By Robert A. Vella
There are now over 3.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide including about a quarter million deaths. In the U.S., the figures are fast approaching 1.2 million infections and 70 thousand fatalities. When the coronavirus pandemic first became evident in America, President Trump boasted that the number of cases was just 15 and would quickly drop to zero. Later, after the reality of the crisis sank-in, he shifted his “projections” of the impending death toll. Two weeks ago, on April 20th, he optimistically predicted that 50,000 to 60,000 Americans would die. Yesterday, he reactively revised it to 100,000 while championing a non-existent economic recovery ahead of plans to jumpstart his 2020 reelection campaign.
While Trump may think he can run away from this public health and economic crisis, the virus has other plans. It will be nipping at his heels all the way to election day and beyond. Although the spread of this contagion was contained in the initial hardest hit coastal states through effective “stay at home” orders (e.g. Washington state), it is now rampaging through the heart of the country where such restrictions were not implemented or were lifted prematurely. Consequently, medical experts are warning that the pandemic will not abate anytime soon and that the U.S. will experience continuing clusters of outbreaks and subsequent waves of new infections until proven vaccines are developed and widely distributed.
The mad rush to move past coronavirus has not only caused unnecessary death and misery, it is also prolonging the nation’s economic decline, triggering costly errors in official medical policies, and creating new political problems in the country particularly for the President and the GOP.
Just this morning, the FDA was forced to reverse course on fast-tracking untested COVID-19 antibody tests (which shouldn’t have been allowed to go on the market) intended to discover more information about the extent of infections in the populace. Public distrust of his administration is becoming so pervasively (see: Trump’s desperate April: 34 days of fumbling — and it was worse than we thought) that even Trump’s own supporters are balking at his latest “miracle cure” (i.e. remdesivir). As Trump mounts new retaliatory attacks on government watchdogs (i.e. an HHS Inspector General) and high-profile critics (i.e. former President George W. Bush), Republican Party insiders and many politicians seeking reelection worry that his erratic and irresponsible behavior will be devastating to their chances in November. Meanwhile, fresh reporting supports my assertion from last week that ideological extremists are using social media and public protests to sow disinformation about the pandemic in order to desensitize people and to generate skepticism of medical science.
Here’s today’s news:
From: FDA enacts stricter rules for antibody tests after congressional investigation
The Food and Drug Administration is walking back a widely criticized policy that allowed more than 100 coronavirus antibody tests on the market without agency review.
Manufacturers of antibody tests must now apply for emergency use authorization within 10 business days after their products hit the market, under a policy announced Monday. If a test does not meet the FDA’s specificity and sensitivity criteria, its manufacturer must suspend distribution.
From: Coronavirus gets a promising drug. MAGA world isn’t buying it.
Over three weeks ago, hydroxychloroquine was all the rage in MAGA world, despite flawed and scattered evidence about whether the drug could help cure coronavirus. Now there is another drug, remdesivir, with positive early scientific data.
Much of MAGA world wants little to do with it.
At first, it may seem like a head-scratching response. President Donald Trump’s base has been quick to trumpet any potential solutions to the coronavirus pandemic — especially those Trump himself promotes — regardless of the red flags from medical experts. But with remdesivir, it’s the Trump-boosting pundits who are raising the red flags, even as the president expresses optimism.
Indeed, the same segment of the right that claimed scientists and the media were deliberately downplaying hydroxychloroquine in order to hurt Trump’s standing are now the ones downplaying remdesivir. On Fox News, Laura Ingraham suggested that remdesivir, as a newer drug being produced by the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, could be unsafe and expensive. Those who initially helped raise the profile of hydroxychloroquine raised doubts about the remdesivir studies.
From: Trump Moves to Replace Watchdog Who Identified Critical Medical Shortages
WASHINGTON — President Trump moved on Friday night to replace a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services who angered him with a report last month highlighting supply shortages and testing delays at hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic.
The White House waited until after business hours to announce the nomination of a new inspector general for the department who, if confirmed, would take over for Christi A. Grimm, the principal deputy inspector general who was publicly assailed by the president at a news briefing three weeks ago.
The nomination was the latest effort by Mr. Trump against watchdog offices around his administration that have defied him. In recent weeks, he fired an inspector general involved in the inquiry that led to the president’s impeachment, nominated a White House aide to another key inspector general post overseeing virus relief spending and moved to block still another inspector general from taking over as chairman of a pandemic spending oversight panel.
Mr. Trump has sought to assert more authority over his administration and clear out officials deemed insufficiently loyal in the three months since his Senate impeachment trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress ended in acquittal largely along party lines. While inspectors general are appointed by the president, they are meant to be semiautonomous watchdogs ferreting out waste, fraud and corruption in executive agencies.
From: Trump rips George W. Bush after he calls for unity amid coronavirus outbreak
President Trump on Sunday took aim at George W. Bush after the former Republican president issued a call to push partisanship aside amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
In a three-minute video shared on Twitter on Saturday, Bush urged Americans to remember “how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat.”
“In the final analysis, we are not partisan combatants, we are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the site of god,” Bush said. “We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise.”
In an early morning tweet on Sunday, Trump called out Bush for his failure to support him as he faced an impeachment trial earlier this year over his alleged dealings with Ukraine.
From: A referendum election in November? Trump allies see risks
WASHINGTON (AP) — Six months from Election Day, President Donald Trump’s prospects for winning a second term have been jolted by a historic pandemic and a cratering economy, rattling some of his Republican allies and upending the playbook his campaign had hoped to be using by now against Democrat Joe Biden.
Trump’s standing has slumped as the nation’s focus on him has intensified during the coronavirus outbreak, revealing an erratic and often self-absorbed approach to the crisis. The result: He’s losing ground in some battleground states with key constituencies, including senior citizens and college-educated men — all without his Democratic challenger having devoted much energy or money to denting the president.
“It’s Donald J. Trump versus the coronavirus and the recovery,” said Scott Reed, the senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Biden is a sideshow.”
For some Republicans, the prospect of an election that is almost wholly a referendum on Trump is unnerving. Though the president’s base remains loyal, a significant portion of GOP voters view him skeptically on a range of personal qualities. He pulled many of those voters to his side in the 2016 election by drawing an aggressive contrast with Democrat Hillary Clinton. He planned to do the same in 2020 with Biden, with the added tailwind of a surging American economy.
From: The Coronavirus Becomes a Battle Cry for U.S. Extremists
America’s extremists are attempting to turn the coronavirus pandemic into a potent recruiting tool both in the deep corners of the internet and on the streets of state capitals by twisting the public health crisis to bolster their white supremacist, anti-government agenda.
Embellishing Covid-19 developments to fit their usual agenda, extremists spread disinformation on the transmission of the virus and disparage stay-at-home orders as “medical martial law” — the long-anticipated advent of a totalitarian state.
The New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness said in March that white supremacists have encouraged followers to conduct attacks during the crisis to incite fear and target ethnic minorities and immigrants. “We have noticed domestic extremist groups taking advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic by spreading disinformation,” Jared M. Maples, its director, said in a statement. The coronavirus has been dismissed as a hoax, painted as a Jewish-run conspiracy and, alternatively, described as a disease spread by nonwhite immigrants, he said.
Last month, the Department of Homeland Security warned law enforcement officials throughout the United States of the mobilization of violent extremists in response to stay-at-home measures, according to a senior law enforcement official and a congressional staff member, who were not authorized to discuss the warning publicly.
As lockdowns ease, some countries report new infection peaks
As states ease restrictions, expert forecasts ‘waves’ of new coronavirus cases through summer
More than 370 workers at a pork plant in Missouri tested positive for coronavirus. All were asymptomatic
‘It makes no sense’: Feds consider relaxing infection control in U.S. nursing homes
Oklahoma city backs off mask mandate after threats, as officials struggle to enforce public health rules
Northeast states band together to buy protective gear
Fears rise that Trump will incite a global vaccine brawl
Trump administration pushing to rip global supply chains from China: officials
One can’t help but wonder if the reason remdesivir isn’t being promoted (over and above medical reasons) is because Trump doesn’t have any $$$$ interest in Gilead Sciences.
This pandemic is just one more example illustrating how far Trump is in over his head. He simply has no clue …
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Trump is definitely in over his head, but he did promote remdesivir last week along with Dr. Fauci. In fact, the NIAID recently changed its metric for evaluating the drug before Fauci’s announcement, and the FDA then approved it (see my post on Saturday for details).
What has since changed is Trump supporters’ unexpected rejection of the drug.
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I found the message from our former President George W. Bush very calming and unifying. It’s much needed at this time under our current president who delights in creating chaos.
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Indeed… and then Trump attacked him.
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As always, he can’t help himself.
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