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Anti-vaxxers to rally for reopening in New York

Rita Palma, a Blue Point parent shown here

Rita Palma, a Blue Point parent shown here in 2014, is one of the founding officers of the New York chapter of Children's Health Defense, a nonprofit advocacy group. Credit: John Roca

Daily Point

Anti-vaxxers among those fighting to reopen early

As Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo prepares a reopening plan slated to begin May 15 in certain industries and regions of the state, others are pressing for a full reopening to happen far sooner.

But these aren’t just businesses eager to generate revenue. Among the most vocal supporters of such a movement are those who oppose vaccination. It’s their latest battleground.

A “Rally to Free New York” is planned for Friday, at locations around the state, including at 1 p.m. in Hauppauge and at 3 p.m. in Mineola.

In flyers shared on social media, the rally has been labeled as a way to “exercise your rights to life & liberty.” While the posters don’t say who’s sponsoring or organizing the rally, the hashtags on the posters provide some light into where the support is coming from:  #OpenNY #NOIMMUNITYCERTIFICATE #NOMANDATORYVACCINE #NOMANDATEDTESTING .

Another flyer asks whether residents are “furious that the government has decided how you must live your life” or “sick of NOT being able to attend your house of worship freely.”

Some advocates are using the same phrasing anti-vax supporters have used for years: “My body, my choice.” Those on Twitter are pairing #NOMANDATORYVACCINE with #ENDTHELOCKDOWN .

“We can’t wait til May 15!!!” wrote Blue Point activist Rita Palma in a public Facebook post earlier this month. In separate posts, Palma focused on experts who’ve suggested that widespread use of the flu shot could help the United States come fall, by limiting flu cases at a time when a second wave of the coronavirus is possible. Advocacy to the White House, she wrote, should include opposing a mandated flu shot, along with addressing issues of “vax safety, vax choice [and] vax liability.”

Meanwhile, a Facebook group called REOPEN NY has more than 11,500 members, and its posts about the rally have been shared among other supporters, including groups and individuals who are anti-vax. Supporters in the group regularly express concern about mandated vaccines, in addition to their desire to reopen the economy.

Meanwhile, anti-vax activists also are looking forward, backing candidates who support their efforts. Among the latest: Bronx State Assembly candidate Chantel Jackson, who posted on Facebook last year: “We believe in democracy and requiring children to be vaccinated in order to attend school is more like a dictatorship.”

Wrote anti-vax activist John Gilmore, in a post highlighting Jackson’s views: “This is a courageous candidate.”

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Those bluegrass bailout blues

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s diatribe against a legislative “Blue State Bailout” last week may have been a negotiating strategy, but it opened the door to an analysis of the financial relationship between his own Kentucky and the federal government.

Monday morning, both President Donald Trump and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo jumped in the fray. First, Trump tweeted, “Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help? I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?” 

Then Cuomo, asked about Trump’s tweet, went on a prepared rant that first argued we should all be in this together and then laid out the numbers that matter if the states decide to bicker. His takeaway: “If you want to go to who’s getting bailed out and who paid what, nobody would be bailing out New York State,” Cuomo said. “If you want to do an analysis of who is a giver and who is a taker, we are the number one giver.” 

Late last week, Rep. Thomas Suozzi tweeted, “@senatemajldr to NY & States: Drop Dead. Since ’15, NY taxpayers have given the fed gov $116B more than we’ve rec’d back, while Ky has RECEIVED $148B more in fed spending then they gave. NY subsidizes KY! @NYDailyNews@NYGov.”

A 2019 report by the Rockefeller Institute of Government makes the case in more detail. 

Kentucky is second only to Virginia in reaping more from the federal government in spending than it pays in, however, Virginia only comes out on top because of the massive defense spending in that state. So Kentucky is No. 1 in pork.

Kentucky, with a state budget of just $30 billion annually, gets almost $40 billion more from the federal government than it pays in each year. Or, to put it another way, U.S. taxpayers give about $9,145 a year to each Kentuckian, according to 2017 figures. It has one of the highest food stamp recipient percentages in the nation, with 14.1% of households getting the benefit, and one of the lowest median household incomes, at $48,375 a year.

New York, on the other hand, sends the federal government an extra $35 billion a year more than it gets back in spending, losing an average of $1,792 per resident in 2017. And New York actually ranks fourth in giving more to Washington than it receives. First is Connecticut with a loss of $4,000 per capita annually, followed by New Jersey with a loss of $2,368, and Massachusetts, with a $2,343 per capita loss.

So McConnell is really singing the “Bluegrass State Bailout,” endless and astonishing.

McConnell is no stranger to fighting against funding New York’s needs. He did it repeatedly by stymieing the Zadroga Act to pay the medical expenses of 9/11 workers, he did it by fighting against aid for New York after superstorm Sandy, and he continues to do it by fighting against SALT, or the restoration of an uncapped federal deduction for state and local taxes.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Comedy hour

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Quick Points

  • An analysis of data from more than 100 million cellphones during the week of April 13 shows Americans are staying home less and making more personal trips than earlier in the coronavirus crisis. Some analysts call that quarantine fatigue. Others call it stupid.
  • White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx says social distancing will continue through the summer, drawing attention for contradicting Vice President Mike Pence’s assertion that the epidemic will be “behind us” by the end of May. Here’s guessing she still was sugar-coating the end date.
  • Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has announced a phased reopening of the state in which attractions that would draw larger numbers of visitors from outside the local area cannot reopen. Does that mean the Mets will reopen before the Yankees?
  • Wisconsin’s elected Republicans encouraged thousands of protesters to attend a rally against Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ COVID-19-related lockdown orders, but how many of them do you suppose actually spoke at the rally where many attendees did not wear masks or practice social distancing? You get three guesses and the first two don’t count.
  • Experts say reopening America from its coronavirus-related shutdown will depend on a rigorous testing program, including for antibodies. So how good do you feel about that knowing that researchers just found that 11 of the 14 antibody tests on the market are not reliable?
  • To stop people from gathering in large groups and spreading COVID-19, one city in Japan cut down thousands of lilies that are a popular attraction in a local park. So the best way to save life is to destroy life?
  • The White House reportedly has decided to shift its messaging toward touting the economy and highlighting business success stories as they emerge and not focusing on health statistics. Wait, that’s a shift?
  • North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un hasn’t been seen for weeks, provoking speculation that he is gravely ill or dead. Maybe he’s just in quarantine.
  • After watching the most recent “Saturday Night Live” edition, Brad Pitt playing Dr. Anthony Fauci inspires more confidence than Donald Trump playing president.
  • As a fundraiser for hospital supplies, The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum is creating and selling bobbleheads of governors who have emerged as leaders in handling COVID-19 — Andrew M. Cuomo (New York), Gavin Newsom (California), Mike DeWine (Ohio) and Tony Evers (Wisconsin). Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the bobbliest of them all?

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie