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Once the midterm dust settles we will know whether America will make an about-face on COVID-19 policy. The Biden administration still wants covid relief funds, we are still in a health emergency and House Republicans are chomping for a slew of investigations. That’s what a majority means, and more.
Such a shift could mean the end to some Biden-era pandemic policies, including ending the public health emergency and the national emergency declaration that goes with it. Together, the declarations give President Biden wide powers to freeze student loan payments, set health care policies — such as government-paid vaccinations and COVID tests — and require federal employees, including the military, to be vaccinated. The President wants another $47 billion in COVID funding that stands no chance of passage if he cannot get it pushed through before this congressional term ends.
Let’s look ahead at what a shift of Congress’ majority would mean to a range of congressional investigations.
The Hill says you should get used to hearing a name in the months ahead:
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., is poised to take control of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has wide jurisdiction over issues like Medicare, Medicaid, food and drug safety and the federal health agencies.
Rodgers and other GOP lawmakers have said they want to prioritize an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, as well as the administration’s policies in response to the virus, like school closures.
Republicans in both chambers are also eager to launch investigations into Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who is set to retire from government this year.
When Fauci announced his intention to retire in August, Republicans vowed to keep investigating.
Another series of investigations is likely to come out of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is the chamber’s chief investigative committee.
The Washington Post explains what that committee could look at first:
In statements to The Health 202, the Republican who could soon run the panel, Rep. James Comer (Ky.), laid out his covid and health care agenda. Here’s what the committee plans to prioritize:
- The origins of the coronavirus and federal funds supporting research done at Wuhan Institute of Virology.
- Waste, fraud and abuse in the trillions of dollars Congress approved for coronavirus relief aid.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as data gaps and pandemic-era guidance Comer called “confusing.”
- Prescription drug middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers, which some Republicans accuse of contributing to the high cost of medicines.
- Allegations that the pandemic policies of former governor Andrew Cuomo (N.Y.) and other Democratic governors made nursing homes take in patients infected with covid-19 (a spokesperson for Cuomo called this a “Trump retread” in which nothing came of a DOJ review into the matter).
Axios rounds out some of the other most-likely GOP COVID-era targets.
Record number of Americans moving to Mexico
You can probably point to businesses allowing remote work as one contributing factor for Mexico’s record-setting 8,412 temporary resident visas issued to Americans in the first nine months of the year. The Mexican government says it represents an 85% increase compared to the same period of 2019. Bloomberg says it is the highest since 2010, when the government reporting began.
Naturally, Mexico City had the biggest increase in temporary resident visas. And the other Mexican state seeing significant American immigrants is Quintana Roo, which is home of the city of Cancún, the islands of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres, and the towns of Bacalar and Playa del Carmen.
When it comes to granting permanent residency, Americans got the third highest number of visas behind Honduras and Venezuela. Guatemalans, El Salvadorans, Cubans and Haitians also permanently moved to or fled to Mexico by the thousands this year.
The number of US citizens granted permanent residency in Mexico is up 48% over 2019, which again, points to before the pandemic, when report work was less common.
The pandemic also produced a 30% increase in alcohol deaths
Two new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports show us that deaths that can be directly attributed to alcohol rose nearly 30% during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The reports zero in on alcohol-caused liver or pancreas failure, alcohol poisoning, withdrawal and certain other diseases.
Those specific causes of death went from 39,000 in 2019 to 52,000 in 2021.
And the CDC also broke the alcohol-related deaths out by state.
Even before the pandemic, U.S. alcohol consumption was rising especially among women, minorities and older adults.
But during the pandemic, Americans’ alcohol intake soared. A Rand study said “drinking among U.S. adults increased by 14% during the first year of the pandemic.”
How to survive a crowd stampede
The horrific crowd crush in South Korea that killed more than 150 people and injured hundreds more made me recall a story I saw on Good Morning America after a deadly concert crowd rush. It is worth a look because it shows techniques on how to stay alive even if you fall. Here is a link to the video.
If you were missing, how much would the press cover your case?
Here is a sobering interactive from The Columbia Journalism Review that attempts to expose a systemic bias called “Missing White Woman Syndrome.” CJR says, “This website calculates your press value based on current reporting in America, to expose this bias and to advocate for change.” You will see how men are less likely to be reported on in missing person cases; the older you are the less likely you are to get press coverage if you are missing; and people in urban areas have a higher chance of being reported on than people in rural areas. And the CJR data found, “Data shows that white people have the highest chance of being covered in the press,
with Black and Hispanic people having the lowest.”
CJR explained its method for building the calculation used in the interactive:
Our analysis and model is based on a representative sample of 3,630 news stories about missing persons out of 19,561 collected by Meltwater Jan-Nov 2021. Of this sample, 2,383 stories concerned one or more specific missing individuals, covering 735 unique missing persons who were identified and categorized by age, gender, race / ethnicity, and geography. Missing persons were then cross-referenced with the NAMUS database for the same period. Meltwater identified the publisher of the story, the potential reach of that news outlet, and social sharing for each story.
CJR explained why it produced the project:
The number of people who know of a person’s disappearance has a major impact on their chances of being found.
Unfortunately, the amount of coverage a missing person receives is often influenced by various demographic information such as race, age, sex, and even geographic location. In other words, who you are and what you look like can determine if your case dominates news headlines for months or never makes an appearance at all.
Columbia Journalism Review believes it’s time for change. Who you are and what you look like should not determine your likelihood of being found.