Coronavirus: No shame

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As the omicron variant takes over the holidays, US officials are pinning the blame squarely on the unvaccinated. “You’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm,” White House covid coordinator Jeff Zients said at a recent press conference.

It’s easy to see where Zients is coming from. Omicron is a consequence of poor vaccination rates: It emerged where people didn’t have widespread access to vaccines, and has been spreading faster among communities where larger numbers of people are unvaccinated. Many are frustrated by vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccine sentiment, to the point of suggesting unvaccinated citizens pay their own hospital bills if they get severe covid-19.

But while this attitude might be understandable on a private level, it is the opposite of good public health leadership. It’s also unlikely to convince anyone to get a shot.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the US has made little progress in gaining the trust of vaccine-hesitant Americans, instead antagonizing them and dismissing their concerns. That may alienate people with views informed by politics, but it also targets the immunocompromised, many pregnant women, and those who can’t afford to take time off work. It ignores people with poor internet access, people who can’t find information in their language, and people afraid of being asked about their immigration status.

Most of these obstacles can be overcome, and many programs are aimed at doing so. But those efforts are undercut by messaging like Zients’. Yes, individuals should take responsibility for their choices. But the role of public leadership is to stand even for those who mistrust official messaging. Any failure to do so—although tempting—is ultimately a failure of the public health strategy.

Talking points

💉  Do the major vaccines work against omicron? A series of studies, not yet peer-reviewed, suggests that shots and boosters help prevent severe cases.

🛂  Fake vax passports are big business. In Germany, Australia, India, the US, and 20-plus other countries, fake certificates are readily available via social media.

🇮🇳  India’s Poonawalla family donated $66 million to Oxford. The university’s “largest ever gift for vaccine research,” it will be used in part to fund a new building.

🎬​​  Spider-Man: No Way Home killed it at the box office. The movie banked a $253 million weekend in the US, the second highest opening weekend ever.

🚢  Maersk is no longer just a shipping giant. The company will soon run the logistics operations of Unilever, one of the world’s largest consumer goods outfits.

📈  The US Federal Reserve is on inflation watch. The Fed signaled it could hike interest rates next spring, but also sees a growing risk of lingering high prices.

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It works if you antiwork it

Over at the Reddit forum r/antiwork, you’ll find 1.4 million people eager to puncture the dictates of hustle culture. And in a year characterized by strikes, the Great Resignation, and  “lying flat,” their ideas are gaining traction. But what does being antiwork actually mean?

  • In some ways, the antiwork community might be seen as a successor to Occupy Wall Street: a large, dispersed movement without leaders or clear-cut demands, but with an appetite for change at the societal level.
  • Unlike Occupy, the appeal of the antiwork movement transcends political identification. In a recent internal survey of 1,592 sub members, about half self-identified as socialists. But a significant portion (about 15%) said they don’t identify as leftists of any kind.
  • Some other  important antiwork principles: resisting the pressure to go above and beyond in your job duties, and pushing back on the idea that employees need to work a full eight hours if the tasks take them less.

Stocking stuffers

“If you’ve been sitting at a poker table with eight people for 50 years and they’re all really good at the game, and then the drunk guy comes and sits at the table…and all of a sudden he goes all-in on a deuce-seven, not because he’s bluffing, but because he thinks he’s got the best hand, that screws up your game.” —Jaime Rogozinski, founder of the WallStreetBets subreddit

Nearly a year after the WallStreetBets communities on Reddit and Discord orchestrated a massive short squeeze on GameStop, experts say the ordeal has not fundamentally changed the mechanics of Wall Street. But the rise of the retail trader, and the potential for mass-coordinated buying and selling schemes around popular meme stocks, are here to stay, even after the pandemic.

Elsewhere on Quartz

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