In This Episode
- Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said that students must be in classrooms this year and that schools should require everyone to mask up, but local districts will ultimately decide on their policies themselves. Some workplaces are moving forward with vaccine and mask mandates, but predominantly among their white-collar employees.
- The House failed to pass an extension of the federal eviction moratorium before it ended last weekend, although several states have their own local moratoriums still in place. But millions of Americans could face eviction in the coming months, with an estimated 15 million renters owing a collective $20 billion to landlords in back rent.
- And in headlines: the flooding death toll in China rises, Simone Biles makes a comeback, and a MAGA twitter clone has an ISIS problem.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Tuesday, August 3rd. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Erin Ryan: And I’m Erin Ryan, and this is What A Day, where we’re thankful for educators like Matt Damon’s daughters who taught him not to be homophobic in the year 2021.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, they saved him from a scolding statement from Elton John. And that is good. That’s good for all sides. On today’s show there could be a do-over in the unionization vote at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. Plus, Simone Biles says that she is ready to compete again at the Olympics.
Erin Ryan: But first, summer of irrational exuberance, what have you wrought? We’re going to start with the pandemic and schools. That’s because the Delta variant is absolutely burning through America’s unvaccinated like an Oregon brushfire. And with kids and staff returning to classrooms as early as the end of this month, this year’s back to school season is already shaping up to be confusing at best.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I am not envying any parents, teachers, students, college kids, anybody in the mix right now,
Erin Ryan: No, I don’t want to go anywhere near a school. It’s a confusing time with conflicting rules and guidance coming from different entities and levels of government. The situation is a real obstacle course of buts—that’s but with one T.
Gideon Resnick: OK, thank you.
Erin Ryan: At the federal level, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said yesterday that students must be in classrooms this year and that schools should follow the CDC’s recommendations and require masking for all students, teachers, visitors and staff regardless of vaccination status. But the recommendations aren’t a mandate, which means that there’s a bit of a slap fight going on. State Departments of Education are issuing their own guidance for schools, but local districts ultimately get to decide for themselves. But even those decisions are complicated by other factors, like, for example, in Florida last week, Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order prohibiting schools from imposing mask mandates.
Gideon Resnick: Lord. And this is while Florida is being talked about everywhere as a major COVID hotspot. So why did he do that?
Erin Ryan: Gideon, because he’s a dick.
Gideon Resnick: Well, OK.
Erin Ryan: Also because he wants attention, because he’s probably trying to run for president in 2024.
Gideon Resnick: There you go.
Gideon Resnick: That sucks, but that’s where we’re living. Similar “no mask mandate” rules exist in places like South Carolina and Texas as well. The proliferation of the Delta variant has made all of this even more messy. We know that vaccinated people are almost overwhelmingly spared serious illness and death when or if they catch COVID. But vaccinated people can still test positive for COVID and spread it to unvaccinated people who can and do frequently get very sick or die from it. And as of right now, most school age kids aren’t vaccinated and those that are under 12 years old aren’t even eligible for the vaccine yet.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and then the other part of this whole equation, what about teachers and staff here?
Erin Ryan: Well, the best defense teachers and school staff have against the vaccine in places like South Carolina and Texas is to get themselves vaccinated and voluntarily wear a mask. But some teachers unions are pushing back against vaccine and mask mandates where they’re not illegal. In New York, for example, the union New York State United Teachers pushed back against a vaccine mandate and mandatory testing for unvaccinated teachers. They want classrooms to be safe, but they don’t want safety to be mandatory? I guess. I don’t quite get it.
Gideon Resnick: I’m not sure I fully get it either. Then we’re also seeing these struggles over mandates actually play out in various other workplaces. So what’s happening there?
Erin Ryan: Some workplaces are moving forward with vaccine and mask mandates for employees. But according to a New York Times analysis, those workplaces are overwhelmingly white collar, which means that as we move through this phase of the pandemic, blue collar workers and warehouse workers aren’t working in places with the same safety standards. And speaking of, Gideon, how was your return to the old studio in the Crooked Media offices?
Gideon Resnick: It was glorious, albeit brief. But yes.
Erin Ryan: Yeah, we’re trying to figure it out over here, too. We were supposed to go back to recording Hysteria in person last week, but that got pushed to August 11th. And now with the Delta variant, I’m not sure what the powers that be will decide is best. And it occurred to me the other day that I might go through an entire pregnancy without ever setting foot in the office where I do most of my work, which is quite a trip, quite a trip. So that’s where things stand when it comes to COVID and getting people back to classrooms and workplaces and more. Let’s turn now to evictions. Over the weekend, the federal eviction moratorium lapsed. This was a rule issued by the CDC last September, and it prevented landlords from evicting tenants who weren’t able to pay their monthly rent in full or at all because of the pandemic. We’re going to go over how politicians let this play out. But first, Gideon, this could be a crisis that affects millions of people. How many are we talking about?
Gideon Resnick: Very, very many people. It is truly scary, every single statistic about it. So according to the Aspen Institute, more than 15 million people are residing in households owing as much as 20 billion with a B to landlords. And a survey from the Census Bureau in early July found that 3.6 million people said that they faced eviction in the next two months. There are other analyzes that have found many of those places are concentrated in locations that are COVID hotspots. The federal moratorium protected many of those people from losing their homes for this extent of time that we’ve talked about. I should note that there are a number of states that have enacted their own local moratoriums which continue to exist for now. That includes Illinois, Maryland, Hawaii and California.
Erin Ryan: So how did it come to this, and what have members of Congress said in response?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, this has been months in the making, really, but it all came to a head after the House itself failed to pass an extension last Friday. Reportedly, there were some Democratic members that were accusing others of bowing to special interest groups and actually not wanting to pass it. And then some went even further. On Friday night, Congresswomen Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley slept outside the Capitol building to draw attention to the impending end of the moratorium. And Bush specifically told her colleagues not to leave for August recess without taking action on this, saying that she personally had been evicted multiple times in her life and had to live in a car with her children. Here’s Bush speaking with CNN on Saturday about what she was fighting for:
[clip of Rep. Cori Bush] The house is at recess. People are on vacations. How are we on vacation when we have people, millions of people, who can be start to be evicted tonight? There are people who are already receiving and have received ‘pay or vacate’ notices that will have them out on tomorrow. So people are already in a position where they need help, our most vulnerable, our most marginalized, those who are in need. How can we go vacation? No, we need to come back here. So I’m asking for our colleagues to come back.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and House members did end up leaving for a seven-week recess without resolving the issue.
Erin Ryan: You know, Gideon, this is one of those events that reminds me exactly why Congress is so unpopular. I think it’s like less popular than some communicable diseases.
Gideon Resnick: Yep.
Gideon Resnick: Anyway, there’s some criticism toward the White House, too, for letting the moratorium lapse. But the administration, in its defense, pointed to this Supreme Court ruling in June in which the court left the moratorium in place. But in that ruling, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said that for the moratorium to be extended past July 31st, there would need to be congressional action. So what has been the response to this recent pressure?
Gideon Resnick: A lot of finger pointing over the last couple of days. So last Thursday, the White House said that Congress should take action. That, of course, is 48 hours before this is all supposed to end. But then after this frenzy of the past few days and the inability to pass anything, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other senior Democrats pointed back at the White House and told them to extend the moratorium at least until October 18th, citing the spread of Delta. And then yesterday, Gene Sperling, a White House adviser who is overseeing pandemic relief, said this:
[clip of Gene Sperling] Given the rising urgency of the spread of the Delta variant, the president has asked all of us, including the CDC, to do everything in our power to look for every potential legal authority we can have to prevent evictions.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and so the White House ultimately ended with a similar message to where they started, that they lacked the legal authority to order an extension.
Erin Ryan: Congress and the White House did seem to wait until the last minute to try and extend the moratorium. And for weeks, they both knew about the increasing dangers of Delta and that they presumably lacked legal authority to unilaterally extend it. So is there any immediate relief for people who might be getting that eviction notice?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, there’s efforts, right. Biden had asked the CDC this past weekend to target an extension of the moratorium in areas of the country experiencing COVID surges. That’s according to a statement by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. That did not happen as we go to record, and all I’ve seen is that repeated line about legal authority. Plus, the White House is focusing on states and cities to disperse rental aid. It did lay some blame on them for the fact that so little federal money intended for renters has actually been given out. Per The New York Times. There was about $47 billion in a rental assistance program that was allocated by Congress for this exact thing, effectively to help with rent costs, and something like three billion of that has been given out so far.
Erin Ryan: What?
Gideon Resnick: So, a tiny, tiny—yeah, it’s absolutely insane. And today, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is expected to tell House Democrats more about this distribution of money and what all is going on there. Then one last thing the White House is trying, they are reportedly wanting to press state and local governments to introduce or extend their own bans. So we’re going to keep following this important story throughout the week and we want to include your voices in it as well. If you’re behind on rent or facing eviction, send us a DM on Twitter or Insta with your story for a chance for it to be featured on the show. More on that soon, but that is the latest for now.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Tuesday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we are talking about how to connect and meet with people who share your same selfish disregard for the rest of humanity. Unjected, a dating and friendship app for people who are unvaccinated—yeah, it’s a real thing—was removed from Apple’s App Store this weekend. The app remains on Google’s play store, but has previously had to remove posts to comply with misinformation policies, including ones that refer to, quote “nanotechnology microchips used to connect people to 5G.” In addition to helping antibody-free Americans link up and talk, the app includes a directory of, quote “unvaxxed-friendly” businesses. Unjected has been downloaded 18,000 times, but it’s not known whether it has facilitated its first wedding/super-spreader event. So, Erin, what is your reaction to this app?
Erin Ryan: You know what? I feel like the makers of Unjected could really cash in if they turned around now and offer that 18,000-person database for sale to the general public, because I would purchase it. I want to know where these unvaxxed friendly businesses are so I can avoid them, where these unvaxxed people who only want to intermingle germs with each other—I want to know who they are and where they live so I can avoid them and have nothing to do with them. Yeah, I think that there’s a future for Unjected, an app, but just maybe not in dating, just in avoiding. Gideon, what do you think?
Gideon Resnick: What do you think? Yeah, I completely agree. Like this is a situation in which there should be something within the app that is like directing people to where they should get vaccinated. Perhaps like there is some government employee who gets on here and is pretending that they might be a person who is genuinely unjected, as it were, and they start leading people to the right resources. They suggest like a meetup for a lovely coffee, and in fact, it is a vaccination site, and all’s well that ends well. Just a suggestion.
Erin Ryan: [laughs] So you think like entrapment, like the FBI does, but for public health.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I am not endorsing an act as this. I think there’s probably lots of legal issues involved with it, but it seems like the best possible usage of this kind of a resource.
Erin Ryan: It would make a good Loony Tune, at the very least, that exact plot.
Gideon Resnick: I completely agree. Let’s meet up. We’ll have a drink. I promise that this tunnel is actually leading to more people who are unjected and you won’t, in fact, run into it and flatten yourself like a cartoon. That is my singular promise to you. But just like that, we have checked our temps. If you are on this app, consider getting vaccinated or perhaps meeting somebody who would tell you to, but we’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Erin Ryan: A National Labor Relations Board hearing officer recommended that the Amazon workers at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, hold a new union election. Just this April workers at the facility voted not to unionize with the Retail, Wholesale and Department store union by a huge margin. But those results were contested by the union and others who accuse Amazon of illegally influencing the vote through intimidation and more. A statement from the union said the board heard compelling evidence revealing how Amazon interfered in the vote, which is why they suggest the workers redo the election. This statement is just the first step in making the election happen. Now a regional director will have to issue an actual decision regarding the case, and that could take a couple of weeks. Wow. Do not mess with professional organizers.
Gideon Resnick: No.
Erin Ryan: They will out organize you.
Gideon Resnick: Extreme flooding in central China several weeks ago has now resulted in a death toll of 302, with at least 50 people still missing. This is a dramatic increase from the previously reported number of 99 last week. But it’s unsurprising because Chinese authorities have historically lagged when issuing disaster death tolls and sometimes underreport the totals to mute public criticism of prevention and rescue efforts. Most of the deaths were caused by drowning in basements, subway tunnels and collapsed structures. And the State Council said it would launch an investigation to improve flood management and take action against anyone who did not do their jobs. The floods came after the heaviest rainfall on record, which authorities described as a, quote, “one-in-one-thousand-years event.” Although in our new warm globe, we have a one-in-one-thousand-years event seemingly every three to four weeks.
Erin Ryan: Yeah. Yikes. OK, let’s check on the Olympics. Simon Biles is back and she’s set to compete in today’s gymnastics event finals. It marks her return to the competition after previously withdrawing to focus on her mental health. Biles and recently-minted gold medalist Suni Lee will represent Team USA in the balance beam finals. Count me out, that looks terrifying. Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard made history yesterday as the first openly trans athlete to compete in an individual event at the Olympics. She ended up not reaching the final round of lifting, but she thanked the IOC for supporting her participation in the games. Lastly, British diver and gold medalist Tom Daley made waves this past weekend when he was pictured knitting in the stands while attending multiple events. Obviously, this behavior is endearing until we discover he’s making super ineffective COVID masks to sell online.
Gideon Resnick: No.
Erin Ryan: Man, me saying that sentence is going to will it into the universe. Daley says knitting is his way of staying calm. And if you want to see his work, his knit-stagram is @ made with love by Tom Daley. I just checked it out, and it is really wholesome. It is extremely wholesome.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. I saw him in a beautiful sweater and I want it. I want it now. It’s mine. You can’t do anything about it, Tom. OK, the social media site that set out to build a safe space for vaccine misinformation accidentally built a safe space for ISIS.
Erin Ryan: Wah wah.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Trump-adjacent Twitter cloner GETTR is reportedly full of terrorist propaganda, thanks in part to the site’s loose content moderation policies. GETTR was launched by Trump’s former spokesman, Jason Miller, last month, with a stated goal of, quote, “defending free speech” and, quote, “fighting cancel culture”, since, you know, none of the other tech companies were brave enough to become chat rooms for militant white supremacists. The first wave of non-MAGA posters on the site mostly wreaked havoc by sharing not-safe-for-work pictures of Sonic the Hedgehog—Amazing. But according to Politico, things have since taken a darker turn, with at least 250 accounts by ISIS sympathizers sharing violent material like beheadings and photo shops of Trump being executed. Miller said in a statement on GETTR that ISIS hates Trump because he, quote, “wiped them off the face of the earth.” They’re getting back at him by using his website for the exact thing that it says it’s for.
Erin Ryan: OK, question Gideon, uh, ISIS hates Trump and is posting online because Trump wipes them off the face of the earth. If they are wiped off the face of the earth from where are they posting?
Gideon Resnick: Good Q.
Erin Ryan: Where is the posting coming from? Come on, Jason. I mean, I knew he wasn’t any sort of Mensa threat, but he is just, he is just dumber than a Lego head.
Gideon Resnick: And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go: each week on America Dissected, former Detroit health commissioner Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, talks to the doctors and policy leaders who are working to protect us against society’s biggest threats. And on the latest episode of America Dissected, Abdul is joined by Climate Policy Director at the Roosevelt Institute and author of the Green New Deal, Rhiana Gunn-Wright. For more conversations like this, listen and subscribe to America Dissected wherever you get your podcasts. There are new episodes every Tuesday.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, deactivate your account on GETTR, and tell your friends to listen.
Erin Ryan: And if you’re into reading, and not just safe-for-work Sonic the Hedgehog fanfics like me—what would that even look like or read like? I don’t know—What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Erin Ryan.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And put on your clothes on, Sonic!
Gideon Resnick: At least your shoes. You know, you got to run at some point.
Erin Ryan: No. That makes it more obscene to me. Like if an animal is like fully not wearing clothes, it’s like, oh, it’s like a dog. Dogs walk around naked all the time. But if I see a cartoon wearing only shoes, I’m like, oh, they could be wearing clothes.
Gideon Resnick: Right.
Erin Ryan: But they’re nude.
Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lance. Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers, and Kelly Sadikun is our intern. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.