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Monday, November 30, 2020

While COVID-19 surges to record highs, Republicans like Blake Filippi encourage more to get infected

Charlestown’s state representative embraces Trump’s insane pandemic “strategy”

By Will Collette

As the coronavirus pandemic keeps getting worse while we wait for the vaccines to come along to save us, Donald Trump and many Republicans have embraced the concept of “herd immunity” as the best way to go.

“Herd immunity” is a real concept that means a high enough percentage of the population has acquired anti-bodies to block an infectious disease from spreading. How high a percentage? The Mayo Clinic says it depends on the disease. For a very infectious disease like COVID, you need a very high percentage.

We eliminated smallpox and polio through herd immunity achieved through near universal vaccination.

“Herd immunity” doesn’t work very well on COVID without a vaccine because of its severity. The only way to achieve the 70-90% of the population with antibodies that stop the disease is for that many people to catch the disease. Some number of them, perhaps millions, will die in the process or suffer long-term damage.

By Mike Luckovich, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
But herd immunity is the perfect lazy man’s solution to the coronavirus pandemic because all you do is let it take its toll until the virus runs out of people to infect. Trump embraced this herd immunity last summer when he realized he could not lie or bluster coronavirus away.

He pushed his actual expert advisors – Drs. Fauci, Birx, the CDC, the Surgeon General, the NIH, the FDA et al. – into a soundproof room. Then last August, brought in Dr. Scott Atlas, a rightwing neuroradiologist with no training or practical experience with infectious diseases to be his new chief science guy - at least until today (Monday, Nov. 30) when he resigned.

Atlas has been a firm believer in herd immunity, although he makes an exception for senior citizens, saying that somehow, while everyone else is getting sick, they should be kept safe. Maybe in special camps or turned into Soylent Green. He’s not very clear on what he means.

To promote herd immunity without vaccines is tantamount to mass murder, and that is exactly what has happened. Over a quarter million Americans have died, many after Trump and red states like the Dakotas adopted “herd immunity” as the way to protect “freedom” and the economy rather than save people’s lives.

Photo by Steve Ahlquist, UpriseRI
We’ve got our own herd immunity guy right here. Charlestown is represented by state Rep. Blake “Flip” Filippi who is also the leader of the Republican Minority caucus. 

I call him “Flip” because of his casual relationship with the truth. He has lied about where he lives. He has changed his position on issues depending on who he is talking to. He has broken promises.

Even his mother Marion Filippi raised doubts about his honesty, stating in a 2016 lawsuit that she had been cheated after being forced into signing documents through “the use of threats, duress and coercion, failure to disclose material information” about family owned property and that her son had filed “amended registration documents falsely claiming that they [Flip and his brother Paul] are the sole managers of the LLCs” that were owned by the whole family. SOURCE: Marion Filippi and Steven Filippi vs. Blake Filippi and Paul Filippi, WC-2016-0627, December 15, 2016, original complaint, Clause 32.

Up until recently, Flip’s primary role in the state’s pandemic efforts has been to complain about procedural issues – especially the lack of in-person General Assembly sessions – and Executive Actions by Governor Gina Raimondo under the state of emergency we have been in for the past several months of pandemic.

Just before Thanksgiving, Flip was interviewed by the odious Sinclair Broadcasting local station, WJAR (Channel 10).

When asked about increased COVID restrictions, Flip said Is the cure to this thing locking us in our homes? There comes a point where the cure is worse than the disease… Maybe the thing to do is massively focus our efforts on our seniors who really are the vulnerable population and allow everyone else to live their lives."

Flip said he was really concerned about the effects of the upcoming “Pause” on restaurants and bars. He should know about that since he is himself a major hotel, restaurant and bar owner on Block Island.

He said: "Many of them have already shut down. The ones that have survived, I have heard from some of them, them don't believe they can take another hit, especially for restaurants December is one of their busiest months.”

So there you have it. Flip has swallowed the Kool-Aid for the “herd immunity” approach, almost mimicking the way Trump COVID guru Scott Atlas describes it. He also puts the interests of businesses like the ones he owns above the public’s health.

Let’s break down where Flip goes totally wrong.

First, what does it mean to “massively focus our efforts on our seniors?” How do you protect seniors when you let everyone else get sick? Does Flip plan to lock all of us up (I say “us” because I am 71 and definitely a “senior”) under armed guard to keep us separate from the COVID-riddled younger population? Flip, you need to explain this remark.

Second, to just let everyone who is not elderly “live their lives” means even sharper inclines in RI COVID cases and hospitalizations that would completely swamp Rhode Island’s hospital system. Westerly and South County Hospitals are being pressured to the max. Rhode Island’s hospitals are full and the state plans to start treating patients in the two mass field hospitals it set up for this contingency starting this week.

Third, It is not true that COVID is a disease of the elderly. Yes, it is true that most COVID fatalities are elderly (94% in Rhode Island), but the non-elderly get most of the infections (77%). 38% of COVID hospitalizations in Rhode Island are non-elderly.

Statistics are from the RI Health Department’s COVID Response data website.

After nearly a year of this virus worldwide, research now shows COVID attacks the respiratory system, shredding the lungs. It also attacks the heart and brain. Serious medical problems relating to COVID can last indefinitely – especially in younger patients.

COVID kills little kids, teenagers and adults, not just Grandma. It tends to leave lasting effects in many who survive it.

Yeah, Flip, just let people live their lives, but how about living their lives safely?

Right now, the virus is out of control in Rhode Island and serious measures must be taken to get it back under control. We are so close to having good vaccines – why blow it now?

When we get the vaccines, I am hoping we will have an aggressive vaccination effort to achieve real herd immunity like the kind that eliminated smallpox and polio. Everyone should be required to be vaccinated against COVID unless they have a verified medical reason why they can’t.

But oh, lest we forget, you are against vaccination mandates, aren’t you, Flip?

Flip has been getting away with slinging bovine excrement since he burst on the scene in 2014 by beating one of Rhode Island’s best legislators, Donna Walsh. He keeps getting re-elected, usually without opposition despite having virtually no legislative achievements.

Despite numerous public clashes, Filippi was actually a soulmate to dethroned House Speaker Nick Mattiello, so any Democrat who wanted to take on Flip and all his money could not count on Mattiello support.

Now he’s being listed as a likely 2022 candidate for Governor, though so far he has demurred. Maybe he’ll let the idea float to draw more of that media attention he loves. Or maybe he’ll simply flip his position again and go for it.

Whether he can fool a majority of Rhode Islanders as he has fooled his pals in the Charlestown Citizens Alliance with his smarm and money will be one big question to follow in this new election cycle.