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Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

by LORRAINE H. MARIE
Contributor | November 3, 2020 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

South Korea, which observed its first COVID-19 cases and deaths at the same as the U.S., (with a sixth of the population of the U.S.) has seen 500 deaths as opposed to 225,000 in the U.S. Their response included intense contract tracing and establishment of isolation wards, according to ourworldindata.org.

NPR says two new studies show the risk of dying among those hospitalized for COVID-19 has gone from 25.6 to 7.6 percent. It still remains more deadly than the flu, and the possibility of being a COVID long-hauler looms. Long-haulers, The Week said, seem to never quite recover and can suffer from lingering symptoms, including scarred lungs, heart damage, headaches, kidney damage, hand tremors, fatigue, fever, nausea, hair loss, blurry vision, short-term memory loss and brain fog.

At least five of Vice President Mike Pence’s aides have tested positive for COVID-19, the Washington Post reported. Pence chairs the White House’s COVID-19 task force. The White House’s chief of staff told CNN that “We’re not going to control the pandemic,” and the administration has instead opted to look at mitigation efforts.

Despite COVID-19 surrounding him, Pence is not following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations to quarantine for 14 days after exposure. He instead went campaigning.

COVID-19 cases reached a new peak last week with 74,323 new cases. Cases have been rapidly rising in Republican states and counties, according to Harvard University data. And the American Academy of Pediatrics says 800,000 children have now been infected, with those numbers rising.

Nonetheless, President Donald Trump has declared that the pandemic is ending. At a mostly maskless rally last month, he predicted that “the media will stop covering the pandemic” after Election Day. In a recent presidential debate, former Vice President Joe Biden objected to Trump declaring that we have to “learn to live” with COVID-19.” Biden responded by saying, “We’re learning how to die with it, and it’s wrong.”

After a rapid, election year U.S. Supreme Court confirmation process, Amy Coney Barrett was approved in a 48-52 vote. Just one Republican broke ranks. Barrett replaces Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who was approved with a 96-3 vote.

Objections to Barrett are grounded in her lack of experience (she’s never argued an appeal or performed notable pro bono work, according to Mother Jones) and her originalist view of the Constitution, basing rulings according to what the nation’s founders intended with no regard for ramifications under different circumstances.

As noted by former insurance executive Wendell Potter, the founders were not thinking about health insurance, which did not exist at the time. But Barrett will hear a case on Nov. 10 challenging the future of the Affordable Care Act. She also does not appear neutral on many topics, reportedly saying she cannot enforce secular laws against her religious beliefs (The Nation) and admitting she disagreed with the Supreme Court’s previous finding that the ACA was constitutionally sound (The Atlantic).

In commenting on Barrett’s rushed seating, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said Republicans “can’t win” when “playing by the rules” (they refused to seat judges proposed by the prior president) so “the American people will expect us to use every tool we have to undo the damage and restore the court’s integrity.”

The Senate immediately adjourned until Nov. 9 after Barrett’s confirmation, ignoring dealing with COVID-19 relief deal. A New York Times/Siena College poll showed 72 percent of Americans favor a $2 trillion stimulus package. According to the Washington Post, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), majority leader, is avoiding dealing with a COVID-19 stimulus bill because “it would badly divide Senate Republicans.”

The Economic Policy Institute says there are 22 million more people on unemployment today as compared to one year ago, a contrast to Trump’s claim of having created a “great economy.”

The CDC recently acknowledged that between Feb. 1 and Sept. 16 there were 285,000 more deaths in the U.S. than in a typical year. Some died not from COVID-19, but from avoiding hospitals or because hospitals were overwhelmed, according to Mother Jones.

Texan Harrison Hunter, 26, is the third Boogaloo Boi to be charged in connection to the protests in Minneapolis after the police killing of George Floyd in May, The Guardian reported. Boogaloo Bois are linked to at least five deaths this year and more than two dozen arrests, and were allegedly involved with the plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor.

Blast from the past: In the last two decades, two winners of the popular presidential vote — both Democrats — came up short in the Electoral College, giving new momentum to replace the Electoral College with a national, popular vote.