Why the CDC didn’t recommend tests in their update last week
Plus: What to expect from Biden’s Jan. 6 speech tomorrow and my reaction to a story about journalists of color who are restricted from investigative reporting.
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Happy Wednesday. Did you know today is National Bird Day? It’s designed to raise awareness for the species that are endangered or taken from their natural habitat.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said she was unsure if President Joe Biden had been briefed on the tragedy this afternoon. But here’s First Lady Jill Biden from her official Twitter account:
The city’s police commissioner said it’s too early to say if the fatalities could be considered homicides or if there will be a criminal investigation. Smoke detectors were operating properly when the property was last inspected in May, according to the Philadelphia Housing Authority.
The CDC explains itself
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said this morning during a virtual briefing with reporters that the agency didn’t include a testing recommendation in what became a controversial update to the isolation and quarantine period because the current tests are unauthorized to diagnose infection not determine transmissibility. Walensky previously said the CDC didn’t add a testing requirement to the updated recommendations because it’s possible to still test positive for the virus up to 12 weeks after you’re contagious and/or asymptomatic.
Last week the CDC recommended people with COVID-19 isolate for five days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without a fever for 24 hours), follow that by five days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter. The science indicates that the majority of people transmit the virus in the first day or two prior to the onset of symptoms and the two to three days after.
Walensky said that if people are welcome to test at the end of their five-day window if it gives them additional peace of mind. (If you test positive, you should continue to isolate and quarantine. If not, mask up.) She also pushed back against critics who believe the no-test recommendation is due to nationwide shortages. Jen Psaki did the same in her briefing yesterday, saying that the CDC and FDA make recommendations based on science and data not politics.
White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients confirmed today that the White House has closed the bidding process for the suppliers of 500 million free tests it will distribute to Americans who request them. Once they’re available for delivery, the administration will release a website for people to order tests from. The ETA is later this month.
As expected, Omicron is the dominant variant at the moment, representing 95 percent of new cases (Delta accounts for the other five percent). And in the past week, the CDC reports a seven-day average of 491,700 cases per day (up 98 percent from last week), 14,800 hospitalizations per day (up 63 percent from last week) and 1,200 deaths per day (up five percent from last week).
Finally, if you I was into drinking games, I would suggest one where we took a shot every time a reporter asked the White House or CDC if it plans to update its definition of “fully vaccinated.” The answer is still no. If you’ve completed your primary series of a Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine, then you’re “fully vaccinated.” If you’re boosted, then you’re “up to date” with your COVID-19 vaccine. And that’s that.
What to expect from Biden’s Jan. 6 speech Thursday
Tomorrow marks one year since the insurrection at the US Capitol. I reported earlier this week on the program of events that will take place to commemorate the day.
It’s expected to be a mostly Democratic affair, as most Republicans will be MIA. Some will be in Georgia at the funeral of former US Sen. Johnny Isakson. Others would look foolish attending since they still refuse to acknowledge the truth of the day altogether.
President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will speak from the Capitol tomorrow as well. In case you’ll miss the president’s remarks or are uninterested in tuning in live, here’s are a few noteworthy points:
Biden will be clear-eyed about the threat he believes Donald Trump poses to our democracy. While it’s unknown if the president will address his predecessor by name, Psaki told reporters that viewers will know who Biden is talking about.
The president feels Jan. 6 was the “tragic culmination” of the Trump presidency and reinforced his view that the 2020 election was a battle for the soul of our nation.
Biden’s message to Republicans who think his victory is illegitimate: “You don’t just love your country when you win.”
The president is also expected to touch on voting rights. But Psaki said Biden will speak more on the topic in a “larger format” later. A spokesperson for the vice president did not respond when asked to comment on what we can expect from Harris’s remarks.
Trump canceled the news conference scheduled for tomorrow. He reportedly didn’t appreciate that news organizations wouldn’t cover the event live. A few reporters have speculated he called it off because he didn’t want to take questions from the media.
The grinch didn’t steal Christmas
During today’s White House press briefing, Jen Psaki was joined by Port Envoy John Porcari to update the press on the administration’s progress on removing supply chain bottlenecks. He said 97 to 99 percent of consumers received their holidays packages on time. Republicans spent much of the build-up to Christmas predicting that supply-chain disruptions would ruin kids’ holiday. But the White House says the data speaks of good cheer all around.
I feel so seen
Chantal Flores at Study Hall wrote an exceptional feature on journalists of color who are restricted from investigative reporting:
The ways in which journalists of color view and report on the world are often dismissed, minimized or appropriated within journalism. The systemic issues that impact historically excluded communities are often overlooked by mainstream media, or seen as “underreported” despite the committed coverage carried out by journalists of color, often with little resources.
When the issues become so visible that their coverage is considered mandatory, journalists of color are seen as not being objective enough due to their proximity to the community. On other occasions, journalists are restricted to only covering their communities — and when there is an opportunity to dig deeper into an investigation, resources are meager and editorial support is limited.
Navigating these realities is complex and demoralizing, impacting the well-being of journalists of color and materially excluding them from investigative work.
Perhaps in an act of self-preservation, I avoid writing about most of the reporting challenges I face writing this newsletter. So much of the value it provides depends on my ability to gather and interpret news in original and interesting ways. Sources are critical to this pursuit. But like in most of our personal relationships, we connect with those whom we share commonalities. I’m a Black, gay former fashion editor turned political and cultural reporter covering a federal government comprised of few people who look like me or know (and respect) people like me. That’s obviously made for a higher barrier of entry than white journalists. Another reason I don’t talk about it is because this has been the case my entire career.
It could obviously be worse, of course. I’m grateful to have developed relationships with people at the White House, in Congress and across the political landscape on the strength of a newsletter I created — not a well-resourced legacy brand that prioritizes perceived objectivity over telling a fair and accurate account of the truth — and enriches the reporting you’ve read for at least the past six months.
But the truth is investigative journalism — reporting that reveals something that you should know but that powerful people would rather you not — is expensive and time-consuming. Money, access and institutional support don’t guarantee quality journalism. But they do give reporters time to track leads, shore up legal liabilities and allow subjects an opportunity to respond to claims.
This explains why every day I ask those of you who read this newsletter for free to subscribe and thank those who do at the bottom of each email. I believe it’s better deal for you to support my journalism than give up real estate to advertisers who would likely dilute the voice and attempt to indirectly steer its editorial direction.
I’ll keep making this case every time I press send. Because people often don’t see the value in journalism until it’s published. But most stories you maybe would find meaningful never get told because the people who want to tell them face many of the barriers Chantal writes about in her piece.
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Today in Politics
President Biden received his daily intelligence briefing with Vice President Harris in the Oval Office this morning. There were no other events on his public schedule. The White House COVID-19 Response Team briefed reporters this morning.
Attorney General Merrick Garland delivered remarks this afternoon on the Jan. 6 attack.
The House is in recess.
The Senate is in session to continue consideration of President Biden’s executive and judicial nominees. The Rules Committee heard testimony from the US Capitol Police chief on changes to the force following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The Banking Committee held a hearing to look at the Treasury Department’s community development program, which is designed to help underserved communities access loans and training.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Vermont Gov. Phil Scott delivered their State of the State addresses.