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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Oath Keepers Leader Found Guilty of Seditious Conspiracy in Jan. 6 Case - The New York Times

Oath Keepers Leader Convicted of Sedition in Landmark Jan. 6 Case

"A jury in federal court in Washington convicted Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right militia, and one of his subordinates for a plot to keep Donald Trump in power.

Stewart Rhodes wearing a hat that reads “Oath Keepers,” a blue shirt and an eye patch.
Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militia, in 2016.Jim Urquhart/Reuters

Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, and one of his subordinates were convicted on Tuesday of seditious conspiracy as a jury found them guilty of seeking to keep former President Donald J. Trump in power through a plot that started after the 2020 election and culminated in the mob attack on the Capitol.

But the jury in Federal District Court in Washington found three other defendants in the case not guilty of sedition and acquitted Mr. Rhodes of two separate conspiracy charges.

The split verdicts, coming after three days of deliberations, were nonetheless a victory for the Justice Department and the first time in nearly 20 trials related to the Capitol attack that a jury decided that the violence that erupted on Jan. 6, 2021, was the product of an organized conspiracy.

Seditious conspiracy is the most serious charge brought so far in any of the 900 criminal cases stemming from the vast investigation of the Capitol attack, an inquiry that could still result in scores, if not hundreds, of additional arrests. It carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Mr. Rhodes was convicted of sedition along with Kelly Meggs, who ran the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers at the time of the Capitol attack. Three other defendants in the case — Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell — were found not guilty of sedition.

Mr. Rhodes was acquitted of two different conspiracy charges: one accusing him of plotting to disrupt the certification of the election on Jan. 6 and the other of plotting to stop members of Congress from discharging their duties that day.

A charge that traces back to efforts to protect the federal government against Southern rebels during the Civil War, seditious conspiracy has been used over the years against a wide array of defendants — among them, far-right militias, radical trade unions and Puerto Rican nationalists. The last successful sedition prosecution was in 1995 when a group of Islamic militants was found guilty of plotting to bomb several New York City landmarks.

The Oath Keepers sedition trial began the first week in Federal District Court in Washington in early October when Jeffrey S. Nestler, one of the lead prosecutors in the case, told the jury in his opening statement that in the weeks after Joseph R. Biden Jr. won the election, Mr. Rhodes and his subordinates “concocted a plan for an armed rebellion to shatter a bedrock of American democracy”: the peaceful transfer of presidential power.

Mr. Nestler also closed the government’s case last week, declaring that the Oath Keepers had plotted against Mr. Biden, ignoring both the law and the will of the voters, because they hated the results of the election.

“They claimed to be saving the Republic,” he said, “but they fractured it instead.”

In between those remarks, prosecutors showed the jury hundreds of encrypted text messages swapped by Oath Keepers members, demonstrating that Mr. Rhodes and some of his followers were in thrall to outlandish fears that Chinese agents had infiltrated the United States government and that Mr. Biden — a “puppet” of the Chinese Communist Party — might cede control of the country to the United Nations.

The messages also showed that Mr. Rhodes was obsessed with the leftist movement known as antifa, which he believed was in league with Mr. Biden’s incoming administration. At one point during the trial, Mr. Rhodes, who took the stand in his own defense, told the jury he was convinced that antifa activists would storm the White House, overpower the Secret Service and forcibly drag Mr. Trump from the building if he failed to admit his defeat to Mr. Biden.

Prosecutors sought to demonstrate how Mr. Rhodes, a former Army paratrooper with a law degree from Yale, became increasingly panicked as the election moved toward its final certification at a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6. Under his direction, the Oath Keepers — whose members are largely former law-enforcement officers and military veterans — took part in two “Stop the Steal” rallies in Washington, providing event security and serving as bodyguards for pro-Trump dignitaries.

Throughout the postelection period, the jury was told, Mr. Rhodes was desperate to get in touch with Mr. Trump and persuade him to take extraordinary measures to maintain power. In December 2020, he posted two open letters to Mr. Trump on his website, begging the president to seize data from voting machines across the country that would purportedly prove the election had been rigged.

In the letters, Mr. Rhodes also urged Mr. Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, a more than two-century-old law that he believed would give the president the power to call up militias like his own to suppress the “coup” — purportedly led by Mr. Biden and Kamala Harris, the incoming vice president — that was seeking to unseat him.

“If you fail to act while you are still in office,” Mr. Rhodes told Mr. Trump, “we the people will have to fight a bloody war against these two illegitimate Chinese puppets.”

As part of the plot, prosecutors maintained, Mr. Rhodes placed a “quick reaction force” of heavily armed Oath Keepers at a Comfort Inn in Arlington County, Va., ready to rush their weapons into Washington if their compatriots at the Capitol needed them. Mr. Caldwell, a former Navy officer, tried at one point to secure a boat to ferry the guns across the Potomac River, concerned that streets in the city might be blocked.

Mr. Rhodes tried to persuade the jury during his testimony that he had not been involved in setting up the “quick reaction force.” But he also argued that if Mr. Trump had invoked the Insurrection Act, it would have given the Oath Keepers the legal standing as a militia to use force of arms to support the president.

On Jan. 6 itself, Mr. Rhodes remained outside the Capitol, standing in the crowd like “a general surveying his troops on the battlefield,” Mr. Nestler said during the trial. While prosecutors acknowledged that he never entered the building, they claimed he was in touch with some of the Oath Keepers who did go in just minutes before they breached doors on the Capitol’s east side.

Even with the convictions, the government is continuing to prosecute several other Oath Keepers, including four members of the group who are scheduled to go on trial on seditious conspiracy charges on Monday. Another group of Oath Keepers is facing lesser conspiracy charges at a trial now set for next year, and Kellye SoRelle, Mr. Rhodes’s onetime lawyer, has been charged in a separate criminal case."

Oath Keepers Leader Found Guilty of Seditious Conspiracy in Jan. 6 Case - The New York Times

Man Charged In Brookhaven Antisemitic Graffiti Case: Police | Brookhaven, GA Patch

Man Charged In Brookhaven Antisemitic Graffiti Case: Police

"Brookhaven Police said graffiti images were spray painted on various buildings throughout the area of Dresden Drive.

Brookhave Police investigate after receiving repeated calls of graffiti displaying antisemetic remarks.
Brookhave Police investigate after receiving repeated calls of graffiti displaying antisemetic remarks. (Shutterstock)

ATLANTA, GA — A 25 -year-old Peachtree Corners man is being charged in connection with two antisemitic graffiti incidents near Dresden Drive, Brookhaven Police said Tuesday.

Anthony Freshwater is being charged on suspicion of four counts of criminal damage to property-hate crime, vandalism at a place of worship and three counts of loitering and prowling, police said.

An investigation into the incidents began on Nov. 1, when officers responded to Dresden and Apple Valley Road due to antisemitic graffiti found at multiple locations, police said.

Various comments were spray painted on the side of a private townhome near Apple Valley, underneath an overpass on Dresden, University Baptist Church and on exterior windows of local businesses, police said.

The Brookhaven public works department removed the graffiti, police said.

Brookhaven investigators used close-circuit TV to locate a suspect, who was seen walking along Dresden overnight on Nov. 11, police said.

Freshwater was arrested Monday at his home in Peachtree Corners, police said. He was booked into the DeKalb County Jail.

“There is no place for hate in Brookhaven, whether it is antisemitic graffiti or any other kind of divisive rhetoric which seeks to target, marginalize or stigmatize any racial or ethnic group," Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst said in a news release. “We have come too far collectively to allow the actions of one or more persons to try to reverse the progress we have made. I commend the Brookhaven Police Department for their tireless work and dedication, which led to an arrest of this heinous crime.”

Man Charged In Brookhaven Antisemitic Graffiti Case: Police | Brookhaven, GA Patch

🚨 Herschel Walker's campaign dealt fatal blow days before election

Proud, Scared and Conflicted. What the China Protesters Told Me. - The New York Times

"

Proud, Scared and Conflicted. What the China Protesters Told Me.

"In more than a dozen interviews, young people explained how the events of the past few days became what one called a “tipping point.”

A protest in Shanghai on Sunday drew crowds and a heavy police presence.
The New York Times

They went to their first demonstrations. They chanted their first protest slogans. They had their first encounters with the police.

Then they went home, shivering in disbelief at how they had challenged the most powerful authoritarian government in the world and the most iron-fisted leader China has seen in decades.

Young Chinese are protesting the country’s harsh “zero-Covid” policy and even urging its top leader, Xi Jinping, to step down. It’s something China hasn’t seen since 1989, when the ruling Communist Party brutally cracked down on the pro-democracy demonstrators, mostly college students. No matter what happens in the days and weeks ahead, the young protesters presented a new threat to the rule of Mr. Xi, who has eliminated his political opponents and cracked down on any voice that challenges his rule.

Such public dissent was unimaginable until a few days ago. These same young people, when they mentioned Mr. Xi online, used euphemisms like “X,” “he” or “that person,” afraid to even utter the president’s name. They put up with whatever the government put them through: harsh pandemic restrictions, high unemployment rates, fewer books available to read, movies to watch and games to play.

Then something cracked.

After nearly three long years of “zero Covid,” which has turned into a political campaign for Mr. Xi, China’s future looks increasingly bleak. The economy is in its worst shape in decades. Mr. Xi’s foreign policy has antagonized many countries. His censorship policy, in addition to quashing challenges to his authority, has killed nearly all fun.

As a popular Weibo post put it, Chinese people are getting by with books published 20 years ago, music released a decade ago, travel photos from five years ago, income earned last year, frozen dumplings from a lockdown three months ago, Covid tests from yesterday, and a freshly baked Soviet joke from today.

“I think all of these have reached a tipping point,” said Miranda, a journalist in Shanghai who participated in the protest on Saturday evening. “If you don’t do anything about it, you could really explode.”

In the last few days, in interviews with more than a dozen young people who protested in Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Wuhan, I heard of a burst of pent-up anger and frustration with how the government implements “zero Covid.” But their anger and despair goes beyond that, all the way to questioning the rule of Mr. Xi.

Two of these people said that they don’t plan to have children, a new way to protest among young Chinese at a time when Beijing is encouraging more births. At least four of the protesters said that they were planning to emigrate. One of them refused to look for a job after being laid off by a video-game company in the aftermath of a government crackdown on the industry last year.

They went to the protests because they wanted to let the government know how they felt about being tested constantly, locked inside their apartments or kept away from family and friends in the Covid dragnet. And they wanted to show solidarity for fellow protesters.

They are members of a generation known as Mr. Xi’s children, the nationalistic “little pinks” who defend China on Weibo, Facebook and Twitter. The protesters represent a small percentage of Chinese in their 20s and early 30s. By standing up to the government, they defied the perception of their generation. Some older Chinese people said that the protesters made them feel more hopeful about the country’s future.

Zhang Wenmin, a former investigative journalist known under her pen name Jiang Xue, wrote on Twitter that she was moved to tears by the bravery of the protesters. “It’s hard for people who haven’t lived in China in the past three to four years to imagine how much fear these people had to overcome to take to the streets, to shout, ‘Give me liberty, or give me death,’” she wrote. “Amazing. Love you all!”

As first time marchers, most of them did not know what to expect. A Beijing protester said that she was so tense that she felt physically and emotionally exhausted the next day. More than one person told me that they needed a day to collect their thoughts before they could talk. At least three cried in our interviews.

They are proud, scared and conflicted about their experiences. They have different views about how politically explicit their slogans should be, but they all said that they found shouting the slogans cathartic.

Miranda, who has been a journalist for eight years, said that she couldn’t stop crying when she shouted with the crowd, “freedom of speech” and “freedom of press.” “It was the freest moment since I became a journalist,” she said, her voice cracking.

All the people I interviewed asked me to use only their first name, family name or English name to protect their safety. They had felt a relative safety when marching with others just days earlier, but none dared to put their name to comments that would be published.

The slogans that they recalled chanting were all over the place, illustrating the wide frustration with their lives. “End the lockdown!” “Freedom of speech!” “Give back my movies!”

Quite a few of them were taken aback by how political the Saturday protest in Shanghai turned out to be. 

They were equally surprised, if not more, when more people returned on Sunday to request the release of protesters who had been detained hours earlier.

All six Shanghai protesters I spoke with thought that they were going to a vigil on Saturday evening for the 10 victims who died in a fire Thursday in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region in China’s west. In the beginning, the atmosphere was relaxed.

When someone first chanted, “No more Communist Party,” the crowd laughed, according to Serena, a college student who is spending her gap year in Shanghai. “Everyone knew it was the redline,” she said.

Then it became increasingly charged. When someone yelled, “Xi Jinping, step down!” and “C.C.P., step down!” the shouts were the loudest, according to Serena and other protesters who were also there.

In Beijing, a marketing professional in her mid-20s with the surname Wu told her fellow protesters not to shout those politically explicit slogans because that would guarantee a crackdown. Instead, she shouted slogans that urged the government to implement the rule of law and release detained Shanghai protesters.

A protester in Chengdu and one in Guangzhou, separated by 1,000 miles, both said that they were stopped from shouting slogans that other demonstrators deemed too political and were told to stick to the Covid-related demands.

For many of them, this weekend was their first brush with the police. A protester named Xiaoli in Chengdu said that she had never seen so many police in her life. After being chased by them, she said that she could hear her heart beating fast when she passed by officers on her way home.

It was clear that many protesters blame Mr. Xi for the extremely unpopular “zero-Covid” policy. A young Shanghai professional with the surname Zhang said that Mr. Xi’s norm-breaking third term, secured at last month's party congress, spelled the end of China’s progress. “We all gave up our illusions,” he said.

He cried when he mentioned an old man’s question during this year’s Shanghai lockdown, “Why has our country come to this?” Mr. Zhang, who said that he grew up poor in a village, was grateful for the government’s assistance in his education. “I thought we would only move upward,” he added.

The young protesters are most conflicted about the impact of their actions. They felt powerless about changing the system as long as Mr. Xi and the Communist Party are in power. They believe that many people in the public supported them because the unyielding Covid rules have violated what they see as baseline norms of Chinese society. Once the government relaxes the policy, they worry, the public’s support for protests would evaporate.

At the same time, some of them argued that their protests would make the public aware of their rights.

No one knows what the protests will become — a moment in history, or a footnote. The official state media has kept quiet, though some pro-government social media bloggers have pointed fingers at “foreign forces.” Police have enhanced their presence on the streets and called or visited protesters in an attempt to intimidate them. 

I asked Bruce, a Shanghai finance worker in his 20s, whether the protests meant that people have changed their view of Mr. Xi. He responded, “It was probably not because the public’s opinion of him changed, but because those who are critical of him have spoken up.”


Proud, Scared and Conflicted. What the China Protesters Told Me. - The New York Times

Monday, November 28, 2022

Televangelists: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Georgia Voters React To Walker In New Warnock Campaign Ad

Opinion | What If We Just Ignore Donald Trump - The New York Times

If We Ignore Donald Trump We Might See Who He Really Is

Jason Andrew for The New York Times

By Patti Davis

"Ms. Davis is an author and a daughter of President Ronald Reagan.

When I was about 8 or 9, I was bullied ruthlessly in school by a boy in my class. I faked being sick so I wouldn’t have to go to school, but my parents figured out that something was going on and my father came in to talk to me. I confessed to him that I was scared of my tormentor, and what followed was a lesson in the beauty of ignoring another person. He explained that bullies crave attention and that if they are ignored, they sort of deflate. He then showed me how frustrating it is to feel like you’re invisible, by ignoring me when I tried to speak to him. It worked. I returned to school, I ignored the bully and he gave up his attacks on me.

Donald Trump is like the abusive boyfriend or ex-husband who won’t go away. In that situation, one would take out a restraining order, but obviously we can’t do that with Mr. Trump. So how about not making him the predominant news story? I have noticed, to be fair, that he is a little less predominant, but let’s face it, he is still everywhere in the news. I understand that announcing his candidacy for president is news. But does it have to be a front-page story? Does the end of his exile from Twitter have to dominate the day’s coverage? Does every move he makes, every ridiculous statement he utters, have to be reported?

With each news story, each segment on television, we are giving him the elixir that keeps him going — attention. There are plenty of things going on in the world that are more important than Donald Trump. We have a planet to save. Russia is still waging war on Ukraine, and still imprisoning American citizens like Brittney Griner. The West is running out of water. There are mass shootings so often it’s hard to keep track of them. Just to name a few really important issues.

What if there was a collective pledge among responsible news organizations to take Donald Trump off the front pages, to not talk about him every single day? He would huff and puff and try to blow the house down, but no one would be paying attention. Think of how much calmer the waters would be. Think of how many other stories would get the bandwidth they deserve.

It’s not easy ignoring someone who keeps barreling onto the world stage, determined to create chaos and eviscerate the democracy we depend on, but it is often the only remedy that will work. The person being ignored will find himself alone on a battlefield he created, with only his own voice bellowing around him. Linger on that image for a moment — Donald Trump all alone in the wilderness, with only his own voice to keep him company.

There was a very satisfying end to the story of my school bully. My parents insisted that I had to invite everyone in my class to my birthday party — I couldn’t be rude and leave him out. We had my birthday parties at our ranch and the entertainment was a man with a horse and a dog, who had trained the dog to ride on the horse and do other tricks. Then the kids would get a chance to ride the horse for a few moments. My former tormentor burst into tears and recoiled at the idea of getting on a horse. He was terrified, and everyone started laughing at him.

Every bully has something they’re scared of. Every bully has something that knocks them off their game and reveals the weaknesses they’ve worked so hard to hide. All the media has to do is turn away from Donald Trump and we will see who and what he truly is. Aren’t you at least curious?"

Opinion | What If We Just Ignore Donald Trump - The New York Times

Sea level rise follows an East Coast island community that already moved once - Washington Post

On the edge of retreat

"An island community moved to the mainland. Now the fast-rising sea is following — a warning for the rest of the East Coast.

Methodology

Monthly data for all contiguous U.S. tide gauges from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Level Trends page were analyzed over 1993-2021, with 1993 chosen to match the first full year of the satellite sea level record. Linear trends were calculated using an approach that takes into account autocorrelated errors, following the methodology that NOAA has outlined for analyzing sea level trends.

For each site, we required that at least 70 percent of years have complete data (i.e., 12 monthly values); this affected 19 sites out of 103 in the contiguous United States. All trends have an associated uncertainty; for Virginia, this ranges from +/- 1.15 millimeters per year at Kiptopeke, Va., to +/- 1.47 mm per year at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, where data are unavailable after 2017.

Different methods exist for calculating sea level trends. We also examined 1993-2021 trends calculated by the University of Hawaii Sea Level Center for a select group of U.S. tide gauges, and trends calculated over a slightly different period (1990-2020) by the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level. In most cases, the results are similar, especially for the U.S. East Coast.

There is no long-term tide gauge record at Oyster, Va., and it is not clear which existing Virginia gauge would most closely reflect the changes there. The nearest record, at Kiptopeke, shows seas rising by 4.7 millimeters per year, somewhat lower than other Virginia records. This could reflect lower rates of land sinking or some other factor related to the placement of the gauge, according to Molly Mitchell at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. (Subsidence rates are not expected to change greatly going forward, and this would not affect future trends related to climate change.)

Hampton Roads is about 30 miles from Oyster and is generally a benchmark for the region. The trend there is also the midpoint among the five Virginia sites in our analysis, with two sites showing lower rates and two showing higher ones.

Sinking land is a factor in many U.S. tide gauge readings, not just in Virginia. U.S. sea level rise rates are highest on the Gulf Coast, where land subsidence rates also tend to be the highest because of oil and gas and drinking water extraction, and other factors. However, satellite trends suggest that sea level rise offshore is also elevated along the Gulf Coast, just as it is along the southeastern U.S. coast.

Global gridded sea level data is from the NOAA Laboratory for Satellite Altimetry; the mapped data show trends from late 1992 through early 2022, as calculated by NOAA.

The 1959 aerial photo of Hog Island is from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center; Hog Island’s 2022 satellite imagery is from Planet Labs PBC; historical maps of Hog Island are from NOAA’s Historical Map & Chart Collection. Calculations of area changes to the Virginia barrier islands are from Robbins et al, Geomorphology, 2022.

John Muyskens contributed to this report.

Photos courtesy of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Barrier Islands Center Inc., Donna Fauber, Lisha Bell and the Division of Work and Industry, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

Design and development by Hailey Haymond and Jake Crump. Editing by Monica Ulmanu, Katie Zezima, Joe Moore, and Angela Hill. Copy editing by Mike Cirelli."


Sea level rise follows an East Coast island community that already moved once - Washington Post

Garland Shifts as Justice Dept. Grapples With Trump Inquiries - The New York Times

Covid deaths skew older, reviving questions about ‘acceptable loss’

"The pandemic has become a plague of the elderly, with nearly 9 out of 10 deaths in people 65 or older

Dozens of people take part in the second annual Covid March to Remember in New York City on Aug. 6, to honor the victims as well as survivors of the pandemic. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Dozens of people take part in the second annual Covid March to Remember in New York City on Aug. 6, to honor the victims as well as survivors of the pandemic. (Spencer 

President Biden may have declared the coronavirus pandemic “over,” but from John Felton’s view as the Yellowstone County health officer in Billings, Mont., it’s not over, just different.

Now, more than ever, it is a plague of the elderly.

In October, Felton’s team logged six deaths due to the virus, many of them among vaccinated people. Their ages: 80s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 90s. They included Betty Witzel, 88, described by her family as a tomboy who carried snakes in her pocket as a child and grew up to be a teacher, mother of four, grandmother of nine and great-grandmother of five. And there was Nadine Alice Stark, 85, a ranch owner who planted sugar beets and corn.

Yellowstone County made the decision early in the crisis to recognize each death individually, and Felton said that is as important as ever to acknowledge the unrelenting toll on a still-vulnerable older generation, while most everyone else has moved on.

“I think about someone’s grandfather — the plays they wouldn’t watch, the games on the football field they wouldn’t see,” he said.

More than 300 people are still dying each day on average from covid-19, most of them 65 or older, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While that’s much lower than the 2,000 daily toll at the peak of the delta wave, it is still roughly two to three times the rate at which people die of the flu — renewing debate about what is an “acceptable loss.”

And while older Americans have consistently been the worst hit during the crisis, as evident in the scores of early nursing home deaths, that trend has become more pronounced. Today, nearly 9 in 10 covid deaths are in people 65 or older — the highest rate ever, according to a Washington Post analysis of CDC data.

Some epidemiologists and demographers predict the trend of older, sicker and poorer people dying at disproportionate rates will continue, raising hard questions about the trade-offs Americans are making in pursuit of normalcy — and at whose expense. The situation mirrors the way some other infectious diseases, such as malaria and polio, rage in the developing world while they are largely ignored elsewhere.

S. Matthew Liao, a professor of bioethics, philosophy and public health at New York University, argued that it is possible to keep the economy open while still aggressively pursuing a national booster campaign and requiring masks in health-care settings and nursing homes, for example. But U.S. leaders have chosen not to do so, he said. That worries him.

“There’s a bit of ageism, so to speak, attached to it,” he said, adding, “People, even if they are older, they still have as much claim to live as me.”

In an open letter published Oct. 7 in the BMJ, formerly the British Medicine Journal, Gregg Gonsalves, an associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health, and about a dozen other experts emphasized that “pandemics do not end with a flip of the switch.”

“Despite the widespread belief that the pandemic is over, death and disruption continue,” they wrote.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and other officials have justified their pandemic reset by emphasizing that Americans have more tools to fight the coronavirus than they did a year or two ago. This includes not only vaccines, booster shots and rapid tests, but antiviral pills that can be taken at home and have been shown to greatly reduce severe illness and death if taken early.

“We can now prevent almost all of the deaths that are happening,” she said at a news briefing this month.

However, Walensky acknowledged that deaths among the elderly, especially those with multiple chronic conditions, is “a real challenge.”

“An additional infection,” she said, referring to covid-19, “is something that may turn something they are able to stably live with to something they are not.”

Epidemiologists tend to divide the pandemic into three distinct periods. In the first year, from March 2020 to March 2021, the United States experienced about 500,000 deaths. The toll was about the same the following year. In the third year, the nation is on track to lower that count significantly, to 150,000 to 175,000 deaths — barring a curveball in the form of a new variant.

That means that coronavirus is likely to rank third as a cause of death this year. By comparison, heart disease and cancer kill roughly 600,000 people each year; accidents, 170,000; stroke, 150,000; and Alzheimer’s, 120,000. Flu, in contrast, kills 12,000 to 52,000.

A recent CDC report on covid-19 mortality contained more good news — most notably, a rapid drop in deaths beginning in March that led to a relatively stable period from April through September when there were 2,000 to 4,500 deaths weekly.

But the reduced death toll has not been experienced equally among all age groups.

Unlike flu, which impacts both the very young and the very old, the coronavirus appears to put mostly older people at higher risk of severe disease and death. The proportion of deaths among those 65 or older has fluctuated from eight out of 10 in the first few months of the pandemic, to a low of 6 out of 10 when the delta wave struck in the summer of 2021, to a high of 9 out of 10 today.

Last month, people 85 and older represented 41.4 percent of deaths, those 75 to 84 were 30 percent of deaths, and those 65 to 74 were 17.5 percent of deaths, according to a Post analysis. All told, the 65-plus age group accounted for nearly 90 percent of covid deaths in the United States despite being only 16 percent of the population.

The vulnerability of older people to viruses is neither surprising, nor new. The more we age, the more we accumulate scars from previous illness and chronic conditions that put us at higher risk of severe illness.

When it comes to the coronavirus, though, deaths in Americans over 65 fell dramatically after the arrival of the original series of vaccines since seniors were the most likely to get them. But booster rates for older Americans are now lagging: According to the CDC, 98 percent of those ages 65 to 74 and 96 percent of people 75 and over completed an initial two-shot course. Those rates fall to 22 and 25 percent respectively for the new omicron-specific booster.

To minimize further loss of life ahead of a feared winter surge, the White House announced Tuesday that it was launching a six-week push to increase booster uptake in seniors and other groups that have been disproportionately affected.

“The final message I give you from this podium is that please, for your own safety, for that of your family, get an updated covid-19 shot as soon as you’re eligible, to protect yourself, your family and your community,” Anthony S. Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, said during the briefing, billed as his last before he retires next month.

The issue of age and the pandemic has been a source of tension throughout the pandemic.

When hospitals were hit with a crush of patients in the spring of 2020, some of the debates about allocating scarce resources centered on age. In documents drafted by some medical institutions, “stage of life,” a proxy for age, was sometimes recommended to be used as a tiebreaker in decisions about who should get a ventilator or a bed.

A number of experts, including Liao, expressed discomfort with such rankings. “I really disagree with that view,” he said. “You can imagine a 70-year-old who can do everything — can enjoy friendship, read books and go to movies.”

Jo Rowland, parish nurse at the Harvest Church in Billings whose job includes supporting congregation members and their families through covid illness and death, said society failed many of its elderly in another way, too: through safety protocols at the beginning of the pandemic that left them to die alone.

As more continue to fall victim to the virus, she said, we need to be more thoughtful about how to celebrate their lives and treat their deaths with dignity. “It’s a different type of grief losing an older person,” she said.

While some fault covid-19 policies for not doing enough to protect the elderly, others criticize age-based policies implemented elsewhere. In the United Kingdom, for example, a matrix of recommendations based on age left some seniors feeling they were being discriminated against. Even as stores and restaurants began to open in the summer of 2020, the National Health Service still advised people 70 and older to stay home or “shield.” In Colombia, the government sought to protect older people by closing centers that offered activities for them through August 2020. The policies became controversial for restricting freedom of movement.

Elfriede Derrer-Merk, a geriatric nurse from the University of Liverpool, and others wrote in a journal article in August that many older people felt angry and frustrated that their individuality was ignored.

The “undifferentiated way in which especially the role of age as a risk factor was discussed, and the inclusion of all people above the age of 65 into one homogeneous risk group, often neglected … the diversity of older people and their characteristics and thus drew criticism for fueling ageism in society,” the authors wrote.

Tara Swanigan’s father was in the first wave of deaths that occurred in 2020.

Charles Krebbs had celebrated his 75th birthday shortly before he was infected in July. He had retired from his job as an appraiser in Phoenix and was spending his time reading, gardening, picking up his grandson from school and accompanying him to his football games. He was strong and extraordinarily healthy, Swanigan recalled, but the virus nonetheless ravaged his lungs and he had to be put on a ventilator. He died that August.

Swanigan said she was heartened to hear about President Biden’s campaign to encourage older Americans to get booster shots. But she and other members of Marked by Covid, a nonprofit founded by two women who lost parents to the virus, advocate for more protections for people who are vulnerable, such as additional coronavirus testing. She continues to be shocked by how callous some people have been when she has talked about her father’s death. “Well, your dad was super old,” she recalled one man telling her on social media.

“For seniors and the immunocompromised, it’s almost like we’re saying, ‘You don’t matter. We’d rather just not be inconvenienced,’” she said.

Masks are a particular pain point.

“I was hugely disappointed when they took away the mask mandates for airplanes and other public transportation,” she said.

Given the minimal disruption to daily life from face coverings, and their major impact on curbing transmission, according to studies, she does not understand why public health leaders have stopped promoting their use.

Even one of the most recognizable seniors during the pandemic, Fauci, the National Institutes of Health scientist who is 81, no longer wears a face covering in many public appearances. In pictures from 2020, Fauci was always seen with a mask. Even when he threw the ceremonial first pitch that year on MLB Opening Day between the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals, and was outdoors and 60 feet away from another human being, he was masked.

But last month, when the infectious-disease doctor accompanied TV host Stephen Colbert to a Walgreens in New York City to get a booster shot, neither wore a face covering.

Fauci, through his office, declined to comment on that decision. But in a White House briefing on Tuesday, he talked about face coverings as just one of “multiple interventions and multiple actions” people can take to protect themselves, saying each individual should evaluate their own risks, as well as those of the people around them.

Given the scripted nature of such photo opportunities, the decision to forgo masks horrified Andrew Noymer, a public health professor at the University of California at Irvine. “The message is ‘don’t bother masking,’ ” he said in an interview. “We have given up, and the fact we’ve given up means we don’t care about a certain amount of deaths.”

Noymer, who studies covid-19 mortality, argued that the notion that we can prevent almost all deaths given the pullback of mitigation policies is disingenuous.

“I don’t think they are being totally candid” about the number of deaths the country will face, he said of U.S. officials. “I think it is bleak, and I am trying to steel myself for the winter to come.”

Fenit Nirappil contributed to this report."


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