February 1, 2022

Covering COVID-19 is a daily Poynter briefing of story ideas about the coronavirus and other timely topics for journalists, written by senior faculty Al Tompkins. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.

Podcaster Joe Rogan, who has become infamous for hosting COVID-19 conspiracy spreaders on his program, said he is open to changes to his show. He said he would book more mainstream experts after hosting controversial ones and doing more research on certain topics.

“I’m not trying to promote misinformation, I’m not trying to be controversial,” Rogan said in an Instagram video. “I’ve never tried to do anything with this podcast other than to just talk to people.”

“I do all the scheduling myself, and I don’t always get it right,” he added.

270 health experts complained to Spotify that Rogan was spreading dangerous misinformation that is “a sociological issue of devastating proportions.” Rogan said sometimes what is considered to be misinformation now is accepted “as fact.” He pointed to changing notions about how safe cloth masks are, whether vaccinated people can catch and spread the virus and where the virus originated.

Rogan became a lightning rod after he said last year, “If you’re a healthy person, and you’re exercising all the time, and you’re young, and you’re eating well … like, I don’t think you need to worry about this.” Johns Hopkins researchers countered, “But according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over the summer, in the United States, people under age 30 accounted for more than 20% of COVID-19 cases and were seen as more likely to transmit the virus than others. This trend has continued into the fall.” Rogan’s audience skews young, with an average listener age of 24 years old.

Rogan defended his widely panned interview with Dr. Robert Malone, who dubiously calls himself the “inventor” of mRNA vaccines. CNBC added:

On the episode, Malone told host Joe Rogan that there had recently been an “explosion of vaccine-associated deaths,” and that hospitals are financially incentivized to label Covid as a cause of patient deaths. He also said leaders are using “free-floating anxiety” to “hypnotize” the public.

All three theories were quickly identified as false, as reported by AP News and nonprofit fact-checking outlet PolitiFact. YouTube removed a video of the interview soon after it was posted, citing violated community guidelines.

PolitiFact shared more about the man Rogan defends as an expert, even in his apology video. PolitiFact described Malone, “Who gained hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers in recent months as he promoted anti-vaccine falsehoods, drew a comparison in the interview between COVID-19 vaccination efforts in the U.S. and the environment in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, when the Nazi party rose to power.”

Rogan also used his program to falsely claim that mRNA vaccines are “gene therapy,” and he promoted off-label use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 despite U.S. Food and Drug Administration warnings.

Rogan said when he has a controversial guest on in the future, he will forewarn listeners that the guest expresses views that are not accepted by everyone and that he would follow up such controversial views with mainstream experts.

MORE FROM POYNTER: Spotify tries to navigate the storm created by star Joe Rogan

Should you worry about what is happening with COVID-19 in Denmark?

We learned in the last two years that we all have an interest in knowing how the coronavirus is moving around the world. That’s why a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in Denmark is worrying. It is not just a rapid increase that captured the attention of health officials, it is that the new variant, BA.2, is the fastest rising version of COVID-19 there. And the spread of this new variant comes just as the highly vaccinated country reopens its bars and restaurants and health clubs.

(Pandemic Prevention Institute)

If there is encouraging news in the Denmark data, it is that while cases and hospitalizations rise, COVID-19 deaths are still declining. But as we know, deaths and intensive care unit hospitalizations usually follow new cases by a couple of weeks. And there is new data from the British Health Agency that indicates our current vaccines may work better against BA.2 than it does for the current version of omicron, called BA.1.

Epidemiologist Dr. Katelyn Jetelina points out that U.S. data will be unreliable for a few days because of the snowstorm in the Northeast that kept people indoors and away from testing centers. But there is this:

Unfortunately, hospitalizations and deaths continue to lag cases. And while hospitalizations continue to decline, they are still very high at 146,787 people hospitalized. This means we are still above last winter’s hospitalization peak. Deaths haven’t peaked yet and have increased 29% in the past 14 days. Last Friday, we recorded 3,824 deaths in. one. day. On average, we are losing 2,572 people per day.

(Financial Times)

Canada struggles

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been in isolation since late last week after one of his children came in contact with a person infected with COVID-19. And now, this:

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Canada (Health Canada)

Canadians are growing restless over mandates even while Canada has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates. One province is thinking about taxing people who don’t get vaccinated.

Unvaxxed NYPD cops will be fired in two weeks

Feb. 11 is the new deadline for all New York City police officers to be fully vaccinated or be fired. 5,000 NYPD employees have requested medical or religious waivers and can still work while their appeals are under review.

COVID-19 is rising in nursing homes

Here we go again. Two years ago we worried about the virus racing through nursing homes. Now, cases are rising again. This data comes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and is current through Jan. 16.

(Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services)

Most nursing home COVID-19 cases are spread through infected staff. So that data is also important and, not surprisingly, looks a lot like the nursing home residents’ trend.

(Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services)

Kaiser Health News focused on California:

Covid infections are again spiking at nursing homes around the country. In California, 792 new nursing home cases were reported on Jan. 19, compared with fewer than 11 cases on Dec. 19, 2021. However, the death rates are not nearly as bad as they were during pre-vaccine covid surges. From Dec. 23, 2021, to Jan. 23, 2022, 217 nursing home residents died of covid in California. By contrast, in just the week from Christmas 2020 to New Year’s Day 2021, 555 people died at nursing homes in the state.

Those numbers, and others cited in this article, don’t filter out patients who entered hospitals for treatment of other conditions but tested positive for covid upon admission — a common occurrence during the omicron wave.

Couple that used fake ID cards to get into NFL playoff game face felony charge

A local prosecutor says he can’t turn his head and pretend that he does not know about Buffalo Bills fans who used fake COVID-19 vaccine cards to get into a game against the New England Patriots a couple of weeks back. The couple created their own problems when they posted on social media. They will be in court in a few weeks to face felony charges.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
Al Tompkins

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