U.S. Healthcare COVID-19 2020

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) CDC Situation Summary

The Daily Show: Dr. Anthony Fauci answers some of the most pressing questions surrounding coronavirus: How is it spread? What makes it so insidious? What are the dangers of self-medicating? Can you get re-infected? – 27 March

No evidence of benefit in hydroxychloroquine treatment of COVID-19 patients, study suggests
Researchers examining data from nearly 15,000 COVID-19 patients have found no evidence that taking hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine provides any treatment benefits and may be linked to an increased risk of serious heart complications, a study published in The Lancet says.
Chloroquine — normally used to treat malaria — and the related drug hydroxychloroquine, which is often used to treat autoimmune diseases such as lupus or arthritis, have been the subject of furious debate in the race to find a treatment for COVID-19, fuelled in part by U.S. President Donald Trump’s repeated endorsements of the drugs, which have not been grounded in scientific evidence and have raised alarm among medical experts.
“This is the first large-scale study to find statistically robust evidence that treatment with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine does not benefit patients with COVID-19,” Dr. Mandeep Mehra, the study’s lead author and medical director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart and Vascular Center in Boston, said in a news release on Friday.
“Instead, our findings suggest it may be associated with an increased risk of serious heart problems and increased risk of death.”

15 May
The Lancet blasts Trump, says voters should not reelect him
“The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal, on Friday ripped President Trump’s “inconsistent and incoherent national response” to the coronavirus pandemic, saying in an unsigned editorial that voters should ensure he does not get a second term.
“Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics,” wrote the peer-reviewed journal founded in 1823.
The editorial was focused on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the need to revive it from damage during the Trump administration.”

7 May
As states reopen, COVID-19 is spreading into even more Trump counties
William H. Frey
(Brookings) Even as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, America has begun to open up for some business and limited social interaction, especially in parts of the country that did not bear the initial brunt of the coronavirus. However, the number of counties where COVID-19 cases have reached “high-prevalence” status continues to expand. Our tracking of these newly designated counties shows them to be affecting larger populations in the South and West, residents living outside of dense urban cores and—for the second straight week—places where Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Moreover, high-prevalence counties are continuing to expand in “red states,” enveloping higher shares of their populations.

1 May
Anthony Fauci did in five minutes what Trump has failed to do for weeks
He didn’t promise a “game-changer” or that it would be “available almost immediately.” He didn’t tell us a story about a man taking the drug on his deathbed and miraculously feeling better within hours.
But as he sat in the Oval Office discussing a recent trial for the drug remdesivir with all the fervor of Ferris Bueller’s economics teacher, Fauci did what President Trump failed to do despite weeks of hawking unproven treatments: offer Americans a real sense of hope.
“This is really quite important,” Fauci said, before going on to discuss the study’s statistical significance “for the scientists who are listening.” The drug, he reported, demonstrated “clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery.”

30 April
Georgia Went First. And It Screwed Up.
Here’s what other states can learn from our inept reopening.
Birx risks reputation in bid to keep on Trump’s good side
The taskforce coordinator has tried to walk a diplomatic tightrope – but has failed to speak out against the president’s false claims
(The Guardian) Last Thursday Deborah Birx sat in the White House press briefing roomas the US president speculated on whether injecting disinfectant might offer a “cleaning” of the lungs.
“Don’t do anything he just said!” is what Dr Birx should have exclaimed at that moment, argues Kurt Bardella, a political columnist and commentator, explaining: “A doctor right there has an obligation to correct that in real time. If the president wants to fire that person, then so be it.”
But Birx said no such thing.
The cringeworthy remarks about disinfectant and ultraviolet light compounded fears that Birx, the lead advocate of social distancing, has been somewhat less successful at critical distancing from the president. Like other White House officials before her, she is said to be sacrificing a hard-won professional reputation at the altar of Trump’s vanity.

29 April
Antiviral drug remdesivir shortens time to recover from pandemic virus, top U.S. health official says
Dr. Anthony Fauci says drug reduced time it takes patients to recover by 31%
What We Know About Remdesivir, the Antiviral Drug Dr. Fauci Says ‘Can Block This Virus’
Fauci compared finding remdesivir to finding AZT, a drug that proved crucial for treating AIDS.
Nearly 60,000 Americans are dead. The Trump administration says it’s a great success.
While the Trump campaign would no doubt like to make November’s election about anything other than the novel coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying collapse of the U.S. economy, that will inevitably be the focus of the fall campaign. So how do you spin one of the most catastrophic presidential failures in U.S. history? Just listen to what the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, said on “Fox & Friends” Wednesday morning…
Polls are showing approval for Trump’s handling of the pandemic similar to his approval ratings overall, in the 40s, which suggests that if Trump is your guy you’ll say he’s doing a good job, and if he isn’t, you won’t.

28 April
No Testing, No Treatment, No Herd Immunity, No Easy Way Out
We need to start preparing for a darker reality.
(The Atlantic) But even as the past few days have brought bad news about the science of the pandemic, they have brought terrifying news about its politics: It now seems less likely than ever that the United States will do what is necessary to reopen the economy without causing a second wave of deadly infections.

25 April
Prescriptions Surged as Trump Praised Drugs in Coronavirus Fight
Prescriptions for two antimalarial drugs jumped by 46 times the average when the president promoted them on TV. There’s no proof they work against Covid-19.
On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration warned  the drugs … could lead to serious heart rhythm problems in some coronavirus patients. Days earlier, the federal agency led by Dr. Anthony S. Fauci  issued cautionary advice on the drugs, and stated that there was no proven medication to treat the virus.

23-24 April
Try a little Lysol. Just an Idea. [Not!] Trump suggests using light, heat as coronavirus treatment. President Trump on Thursday suggested medical experts should study exposing the human body to heat, light and disinfectants as a treatment for the coronavirus during Thursday’s White House briefing. Trump walked back his remarks on Friday, telling reporters that he was being sarcastic. (The Hill) Trump breaks with Fauci. President Trump said Thursday he disagreed with Anthony Fauci’s statement that the U.S. does not yet have the testing capacity that it needs to effectively contain the spread of the novel coronavirus as stay-at-home restrictions are relaxed. “No, I don’t agree with him on that.” (The Hill)
FDA issues warning against hydroxychloroquine. The Food and Drug Administration warned patients against taking two anti-malaria medications that have been talked up by President Trump for COVID-19, unless carefully monitored in a hospital or as part of a clinical trial. (Bloomberg)
Trump suggests ‘injection’ of disinfectant to beat coronavirus and ‘clean’ the lungs
(NBC) A Homeland Security official, under questioning from reporters, later said federal laboratories are not considering such a treatment option.

22 April
Statement from leader of federal vaccine agency about his reassignment
(CNN) Dr. Rick Bright, the director of the agency responsible for leading the charge on the production and purchase of vaccines in the Trump administration, released a statement Wednesday blaming political motives for his abrupt reassignment.
” I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit. I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way. ”

21 April
States smuggle COVID-19 medical supplies to avoid federal seizures as House probes Jared Kushner
Health officials go to dramatic lengths to hide shipments of critical supplies from the federal government
(Salon) States have been forced to resort to smuggling shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) after federal officials seized supplies ordered by hospitals without informing officials.
Governors have long complained that the Trump administration has left them to bid against each other on the open market for critical supplies for health workers. However, numerous officials recently claimed that the federal government had seized supplies ordered by the states.
… The seizures had already come under scrutiny from two other House committees after The New York Times reported that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner had “surprised” FEMA officials by redirecting supplies. Kushner himself said during a White House coronavirus briefing that he had supplies delivered to New York after Trump got a call “from his friends” about the conditions in the city’s hospitals.

20 April
Testing becomes a sticking point between Democrats and Trump. Democrats are pushing to include a requirement in the agreement, which includes $25 billion for testing, that the government establish a national testing strategy, according to people familiar with the ongoing negotiations who asked for anonymity to disclose details. Democrats have said that a national testing strategy is crucial to combating the further spread of the coronavirus and allowing states to plan for eventual reopening. Republicans, wary of placing the political onus on the administration to devise and carry out such a strategy, have argued that states should set their own plans.
Brett Giroir, Trump’s testing czar, was forced out of a job developing vaccine projects. Now he’s on the hot seat.
President Trump has given Giroir the crucial task of ending the massive shortfall of tests for the novel coronavirus. Some governors have blasted the lack of federal help on testing, which they say is necessary to enact Trump’s plan for reopening the economy.

18 April
Conservatives Fuel Protests Against Coronavirus Lockdowns
(NYT) In addition to the “You Can’t Close America” rally in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, modest demonstrations took place in the capitals of Nevada, Indiana and Maryland.
The rally rode a wave of similar protests at statehouses and in city streets this past week, with people also gathering on Saturday in Indianapolis; Carson City, Nev.; Annapolis, Md.; and Brookfield, Wis. As some governors expressed interest in reopening their states, some prominent local conservatives turned to Facebook groups and other social media to set up protests. Eric Moutsos, a former Salt Lake City police officer, organized a protest in his city for Saturday evening.

The Coronavirus in America: The Year Ahead
(NYT) For weeks now, the administration’s view of the crisis and our future has been rosier than that of its own medical advisers, and of scientists generally. In truth, it is not clear to anyone where this crisis is leading us. More than 20 experts in public health, medicine, epidemiology and history shared their thoughts on the future during in-depth interviews. When can we emerge from our homes? How long, realistically, before we have a treatment or vaccine? How will we keep the virus at bay?
“We face a doleful future,” said Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg, a former president of the National Academy of Medicine.
He and others foresaw an unhappy population trapped indoors for months, with the most vulnerable possibly quarantined for far longer. They worried that a vaccine would initially elude scientists, that weary citizens would abandon restrictions despite the risks, that the virus would be with us from now on.
… In fast-moving epidemics, far more victims pour into hospitals or die at home than doctors can test; at the same time, the mildly ill or asymptomatic never get tested. Those two factors distort the true fatality rate in opposite ways. If you don’t know how many people are infected, you don’t know how deadly a virus is. Only when tens of thousands of antibody tests are done will we know how many silent carriers there may be in the United States. The C.D.C. has suggested it might be 25 percent of those who test positive. Researchers in Iceland said it might be double that.
There may be good news buried in this inconsistency: The virus may also be mutating to cause fewer symptoms. In the movies, viruses become more deadly. In reality, they usually become less so, because asymptomatic strains reach more hosts. Even the 1918 Spanish flu virus eventually faded into the seasonal H1N1 flu.

16 April
Most Americans Say Trump Was Too Slow in Initial Response to Coronavirus Threat
Wide concern that states will lift COVID-19 restrictions too quickly
(Pew Research Center) As the death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to spiral, most Americans do not foresee a quick end to the crisis. In fact, 73% of U.S. adults say that in thinking about the problems the country is facing from the coronavirus outbreak, the worst is still to come.
With the Trump administration and many state governors actively considering ways to revive the stalled U.S. economy, the public strikes a decidedly cautious note on easing strict limits on public activity. About twice as many Americans say their greater concern is that state governments will lift restrictions on public activity too quickly (66%) as say it will not happen quickly enough (32%).
President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak – especially his response to initial reports of coronavirus cases overseas – is widely criticized. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) say Trump was too slow to take major steps to address the threat to the United States when cases of the disease were first reported in other countries.
Opinions about Trump’s initial response to the coronavirus – as well as concerns about whether state governments will act too quickly or slowly in easing restrictions – are deeply divided along partisan lines. These attitudes stand in stark contrast to the assessments of how officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and at the state and local level are addressing the outbreak, which are largely positive among members of both parties

11 April
A devastatingly detailed account of the battles within the administration
He Could Have Seen What Was Coming: Behind Trump’s Failure on the Virus
An examination reveals the president was warned about the potential for a pandemic but that internal divisions, lack of planning and his faith in his own instincts led to a halting response.
(NYT) Throughout January, as Mr. Trump repeatedly played down the seriousness of the virus and focused on other issues, an array of figures inside his government — from top White House advisers to experts deep in the cabinet departments and intelligence agencies — identified the threat, sounded alarms and made clear the need for aggressive action. The president, though, was slow to absorb the scale of the risk and to act accordingly, focusing instead on controlling the message, protecting gains in the economy and batting away warnings from senior officials. It was a problem, he said, that had come out of nowhere and could not have been foreseen.
Decision-making was also complicated by a long-running dispute inside the administration over how to deal with China. The virus at first took a back seat to a desire not to upset Beijing during trade talks, but later the impulse to score points against Beijing left the world’s two leading powers further divided as they confronted one of the first truly global threats of the 21st century.

9 April
How Did the U.S. End Up with Nurses Wearing Garbage Bags?
A Silicon Valley C.E.O., Jared Kushner, and the race to get P.P.E. for America’s hospitals.
By Susan B. Glasser
(The New Yorker) …at a White House briefing last week that will surely go down as one of the Administration’s most callous performances, Kushner said publicly what he had in effect told Ries’s Silicon Valley contacts a couple weeks earlier, in a private phone call with business leaders and government officials: the states were responsible, and the U.S. national stockpile was ours, not theirs. The President agreed. Governors should have prepared their states while there was still time. “We’re a backup. We’re not an ordering clerk,” Trump said at the same news conference.

6 April
Why Does the President Keep Pushing a Malaria Drug?
What is actually known about hydroxychloroquine, the medication that Trump is fixated on recommending for COVID-19
Over the course of these two weeks, the president of the United States has become the world’s most prominent peddler of medical misinformation. While some very early evidence has shown that hydroxychloroquine may influence the course of COVID-19, Trump is overriding his top medical adviser and minimizing serious risks by encouraging Americans to try the drug right now.
Stealing masks and stockpiling hydroxychloroquine — what America has become during this epidemic is deeply worrying
Under Trump’s crisis leadership, the US has been accused of modern piracy on the airport tarmac, considered denying medical supplies to Canada and taken medication off lupus patients. Meanwhile, New York has to take donations off China
(The Independent) …if coronavirus presents any lesson inherent, it’s that borders and boundaries are useless in a global economy. If one state or country or leader fails, we all do, which is why hoarding supplies, or stealing from each other, or engaging in subterfuge has no long-term use beyond tanking everything. The greed of piracy fails to see the broad picture of how a world depends on the health, safety, and welfare of all of its residents, rich and poor, American, British, French, German, and every other nationality in between. Asking American companies not to provide medical supplies to Canada or South America will have a direct impact on people inside the US. That’s a fact that President Trump has never grasped, and likely never will.

5 April
This is the most complete up-to-date summary of the evolving situation regarding medical supplies and equipment that we have seen
U.S. ‘wasted’ months before preparing for virus pandemic
(PBS) As the first alarms sounded in early January that an outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China might ignite a global pandemic, the Trump administration squandered nearly two months that could have been used to bolster the federal stockpile of critically needed medical supplies and equipment.
A review of federal purchasing contracts by The Associated Press shows federal agencies waited until mid-March to begin placing bulk orders of N95 respirator masks, mechanical ventilators and other equipment needed by front-line health care workers.
By that time, hospitals in several states were treating thousands of infected patients without adequate equipment and were pleading for shipments from the Strategic National Stockpile. That federal cache of supplies was created more than 20 years ago to help bridge gaps in the medical and pharmaceutical supply chains during a national emergency.
Now, three months into the crisis, that stockpile is nearly drained just as the numbers of patients needing critical care is surging. Some state and local officials report receiving broken ventilators and decade-old dry-rotted masks.

2-3 April
Tensions Persist Between Trump and Medical Advisers Over the Coronavirus
The president’s public refusal to wear a mask was the latest way he has cast doubt on their recommendations.
(NYT) Some of the president’s health advisers in recent days have argued that restrictions on social interaction and economic activity that have shut down much of the nation need to be expanded to all 50 states and that more Americans need to adopt them. Mr. Trump, by contrast, has characterized the crisis as generally limited to hot spots like New York, California and Michigan and has expressed no support for a nationwide lockdown. “I would leave it to the governors,” he said on Friday.
Experts and Trump’s advisers doubt White House’s 240,000 coronavirus deaths estimate
Inside the White House’s effort to create a projected death toll
(WWaPo) The experts said they don’t challenge the numbers’ validity but that they don’t know how the White House arrived at them.
White House officials have refused to explain how they generated the figure — a death toll bigger than the United States suffered in the Vietnam War or the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They have not provided the underlying data so others can assess its reliability or provided long-term strategies to lower that death count.
Michelle Goldberg: Putting Jared Kushner In Charge Is Utter Madness
Trump’s son-in-law has no business running the coronavirus response.
Trump Replaced White House Pandemic-Response Team With Jared Kushner
By Jonathan Chait
(New York) Reviews of Kushner’s efficacy in this role have varied widely, presumably depending on whether their sources are the officials working with Kushner or the ones whose authority has been stripped away by him. It is at least plausible that, despite his horrendous lack of qualification for the job, the decrepit state of Trump’s government is such that having Kushner run a cobbled-together coronavirus task force is the best available option right now. There is no chance that bringing in a rich kid who happened to marry into the family to direct the federal government’s response to a catastrophic pandemic is an optimal, or even reasonable, management structure.
What his involvement shows is that the concept of the high-level coronavirus-pandemic office was correct. There needed to be a dedicated office capable of alerting the president early, marshaling resources, and coordinating action across numerous agencies. Trump has discovered this only too late.
In a 2018 letter to the president written the day the pandemic-response coordinator left, Senator Sherrod Brown warned, “There needs to be one person at the NSC, with the backing of a capable team, who can coordinate across agencies to ensure that we have the resources necessary to guard against and respond to any outbreak that threatens the United States.” That is almost a word-for-word description of the role Kushner is filling right now.

27 March
A lottery for ventilators? Hospitals prepare for ethical conundrums
While some states have ethics guidelines in place, there is no national standard for who gets access to scarce life-saving machinery.
(Politico) It’s the cruel calculus facing American hospitals as Covid-19 cases skyrocket, our executive health editor Joanne Kenen writes. A shortage of ventilators, hospital beds and other life-saving equipment is forcing providers to develop plans that would help them determine who goes to the front of the line for treatment. There is no uniform, national legal or ethical framework guiding such triage decisions. The American health care system is entirely unprepared to make such moral calls.
Under Intense Criticism, Trump Says Government Will Buy More Ventilators
(NYT) In another day of mixed messages, the president criticized G.M. and authorized the use of the Defense Production Act to force it to make ventilators after the company had already announced it was going to.
Just 24 hours before, he had dismissed the complaints of mayors and governors who said that they were getting little of the equipment they needed for an expected onslaught of serious cases. And this week he praised companies that — General Motors included — were rallying to help provide necessary equipment.

The Religious Right’s Hostility to Science Is Crippling Our Coronavirus Response
Trump’s response to the pandemic has been haunted by the science denialism of his ultraconservative religious allies.
By Katherine Stewart
(NYT) Donald Trump rose to power with the determined assistance of a movement that denies science, bashes government and prioritized loyalty over professional expertise. In the current crisis, we are all reaping what that movement has sown.

26 March
U.S. Now Has the World’s Largest Coronavirus Outbreak
By Matt Stieb
On Thursday afternoon, the United States, despite woefully insufficient levels of testing, earned the dubious honor of having the most coronavirus cases in the world, with 82,177 American patients surpassing China’s 81,285.

24 March
Let Andrew Cuomo speak for America, not Trump
On Monday, he and Cuomo expressed nearly the same idea but in such different ways. Guess which one was terrifying and which sounded plausible and realistic.
Trump signaled that he was thinking of “opening up” the country to avoid allowing the cure to be worse than the problem. He probably meant that shutting down the economy might hurt the United States more than the virus. His solution, however, would be to end lockdowns even as the virus is spreading.
Cuomo framed nearly the same idea in a vastly different way. Explaining that we had hit pause to grapple with the sudden crisis, he said it was now time to begin thinking about how to reenter the private sector. He suggested that young, healthy people might be able go back to work, as could those who have had the virus and are now immune.
One man drops a word bomb; the other explains his thoughts in logical fashion so that people can follow his reasoning and arrive at the same conclusion.

19 March
Before Virus Outbreak, a Cascade of Warnings Went Unheeded
Government exercises, including one last year, made clear that the U.S. was not ready for a pandemic like the coronavirus. But little was done.
The outbreak of the respiratory virus began in China and was quickly spread around the world by air travelers, who ran high fevers. In the United States, it was first detected in Chicago, and 47 days later, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. By then it was too late: 110 million Americans were expected to become ill, leading to 7.7 million hospitalized and 586,000 dead.
(NYT) That scenario, code-named “Crimson Contagion” and imagining an influenza pandemic, was simulated by the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services in a series of exercises that ran from last January to August.
The simulation’s sobering results — contained in a draft report dated October 2019 that has not previously been reported — drove home just how underfunded, underprepared and uncoordinated the federal government would be for a life-or-death battle with a virus for which no treatment existed.
… Three times over the past four years the U.S. government, across two administrations, had grappled in depth with what a pandemic would look like, identifying likely shortcomings and in some cases recommending specific action.
In 2016, the Obama administration produced a comprehensive report on the lessons learned by the government from battling Ebola. In January 2017, outgoing Obama administration officials ran an extensive exercise on responding to a pandemic for incoming senior officials of the Trump administration.
The full story of the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus is still playing out.

18 March
Trump invokes Defense Production Act as coronavirus response
(The Hill) President Trump announced Wednesday he will invoke the Defense Production Act, which would allow the administration to force American industry to ramp up production of medical supplies that are in short supply in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

17 March
Trump, who downplayed pandemic threat, says he ‘always viewed it as very serious’
(Politico) Speaking at the White House coronavirus task force’s daily press briefing, the president was questioned by reporters about his mood at Monday’s news conference, when he struck a graver note relative to his previous appearances discussing the burgeoning outbreak. … “But I didn’t feel different,” he continued. “I’ve always known this is a real — this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”
Kushner Repeatedly Advised Trump the Media Was Exaggerating Coronavirus Threat, Says Report
(Daily Beast) So at least now we know where he was getting his misleading information from. Jared Kushner repeatedly advised President Donald Trump that the media’s coverage was exaggerating the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a report from The New York Times.
New Trump Coronavirus Lie: ‘A Month Ago, Nobody Thought About’ It
By Jonathan Chait
President Trump’s Monday coronavirus press conference was his best since the beginning of the crisis. That is, of course, a relative measure. Trump refrained from ostentatious lying, stopped denying the now-undeniable reality that the bad things are happening, and mostly deferred to experts on questions of fact. …
His most remarkable utterance — one that would have set off an uproar if a normal president had said it — came when he claimed the coronavirus had snuck up on everybody. “We have a problem that, a month ago, nobody thought about,” he proclaimed.
Uh, well, no. In January, two former Trump administration officials wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed pleading with Trump to take the coronavirus seriously. Almost two months ago, Joe Biden wrote an op-ed demanding a more forceful response. Trump spent this entire period relentlessly denying the United States faced any danger at all. (David Leonhardt has a timeline of Trump’s delusional public commentary.)

14 March
Straight-talking Fauci explains outbreak to a worried nation
(AP) — If Dr. Anthony Fauci says it, you’d be smart to listen. As the coronavirus has upended daily life across the globe, Fauci has become the trusted voice in separating fact and fiction.
The fear and confusion of outbreaks aren’t new to Fauci, who in more than 30 years has handled HIV, SARS, MERS, Ebola and even the nation’s 2001 experience with bioterrorism — the anthrax attacks.
At 79, the government’s top infectious disease expert is by age in the demographic group at high risk for COVID-19. But he’s working round the clock and getting only a few hours of sleep. He’s a little hoarse from all the talking about coronavirus, and he’ll be on the TV news shows Sunday. Yet his vigor belies his age, and he credits it to exercise, including running. As of Thursday, he had not been tested for coronavirus. The National Institutes of Health, where he works, said that’s because he hasn’t needed to be.

13 March

Trump declares national emergency in latest bid to combat coronavirus

Trump said the move would free up $50 billion in additional funding and waive requirements to speed up coronavirus testing and care.
Trump touted partnerships with private companies that he claimed would allow patients to learn if they need to be tested and locate a testing site, some of which will be drive-thru facilities at big box retailers across the country.
Yet even as Trump unleashed $50 billion in government funding, the announcement had a distinct market-first flavor.
Trump outlined a series of agreements with private companies, including Google, Target and Walmart, to facilitate swifter coronavirus testing for Americans. Target and Walmart said they will set aside parking lot space for testing sites, while Google pledged to set up a website to determine whether a person needs a test, and where one is available.
Infighting, missteps and a son-in-law hungry for results: Inside the Trump administration’s troubled coronavirus response
Although Trump is the final decision-maker, as his aides are quick to remind people, a number of principals — including Pence, Kushner, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, Domestic Policy Council Director Joe Grogan and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield — operate as power centers with their own fiefdoms. They compete with one another over ideas, often developed by their own staffs, and at times move to undercut rivals in meetings.

11 – 12 March
Biden offers coronavirus plan, rebuking Trump’s ‘America First’ approach
Joe Biden delivered a call for swift and urgent action to combat the coronavirus outbreak on Thursday, in a speech that rebuked the Trump administration’s isolationist response and sought to preview how he would steer the nation through a crisis as its president.
The 2020 Democratic frontrunner offered a detailed new roadmap for stemming the virus, emphasizing the need for solidarity and championing science.
Trump’s European Travel Ban Doesn’t Make Sense
The president’s decision to bar travelers from Europe is an early indication of the power of a pandemic to infect international relations.
(The Atlantic) President Donald Trump’s decision to ban most European citizens from traveling to the U.S., except those from the United Kingdom and Ireland, appears to make no sense, and to inject past grievances and prejudices into delicate scientific and political equations. In this spiraling thriller cum horror novel, Trump’s emergence, full of hostility and conspiracy, with warnings of foreign viruses, heralds a darkening turn—an early indication of the power of a pandemic to infect global decision making and international relations.
Trump’s travel ban sidesteps his own European resorts
The president announced new travel restrictions on Europeans as the coronavirus pandemic escalated, but a few key spots on the continent were spared.
The U.S. government proclamation initiating the ban targets 26 European countries that comprise a visa-free travel zone known as the Schengen Area.
The United Kingdom, which is home to Trump Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links, and Ireland, which is home to another Trump-branded hotel and golf course at Doonbeg, do not participate in the Schengen Area. Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania are also not part of the Schengen Area. All three of the resorts are struggling financially.
In Rare Oval Office Speech, Trump Voices New Concerns and Old Themes
He described the dangers of “a horrible infection” during an address whose inaccuracies required immediate clarification.
The president who until now has tried to project a “business as usual” demeanor, even comparing the coronavirus to the everyday flu, confronted the fact that he faces a global pandemic that required a new set of rules, referred to the virus not as a workaday cold but as a “horrible infection” and announced new travel restrictions that he said would stop its spread.
But his rare evening address to the nation also contained accusatory language and a defensive tone that were vintage Trump.
Read a full transcript of President Trump’s remarks.
He blamed European and Chinese people for bringing the outbreak to the United States, describing it ominously as a “foreign virus,” language that reflected the isolationist views of his chief speechwriter, Stephen Miller, who alongside Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, helped draft the address.
Unbelievable!
Trump’s coronavirus task force is reportedly awaiting ‘research’ from Jared Kushner before making an emergency declaration
(Business Insider) Jared Kushner’s involvement is part of a discombobulated White House response to the virus, with Trump “reluctant to declare an expansive emergency to combat the escalating coronavirus outbreak, fearful of stoking panic with such a dramatic step,” according to Politico.
White House Coronavirus Expert: ‘It’s Going to Get Worse’
[Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases]’s comments stand in contrast to President Trump’s attempts to dismiss the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak that has so far infected 1,026 Americans and left 31 dead.
“It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away,” Trump told reporters Tuesday. “Be calm. It’s really going to work out. A lot of good things are going to happen.”
Trump’s Dangerously Effective Coronavirus Propaganda
The president’s effort to play down the pandemic is being amplified by a coalition of partisan media, digital propagandists, and White House officials.
(The Atlantic) From the moment the coronavirus reached the United States, President Donald Trump has seemed determined to construct an alternate reality around the outbreak. In the information universe he has formed, COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, is no worse than the seasonal flu; criticism of his response to it is a “hoax”; and media coverage of the virus is part of a political conspiracy to destroy his presidency.

9 March
The coronavirus is Trump’s Chernobyl
Brian Klaas
(WaPo) By putting dangerous myths above objective facts, Trump has turned the crucial early phases of government response into a disaster. Some public health experts in government have undoubtedly kept quiet, having seen repeatedly what happens to those who publicly contradict this president. And Trump himself, along with those who surround him, has tried to construct a reality that simply does not exist.
Two weeks ago, today, Trump tweeted that “The coronavirus is very much under control in the United States … Stock market is starting to look very good to me!” At that point, there were a small number of cases, but public health experts clearly stated that the number was likely to spike. Nonetheless, Trump accused his critics of perpetrating a “hoax” and said their concerns was overblown. He said that the number of cases — 15 at the time — would soon be “close to zero.”
Today, there are more than 500 cases. There will soon be thousands.
… “The threat of pandemic flu is the No. 1 health security concern,” one official in the White House’s global health security unit warned early in the Trump administration. “Are we ready to respond? I fear the answer is no.” The following day, Trump shut that office in a reorganization.

8 March
The U.S. Isn’t Ready for What’s About to Happen
Even with a robust government response to the novel coronavirus, many people will be in peril. And the United States is anything but prepared.
By Juliette Kayyem, Former Department of Homeland Security official and author of Security Mom
(The Atlantic) A threat as dire as the new coronavirus exposes the weaknesses in our society and our politics. If Americans could seek testing and care without worrying about co-pays or surprise bills, and if everyone who showed symptoms had paid sick leave, the United States could more easily slow the spread of COVID-19. But a crisis finds a nation as it is, not as its citizens wish it to be.
1 March

U.S. officials worried about Chinese control of American drug supply
(ABC news) Antibiotics, which turn life-threatening infections into minor nuisances, are considered the single biggest advance in modern medicine.
But imagine if the supply of antibiotics to the United States was suddenly cut off.
American national security officials are worrying about that scenario as they come to grips with this little understood fact: The vast majority of key ingredients for drugs that many Americans rely on are manufactured abroad, mostly in China.
As the U.S. defense establishment grows increasingly concerned about China’s potentially hostile ambitions, the pharmaceutical supply chain is receiving new scrutiny.
“If China shut the door on exports of medicines and their key ingredients and raw material, U.S. hospitals and military hospitals and clinics would cease to function within months, if not days,” said Rosemary Gibson, author of a book on the subject, “China Rx.”
Other generic drugs whose key ingredients are manufactured in China include medicines for blood pressure medicine, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy and depression, Gibson says. (12 Sep. 2019)

Trump is pushing a dangerous, false spin on coronavirus — and the media is helping him spread it
By Margaret Sullivan
Trump and his chosen spokespeople are attempting to dramatically play down the seriousness of the coronavirus and to blame the legitimate news media for doing their jobs of informing the public.
In reporting what Trump has to say, the news media has a huge responsibility not to repeat and amplify his misleading spin — a spin that may serve his political interests but is not in the public interest.
It’s not always easy, though, for mainstream journalists to put his claims in the proper context.
After all, it had always been normal to let a president have his say — to let his statements top the news while letting the fact checks follow.
That has changed somewhat during the lie-ridden Trump administration, but not nearly enough. The reflexive media urge, deep in our DNA, is still to quote the president without offering an immediate challenge.
… Some months ago, I wrote about the linguist George Lakoff’s prescription for handling the president’s false statements and lies, an approach that’s become known as the “truth sandwich.”
Rather than lead with the falsehood and then try to debunk it, Lakoff — an expert on how propaganda works — suggested flipping that formula: Lead with the truth, air the falsehood, and then follow with the fact check. Avoid giving prominence to lies, he advises. Don’t put them in headlines, leads or tweets. It is that very amplification that gives them power, even if they are proclaimed false in the next beat.

28 February
(Business Insider via Yahoo!) The Trump administration barred a top US disease expert from speaking freely to the public after he warned the coronavirus might be impossible to contain
Pence Will Control All Coronavirus Messaging From Health Officials
(NYT) The White House’s attempt to impose a more disciplined approach to communications about the virus was undermined by President Trump, who complained the news media was overstating the threat.
The attempt to demonstrate a unified administration voice was undercut early in the day, when Mr. Pence said that he had selected Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the director of the United States effort to combat H.I.V. and AIDS, to serve as the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House, enlisting an experienced scientist and physician to address the potential spread of the virus.
But Dr. Birx is now the third person to have been designated as the administration’s primary coronavirus official, along with Mr. Pence and Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services.
Mr. Trump said Wednesday that “Mike is going to be in charge, and Mike will report back to me.” Mr. Pence said it would be Dr. Birx. Mr. Azar, for his part, remains the chairman of the government’s coronavirus task force.

Trump picks Pence to be coronavirus czar despite botched response to HIV outbreak in Indiana
Mike Pence’s “defining moment” as a one-term governor was “enabling an HIV outbreak” in 2015
(Salon) Trump’s announcement “blindsided” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who had spearheaded the administration’s efforts, according to The Washington Post. Journalists quickly reminded Trump that he slammed former President Barack Obama for appointing someone with “zero experience in the medical area and zero experience in infectious disease control” during the Ebola crisis in 2014.
Why the Trump Administration’s Coronavirus Response Continues to Raise Concerns
(New York) Though there have been just over two dozen confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., and CDC officials say the risk of exposure for the American public remains low, there continue to be troubling signs that the Trump administration has been mismanaging the U.S. response and may not be adequately prepared for whatever happens next.
While some of the White House’s response has been praised, its approach has also included a mix of xenophobic policy, improvisation, and suddenly sharp turns in decision-making. And long before the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in mainland China, the administration had been putting off years of back-end work which may undermine the government’s ability to prepare for and handle a breakout of the scale that coronavirus may reach.
Undetected U.S. cases, a lack of testing, and problems at the CDC
… Very little testing has been done, however. Last week, Politico reported that problems with a CDC-developed coronavirus test delayed the agency’s plans to expand its testing — and thus get a sense of whether or not the virus is already spreading in the U.S.
It’s not clear when the new CDC test will be ready and distributed, but because of the test failure, only three out of 100 public-health labs in the U.S. have been able to test for COVID-19, according to the Association of Public Health Laboratories. In addition, the cost of each test is as much as $250, according to Politico, and the HHS has already been running out of money to pay for its response to the outbreak.
On Saturday, Politico reported that the White House is planning to ask Congress for emergency funds to handle coronavirus in the United States. The sum, however, could be as little as $1 billion, which public-health experts believe would be drained all too quickly by vaccine research and lab tests. (To compare to a recent health crisis, the Obama administration requested $6 billion in emergency funding for the 2014 Ebola outbreak and eventually received $5.4 billion.) Though Democrats in Congress have pushed the administration to call for emergency coronavirus funding since early February, Politico states that “White House officials have been hesitant to press Congress for additional funding, with some hoping that the virus would burn itself out by the summer.”
But as Foreign Policy’s Laurie Garrett recently explained, the administration has spent years enacting policies and putting forth budgets that have weakened the U.S. government’s ability to prepare for and respond to an outbreak like this one, both in the U.S. and abroad. In addition, as Garrett highlights, the administration’s notoriously dysfunctional personnel drama and haphazard efforts to reduce the size of the government haven’t helped either.

 

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