Claim: There’s An Approved Treatment For Covid
The president has promoted an anti-malaria drug as an approved treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“The hydroxychloroquine and the Z-pack, I think, as a combination, probably, it’s looking very, very good,” Trump said during a news briefing March 23. He called the pair of medicines a “drug that got approved in record-setting time.”
There’s some early evidence that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine decades-old drugs used to prevent malaria and treat rheumatic diseases might help patients fight off the virus, particularly when paired with the antibiotic azithromycin, commonly known as a Z-Pack.
But it’s not an “approved” treatment for the coronavirus, according to the Food and Drug Administration, or even a fully vetted option, according to one of Trump’s top scientists.
“The information that you’re referring to specifically is anecdotal. It was not done in a controlled clinical trial. So, you really can’t make any definitive statement about it,” the nation’s leading infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said during the same news conference.
Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the FDA, also said in March that the agency wants “a large, pragmatic clinical trial” to see whether the drug “actually benefits patients.”
A nationwide trial to determine whether hydroxychloroquine can prevent the disease in exposed persons is underway, NPR reported March 31.
Under Donald Trump Key Cdc Us Staff In China Fell To 0
If Your Time is short
The correct figures from the CDC show that overall staffing fell but remained higher than what Biden said.
The numbers also show the elimination of all U.S. staff to counter the threat posed by the new coronavirus.
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, argues that President Donald Trump failed to protect the country from the coronavirus when he had the chance. In an interview on MSNBC, Biden said Trump “absolutely missed any opportunity to get ahead of this.”
Biden underscored the loss of American staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention office in Beijing.
“We had over 44, if Im not mistaken, people from the CDC in China, in China to observe what was going on,” Biden said May 14. “The president brought home the vast majority of them, I think left only four in place.”
This is an intriguing claim. Biden is off on the exact numbers. But his point about stripped-down oversight is supported. According to the CDC, the program in China specifically charged with spotting new infectious diseases went from having four American staff in 2017 to none by 2019.
Its impossible to say with 100% certainty that if those Americans had been there, they would have been able to alert Washington earlier to an emerging threat. But not having them there eliminated that possibility.
When he said the number fell to four, the actual number by December 2019 was three Americans, and 11 Chinese.
Hiding The Truth Wont Stop The Virus
At the core of Trump and his administrations complaints about the CDC seems to be a concerted effort to make it appear as though America is quickly returning to normal before the November election. That effort was on display at Augusts Republican convention, which was seemingly designed to downplay Americas Covid-19 epidemic.
Trump even admitted to this in an interview with journalist Bob Woodward: I wanted to always play down, Trump said on March 19. I still like playing it down, because I dont want to create a panic.
This is, of course, a terrible way to approach a pandemic. Viruses dont care about politics, and theyll spread as long as people and their governments dont take action to stop them.
Weve seen that time and time again as Trump has meddled with the CDC. Although he and his staff muzzled Messonnier, it turns out she was right Covid-19 has disrupted day-to-day life significantly. After Trump suggested states reopen faster than the CDC recommended, the US saw a resurgence of Covid-19 cases, from California to Arizona to Texas to Florida, as it turned out states had opened prematurely. After Trump pushed schools to reject the CDC guidelines and open quickly, there have been outbreaks in universities and K-12 settings.
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- Travel: The European Union advised its 27 member nations to require negative Covid-19 tests for travelers boarding flights from China to the region, amid a surge in coronavirus cases in the country.
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But the instructions to hospitals in the department guidance are explicit and underscored: As of July 15, 2020, hospitals should no longer report the Covid-19 information in this document to the National Healthcare Safety Network site, the C.D.C.s system for gathering data from more than 25,000 medical centers around the country.
Centralizing control of all data under the umbrella of an inherently political apparatus is dangerous and breeds distrust, said Dr. Nicole Lurie, who served as assistant secretary for preparedness and response under former President Barack Obama. It appears to cut off the ability of agencies like C.D.C. to do its basic job.
Emails Show Hhs Official Trying To Muzzle Fauci
Caputos team also has tried to halt the release of some CDC reports, including delaying a report that addressed how doctors were prescribing hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug favored by Trump as a coronavirus treatment despite scant evidence. The report, which was held for about a month after Caputos team raised questions about its authors political leanings, was finally published last week. It said that the potential benefits of these drugs do not outweigh their risks.
In one clash, an aide to Caputo berated CDC scientists for attempting to use the reports to hurt the President in an Aug. 8 email sent to CDC Director Robert Redfield and other officials that was widely circulated inside the department and obtained by POLITICO.
CDC to me appears to be writing hit pieces on the administration, appointee Paul Alexander wrote, calling on Redfield to modify two already published reports that Alexander claimed wrongly inflated the risks of coronavirus to children and undermined Trumps push to reopen schools. CDC tried to report as if once kids get together, there will be spread and this will impact school re-opening . . . Very misleading by CDC and shame on them. Their aim is clear.
Paul Alexander uses red type to call for inserting text and accuses CDC officials of trying to use the reports to undermine President Donald Trump.|Screenshot
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The president fired the pandemic specialist in this country two years ago, Bloomberg said. So, there’s nobody here to figure out what the hell we should be doing.
In 2018, Trump administration eliminated the position of senior director for global health security and biodefense as part of a broader downsizing of the NSC spearheaded by then-National Security Adviser John Bolton. Earlier this month, 27 Democratic senators sent a letter to current National Security Adviser Robert OBrien urging him to reinstate the position and asking him to clarify how the White House plans to handle global health security threats.
Families concerned about the novel coronavirus threat need to know the NSC has a dedicated, senior official with appropriate expertise and authority to address the domestic and global health threats from the virus, they wrote. It is of paramount importance that this person approaches this role though a public health lens.
Conflicting Opinions On What Happened To The Team
In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Beth Cameron, former Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense in the NSC, wrote, When President Trump took office in 2017, the White Houses National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense survived the transition intact.
Its mission was the same as when I was asked to lead the office, established after the Ebola epidemic of 2014: to do everything possible within the vast powers and resources of the U.S. government to prepare for the next disease outbreak and prevent it from becoming an epidemic or pandemic. One year later, I was mystified when the White House dissolved the office, leaving the country less prepared for pandemics like covid-19 .
On March 14, 2020, John Bolton described the changes made to the team as streamlining. He tweeted: Claims that streamlining NSC structures impaired our nation’s bio defense are false. Global health remained a top NSC priority, and its expert team was critical to effectively handling the 2018-19 Africa Ebola crisis. The angry Left just can’t stop attacking, even in a crisis.
On March 19, 2020, former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called the changes elimination. He tweeted: The Obama-Biden Administration set up the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense to prepare for future pandemics like COVID-19. Donald Trump eliminated it and now we’re paying the price.
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A Culture Removed From Politics
The directors tenuous relationship to D.C. politics as well as the agencys physical distance from D.C. have trickled down to the staff, too, former staffers said. The agencys roughly 20,000 employees ignore politics far more than other federal agency staff.
When you live in D.C., you read, you converse, you breathe the political atmosphere, its not something you have to stop and think about its second nature. And thats not true in Atlanta, said the former CDC official, who added that most staffers in Atlanta had the false impression they were protected from politics.
They would rather not pay any attention to the political back and forth, remarked Lurie, the former assistant secretary.
Even Frieden, the former CDC director, alluded to the ways CDC officials had a false sense of protection from politics.
CDC scientists used to say to me, Isnt it great we are in Atlanta? We dont have to get bugged by the folks in Washington all the time. But wow, why is our budget so low? Frieden said.
Some of that is by design.
The CDC has an unusually small cadre of political appointees, the staffers who are installed by the White House and often have backgrounds on Capitol Hill or in political campaigns.
Political people can help you secure the resources and political support you need to do the job youve been asked to do, said Lewis, the Vanderbilt University professor. Career people just arent as good at that.
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Dennis Carroll, a widely respected scientist who headed USAIDs emerging threats division, oversaw the initiative for its duration, but retired around the time it was shut down. Carroll did not respond to an inquiry from The Times, but told the New York Times last year that by January 2019, the program had essentially collapsed into hibernation, and that its conclusion was due to the ascension of risk-averse bureaucrats.
Other members of the consortium included Columbia Universitys Center for Infection and Immunity and several institutes that manage major U.S. zoos.
Earlier this year, as COVID-19 took off, U.S. lawmakers expressed frustration over the programs end.
Addressing and preventing the spread of coronavirus and potential pandemic disease outbreaks is a serious matter that requires adequate resources for and cooperation between experts throughout the federal government, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Angus King wrote in a letter to USAIDs administrator earlier this year, asking for details on the decision.
On Wednesday, the PREDICT program was extended through September to offer emergency technical assistance to foreign labs battling the coronavirus pandemic. To date, PREDICT-supported labs in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are actively testing for coronavirus cases, Daszak said, and he has been sending reagents and other supplies to assist them.
But unfortunately, not our own, she added.
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Death By A Thousand Cuts
The CDC is not a police agency. It rarely orders anyone to do anything.
Health departments and ministries around the world respect the CDCs recommendations not because they have to, but because the CDC has the gold reputation Foege described.
Any whiff that the agencys recommendations are based on politics instead of science could hurt the CDCs reputation and diminish its influence.
Last year, there wasnt just a whiff of politicization, but rather an overwhelming stench, as the Trump administration directed CDC officials on what they could and could not say, according to the CDC officials interviewed for this story.
These officials who asked not to be identified in this story, given longstanding norms about government employees speaking to the media said the onslaught was relentless, starting in the spring.
In May, the CDC published a report about a dozens of people who contracted Covid-19 following choir practice at a church in Skagit County, Washington.
Two weeks later, an updated version of the CDC advisory for houses of worship omitted warnings about singing.
just wanted us to be silent, the CDC doctor said. Just be silent. Dont say anything.
Trump fired off an angry tweet calling them very tough, expensive, and impractical. When he threatened that he might cut off funding from schools that didnt do things his way, the CDC changed its guidelines.
Judiciary And Law Enforcement
During the shutdown, court-appointed private lawyers who represent indigent defendants worked without pay. The Federal Judiciary initially had a goal of sustaining paid operations through January 18, 2019. It said it would run out of money to sustain court operations no earlier than January 25, but perhaps as late as February 1. Failing funding, the Judiciary would operate under the terms of the Antideficiency Act. This Act does not allow federal agencies to expend federal funds before an appropriation, nor to accept any voluntary services. The judiciary had 33,000 employees nationwide. Under the Constitution, Supreme Court Justices, appeals court judges and district judges would continue to be paid.
The shutdown caused many delays and disruptions in cases. Budgets were watched carefully to be able to pay public defenders, DNA testing, informants, and travel costs to interview victims and witnesses. Staffing issues also brought about concerns and constraints with prisons lacking the staff to safely hold attorney-client visits, and caused a delay in bail hearings.
Investigation and enforcement
Federal law enforcement agencies working on Native American land worked without pay through the shutdown.
During the shutdown, a wave of Domain Name System attacks on government sites was detected by Homeland Security. The attacks were serious because these Internet sites could be hijacked.
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A Lack Of Influential Allies
At least some of the power and influence an agency yields in Washington comes from the industries it regulates.
Take the annual government appropriations process, in which lawmakers haggle over how much taxpayer money will go to every federal agency from the SEC to the EPA. Many of the countrys most powerful industries have a stake in making sure the agencies they rely on have the funds to be efficient. So they aggressively lobby Congress to make sure theyre well-resourced.
Pharmaceutical companies, for example, regularly lobby Congress to fund new FDA staff positions in hopes of speeding up the drug approval process or getting more attention on a certain priority. Research universities press lawmakers for new funding for NIH in hopes of eventually getting access to new federal grants and other research funding.
There is a political economy problem, Frieden said. If you look at the NIH, the NIH gives most of its money to universities, universities are in every state in the U.S., every congressional district just about, and they have boards. The boards are powerful people, they donate money to politicians.
Frieden contrasted that to the public health departments that typically benefit from CDC funding. When compared to research universities, public health departments are schlubs, basically, he said.
Claim: Some Hospital Workers May Be Taking Hydroxychloroquine Already True But Medical Associations Have Urged Caution
Trump said of hydroxychloroquine on March 31: “I think some medical workers are doing that, using it maybe or getting it prescribed perhaps as for another use.”
“There is a theory going around that in our country and some other countries, people are taking that that work in the hospitals, that work with the patients because there is some evidence. And, again, it’s going to have to be proven. It’s very early,” he added.
Here, Trump is continuing to promote an unapproved treatment by amplifying anecdotal reports of a practice medical authorities have acknowledged is indeed happening. But those same authorities have issued warnings against the practice, in large part because the treatment is not approved by the FDA.
The American Medical Association, the American Pharmacists Association and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists released a joint statement acknowledging “that some physicians and others are prophylactically prescribing medications currently identified as potential treatments for COVID-19.”
“We strongly oppose these actions,” the statement said. “We caution hospitals, health systems, and individual practitioners that no medication has been FDA-approved for use in COVID-19 patients.”
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