It’s time to celebrate a COVID-19 milestone … with caution

On Jan. 23, 2020, the same day that Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial began, Daily Kos diverted from following that story to cover what was then referred to as the “Wuhan virus,” after the city in China where the first outbreak of the highly infectious disease was reported. At the time of that report, there had been 17 deaths connected to the virus, but with 21 million people under lockdown in China and scientists already working to sequence the virus, that report ended with reassurance that “Restricting the spread of an emerging disease remains a near-impossible task, but health officials around the world are giving it a really extraordinary try.”

That report was the first of more than 500 that would follow. Daily Kos’ coverage included Trump’s promotion of increasingly unlikely outlandish “cures” and Dr. Anthony Fauci becoming a hero to Americans as well as a villain to conspiracy theorists. Seemingly overnight this became a world in which everyone was all too familiar with overflowing hospitals, cheering weary healthcare workers at the end of their shift, and terms like “spike protein” or “variant.”

Since then, there have been another 6,899,724 deaths. Of those, 1,134,710 happened in the United States. At its worst, the level of excess mortalities in the United States rose to an astounding 46%, including not just deaths directly attributed to COVID-19, but those who died because they couldn’t get adequate treatment in a pandemic-driven world.

However, over the first half of this year, the level of excess deaths has hit another very important number. That number is 0%. As far as deaths are concerned, the pandemic may be over.

Right now, a quick look at the CDC data shows that Puerto Rico still attributes 4.5% of deaths to infection by COVID-19. No other state or territory currently has a value above 1.5% and several states are reporting numbers so low that they easily round to 0%.

However, the CDC values also show that many states have quit breaking out COVID-19 deaths into a separate category. That’s a trend that started two years ago, when some Republican governors found it highly inconvenient to admit that people were dying from COVID-19 in their states. But even for those states where COVID deaths are shuffled in among deaths due to “respiratory failure” or “cardiac arrest,” the damage being caused by COVID-19 should show up in the form of excess deaths.

But in the first half of 2023, that signal disappeared.

The chart of excess deaths in the U.S. clearly shows the spike of initial deaths largely centered in the Northeast, where many medical facilities were overrun and life-saving equipment like ventilators became a huge topic of concern. Additional spikes appear as the disease spreads across the country, peaking at the end of 2020 when most states had lowered any restrictions and people traveled to see their families around the holidays. There’s a sharp drop in the rate of deaths in spring of 2021, as vaccines begin a widespread rollout. However, more spikes come in the fall of 2021 with the arrival of the 200% more infectious delta variant, and at the end of the year with still more travel and more family get-togethers. Then rates drop off again before the arrival of the still more infectious omicron variant, which drives a prolonged period of elevated deaths that peaks … with family travel and get-togethers at the end of the year.

Then the rates drop again at the beginning of 2023. And they have stayed down.

However, there’s another way of looking at this, with just a little annotation, that adds a cautionary note to the current celebration.

Looked at this way, it’s easy to see that every year of the pandemic has ended in much the same way, with that travel-related spike in which millions of Americans ran around the country stirring the mix and making sure that the latest variant was spread far and wide. When that spike subsides, each year has seen a big decline in excess deaths. There are two reasons for this. One is probably that following the spike more people have a level of exposure to the latest variant and have gained at least partial immunity. The other factor is that many of the most susceptible died during that holiday spike.

In each of the previous years, that low level of post-holiday deaths continued for some time, but only until a new variant that was either more contagious or more evasive of past infection became dominant. Then the number of deaths rose again.

It’s easy to read into those declining humps the idea that each variant has become weaker than the one before. That’s not the case. Untreated delta in a person with no immunity is actually 3.45 times more likely to be deadly than early variants up to alpha, and untreated omicron is about the same. Contrary to popular belief, there is no evolutionary pressure on viruses to become less deadly. In fact, since the same factors that make a disease more infectious can also make it more likely to result in the death of the host, diseases can easily move from mild to more deadly over time.

What’s different about 2023 so far is that no new variant has appeared that is significantly more contagious, or more evasive, than omicron. Also, the CDC estimates that 96% of Americans have antibodies to at least one variant of COVID-19 through either vaccination or exposure. Put that all together, and you get a season where COVID deaths have just stayed down.

The other big factor is treatment. In 2020, medical workers were in the dark on how to handle a COVID-19 infection. Now, in addition to over 75% of the population being vaccinated at least once, the steps to more effectively treat COVID-19 are better understood. Plus there are new tools like Paxlovid, which can reduce the rate of death even if it doesn’t necessarily help people get over symptoms more quickly. Improved treatment over time is a big factor in why each of those peaks in mortality tends to be smaller than the previous.

That’s fantastic. But it’s also not a guarantee of peachy keen sailing from here on out.

Scientists around the world are still tracking variants of concern, two of which are thought to be more contagious than baseline omicron while maintaining about the same level of severity. Those variants, or others with similar statistics, could become dominant in the United States in coming weeks, creating a new crest in mortality. All of these variants are descended from omicron. Right now, alpha, delta, and all the other variants and subvariants are either essentially extinct or found only at very low levels in the population. Omicron has won the evolution game by simply being more infectious than all the rest—including by being the variant most likely to infect people who have already been infected by past variants.

The good news is that the relative level of change in infectiousness between these latest variants is much lower than the two-times, or even five-times jumps seen earlier. The SARS-CoV-2 virus underwent a period in which the billions of people infected, pouring out quadrillions of new viruses, created a high-speed evolutionary showdown for most infectious virus ever. But having obtained a measles-like rate of contagiousness, the structure of the virus may not offer any other opportunities for big jumps that don’t involve a whole series of changes to the genetic sequence.

So the next big wave may never come—or it may begin next week. But even if the threat still looms out there, the level of deaths at this moment deserves real celebration.

Yes, things could get worse again quickly. Yes, levels of hospitalization haven’t dropped nearly as sharply as deaths, so COVID-19 is still making thousands of people a day very, very sick. Yes, long COVID remains a poorly understood problem that is affecting the lives of millions and will affect both the economy and the stability of health care programs. Yes, COVID-19 probably has more nasty sequelae waiting in the wings that we don’t understand at the moment.

But right now, the number of people dying from COVID-19 in the United States has dropped to a level that is pretty much lost in statistical noise. Numbers that were once going up by thousands a day are now going up by single digits. This is all much better than I expected.

That’s worth celebrating. Just please don’t blow the candles out while they’re on the cake. Because … germs.

This is the day the world changed: Three years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic began

On this date three years ago, a man walked into Hubei Provincial Hospital in Wuhan, China, reporting flu-like symptoms. Within two weeks, there were 27 cases showing similar symptoms. Then, just four days before the end of the year, the head of the hospital’s respiratory department, Dr. Zhang Jixian, made a report to state health officials that the cases were caused by “a novel coronavirus.” At that point, the number of known infections was approaching 180.

Dec. 1 may have been the official start of the local novel coronavirus outbreak that would become a national epidemic that would become the COVID-19 pandemic. But it certainly wasn’t the first actual case. As early as March 2020, a review of health records suggested that the first case had actually been seen in Wuhan as early as Nov. 17, and that there had been a steady trickle of new cases for two weeks before that first official case.

It would take another two years before scientists were able to pin down what had been suspected all along—the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was almost certainly the “wet” market in Wuhan, where a wide variety of wild-caught animals were sold for food and traditional medicine. A similar market was the source of the original SARS virus in 2002. A combination of health care records and genetic information suggests that the virus made the jump from animals to humans at least twice in the closing months of 2019, though exactly which animal played host to the virus before it made the jump remains unclear.

With all that, it’s hard to give an official date for when the pandemic that has now generated at least 650 million cases and 6.6 million deaths around the world really began. But today is as good a day as any to say, “This is the day the world changed.”

To mark this third anniversary, it seems like a good time to hit some “highlights” of the pandemic’s early days and how it was covered at Daily Kos—much of which, I’m going to tell you right now, easily devolves into “look at all the stuff I got wrong.”

Dec. 31, 2019 — A doctor in China unofficially notifies World Health Organization (WHO) that it has detected a cluster of cases involving “a pneumonia of unknown etiology.” China would send an official notification to WHO on Jan. 3. 

Jan. 21, 2020 — China confirms that the disease is spreading from person to person. At this point, the number of known cases in China is approaching 300, and there are single cases known in Japan, Thailand, and South Korea.

Jan. 23, 2020 — The first article on the outbreak at Daily Kos. That article got some things right.

The outbreak that began near the city of Wuhan is caused by a coronavirus, one of a number of viruses in a poorly understood group that also includes SARS. … The ease with which the new virus is apparently spread through the air, or through superficial contact, suggests that it may be transferred even more readily than the SARS virus, which killed at least 800 in its initial outbreak.

And some things very, very wrong. 

...officials everywhere have been faster to act, faster to impose restrictions, and faster to identify the underlying cause of the outbreak than they had been in the case of SARS. Restricting the spread of an emerging disease remains a near-impossible task, but health officials around the world are giving it a really extraordinary try.

Jan. 31, 2020 — It would be a week before the novel coronavirus reached the front page of Daily Kos again. In our defense, there were a few things going on at the time—such as Donald Trump facing his first impeachment trial in the Senate. That second article actually came on the same day that the House impeachment managers wrapped up their case. Even at this point, what would become a very familiar theme was starting to emerge. And so was that theme of getting something right, followed by getting something else so very wrong.

... it is time to consider the possible effects of prolonged disruption from interrupted supply chains, shortages of items manufactured in China, or further restrictions of travel and trade. Companies, educational facilities, and city managers are already looking at what it could mean if there is an extended disruption of normal activities—not because the coronavirus is likely to have the devastating reach of the 1918 flu, but because the steps necessary to arrest its spread may mean taking unfamiliar actions.

At that point, the frequency of covered increased sharply—which included me providing now highly cringe-worthy praise of China’s management of the outbreak—and it wouldn’t be a week before the “P” word was being thrown around.

Feb. 5, 2020 — What had started with a tiny cluster of cases a month earlier was now approaching 25,000, and small numbers of cases had appeared in an astounding 24 countries. It was a testimony to both how easily the SARS-CoV-2 virus could be spread, and to how interconnected our world has become.

Still, 2019-nCoV is not yet a global pandemic. Despite some alarming cases, including a number of infections aboard a now-quarantined cruise ship, it remains an outbreak with just one real epicenter. However, keeping things that way is going to be difficult. And expensive.

Feb. 6, 2020 — Just a day later came news of the death of Dr. Li Wenliang, one of a group of doctors in Wuhan who had risked their careers to buck both local and state officials and get out the news about the initial outbreak. Li was a previously healthy 34-year-old. His death would make him not just a martyr to the case of transparency, but a signpost for how bad things might become. Even so, half of the post this day was devoted to staying hopeful that the outbreak in China was slowing down, that measures seemed to be preventing a similar outbreak elsewhere, and hey, didn’t SARS burn out just a few weeks after its first appearance?

It would be easy to present a version of this story that played up all the things that were right in these early articles—showing that this virus would be more transmissible than SARS, warnings about the need for quick intervention to isolate cases when detected, walking through the evidence to show that the virus was not the product of a weapons lab, and predictions about coming impacts to fragile international supply chains—but there was just as much wrong. That included praising policy in China that was not only brutal, but may have contributed to spreading the disease by encouraging people to hide symptoms. There was also a lot of happy, hopeful, “don’t panic” talk that utterly missed the boat on the real scale of the threat and the necessary steps to check the coming pandemic. Also, as happened way too many times over the next year, I repeatedly got lost in the statistics, grinding away at numbers to see if I could squeeze just one hint of a rainbow out of all those dark clouds.

The level of naivete can easily be expressed by this headline from Feb. 11, 2020.

Novel coronavirus deaths exceed 1,000. Are there more grim milestones ahead?

It’s safe to say the answer was “yes.” The number of deaths would double in one week, and of course, that was barely the start of a graph that would lead to 6,641,418, as of today.

Three years later, reviewing those early reports about what would eventually be the COVID-19 pandemic leaves me with a lot of embarrassment. It’s hard to find anything in there that seems all that prescient—or all that useful—this far down the line.

One thing that does stand out in these early reports is just how rarely Donald Trump gets mentioned in connection with the virus, because that’s how little he was involved in doing anything about it. It wouldn’t be until Feb. 26, 2020, that Trump finally got around to creating his infamous task force on the virus, the one that Mike Pence would nominally lead, but which Trump would turn into a platform for promoting quack cures and attacking science.

That came one day after what may have been the most accurate statement issued by any official to that point. 

On Tuesday, Nancy Messonier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that Americans can expect to see the COVID-19 coronavirus spread within the United States, and that “disruption to everyday life may be severe.“ Messonier acknowledged in a press briefing, “This whole situation may seem overwhelming,” before revealing that she had been warning her own children that they needed to prepare for what’s coming. “Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country. It’s not so much a question of if this will happen any more, but rather more exactly when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”

After making that statement, Messonier was carefully removed from public speaking roles, sidelined from her daily briefings, and not made a part of Trump’s task force.

But no one may have given a better summary of what was coming than she did less than two months after the first announcement from WHO.

Task Force Concludes Cuomo’s Nursing Home Policy Did Lead To More Nursing Home Deaths

The NYSBA (New York State Bar Association) Task Force on Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care determined that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order policy forcing nursing homes to take on patients that had tested positive for COVID-19 led to more deaths.

The report is a devastating indictment on the Democrat governor’s policies and their effects on the elderly in the Empire State during the early stages of the pandemic.

The task force, according to the New York Post, defined Cuomo’s directive as “unreasonable” in both its “absoluteness” and the length of time it was left in effect.

While they were unable to put a particular number on that effect, the NYSBA was able to determine “there are credible reviews that suggest that the directive, for the approximately six weeks that it was in effect, did lead to some number of additional deaths.”

RELATED: Report: Cuomo Being Investigated For Retaliating Against Sexual Harassment Accusers

Task Force: Cuomo Nursing Home Policy Led To More Deaths

Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on March 25th which forced nursing homes to take on patients that had tested positive for coronavirus.

The order prohibited nursing homes from requiring incoming patients “to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”

Cuomo’s directive remained in place for over six weeks while well over 15,000 senior citizens succumbed to the virus.

The New York Democrat and his top aides have also been accused of hiding the data on those nursing home deaths and stripping numbers from DOH (Department of Health) reports.

For months Cuomo touted a DOH report which contained an explicit quantifier that the order forcing the care facilities to take on COVID-positive patients was “not a driver of nursing home infections or fatalities.”

The NYSBA task force determined that was not accurate.

“The Department of Health issued a report in 2020 in which it argued unconvincingly that the admission of 6,326 COVID-positive residents during the period the Health directive was in effect had no impact,” the report states.

“That cannot be the case, and has now been shown not to be the case.”

RELATED: Fox News’ Janice Dean: My Family Didn’t Have To Die, Cuomo’s Policy Helped It Happen

Cuomo’s Order Cost Lives

The report that Governor Cuomo’s executive order for nursing homes did lead to more deaths is a small measure of vindication for Fox News meteorologist and author Janice Dean, who has argued for months that his policies led to the deaths of more seniors than in any other state.

She argued in an op-ed column for USA Today over the summer that very point.

Dean’s in-laws were the unfortunate victims of COVID-19, where nursing homes in New York played a significant part.

“At first we didn’t blame anyone for my in-laws’ deaths. This is a pandemic, after all,” she wrote. “Then we learned about a policy that put them in danger.”

Dean’s column featured a sub-heading arguing, “My family didn’t have to die.”

Governor Cuomo is under investigation and impeachment inquiry for a slew of scandals, not the least of which involves the nursing home executive order and subsequent effort to obstruct justice by hiding the numbers.

They include:

  • Numerous sexual misconduct allegations including a police report involving forcibly groping an aide.
  • Bullying and threatening fellow lawmakers and members of the media.
  • Under investigation for a $5.1 million book deal profiting off the pandemic by having aides write and edit portions using state resources.
  • Provided priority COVID-19 testing for his family and associates, also allegedly using state resources.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out admitting over 9,000 Covid patients into nursing homes for 46 days would increase the amount of deaths, but if a 242-page report from the NY State Bar association proves [Cuomo] lied and people died, so be it,” Dean tweeted.

The Fox News personality has suggested many people in the Cuomo administration belong in prison over the nursing home scandal.

“I really feel like he should go to jail,” Dean has said. “And all these people surrounding him that covered this up for so many months, they should go to jail.”

The NYSBA report relied in part on a study by the Empire Center for Public Policy that tied “several hundred and possibly more than 1,000” deaths of nursing home residents to Cuomo’s executive order.

There is now a straight-line correlation between his policies and the deaths of the elderly during the pandemic. The question is, will anybody in New York state do anything about it?


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Even federal judges are referencing far-right conspiracy theories to overturn our laws

It should be noted, yet again, that being an actual, bonafide judge in the United States of America requires no qualifications whatsoever. You either are appointed as a judge or win an election to become one, and the rest is filler to be worked out by whoever's been tasked with updating the webpages. They say anybody in America can grow up to be president, but that is obviously a lie. But anyone can grow up to be a judge in America. Louie Gohmert was a judge.

Being a judge is in fact one of the few occupations in America that does not require you to even have a head. Unfortunate roller coaster accident? Got too close to Dick Cheney during a hunting trip? No problem. You can still write opinions. Years before his untimely death, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia outsourced all his important opinions to a family of grumpy squirrels that had taken up residence in his attic and nobody noticed or said a damn thing about it.

In a Friday night news dump, a California judge issued a ruling announcing that the state's assault weapon ban, in place since 1989, was unconstitutional because reasons. It caused a stir primarily for using language that sounded conspicuously like what the National Rifle Association and American militia groups have long been spouting in their newsletters and pamphlets, and mostly for Judge Roger Benitez's comparison of weapons designed explicitly for mass murder to a "Swiss Army Knife." An AR-15 rifle "is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment," Benitez said in his ruling. Whether he had his pants on while writing that sentence is unknown; whether he cribbed it exactly from a gun manufacturer's ad is ... probably worth exploring.

That is not, however, the only bit of bizarre editorializing in the ruling. Judge HasAHead also took it upon himself to opine that assault weapons actually are far less dangerous than ... the COVID-19 vaccine. "The evidence described so far proves that the 'harm' of an assault rifle being used in a mass shooting is an infinitesimally rare event. More people have died from the Covid-19 vaccine than mass shootings in California."

If I were head dictator of judgeships this one would be off the bench in five seconds flat for putting the "harm" of assault-rifle-assisted mass shootings in scare quotes, but I ain't and he's not. The part that's getting more heat is that U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez appears to be flat-out lying in that second sentence, and that’s us saying it nicely.

The Washington Post fact-checks Benitez on this one, but to anyone who does not live entirely inside Tucker Carlson's inflamed colon the problem here should be obvious. The number of people who are believed to have died from the COVID-19 vaccine is, at this time, approximately zero. There has been some very public speculation as to whether some of the vaccines might cause an extremely rare form of blood clot, one that may have killed three people in this country after millions and millions of doses, but the data is not conclusive and the clots seem to appear in the unvaccinated general population at roughly similar rates.

Meanwhile, mass shootings continue to be a regular occurrence in California, just as they are elsewhere. Even if you presume all three deaths suspected of being vaccine linked were indeed caused by a vaccine, it's not even close.

All we can assume here is that this particular judge is referring to far-right conspiracy theories about the vaccine from the dark nether regions of the American political psyche. It's possible we can attribute the blatant factual error to Fox News and to Tucker Carlson's white nationalist conspiracy show, but the suggestion that lifesaving, normality-saving vaccines are killing people in greater numbers than AR-15s does feels more like something plucked more directly from the Q crowd, from frothing far-right militias, or both.

Unfortunately, there's no particular recourse for this sort of judicial conspiracy peddling. For particularly grotesque behavior on the bench, the House and Senate can remove a federal judge via impeachment, but that is reserved for only the most egregious of cases and "is factually wrong when issuing weirdly premised opinions" isn't it. This is why, in fact, the Republican-held Senate was so obsessive in filling as many judicial vacancies as possible with hard-right ideologues while blocking nominees from a Democratic administration: stuff the benches with hard-right conspiracy theorists, hard-right conspiracy theories become the stuff that governs us. The judge's ruling is absolutely certain to be appealed, but the Supreme Court is itching to undo a century of laws itself and will probably not let the unending goofiness of this written opinion stop it from writing a more dignified goofy version that scrubs out the most embarrassing parts.

So far, though, there's been no ruling from hard-right judges declaring that making fun of bad judicial opinions kills more people each year than AR-15 "freedom bringers" do, so we can at least point and shake our heads here. Maybe it's cathartic. Maybe it's whistling past the graveyard.

Bombshell Report Indicates Cuomo Aides Repeatedly Blocked Release Of Nursing Home Deaths

A bombshell report from the New York Times indicates top aides to Governor Andrew Cuomo overruled his own health experts, blocking the release of the pandemic’s true death toll numbers at nursing homes, and did so all while they were helping him write a book.

The crux of the Times column refers to the length of time aides spent in trying to cover up the number of deaths in nursing homes – five months – a particularly sore spot with the governor who had issued an executive order forcing care facilities to take in COVID-positive patients.

The order was not reversed for months.

Cuomo aides clearly sensed the fallout, doing their best to minimize the numbers by not counting seniors who were transported to hospitals and died there.

“By the time the policy was rescinded less than two months later, it had become clear that not all the deaths were being included in that tally: Those who died after being transferred to hospitals were not counted as nursing home deaths,” the Times writes.

When Cuomo’s own top health officials tried to get a more accurate count, his aides rebuffed them time and again. In fact, they fought release of the true numbers for five months, according to the report, a “far greater (effort) than previously known.”

RELATED: Cuomo Now Being Investigated Over $4 Million Book Deal Celebrating His Pandemic Leadership, Janice Dean Calls It ‘Disgusting’

Cuomo’s Unbelievable Nursing Home Scandal

While critics were noting the role of Governor Cuomo’s nursing home executive order in a large number of elderly deaths during the pandemic, the state Health Department was preparing a report on the matter in the spring of 2020.

Secretary to the Governor, Melissa DeRosa, according to an email reviewed by the New York Times, told health officials: “We are getting anxious over here on this report.”

That report was eventually published in July but contained an explicit quantifier that the order forcing the care facilities to take on COVID-positive patients was “not a driver of nursing home infections or fatalities.”

It also included a much lower number – not counting hospital deaths – in the report that the Times states was “rewritten several times by senior advisers to Mr. Cuomo.”

The department report listed just over 6,400 deaths. As of this month, more than 15,500 nursing home residents died from COVID-19.

In February, the New York Post revealed that DeRosa told leading Democrats that they tried to suppress the numbers because the administration feared the data could “be used against us” by the Justice Department saying, “basically, we froze.”

“We were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice, or what we give to you guys, what we start saying, was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation,” she said.

The New York Times reported in January that attorney general Letitia James, a Democrat, accused Cuomo and his administration, particularly officials at the State Health Department, of undercounting COVID deaths at nursing homes by as much as 50%.

A subsequent report by the Wall Street Journal in early March accused the aides of a very explicit cover-up by the Cuomo administration in the nursing home scandal.

“Cuomo’s top advisers successfully pushed state health officials to strip a public report of data showing that more nursing-home residents had died of Covid-19 than the administration had acknowledged,” they detailed.

Much of the pressure by the Health Department to suppress the numbers on the nursing home deaths was being applied by the administration itself.

“Aides overruled state health officials on releasing the figures over the span of at least five months, The Times reports,” according to The Hill.

“The effort included halting the publication of a scientific paper, which included the true tally, and the sending of two letters drafted by the Health Department and intended for state lawmakers.”

RELATED: Cuomo Admin Accused Of ‘Criminal Conspiracy’ Following Bombshell Report They ‘Stripped’ Data From Report On Nursing Home Deaths

‘They Should All Go To Jail’

The New York Times report notes that much of the effort to halt the release of the true figures in the Cuomo nursing home scandal revolved around the Governor’s efforts to write a book celebrating his ‘leadership’ during the pandemic.

“The actions coincided with the period in which Mr. Cuomo was pitching and then writing a book on the pandemic, with the assistance of his top aide, Melissa DeRosa, and others,” the report reads.

State Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, is currently conducting an investigation of allegations that the Governor used state resources and state employees to write his book on which he received a multimillion-dollar advance.

Fox News meteorologist and author Janice Dean, a leading voice on the nursing home scandal involving Governor Cuomo, expressed her optimism that justice may finally be served.

Dean’s in-laws were the unfortunate victims of COVID-19, where nursing homes in New York played a significant part.

“I feel like all of these months, close to a year now, it feels like it finally is happening, that all of the things we’ve been yelling about and trying to shine a light on, it’s finally happening,” Dean said.

Many of the things I’ve covered here at The Political Insider as well, things that should have been revealed much earlier if not for a complicit New York media that spent more time fawning over Cuomo than reporting on him.

On May 18th, nearly one full year ago, I labeled Cuomo’s executive order on nursing homes a “scandal” and noted at the time that the Governor seemed uninterested in accountability.

He even suggested it wasn’t his fault because “older people … are going to die.”

In an interview with Fox News, Dean didn’t hold back on what she felt should happen to the governor and those in his administration complicit in the nursing home cover-up.

“I really feel like he should go to jail,” she said. “And all these people surrounding him that covered this up for so many months, they should go to jail.”

The following is a list of scandals in which Cuomo is currently embroiled, most of which have resulted in investigations, calls for his resignation, and impeachment inquiries:

  • Forcing nursing homes to take on COVID-positive patients.
  • Obstructing justice by hiding the data on those deaths and stripping numbers from DOH reports.
  • Numerous sexual misconduct allegations including a police report involving forcibly groping an aide.
  • Bullying and threatening fellow lawmakers and members of the media.
  • Under investigation for a $4 million book deal profiting off the pandemic by having aides write and edit portions using state resources.

In an incredibly cold and callous comment last May, Cuomo snapped at a reporter for asking about grieving families of nursing home patients seeking justice.

“What is justice? Who can we prosecute for those deaths? Nobody. Nobody,” he rationalized. “Mother nature? God? Where did this virus come from? People are going to die by this virus.”

It’s time somebody from the administration is prosecuted, if not the governor himself. That would be justice.


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Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin Announces Gubernatorial Campaign To ‘Save New York’ From Andrew Cuomo

Republican Representative Lee Zeldin announced he is running for governor of New York, saying Andrew Cuomo must be ousted in order to “save our state.”

“I’m running for governor of New York in 2022,” Zeldin declared in an interview with ‘Fox & Friends.’ “We are going to win this race.”

In an accompanying statement, Zeldin vowed to “bring the kind of relentless, fighting spirit towards helping to save our state that Andrew Cuomo only reserves for multi-million dollar self-congratulatory book deals, cover-ups, abuse and self-dealing.”

And while he pointed out Cuomo’s “long line of scandals,” the Republican focused on what he has to offer the Empire State, including beating back the impacts of poor “tax policy,” “public safety,” and “attacks on our freedoms.”

Zeldin went on to suggest the current woes in New York are due to one-party Democrat rule in New York City and Albany.

RELATED: Cuomo Now Being Investigated Over $4 Million Book Deal Celebrating His Pandemic Leadership

Lee Zeldin Wants To Save New York From Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo has become vulnerable of late, currently plagued by several scandals including: 

  • Forcing nursing homes to take on COVID-positive patients.
  • Obstructing justice by hiding the data on those deaths and stripping numbers from DOH reports.
  • Numerous sexual misconduct allegations including a police report involving forcibly groping an aide.
  • Bullying and threatening fellow lawmakers and members of the media.
  • Under investigation for a $4 million book deal profiting off the pandemic by having aides write and edit portions using state resources.

“Cuomo has abused the power and trust granted to him and it is time for him to immediately exit stage left,” Lee Zeldin said.

He has actively called for Cuomo’s impeachment in the face of resistance to resigning over his many scandals.

But he smartly notes that it isn’t just the details of these salacious accusations that are the problem – it’s Cuomo’s inability to competently run the state.

“The New York that was once a magnet for the world’s best and brightest is now forcing its own to leave under the crushing weight of skyrocketing taxes, lost jobs, suffocating regulations, and rising crime resulting from dangerously liberal policies,” Zeldin accused.

“At the helm of New York’s downfall is Governor Andrew Cuomo.”

RELATED: Biden’s ATF Director Wants ‘Well Regulated’ Second Amendment

Cuomo’s Budget Includes Aid To Illegal Immigrants

Speaking of skyrocketing taxes and incentives to leave the state, the New York Times on Tuesday reported that Governor Cuomo and the New York legislature had reached an agreement on a $212 billion budget.

The budget includes “tax increases” on the wealthy – or job creators – as well as “a $2.1 billion fund to provide one-time payments for undocumented workers who did not qualify for federal stimulus checks or unemployment benefits.”

New York Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy released a statement blasting the budget proposal while indicating the only thing that can save New York is a new governor.

“The only thing this budget accomplishes is the accelerated decline of our state,” Langworthy said. “It’s a $212 billion dollar tax-and-spend boondoggle that will push New York’s mass exodus to the point of no return.”

“This budget makes clear that the only way to save New York is to elect a Republican governor who will stand up to this madness and return common sense to state government,” he added.

Will Lee Zeldin be the man to do that?


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Every Court Of Appeals Judge Who Would Vote In Cuomo Impeachment Trial Was Appointed By Him

Should the impeachment investigation involving Andrew Cuomo proceed to a vote, all 7 Court of Appeals judges involved will have been appointed by the New York Governor himself.

The New York state impeachment process is a bit unique in that following an impeachment vote in the Assembly, a court is formed consisting of members of the Senate as well as the seven members of the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

Those judges – Rowan Wilson, Jenny Rivera, Leslie Stein, Eugene Fahey, Michael Garcia, Paul Feinman and Chief Judge Janet DiFiore – were all appointed by Cuomo between 2013 and 2017.

In an interview with NewsMax, former Rep. John Faso (R-NY) said that the Cuomo appointees are “mostly liberal … very liberal” and “they are all Democrats except one.”

“The seven judges could be instrumental in determining the outcome of a potential impeachment trial as they would make up 10% of the 70-person impeachment court,” Fox News analyzes.

RELATED: Biden Says Cuomo Should Resign, Could Face Prosecution If Sexual Harassment Allegations Are True

Impeachment Judges Appointed By Cuomo

The specter of having judges appointed by Andrew Cuomo possibly deciding the outcome of an impeachment trial for the governor is raising concerns that the process may be a sham.

Speaker of the New York State Assembly Carl Heastie has said the probe would be “very broad,” possibly including more than just the numerous sexual harassment claims against Cuomo.

Heastie announced on Wednesday that the Assembly had hired one of the nation’s top-rated law firms, Davis Polk & Wardwell, to assist with the investigation.

The group includes a former Brooklyn federal prosecutor who worked as an assistant special counsel on Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Lindsey Boylan, a former Cuomo aide who was the first to accuse Cuomo of sexual misconduct, is not impressed with the investigation thus far, calling it a “sham,” “corrupt,” and “cynical” probe.

Boylan insisted she would not take part in the state-led impeachment probe.

“Do not trust [Heastie],” she tweeted. “His impeachment investigation is not designed to be transparent or to move fast, and there’s nothing [Cuomo] wants more than time.”

“Many of us have not put our whole lives on the line for this crap,” she added. “I certainly have not and will not.”

Boylan has claimed that Cuomo forcibly kissed her on the lips and suggested “let’s play strip poker.”

RELATED: NY Assembly Takes First Step Toward Impeachment Of Cuomo, Police Report Filed Over Groping Allegations

Nursing Home Whistleblower Says Staff Were ‘Petrified’ Of Cuomo’s Executive Order

The impeachment investigation is supposed to address the nursing home scandal as well, inarguably the bigger issue at hand for Cuomo.

That scandal involves an executive order by the governor forcing nursing homes to take in COVID-positive patients and the subsequent cover-up involving the number of deaths related to that order.

Cuomo, on March 25th of last year, issued an executive order prohibiting nursing homes from requiring incoming patients “to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”

Cuomo refused to reverse the directive for over six weeks while well over 15,000 senior citizens succumbed to the virus.

The Political Insider reported in August that what separated New York from other states with their own nursing home directives is that the staff at the facilities felt pressured by the Governor.

Politifact confirmed the notion saying Cuomo left executives at nursing homes feeling that “they had no choice but to accept these patients” despite the threat of spreading the virus.

Michael Kraus, a Staten Island nursing home administrator, has alleged he and other executives of long-term care facilities were “petrified” of the Cuomo order and that his concerns were “shot down” by state officials.

“Many facilities vocalized it,” Kraus said in an interview with Fox News.

“They were petrified, but they were more petrified of the Department of Health … once it [my concern] was shot down, I never spoke [about it] again.”

Secretary to the Governor, Melissa DeRosa, admitted on a conference call in February that the administration hid information on COVID nursing home deaths from federal investigators.

For months the administration reported around 8,500 deaths, nearly 50% less than the confirmed number.


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Award-Winning Reporter To Sue Gretchen Whitmer Over Nursing Home COVID Data

Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer got some bad news this week when a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist announced plans to sue her for the release of COVID-19 nursing home data.

Reporter Says He’s Preparing Lawsuit Against Whitmer

Seasoned reporter Charlie LeDuff revealed on Twitter that he is teaming up with Mackinac Center, a Michigan-based free market think tank, to file a lawsuit against Whitmer.

“We are preparing a lawsuit against Gov. Whitmer of Michigan,” LeDuff wrote. “She refuses to turn over COVID death data and accurate nursing home numbers to the public. All the way to the Supreme Court, Madam.”


“The public has a right to know,” LeDuff told Fox News. “Above all, the public has a need to know. We shut down the entire economy, we interrupted our children’s lives, all in the name of protecting the most vulnerable.”

“We now know this was the institutionalized elderly. If we could not protect them, at the very least we deserve an explanation from Madam Governor.”

“If there’s something more to it than that, let’s say gross incompetence or gross negligence or gross press conferences designed to cover the facts, then she needs to answer for it. As I’ve always said, the power lies with the people, not the political parties,” he continued.

Whitmer’s office declined to comment when contacted by Fox.

Related: Gretchen Whitmer Slips Up – Contradicts Message Of Support For Michigan Businesses By Sending Mailer Printed In Wisconsin

Republicans Demand Investigation Into Whitmer And Nursing Homes

This comes after multiple Republican state lawmakers sent a letter to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and acting U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson calling for a “full investigation” into Whitmer’s handling of nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

These Republican legislators cited “discrepancies” in the data surrounding deaths and cases “in the state’s long-term care facilities.”

“It has now come to our attention that these reporting errors have likely not been resolved,” the Republicans claimed, adding that Whitmer’s “regional hub policy put patients with and without COVID-19 in the same facilities” and the decision to do so “may have exacerbated the death toll in those facilities.”

Related: Gretchen Whitmer Humiliated After Billboard Names Her As ‘Indiana Businessperson Of The Year’

Andrew Cuomo In Hot Water As Well

This comes as New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is facing calls of impeachment for his withholding of data on nursing home resident deaths. This is only one of the problems Cuomo is facing, as multiple former aides have accused him fo sexual harassment.

This piece was written by James Samson on March 2, 2021. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

Read more at LifeZette:
Fox News Back In The Fold
Rush Limbaugh Is Laid To Rest At Cemetery In St. Louis, Missouri
Prominent Baptist Pastor Says Evangelical Support For GOP Is Conditional

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It’s amazing to see, but Republicans are really digging their own graves

Much has been written lately about the GQP’s unfathomable opposition to the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package (see here, here, here and here). In short, the Democrat’s proposal is incredibly popular, even among Republicans. A Morning Consult poll pegged support at 76% of voters, including 60% of Republicans. That’s bipartisanship. But Republicans in Congress want to play off the old destroy-Obama-at-all-costs playbook, and have put up a wall of opposition to the legislation. 

And not only are they rhetorically opposing it, but they’re actively whipping against it, forcing congressional Republicans to vote against it or else. Let’s hope they’re successful, because nothing will make the 2022 midterm messaging clearer than “those checks came from us, they didn’t want to help you at all.” 

Indeed, their current stances are so at odds with basic political common sense, it almost makes you suspicious, right? What do they know that we don’t? But no, they think the COVID-19 relief package is like the Affordable Care Act, where they could fearmonger about losing your doctor. Pandemic relief isn’t about taking anything away from you, it’s about giving you cold, hard cash. 

The current Republican response is hilariously stupid. It’s stuff like this: 

We’ve run the numbers and here’s your receipt, @SpeakerPelosi @SenSchumer.

— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) February 24, 2021

That “$$$”, of course, is checks for people. But even libraries and mass transit aren’t particularly unpopular items, so not sure what they think they’re getting from this kind of messaging. Here’s another one: 

Only 9% of the Biden Bailout Bill goes to #COVID relief. A few examples of where the money is actually going: ➡️$135 million for the National Endowment of the Arts ➡️$350 billion in blue state bailouts ➡️$1.5 million for the Seaway International Bridge ➡️$1.5 billion for Amtrak

— Ways and Means GOP (@WaysandMeansGOP) February 24, 2021

For a party that is losing ground with swing voters, not sure why they think that “blue state bailouts” kind of divisive rhetoric gets them anything beyond their old, white, rural, and literally dying off base. “$1.5 million” for something? In a $1.9 TRILLION dollar bill? Does anyone care? And Amtrak is a lifeline for many rural communities. And people like trains

Part of the GOP’s problem is that they no longer know how to message against an old white male. President Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren? Oh boy, they’d have a field day. But the old guy who doesn’t grandstand or showboat much, keeps his head down, stays professional? They’re at a loss. 

So much so that he is a far more popular politician than pretty much anyone else in this country. Some polling has shown positively gaudy numbers for Biden. 

New numbers from @MorningConsult show that @JoeBiden is the most popular national political leader in America

— John Anzalone (@JohnAnzo) February 24, 2021

Civiqs, which does a great job of filtering out partisan non-response bias (in essence, demoralized partisans refusing to answer polls), has more measured numbers: 

For comparison’s sake, Donald Trump is at 42% favorable, 56% unfavorable. And just as important as the toppling, the trend is a good one. Republicans can’t touch him, which is maybe why they’re resorting to this kind of buffoonery: 

Newsmax guest attacks Biden's dogs for being dirty and "unlike a presidential dog"

— aliciasadowski (@aliciasadowski6) February 20, 2021

They’ve got nothing of real substance. 

Now, as we look ahead to 2022, take a look at this question, which asks which party better represents you:

That 16-point gap (46% Democratic vs. 30% Republican) is quite dramatic, and is driven by crashing numbers among independents: only 22% think the GOP is concerned about people like them, down from 33% on Election Day. Meanwhile, 36% of independents say Democrats are concerned about them. Let’s keep an eye on this chart in the coming months, because it’s going to become extra clear which party cares about people, and which one is hell-bent on committing political suicide. The damage Republicans are doing to themselves is already extensive. Let’s compare the two parties: 

Republican Party favorability: 23% favorable, 65% unfavorable, with brutal trendiness.

Democratic Party favorability: 44% favorable, 49% unfavorable, with gradually improving trendiness. 

Republicans already lost the 2018 and 2020 elections, and demographic trends continue to move against them. Trump cost them the White House, the Senate, and the House, and there is zero guarantee his voters will ever turn out for an election without Trump on the ballot (they haven’t before). Yet the Republican Party isn’t just doubling down on Trumpism, it’s doubling down on opposing popular legislation.

Think about it, even a Q-addled Republican will have to think twice in 2022 if she or he has to vote between losing their monthly child credit check from the IRS, or a Republican promising to end any such help. Deliver help to people, and it’s a different playing field. It’s already happening, and the legislation hasn’t even passed into law. 

Democrats gifted Republicans the chance to rip out the Trump cancer from their party, but the GQP refused to convict in the impeachment trial. Now Republicans are gifting Democrats the chance to lock in popular support for their party and candidates. 

Perhaps it’s time to stop looking the gift horse in the mouth, and just run up the advantage. 

Republicans totally miscalculate the moment, think opposing COVID-19 relief is a winner for them

The House Budget Committee advanced the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, on Monday. It combined bills from nine other committees into the budget reconciliation package that will get a final vote in the House at the end of this week, then go to the Senate where it can be passed with a simple majority vote. That part is key, and why lawmakers chose to use the budget reconciliation took for enacting the relief: because you can't count on any Republican to do the right thing. The right thing in this case is spending $2 trillion on helping everyone as opposed to giving it in tax cuts to the very rich.

Republicans are proving yet again how necessary choosing a path for relief that does not require them really is. Thus far, their only contribution has been to insist President Biden "unite" with them and accept one-third of a loaf with their "plan." Their toxicity was proved by Mitch McConnell's forcing Democrats to vote on noxious messaging amendments to get the process underway. Those tactics having failed in stopping the forward motion of the package, Republicans are now insisting their opposition to it is principled and won't harm them politically at all. It's almost as if the 2020 election, particularly the Georgia Senate races, didn't even happen.

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This tactic frankly has more of a vibe of leadership trying to convince individual Republicans that they'd damn well better not stray and end up helping Biden, but nevertheless, that's their plan. "It's clear Democrats have no interest in approaching COVID relief in a timely and targeted fashion and are instead using the reconciliation process to jam through their liberal wish list agenda," House Minority Whip Steve Scalise told Republican lawmakers in an email Friday, continuing to whip them into opposition.

Various Republican officials and hangers-on are keeping up the message. "House Democrats' $2 trillion socialist boondoggle puts partisan politics first and fails to address the most pressing needs facing Americans, like getting kids back in the classroom and reopening small businesses," Torunn Sinclair, a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee, told The Hill.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell added "I don't see any risk to Republicans at all opposing this, especially as it relates to the 2022 election." A senior House Republican told CNN's John Harwood there would be no Republican votes for it. "Personally I expect zero. No effort to reach out to House R[epublicans] by majority or W[hite] H[ouse]. Why would any R[epublican] vote for this?" Certainly not because they have any concern for their constituents.

Other Republicans preview how they intend to run against Democrats on this in 2022 and beyond: revisionist history. "Democrats stalled on coronavirus relief for months in 2020 when American families desperately needed it," Mandi Merritt, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee said. "And what was their first priority when they now control the White House and both Houses of Congress? A politically motivated impeachment—not relief for struggling families. […] We will be sure that voters don’t forget this." Never mind that the House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act on May 15 and followed up by passing the compromise $2.2 trillion bill on October 1, 2020. Never mind that McConnell completely ignored these bills and refused to even talk to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about negotiations.

Republicans intent on opposing the bill because they are Republicans and can't do anything to help a Democratic president are insisting that despite the large bipartisan majority of support for the package, opposing it won't hurt them. That poll, from CBS News/YouGov shows 83% approval for the package, including a majority of Republicans. A total of 61% of Republicans in that poll said that the $1.9 trillion package was either about right (34%) or not big enough (27%). Another poll from the left-leaning firm Navigator Research last week found 73% support for the package, including 53% support from Republicans. A New York Times/SurveyMonkey survey in mid-February found 72% approval for it, with 43% of Republicans approving.

That's before the bill even passes. Before people get their $1,400 checks. Before they have more funding for their small businesses. Before they get their coronavirus vaccine. Before their family gets their brand-new monthly child tax credit payments. Once the benefits of this bill actually reach people, that support will solidify among all but the most hard-core Trumpist Republicans. Because the stuff in this bill is that good, and it really will help people.

A reminder: the bill provides $1,400 for every individual—including dependents, both minor and adult—who makes up to $75,000, or $2,800 to couples making $150,000, after which it tapers off, ending at the $100,000/$200,000 cap. That's based on the most recent federal tax filing, so families who lost income in 2020 need to file right away to receive the maximum payment. The government will use 2019 filings otherwise.

The bill also provides direct aid to small business, including restaurants and bars which have been unable to use the Paycheck Protection Program funding. (Disclosure: Kos Media received a Paycheck Protection Program loan.) The child tax credits it is authorizing will be paid out monthly as opposed to annually, and raise the maximum credit from $2,000 to $3,000 for children between ages 6 and 17 and to $3,600 for children under 6. It includes a $400/week boost to unemployment benefits and continues their availability to gig and self-employed workers. It provides hundreds of billions in funding to state and local governments and to schools, and billions for both COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution.

All of that will spur the nation into recovery, both in public health and economically. Republicans are using an outdated playbook in thinking they'll be able to skate—or even gain—politically by opposing it. They're looking back to 2009, when an inadequate stimulus package by the Obama administration led to a too-slow recovery. Biden isn't making that mistake again. Republicans are also looking back at their mostly successful opposition to the Affordable Care Act, when they made gains in House and Senate seats fighting the new law. Most of the benefits of Obamacare, however, weren't immediately available to people as the law wasn't fully implemented until 2014. Neither the 2009 stimulus nor Obamacare had the huge public support that this Biden package is now receiving.

The benefits of this package will be available immediately and to the majority of households in America, and that will make all the difference.