In This Episode
- The Biden Administration is expected to announce as soon as today that boosters should be in order for most fully vaccinated people who got either the Pfizer or Moderna shots. The recommended third dose should come approximately eight months after the last shot. But those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will have to wait on a possible booster shot until results from a study are released in a few weeks.
- The Taliban has started to speak publicly about its plans for Afghanistan, and offered many reassurances that people who formerly assisted the U.S. and NATO, as well as women, will not be targeted. Those promises, however, have been met with skepticism by Afghan civilians as well as other countries.
- And in headlines: the legal settlement over the opioid crisis hits a snag, Chris Cuomo finally opens up about his brother, and New Zealand locks down for a single COVID case.
NYT: Malala, “I Fear for My Afghan Sisters”
Gideon Resnick: It’s Wednesday, August 18th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, the podcast that your campus crush is definitely listening to in their AirPods when you see them walking across the quad.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, step aside, underage drinking, what A Day is the new back to school sensation.
Priyanka Aribindi: And listening to us is way less likely to get you in trouble with the Dean.
Gideon Resnick: Unless they’re a Daily fan and then we can’t help you. Sorry.
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh my God. Sorry. No, No! On today’s show, Chris Cuomo finally speaks out about his brother. Plus, New Zealand entered a three-day lockdown because of one COVID case.
Gideon Resnick: Wow. My goodness. But first, a big update on the US and the Biden administration’s plans for COVID booster shots. So The New York Times broke the story on Monday, but they and others are reporting that the Biden administration is now planning to announce that most fully-vaccinated Americans should get a booster shot eight months after receiving their second dose of either Moderna or Pfizer. So it’s possible that we’re actually going to see that formal decision on this this week, as early as today, in fact, and that these third shots could start getting offered to certain people by mid-September.
Priyanka Aribindi: Last week, federal officials gave the green light to booster shots for people with weakened or compromised immune systems. But what do we know about who will be eligible for a booster when this announcement is made?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so according to the reporting right now, it’s going to look a little like it did at the start. So we could see the first doses going to nursing home residents and frontline health workers. After that, it could be in the same order for when you got the vaccine, essentially. Plus, it appears that people will be given the same vaccine brand as you originally got. So no mixing and matching or shopping for other options for now. Priyanka, this marks a pretty large shift, because as recently as July, federal health officials said boosters were not needed at that point and that it was unclear if and when they would be needed. So this kind of shows how our science and understanding of the virus and the vaccines continues to evolve, especially with Delta continuing to spread.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, that’s a big shift. So can you tell us a little bit more about the science behind this decision?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so a couple of things seem to be going on at once here. I got some expert analysis from Dr. Joshua Sharfstein. He is the Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement at Johns Hopkins. And he told me that the expected decision is partly based off of research on the vaccines in Israel, where a huge percentage of the population got shots and actually got them quite early in 2020.
[clip of Dr. Joshua Sharfstein] There is evidence that the vaccine’s effectiveness starts to wane after about eight months. It would be quite useful for the agencies that are considering this step to really release all the data and the explanation so people can see not just the rationale, but get a sense of how big a deal this is to get this shot.
Gideon Resnick: Right. So on the data that we do know and actually have access to, for now, it suggests that the Pfizer vaccine, which was primarily used in Israel, lost a significant amount of protection against severe disease for older individuals who got vaccinated back in January or February. Now, what’s more, they are also reportedly seeing drops in protection, likely because of the Delta variant, for everyone, from mild or asymptomatic disease. That’s why they began their own booster campaign. So the takeaway isn’t that vaccines are not working, but the situation would be considerably worse without them. And we’re continuing to learn about how to make sure the protection lasts as long as it can with them.
Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. OK, so I hear you talking about Pfizer, you’re talking about Moderna. Notably absent, you and I: J&J, what do people like us need to know?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, well, unfortunately we and others are going to have to wait a bit to see what the guidance is there since this expected announcement on booster’s only applies to the mRNA two-parter vaccines so far—congratulations to everybody out there getting their info before us. But it is conceivably possible that people who got J&J are going to need another shot eventually. Later this month, in fact, the company is reportedly going to put out results of its trial and people who received two doses. So that might offer some more clarity. Also, a lot of people who got J&J got it later, so if there is lower efficacy over time, it’s possible we wouldn’t see it until later.
Priyanka Aribindi: So we will be on the lookout for that soon. You can count on that from our show because both of us got it. But let’s take a moment to talk about kids, many of whom aren’t eligible for a vaccine of any kind. Gideon catch us up on the battles around COVID protections and school.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so this is a mess everywhere. School is beginning or has started, and unfortunately, it is kids who are bearing the brunt of these political decisions. So, for example, the Hillsborough County School District in Tampa, Florida, is going to hold an emergency meeting today to talk about a mask mandate. It comes as more than 8,000 kids and hundreds of employees of the district had to go into quarantine or isolation in recent days due to potential exposure. And this is, of course, after the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, sought to prohibit schools from requiring masks. And in fact, he is reportedly going to penalize two other districts for the gall of wanting to institute mandates, by withholding state funds. It is absolutely ridiculous.
Priyanka Aribindi: Jeez.
Gideon Resnick: And generally across the country too, the number of children that are hospitalized because of COVID has hit a record high in recent days.
Priyanka Aribindi: Awful. That piece about children and keeping them safe is something that hit a nerve when you talk with Dr. Sharfstein from Johns Hopkins, yeah?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. He had a lot to say about all of this.
[clip of Dr. Joshua Sharfstein] I wouldn’t mess around. You know, I’m a pediatrician and I’ve seen kids desperately ill and it’s terrible. And we should be doing what we can to prevent that from happening.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And then he went on to talk about why we may be seeing these rising numbers, what we still actually don’t know, and what the impact is of irresponsible policy.
[clip of Dr. Joshua Sharfstein] You know, I’m just dumbfounded, frankly, by some of these school boards that seem to be acting like COVID is not a worry at all for kids. I think that’s just really dangerous. And people, you know, have to look at the facts rather than whatever misinformation they’re getting from somewhere. They have to turn to credible sources of information and realize that they’re there to help kids, in their [jobs?]. It’s pretty urgent. And I think this is more than just school systems, you know, communities have to say, well, we’re going to prioritize kids, because now it’s a, you know, pediatric pandemic too. Then that means that if cases are up and it may make sense to have some inconveniences for adults in order to protect kids and allow them to go to school. And so if we’re going to put the health of kids first, we really have to, you know, make decisions that show that we do.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, there’s a lot more on all of this that we didn’t get to that we are going to return to soon and we’ll keep you updated on when more of the booster info comes out. So that’s the latest on COVID but switching gears, let’s get into what more we have learned about the unfolding situation in Afghanistan.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, let’s. So the situation in Afghanistan has changed very quickly in the past few days. And now that the Taliban has settled into the country’s capital of Kabul, they’ve been speaking more publicly and we’re starting to learn a little bit more about their plan.
Gideon Resnick: OK, got it. So tell us what is going on at the moment.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I will do my best. So right now, people in Afghanistan and in the international community are very afraid that the Taliban’s return to power will be similar to what we saw when they had control of Afghanistan 20 years ago. They led a brutal regime that violently suppressed the rights of women, girls, and ethnic minorities. Nobody has forgotten that. The Taliban is claiming that this time will be different. When they first arrived in Kabul a few days ago, they promised a new era of peace in Afghanistan, which obviously that would be great but everybody is really, really skeptical. Yesterday, their leaders held a press conference where they tried to reassure people, saying that they won’t be seeking revenge against anyone who opposed them or assisted the U.S. and NATO forces. But Taliban fighters reportedly have lists of people who did this and are seeking them out, which obviously terrifying.
Gideon Resnick: Right. And did they say anything about their plans in regards to forming a government?
Priyanka Aribindi: So the spokesman at the news conference said that talks were in progress, but he didn’t really offer much more detail than that. We’re getting a few details from other sources saying that they’re trying to bring non-Taliban leaders in and bring women into their government. But obviously this all remains to be seen.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and speaking of women, as you mentioned, the treatment of women and girls under the Taliban has obviously been a major, major concern. So what do we know about that aspect so far?
Priyanka Aribindi: Right. So, again, Taliban officials are doing a lot of reassuring right now. In the press conference yesterday, the spokesman offered some loose assurances, saying there will be no violence against women, that their rights will be respected, and that they will be allowed to work and study—really just the basics. Yeah, but there are a couple of catches. First, he added that this would happen, quote, “within the bounds of Islamic law” which could be interpreted any number of ways. There also have been reports of women being sent home from work and not returning to school in Afghanistan. So, you know, we have to see what happens here. Back when the Taliban was in power in 2001, women lived under extreme restrictions and if they defied in any way, they faced violence like stonings and amputations. It was a horrific time. So it’s understandable that returning to anything like that is a huge concern for everybody. We’ll link to an Op Ed by Malala Yousafzai in The New York Times that outlines a few more of these concerns from somebody who experienced this violence firsthand.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and as we reported yesterday, President Biden is standing by the decision to have U.S. troops withdraw, which was one of many, many factors that led to where we are at this moment. But how is the world reacting to the latest statements by the Taliban?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, this is happening really quickly. So policy-wise, it seems like everybody is still figuring it out. Yesterday, President Biden spoke with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson about coordinating with allies. They also agreed to have a virtual meeting with G7 leaders next week. We’re just hoping that by now they’ve all figured out how to do Zoom properly, not be on mute. But the European Union foreign ministers held an emergency meeting yesterday, too, and they made human rights and terrorist prevention preconditions of any cooperation with the Taliban, and the U.N. Security Council has very similar concerns. There also continue to be concerns about evacuations and refugees. We will keep you updated as we continue to learn more. But that is the latest for now.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Wednesday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we are talking about everybody’s favorite international meatball purveyor: it is IKEA. The home furniture company announced Tuesday that it would be expanding into the renewable energy field with their new program STROMMA, named after a locality in Stockholm, Sweden—the name of which I’m probably butchering. The program will initially only be offered to its Swedish customers, but the company plans to roll out the program globally. STROMMA customers will be able to source clean energy sourced through solar and wind, track their own energy production through IKEA solar panels, and sell back any surplus energy produced in their own home. Honestly, it all sounds pretty rad to me. So Priyanka, how complicated do you think those IKEA solar panel pictographic instructions are going to be?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So as you listed every cool thing about this, I was like extra hour, extra hour, extra hour.
Gideon Resnick: Right. Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: You know, I don’t have a lot of faith in this being that doable. But then again, these are for Swedish people. So maybe like IKEA is naturally easier for them. I don’t know. What are you thinking?
Gideon Resnick: I think that they’re giving a lot of faith to Americans in their ability to just be on the roof and be constructing safely. Like, I feel like that’s just like a classic situation in which something bad is going to happen.
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, disaster.
Gideon Resnick: Also, like, these are pretty huge items, right? Like, each part of the panel, we imagine, is going to be like pretty large based on like, you know, other equivalent solar panels that we’ve seen. So I’m just imagining, like, this is a many person job, you know how like you sometimes have, like a friend come in do the one part of the bed IKEA construction.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Your handy friend, who you’re like, you know, it would be so great if you could come how.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. This is asking so much more of the handy friend. It’s like getting on the roof, like holding a big part of the solar panel. Yeah. It logistically sounds, it sounds intense. Just like that, we have checked our temps, install all your solar panels safely with your friends, and we’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: David Sackler testified in bankruptcy court yesterday that he and his family will not contribute billions of dollars in a legal settlement unless they are freed from all current and future opioid-related lawsuits.
Gideon Resnick: Wow.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right now, all suits against the Sackler family had been paused since their company, Purdue Pharma, filed for bankruptcy two years ago. Purdue was found to play a major role in the opioid crisis, which has taken over 500,000 lives. Several authorities, including nine states and D.C., have objected to the Sakler’s legal loophole, arguing that it gives legal protection to the entire family, even though none of them are declaring bankruptcy. If the settlement is approved as it is, the Sackler family, with its collective 11 billion dollar net worth, won’t face any charges related to the opioid crisis.
Gideon Resnick: Jeez.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, not good.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, not good. Texas Governor Greg Abbott tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday. He is fully vaccinated and will remain in isolation while receiving antibody treatments. Isn’t it nice to have that as the option for him? The Republican governor has been vocally against any kind of mask or vaccine mandate for his state, even going so far as to issue an executive order to prevent these safety measures. And even though Abbott is fully vaccinated, Texas lags far behind many other states in its vaccination numbers. The state is currently experiencing a COVID surge, with an average of over 14,000 new cases per day. Yesterday, the state requested five mortuary trailers from the federal government in anticipation of a rise in the number of deaths. Health officials in the state also reported a record number of hospitals that are running out of ICU beds. They’re warning that there may soon be too many patients than hospitals can handle.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, that is awful news for Texas. I mean, I hope he’s OK, but I hope that’s a wake-up call, that he’s fully vaxxed and he’s getting this and, you know, that’s not the case for everybody in his state, so . . .
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Priyanka Aribindi: You may have forgotten about the disgraced governor, Andrew Cuomo, who announced his resignation last week amidst the New York Attorney General’s office, releasing a damning 165-page report revealing that he harassed 11 female employees. I don’t think you guys forgot about him. Well, his younger brother and CNN news anchor Chris Cuomo was conveniently on vacation last week, but he finally broke his silence regarding his brother’s resignation at the end of his show Monday night. Here is a quick clip:
[clip of Chris Cuomo] I’m not an adviser. I’m a brother. I wasn’t in control of anything. I was there to listen and offer my take. And my advice to my brother was simple and consistent: own what you did, tell people what you’d do to be better, be contrite, and finally, accept that it doesn’t matter what you intended. What matters is how your actions and words were perceived. And yes, while it was something I never imagined ever having to do, I did urge my brother to resign when the time came.
Gideon Resnick: I love it. He has like Main Character Syndrome in this story.
Priyanka Aribindi: 1000%! Anyways, he also mentioned having his brother on his show earlier in the pandemic, which many have called a conflict of interest. And he defended it by saying the appearances were, quote, “short lived, over a year ago, long before any scandal.” They also were about who mom liked more. Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo officially filed for retirement yesterday, which will be effective September 1st. As of Monday, New York state lawmakers are continuing their investigation into the governor’s sexual harassment claims, whether he used state resources while landing his multimillion dollar book deal, whether his administration granted special access to rapid COVID tests for the governor’s family and other influential people, and if data on nursing home deaths had been misleading. Jeez. That is a lot of things. However, the state assembly is currently not moving forward with an impeachment inquiry once he leaves office.
Gideon Resnick: Ugh. [sigh] That’s just, my default.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s exhausting.
Gideon Resnick: Yep, all of it.
Priyanka Aribindi: All of it.
Gideon Resnick: Yesterday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a nationwide lockdown after the government became aware of ONE confirmed case of COVID. Sorry if you’re listening in the US, where we are spiritually allergic to public health measures, I did not say one million or one massive outbreak at an indoor country music make-out session, but ONE confirmed case of a 58-year old unvaccinated Kiwi contracting COVID. This is New Zealand’s first case since February! And the lockdown will last country-wide for three days. In Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula, where the man who tested positive had traveled, lockdown will likely last one week. The move may seem aggressive, but neighboring Australia, who handled COVID similarly to New Zealand, has been battling a much larger Delta outbreak for the past few weeks. Moreover, New Zealand’s vaccination rate is still less than 20%, and the proof is in the pavlova: throughout the entire pandemic, New Zealand has reported under 3,000 positive cases in only 26 deaths. So stay safe. New Zealanders, we will be over here in the US smiling through the t0ears.
Priyanka Aribindi: They’ll be great. You know, I’m not worried about them. I’m worried about us! I’m not worried about them.
Gideon Resnick: Deeply worried about us, as always. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go: this is the last week to take the Crooked survey and share your opinions about the show. If you love it, tell us. If you hate it, still, tell us, just don’t mention my name. And as a thank you, we are offering a 20% discount on any order from the Crooked store for everyone who fills out the survey. You can mention my name, it’s totally fine. Find the survey at Crooked.com/survey today. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, single handedly assemble an IKEA solar panel in your apartment, and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just your Cuomo apology of the day calendar like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And New Zealand, take us with you!
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh God, please.
Gideon Resnick: I will learn how to tend sheep.
Priyanka Aribindi: I will also learn! And I’ll do better than Gideon. Take me!
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, there you go. It can be like a contest of sorts.
Priyanka Aribindi: That could be a new reality show. I’d watch that.
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.