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Maskless and Inaccurate – The New York Times

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The Supreme Court offers a window into partisan Covid fallacies.
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When the Supreme Court justices emerged from the red drapes at the front of the courtroom last Friday and took their seats — to hear arguments about President Biden’s vaccine mandate — all but one of the justices there were wearing masks. The exception was Neil Gorsuch.
That Gorsuch would resist mask wearing is no surprise. He is a conservative judge with a libertarian streak who has spent his life around Republican politics. In conservative circles, masks have become a symbol of big-government subjugation.
But his decision not to wear one — while the other Republican appointees on the court all were — still felt surprising. The justices usually make an effort to treat one another respectfully. They disagree on the law, sometimes harshly, while maintaining productive and even warm relationships, like the famous friendship between Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“When you’re charged with working together for most of the remainder of your life, you have to create a relationship,” Sonia Sotomayor said a few years ago, describing her welcoming of Brett Kavanaugh. “This is our work family.”
Gorsuch had to know that his masklessness could make other justices uncomfortable, including the 83-year-old Stephen Breyer and the 67-year-old Sotomayor, who has diabetes, a Covid risk factor. Sotomayor sits next to Gorsuch on the bench and, notably, chose not to attend Friday’s argument in person. She participated remotely, from her chambers.
When Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post asked a Supreme Court spokesperson whether Sotomayor had done so because Gorsuch was maskless, Marcus got no response.
One of the few public comments from somebody close to Gorsuch came from Mike Davis, a conservative activist and former Gorsuch clerk. On Twitter, Davis defended his former boss by writing, “We know cloth masks don’t [work].” It was a statement that managed to be both exaggerated and beside the point.
Masks, especially medical masks like KN95 and N95 masks, reduce the spread of Covid, studies show. In response to that evidence, the Supreme Court tells lawyers and reporters in the courtroom to wear medical masks.
The effect of masks may not be as large as their advocates sometimes claim, and masks can impede communication. So I recognize that well-meaning people can disagree about when they should be worn. Still, Gorsuch’s lack of a mask inside the courtroom seemed needlessly risky and disdainful of his colleagues.
“Wearing a mask is the decent thing to do,” Marcus wrote in her Washington Post column, “especially when you are around vulnerable individuals.” This week, Gorsuch again appeared without a mask at the court.
His decision seems emblematic of a country where partisan loyalty can trump Covid reality. It also seems emblematic of a court on which the justices are increasingly willing to behave as partisan actors rather than impartial judges.
And if you’re a liberal reader who’s tempted to believe that those descriptions apply only to Republicans — or a conservative reader who’s frustrated that I have focused on Gorsuch — I hope you will read the rest of today’s newsletter.
During the first hour of last Friday’s two-hour argument, Sotomayor listed the evidence of Covid’s continuing threat, to illustrate the benefits of a vaccine mandate. (Yesterday, the court ruled in the case, blocking Biden’s vaccine mandate for large employers, while allowing a narrower one for health care providers. Gorsuch opposed both mandates, while Sotomayor favored both.)
In making the case for mandates last week, Sotomayor first noted that Covid cases were surging and hospitals were near capacity. She then turned her attention to children: “We have over 100,000 children, which we’ve never had before, in serious condition and many on ventilators.”
That last sentence is simply untrue.
PolitiFact called it “way off.” Khaya Himmelman of The Dispatch described it as false and misleading. Daniel Dale of CNN wrote that Sotomayor had made “a significant false claim.” Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post’s fact checker, called it “wildly incorrect.”
Fewer than 5,000 U.S. children were in the hospital with Covid last week, and many fewer were in “serious condition” or on ventilators. Some of the hospitalized children probably had incidental cases of the virus, meaning they had been hospitalized for other reasons and tested positive while there.
Covid, as regular Morning readers have heard before, is overwhelmingly mild in children, even those who are unvaccinated. The risks are not zero, and they have risen during the current wave of infections, especially for children with major underlying health problems. But the risks remain extremely low.
Consider these numbers: Over the past week, about 870 children were admitted to hospitals with Covid, according to the C.D.C. By comparison, more than 5,000 children visit emergency rooms each week for sports injuries. More than 1,000 are hospitalized for bronchiolitis during a typical January week.
Similarly, the risk of Covid hospitalization for children — even in recent weeks — has been much lower than the risk from the respiratory virus known as R.S.V., as the epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina has shown.
Or consider this: Vaccinated elderly people are at much more risk of severe Covid illness than unvaccinated children.
Sotomayor’s statement may not have been central to the case. But it was not a random error, either. Many other Americans on the left half of the political spectrum have also been exaggerating Covid’s risks to children. As the authors of a Gallup poll last year wrote, “Republicans consistently underestimate risks, while Democrats consistently overestimate them.”
I understand that these exaggerations often stem from an admirable desire to protect children from harm. But the result has been the opposite: The pandemic’s disruptions have led to lost learning, social isolation and widespread mental-health problems for children. Many American children are in crisis — as a result of pandemic restrictions rather than the virus itself.
Last week’s Supreme Court session was striking because it highlighted both halves of the country’s partisan-based self-deceptions. Many conservatives are refusing to wear masks — or, even worse, refusing to be vaccinated — out of a misplaced belief that Covid is harmless. Many liberals are sensationalizing Covid’s risks out of a misplaced belief that it presents a bigger threat to most children and vaccinated adults than continued isolation and disruption do.
Partisanship, as some political scientists like to say, is a helluva drug.
Related:
My colleague Adam Liptak explains yesterday’s court decisions on the mandates.
The lack of a broad mandate will probably lead to more hospitalizations and deaths, experts say. About 27 percent of U.S. adults are not fully vaccinated.
For more on Covid, I appeared on podcasts this week from Mediaite and the American Enterprise Institute.
The U.S. rapid test reimbursement program is set to start tomorrow. Many insurers aren’t ready.
New York State’s ban on evictions expires tomorrow. What happens now?
U.S. college enrollment has dropped by about 6 percent since the fall of 2019.
Australia canceled Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time, days before the Australian Open.
The leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia was charged with seditious conspiracy in the Capitol riot investigation.
Biden will nominate three new Fed officials. If confirmed, they would bring more diverse leadership to the central bank.
Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema reiterated their support for the filibuster, damaging hopes for voting rights legislation.
Georgia Republicans are again considering voting restrictions.
Republican officials will ask candidates not to participate in presidential debates run by the nonprofit commission that has long organized them.
A week of talks between Russia and the West over Ukraine ended without a resolution.
The British royal family stripped Prince Andrew of his military titles as he awaits sexual abuse charges.
Reckless driving, drug deaths and hate crimes are up. America is falling apart, says David Brooks.
“A strange sort of resigned calm”: Michelle Goldberg on Omicron’s arrival in her house.
Nasal ranger: His inventions have advanced the science of smell.
On Tech: Our columnist describes life after Amazon Prime.
The Hunt: An Upper West Side upgrade, but no doorman. Which home would you choose?
Modern Love: A divorce in which nobody moves out.
Advice from Wirecutter: Nonalcoholic drinks for Dry January.
Lives Lived: Alan Scott, the “Father of Botox,” turned a toxin into a medical treatment — and then watched as his innovation became a cosmetic phenomenon. He died at 89.
The Oscars haven’t had a host since Jimmy Kimmel in 2018. That’s changing this year, organizers announced this week, though they haven’t confirmed who will be stepping into the role.
Hosting the Academy Awards is a tough gig: It’s tricky to achieve the right balance of seriousness and humor in an hourslong broadcast. There have been great hosts, like Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal, and strange ones, like an animated Donald Duck in 1958.
But many have struggled with the job, including seasoned comedians like David Letterman (“the gold standard of Oscar bombing,” The Atlantic wrote), and Hollywood stars like James Franco and Anne Hathaway (a disastrous attempt to attract younger viewers). In 2019, the show went hostless after the comedian Kevin Hart dropped out amid backlash over his past homophobic tweets.
The ideal host is a star with mass appeal who can help boost the show’s ratings, which reached an all-time low in 2021. Organizers are apparently considering Tom Holland, who starred in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” The Hollywood Reporter writes. Award nominations will be out on Feb. 8, and the ceremony will air on March 27. — Sanam Yar, a Morning writer
Caramelized mushrooms are bathed in a satiny glaze of honey and butter in this udon dish.
“Belle,” about a high school student who journeys into a virtual world, is “rapturously beautiful,” Manohla Dargis writes. It’s one of several recent critically acclaimed animated films.
Maren Morris is a “soulful, R&B-obsessed hook machine and a storyteller in a Southern tradition,” Joe Coscarelli writes.
Test your knowledge of this week’s headlines with our news quiz.
Stephen Colbert discussed Oath Keepers.
The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was fidgety. Here is today’s puzzle — or you can play online.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: The “E” of E.T. (five letters).
If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. There’s no newsletter on Monday because of Martin Luther King’s Birthday. See you Tuesday. — David
P.S.
Here’s today’s front page.
The Daily” is about Sidney Poitier. “Popcast” is about pandemic jazz.
Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.
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Realm Scans: Navigating the Uncharted Territories of Digital Discovery

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In the expansive landscape of digital exploration, there exists a realm where information becomes an adventure—Realm Scans. Beyond a mere scanning service, this digital haven is where curiosity converges with innovation, and the uncharted territories of digital discovery come to life. Join us as we embark on a journey to unravel the unique dynamics of Realm Scans, navigating through the realms where information is not just scanned but transformed into a digital odyssey.

“Digital Horizons: Exploring the Essence of Realm Scans” is not just a title; it’s an exploration into the multifaceted dimensions of a scanning service that transcends the mundane. This article is an invitation to delve into the layers of technological prowess, user-centric design, and the transformative impact that defines Realm Scans in the dynamic world of digital information.

At the core of Realm Scans lies a commitment to redefining how we interact with information. “Digital Horizons” delves into the innovative features and functionalities that make Realm Scans more than just a scanning service. It’s a digital gateway where documents become gateways to exploration, and information is a portal to new discoveries.

A standout feature is the user-centric approach that defines the Realm Scans experience. “Digital Horizons” explores how user interface design, accessibility, and intuitive navigation are seamlessly integrated to create an environment where users don’t just scan documents—they embark on a digital journey of discovery.

Realm Scans is not confined by the traditional boundaries of scanning; it is a catalyst for a digital revolution. “Digital Horizons” illustrates how Realm Scans empowers users to go beyond the expected, transforming the act of scanning into a dynamic and enriching experience that transcends conventional notions.

As we navigate through the digital horizons of Realm Scans, the article becomes a celebration of the fusion between technology and user experience. It is a recognition that in the world of digital services, there are realms where functionality meets innovation, and where information is a gateway to new digital frontiers.

“Digital Horizons: Exploring the Essence of Realm Scans” is not just an article; it’s an ode to the tech enthusiasts, the information seekers, and the digital explorers who recognize the profound impact of a scanning service that goes beyond the surface. It’s an acknowledgment that in the realms of digital discovery, Realm Scans stands as a beacon, inviting users to embrace the transformative power of information in the digital age.

As Realm Scans continues to redefine the digital scanning landscape, “Digital Horizons” invites us to appreciate the nuances of a service that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary—an exploration where every scan is not just a document but a digital adventure waiting to be unfolded.

Harry Clam

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