Esther Choo/BMJ:

Working in healthcare right now means being asked to do the impossible—then being abandoned to our inevitable failure

In a recent Kaiser Health News podcast about the healthcare response to the latest covid surge,4 the host, Julie Rovner, posed a question: “Is there a possibility that our health system just stops functioning or grinds to a halt?” A second journalist was optimistic: “We’ve been through this several times and so I think we’ll make it through this one.”

I heard in the comment a familiar, complacent confidence in the emergency healthcare system—a social service that is predictably and thus forgettably always there. Like public health itself, you don’t hear about emergency care that functions well: for most people, it stays comfortably buried in one’s subconsciousness, only rising to the surface if they or a family member need us.

But the current crisis should dispel the illusion that any aspect of emergency care is guaranteed. In the US, unprecedented staff attrition5 (with permanent staff losses further exacerbated by high rates of covid illness) has markedly reduced the number of available beds hospitals have. The pandemic has caused serial delays in primary and other kinds of outpatient care, pushing people to the point of health crises. With omicron, the volume of patients presenting for care has been crushing,6 with waiting times for emergent care becoming intolerable in many places.7 The kinds of inequities that surface whenever anything is in short supply are ever present. In stark terms, crisis standards of care and triage algorithms assure that some patients will be refused needed care, even in emergencies, and harms will follow—especially for those made vulnerable by illness or societal structures.

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James Downie/WaPo:

Kristi Noem personifies the Republican Party’s problem

There are many reasons Donald Trump rose to prominence in the past decade — why this wannabe authoritarian easily took over one of the two major parties, and just as easily has held on despite losing reelection. Noem — and Youngkin, Cruz, DeSantis and so on — personify a key factor that gets lost in the shuffle: Aside from Trump, the party’s most prominent figures are willingly empty vessels in thrall to the GOP base. Until that changes, the GOP will stay the party of Trump.

Democrats — for all their many problems — have more consistently had multiple would-be leaders with competing visions. Most of the party’s recent presidential primaries have had clear ideological divides, with factions rising and falling depending on the politics of the era. That was once true for Republicans as well: Just 10 years ago, voters cycled through multiple alternatives before settling on Mitt Romney.

In 2022, though, there’s no alternative to Trump in sight, only a series of toadies who want the voters to tell them what to do. In the short term, the pandemic and inflation may paper over these challenges. But U.S. history shows us that political parties can’t last purely as personality cults.

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NBC News:

Florida school district cancels professor’s civil rights lecture over critical race theory concerns

It’s an example of how the debate over critical race theory has reached public schools in Florida, with the history professor accusing Gov. Ron DeSantis of creating “a climate of fear.

J. Michael Butler, a history professor at Flagler College in St. Augustine, was scheduled to give a presentation Saturday to Osceola County School District teachers called “The Long Civil Rights Movement,” which postulates that the civil rights movement preceded and post-dated Martin Luther King Jr. by decades.

He said that he was shocked to learn why the seminar had been canceled through an email Wednesday but that he wasn’t surprised because educators feel increasingly intimidated over teaching about race.

Less than 24 hours before Butler was informed of the cancellation, a state Senate committee advanced legislation Tuesday at the behest of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to block public schools and private businesses from making people feel “discomfort” when they’re taught about race. DeSantis also wants to empower parents to sue schools that teach critical race theory.

“There’s a climate of fear, an atmosphere created by Gov. Ron DeSantis, that has blurred the lines between scared and opportunistic,” Butler said in a phone interview.

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Steven Beschloss/Substack:

Biden’s Bumpy Road Ahead

A year in, the president faces intransigent Republicans and demoralized voters that seem to have forgotten the disastrous hand he was given

This divide can be seen in a host of other issues when considered in a binary way:

  • Was Biden more courageous for ending the 20-year war in Afghanistan or more incompetent in managing the evacuation that led to the Taliban takeover?
  • Was his effort to unify the country and seek bipartisan solutions a sign of strength or a sign of weakness and a misunderstanding of how the country and Republican Congress members have changed? (In his two-hour press conference last Wednesday, Biden admitted, “I didn’t anticipate there’d be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn’t get anything done.”)
  • Is his commitment to confronting climate change a reason for optimism or is his failure to pass necessary climate change initiatives a reason for despair?
  • Is Biden’s optimism—“It’s never been a good bet to bet against America”—the kind of leadership that will steer the country through this period of disinformation and an endangered democracy or is it a failure of imagination and a refusal to grasp the scale of the country’s challenge that increases our risk?
  • Is his returning human decency, honor and ethics back to the Oval Office the critical first piece of repairing America or was a more aggressive and quicker prosecution of the previous administration the focus needed to move the country past the corruption and criminality?

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Greg Sargent/WaPo:

Behind the latest GOP restrictions on race teaching: A hidden, toxic goal

Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the Virginia gubernatorial election persuaded Republicans that there’s political gold in attacking teachers for supposedly indoctrinating the nation’s children about race. So in GOP-controlled state legislatures, efforts to place new restrictions on teachers are accelerating.

But behind these efforts lie specific trends that could prove particularly toxic. The risk: They may make teachers believe they are on such thin ice that they end up whitewashing the U.S. past rather than dare to communicate hard truths about it.

That’s the key takeaway from a new report from PEN America on the latest batch of restrictions moving forward in GOP legislatures. The report shows that these efforts are expanding and getting more pedagogically pernicious in their goals.

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Jason Sattler/Editorial Board:

DeSantis is Trump’s mini-me

The Republicans wish this cut-rate Don Jr. without giant veneers could be their future, but he’s just another wannabe.

It’s pretty remarkable DeSantis had gone for so long without taking Trump shrapnel as Fox News, the GOP’s big donors and “intellectuals” have rushed to embrace the governor with a glee we haven’t seen since the last time they got the chance to cut their own taxes.

National Review, which was anti-Trump until Trump “won” in 2016, regularly publishes DeSantis hagiography and demands for apologies on his behalf. It has also taken to smearing one of his likely Democratic opponents for her eagerness in pointing out the governor’s often dictatorial aspirations.

This desperate fanboying makes sense. If you’re searching for an alternative to Trump who could appeal to the MAGA “faction,” which the GOP can’t win without, you need someone who at least matches the ex-president’s callous disregard for life, passion for employing strategic racism, and obsession with punishing the party’s perceived enemies.

And that’s basically DeSantis in a nutshell, or a stuffed Men’s Wearhouse suit.

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NY Times:

With Some Voters ‘Ready to Move On,’ Democrats Search for New Message on Virus

Democrats were cheered for strict lockdowns and pandemic precautions. Now many weary voters want to hear the party’s plan for living with the coronavirus.

The shift reflects a potential change in the nature of the threat now that millions of Americans are vaccinated and Omicron appears to be causing less serious disease. But it is also a political pivot. Democrats are keenly aware that Americans — including even some of the party’s loyal liberal voters — have changed their attitudes about the virus and that it could be perilous to let Republicans brand the Democrats the party of lockdowns and mandates.

“You’ll see more Democratic elected officials say that this is our forever now and we can’t live our lives sitting rocking in a corner,” said Brian Stryker, a partner at the polling firm ALG Research, whose work on Virginia’s elections last year indicated that school closures hurt Democrats. “We’ve just got to live with this virus.”

The warning signs for Democrats are manifest. For the first year of the pandemic, Democratic governors in politically divided states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina responded aggressively to the pandemic and won high marks from voters of both parties. The issue was critical to President Biden’s victory in 2020.

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Michelle Goldberg/NY times:

What Does It Mean to Be ‘Done With Covid’?

The desperate desire to get back to normal is understandable. What’s odd is seeing the absence of normality as a political betrayal instead of an epidemiological curveball. The reason things aren’t normal isn’t that power-mad public health officials went back on their promises. It’s because a new coronavirus variant emerged that overwhelmed hospitals and threw schools and many industries into chaos, and because not everyone has the luxury of being insouciant about infection.

Even with Omicron around, there’s a fair bit of normality available, especially if you don’t have kids. Here in New York City, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and theaters are generally open, though shows are closing at the last minute when cast members fall ill. You can have a party or go on vacation. What you can’t do is force other people, whose vulnerabilities might be much greater than your own, to agree with your risk assessments and join you in moving on while the pandemic still rages.

But in general, what’s standing in the way of normal life is Covid, not Covid prevention. In most cases where schools are closing, it’s because too many people are out sick to staff them. The same is true of stores that are cutting back their hours and airlines canceling flights. To have more normalcy, we need less illness. That means doing all the things public health people drone on about, especially getting more people vaccinated and boosted, which still — even with the high number of Omicron breakthrough cases — reduces the risk of infection as well as hospitalization.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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