April COVID 19 Trump

April COVID 19 Trump

April COVID 19 Trump

This is the third post regarding President Trump and the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are links to the first and the second.

I have also posted chronologies about the pandemic in general. Here are links to the first and the second and third of those.

Trump Diverts

April 1: CNN reported that President Donald Trump had made another series of false, misleading or dubious claims at a  coronavirus briefing that began with an off-topic discussion of his administration’s efforts to fight drug trafficking.

April COVID 19 Trump

Trump Claims U.S. Testing Most Per Capita

April 2: Trump again said that “nobody” could have foreseen a pandemic crisis leading to a shortage of ventilators, for which there were numerous warnings. He predicted that the virus would no longer be a concern after about a month, a timeline at odds with assessments of experts. And he implied some states are basically fine when it comes to the coronavirus.

During his  briefing with the coronavirus task force, President Trump repeated a claim that the United States has done more testing for the contagion on a per-capita basis than any other country.

“We’re now conducting well over 100,000 coronavirus tests per day,” Trump said. “It’s over 100,000 tests a day. And these are accurate tests, and they’re moving rapidly, which is more than any other country in the world, both in terms of the raw number and also on a per-capita basis, the most.”

Given the population of the U.S. (about 327 million), that’s roughly one in every 273 people, as of April 2.

South Korea, with its population of 51.5 million, has done 431,743 tests, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s approximately one in every 119 people.

Germany had tested about one-in-90 people — 918,460 with a population of 82.8 million. Germany also happens to have one of the lowest fatality rates from COVID-19.

With 581,232 tests conducted, according to the Italian health ministry, and a population of roughly 60.5 million, Italy’s testing per capita is on par with South Korea — about one in every 104.

April COVID 19 Trump

2019 BioDefense Summit

On April 3, 2020 CNN reported that at the at the BioDefense Summit in April 2019, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Tim Morrison, then a special assistant to the President and senior director for weapons of mass destruction and biodefense on the National Security Council said, “Of course, the thing that people ask: ‘What keeps you most up at night in the biodefense world?’ Pandemic flu, of course. I think everyone in this room probably shares that concern,” Azar said, before listing off efforts to mitigate the impact of flu outbreaks.

Such a statement undercut President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the coronavirus pandemic was an unforeseen problem.

C.D.C. says all Americans should wear masks.

Trump says he won’t.

April 3: President Trump said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was urging all Americans to wear a mask when they leave their homes, but he undercut the message by repeatedly calling the recommendation voluntary and saying he would not wear one himself.

“With the masks, it is going to be a voluntary thing,” the president said at the beginning of the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House. “You can do it. You don’t have to do it. I am choosing not to do it. It may be good. It is only a recommendation, voluntary.”

“Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens — I don’t know,” he added, though he stopped receiving foreign dignitaries weeks ago. “Somehow, I just don’t see it for myself.” [NYT article]

Trump Continues  to Promote Dubious Treatments

April 3: NPR reported that President Trump continued to claim that hydroxychloroquine was a promising treatment for COVID-19.

“Hydroxychloroquine, I don’t know,” he said, shaking his head. “It’s looking like it’s having some good results. I hope that, that would be a phenomenal thing.”

But the clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine had just recently started, and the scientists in charge of them have not reported any results as yet, either positive or negative. Seeing any positive effect from the drug is likely to take some time, perhaps weeks.

April COVID 19 Trump

Surge yet…

April 4: the NY Times reported that President Trump predicted a surging death toll in what he said may be “the toughest week” of the coronavirus pandemic before also dispensing unproven medical advice. He suggested again that Americans might be able to congregate for Easter services next Sunday.

“There will be a lot of death,” he said at the White House, where he and other American officials depicted some parts of the United States as climbing toward the peaks of their crises, while warning that new hot spots were emerging in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Washington, D.C.

What do you have to lose?

April 5: NPR reported that President Trump doubled down on the suggestion that people facing the coronavirus should consider taking an anti-malaria drug that has not been proven to be an effective treatment.

In a news conference he repeated a line he has said many times before — “what do you have to lose?” — when detailing that the federal government had stockpiled 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine for potential use to treat the virus. He also suggested doctors take the drug before treating coronavirus patients.

What do you have to lose? What do you have to lose? And a lot of people are saying that when … and are taking it, if you’re a doctor, a nurse, a first responder, a medical person going into hospitals, they say taking it before the fact is good, but what do you have to lose? They say, take it, I’m not looking at it one way or the other, but we want to get out of this. If it does work, it would be a shame if we didn’t do it early. But we have some very good signs. So that’s hydroxy chloroquine and as azithromycin, and again, you have to go through your medical people get the approval. But I’ve seen things that I sort of like, so what do I know? I’m not a doctor, I’m not a doctor, but I have common sense. [full transcript]

April COVID 19 Trump

White House official warned in January that a pandemic could imperil millions of Americans.

April 7: the NY Times reported that Peter Navarro had warned in a memo to Trump administration officials on January 29 that the coronavirus crisis could cost the United States trillions of dollars and put millions of Americans at risk of illness or death.

“The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil,” Navarro’s memo said. “This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.”

The memo came during a period when Mr. Trump was playing down the risks to the United States. He later went on to say that no one could have predicted such a devastating outcome.

In one worst-case scenario cited in the memo, more than a half-million Americans could die.

April 7: Trump criticized the WHO for mishandling the pandemic. “The WHO really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China-centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately, I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?” [NPR timeline]

April COVID 19 Trump

Trump weakens oversight

April 7: President Trump moved to oust Glenn A. Fine of the new Pandemic Response Accountability Committee charged with overseeing how the administration spent trillions of taxpayer dollars in coronavirus pandemic relief.

Fine had been the acting inspector general for the Defense Department since before Trump had taken office and was set to become the chairman of the new committee to police how the government carries out the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, but Trump replaced Mr. Fine in his Pentagon job, disqualifying him from serving on the new oversight panel. [NYT article]

Trump/WHO contradiction

The NY  Times reported that President Trump threatened to cut funding from the World Health Organization, accusing it of not being aggressive enough in confronting the dangers from the virus.
“We’re going to put a hold on money spent to the W.H.O.,”  Trump said.
In fact,  on January 30  the W.H.O. officially declared COVID a  “public health emergency of international concern.”weeks before Trump declared a national emergency. In fact, on that same day, Trump said, “We think we have it very well under control.”
April COVID 19 Trump

Kayleigh McEnany

April 7: Kayleigh McEnany replaced Stephanie Grisham as the White House press secretary, a position that had become a titular one. Grisham left without ever having briefed the press.
In a video of McEnany on the Fox Business show “Trish Regan Primetime” from Feb. 25, circulated by Andrew Kaczynski of CNN, the new press secretary said, “We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here, we will not see terrorism come here, and isn’t that refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama?”

Chloroquine Study Halted

April 13: the NY Times reported that a small study of chloroquine, which is closely related to the hydroxychloroquine drug that President Trump has promoted, was halted in Brazil after coronavirus patients taking a higher dose developed irregular heart rates that increased their risk of a potentially fatal arrhythmia.

The study, which involved 81 hospitalized patients in the city of Manaus, was sponsored by the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Roughly half the participants were prescribed 450 milligrams of chloroquine twice daily for five days, while the rest were prescribed 600 milligrams for 10 days.

Within three days, researchers started noticing heart arrhythmias in patients taking the higher dose. By the sixth day of treatment, 11 patients had died, leading to an immediate end to the high-dose segment of the trial.

April COVID 19 Trump

Unkept Promises

On March 13, President Trump declared a national emergency and in a Rose Garden address, flanked by leaders from giant retailers and medical testing companies, he promised a mobilization of public and private resources to attack the coronavirus.
On April 13, NPR reported that few of those promises had come to pass.
  • Target did not partner with the federal government.
  • A lauded Google project turned out to not to be led by Google at all, but by Verily and then once launched was limited to a smattering of counties in California. According to Verily, there were not 1,700 engineers ever engaged in the project.
  • The president  had said there were 1,700 Google engineers working on it,
  • the retailers had not yet initiated any wide-scale implementation of drive-through tests.  Walmart had opened two testing sites — one in the Chicago area and another in Bentonville, Ark. Walgreens had opened two in Chicago; CVS has opened four sites. Target had not opened any.
  • Home testing kits were promised. NPR called more than 20 LHC sites in 12 states, and none of them were doing in-home testing. Employees at the LHC sites said they lacked both testing kits and the training to administer kits.
  • The president had said he would waive license requirements so that doctors could practice in states with the greatest needs, for example. But medical licensing is a state issue, and the president does not have the authority to waive it.
  • The president had announced that his administration would “purchase, at a very good price, large quantities of crude oil for storage in the U.S. Strategic Reserve.” It had not done so.

Trump fights back

April 13: the NY Times reported that President Trump turned  the daily coronavirus task force briefing into an aggressive defense of his own halting response to the pandemic and used a campaign-style video to denounce criticism that he moved too slowly to limit the deadly spread of the virus.

For nearly an hour, Mr. Trump vented his frustration after weekend news reports that his own public health officials were prepared by late February to recommend aggressive social distancing measures, but that the president did not announce them until several weeks later — a crucial delay that allowed the virus to spread.

In an article on the same meeting, NPR reported that Trump declined to specify exactly when he expected to see restrictions eased on the American public but offered that he expected full cooperation from states, following guidelines from his task force. That statement was in contrast to the fact that several governors had banded together to coordinate easing their restrictions as groups.

“The president of the United States has the authority to do what the president has the authority to do, which is very powerful,” Trump said. “The president of the United States calls the shots.” (see April 16 below)

April COVID 19 Trump

April 14: the NY Times reported that recent polls had show that more Americans disapproved of  President Trump’s handling of the virus than approve.

On this date, the president tried to shift the blame elsewhere, ordered his administration to halt funding for the World Health Organization and claimed the organization had made a series of devastating mistakes as it sought to battle the virus. He said his administration would conduct a review into whether the W.H.O. was responsible for “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread.

“So much death has been caused by their mistakes,” the president told reporters during a White House briefing.

António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, defended the World Health Organization, saying it “must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against Covid-19.”

Guterres added that it was “possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities,” but he said that the middle of a pandemic was not the time to resolve those differences.

“It is also not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus,” he said.

Patrice A. Harris, the president of the American Medical Association, said that the move was “a dangerous step in the wrong direction.” [2nd NYT article]

Trump walk-back

April 16: though having said on April 13 that “the president of the United States calls the shots,” on this date, the President essentially ceded control over easing restrictions to the states.

“We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time,” Trump told reporters during a briefing at the White House.

In the hours before Trump spoke, the $349 billion fund for small businesses ran out of money and a new labor report revealed that 22 million Americans had filed for unemployment in just the last month. Basic necessities like food, shelter and medical care, long taken for granted by most people, were suddenly at risk for millions.[NY Times article]

Trump’s Saturday coronavirus briefing was littered with false claims, old and new

April 18: CNN reported that President Donald Trump’s coronavirus press conference was littered with false claims about the pandemic crisis.

  • Trump continued to favorably compare the coronavirus testing situation in the US to the situation in other countries. He alleged that Democratic governors are deliberately not using testing capacity the federal government has created — and suggested that the only governors “complaining” about testing challenges are Democrats.

But…

CNN: There is no evidence that any governor is deliberately not using available testing capacity. And it’s not only Democratic governors who have spoken of problems and challenges with testing. Governors from both parties, and public health officials around the country, have warned that they are still unable to do the amount of testing needed to safely lift social and economic restrictions.

  • Trump repeated one of his go-to falsehoods that he often uses to defend his administration’s fumbled response to the coronavirus pandemic. “In speaking to the leaders of other countries this morning, they said this is incredible the way you’ve done this so quickly,” Trump said, without naming any foreign officials. “You know, we’re only talking about a few weeks since everybody knew this was such a big problem.

CNN: Trump is on an island with this one. Not only have there been multiple warnings about America’s vulnerability to a pandemic over the past few years, but Trump’s own government issued numerous warnings since the beginning of this year about the potential severity of the coronavirus.

  •  President Trump repeated his claim that he inherited a “bare cupboard” of medical supplies to fight coronavirus from the Obama administration. “We started off with a broken system. We inherited a broken, terrible system. And I always say it, our cupboards were bare. We had very little in our stockpile. Now we’re loaded up.

CNN: Trump’s argument has some truth to it, but it’s also somewhat misleading. While Trump isn’t wrong to suggest he inherited a depleted stockpile of some medical supplies — the stockpile of masks, for example, was depleted and not replenished by the Obama administration — the cupboards were not completely “bare”; he inherited significant quantities of other supplies. And Trump had three years in office to build depleted stockpiles back up.

  • Speaking about testing for the coronavirus, Trump said, “I inherited broken junk.”

CNN: The faulty initial test for the coronavirus was created during Trump’s administration in early 2020 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since this is a new virus that was first identified this year, the bad tests couldn’t possibly be “inherited.”

  • In addition to claiming President Obama left him with a depleted stockpile of medical supplies, Trump said Obama left him with “no ammunition.” “If you remember when I first came in, we didn’t have ammunition,” Trump said. “Not a good way to fight a war. President Obama left us no ammunition, OK.

CNN: It’s not true that the US had “no ammunition” at the beginning of Trump’s presidency. Rather, according to the public comments of military leaders, there was a shortfall in certain kinds of munitions, particularly precision-guided bombs, late in the Obama presidency and early in the Trump presidency.

Trump/Immigration/COVID

Close borders

April 20, 2020: President Trump announced a plan to close the United States to people trying to come to the country to live and work. He justified the drastic move as a necessary step to protect American workers from foreign competition once the nation’s economy begins to recover from the shutdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”

Not quite close borders

April 21: the NYT reported that the Trump administration announced new restrictions on permanent residency in the United States.

The President said  that he would order a temporary halt in issuing green cards to prevent people from immigrating to the United States, but he backed away from plans to suspend guest worker programs,

Science Not Politics Dismissal

April 22: the NY Times reported that Rick Bright, the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, the federal involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine said that he was removed from his post after he pressed for rigorous vetting of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug embraced by President Trump as a coronavirus treatment, and that the administration had put “politics and cronyism ahead of science.”

Bright was abruptly dismissed this week and removed as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response. He was given a narrower job at the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Bright, who received a Ph.D. in immunology and molecular pathogenesis from Emory University, assailed the leadership at the health department, saying he was pressured to direct money toward hydroxychloroquine, one of several “potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections” and repeatedly described by the president as a potential “game changer” in the fight against the virus.

“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,” he said in his statement. “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”

Trump Quackery

April 23: the NY Times reported that after William N. Bryan, the head of science at the Department of Homeland Security, told the day’s briefing that the government had tested how sunlight and disinfectants — including bleach and alcohol — can kill the coronavirus on surfaces in as little as 30 seconds, the President said, ““Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light. And I think you said that hasn’t been checked, but we’re going to test it? And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, either through the skin or some other way.”

Shortly after Mr. Trump made his latest comments, emergency management officials in Washington State posted a warning on Twitter against following the president’s suggestions.

April 24: in Maryland, so many callers flooded a health hotline with questions that the state’s Emergency Management Agency had to issue a warning that “under no circumstances” should any disinfectant be taken to treat the coronavirus.

In New Jersey, Dr. Diane P. Calello, the medical director of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, warned in an interview that injecting bleach or highly concentrated rubbing alcohol “causes massive organ damage and the blood cells in the body to basically burst…(and that) it can definitely be a fatal event.

The makers of Clorox and Lysol pleaded with Americans not to inject or ingest their products.

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