In This Episode
- Nearly 10,000 children seeking asylum have arrived to the United States southern border since February, and a lack of shelter space has led many of them to detention centers with substandard conditions. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the number of people arriving at the border this year is expected to reach a 20-year high.
- Moderna is beginning to test its COVID vaccine in children ages 6-months to 12-years-old, while other drug companies have started or will start trials in slightly older children. There’s some debate about whether 3-feet of distance between students in schools might be sufficient… but the CDC has yet to revise their initial recommendation of 6-feet.
- And in headlines: Georgia voters call on companies like Coca-Cola and Home Depot to stand against voter suppression law, believe it or not Russia did interference in the 2020 election, and Utah’s state legislature wants to block porn on cell phones.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Wednesday, March 17th. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, where we are celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day by moving into a castle like Enya.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, super haunted but super Irish. We’re loving it.
Gideon Resnick: It’s got all the vibes of Luigi’s mansion, with an Irish flair. On today’s show, COVID vaccines and kids, then some headlines.
Akilah Hughes: But first, the latest:
[clip of Secretary Mayorkas] Do not come now. Um, give us the time to rebuild the system that was entirely dismantled in the prior administration. And we have, in fact, begun to rebuild that system.
Akilah Hughes: That was DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in an interview yesterday about the immigration crisis at our southern border, and sending a message to migrants, which seems to be: wait, don’t come now, we are still working on it. So, OK. Secretary Mayorkas also put out a statement yesterday saying that the number of people arriving at the border this year is expected to reach a 20-year high. And the reasons he cited make sense, quote “poverty, high levels of violence and corruption in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries.” These are factors that have existed for years. But he also mentioned two recent hurricanes that damaged the region. And then, of course, there’s the pandemic.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, just overlapping crises. So the number of people migrating has gone up. According to statistics, the bulk of the people are either single adults or families, but there are also unaccompanied children. The administration has a policy to expel adults and families right now. That’s a holdover from the last administration’s pandemic response. But unlike Trump, Biden is not expelling the unaccompanied children, but rather processing them, which also doesn’t seem to be a perfect solution here.
Akilah Hughes: Right. Yeah, not expelling children really does sound good since, you know, they can’t be accounted for on their own in another country. But the capacity to do this right isn’t there yet. Basically, there isn’t enough proper shelter space for kids to be moved to while they wait and so some of them are being put in detention centers which aren’t meant for them. Lawyers who interviewed some of the 9,400 children who’ve arrived alone since February said that some of the young migrants in Texas have reported being left to sleep on gym mats with foil sheets, and some were confined to an overcrowded tent, which is horrific. 9,400, by the way, is about 3x the number of children who were coming this time last year. So the conditions are still absolutely horrific for the so-called greatest country on Earth. I mean, we’re talking about children, like these are little kids.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it is really awful to hear all the time. So, you know, we heard a little bit from Mayorkas, but what are he and the administration actually doing to address this?
Akilah Hughes: Well, again, Mayorkas said he’s not telling people not to come, he’s just telling them to come later. But also, as he pointed out, with the dire nature of these situations these adults and kids are fleeing, that doesn’t feel like a satisfactory solution.
Gideon Resnick: Right.
Akilah Hughes: In the meantime, the Biden administration is trying to solve this in a short term sense by opening up more shelter space for kids. Two DHS officials told The New York Times on Monday that the administration is planning to open a shelter for thousands of teenage boys at a convention center in downtown Dallas. FEMA has also been enlisted to help. But advocates like the ACLU are calling on the admin to limit detentions and quickly establish a more humane asylum system. And this is only one of the immigration issues facing the administration right now. There’s also codifying DACA, creating a secure pathway to citizenship for the people who are already here, and the backlash to ICE arrests, and calls to dissolve it all together.
Gideon Resnick: Just a few small things to tackle. This is what happens, though, when the immigration system is broken and legislation to fix it is pushed off. But on that tip, there is some budding legislation potentially making its way in Congress.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. So Democrats are preparing to push legislation through the House this week that would create a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, while all of this is unfolding at the border. This legislation isn’t the grander piece of Biden’s immigration agenda that would legalize some 11 million unauthorized immigrants, but it is making citizenship easier for Dreamers, farmworkers and others who’ve been granted temporary protected status for humanitarian reasons. The narrower bill seemed to reflect that even within the Democratic caucus, there isn’t full consensus on more comprehensive fixes. Notably, Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham denounce making any of these immigrants citizens until there’s no longer an influx at the border because he thinks it will encourage more people to come. So these bills are likely to run up against Republicans and the filibuster in the Senate—which, by the way, on the filibuster, Joe Biden told ABC he finally supports reforming it in some way. Do it, man. Tired of waiting. It’s like every bill that comes up, we’re like: is he going to support it? Anyway. We’re going to have more on all of this tomorrow. But that’s a quick sense of what’s happening. All right. So let’s talk now about the ongoing pandemic and vaccines.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, we’ve talked about vaccines a ton, but one of the remaining questions for the companies that have gotten approval in the US, is how their vaccines could work for children. So Moderna began to try and answer that question. Yesterday, the company said that they’re starting a trial that is going to test its COVID vaccine in children ages 6 months to 12 years old—that is some young children involved, six months. They’re reportedly looking to enroll 6,750 children in the study and we’ll do something similar to what they did for adults, two shots of either the placebo or the vaccine separated by four weeks. Also, they said they’ll be testing three possible dosages from the size of the one adults are getting, down to a quarter of the size, according to NPR. It’s being coordinated with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Akilah Hughes: I mean, that is very fascinating because, you know, it’s all the same size for adults, but there are some kids who are adult size, or adults who are kid size. So, you know, maybe we’ll all learn something from this. But what’s the plan for tracking it?
Gideon Resnick: It’s a great question. The New York Times reported that the children in the study are going to be followed for a year to spot possible side effects and, of course, measure antibody levels to figure out if it is effective. They’re also going to watch case counts. But one doctor in that article raised the question of why the study would follow children for a year, while adults in the Moderna trials are followed for two. And also asked: why so young initially. That maybe beginning with older kids first could make more sense and then, you know, move on to the infants. To that point, for now at least, it seems like other companies are going about it slightly differently. Johnson & Johnson has also said they plan to test in children older than 12 and under 18, then move on to younger kids, pregnant women and immunocompromised people. And Pfizer is reportedly testing for children ages 12 to 15 now.
Akilah Hughes: All right. Well, outside of vaccines, the other big question for children and COIVD is schools. It’s always schools. So there’s talk of maybe adjusting guidance around social distancing. What is the deal?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s always nice to have another wrinkle to a headache-inducing conversation, but we have one. So first off, in recent days, there is a study published in the journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases—not the best ring to it in terms of names, but maybe I should become a subscriber—anyway, the study was looking at COVID cases in Massachusetts school districts that required the six feet distance, and that required just three feet. The study claims that with all the other mitigation efforts in place, like universal masking, there weren’t major differences in terms of cases. That, though, has not changed official guidance from the federal government as of yet. But the CDC is looking into it and studying the issue further. Here’s Dr. Fauci talking about it on Sunday:
[clip of Dr. Fauci] With the CDC wants to do, is they want to accumulate data. And when the data shows that there is an ability to be three feet, they will act accordingly. They have clearly noted those data. They are, in fact, doing studies themselves. And when the data are just analyzed, and it’s going to be soon—I mean, Jake, you’re asking the right questions. And the CDC is very well aware that data are accumulating making it look more like three feet are OK under certain circumstances.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. So, you know, schools have been struggling for months to figure out how to open safely, and spacing kids out has been one of the major factors. So this is definitely treading on a tricky issue. What have the response has been like so far?
Gideon Resnick: Well, all over the place. You have some people who’ve been saying less than six feet is fine for a while. For instance, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended three to six in schools. And as time has gone on, experts know more about COVID broadly and have focused more on aerosols in the way they move around the room than those nasty, bigger droplets—I’m sorry that I had to say that again—which led to some of the distance-based assessments in the first place. And we’ve also seen that overall, schools have been comparatively a lower-risk environment, and increasingly more teachers are getting vaccinated as well. But even still, others have said that the distance itself in the classroom can help reduce the sheer amount of people in the room and therefore make it safer. According to the AP in Massachusetts where the study took place and the debate about this is raging, a teachers union has argued that three feet is less safe and the teachers had contracts with the six foot rule as a requirement. So tons of moving parts here, which is why the CDC seems to want to take things slowly, not muddy the messaging, and not add risk where it might not need to be. All the while trying to get more kids back in school. God bless everybody trying to figure that out. It could not be me. We’ll keep following all of this, but that’s latest for now.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Wednesday, WAD squad, and sometimes we like to use this temp check segment to recommend things we are watching, reading and doing. So Giddy, what you trying to recommend today?
Gideon Resnick: OK. Yesterday I think I ran through Oscar movies for too long, so I’m not going to do that, but instead I’m going to talk about news. Hell yeah, that’s right: articles. We don’t talk about him enough on the show. But in all seriousness, there was a really good feature in The New York Times on an Amazon Union effort in Virginia that they actually didn’t know about before the story came out, and how the company also, unsurprisingly, tried to bust it there and they reached a settlement. The person that was involved in actually kicking off the union, like driving it, actually was fired at some point in the process of this effort. Yeah. And it was great. It was, it was another just sort of like—it made me think while this is all happening in Alabama, what else don’t we know about, you know, various facilities that have tried this before? And it kind of globalized it for me in a way. So that’s what I recommend. It’s crazy.
Akilah Hughes: That’s a great, great recommendation. We should put a link in our show notes.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, we will. I will. I will make it so, myself. But same question for you, Akilah: what are you recommending today?
Akilah Hughes: Oh, OK. So I’m recommending two things. I am recommending the vaccine—when you are eligible, get it!
Gideon Resnick: Mm hmm. Good stuff.
Akilah Hughes: I am fully vaxxed.
Gideon Resnick: That’s great.
Akilah Hughes: Double vaxxed up.
Gideon Resnick: On a Tuesday.
Akilah Hughes: Seeing a summer more clearly than I think I’ve ever been able to see the future in all of this crap. So, yeah, I honestly think that it goes without saying, that it’s worth it. But, you know, just to remind you, and also—I’m going to have a little Bob Barker moment—have your animals spayed or neutered, right. [laughs] Fauci is scheduled to get, I believe it’s neutered as a boy, on Friday. And, you know, I was all worried about it. I’m like: it’s going to be painful, I’m taking away his wild side, I’m ruining my baby. And in the week leading up to it, you know, it’s been a lot of humping, a lot of red rockets we can’t account for—it’s, it’s too much. You know and I also think that, you know, he can’t go to daycare until it’s over. So I think you should do it. You also don’t want to be on the hook for a bunch of puppies. Right. Like, I’m trying to raise some random dog’s kids because Fauci couldn’t keep it in his pants. So, you know, do the right thing.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Akilah Hughes: Spay or neuter your babies.
Gideon Resnick: I, I think this is a responsible parenting on both fronts. You’re keeping yourself safe. You’re keeping Fauci in line, and in check, helping him into adulthood and being a responsible adult male dog and not fathering children across the L.A. County area.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, he’s a baby. He can’t be raising other babies. Like, [laughs] I’m trying to give him a future. This summer cannot be spent raising children. And, you know, they have, it’s like a two-month gestation period for dogs, so like that would be this summer. I’m just not ready for that. So, I’m going to get it taken care of.
Gideon Resnick: You’ve got it all mapped out. Yeah, I think it’s good. I think post-pandemmy summer is going to be good for both you guys.
Akilah Hughes: I totally feel that. Well, just like that we have checked our temps. They are very cool and excited for unions to form, and summer is to happen, and dogs to no longer be humping things. Stay safe and we’ll be back after some ads.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Coca-Cola, Home Depot and other Georgia-based corporations are facing calls to oppose voter suppression proposals in the state. Several voting rights and civil liberties groups launched a campaign earlier this week buying billboards and full-page ads to pressure the corporations to take a stand. Last week, Georgia’s Republican-led Senate pushed a bill that would repeal no excuse absentee voting, which, by the way, 1.3 million Georgians used to vote in the 2020 election. The measure would also establish new ID rules, limit early voting hours and restrict dropboxes for mail ballots, all of which critics like myself say would disproportionately affect Black residents. Coca-Cola and Home Depot have told news outlets they, quote “align with the opposition to these proposals” but activists want a more explicit denouncement. Until then, I’ll be drinking Kendall Jenner’s favorite soda, the one that tastes like it dripped out of the back of a computer. But this is my brave sacrifice for the movement.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. All right, folks, step up. Home Depot, step up. CNN, where you at, say something. All right. Well, this next headline is a bombshell so if you’re driving, please park your car, turn it off, and sit with your eyes closed for at least 14 minutes before proceeding. OK, it turns out Russia definitely did try to interfere in the 2020 election.
Gideon Resnick: Woah.
Akilah Hughes: That’s according to an intelligence report released yesterday detailing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s extensive efforts to influence the results of the vote. Putin’s goals included, but were not limited to: denigrating the candidacy of President Joe Biden, influencing close Trump allies, and attempting to undermine confidence in the electoral process. The report also confirmed that Trump and his allies embraced the Russian disinformation campaign against Biden by promoting their conspiracy—shock, surprise! But I feel like, we kind of knew. You know, we kind of already knew that. The report found that Iran also carried out a covert influence campaign against Trump during the elections, but did not explicitly support any of the other candidates. So no president for them. China, on the other hand, stayed out of it. Very cool. Biden’s administration is currently expected to announce sanctions related to election interference next week. So suck on that, Vlad!
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, there, there it is. You heard it. You’ve been warned, Vladimir. With their government’s focus mostly on the pandemic, Gulf states like Kuwait and Bahrain were caught off guard by an equally pressing threat: adults drinking coffee out of baby bottles for some reason. A dessert chain called Einstein Cafe apparently started the trend selling baby-bottle coffee drinks that led to long lines and viral posts on Instagram and Tick-Tock. All that’s probably not so surprising if, like me, you come from the proud land of the Unicorn Frappuccino. What’s more interesting is the government response to the trend, which has been not nothing. Last week, cafes serving baby-bottle coffee in Dubai, Kuwait and Bahrain, were fined and ordered to close. A popular news site in Saudi Arabia attributed the trend to a, quote “loss of modesty and religion among women.” while Oman asked citizens to report baby-bottle sightings to the Consumer Protection Agency. I’m guessing actual infants are still in the clear. Just to be careful, though, I would advise all my baby friends in Oman to start drinking everything out of nondescript, unlabeled paint cans.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, you know, just, just be safe ya’ll, OK? [laughs] The baby bottles are a real problem for some reason. The state that brought you low-booze beer wants to bring you low-boob phones. Utah’s legislature passed a law this month requiring cell phones to block pornography by default. The proposal now sits on Republican Governor Spencer Cox’s desk to be signed or vetoed by March 25th. Utah’s government declared porn a public health crisis a while ago, back in 2016, which was long before millions of Utahns were locked inside and getting hit on by their computers for 24 hours a day. The proposed filter is intended for kids, and newly curious adults would be able to turn it off. The ACLU has described the bill as an overreach, while others have cautioned that adult content filters can sometimes block art, educational information, and facts about sex and sexuality. Even if Governor Cox[law] gives his OK, Utah’s law would require five other states to take similar actions before phone manufacturers implement the changes.
Gideon Resnick: This is going to open up a new kind of burner phone market. I’m just predicting it now.
Akilah Hughes: You’re not wrong. I’m selling boob-only phones and those are the headlines.
Akilah Hughes: One last shout out before we go, want a better way to make it clear that you support voting rights and abolishing the filibuster? Well, what better way than wearing it on your brand new Crooked merch. We have brand new T-shirts with lines like: Organizing Works, Abolish the Filibuster, and Make Democracy Easier. As always, a portion of every order is donated to VoteRiders. Head to Crooked.com/store now, to shop.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you’d like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, chug a baby bottle, and tell your friends listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just low-boob phone rules like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out, subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And we’ll see you at our castle this summer!
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. When you’re when you’re vaxxed, we’re coming over, we’re running away from ghosts together.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. Day-drinking it in this castle, come through.
Gideon Resnick: The ghosts don’t get any. I just want to be clear. They’re not allowed.
Akilah Hughes: Bring your own throne.
Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.
Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.
Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon is our assistant producer.
Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Katie Long, Akilah Hughes and me.
Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.