U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, who met Tuesday with Mark Ballard of The Advocate, announced that Covid-19 vaccines are already en route to Louisiana and other states, even as federal approval awaits, and could be available as early as Dec. 18. But that still leaves state governments to decide the thorny question of how to distribute the vaccines and which groups will have first priority. The federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices wants states to prioritize health care workers and nursing home residents, according to Laura Olson of States Newsroom:
I do feel this prioritization represents strong consideration of the framework of science, implementation, and ethics, and helps to maintain our health care system and protects a very fragile population,’ said Dr. Peter Szilagyi, a professor of pediatrics at UCLA and advisory panel member, after Tuesday’s 13-1 vote.
The one dissenting vote, reported by the AP’s Mike Stobbe, revolved around the concern that vaccinating nursing home staff would be more effective use of rationed vaccines:
Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot, an infectious diseases researcher at Vanderbilt University who was the lone committee member to vote against the proposal, cited flu research that found vaccinating the staff of such facilities has a greatest impact on preventing its spread there. Dr. Richard Zimmerman, a University of Pittsburgh flu vaccine researcher who watched the meeting online, echoed Talbot’s concerns. ‘I think it was premature’ to include nursing home residents as a priority group, said Zimmerman, a former ACIP member. ‘Their vote seems to assume that these people will respond well to the vaccine. … I don’t think we know that.’
Covid-19’s public health and economic impacts have fallen disproportionately on the most vulnerable communities in Louisiana and across the country; the state should take this into consideration when vaccines become more widely available.
Court ruling may spell “the beginning of the end for Formosa”
The controversial plan for Formosa Plastic Group’s “Sunshine Project,” a $9.4 billion manufacturing complex in St. James Parish, may be on indefinite hold. Claire Schaeffer-Duffy of the National Catholic Reporter’s EarthBeat writes that this may be thanks to the work of local activists and groups like Rise St. James and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, who sued the Army Corps of Engineers to suspend a federal wetland construction permit:
At a time when Americans are recognizing the role of systemic racism and unconscious racial bias in our country, it is problematic that a predominantly white parish was eliminated based on erroneous information and a flawed analysis in favor of a predominantly Black district in St. James Parish. The project deserves a far deeper and more probing environmental justice analysis than what the Corps has provided,’ the plaintiffs wrote in a letter signed by more than 20 groups.
The Corps has suspended the wetland permit. Shortly after the suspension, a state district judge ordered that the project’s air pollution permits be reevaluated. While Formosa intends to move forward with the support of many state lawmakers, many local residents hope that these suspensions will mean the end of “Sunshine.”
Black renters face persistent discrimination
More often than not, Black people seeking to rent a home are treated differently than white renters looking to rent the same property, according to new research by the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center. The Center conducted “paired tests” in New Orleans that tested how landlords respond to Black and white applicants. JC Canicosa of the Louisiana Illuminator has the report:
White testers were regularly offered discounts when they went to see properties that Black testers weren’t offered,’ said Maxwell Ciardullo, director of policy and communications for the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center. Those discounts included a free month of rent, discounted application fees, discounted security deposits, etc. … “If you added up all the different tests we did in all four cities,” Ciardullo said, “it amounted to almost $10,000 in what we call ‘The White Renter Discount.’ This has incredible impacts on not just where people have access to live, but how much they pay.”
Since 1979, American wage growth has gone to the richest
Wage growth in the United States since 1979 has been flowing disproportionately to people at the very top of the income scale. Lawrence Mishel and Jori Kandra at the Economic Policy Institute report on the latest data from the Social Security Administration, which confirms a decades-long trend that has seen wages redistributed from the bottom 90% to the very wealthiest:
For last year, 2019, the data show a continuation, with annual wages rising fastest for those in the top 10% while those in the bottom 90% saw below-average wage growth. This unceasing growth of wage inequality that undercuts wage growth for the bottom 90% reaffirms the need to place generating robust wage growth for the vast majority and rebuilding worker power at the center of economic policymaking.
As their blog explains, even accounting for periods of economic crisis, by 2019 the top 1% of wage earners have seen a 160% increase in overall wages since 1979 while the bottom 90% of earners’ wages grew by only 26%.
Number of the Day:
112,000 – Number of jobs lost in Louisiana from October 2019 to October 2020. These job losses were reported via the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys conducted each month through October 2020, including a few weeks after Louisiana’s entered Phase 3 of reopening. Louisiana’s overall unemployment rate rose to 9.3% from 5% during that same time period. (Source: The Times Picayune | New Orleans Advocate)