By Robert A. Vella
As has been previously reported on this blog, new COVID-19 infections are rising across America’s heartland and now details of the virus’ spread have been obtained from inside the Trump administration. Although that trend is worrisome, the latest daily tracking by Johns Hopkins University shows a modest but discernible decline in new cases over the last two weeks. How much of the decline is due to some Republican governors in red states refusing to release coronavirus numbers (particularly in meat processing plants, prisons, and nursing homes) is not known, however. Even more troubling are estimated percentages of the U.S. population which could become infected over time. If the contagion reaches 60-70%, as at least one researcher anticipates, the eventual death toll could dwarf the current level unless effective vaccines and/or drug treatments arrive in time to reduce the fatality rate (see: Big Trouble Ahead: The projected pandemic numbers don’t look good).
On the political front, a beleaguered President Trump seems lost and confused about what to do. The more he focuses on his reelection campaign, the more the pandemic rages beyond his control. Instinctively, he is lashing out at perceived enemies trying desperately to deflect blame. But, the more he does this, the more the public distrusts him. With White House personnel increasingly getting infected, Trump’s upbeat message of economic recovery looks completely disconnected from reality. Likewise, his boastful declarations on diagnostic testing do not stand up to easily verified fact-checking. And, his vague and transparent plan to prosecute former Obama administration officials for unspecified crimes is being met with skepticism among Republicans in the U.S. Senate. Amidst all this failure, Trump suddenly walked out of his press conference yesterday after he was unexpectedly challenged by a female reporter whom he had rudely denigrated.
Also happening today is Dr. Anthony Fauci‘s remote testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, the U.S. Supreme Court hearing arguments on the contested release of Trump’s financial records (in which Trump claims he is above the law), and two special elections for open seats in the U.S. House of Representatives (which may or may not preview the coming November elections). See:
Will The Supreme Court Finally Force Trump’s Tax Returns To Be Released?
Two Special Elections On Tuesday Could Hint At Another Blue Wave In 2020
From: White House report shows coronavirus rates spiking in heartland
Coronavirus infection rates are spiking to new highs in several metropolitan areas and smaller communities across the country, according to undisclosed data the White House’s pandemic task force is using to track rates of infection, which was obtained by NBC News.
The data contained in a May 7 coronavirus task force report are at odds with President Donald Trump’s Monday declaration that “all throughout the country, the numbers are coming down rapidly.”
The top 10 areas saw surges of 72.4 percent or greater over a seven-day period compared to the prior week, according to a set of tables produced for the task force by its Data and Analytics unit. They include Nashville, Tennessee; Des Moines, Iowa; Amarillo, Texas; and — atop the list with a 650 percent increase — Central City, Kentucky.
On a separate list of “locations to watch,” which didn’t meet the precise criteria for the first set: Charlotte, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Montgomery, Alabama; Columbus, Ohio; and Phoenix, Arizona.
From: COVID-19 expert: Coronavirus will rage ‘until it infects everybody it possibly can’
A high-profile infectious disease researcher warns COVID-19 is in the early stages of attacking the world, which makes it difficult to relax stay-at-home orders without putting most Americans at risk.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the initial wave of outbreaks in cities such as New York City, where one in five people have been infected, represent a fraction of the illness and death yet to come.
“This damn virus is going to keep going until it infects everybody it possibly can,” Osterholm said Monday during a meeting with the USA TODAY Editorial Board. “It surely won’t slow down until it hits 60 to 70%” of the population, the number that would create herd immunity and halt the spread of the virus.
From: Anthony Fauci Says More than One Coronavirus Vaccine Needed to End Pandemic
Dr. Anthony Fauci and other leading health experts have suggested that more than one vaccine may be needed to effectively combat the COVID-19 pandemic due to production limitations and overwhelming demand.
Fauci co-authored a paper published in the journal Science on Monday, suggesting that demand for an effective coronavirus vaccine is likely to far exceed supplies of any single vaccine. The White House coronavirus task force member wrote the paper alongside Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center’s Dr. Larry Corey and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and vaccine expert Dr. John Mascola.
From: ‘It’s scary to go to work’ at the White House or Senate — making it tricky for Trump to argue Americans should return to work
The White House and the Republican-controlled Senate both made a point in the past week of being open for business as President Trump makes a concerted push to focus on reopening the economy.
Within days, we learned about new cases of the coronavirus at both institutions. And that’s despite the resources at the government’s disposal to avoid such a situation. That doesn’t bode well for Trump’s effort to get American businesses to open their doors before this pandemic is on the downturn.
The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker asked Trump about this on Monday: What does it mean for the average business if the White House, which is one of the most secure workplaces in the country, cannot contain the spread of coronavirus?
From: White House Covid cases contradict Trump’s message on opening
(CNN) – The White House Covid-19 outbreak is undermining President Donald Trump’s narrative that it’s safe to open up the country and that diagnostic testing is of limited importance.
The news of three top health officials, all members of the administration’s coronavirus task force, self-quarantining in some form after one of Trump’s valets and another West Wing aide tested positive is jarring alongside Trump’s desire to move on from the pandemic and to concentrate on the staggering economic dimension of the crisis.
The latest developments pose an essential question: If people around Trump are not protected from the virus in the most highly secured workplace in the country, how can it be safe for anyone else to go back to work?
It’s not, and Trump knows it. He’s worried that aides contracting the virus will undercut his message that the outbreak is fading, according to a person who spoke to him.
From: Trump claims U.S. outpaces world in coronavirus testing, but numbers tell different story
The United States as of Sunday had completed nearly 9 million coronavirus tests, according to the Covid Tracking Project. While an enormous number, the figure is equivalent to just 2.74 percent of the U.S. population and does not give a full representation of the virus’s reach within American society.
There are far higher levels of per-capita testing in other parts of the world. In tiny Iceland, the figure is an extraordinary 15.4 percent, but that amounts to about 54,000 tests across a population of 352,000 people.
Yet major industrialized economies with large outbreaks also have fared better in testing than the United States: Italy has conducted tests equivalent to 4.31 percent of its population, and Germany is at 3.35 percent. The United States also is still behind its northern neighbor, Canada, where its 1.09 million tests are equivalent to 2.95 percent of the county’s population.
Data from the Covid Tracking Project details how the country has slowly increased its daily testing over time. Since the beginning of May, the United States has reported more than 250,000 tests on most days. On Monday, the country reached a record of nearly 395,000 reported tests.
Those figures still remain far below the volume that many public health experts say will be essential before schools and businesses can reopen and before Americans can safely gather, go to work and travel again.
From: Senate Republicans break with Trump over ‘Obamagate’
President Donald Trump’s aggressive campaign to encourage sweeping investigations of his predecessor Barack Obama met a unanimous response from Senate Republicans: No thanks.
Trump’s Senate allies on Monday stopped short of echoing Trump’s frenetic and unsubstantiated claim that Obama acted illegally when the Justice Department began probing incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn in late 2016. And they indicated that the Senate would pass on investigating the former president as they conduct their own investigations that could soon ensnare other senior Obama administration officials.
Senate Republicans, however, sidestepped questions of whether the Justice Department should pursue criminal investigations against the former Obama officials, instead deferring to the ongoing investigation of U.S. Attorney John Durham, who was tapped by Attorney General William Barr to probe the origins of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia.
From: Trump abruptly ends press conference after heated exchange with reporters
President Trump abruptly left his coronavirus news conference in the Rose Garden on Monday after tense exchanges with two female reporters.
Weijia Jiang of CBS asked Trump, who frequently compares the United States’s testing ability and mortality rate with those of other countries, why the statistics surrounding the virus are a “global competition” to him.
“Well, they’re losing their lives everywhere in the world, and maybe that’s a question you should ask China,” Trump responded. “Don’t ask me. Ask China that question, OK? When you ask them that question, you may get a very unusual answer.”
“Why are you saying that to me specifically?” asked Jiang, who was born in China and raised in West Virginia.
From: Many governors win bipartisan support for handling of pandemic, but some Republicans face blowback over reopening efforts
Governors collectively have been winning widespread praise from the public for their handling of the coronavirus outbreak, often with the kind of bipartisan approval that has eluded President Trump. But a large-scale Washington Post-Ipsos poll finds that some Republican governors who have embraced reopening their states are struggling to achieve that consensus.
The survey of more than 8,000 adults reveals a wide range in the assessments of Republican governors, but not for their Democratic counterparts. The disparities appear to be linked not solely to partisanship, but also to the differing paths the governors have adopted as they seek to balance efforts to contain the spread of the virus while trying to limit the damage to their economies.
The contrast is widest in two states won by Trump in 2016. In Ohio, 86 percent of adults say they approve of the way Gov. Mike DeWine (R), who moved aggressively to close down his state and has been cautious about lifting the restrictions, has dealt with the crisis. In Georgia, 39 percent of adults approve of the performance of Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who moved less swiftly than some other governors to mitigate the spread and has been in the forefront of reopening the economy there.
See also: 54% of participants in a new poll cited the Trump administration as a source of misinformation on the coronavirus
From: Jared Kushner’s highly scrutinized ‘Project Airbridge’ to begin winding down
WASHINGTON — “Project Airbridge,” the medical-supply delivery program championed by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, is being essentially grounded, according to coronavirus task force documents obtained by NBC News.
The program, created to speed the overseas air shipment of medical supplies that would take longer to ship by boat, became a lightning rod for criticism because of its unorthodox use of federal funds to underwrite shipping costs for private companies, the massive no-bid contracts it delivered to those companies and its failure to deliver all of the goods the White House credited it with.
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