State officials in California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Oregon all announced on Monday plans to lift mask requirements in some form in February and March.
- California: Universal indoor mask requirements will be lifted for fully vaccinated people on Feb. 16.
- New Jersey: The statewide school mask mandate will be lifted on March 7.
- Connecticut: The statewide school mask mandate will be lifted on Feb. 28.
- Delaware: Universal indoor mask requirements (except for schools) will be lifted on Feb. 11. School mask requirements will be lifted on March 31.
- Oregon: Universal indoor masks requirements will be lifted on March 31.
In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has also signaled that mask mandates set to expire at the end of the month may also be going away. These governors are following the lead of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) who declared the medical emergency over in December. They are also following the science and the rapid decline in Omicron Covid cases and hospitalizations.
A lot has changed over the last year. We now have vaccines and anti-viral treatments that work. And the virus itself has morphed into something that is both more contagious but much less dangerous — especially if you’re vaccinated.
But the biggest change is in the public’s willingness to comply with further public health measures. Recent surveys find that Americans are now more worried about the costs of endless pandemic restrictions than they are about the virus itself:
- A Monmouth poll found that 70% of Americans agree with the sentiment that “it’s time we accept that Covid is here to stay and we just need to get on with our lives.”
- An Echelon Insights survey found 55% believe that Covid-19 should be “treated as an endemic disease that will never fully go away,” like the flu, while 38% said it should be “treated as a public health emergency.”
- A recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll had similar findings with 46% thinking Americans should “learn to live with” the pandemic “and get back to normal,” while just 43% thought “we need to do more to vaccinate, wear masks and test.”
- A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 75% of Americans described themselves as tired or frustrated with the pandemic.
These polls are important considerations when formulating policy. In a democracy, it’s nearly impossible to govern when a clear majority stands against you.
This creates a real challenge for President Biden, who has not recovered his political standing since declaring “independence” from virus just before the Delta variant quickly dashed hopes of the pandemic ending soon. The polls now show a majority of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of the virus.
In purely political terms, it’s unlikely Biden’s approval will rebound unless Americans see the return to normalcy he promised. And if Biden’s approval doesn’t bounce back, history suggests Democrats will have a very ugly midterm election.
For the time being, Democratic governors are taking the first steps towards getting back to normal. But Biden himself will need to take the lead if his party is to benefit. He needs to give an Address declaring everyone has the means to defeat Covid if they so choose. They can get vaccinated and follow a booster schedule. They can wear masks and isolate themselves if they want. But it is time to end society-wide restrictions. He should also add my hobbyhorse: declaring that if you choose not to be vaccinated, then you also choose not to receive medical treatment of any kind if you contract Covid. But, I admit, there are medical-ethic problems with that. So he probably won’t.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) criticized the Republican National Committee for its censure of Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Liz Cheney (R-WY) for serving on the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6 Capitol riots, The Hill reports. Said McConnell: “It was a violent insurrection with the purpose of trying to prevent peaceful transfer of power. That’s what it was.”
McConnell also noted that traditionally “the view of the national party committee is that we support all members of our party, regardless of their position on some issue.”
“Senate Republicans are not happy with the Republican National Committee,” Politico reports. “GOP senators lashed out at their own national party’s overwhelming vote to censure Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)… They warned that alienating a portion of the party for being overly anti-Trump is not a political winner heading into the midterms, a sharp message from sitting members that goes far beyond criticism already aired by a handful of GOP pundits.”
The Hill: Romney says he texted with niece McDaniel after RNC censure.
“Anything that my party does that comes across as being stupid is not going to help us.” — Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), quoted by CNN, on the impact of the RNC censures of Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger on the midterm elections.
Jonathan Bernstein: “All that said, Romney does have one weapon he could play or threaten to play: a third-party run for the presidency in 2024 if Trump is the Republican nominee. If Romney threatened not just to run, but to do his best to defeat the Republican candidate? I don’t know that he could guarantee a Democratic win, but he could certainly make one far more likely. (Just by, for example, staying off the ballot in Democratic-leaning states while qualifying and campaigning in Republican-leaning ones.) That may not do much to ultimately reform the Republican Party, but it would certainly decrease the chances of Trump’s winning a second term.”
“All this is fanciful, which is sort of the point; there are no obvious options for Romney and the small handful of openly anti-Trump Republicans in Congress. Realistically, they can continue working on an update of the Electoral Count Act. Perhaps there are other similar measures that might help. They can support anti-Trump Republicans in upcoming primary elections. And just plain speaking out isn’t nothing. But the truth is, the current dysfunctional Republican Party is a long way down the path they’ve chosen, and there’s no obvious way back.”
The Guardian: Romney won’t criticize niece for calling Trump lies and Capitol riot “legitimate political discourse.”
House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) said that the RNC “has every right to take any action” to rebuke Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) for serving on the House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, The Hill reports.
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lashed out on Monday at protesters occupying Ottawa, accusing them of interfering with the country’s ability to function and reminding them that the pandemic has ‘sucked’ for everyone, not just them,” the Globe and Mail reports.
“During an emergency debate in the House of Commons, Mr. Trudeau urged the protesters to go home and said their demonstrations have crossed a line. He said he would offer the province and the city all the resources necessary to deal with the situation, but proposed no specific ways of ending the protest, already in its 11th day.”
The Guardian: Ottawa’s occupation was a result of unrivaled coordination between anti-vax and anti-government organizations.
“Canada’s public safety minister said Monday that U.S. officials should stay out of his country’s domestic affairs, joining other Canadian leaders in pushing back against prominent Republicans who offered support for the protests of Covid-19 restrictions that have besieged downtown Ottawa for more than a week,” Time reports.
Mark Carney: “On the first weekend, many Canadians who joined the demonstrations undoubtedly had peaceful objectives. Tired as we all are with unprecedented disruptions that we’ve all endured over the past two years, it’s understandable that many would want to come to Ottawa to protest. It’s a free country, and everyone should be able to express their opinions free of interference from the state, just as the press should be able to report without fear of harassment or intimidation.”
“But now in its second week, no one should have any doubt. This is sedition. That’s a word I never thought I’d use in Canada. It means ‘incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority.’”
“Hundreds of people protesting vaccine mandates and pandemic restrictions blocked streets outside New Zealand’s parliament on Tuesday with trucks and campervans, inspired by similar demonstrations in Canada,” Reuters reports.
President Biden vowed Monday that if Russia invades Ukraine, “there will no longer be Nord Stream 2,” the planned natural gas pipeline from Russia into Europe, the Washington Post reports.
“President Vladimir Putin said he was prepared to keep negotiating over Russia’s security demands in Eastern Europe but offered a stark warning over the possibility of a full-scale war between Russia and the West — using a five-hour meeting with his French counterpart on Monday to keep the world guessing about his intentions,” the New York Times reports.
Wall Street Journal: Putin says the West is goading Russia into war with Ukraine — and many Russians agree.
“Prosecutors late Monday began laying out their trial strategy for Jan. 6 cases in the clearest detail yet, indicating they intend to call multiple Capitol Police officers, a former Senate aide, a member of the Three Percenters militia who was granted immunity and the Secret Service agent who helped supervise then-Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to the Capitol that day,” Politico reports.
“Prosecutors revealed their proposed witness list in the case of Guy Reffitt, a Texas man who was charged with storming onto Capitol grounds, attacking multiple Capitol Police officers and carrying a firearm. Reffitt is charged with civil disorder, obstructing Congress’ proceedings, carrying a semiautomatic handgun to the Capitol and later, after returning home, attempting to obstruct justice.”
Brian Kilmeade of Fox News blasted Donald Trump over his 2020 election claims, The Wrap reports. Said Kilmeade, speaking on his talk-radio show: “Right now, nobody cares about 2020. Nobody. And everything that he said and the challenges that he made should’ve been done before the election. And they did a recount in Arizona, and the recount showed no difference almost, and he came out and said it showed that they won Arizona. That’s an outright lie, and please stop wasting our time with that, because he’s capable of doing so much more.”
“Vermont legislators will vote Tuesday on a constitutional amendment that would guarantee the right to abortion and contraception, the first amendment of its kind anywhere in the United States,” the Washington Post reports.
Retired Pope Benedict XVI asked for forgiveness for any “grievous faults” he committed in his handling of clergy sex abuse cases, the AP reports.
Texas released updated statistics showing the number of abortions reported in the state decreased almost 60% in the first month after new restrictions went into effect, the Dallas Morning News reports.
“The Biden administration announced an agreement Monday with Japan to temper a Trump administration steel tariff that tested U.S. relationships with allies and close trading partners,” Roll Call reports.
“The stock price of the blank-check company that has partnered with ex-President Donald Trump’s social media firm plunged Monday in late-day trading as news of the delay in the app’s launch spread on Twitter,” CNBC reports.
“A Chicago banker was sentenced on Monday to a year in prison for his conviction in a scheme to make $16 million in loans to Paul Manafort to gain influence in the Trump administration,” the AP reports.
“Selling scrap coal has earned Sen. Joe Manchin millions of dollars over three decades, and he has used his political positions to protect the fuel from laws and regulations that threaten his family’s business,” Politico reports.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said that he hopes President Biden nominates a Supreme Court justice sooner rather than later, Punchbowl News reports. Said Durbin: “We’re encouraging him to do it sooner than the end of February.”
“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) appeared Monday to voice support for a controversial state bill that would ban certain discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom,” CNN reports. “It’s the first time DeSantis has publicly signaled support for an effort by state Republican lawmakers to shut down certain conversations in schools about sexual orientation and gender identity. Though he didn’t directly say whether he would sign the bill if it reached his desk when asked about it Monday, DeSantis’ remarks appeared to strongly suggest he is supportive.”
“Former President Donald Trump last month handed over to the National Archives 15 boxes of documents, letters, gifts and mementos that he had taken with him when leaving office but that he had been legally required to leave in the custody of the federal government,“ the New York Times reports.
“The boxes contained items taken from the White House’s residence during a hasty exit after Mr. Trump had spent the bulk of the presidential transition trying to find ways to stay in power… At the time, Mr. Trump’s aides were either preoccupied with helping him overturn the election, trying to stop him or avoiding him.”
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis in Georgia told CNN on Monday that her office will begin issuing subpoenas in her Trump election meddling investigation as soon as May, and that she’s not “concerned at all” about Trump’s inevitably dragging out the process with legal battles.
Former President Donald Trump told Joe Rogan to “stop apologizing” to the “radical left maniacs.” Said Trump: “Joe Rogan is an interesting and popular guy, but he’s got to stop apologizing to the Fake News and Radical Left maniacs and lunatics.” He added: “How many ways can you say you’re sorry? Joe, just go about what you do so well and don’t let them make you look weak and frightened.”
Trump is also urging his followers to boycott DirecTV over the company’s plans to drop One American News Network, The Hill reports. Said Trump: “It is a very popular channel, far more popular than most would understand, and they are being treated horribly by the Radical Left lunatics running the networks.”
CNN: “There wasn’t the huge fanfare most former presidents receive when they ink deals for a memoir; news of the book, a coffee table tome with pictures detailing Trump’s presidency — retailing about $75 and $230 if signed — made barely a blip in the media. But the deal, which CNN can confirm included a multimillion dollar advance for Trump, has quickly and significantly plumped the pockets of the former President.”
“Sales of the book, Our Journey Together, grossed $20 million in less than two months since it went on sale in late November… Part of the book’s popularity among Trump’s base is the captions, all of which he wrote himself, and most of which feature unbridled hot takes on his political enemies.”
“Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gave public support on Tuesday to his colleagues’ growing efforts to rein in their fellow lawmakers’ trades of individual stocks after he previously dodged questions on whether he would support such a ban,” Insider reports.
Said Schumer: “I believe in it. I have asked our members to get together to try to come up with one bill. I would like to see it done.”
Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Harris, was evacuated from a Washington D.C. public school Tuesday afternoon following a bomb threat, the Washington Post reports.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) “threw cold water on efforts by congressional staff to form unions, arguing public officials and staff are ultimately accountable to their constituents,” Politico reports.
Said Manchin: “When you’re working for tax dollars and you’re at will and pleasure, I’m here at the will and pleasure of the people. They have a chance to change and things of that sort so we’ve got to make sure we’re doing it and doing it right.”
Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX) made a fiery accusation that the U.S. Capitol Police entered his office and took photos of a confidential legislative proposal, Politico reports.
Said Nehls: “If Capitol Police had spent this much time investigating January 6th as they did investigating my private legislative materials, January 6th would not have happened.”
“The Justice Department on Tuesday announced the arrests of a New York couple charged with conspiring to launder cryptocurrency presently valued at $4.5 billion — stolen during the 2016 hack of Bitfinex — marking the ‘largest ever’ financial seizure by the department,” ABC News reports.