It’s Monday, February 21st, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast:
1) 73% Of Americans Immune To Omicron
The Topline: A recent study found that roughly 73% of Americans have attained some level of immunity against the Omicron variant as COVID restrictions are being lifted across the country, even in some of the strictest cities.
Quote Of The Day: “I think moving forward, we need to really begin to acknowledge that, yes, this may come back in some way, shape, or form, but no differently than any other seasonal virus.”
– Dr. Houman Hemmati
The new study is based on a single model which calculates many health metrics, including community vaccination rates and case numbers that have been reported through official channels, but it doesn’t account for at-home testing and other kinds of testing, which aren’t reported.
Some experts suspect the actual number of those with immunity could be far higher, maybe above 80% or even 85%. But even if it is at 73%, that’s already approaching the limit some consider to be required for herd immunity. Many people have set that bar around 80 to 85%, and that same model is saying that the 80% threshold will likely be reached sometime in early March.
There have been many studies done across the world, as well as in the U.S., examining rates of masking and their correlation with the spread of disease. All of the studies taken together, as well as individually, show there may be a statistically significant difference between schools and districts and states that have mask mandates and those that don’t; however, the statistical differences might not be clinically significant.
The CDC has never made indoor masking of students a mandate or a requirement – they’ve made it a suggestion or recommendation. They also likely want to operate under an abundance of caution. The CDC is made up of political appointees who answer to elected officials. When those factors exist, there are political considerations, as well as influences from outside organizations, such as labor unions, and other groups. All of those influences taken together make them act in a way that doesn’t always consider science as its only measure.
2) Olympics Comes To An End
The Topline: With little publicity, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics have concluded.
The U.S. ended up towards the top of the medal count after getting off to a slow start, finishing tied for fourth place with eight gold medals, behind Norway, Germany, and China.
Speedskater Erin Jackson became the first American woman to medal in the 500 meter race since 1994, winning the gold. Even though Jackson failed to qualify for the 500 meter, slipping during the qualifying races, her teammate, Brittany Bowe, gave up her spot in the 500 so that Jackson could compete in the games.
Snowboarding star Chloe Kim won her second straight gold in the women’s halfpipe, and Nathan Chen became the first U.S. men’s Olympic figure skater since 2010 to win a gold.
A positive drug test from the Russian Olympic Committee figure skating team was a main focus at the Olympics. Following Russia’s gold medal in the team competition, it emerged that 15-year-old superstar Kamila Valieva had tested positive for an illegal heart medication two months before the start of the games. Many felt that the positive test should have disqualified her from the remaining events at the Olympics, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport declined to suspend her, citing her age, as well as the timing of the failed test and the threat of “irreparable harm” to the athlete.
NBC’s figure skating analysts – Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski – called it a “slap to the face” of the other skaters.
Valieva ended up finishing fourth in the women’s individual figure skating event, failing to medal. Due to Valieva not earning a medal, the IOC did go through with the medal ceremony, something they would not have done if she had medaled.
Eileen Gu was born and raised in San Francisco but decided in 2019 to compete for China in the Games. She finished with two gold medals and a silver, becoming the first freestyle skier to win three medals at a single Olympic Games.
Gu reportedly made over $31 million off endorsements in 2021, a number which should increase with her Olympic success.
3) Internal Polling Shows Trouble For Democrats
The Topline: With midterm primaries already underway in states across the country, internal Democrat polling shows the party losing ground with a large swath of voters on key issues.
Party leaders on both sides are constantly conducting internal polling on their own to keep a pulse on voter sentiment so they can tell their members which issues to focus on. Typically, internal polls remain internal, but this one from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) was made public.
The group surveyed voters in the 60 most competitive congressional districts and found that of the three issues voters cited as the most important to them – inflation, healthcare, and COVID – Democrats are increasingly unpopular. For example, 57% of voters agreed with the statement “Democrats in Congress have taken things too far in their pandemic response.” Among the self-identified swing voters in those districts, that number was 66%.
On the economy and race relations, the majority of swing voters agreed that “Democrats in Congress are spending money out of control” and “Democrats are teaching young children that America is a racist country and that white people are racist.”
On immigration, 80% of swing voters agreed that “Democrats in Congress have created a border crisis that allows illegal immigrants to enter the country without repercussions and grant them tax-payer funded benefits.”
Since taking power in 2020, Democrats have spent a large portion of their time and political capital on two issues: racial justice and “voter discrimination” or “voting rights.” Both of these were at the very bottom of the list though among the most important topics for voters.
The poll found that 80% of self-identified swing voters agreed with the statement “Democrats in Congress support defunding the police and taking more cops off the street.”
The DCCC added seven more Democrat members to it’s “Frontline” list of members they view as the most vulnerable. The members themselves are also well aware of that reality, and many are choosing to retire instead of facing defeat. This week, Representative Kathleen Rice of New York announced she would be stepping down, making her the 30th House Democrat to retire ahead of the midterms, which is the most Democrats stepping down in one year since 1992.
Other Stories We’re Tracking
Police in Ottawa used tear gas, horses and rubber bullets to clear out most of the Freedom Convoy protesters on Parliament Hill. At least 170 people have been arrested and reports say up to 50 trucks have been removed.