U.S. Healthcare COVID-19 2020 August 1 –

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U.S. Healthcare COVID-19 2020 – July 31
8 facts about the coronavirus to combat common misinformation

The joy of vax: The people giving the shots are seeing hope, and it’s contagious
(WaPo) For health-care workers, the opportunity to administer the vaccine has become its own reward: Giving hope to others has given them hope, too. In some clinics, so many nurses have volunteered for vaccine duty that they can’t accommodate them all. Many of those same health-care workers spent last year sticking swabs up the noses of people who thought they might have the coronavirus. The work was risky. The patients were scared. There was never relief, just limbo. The arrival of The Shot has transformed the grim pop-up clinics of the pandemic into gratitude factories — reassembly lines where Americans could begin to put back together their busted psyches.

21 February
500,000 dead, a number almost too large to grasp
(WaPo) A little less than a year ago, covid-19 had killed just a handful of people in the United States. Now, the pandemic’s official death toll equals the size of a major city, more than the population of Kansas City and nearly as many as Atlanta or Sacramento. It can be hard to grasp the enormity — half a million people, gone. What if we imagined them traveling as one group? Or killed in action? Or all buried together?

19 February
Atul Gawande on COVID-Vaccine Distribution and When Normalcy Might Return
The New Yorker staff writer assesses the vaccination campaign so far, new mutations, and when it might be possible to enter public spaces safely without a mask.
As more vaccine rolls out,” the surgeon and public-health expert Atul Gawande says, “vaccine confidence has risen enormously.”
(The New Yorker) At the very beginning, it seemed like we were all breakthrough and no follow-through. We’ve hit 1.7 million vaccines a day—basically, the capacity to deliver vaccination has been rising steadily—and around February 26th we’ll have the presentation of the Johnson & Johnson data on their vaccine to the F.D.A., which could mean it’s likely we’ll see an approval within a week after that, and a whole new supply chain coming. So where we are on vaccine delivery is in the top five in the world, and with more supply on the way. So I consider us to be starting to turn the corner here.

11 February
Biden says US will have enough doses to vaccinate every American by July
The U.S. has secured an additional 200 million doses of coronavirus vaccine, President Biden announced Thursday, finalizing a commitment that was promised last month.
Speaking at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Biden said the purchases will increase supply by 50 percent, to 600 million doses.

2 February
What’s the hold up? Why more vaccines haven’t been administered
Elaine Kamarck
(Brookings) In the first few weeks of vaccine administration, most Americans faced systems that seemed impenetrable, random, and haphazard—or serendipitous if, for some reason, you managed to luck out and get a vaccine. The reason is pretty clear. The Trump administration approached this process in the same way it approached the problems of PPE and ventilators early on in the pandemic—by blithely assuming that the states would take care of it without stopping to consider what states may need in the way of help in the face of an unprecedented rise in case numbers.
30 January
10 days of struggle: Inside Biden’s early coronavirus vaccine effort
(WaPo) The lack of clarity on vaccine targets underscores that the new administration is still reckoning with the complexity of conducting a mass vaccination campaign — while trying to control the messaging about its timing and scope. Biden’s advisers are scrambling to manage an ever-changing pandemic that has infected more than 26 million Americans, decimated the economy and strained the country’s social fabric — a challenge exacerbated by the patchwork approach they inherited from the previous administration and their early inability to immediately deliver on the full range of their promises.

23 January
Help With Vaccination Push Comes From Unexpected Businesses
Microsoft, Starbucks and Amazon are among the companies offering the government assistance with logistics and operations.
While some retailers and pharmacy chains have been directly involved in the rollout of coronavirus vaccinations, more surprising is the number of companies that have offered help despite having little to do with health care.
What these companies do have are vast national footprints, significant manpower, huge distribution warehouses and, in some cases, empty office buildings. And they have the money to spare for a public service effort that could boost both their public image and their bottom line.

21 January
Fauci makes the Biden administration’s debut at the WHO
The US shows up (via video) after Biden reverses Trump’s decision.

President Joe Biden recommitted the US to the World Health Organization within his first hours in office. On Thursday, the new administration tasked its top infectious disease expert with representing the United States at the WHO.
That person, of course, is Dr. Anthony Fauci, who became something of a celebrity during the Trump administration for his fact-based communication to the public about the Covid-19 pandemic in an administration that was anything but.
Now a leading member of Biden’s Covid-19 response team, Fauci appeared via video at the WHO’s executive meeting. Fauci reiterated that the US would remain a member of the global health agency, reversing former President Donald Trump’s attempt to withdraw from the body.
Biden Unveils a National Pandemic Response That Trump Resisted
President Biden has a 21-page strategy to bolster production of vaccines, treatments and medical-grade protective gear while reaching out to communities of color.
(NYT) The new president intends to make expansive use of his executive authority to sign a dozen executive orders or actions related to Covid-19.
The Biden team said it had identified 12 “immediate supply shortfalls” that were critical to the pandemic response, including N95 surgical masks and isolation gowns, as well as swabs, reagents and pipettes used in testing — deficiencies that have dogged the nation for nearly a year. Jen Psaki, the new White House press secretary, told reporters on Wednesday evening that Mr. Biden “absolutely remains committed” to invoking the Defense Production Act, a Korean War-era law, to bolster supplies.
Mr. Biden intends to use his executive authority to create a new office for pandemic response within the White House, while also engaging various federal agencies in a more aggressive effort to combat the novel coronavirus.

14 January
Politico Nightly: Biden tonight outlined a $2 trillion plan for containing the virus and getting the economy back on track. More details of Biden’s plans will become clear in the next few days. For now, he’s let it be known that he wants to make a big $20 billion push on vaccination. He’s going to set up community vaccination sites and mobile vaccination vans in all kinds of communities, partnering with states and localities. He’s making health equity a priority — reaching the communities that have been hardest hit. He’ll aim to create a new, 100,000-strong public health force, reminiscent of Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps or the Works Progress Administration. He promises to do more testing, more contact tracing, and fix the supply lines. He’ll spend money on treatment, and says he will do what it takes to get a “majority” of American schools open within the first 100 days.
He is facing a task he did not imagine when he began his trek to the presidency.
Hospitals are at a breaking point. Medical staff are depleted. The immunization drive has had a troubled start — everything from having less vaccine available than the Trump administration anticipated to all sorts of logjams and resistance to getting it in people’s arms.
Much of that was anticipated; little of it has been addressed.

9 January
On Friday, …officials across the United States reported more than 300,000 new coronavirus cases in a day for the first time.
In a sharp break with the Trump administration, Mr. Biden intends to release nearly all available doses of coronavirus vaccines soon after he is inaugurated, rather than hold back millions of vials to guarantee second doses will be available. He has vowed to get “at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people” during his first 100 days in office.
The Trump administration has shipped more than 22 million doses, and millions more are already in the federal government’s hands. Yet only 6.7 million people have received a dose, far short of the federal goal of giving at least 20 million people their first shots by the end of December.

2020

30 – 31 December
Vaccination is going slowly because nobody is in charge
We’ve known for months that vaccines were coming. Why weren’t we prepared to use them?
(WaPo) As recently as early October, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said we’d have 100 million doses of vaccine by the end of 2020. One month later, that was reduced to 40 million doses. As recently as Dec. 21, Vice President Pence, the head of the White House coronavirus task force, said that we were on track to vaccinate 20 million Americans by Dec. 31. Unfortunately, 20 million doses haven’t even gotten to the states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that we have vaccinated about 2.6 million people. Assuming the reporting lags by a few days, we might be at 3 or 4 million total.
This is striking. We’ve known for months that vaccines were coming. We know that vaccines only work when people get vaccinated. Every dose of vaccine not given risks more illness and potential death. The failure to vaccinate more quickly is tragic given that more than 3,000 Americans are dying of covid-19 every day. At the current rate, we will surpass 400,000 deaths by Inauguration Day.

U.S. vaccinations in 2020 fall far short of target of 20 million people
(Reuters) – Only about 2.8 million Americans had received a COVID-19 vaccine going into the last day of December, putting the United States far short of the government’s target to vaccinate 20 million people this month.
Fauci sees U.S. gaining control over pandemic by next autumn
(Reuters) -The leading U.S. infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on Wednesday he foresees America achieving enough collective COVID-19 immunity through vaccinations to regain “some semblance of normality” by autumn 2021, despite early setbacks in the vaccine rollout.
Fauci made his remarks during an online discussion of the pandemic with California Governor Gavin Newsom … [who] said the coronavirus variant B.1.1.7 had been confirmed earlier in the day in a Southern California patient. … Fauci said he was “not surprised,” adding that additional cases of the variant would likely surface around the country and that the mutating nature of such viruses is normal.

23 December
Dr Deborah Birx: White House virus expert quits over holiday travel
A top public health official on the White House coronavirus task force has said she will retire after it emerged she hosted a holiday gathering.

18 December
Trump Claims Credit for Vaccines. Some of His Backers Don’t Want to Take Them.
A deep distrust of the government is fueling vaccine hesitancy among Republicans, who are more likely than Democrats to resist being inoculated against Covid-19.
(NYT) One reason for the partisan divide over vaccination, experts said, is the president himself. His repeated denigration of scientists and insistence that the pandemic is not a threat, they said, have contributed to a sense among his followers that the vaccine is either not safe or not worth taking.

17 December
States report confusion as government reduces vaccine shipments, while Pfizer says it has ‘millions’ of unclaimed doses
(WaPo) Officials in multiple states said they were alerted late Wednesday that their second shipments of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine had been drastically cut for next week, sparking widespread confusion and conflicting statements from Pfizer and federal officials about who was at fault. The reduction prompted concern in health departments across the country about whether Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine accelerator program, could distribute doses quickly enough to meet the target of delivering first shots to 20 million people by year’s end.

7 December
President-elect Joe Biden Announces Key Members of Health Team
(Press Release) President-elect Joe Biden announced key nominations and appointments of his health team, including Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services; Dr. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General; Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, COVID-19 Equity Task Force Chair; Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Adviser to the President on COVID-19, who will also continue in his role as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; and Jeff Zients, Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President. In addition, former White House and Pentagon senior advisor Natalie Quillian will serve as Deputy Coordinator of the COVID-19 Response.
This is a team that looks like America and brings together leaders with deep experience in public health, government, and crisis management. They are experts in their fields who will restore public trust in the pandemic response by leading with facts, science, integrity, and a laser-focus on bringing COVID-19 under control. Together, they will advise President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris on implementing a whole-of-government response to surge testing and tracing to slow the spread of the virus, protect frontline workers, and ensure the safe and efficient delivery of treatments and vaccines at no cost to the American people. And, they will help fulfill the President-elect’s vision of making health care a right — not a privilege — for all Americans, building on the Affordable Care Act to lower health care costs and tackle prescription drug costs.

Trump administration officials passed when Pfizer offered in late summer to sell the U.S. more vaccine doses.
(NYT) Now Pfizer may not be able to provide more of its vaccine to the United States until next June because of its commitments to other countries, they said.
As the administration scrambles to try to purchase more doses of the vaccine, President Trump plans on Tuesday to sign an executive order “to ensure that United States government prioritizes getting the vaccine to American citizens before sending it to other nations,” according to a draft statement and a White House official, though it was not immediately clear what force the president’s executive order would carry.

4 December
[Dr.] Atul Gawande on Coronavirus Vaccines and Prospects for Ending the Pandemic
The New Yorker staff writer and member of the Biden COVID-19 advisory board discusses when a vaccine might be ready for distribution, who should receive it, and whether eradicating the virus is possible.
(The New Yorker) In the interview, Gawande says that President Trump’s relative silence on the issue after the election might be a blessing (considering the alternative). He suggests that the development of vaccines promises great things down the line, a return to relative normalcy some months from now. But, before that happens, he says, we may not only see terrible rates of illness and death—we will also experience an almost inevitably contentious rollout of the vaccine. Questions of who gets the vaccine and when will test a deeply divided society.
‘We have not yet seen the post-Thanksgiving peak,’ Fauci warns as cases soar
Nearly 213,000 new coronavirus cases were reported across the United States on Thursday, the highest figure yet. And at least 2,500 covid-19 deaths were reported for the third consecutive day, marking the deadliest stretch since the pandemic began.
As many as 19,500 people could die of the virus during the week of Christmas, according to a sobering new forecast from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

30 November
Bipartisan group of senators seeks coronavirus stimulus deal
(Axios) At least nine Republican and Democratic senators have formed an informal working group aimed at securing new coronavirus spending during the lame-duck session, a move favored by President-elect Biden, two sources familiar with the group tell Axios.
Why it matters: It may be the most significant bipartisan step toward COVID relief in months.

23 November
Ad Council’s Challenge: Persuade Skeptics to Believe in Covid Vaccines
The nonprofit marketing group led a polio vaccine campaign in the 1950s. Now it is working on a $50 million ad blitz to counter concerns about coming treatments

22 November
Biden’s Covid-19 Mission
As Donald Trump continues to find new ways to make things worse, Joe Biden is preparing to take immediate action on an escalating crisis.
(New Yorker magazine 30 Nov.) Biden can undertake some immediate actions, like recommitting to the World Health Organization, by executive order. For others, such as putting together a new COVID-relief package that will help individuals, businesses that may be forced to close, and states facing budget shortfalls, he will need Congress’s coöperation. (And control of the Senate won’t be clear until after Georgia’s runoff elections, on January 5th.) Biden has spoken of a nationwide mask mandate; even with limits on federal power, he can use tools like incentives and persuasion to try to organize one. He can also lend his authority to guidelines for targeted shutdowns and reopenings. …

18 November
White House Coronavirus Task Force Warns Pence: Take Action or Risk 2,000 Deaths a Day by Christmas
(The Daily Beast) Doctors on the White House Coronavirus Task Force have reportedly delivered a dire warning to Vice President Mike Pence: If the Trump administration doesn’t change course now, then the United States could be recording 2,000 COVID-19 deaths by Christmas.

9 November
Covid-19 vaccine 90 percent effective in first analysis, Pfizer says
(NBC) Though the findings are preliminary, the Pfizer-led study indicates a far higher success rate than many experts had expected. People who received two doses as part of the trial saw 90 percent fewer symptomatic cases of Covid-19 than participants who were given a placebo.
Pandemic on course to overwhelm U.S. health system before Biden takes office
(Politico) The country’s health care system is already buckling under the load of the resurgent outbreak that’s approaching 10 million cases nationwide.
Rick Bright, Atul Gawande on Biden’s covid task force
(Politico) Previously unreported members of the panel include Rick Bright, who was ousted as chief of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority earlier this year and became an outspoken critic of the Trump administration before leaving government last month.
The Biden team also will tap high-profile surgeon and New Yorker writer Atul Gawande, who worked at HHS during the Clinton administration and recently led a health care joint venture between Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan known as Haven.
Other members of the advisory group include Luciana Borio, who served as the FDA’s acting chief scientist and on the National Security Council during the Trump administration, and University of Minnesota infectious disease specialist Michael Osterholm.
The task force also includes UCSF’s Eric Goosby, who helped shape HIV/AIDS policy during the Clinton and Obama administration; UCSF emergency physician Robert Rodriguez; and Loyce Pace of the Global Health Council.
The advisory board’s co-chairs are former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former FDA Commissioner David Kessler and Yale’s Marcella Nunez-Smith. The group also includes NYU’s Celine Gounder, Obama White House aide Zeke Emanuel and RWJF’s Julie Morita

8 November
An Explanation for Some Covid-19 Deaths May Not Be Holding Up
Recent studies have created doubts about an agent in cytokine storms, and suggest that treatments for it may not help.
(NYT) Medical researchers are raising significant doubts about whether an agent of the human immune system causes some coronavirus patients to end up in the hospital with injured lungs and other organs, struggling to breathe. What remains is a continuing mystery about what causes certain people to die from Covid-19, and how best to prevent that.

President-Elect Biden’s Victory Speech
Priority one: The pandemic.
Mr. Biden left no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic would be a priority for his administration in a way that it has not been under Mr. Trump.

7 November
U.S. infections are breaking records day after day, and deaths are rising in more than half the country.
(NYT) …the nation recorded more than 100,000 new cases for the third straight day and more than 1,000 deaths for the fourth straight day — places that held the virus at manageable levels for months are now experiencing major outbreaks.
Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming — states that drew little attention compared with epicenters like New York or Florida — are now repeatedly setting single-day case records. And deaths are rising in more than half the country.

22 October
Covid-19 Live Updates: F.D.A. Approves First Drug for Treating Coronavirus Patients
(NYT) The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that it had formally approved remdesivir as the first drug to treat Covid-19, a move that indicated the government’s confidence in its safe and effective use for hospitalized patients.
The drug does not prevent deaths in Covid-19 patients.
The formal approval now granted by the F.D.A. indicates that the drug cleared more rigorous regulatory hurdles involving a more thorough review of clinical data and manufacturing quality since it was given emergency authorization in May.
“The FDA is committed to expediting the development and availability of Covid-19 treatments during this unprecedented public health emergency,” Stephen M. Hahn, the F.D.A. commissioner, said in a statement. “Today’s approval is supported by data from multiple clinical trials that the agency has rigorously assessed and represents an important scientific milestone in the Covid-19 pandemic.

13 October
FDA faults quality control at Lilly plant making Trump-touted COVID drug
(Reuters) – U.S. drug inspectors uncovered serious quality control problems at an Eli Lilly and Co LLY.N pharmaceutical plant that is ramping up to manufacture one of two promising COVID-19 drugs touted by President Trump as “a cure” for the disease, according to government documents and three sources familiar with the matter.
The Lilly antibody therapy, which is experimental and not yet approved by regulators as safe and effective, is similar to a drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals REGN.O that was given to the president during his bout with COVID-19.

11 October
Another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic: Trust in science
Polls show trust in a potential vaccine has plunged. A Pew Research poll in September found that only 21 percent of respondents said they would definitely get a coronavirus vaccine if it were available immediately, down from 42 percent in May.
(WaPo) This has been the 2020 pattern: Politics has thoroughly contaminated the scientific process. The result has been an epidemic of distrust, which further undermines the nation’s already chaotic and ineffective response to the coronavirus.
The White House has repeatedly meddled with decisions by career professionals at the FDA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other science-based agencies. Many of the nation’s leading scientists, including some of the top doctors in the administration, are deeply disturbed by the collision of politics and science and bemoan its effects on public health.
Trust has been damaged by White House intrusions and the FDA’s own mistakes. Earlier this year, the agency granted emergency authorization to hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug wrongly touted by Trump as a treatment for covid-19, then reversed course when it became clear the medication could cause dangerous complications. In August, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn drew sharp criticism for inaccurately describing the benefits of convalescent plasma, statements for which he later apologized.

Regeneron Asks F.D.A. for Emergency Approval for Drug That Trump Claimed Cured Him
By Katie Thomas
(NYT) The drug maker Regeneron said on Wednesday evening that it had submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency approval of the experimental antibody cocktail that President Trump had praised just hours earlier without evidence as a ‘cure’ for the coronavirus.
“The company said that at first, access to the treatment would be extremely limited, with only enough doses for 50,000 patients, a far cry from the ‘hundreds of thousands’ of doses that Mr. Trump said in a video released Wednesday he would soon be making available to Americans free of charge.
In the five-minute video, Mr. Trump said that it was a “blessing from God” that he had been infected with the coronavirus and that the Regeneron cocktail had suddenly made him feel better. “I felt unbelievable,” he said. “I felt good immediately.”

Robin Wright: The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Now a Threat to National Security
After a possible coronavirus exposure, the entire Joint Chiefs of Staff, including General Mark Milley, the principal military adviser to the President, has gone into isolation.
From multiple angles, including the fact that President Trump is also the Commander-in-Chief, the coronavirus is now a genuine national-security threat for the United States. And the rest of the world knows it. The potential dangers abound.
These are not only commanders who control the world’s mightiest military, run wars, order bombings, and authorize special-operations raids; they are part of the most consistent and sane wing of the American government right now.

CDC revises guidance
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said COVID-19 can spread through virus lingering in the air, sometimes for hours, acknowledging concerns widely voiced by public health experts about airborne transmission.
The CDC guidance comes weeks after the agency published – and then took down – a similar warning, sparking debate over how the virus spreads.

23 September
Fauci spars with Rand Paul over Covid-19 response
Fauci rejected Paul’s assertion that the United States’ mitigation and lockdown efforts were misguided.
The government’s top infectious disease doctor on Wednesday accused Sen. Rand Paul of repeatedly misconstruing information about the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic, including making misleading claims about herd immunity and the effects of mitigation measures.
Testifying before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Anthony Fauci rejected Paul’s assertion that the United States’ mitigation and lockdown efforts were misguided.

18 September
Emails Detail Effort to Silence C.D.C. and Question Its Science
Emails from a former top Trump health official and his science adviser show how the two refused to accept Centers for Disease Control and Prevention science and sought to silence the agency.
(NYT) On June 30, as the coronavirus was cresting toward its summer peak, Dr. Paul Alexander, a new science adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services, composed a scathing two-page critique of an interview given by an experienced scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Alexander’s point-by-point assessment, broken into seven parts and forwarded by Mr. Caputo to Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the C.D.C. director, was one of several emails obtained by The New York Times that illustrate how Mr. Caputo and Dr. Alexander tried to browbeat career officials at the C.D.C. at the height of the pandemic, challenging the science behind their public statements and trying to silence agency staff.
On Friday, two days after Mr. Caputo went on medical leave and Dr. Alexander was dismissed from the Department of Health and Human Services, the C.D.C. reversed a heavily criticized recommendation suggesting that people who have had close contact with a person infected with the coronavirus do not need to get tested if they have no symptoms. The emails shed light on the monthslong fight that led to their departures.
Far from hiding what they knew about the virus’s danger, as Bob Woodward’s new book contends President Trump was doing, the emails seem to indicate that aides in Washington were convinced of their own rosy prognostications, even as coronavirus infections were shooting skyward.

2 September
We Can Solve the Coronavirus-Test Mess Now—If We Want To
The key to taming the pandemic will be both a new commitment to “assurance testing” and a new vision of what public health really means.
By (The New Yorker) Many developed countries have met their testing needs, and ready access to speedy tests has been key to containing outbreaks and resuming social and economic activity. Whether you live in England or South Korea, scheduling is straightforward. No doctor’s order is required. Tests, where indicated, are free. And you typically get results within forty-eight hours.
Tactics of fiery White House trade adviser draw new scrutiny as some of his pandemic moves unravel
(WaPo) Amid the Trump administration’s troubled response to the coronavirus pandemic, senior White House aide Peter Navarro has refashioned himself as a powerful government purchasing chief, operating far beyond his original role as an adviser on trade policy. But U.S. officials say the abrasive figure’s shortcomings as a manager could influence how well prepared the United States is for a second wave of coronavirus infections expected this fall.

1 September
U.S. says it won’t join WHO-linked effort to develop, distribute coronavirus vaccine
The Trump administration said it will not join a global effort to develop, manufacture and equitably distribute a coronavirus vaccine, in part because the World Health Organization is involved, a decision that could shape the course of the pandemic and the country’s role in health diplomacy.
More than 170 countries are in talks to participate in the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) Facility, which aims to speed vaccine development, secure doses for all countries and distribute them to the most high-risk segment of each population.

26 August
How Mike Pence slowed down the coronavirus response
Taking the reins in late February, the vice president sought to bring order to a chaotic response. He also slowed things down.
(Politico) How Pence approached the challenges of his first weeks on the job foreshadowed how he would pursue the next six months of the coronavirus crisis — the most important and hands-on role of his tenure. …interviews with 21 people involved with Pence’s coronavirus task force painted a detailed picture of the vice president…as he steered the administration’s evolving response to the pandemic.
Many gave Pence high marks as a listener, and state and local officials praised him for being more responsive to their concerns than the president or his inner circle. All acknowledged that Pence was dealing with a complicated dynamic — trying to please Trump while wrestling with a demoralized health bureaucracy.
But Trump’s mercurial behavior was not solely responsible for what amounted to a slow response to the deadliest pandemic in a century, they said, pointing to Pence’s own leadership style as a force for delay. Many said Pence’s consensus-building approach drained urgency from the mission, pitted interests against each other and gave inappropriate weight to opinions outside the public health realm.
… he’s continued to be seen as a force for moderation and fact-based decision-making within a White House that’s often been plagued by infighting while struggling to develop a comprehensive strategy. He’s provided an open door to industry leaders, state governors and top officials, a welcome contrast for those who view the president as unreliable.
But in the face of a historic pandemic, Pence’s leadership style has often resulted in decisions that health experts view as too slow, too consensus-oriented and too focused on public perception. The task force he’s led has been unwieldy — and over time has evolved into more of a communications forum than a decision-making body.

23-25 August
The FDA offers a big correction after helping hype Trump’s coronavirus announcement
I have been criticized for remarks I made Sunday night about the benefits of convalescent plasma. The criticism is entirely justified. What I should have said better is that the data show a relative risk reduction not an absolute risk reduction. – Dr. Stephen Hahn 9:36pm, August 24.
Some Trump administration claims on effectiveness of convalescent plasma are wrong or dubious, scientists say
Rigorous trials are still needed to establish efficacy, they say.
Two months ago, the Food and Drug Administration reversed course on President Trump’s much-hyped drug hydroxychloroquine, revoking its authorization for emergency use to treat the novel coronavirus. Given that Trump had pushed for the drug and then bragged about speeding the initial authorization process along, it raised very valid concerns about whether the FDA had made a hasty decision under political pressure.
Those concerns have to resurface after the spectacle we saw Sunday.
At a news conference, Trump announced a new emergency-use authorization, this time for convalescent plasma, which he characterized as a breakthrough. Some scientists are dubious about its usefulness. Others backed the decision, believing that the treatment at least shows promise.
F.D.A. Allows Expanded Use of Plasma to Treat Coronavirus Patients
The move came on the eve of the Republican convention and after President Trump pressed the agency to move faster to address the pandemic.
The Food and Drug Administration on Sunday gave emergency approval for expanded use of antibody-rich blood plasma to help hospitalized coronavirus patients, allowing President Trump, who has been pressuring the agency to move faster to address the pandemic, to claim progress on the eve of the Republican convention.
Mr. Trump cited the approval, which had been held up by concerns among top government scientists about the data behind it, as welcome news in fighting a disease that has led to 176,000 deaths in the United States and left the nation lagging far behind most others in the effectiveness of its response.
At a news briefing, he described the treatment as “a powerful therapy” made possible “by marshaling the full power of the federal government.”
The decision will broaden use of a treatment that has already been administered to more than 70,000 patients. But the F.D.A. cited benefits for only some patients. And, unlike a new drug, plasma cannot be manufactured in millions of doses; its availability is limited by blood donations.

12 August
Brown University: Stay-at-home orders significantly associated with reduced spread of COVID-19, study finds
(Eureka!Alert) Across the globe, COVID-19 has infected more than 18 million people to date and has killed hundreds of thousands — and the United States has been hit especially hard. Although the U.S. comprises just 4.2% of the global population, it accounted for approximately 33% of all reported infections by the end of April.
However, the majority of U.S. states eventually imposed stay-at-home orders, and those orders appear to have significantly slowed the spread of the disease for the nation as a whole.

11 August
Trump’s Unprecedented Attacks on Our Public-Health System
The most important public-health institutions in America have essentially been hijacked by Donald Trump, who seems to detest science and expertise equally.
(The New Yorker) How worried should we be that the President of the United States recently described as “very impressive” a woman who claims that doctors make medicine using DNA from aliens? Or that he shows no sign of recognizing the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s simply not possible to worry too much.
No single national leader would have been able to prevent the coronavirus pandemic. But Trump’s denialism and hostility toward public-health officials has greatly increased America’s share of suffering and death. On “Fox & Friends,” on Wednesday, he said that the virus is spreading in a “relatively small portion” of the country, and that children are virtually immune; both statements are false. And, as he has done many times before, he declared at a briefing that the pandemic would just “go away.”
Trump has had one consistent response to the pandemic: he attacks leading experts when they attempt to tell the truth.
Meet the most important federal official you probably don’t know — the man who holds the fate of the coronavirus vaccine in his hands
(WaPo) A top Food and Drug Administration career official, Peter Marks is likely to decide in the next several months whether a coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective enough to be given to tens of millions of Americans.
It’s a ruling of intense interest to President Trump, who has not hesitated to attack government health officials he deems politically unhelpful, and who has boasted about pushing officials to speed up vaccine development. Just last week, Trump said in a radio interview that a vaccine might be available “right around” the Nov. 3 election — months earlier than Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, has predicted.
Such statements have scientists, health experts and lawmakers watching anxiously for political pressure on the FDA, in addition to possible technical foul-ups and mistakes in scientific judgment. The way the vaccine decision is handled could have an impact on the presidential election and whether enough people are willing to get vaccinated to curb the pandemic and revive the economy. If safety problems are missed, it could be disastrous for this crisis and undermine public confidence in all vaccines.

3 August
After months of favor, Birx raises Trump’s ire with grim coronavirus assessment
(WaPo) President Trump further disparaged his senior health advisers on Monday even as the pandemic deepened its hold on the nation, as the White House’s top coronavirus coordinator, Deborah Birx, joined Anthony S. Fauci and other scientists on the receiving end of the president’s ire.
…Birx’s grim assessment Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” in which she described the coronavirus as “extraordinary widespread” across the nation and warned that the deadly contagion has infiltrated “both rural and urban” areas. In the interview, she also did not rule out the possibility that the nation’s coronavirus death toll could double by the end of the year to 300,000 and seemed to suggest that, contrary to the president’s stated desires, some schools should offer only distance learning this fall.

2 August
Scientists Worry About Political Influence Over Coronavirus Vaccine Project
Operation Warp Speed has moved along at a rapid clip. But some people involved in the process fear pressure to deliver an October surprise for President Trump.
(NYT) “DEADLINE: Enable broad access to the public by October 2020,”
Given that it typically takes years to develop a vaccine, the timetable for the initiative, called Operation Warp Speed, was incredibly ambitious. With tens of thousands dying and tens of millions out of work, the crisis demanded an all-out public-private response, with the government supplying billions of dollars to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, providing logistical support and cutting through red tape. The ensuing race for a vaccine — in the middle of a campaign in which the president’s handling of the pandemic is the key issue after he has spent his time in office undermining science and the expertise of the federal bureaucracy — is now testing the system set up to ensure safe and effective drugs to a degree never before seen.

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