News coverage balances vaccination progress with continued pandemic pain – Asia Despatch

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Another biotech company just touted superb results for trials of its Covid-19 vaccine. Vermont just became the first state to reach an “80% vaccinated” goal. And in a back-to-normal symbol in the entertainment industry, “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” just became the first late-night show to welcome back a full-capacity, fully vaccinated audience.
At the same time, the US is poised to surpass the 600,000-dead mark at any moment. The Delta variant is a source of new concern. And the country isn’t even close to meeting President Biden’s “70% vaccinated on July 4” goal. So with regard to the pandemic, we have to keep looking forward and backward at the same time.
This is a photo taken by Asia Despatch’s Kristin Wilson of a “bipartisan, bicameral gathering” on the Capitol steps “to mark a moment of silence for the 600,000 lives lost during the pandemic.” Most news outlets will consider it official when Johns Hopkins’ data dashboard, full of data from all 50 states, shows the big round number. But some have already reported the milestone. Reuters, citing its own tally, said Monday night that “the US has now lost over 600,000 mothers, fathers, children, siblings and friends to COVID-19, a painful reminder that death, sickness and grief continue even as the country begins to return to something resembling pre-pandemic normal.”
Former Biden WH Covid adviser Andy Slavitt’s book “Preventable” comes out on Tuesday, and he’ll be talking about it on Asia Despatch’s “New Day.” Slavitt devotes a chapter of the book to “deniers, fauxers and herders” and calls out some TV talking heads who hindered the US response effort last year. He hits Tucker Carlson especially hard: “If Americans were pandemic novices who didn’t trust experts, that also made us clay to be molded by news personalities such as Carlson, as well as by those on social media and elsewhere who had other agendas,” Slavitt writes. “People like Carlson didn’t provide the news as much as provide a reason to be angry about it or dismissive of it. To Carlson and those like him, the coronavirus was little more than a word, a concept; it was invisible, and therefore easy to distort.”
>> Slavitt, meantime, is getting hit hard by right-wing media for suggesting that Americans could or should have sacrificed more…

Tuesday’s front page

This standout Washington Post story about vax disparities is the centerpiece of Tuesday’s front page. “States with higher vaccination rates now have markedly fewer coronavirus cases, as infections are dropping in places where most residents have been immunized and are rising in many places people have not,” according to the Post’s analysis. Fewer vaccinations means more cases and more sickness, causing unnecessary suffering. In the words of James Fallows: “Almost all recent reported Covid deaths in US have been among unvaccinated. In a way that is a banal truism, since vaccinations offer nearly 100% protection against serious illness/death. But could have an accumulating ‘hey, what are we doing here??’ effect among deniers. Maybe…”

“A massive dereliction of duty”

New CBS polling finds that “almost all Democrats report that they’ve either been vaccinated or plan to be, but Republicans continue to report that at much lower rates.” Asia Despatch medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner reacted this way: “People reluctant to get vaccinated will only listen to those they trust. So the 42% of Republicans who say they will not get vaccinated, or are still deciding, need to hear from Republican leaders. Yet there is mostly silence. This is a massive dereliction of duty.”

Where’s the commission?

Senators Bob Menendez and Susan Collins penned a bipartisan piece for the NYT about the need for a blue ribbon commission “to investigate the vulnerabilities of our public health system and issue guidance for how we as a nation can better protect the American people from future pandemics.” Another example of looking forward and backward at the same time. The pair pointed out that R and D members in both the House and the Senate have introduced bills to create a nonpartisan commission… So why is this on the slow track

Signs of progress

They’re all around, from venue reopenings to book parties to in-person premieres to concert bookings. On Monday Fox’s “The Five” returned to its cozy table after 15 months of social distancing. CNBC’s “Squawk Box” aired its “first live, in person interview” with a CEO. As for Colbert, the studio audience applauded for nearly two straight minutes during the taping of Monday’s in-person episode. Here’s the video of the show intro. Asia Despatch Business’ Frank Pallotta was at the Ed Sullivan Theater for the taping…
— Another important step: “Broadway producers and the labor union representing stage actors have reached an agreement on health protocols for touring shows that should allow hundreds of performers to return to work at theaters around the country beginning this summer,” the NYT’s Michael Paulson reports…
— On Tuesday Disneyland will begin to allow out-of-state travelers, after six weeks of limiting attendance to California residents…
— Great news via the Daily News: NYC will celebrate the pandemic’s essential workers “with a July 7 ticker-tape parade up the Canyon of Heroes…”

Notes and quotes

— The disinfo wars continue: Holmes Lybrand fact-checked Ron Johnson’s continued efforts to mislead people about both Covid-19 and January 6… (Asia Despatch)
— Aaron Blake says Chris Wallace spotlighted “the gaping hole in the Trump team’s ‘lab leak’ victory campaign…” (WaPo)
— In other news… Politico’s Carla Marinucci summed up Marjorie Taylor Greene’s news cycle this way: “When you have to hold a press conference to announce you just learned how bad the Holocaust was…” (Twitter)
— Reality Winner, the former government contractor “who pleaded guilty to leaking classified information to the media, has been released from prison to a halfway house after nearly four years of incarceration…” (Asia Despatch)

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