulations proposed by the executive branch. I know that the previous sentence may have left some of you nodding off into a dream about drowning in alphabet soup. (There are worse ways to go.) But trust me, if you breathe air, drink water, or buy, well, anything, there’s a pretty decent chance that what Biden just did will help you and yours stay safer and healthier—or maybe even just stay alive.
The key section of the document calls for the appropriate offices to “provide concrete suggestions on how the regulatory review process can promote public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations.”
In addition to those important priorities, this Biden-Harris EO mandates that the review of regulations “promotes policies that reflect new developments in scientific and economic understanding, fully accounts for regulatory benefits that are difficult or impossible to quantify, and does not have harmful anti-regulatory or deregulatory effects.”
Finally, the memo requires that any such review “ensure[s] that regulatory initiatives appropriately benefit and do not inappropriately burden disadvantaged, vulnerable, or marginalized communities.”
One might think all this would be obvious to anyone with a sense of fairness, an interest in actually getting things right based on the best available information, and a concern for justice. One who harbors such illusions clearly hasn’t dealt with Republicans.
Biden’s MRR differs from most of the other executive actions he has taken thus far in that it doesn’t target rules created by his immediate predecessor. Instead, the 46th president is going after a structure created by the godfather of modern conservatism in all its forms (including virulent race-baiting, although that’s not the topic of this post): Ronald Reagan.
With EO 12291 on Feb. 17, 1981, Reagan created the OIRA. Its goal was simple: Find ways to block regulations. The guts of the EO are contained in this section: “(R)egulatory action shall not be undertaken unless the potential benefits to society from the regulation outweigh the potential costs to society.” Sounds reasonable … until it’s time to define benefits and costs to society. Those definitions have rested solely on the basis of dollars and cents. If saving lives costs too much money, well, to paraphrase Col. Jessup from A Few Good Men, “people die.”
At the time, progressives knew what Reagan’s order would mean. Richard Ayres, a leading environmental activist who co-founded the National Resources Defense Council, called this approach to assessing the value of regulations “basically fraudulent.” Going further, he noted: “They are trying to put into numbers something that doesn’t fit into numbers, like the value of clean air to our grandchildren. Cost benefit analysis discounts the future. It allows costs to flow to small groups and benefits to large groups and vice versa. It is concerned with efficiency but not with equity. It is deceivingly precise and ignores ethical and moral choices.”
How’s that for a slogan that sums up an entire movement: “Conservatism: We’ve been ignoring ethical and moral choices for more than 40 years!”
California Rep. Henry Waxman, a long-time progressive champion, added: “It is very dangerous to think we can quantify the way we make policy judgments. We don’t know how to measure the true cost of health or disease.” Waxman was very clear about why this EO was one of the first actions taken during the Reagan presidency: It would enable Republicans to “use cost-benefit analysis to reach decisions that will favor business and industry in this country rather than the public.” Waxman couldn’t have been more right, either about this specific action Reagan took or about Republican priorities across the board.
President Bill Clinton issued a change in 1993 that reduced OIRA’s scope, but unfortunately left the basic framework relatively intact. Other tweaks have been made, including in 2011 under the Obama-Biden administration. But the order issued by the new Biden-Harris administration will, hopefully, usher in a new era for OIRA, one that differs not just by degree, but by kind.
By broadening the definition of costs and benefits beyond what can be calculated on a balance sheet, Biden’s MMR makes enactment possible for far-reaching protections likely to be blocked under the old system. Stuart Shapiro, a public policy professor at Rutgers University who used to work at OMB, explained that the previous approach to regulatory review stifled necessary measures: “Because the benefits are harder to measure, cost-benefit analysis always puts regulation at a disadvantage.” It’s more concrete to say that a specific environmental rule will cost businesses X dollars. However, what is the exact benefit in dollars to a life saved—or a life improved, for that matter? Those benefits are very real to actual people but were not given the proper weight because of the way the costs and benefits had been defined—until Biden came along, that is.
Don’t just take the word of progressives on how much of an impact this new policy will have; listen to how much conservatives despise it. The so-called Competitive Enterprise Institute is a libertarian think tank that, for all intents and purposes, never met a regulation it didn’t hate—especially on the environment. They published a post by Clyde Wayne Crews, a senior fellow and vice president for policy, which squealed that Biden’s MMR would end up “gutting the restraint of the past four years” and “effectively do away with cost-benefit analysis altogether.” Based on how that analysis operated, I’d say good riddance.
As for the last four years, the core of the twice-impeached president’s regulatory review policy was typical of the thoughtlessness of his administration in general. Rather than establish some kind of objective standards to measure the effectiveness of regulations—standards that would certainly favor corporate fat cats—the disgraced despot just said, “If there’s a new regulation, they have to knock out two.” That’s a direct quote—I’m not kidding. In a nutshell, that really was his new rule.
More broadly, The Man Who Tried To Overturn An Election He Lost seriously weakened environmental protections and totally hamstrung our country’s efforts to combat climate change. Hana V. Vizcarra, who researches environmental policy at Harvard, characterized what Trump did over four years as a “very aggressive attempt to rewrite our laws and reinterpret the meaning of environmental protections.” Trump’s anti-regulation regime went beyond the environment, including attacks on labor protections, health protections, education-related protections, and more.
The one wide-ranging piece of legislation enacted by the Republicans under Trump was the Rich Man’s Tax Cut, and Biden certainly needs to undo that giveaway to millionaires and billionaires as quickly as possible. But the other major policy “accomplishments” that need to be undone are in the area of regulation, where Trump had more room to operate by executive order and other executive branch actions. Now President Biden has that same authority, and his new MMR makes clear he knows how to use it.
We’ll likely be seeing one example of the impact of Biden’s executive order when he issues regulations—which we expect to see very soon—on so-called “forever chemicals.” The real name for them is per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), but their nickname derives from the fact that they “never break down in the environment,” as the Environmental Working Group explained. That’s not all:
Very small doses of PFAS have been linked to cancer, reproductive and immune system harm, and other diseases.
During his 2020 campaign, Biden promised to take action on PFAS as part of a wide-ranging plan to “secure environmental justice and equitable economic opportunity.” This is the first step among what will be many, but much of his agenda would likely have been neutered or even blocked under the old regulatory review rules. His new MMR was thus a vital first step in clearing the path for the specific changes he will carry out to protect all Americans’ health, safety, and much more.
It’s very important to remember that what Trump did was no different than what other Republicans have done going back four decades. Conservatives, over and over, wrongly decry as “red tape” the very rules that prevent a relatively small number of immoral, greedy sharks from causing real injury in the blind pursuit of profit—not to mention making it that much harder for the honest business owners who act morally to successfully compete.
Since long before the Orange Menace moved into the White House, his party has been in thrall to corporate interests, and hostile to the interests of consumers—also known as the American people. Even if Republicans purge Trumpism and the Trumpists from their party—something they absolutely must do for the sake of our democracy—the conflict between the parties on regulatory issues will not go away.
When it comes to regulations, one party favors the powerful and the wealthy, and the other works for all of us. It really is as simple as that.
Solano County reported 220 new cases overnight, total of 27,706 cases since the outbreak started. In the first 29 days of January, Solano has added 8,495 new cases, for an AVERAGE of 293 new cases per day.
Deaths – for the first time since January 15, the County reported no new deaths; a total of 122 Solano deaths since the pandemic began. There have been 17 COVID-related deaths in Solano County over the last 10 days, two individuals aged 18-49 years, 15 others over 65 years of age. While many other COVID stats are improving, the recent surge in deaths is the final sad result of our holiday surge.
Active cases – Solano reported 53 more active cases today, a total of 1,558 active cases. Compare: Solano’s average number of Active Cases during October was 284, average in November was 650, in December 1,658 – and TODAY we are at 1,558. Is the County equipped to contact trace so many infected persons? Or do we just sit back and wait for a voluntary 10 day quarantine to expire. Who knows? To my knowledge, Solano has offered no reports on contact tracing.
Hospitalizations –(See expanding ICU capacity and ventilator availablity below.) Today, Solano reported no change in the number of currently hospitalized cases, total of 137. Also no change today in the number of hospitalizations among age groups. (The County posted its “occasional” large group of updated numbers on hospitalizations among the age groups this week, adding 5 in the 50-64 year age group and 12 more in the 65+ age group, for a total of 820 hospitalized in all age groups since the pandemic began.) Even then, accuracy cannot be certain – note… >>In a December 31 Fairfield Daily Republic article, reporter Todd Hanson wrote, “Since the start of the pandemic, and as of Wednesday, 9,486 residents have been hospitalized.” This startling number isfar and away above the number of residents hospitalized as indicated in the count of age group hospitalizations, and not available anywhere on the County’s COVID-19 dashboard.Asked about his source, Hanson replied that Solano Public Health “had to do a little research on my behalf.” It would be good if the County could add Total Hospitalized to its daily Dashboard update. [For the numbers used in my manual calculation of total hospitalizations, see age group stats below. For COVID19-CA.GOV numbers, see BenIndy page, COVID-19 Hospitalizations Daily Update for Solano County.]
Ventilators available – This week, for the first time since July 24 of last year, Solano County is reporting the percentage of ventilators available. Today Solano hospitals have 49% of ventilators available, up from 41% yesterday but down substantially from last summer’s reports of 82-94% available.
Positive Test Rate – SOLANO TEST RATE REMAINS ALARMINGLY HIGH, 16.9% – VIRUS STILL SPREADING, STAY HOME!
Solano County reported our 7-day average positive test at an alarming rate of 16.9%, same as yesterday, and still more than 2 times the State’s purple tier threshold of 8%. Average percent positive test rates are among the best metrics for measuring community spread of the virus. COMPARE: The much lower and more stable California 7-day average test rate was down slightly from yesterday’s 7.5% to 7.4% today. (Note that Solano County displays past weeks and months in a 7-day test positivity line graph which also shows daily results. However, the chart does not display an accurate number of cases for the most recent days, as there is a lag time in receiving test results. The 7-day curve therefore also lags behind due to unknown recent test results.)
By Age Group
Youth 17 and under – 21 new cases overnight, total of 3,213 cases, representing 11.6% of the 27,706 total cases. No new hospitalizations reported today among this age group, total of 17 since the outbreak began. Thankfully, no deaths have ever been reported in Solano County in this age group. But cases among Solano youth rose steadily over the summer, from 5.6% of total cases on June 8 to 11% on August 31 and has plateaued at over 11% since September 30. Youth are 22% of Solano’s general population, so this 11% may seem low. The significance is this: youth are SERIOUSLY NOT IMMUNE (!) – in fact at least 17 of our youth have been hospitalized since the outbreak began.
Persons 18-49 years of age – 109 new cases overnight, total of 15,292 cases. This age group is 41% of the population in Solano, but represents 55.2% of the total cases, by far the highest percentage of all age groups. The County reported no new hospitalizations among persons in this age group today. A total of 241 are reported to have been hospitalized since the outbreak began. Solano recorded no new deaths in this young group today, total of 9 deaths. Some in this group are surely at high risk, as many are providing essential services among us, and some may be ignoring public health orders. I expect this group is a major factor in the spread of the virus.
Persons 50-64 years of age – 69 new cases overnight, total of 5,801 cases. This age group represents 20.9% of the 27,706 total cases. The County reported no new hospitalizations among persons in this age group today. A total of 222 are reported to have been hospitalized since the outbreak began. No new deaths were reported in this age group today, a total of 18 deaths.
Persons 65 years or older – 21 new cases overnight, total of 3,389, representing 12.2% of Solano’s 27,706 total cases. The County reported no new hospitalizations among persons in this age group today, a total of 340 hospitalized since the outbreak began. No new deaths were reported in this age group today. A total of 95 of our elders have died of COVID, accounting for 78%of Solano’s 122 total deaths.
Benicia added 8 new cases overnight, total of 782 cases since the outbreak began. 274 new cases in January, avg. of 9.5 per day.
Dixon added 7 new cases overnight, total of 1,645 cases. 424 new cases in January, avg. of 15 per day.
Fairfield added 33 new cases overnight, total of 7,623 cases. 2,180 new cases in January, avg. of 75 per day.
Rio Vista added 2 new cases today, total of 264 cases. 99 new cases in January, avg. of 3 per day.
Suisun City added 9 new cases overnight, total of 1,888 cases. 542 new cases in January, avg. of 19 per day.
Vacaville added 88 new cases overnight, total of 7,311 cases. 2,457 new cases in January, avg. of 85 per day.
Vallejoadded 73 new cases overnight, total of 8107 cases. 2,494 new cases in January, avg. of 86 per day.
Unincorporated areas remained steady today, total of 86 cases. 25 new cases in January, avg. of nearly 1 per day.
Race / Ethnicity
The County report on race / ethnicity includes case numbers, hospitalizations, deaths and Solano population statistics. This information is discouragingly similar to national reports that indicate significantly worse outcomes among black and brown Americans. Note that all of this data surely undercounts Latinx Americans, as there is a large group of “Multirace / Others” which likely is composed mostly of Latinx members of our communities.
Asian Americans are 14% of Solano’s population, and account for 12% of cases, 12% of hospitalizations, and 17% of deaths.
Black Americans are 14% of Solano’s population, and account for 11% of cases, but 17% of hospitalizations, and 22% of deaths.
Latinx Americans are 26% of Solano’s population, but account for 13% of cases, 22% of hospitalizations, and 15% of deaths.
Multi-race / Others are 7% of Solano’s population, but account for 35% of cases, 18% of hospitalizations, and 12% of deaths.
White Americans are 39% of the population in Solano County, but only account for 29% of cases, 30% of hospitalizations and 34% of deaths.