Trump threatens to move GOP convention over North Carolina’s coronavirus restrictions

President Trump warned Monday that the Republican Party could seek to move its 2020 convention if North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) cannot guarantee that coronavirus restrictions will be lifted, allowing the full use of Charlotte’s Spectrum Center this summer.

“I love the Great State of North Carolina, so much so that I insisted on having the Republican National Convention in Charlotte at the end of August. Unfortunately, Democrat Governor, @RoyCooperNC is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed full attendance in the Arena,” Trump said in a series of tweets. “In other words, we would be spending millions of dollars building the Arena to a very high standard without even knowing if the Democrat Governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space.”

“Plans are being made by many thousands of enthusiastic Republicans, and others, to head to beautiful North Carolina in August. They must be immediately given an answer by the Governor as to whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied,” he continued. “If not, we will be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site. This is not something I want to do. Thank you, and I LOVE the people of North Carolina!”

Vice President Pence later backed up Trump during an appearance on “Fox & Friends” on Monday morning, warning that the GOP could decide to move the August convention to a different location “that is farther along on reopening and can say with confidence that, that we can gather there.”

The Republican National Committee did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment. Cooper responded in a statement later Monday morning, explaining that discussions with the Republican National Committee (RNC) were ongoing.

Trump has encouraged governors for weeks to begin accelerating their plans to reopen their economies and lift social distancing measures, even as some states have seen their numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases continue to rise.

North Carolina entered phase two of its reopening plan last week, allowing restaurants to open at 50 percent capacity but still prohibiting large gatherings.

The Democratic National Committee has already pushed back its own convention by a month, and the presumptive presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, has floated the option of the Milwaukee event going digital. 

Trump, however, has rejected suggestions of altering the GOP convention in the face of the pandemic.

[The Hill]

Trump rips Columbia as ‘disgraceful institution’ after study showed lives lost due to delayed shutdown

President Trump ripped Columbia University as a “disgraceful institution” in a new interview released Sunday after it released a study last week concluding thousands of lives could have been spared in the U.S. if shutdowns weren’t delayed.

Sharyl Attkisson asked the president about the study, which determined almost 36,000 deaths from COVID-19 through early May could have been avoided if social distancing and lockdowns had started earlier. 

The president called the fact that the university would issue the study “a disgrace” on the show “Full Measure.”

“Columbia is a liberal, disgraceful institution to write that because all the people that they cater to were months after me,” Trump said.

“And I saw that report,” he added. “It’s a disgrace that Columbia University would do it, playing right to their little group of people that tell them what to do.”

Trump cited his January travel ban on foreign nationals from China as evidence of his administration’s early actions, adding that he took “tremendous heat” for the decision at the time. 

Columbia University did not immediately return a request for comment.

The study focused on transmission in metropolitan areas and concluded that social distancing efforts reduced the rates of COVID-19 contraction. The research was conducted with counterfactual experiments, which researchers acknowledged are based on hypothetical assumptions.

The study also found about 54,000 deaths associated with COVID-19 could have been avoided in early May if restrictions began on March 1.

Trump has repeatedly defended his administration’s response to the pandemic, including pointing to his decision in late January to restrict travel from China, while critics have said administration officials downplayed the threat and reacted too slowly.

[The Hill]

Despite FDA Caution, Trump Says He Is Taking Hydroxychloroquine As A Preventive

President Trump on Monday revealed to reporters that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine and zinc to protect against the coronavirus.

“I was just waiting to see your eyes light up when I said this,” the president told reporters, volunteering the information at the end of a roundtable with restaurant owners.

Trump said he asked his doctor about taking it after hearing from people who had done so. “Here’s my evidence — I get a lot of positive calls about it,” he said.

“I’ve taken it for about a week and a half now. And I’m still here,” he said.

The president said that he had asked the White House physician about it and that he did not start taking it in response to a specific exposure.

Trump has been promoting the drug, used to treat malaria and lupus, in briefings and on Twitter. The drug’s impact on the virus is being studied, but there is no definitive evidence yet from clinical trials — and there have been some warnings about side effects, including from the Food and Drug Administration.

Medical experts have urged caution around the drug, and last month the FDA strongly warned against using hydroxychloroquine without medical supervision, such as in a hospital or as part of a clinical trial.

Although researchers have been skeptical of hydroxychloroquine’s role in treating COVID-19, there is more enthusiasm about its potential to prevent infection. That’s because multiple studies have shown that the drug can prevent coronavirus replication.

Two such studies are currently underway.

One is being conducted by scientists and physicians at the University of Minnesota and will involve 1,500 volunteers at high risk for contracting COVID-19, either because they are health care workers or live with someone who has the disease. The study is actively recruiting high-risk health care workers and first responders from around the United States.

That study began clinical trials on April 6 to determine whether hydroxychloroquine is effective at preventing infection from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19.

The other is a multicenter study led by Duke University that is also aimed primarily at health care workers. It aims to enroll 15,000 volunteers.

Neither study has released any results.

Dr. David R. Boulware, a medical professor who launched the University of Minnesota study, said there is no data showing that using hydroxychloroquine as a preexposure prophylaxis is effective.

“It may be. It may not be. We do not know,” he told NPR.

“The only way I would recommend taking hydroxychloroquine is within a clinical trial,” he said.

[NPR]

Trump tears into ’60 Minutes’ after segment with whistleblower Bright

President Trump took aim at CBS News and its flagship news magazine program, “60 Minutes,” on Sunday after the program interviewed whistleblower Rick Bright, former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

In a tweet, the president excoriated CBS and its “third place anchor, @NorahODonnell,” whom he accused of “doing everything in their power to demean our Country, much to the benefit of the Radical Left Democrats.”

“Tonight they put on yet another Fake “Whistleblower”, a disgruntled employee who supports Dems, fabricates stories & spews lies. @60Minutes report was incorrect, which they couldn’t care less about. Fake News!” he tweeted.

“This whole Whistleblower racket needs to be looked at very closely, it is causing great injustice & harm. I hope you are listening [Sen. Susan Collins.] I also hope that Shari Redstone will take a look at her poorly performing gang. She knows how to make things right!” Trump added. Redstone is the chairwoman of ViacomCBS.

Bright, who last week slammed the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 crisis during testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, told CBS News that he was not “disgruntled,” as Trump has described him, but instead was frustrated with the administration’s response to the virus threat.

“Remember, the entire leadership was focused on containment. There was a belief that we could contain this virus and keep it out of the United States,” he said. “Containment doesn’t work. Containment does buy time. It could slow. It very well could slow the spread. But while you’re slowing the spread, you better be doing something in parallel to be prepared for when that virus breaks out. That was my job.”
“I am not disgruntled,” Bright added. “I am frustrated at a lack of leadership. I am frustrated at a lack of urgency to get a head start on developing lifesaving tools for Americans. I’m frustrated at our inability to be heard as scientists. Those things frustrate me.”

Bright told the House committee last week that “unprecedented illness and fatalities” would occur if the U.S. coronavirus response does not improve in upcoming months, and cast doubt on predictions that the U.S. would see a COVID-19 vaccine developed in the next year and a half.

[The Hill]

Trump Downplays Need for Coronavirus Vaccine at His Own Big Vaccine Announcement

President Donald Trump downplayed the need for a coronavirus vaccine at his coronavirus vaccine press briefing on Friday, claiming that if a vaccine does not happen, the virus will still “go away at some point.”

“We think we are going to have a vaccine in the pretty near future, and if we do, we are going to really be a big step ahead,” President Trump declared. “And if we don’t, we are going to be like so many other cases where you had a problem come in. It’ll go away at some point, it’ll go away.”

“It may flare up and it may not flare up, we’ll have to see what happens, but if it does flare up we’re going to put out the fire and we’ll put it out quickly and efficiently,” he continued.

After being asked how long a vaccine could take, President Trump said, “We hope to be able to do something by the end of the year or shortly thereafter, but again, it’s not solely vaccine-based. Other things have never had a vaccine and they go away. So, I don’t want people to think that this is all dependent on vaccine.”

“But a vaccine would be a tremendous thing, and I will tell you, therapeutically, or therapeutics, what’s going on there is equally as impressive,” the president added.

During the briefing, President Trump also said, “I just want to make something clear. It’s very important. Vaccine or no vaccine, we’re back.”

This week, World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Program Executive Director Dr. Mike Ryan, however, warned, “This virus just may become another endemic virus in our communities and this virus may never go away. HIV hasn’t gone away.”

[Mediaite]


Trump says coronavirus testing ‘overrated,’ claims fewer cases if no testing

While health officials continue to stress the importance of testing as the key to controlling the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested testing is “overrated.”

Speaking to employees at an Owens & Minor Inc. OMI, -3.00% medical-supply plant in Allentown, Pa., Trump said testing might be the problem.

“So we have the best testing in the world,” Trump said. “It could be the testing’s, frankly, overrated? Maybe it is overrated.”

The country has more than 1.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, but Trump said that’s only because the U.S. has carried out more tests.

“We have more cases than anybody in the world, but why? Because we do more testing,” Trump said. “When you test, you have a case. When you test you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases. They don’t want to write that. It’s common sense. We test much more.”

Many on social media were quick to point out the obvious flaw in the president’s logic.

[Market Watch]

White House blocks Fauci from testifying before Congress

House Democrats seeking Anthony Fauci‘s testimony on the coronavirus crisis have been rebuffed by the White House, which is blocking the nation’s top infectious disease expert from appearing next week on Capitol Hill.

Democrats had invited Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, to appear Wednesday before an Appropriations subcommittee examining the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 64,000 people in the United States.

Evan Hollander, a spokesman for the panel, said Friday that Democrats “have been informed by an administration official that the White House has blocked Dr. Fauci from testifying.”

Moments later the White House affirmed its position, saying that it would be “counterproductive” to have officials involved in efforts to defeat the novel coronavirus testify at congressional hearings at this time but that the administration would work with Congress to make them available “at the appropriate time.”

“While the Trump Administration continues its whole-of-government response to COVID-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counter-productive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at Congressional hearings,” White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement. “We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.”

Next week’s House hearing was scheduled by Rep. Rosa DeLaura (D-Conn.), who heads the Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over health care issues. The meeting aims to examine the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic, even while the House remains in recess. House lawmakers are not expected back in Washington before May 11.

[The Hill]


Trump Berates CBS News’ Weijia Jiang for Calling Whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright Gifted

President Donald Trump insisted he didn’t know anything about whistleblowing vaccine expert Dr. Rick Bright, but then berated CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang for asking about Bright’s “gifts” in his field of expertise.

On Wednesday, Dr. Bright released a blockbuster statement in which he said he’d been demoted from his position leading the agency tasked with vaccine development because he had pushed back against funding unproven coronavirus treatments that Trump has relentlessly promoted — and suggested that political connections and cronyism were behind Trump’s promotion of them.

Despite the implications of Bright’s accusations, it wasn’t until nearly an hour into the briefing that a reporter asked about it.

“Mr. President, I wanted to ask you about Rick Bright,” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl said. “He’s the head of the federal agency in charge of getting a vaccine out to — to Americans once it’s ready. He says he has been pushed out of his job because he raised questions about hydroxychloroquine and some of your directives on that. Was he pushed out of that job?”

“I’ve never heard of him. You just mentioned the name. I never heard of him,” Trump claimed, then asked “When did this happen?”

“This happened today,” Karl said, to which Trump said “Well, I’ve never heard of him. If the guy says he was pushed out of a job, maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. I — you’d have to hear the other side. I don’t know who he is.”

Karl tried to ask a follow-up, but Trump brushed him off to call on another reporter.

Despite the fact that Trump simultaneously claimed not to know the head of the agency tasked with finding a vaccine during a global pandemic and casually acknowledged the man may well have been pushed out of his job, only one other reporter asked about Dr. Bright for the remainder of the briefing.

“Mr. President, yes, I just had a follow — a question for Dr. Fauci, if you don’t mind,” Weijia Jiang said, adding “And I’m happy to ask you one after.”

She never got the chance to question Trump, but Jiang asked Dr. Fauci “So this concern or an accusation he’s raised that he was removed from his job because he protested widespread use of hydroxychloroquine, are you familiar with the situation? And do you feel like public health experts feel they are able to speak publicly or to speak out in opposition to the things?”

Fauci shook his head and said “Here I am,” indicating that he is an example of an expert speaking publicly. Dr. Fauci has urged caution about the drugs Trump has promoted, but has not spoken in opposition the way Dr. Bright did.

“So you don’t feel like there’s any concern among people at the NIH right now or in the public health community?” Jiang asked.

“At the NIH, absolutely not,” Fauci replied.

“Dr. Fauci, knowing Dr. Bright and knowing what his gifts are as one of the country’s leading experts on vaccines, are those gifts best suited at NIH rather than BARDA? What’s he going to be doing with you?” Jiang asked, and added “are his gifts best suited to work with you rather than BARDA?”

“I don’t really think I can comment on somebody’s relative gifts,” Fauci said, then described Dr. Bright’s new duties.

“I mean, he’s — he’s going to be at the NIH, and he’s going to be responsible, from what I hear — again, this is what I’ve heard — that he’s going to be responsible for the development of diagnostics, which is very, very important,” Fauci said.

As Fauci wrapped up his answer, Jiang began to ask “Are you concerned at all that he –”

But Trump stepped up to the podium and interrupted by saying “And why did you say that he has great gifts or gifts? What, do you know him?”

“Well, that’s his expertise. I mean, I’m just looking at his résumé,” Jiang said. Dr. Bright is an award-winning vaccine expert.

Trump  interrupted “No, no, but have you reviewed him? Have you — have you studied him? Have you reported on him? You said, ‘his gifts.’ His gifts. I mean…”

“He’s worked his entire career developing vaccines, including the –” Jiang said, as Trump interrupted again.

“Well, that doesn’t mean you have gifts. I know a lot of people, they play baseball, but they can’t hit 150 in the Major Leagues,” Trump said.

“Well, he helped develop the flu vaccine last year,” Jiang said.

“No, no, but you talk about his great gifts,” Trump said, then rolled on to the next reporter.

Neither Jiang nor Karl had the chance to ask Trump about the substance of Dr. Bright’s accusations, and not a single other reporter bothered to try.

[Mediaite]

Trump suggests injecting Bleach as treatment

US President Donald Trump has been lambasted by the medical community after suggesting research into whether coronavirus might be treated by injecting disinfectant into the body.

He also appeared to propose irradiating patients’ bodies with UV light, an idea dismissed by a doctor at the briefing.

Another of his officials had moments earlier said sunlight and disinfectant were known to kill the infection.

Mr Trump’s own public health agencies warn against bleach as a medicine.

What did President Trump say?

During Thursday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing, an official presented the results of US government research that indicated coronavirus appeared to weaken more quickly when exposed to sunlight and heat.

The study also showed bleach could kill the virus in saliva or respiratory fluids within five minutes and isopropyl alcohol could kill it even more quickly.

William Bryan, acting head of the US Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, outlined the findings at the news conference.

While noting the research should be treated with caution, Mr Trump suggested further research in that area.

“So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous – whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light,” the president said, turning to Dr Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response co-ordinator, “and I think you said that hasn’t been checked but you’re going to test it.

“And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside of the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you’re going to test that too. Sounds interesting,” the president continued.

“And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?

“So it’d be interesting to check that.”

Pointing to his head, Mr Trump went on: “I’m not a doctor. But I’m, like, a person that has a good you-know-what.”

He turned again to Dr Birx and asked if she had ever heard of using “the heat and the light” to treat coronavirus.

“Not as a treatment,” Dr Birx said. “I mean, certainly, fever is a good thing, when you have a fever it helps your body respond. But I’ve not seen heat or light.”

“I think it’s a great thing to look at,” Mr Trump said.

A journalist at the briefing questioned whether Mr Trump’s off-the-cuff remarks could spread dangerous disinformation to Americans.

What’s the reaction?

Doctors warned the president’s idea could have fatal results.

Pulmonologist Dr Vin Gupta told NBC News: “This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible and it’s dangerous.

“It’s a common method that people utilise when they want to kill themselves.”

Kashif Mahmood, a doctor in Charleston, West Virginia, tweeted: “As a physician, I can’t recommend injecting disinfectant into the lungs or using UV radiation inside the body to treat COVID-19.

“Don’t take medical advice from Trump.”

John Balmes, a pulmonologist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, warned that even breathing fumes from bleach could cause severe health problems.

He told Bloomberg News: “Inhaling chlorine bleach would be absolutely the worst thing for the lungs. The airway and lungs are not made to be exposed to even an aerosol of disinfectant.

“Not even a low dilution of bleach or isopropyl alcohol is safe. It’s a totally ridiculous concept.”

Mr Trump has previously hyped a malaria medication, hydroxycloroquine, as a possible treatment for coronavirus, though he has stopped touting that drug recently.

This week a study of coronavirus patients in a US government-run hospital for military veterans found more deaths among those treated with hydroxychloroquine than those treated with standard care.

Reacting to the president’s remarks on Thursday evening, Joe Biden, his likely Democratic challenger in November’s White House election, tweeted: “UV light? Injecting disinfectant? Here’s an idea, Mr President: more tests. Now. And protective equipment for actual medical professionals.”

What’s the US government’s advice?

Only this week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Americans to be careful with cleaning products as sales of household disinfectants soar amid the pandemic.

“Calls to poison centres increased sharply at the beginning of March 2020 for exposures to both cleaners and disinfectants,” found the agency’s weekly morbidity and mortality report.

The US Food and Drug Administration has warned against ingesting disinfectants, citing the sale of bogus miracle cures that contain bleach and purport to treat everything from autism to Aids and hepatitis.

The agency’s website says: “The FDA has received reports of consumers who have suffered from severe vomiting, severe diarrhoea, life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration, and acute liver failure after drinking these products.”

[BBC]

Media

HHS ousts vaccine expert who pushed back on COVID-19 treatment

The former head of the office involved in developing a vaccine for COVID-19 said he was removed after he pushed to vet and to limit drug treatments often touted by President Trump. “Specifically, and contrary to misguided directives, I limited the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, promoted by the Administration as a panacea, but which clearly lack scientific merit,” Dr. Rick Bright said in a statement released by his lawyers Wednesday.

In tweets and public remarks, Mr. Trump has referred to hydroxychloroquine as a potential “game-changer” in treating COVID-19. The president has recommended the use of the antimalarial drug as a potential treatment for the coronavirus, despite limited evidence that the drug would be effective.

Bright was the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and HHS deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response by the administration.

He said that he was “involuntarily transferred to a more limited and less impactful position at the National Institutes of Health,” a transfer that he believes came in response to his “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.”

“I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way,” he said in his statement. Bright is a career official and not a political appointee. He has requested that the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services investigate his dismissal.

Bright said that he’s “prepared to look at all options and to think ‘outside the box’ for effective treatments,” but “I rightly resisted efforts to provide an unproven drug on demand to the American public.”

He demanded that the drugs only be used under a doctor’s supervision and only to “hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19” because of the “potentially serious risks associated with them, including increased mortality observed in some recent studies in patients with COVID-19.”

“Rushing blindly towards unproven drugs can be disastrous and result in countless more deaths. Science, in service to the health and safety of the American people, must always trump politics,” Bright said.

[CBS News]

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