Iron County Progressive

 

ICYMI: Gov. Evers Calls for Passage of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan

MADISON, Wis. — In an op-ed, Governor Evers explained why it’s critical for Congress to pass President Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to help Wisconsin bounce back from the pandemic and prime our state’s economic growth. While Gov. Evers has made historic state investments in Wisconsin’s infrastructure, additional federal support will help our state reach its full potential.

Gov. Evers has made infrastructure a top priority of his administration – investing the largest amount in transportation infrastructure in a generation. Today, Gov. Evers announced a $25 million investment in transit services for the city of Madison and Milwaukee County, supported by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.

But those investments are just the beginning. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will invest more in families, small businesses, workers, and communities, and give Wisconsin the opportunity to build an even better place to live, work, and raise a family.

Read Gov. Evers’ op-ed below.

The Capital Times: Gov. Tony Evers: Infrastructure deal critical in moving state forward

When I ran for governor, I promised Wisconsinites that I would reject the tired politics of the past and fix the damn roads. I’ve held up my end of the bargain. Last month, I signed Wisconsin’s first bipartisan budget since 2007, which included historic investments in infrastructure and broadband. 

But I know there’s more work to do, which is why it’s so critical for the federal government to take action and invest in infrastructure in Wisconsin and across the country. With support at the federal level, our state, our businesses and our people will bounce back stronger than before. Together with our state investments, the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act primes economic growth by connecting families and businesses, and will help create good-paying jobs for American workers.

We’ve made historic strides in Wisconsin towards cleaning up the mess left by the last administration and re-investing in our infrastructure. Wisconsin’s 2019-21 budget included the largest investment in transportation infrastructure in a generation: $465 million for road projects.

During the pandemic, hundreds of projects have moved forward — some even under budget and ahead of schedule. And it’s not just roads and bridges. We’ve also made massive investments to connect communities and small businesses with high-speed broadband. My first budget expanded broadband access to 9,300 businesses and 150,000 homes. Now, the second budget in a row includes what will be Wisconsin’s largest-ever broadband investment. We’ve also taken critical action to rebuild and protect drinking water infrastructure, including the removal of lead service lines to make sure every family has clean, safe water at their tap.

We have made tremendous progress, but to ensure lasting, transformational change we need President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to put Americans back to work and lay the foundation to strengthen our economy and compete at a global scale. In Wisconsin alone, the infrastructure framework could invest $5.2 billion for federal highway repair, and $225 million to repair our roads and bridges. That’s money for better roads, better jobs and a better quality of life for Wisconsinites.

Folks, no one knows more than Wisconsinites about the importance of strong, resilient infrastructure. Now more than ever, it’s important to repair and rebuild our roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all who travel. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes a $12.5 billion Bridge Investment Program to secure funding for larger restoration projects and $16 billion for major infrastructure projects that will deliver substantial economic benefits to communities.

Beyond the pavement, Biden’s plan would also allocate a minimum of $100 million to help connect all Wisconsinites, regardless of their financial status or zip code, and more than 1 million low-income families would be eligible for a benefit to help them afford internet access.

The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act may have passed the Senate, but it’s not a done deal yet. It still faces steep opposition from some Republicans who would rather delay action even longer. This isn’t the moment to let political games get in the way of doing what’s best for our state. It’s time to put aside typical partisanship to move forward and improve opportunities for our state and country. Biden and I are committed to working for all Americans and all Wisconsinites — in every neighborhood, in every town, and in every political party. Both my budget and the bipartisan infrastructure deal reminds us that compromise is possible, and that we can put our differences aside to deliver for working families.

If we work together on infrastructure, our state and the federal government have the resources to do more and make Wisconsin an even better place to live, work and raise a family.

 

 

Four Pinocchios for Ron Johnson’s campaign of vaccine misinformation

 

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)


By 

Salvador Rizzo

Reporter

“The fact of the matter is it looks like natural immunity is as strong if not stronger than vaccinated immunity. ... There is a risk to the vaccine. Again, it’s very small, but there are some pretty serious side effects, including death. We are already over 5,200 deaths reported on the VAERS system. That’s a CDC, FDA’s early warning system.”

— Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), in an interview on “Hannity” on Fox News, July 14

Johnson has emerged as the leading vaccine skeptic in Congress this year.

For months, the senator has been peddling misinformation about coronavirus vaccines, undeterred by fact checkers, federal health agencies, medical experts and a growing body of scientific research.

We previously dug into two Johnson claims that resurfaced in this interview on Fox News, a network whose right-wing personalities consistently bash the Biden administration’s vaccination efforts.

More cases and research studies have accumulated since our fact checks were published, but Johnson’s statements remain unsupported by science.

The Facts

‘Natural immunity is as strong if not stronger’

Doctors, public health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are clear: Get the coronavirus vaccine even if you had covid-19.

People who had the disease will naturally produce antibodies that build immunity against a repeat infection. But natural immunity can fade over time and its duration varies by person, several scientific studies have shown. Reinfections, both mild and severe, are rare but have been well-documented since the coronavirus emerged in late 2019. That’s because different people tend to have different responses to an infection.

study from January in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the Moderna vaccine “has the potential to provide durable humoral immunity,” whereas “natural infection produces variable antibody longevity.” An NEJM study published in March compared two groups of people taking the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines: some who previously had covid-19 and some who did not. The recovered patients generally had higher antibody counts at the start of the vaccination period, but not in all cases, and by the end of the vaccination period both groups had similarly high antibody levels.

study released in April by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, which has not been peer-reviewed, found that mRNA vaccines in a small number of subjects produced up to 10 times higher antibody titers "than convalescent plasmas from donors who recovered from natural infection.”

Recent studies also show that the mRNA vaccines could better protect against new coronavirus variants than natural immunity, according to a blog post June 22 by Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health.

“The new evidence shows that protective antibodies generated in response to an mRNA vaccine will target a broader range of SARS-CoV-2 variants carrying ‘single letter’ changes in a key portion of their spike protein compared to antibodies acquired from an infection,” Collins wrote about a study published in June by the journal Science Translational Medicine“These results add to evidence that people with acquired immunity may have differing levels of protection to emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants. More importantly, the data provide further documentation that those who’ve had and recovered from a covid-19 infection still stand to benefit from getting vaccinated.”

A different study published in Science magazine June 25 showed that “after one dose of the Pfizer mRNA, people who had been previously infected actually showed enhanced both T-cell immunity as well as neutralizing antibodies not only against the wild type, but interesting, as I alluded to several sessions ago, you even get some spillover of infection against variants,” Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser on covid-19 to President Biden, said at a White House briefing May 5.

Another study from the same issue of Science found that a single shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine “boosted neutralizing titers against all [covid-19] variants and [SARS] by up to 1000-fold” in subjects who previously had covid-19.

Jennifer Pisano, a professor of medicine and infectious-disease expert at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, summed up the current body of knowledge in a blog post:

Is it better to gain immunity through exposure to covid-19 or through a vaccine?

With some viruses, such as chicken pox, being infected with the virus itself grants stronger immune protection than the chicken pox vaccine; however, in those cases, you then have to deal with all the complications of having the virus. When it comes to COVID-19, it’s really hard to know whether being exposed to the virus is more protective of future infection than the vaccine, simply because we don’t know the SARS-CoV-2 virus well enough yet.

With natural immunity, which is the protection we get after being infected with a virus, the immune response can be variable. For example: the number of antibodies your body produces may depend on how much of the virus you’re exposed to. And there is likely beneficial variation in the types of antibodies being produced. The vaccinations currently available in the U.S. have been shown to effectively stimulate antibodies against the virus’ spike protein. New vaccines are being created that make antibodies to other parts of the virus as well. Both immunity from natural infection and vaccination stimulate a T-cell response that will hopefully provide you with protection from the virus for a longer time.

While it’s possible some people may have a higher antibody response after a natural infection than they would after vaccination, we’re still learning about this new virus, and we don’t know how protective natural immunity really is, especially when there is such a continuum of different types of infections. We don’t have clear data on how antibody responses from a mild infection compare to a severe infection, or how protective those antibody responses are.

On the other hand, we do know that the vaccine is very protective. In most people, getting vaccinated generates a lot of antibodies. So far, the vaccines appear to be incredibly effective, especially when it comes to preventing severe infections, hospitalizations and death.

“Yes, you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had covid-19,” the CDC says. “That’s because experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from covid-19. Even if you have already recovered from covid-19, it is possible — although rare — that you could be infected with the virus that causes covid-19 again. Studies have shown that vaccination provides a strong boost in protection in people who have recovered from covid-19.”

Johnson spokeswoman Alexa Henning referenced a study published in February by Science magazine that looked at not just antibody levels but all four main components of “immunological memory” — antibodies, B cells and two types of T cells. Each component grew or diminished at different rates, the study says.

The researchers analyzed “254 samples from 188 COVID-19 cases, including 43 samples at 6 to 8 months after infection” and said “our data show immune memory in at least three immunological compartments was measurable in ~95% of subjects 5 to 8 months PSO [post-symptom onset], indicating that durable immunity against secondary COVID-19 disease is a possibility in most individuals.”

This study also says that “it is well recognized that the magnitude of the antibody response against SARS-CoV-2 is highly heterogeneous between individuals” and that it’s “possible that a fraction of the SARS-CoV-2–infected population with low immune memory would become susceptible to reinfection relatively soon.”

Henning also pointed to an Israeli study that found both the Pfizer “vaccine and prior SARS-CoV-2 infection are effective against both subsequent SARS-CoV-2 infection and other COVID-19-related outcomes.” The same study noted “the remarkable curtailing of the outbreak in Israel which followed the high vaccine uptake by the Israeli population.”

Johnson’s interviewer, Sean Hannity of Fox News, also made a Pinocchio-worthy claim right before the senator.

“If you had covid, you had stated publicly you had it — well, the Cleveland Clinic is highly respected science research, right? They say that you wouldn’t need any vaccine,” Hannity said.

In fact, the Cleveland Clinic recommends that all eligible people get vaccinated.

“We recently shared research that provides insight into how the immune system protects the body after a confirmed covid-19 infection. The study followed Cleveland Clinic caregivers over five months as the vaccination process was beginning. The data showed that the vaccine was extremely effective in preventing covid-19 infection. In addition, we found that none of the previously infected employees who remained unvaccinated were reinfected over the duration of the study. This information could help guide vaccination efforts should there be a shortage of vaccine supply and in countries where vaccine supply is limited,” the clinic said in a statement June 9. (The study in question has not been peer-reviewed.)

“This is still a new virus, and more research is needed. It is important to keep in mind that this study was conducted in a population that was younger and healthier than the general population. In addition, we do not know how long the immune system will protect itself against re-infection after covid-19.” (Earlier in the interview, Hannity also said: “I believe in the science of vaccinations. ... I don’t want anyone dying from this thing. ... Also, talk to your doctor.”)

‘Some pretty serious side effects, including death’

We also previously fact-checked the second part of Johnson’s claim: “There is a risk to the vaccine. Again, it’s very small but there are some pretty serious side effects, including death. We are already over 5,200 deaths reported on the VAERS system.”

Johnson cited reports from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a database co-managed by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, and he said death was a rare but possible effect of a coronavirus vaccination.

No study or case has established this. The VAERS database does not say coronavirus shots caused the reported deaths. Anyone can submit a report to VAERS; they are not verified. U.S. officials and experts make a point of saying that VAERS data should not be used to draw inferences such as Johnson’s and that federal agencies have other systems to monitor developing health risks tied to vaccines.

M. Miles Braun, a professor at the Georgetown University School of Medicine who served in public health positions at the CDC and FDA, previously told us this Johnson claim was a “misuse of the data.” Correlation by itself does not establish causation, he said.

“The kind of inferences he’s making, we really try to caution users not to use the data as he’s using it,” said Braun, who worked with the VAERS data for 13 years at the FDA.

Let’s pretend for a moment that the VAERS database does establish cause and effect. The death rate of 0.0018 percent from coronavirus vaccinations would be 1,000 times lower than the mortality rate from known cases of getting the disease (which is 1.8 percent in the United States).

The CDC says no evidence has established coronavirus vaccines as the cause of any death: “More than 334 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from Dec. 14, 2020, through July 12, 2021. During this time, VAERS received 6,079 reports of death (0.0018%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. FDA requires health care providers to report any death after covid-19 vaccination to VAERS, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause. Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem. A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines. However, recent reports indicate a plausible causal relationship between the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and TTS, a rare and serious adverse event — blood clots with low platelets — which has caused deaths.”

As of May 12, more than 8.7 million shots of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine had been administered, 28 women who received it had developed TTS, and three of them had died, a CDC official said, adding that the benefits of the vaccine still outweighed the risk. A causal link between the vaccine and the deaths has not been established.

Henning sent us links to various local news reports from around the country documenting how some people died shortly after getting a coronavirus vaccine. Keep in mind: Nearly half of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated against covid-19. Officials have not said the vaccine was the lone cause of death in any of the cases. In many of these news reports, doctors and family members of the deceased are quoted as saying that the cause of death could be unrelated.

In one case, a teacher who lived in El Paso and worked in Las Cruces, N.M., got vaccinated while he was positive for covid-19 and died. People who are positive for the disease should wait to get vaccinated until any symptoms clear and the requirements to stop isolating are met, the CDC says.

The Pinocchio Test

Johnson repeated two unscientific claims in this Fox News interview, but his phrasing went further than before when he said coronavirus vaccines come with the risk of “some pretty serious side effects, including death.”

He keeps disregarding scientists’ published findings about vaccine immunity and the clear guidance from federal health agencies and doctors. He failed to heed experts’ admonitions about his wrongheaded use of the VAERS data. His advisers have been unable to rebut, over the course of two months, the CDC’s assertion that currently “available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines.”

We don’t know what motivates this one-man campaign of misinformation on a vital public health issue, but it’s clear this is a deliberate effort and not just a few stray comments.

Johnson earns Four Pinocchios. As we said in March, we intend to fact-check the senator whenever he makes false or misleading claims about this issue.

 

Weekly News From Your Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair

 


 

Dear fellow Wisconsin Democrats, 

Our hearts ache for the lives lost in Afghanistan yesterday. Two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of people at the Kabul airport, killing at least 60 Afghans and 13 U.S. servicemembers. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the brave servicemembers and civilians who were killed and injured by these horrific attacks.

 These are, we must hope, part of the tragic closing scenes of a brutal war that has left hundreds of thousands of human beings dead—an incalculable cost.

 Now-President Biden, then-President Trump, and the American people have all been in agreement for years that it was time for the United States’ war in Afghanistan to end. After Trump negotiated a US withdrawal with the Taliban, released Taliban fighters, and drew down US forces, the Taliban strengthened and prepared to attack. President Biden faced a stark choice: a new surge of US troops to the country and increased loss of life, with no clear goal, or completion of his commitment to end the war. He chose to keep his promise. (I recommend this Twitter thread by a longtime diplomat, which lays out the context clearly.) 

 We can’t let President Biden’s critics rewrite history—what we’re seeing now is the result of decades of disaster, a situation handed to President Biden upon his inauguration. The human pain is tremendous. But a vision of endless war would bring yet greater pain. Now the world’s goal must be to help families find safety and peace, including those who worked with U.S. forces over these past two decades. 

 Wisconsin has a role to play. Families just like yours and mine, who happened to grow up in a different part of the world, are seeking to start a new life here, and to contribute to our communities. At the heart of Wisconsin values is the commitment to welcoming and protecting our neighbors. And this is not the time to abandon those values. 

Republicans political figures—from Ron Johnson to Derrick Van Orden to state legislators to their allies in right-wing talk radio—are already seeking to divide us by speaking fear and falsehoods. Their voices must not drown out our state’s fundamental decency. Wisconsin’s best essence has always included a bedrock, selfless commitment to looking out for one another.  

Leadership means living out your values and bringing people together. Thankfully, Governor Evers and President Biden, in welcoming refugees to Fort McCoy here in Wisconsin to other communities in our country, are demonstrating exactly that kind of leadership. 

 Let’s stand with them. Wisconsin’s Department of Children and Families has a great guide to ways to assist refugees, including a link to a PDF listing DCF’s partner agencies all over the state. A few of them include Lutheran Social Services of WI & Upper WI, Jewish Social Services, International Institute of Wisconsin, and World Relief

 Think about how you would feel if you and your family had to travel to a new country to start a new life of freedom and safety. Now think about what you can do to help Afghan families arriving now. Donate. Volunteer. This moment must bring out the best in all of us. 

 Afghan refugees, you are welcome here.

 Ben 

 

FIGHT

 

A Year After Police Shooting of Jacob Blake, The Fight for a More Just and Equitable Wisconsin Continues

 

This week marks one year since a police officer shot and seriously injured Jacob Blake in Kenosha, as well as the tragic killings of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber.

 As these dates bring up traumatic memories for Black Wisconsinites, the Kenosha community, and our state as a whole, we send our deepest condolences to Jacob Blake and to the families of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and wish them and their loved ones strength. This year’s anniversary is yet another horrifying reminder of the violence of white supremacy, which devalues, maims, and ends Black lives in our state.

We have to fight racism head-on. Every single day. On the ground. That work demands all of us -- you, me, and those we elect to represent us. That means having committed leaders who are willing to work proactively for equity and racial justice. I’m proud to say that Gov. Evers has been taking important steps to work towards just that -- including his leadership helping Kenosha repair and rebuild, with millions of dollars directed to support small businesses to ensure the community bounces back.

Appallingly, instead of moving forward and coming together, Republican politicians relentlessly lie, stir up conflict, and sow division in a community that has been through so much. The GOP’s repeated lies and false ads are a disgusting and unproductive campaign to politicize a tragedy, and a deliberate insult and provocation to those who have been organizing and protesting in defense of Black lives. Republican politicians are trying to distract and divide Wisconsinites, and slow down the movement for racial justice by spreading lies about the state’s response. One year after a series of infuriating and sickening events, the people of Kenosha deserve better.

 We must keep our focus on coming together and fighting for a just and equitable Wisconsin. If our laws do not prevent or address injustice, it is time to change them. This means confronting and defeating racism and white supremacy in our state and in our nation. Black lives matter.

 

Colectivo Votes to Unionize

 

In a huge win for workers this week, Colectivo workers voted to unionize, setting them up to become the largest unionized cafe workforce in the country. Workers unionized with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 494 and voted to bring more than 300 baristas, bakers, roasters, and other workers across 16 stores in 2 states together under one union. This move ensures workers will have fair wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions. It also has broader implications for other cafe and restaurant workers in Wisconsin and nationwide. When workers come together, they improve conditions for everyone and create a better, stronger America. We congratulate the workers of Colectivo on this giant step forward!