Newsletter: Biden’s most Trump-like moment yet on COVID

President Biden speaking before a podium
President Biden delivers a prime-time speech about threats to American democracy in Philadelphia on Sept. 1.
(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. I regret to inform you that Southern California finds itself in another heat wave. Let’s look back at the week in Opinion.

I’ve heard it said that a minor transgression by someone you trust feels worse than an outrage committed by a scoundrel. Maybe that explains the deep disappointment over President Biden’s recent assurance that the “pandemic is over.”

Well, it isn’t. COVID-19 is still a leading cause of death in the United States, far worse than the seasonal flu that we all wish this coronavirus would start resembling. In fact, we’ve failed at containment so badly that the virus we were originally told could be defeated by the warmth and sunshine of April 2020 will stick around as a top-10 killer “probably forever,” according to UC San Francisco’s Dr. Bob Wachter (who, to be fair, said Biden’s comment wasn’t entirely unreasonable).


Even if Biden meant to assess the relative threat of COVID compared to where we were earlier, the facts still rate a pandemic designation. Dr. Eric Topol, a physician and researcher whose Twitter feed is a must-follow during the pandemic, lays out the grim facts in a Times op-ed article:

“There are 400 to 500 Americans dying of COVID each day, and that high daily death toll has remained constant for the last six months. In July 2021, we were down to just over 200 deaths per day, half of where we are now. A daily toll in the hundreds is a tragedy, because most COVID deaths could have been prevented by vaccinations, boosters and early treatments.

“It’s not just the deaths. There have been more than 2 million confirmed new COVID infections in the last month, and considering the untested and unreported cases, the real number is a multiple of that, most probably at least fivefold. This means the virus is still fulfilling its principal objective of finding a huge number of new or repeat hosts to help spread and perpetuate itself.

“Some percentage of these people who get infected or reinfected will develop long COVID, manifesting chronic and frequently disabling symptoms for many months or years. There is still no validated treatment for long COVID. The only way to be certain of preventing it is to never become infected.”

Topol’s argument isn’t complicated: Deaths and cases are still high, new variants may take hold, and the effects of long COVID present unacceptable risks that can be avoided. This is all common sense, and reading it gives one the nagging idea that we’re being asked to change our willingness to accept death and illness rather than being assured that things have changed. I’ve written before about this unnerving pressure to go about normal life and abandon protective measures when so many aggravating factors remain; it’s upsetting to see a president who isn’t Donald Trump join that effort.

So no, Mr. President, the pandemic isn’t over — you’re just asking us to act like it is.

Imagine if white vigilantes and “illegals” united for their common cause. Columnist Jean Guerrero says there’s a lot more that people like her and armed Trump supporters “patrolling” the U.S.-Mexico border have in common than some think, and both sides would gain from a bill to provide green cards to millions of undocumented workers in the United States: “Imagine Latina matriarchs and other guerreras teaming up with white vigilantes ... in a common struggle. Such a class-based multiracial coalition would be unstoppable. And strange as it might sound, the constituent groups’ main goals would be compatible.” L.A. Times


Wildfires won’t be a problem just “out here.” Much of the typically wet eastern U.S. is in long dry spell, and the effects are starting to resemble what we’ve seen for the last several years in California: dead lawns, brown trees and warnings not to inadvertently start the next fire. Yes, fire, as in wildfires on the East Coast, which already occur on occasion but have become more common as climate-change-driven droughts intensify in normally humid parts of the country. Atlantic

Americans don’t care about climate change. Here’s how to wake them up. Fossil fuel companies deserve plenty of blame for pulling the wool over our eyes, but activists and scientists on the other side haven’t been terribly adept at messaging, writes Nicholas Goldberg: “Instead of spending money and resources on shaping public opinion, they keep commissioning more policy reports from think tanks and convening more global meetings of scientists — on the presumption that the steady accretion of irrefutable facts will ultimately prevail. The other side knows better.” L.A. Times

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The Times editorial board’s endorsement list is growing. With the Nov. 8 midterm election approaching, members of our editorial board have been busy researching ballot initiatives and interviewing candidates to make their recommendations. Here is a list of endorsements so far (for updates, visit
Proposition 1: Yes
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Proposition 29: No
Proposition 30: No
Proposition 31: Yes
L.A. City Council District 5: Katy Young Yaroslavsky
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L.A. City Council District 15: Danielle Sandoval
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L.A. County Board of Supervisors, District 3: Lindsey Horvath
State attorney general: Rob Bonta
State controller: Lanhee Chen
State treasurer: Fiona Ma
State insurance commissioner: Ricardo Lara
State superintendent of public instruction: Tony Thurmond
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State Assembly District 61: Tina McKinnor

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