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The coronavirus epidemic is surging and taking with it the economy, our ability to gather with friends and family, and our hopes for the future. We need to get it over with. But in the midst of the explosion in new cases, some states are experiencing declines in the number of new cases while other states are witnessing increases.

Changes in the rate of infections have been attributed to political affiliation, defiant lifestyles, and irresponsible leadership. But there may be a simpler answer. Some states may be running out of people who have not already been infected.

Experts estimate that at least two-thirds of the population need to have neutralizing antibodies in order to reach herd immunity. Two-thirds of the 325 million people in the United States is about 218 million people. You can get antibodies that neutralize the virus in one of two ways: taking an effective vaccine, which is only being starting to be administered, or having been infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

About 19 million people in the U.S. have had confirmed cases of COVID-19. But confirmed cases may be the tip of the iceberg. Although estimates vary, the Centers for Disease Control believes that about eight people have been infected for each one person with a documented case. If we multiply the 19 million known cases by 8, it is possible that about 152 million people are already immune. Yet the proportion of people who have been infected and the rate of new cases varies significantly by state.

Using publicly available data sources, I estimated the number of people who might have immunity in each state. The simple calculation multiplies the number of known cases in each state by 8. Then, I divided the number of expected immune people by the state population. The numbers vary dramatically across the country, with North Dakota topping the list at 92 percent in contrast to the least affected state, Vermont, at a mere 7 percent.

A very crude estimate suggests that new cases should begin trending downward when about 60 percent of the population has been infected. My rough estimate showed that five states are likely to have more than 60 percent of their populations previously infected (North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nebraska) with three others (Utah, Rhode Island, and Wyoming) approaching 60 percent.

In each of these states, the recent trajectory for new cases is declining. States where the seven-day rolling averages are trending upward tend to have a lower rate of previous infections: South Carolina (39 percent), Texas (36 percent), Massachusetts (34 percent), California (32 percent), West Virginia (29 percent), the District of Columbia (28 percent), and New York (17 percent).

We have good reason to believe that a previous infection provides immunity. The two new vaccines are estimated to be about 95 percent effective in preventing infections. However, those who have suffered a previous infection may enjoy greater than 99 percent protection.

True, there have been a few cases of COVID-19 survivors who became reinfected. But reinfection is very rare. There are only 31 documented cases among some 81 million people who have been infected.

In two large vaccine trials, people taking the active vaccine were 95 percent less likely than those getting a placebo to get COVID-19. But those injected with placebo were still 200 times more likely to get COVID-19 in comparison to the rate of reinfection among COVID-19 survivors.

To be clear, I am not advocating that people deliberately get exposed to coronavirus. It is simply too large a gamble. COVID-19 can have devasting consequences, including death. That is why so many people oppose achieving herd immunity through careless life choices.

But unfortunately, many people have already become victims of the coronavirus. If they survived without lasting effects, they are not likely to get a new infection. In the states where the virus has hit hardest, we may be running out of people who are likely to get a new case of COVID-19.

We are a big country with the unified goal of defeating the coronavirus. But we are also a federation with 50 states. One size does not fit all, and we must recognize that our state leaders face very different situations.

It is possible that some states may be approaching herd immunity, even without a vaccine. Others remain highly vulnerable. For now, all states should continue to advocate for prudent behavioral approaches to masking, distancing, and hand washing.

State leaders might use the information on previous infections, perhaps augmented by new surveys on antibody prevalence, when they evaluate how they can best prioritize their limited vaccine supplies. Since previous infection may offer protection equal to or better than a vaccine, it makes no sense to give two doses to someone who has already been infected.

In North Dakota, that would free up at least 180,000 doses — enough to give the first injection to nearly a quarter of the population. Leaders could also be better armed to face equally fraught decisions, such as how to ease restrictions and when to open public schools. With prudent use of resources and data-based planning, a return to normalcy may be in our future.

Republished from RealClearPolitics, with permission.

Robert M. Kaplan, Ph.D., is a faculty member at Stanford Medical School Clinical Excellence Research Center, a former associate director of the National Institutes of Health, and a former chief science officer for the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.



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Convicted fundraiser who tried to work his way into Biden’s inner circle sentenced to prison

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Amajor Democratic bundler, who raised large sums for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and consorted with Joe Biden, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for what prosecutors said was a “mercenary” political influence scheme.

Imaad Zuberi, a Californian businessman was sentenced Thursday for schemes to funnel foreign money into U.S. political campaigns, then take millions of dollars for himself.

The Los Angeles Times reported that U.S. Assistant Attorney Daniel J. O’Brien said Zuberi was “purely a mercenary, funneling money to whomever he believed would do his bidding.”

Among the many unsealed court records, Zuberi was seen photographed with Joe Biden and Barack Obama when they were Vice President and President. He was also pictured with former President Bill Clinton and former presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. He took pictures with former Republican Rep. Paul Ryan when he was speaker of the House as well as the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Also included in the Times report was a hacked email chain released on WikiLeaks. Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook messaged colleagues saying, “I’m OK taking the money and dealing with any attacks.” Jennifer Palmieri responded saying, “Take the money!”

He also attended Hillary Clinton’s election night party in New York City in 2016 as well as serving as a co-chair of The Trump Presidential Inauguration Committee.

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Zuberi made more than $950,000 in unlawful donations to the political committees of Obama, Clinton, McCain and others. Zuberi’s activities extended as far as a recent attempt to work his way into the Biden circle, according to Politico.  

In addition to the money he made, Zuberi also raised $270,000 for Hillary Clinton and $1.3 million for President Obama.

Zuberi, 50, pleaded guilty to a “three-count information charging with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)” for making false statements on a FARA filing as well as tax evasion and illegal contributions to political campaigns. He also pleaded guilty in a separate case earlier in June 2020 to a count of obstruction of justice.

“Zuberi turned acting as an unregistered foreign agent into a business enterprise,” Assistant Attorney General for National Secretary John C. Demers said in a Department of Justice news release.

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Cruz responds to pictures of him on Mexico flight, with Texas struggling from deadly winter storm

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Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz confirmed Thursday that he flew earlier this week to Mexico with family members, following the emergence of pictures appearing to show him in an airplane cabin and at a check-in counter, as fellow residents to recover from a deadly winter storm.

Cruz said in a statement that he accompanied his daughters on a flight Wednesday night to Mexico because they had the week off with school canceled.

“Wanting to be a good dad,” said Cruz, who also stated he is returning to Texas on Thursday afternoon.

The storms has been connected to at least seven deaths in Texas and knocked out power to as many as 2.5 million residents. The number of residents without electricity as of Thursday morning was down to less than 1 million, officials said.  

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“My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas,” Cruz also said. “We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm.”

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South Carolina House passes bill that would prohibit most abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected

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The South Carolina House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 79-35 to pass legislation that would prohibit most abortions. 

The bill must pass through a procedural vote in the House on Thursday prior to heading to GOP Gov. Henry McMaster who has indicated that he will sign it, according to the Associated Press. Two Republicans voted against the legislation while two Democrats voted for it. The state Senate passed the measure last month. 

The bill requires doctors to carry out an ultrasound to check for a fetal heartbeat and if a heartbeat is identified an abortion can only be performed in certain circumstances.

The legislation would not penalize a woman for obtaining an unlawful abortion, though the individual responsible for performing the abortion could face consequences.

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The outlet reported that other states have approved similar or even more stringent abortion prohibitions which could be implemented if the Supreme Court throws out the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. All of the other states’ abortion bans are currently entangled by court challenges and if the South Carolina bill is approved it will likely face litigation that prevents it from going into effect, according to the AP.

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