Trump signals growing skepticism about coronavirus lockdown

President Donald Trump on Sunday night appeared to suggest he would soon consider relaxing federal guidelines meant to combat the coronavirus pandemic — even as senior administration officials promoted those measures as critical to preventing further loss of life and predicted a grim week ahead.

“WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” Trump wrote on Twitter shortly before midnight. “AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!”

The president’s message referred to the administration’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread” initiative, announced last Monday, which urged Americans to practice social distancing; avoid gatherings of more than 10 people; work or attend school from home whenever possible; and abstain from eating or drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts.

At the White House coronavirus task force’s daily press briefing Sunday,Vice President Mike Pence noted that the country was seven days into the effortand praised Americans’ participation thus far.

“With the cooperation, compassion, generosity, and prayers of the American people, we can slow the spread, we can protect the most vulnerable, and we can heal our land,” Pence said. “So let’s do it, America.”

But while the guidance is helping “flatten the curve” of infected individuals within the United States, it has also contributed to a precipitous drop in economic activity.

Even more stringent directives issued by state and local authorities, such as large-scale “shelter-in-place” orders, have similarly spooked financial markets and provoked fears of an imminent recession.

On Monday morning, Trump signaled growing skepticism regarding those health-related lockdowns, retweeting a handful of accounts that proposed Americans return to work in the near future and advocated for a resumption of daily life in the U.S.

“The fear of the virus cannot collapse our economy that President Trump has built up,” read a tweet shared by the president. “We The People are smart enough to keep away from others if we know that we are sick or they are sick! After 15 days are over the world can begin to heal!”

In another post Trump retweeted, a Twitter user wrote that after 15 days, “we keep the high risk groups protected as necessary and the rest of us go back to work.”

The president’s social media activity came as Surgeon General Jerome Adams made a string of appearances on morning news shows, repeatedly cautioning that the coming days would prove among the most difficult in Americans’ fight against the public health crisis.

[Politico]

Reality

Trump’s tweets came minutes after Fox News Steve Hilton said the same thing.

Trump lashes out at networks, newspapers: All I see is ‘hatred of me’


President Trump
 late Sunday lashed out at much of the media over their coverage of his administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, claiming that all he’s seen is “hatred of me.”

“I watch and listen to the Fake News, CNN, MSDNC, ABC, NBC, CBS, some of FOX (desperately & foolishly pleading to be politically correct), the [New York Times], & the [Washington Post], and all I see is hatred of me at any cost,” Trump said on Twitter. 

“Don’t they understand that they are destroying themselves?” he asked. 

Trump has regularly attacked the press since entering the White House, often referring to reporters as “fake news” and the “enemy of the people.” Last week, Trump railed against an NBC reporter, calling him “terrible,” after being asked what he’d say to Americans who are scared. 

His tirade against the group of news outlets came after a day in which several state and federal lawmakers called on the president to use his authority to help health systems being overwhelmed by a surge of patients. 

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said on CNN that states were overpaying for medical equipment and were being forced to compete with each other for much-needed resources. Rather than a competition, it “should have been a coordinated effort by the federal government,” he said. 

“It’s a wild, wild West out there, and indeed [we’re] overpaying for [personal protective equipment] because of that competition,” Pritzker said. 

Trump railed against Pritzker and CNN just hours later, tweeting that they “shouldn’t be blaming the Federal Government for their own shortcomings.”

Pritzker tweeted in response that Trump “wasted precious months when you could’ve taken action to protect Americans & Illinoisans.”

“Get off Twitter & do your job,” Pritzker said. 

Speaking at a White House briefing on Sunday, Trump said that he would reject calls to ramp up production of critical medical supplies through the use of the Defense Production Act.

He said that he’s used the law as a source of leverage in negotiations with companies to persuade them to manufacture equipment, but he contended that it would nationalize industries and that he was not in favor it. The Defense Production Act does not nationalize industry, but it does allow the government to direct private businesses to make certain supplies. “We’re a country not based on nationalizing our business. Call a person over in Venezuela,” Trump told reporters. “How did nationalization of their businesses work out? Not too well.”

[The Hill]

Donald Trump Shares “Chinese Virus Facts” That Are Pure Propaganda and Bunk

Donald Trump shared a video of Fox News’ Jesse Watters making a poor attempt at gaslighting you, saying:

1) “Trump did not cut funding for the CDC. It has increased since he took office.”

FACT: True CDC funding has risen, because Congress denied Trump’s multiple requests to cut CDC funding. Requests still happening today: https://thehill.com/policy/finance/486817-trump-budget-chief-holds-firm-on-cdc-cuts-amid-virus-outbreak?amp

2) “Trump did not get rid of the NSC Pandemic unit.”

FACT: Trump absolutely dismissed his Pandemic Response Team in 2017, here is video of Trump bragging about firing the team in 2018: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/coronavirus-video-trump-pandemic-team-cut-2018-a9405191.html

3) “Trump did not call the “China Virus” a hoax.”

FACT: Here is video of Trump calling COVID-19 a hoax: https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1233570800223084544?s=21

4) “Trump did not silence scientists.”

FACT: All government scientists are banned from talking to the public and all communications of government scientists must go through Mike Pence: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/27/us/politics/us-coronavirus-pence.html

5) “Trump never told governors they are on their own.”

FACT: Trump told governors they are on their own and his administration is not a shipping clerk: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-19/trump-told-governors-to-buy-own-virus-supplies-then-outbid-them

6) “Google is working on a website to test coronavirus”

FACT: Trump said earlier that they are working with Google to create a virus testing website for all Americans. Watters however claimed the press said that Google has no plans to do it, which was fake news. That’s not what the press pointed out at all and in fact Google itself was forced to fact-check Trump their website was not ready for all Americans but just testing in the Bay Area and had no plans to roll out to the rest of the country:
https://www.factcheck.org/2020/03/trump-misrepresents-google-coronavirus-website/

Reality

This is what Fox News does, it creates an alternative reality for their viewers by ignoring key facts, withholding context, and making stuff up.

Make no mistake this is propaganda. If you saw the media arm of a political party in any other country you would say this is exactly what propaganda looks like. If you watch Fox News you are willfully accepting lies.

Trump calls for anti-malaria drug to be used ‘immediately’ despite caution from top health expert

Donald Trump has called for an anti-malaria drug to be used to treat the coronavirus “immediately”, despite his top health expert having said that evidence for its effectiveness was so far “anecdotal”.

On Saturday morning the president tweeted: “HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. The FDA has moved mountains – Thank You! Hopefully they will BOTH (H works better with A, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents) be put in use IMMEDIATELY. PEOPLE ARE DYING, MOVE FAST, and GOD BLESS EVERYONE! @US_FDA @SteveFDA @CDCgov​ @DHSgov.”

Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malarial drug while azithromycin is an antibiotic.

Mr Trump had mentioned hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment on Thursday, before being publicly rebuked by Anthony Fauci, his lead expert in the fight against Covid-19. The coronavirus has infected at least 18,000 people in the US and killed more than 270.

On Thursday the president said: “I do want to say – to me, something so big – the FDA has approved compassionate use for a significant number of patients. We have a drug called chloroquine. A derivation would be hydroxychloroquine, which I hear even better about.

“It’s a common malaria drug. It’s been available, so therefore the safety level we understand very well. It’s been relatively safe. And it showed very encouraging early results. Really encouraging. 

“If we – if this works as well as – hopefully it might. The FDA, which would have taken normally much longer to do under our great Secretary … the head of the FDA has been – Dr Stephen Hahn – he has been fantastic. He got it approved very quickly.  I won’t even tell you how quickly, but let’s put it this way: It’s approved.  And we’re encouraging you to take a look at it. We have ordered a lot of it, and you can too. It’s by prescription.

“It’s a very powerful drug for malaria and also for various forms of very serious arthritis. But we think it has a very serious – a very good impact on what we’re talking about with respect to the virus. So you’ll take a look at that. Then you can coordinate with us. But I think, to me, that’s a game changer.”

But asked about whether the drug was a promising solution, Dr Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a White House news conference on Friday that the “the answer is no”.

He said that “the evidence you’re talking about … is anecdotal evidence”

“It was not done in a controlled clinical trial. So you really can’t make any definitive statement about it.”

Dr Fauci told CNN “there’s no magic drug”.

This is not the first time during the coronavirus crisis that the president has clashed with his health experts. Having repeatedly claimed that a vaccine could be developed within months, Dr Fauci and others were forced to stress that it would take at least a year and perhaps longer than 18 months.

[The Independent]

Trump falsely claims drug approval for virus

President Donald Trump misstated the facts Thursday when he asserted that the Food and Drug Administration had just approved a decades-old malaria drug to treat patients infected by the coronavirus. After his FDA chief clarified that the drug still needs testing, Trump also overstated the drug’s potential upside in helping contain the outbreak.

A look at his claims at a news briefing:

TRUMP: “And we’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately, and that’s where the FDA has been so great. They — they’ve gone through the approval process. It’s been approved.”

THE FACTS: The drug, known chemically as chloroquine, has been available for decades to treat the mosquito-borne illness malaria. Technically, doctors can already prescribe the drug to patients with COVID-19, a practice known as off-label prescribing. But Trump falsely suggested to reporters that the FDA had just cleared the drug specifically for the viral pandemic spreading in communities across the U.S. That would mean that the drug had met the FDA’s standards for safety and effectiveness.

Minutes later, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn emphasized that the drug still needs testing to determine if it can help patients. He said chloroquine would have to be tested in “a large pragmatic clinical trial to actually gather that information.”

Drug trials typically require hundreds or thousands of patients and, even when accelerated, take weeks or months to complete. In his remarks, Hahn reflected on his background as a cancer doctor and warned against giving patients “false hope” before drugs are fully vetted.

While chloroquine has shown promise in preliminary laboratory studies, some experts are skeptical it will prove effective in human testing.

“I think it could be a game changer, and maybe not,” Trump said, discussing the drug.

But the FDA reiterated in a statement Thursday that there are “no FDA-approved therapeutics or drugs to treat, cure or prevent COVID-19.”

___

TRUMP: “If chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine works, or any of the other things that they’re looking at that are not quite as far out … your numbers are going to come down very rapidly.”

THE FACTS: The drugs he is referring to are for treatment in patients already infected. That doesn’t prevent spread of the virus. One study is testing chloroquine to try to protect health care workers at highest risk of infection, because a vaccine is likely a year or more away.

[Associated Press]

Dr. Fauci swiftly fact-checks Trump on COVID-19 testing shortages: ‘That is a reality that is happening now’

Dr. Anthony Fauci fact-checked President Donald Trump’s claims about coronavirus testing.

The president insisted that he wasn’t hearing any complaints about Americans who have symptoms of COVID-19 but could not get tested, and Trump disagreed with Fauci’s earlier advice to test everyone to see who should remain in quarantine.

“I’m not hearing it,” Trump said. “We don’t want everybody to go out and get a test because there’s no reason for it.”

Another reporter came back to the topic less than three minutes later in the news conference, and asked Fauci whether testing availability was meeting public demand.

“I get the same calls that many of you get,” Fauci said. “Someone goes into a place who has a symptom and wants to get a test and for one reason or other, multiple logistic, technical, what have you — they can’t get it. That is a reality that is happening now. Is it the same as it was a few weeks ago? Absolutely not, because as the secretary and others have said, right now that we have the private sector involved the availability — not only just availability, but the implementation of the availability is getting better and better and better. Having said that, I understand and empathize with the people who rightfully are sayin, ‘I’m trying to get a test, and I can’t.’”

[Raw Story]

Trump says he knew coronavirus was a pandemic ‘long before’ it was declared

President Trump on Tuesday said that he realized that the coronavirus outbreak was a pandemic before the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled it as such last week.

“This is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic,” Trump said at a press conference with his coronavirus task force. “All you had to do was look at other countries.”

The president’s comments were in response to being asked if he agreed that his rhetoric surrounding the coronavirus become more reserved on Monday. Trump disagreed, saying that he always knew the outbreak was “serious.”

Trump’s answer immediately drew ire, with some pointing to a March 9 tweet of the president’s.

“The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, is doing everything within its semi-considerable power (it used to be greater!) to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant,” Trump tweeted at the time.

Trump also previously characterized the virus as a Democratic “hoax.”

In the past week, the Trump administration has ramped up its efforts to combat the illness that has infected more than 5,600 Americans and caused more than 90 deaths.

Late last week, Trump declared the outbreak a national health emergency, which freed up billions of dollars of potential aid. During his press conference Tuesday, Trump said that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would be meeting with Senate Republicans later in the day to talk about the third phase of an economic stimulus package aimed at helping the economic fallout that has been caused by COVID-19.

Numerous states have forced restaurants and bars to close in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus and called on Americans to work from home. The Trump administration on Monday recommended that people should avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.

[The Hill]

Trump Bashes Cuomo For Wanting All States Treated Equally for ‘Chinese Virus’: ‘Keep Politics Out Of It’

President Donald Trump is keeping his fight with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo going, tussling over how to address the coronavirus pandemic.

“Cuomo wants “all states to be treated the same.” But all states aren’t the same,” Trump tweeted, before using a name for the disease critics have slammed as racist. “Some are being hit hard by the Chinese Virus, some are being hit practically not at all. New York is a very big “hotspot”, West Virginia has, thus far, zero cases. Andrew, keep politics out of it….”

Trump’s tweet is a continuation of the swipes he launched on Cuomo after Monday’s teleconference between the president and state governors across the country. Cuomo has repeatedly expressed frustration that the federal government isn’t doing enough to respond to the virus, so Trump accused him of being the one who has to “do more.”

Cuomo fired back by saying “YOU have to do something! You’re supposed to be the President.” He also said he’d be “happy” to do Trump’s job if the president hands control of the Army Corps of Engineers over to him.

[Mediaite]

Trump Caught Google Off Guard With a Bogus Coronavirus Site Announcement

President Donald Trump announced Friday that the US government’s coronavirus testing apparatus, which has lagged badly behind other developed nations, would soon get an assist from Google. The search and advertising giant will create a website, Trump said, that would help Americans figure out if they need a test for the virus, and if so where they can find one.

The only problem: There is no nationwide site like the one Trump described. And Google had no idea the president was going to mention one.

A source at Google tells WIRED that company leadership was surprised that Trump announced anything about the initiative at the press conference. What he did say was also almost entirely wrong. There will be a coronavirus testing site, not from Google but from Alphabet sister company Verily. “We are developing a tool to help triage individuals for Covid-19 testing,” Google tweeted in a statement. “Verily is in the early stages of development, and planning to roll testing out in the Bay Area, with the hope of expanding more broadly over time.”

Even that, though, was not the original plan. As the Verge reported Friday afternoon, Verily had intended the site for health care workers only. After Trump unexpectedly publicized the effort, Verily decided it will let anyone visit it, but can still only provide people with testing site information in the San Francisco area. Google and Verily did not respond to requests for comment. It’s unclear whether senior Google leadership was aware of Trump’s plans, but CEO Sundar Pichai apparently made no reference to it in a company-wide memo about its coronavirus efforts Thursday, which was first reported by CNBC. In the memo, Pichai told employees that “a planning effort is underway” for Verily to “aid in the COVID-19 testing effort in the US.”

The disconnect is especially odd given how extensively Trump and other White House officials touted the website during Friday’s press conference. Google had 1,700 engineers working on it, Trump said. By Sunday, offered Vice President Mike Pence, they would be able to announce timing for the site’s availability. Recently appointed White House coronavirus coordinator Debbie Birx walked through how the site would work. “Clients and patients and people who have interest can fill out a screening questionnaire,” she said. If the answers indicate that they have symptoms for Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the site will direct them to the nearest drive-through testing site. Once tested, they’ll get results within 24 to 36 hours. It sounded a bit like Google Maps: Pandemic Edition.

It’s unclear at this point the extent to which the Verily site will reflect that description. It’s part of a larger coronavirus testing package the White House announced, including partnerships with pharmacy giants CVS and Walgreens and retailers Target and Walmart. The tests themselves will be provided by biotech companies like Roche Diagnostics, which received approval for its version earlier Friday.

That the White House is finally treating testing with any kind of urgency is a welcome, if belated, push. But the apparent miscommunication—or outright misrepresentation—may bode poorly for the administration’s broader efforts. “What we have learned from past public health emergencies is the importance of clear, consistent, and accurate information that the public can use,” says Christopher Friese, professor in the University of Michigan School of Nursing. Friese’s comment was specifically about the importance of clarity in a testing information website, but also seems to apply more broadly.

Important questions remain about the Verily site itself, like how it handles data. At Friday’s press conference, Birx held up a flowchart that suggested visitors would have to log into the website to use it. “It is critically important that Google does not collect any personally identifiable information at the coronavirus website,” says Marc Rothstein, president of the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center. “And there should be no covert tracking techniques, such as the retention of IP addresses linked to identifiable users. Moreover, no one should be required to use a Google account to gain access to public health information.”

Most important, today’s White House presentation created confusion at a time when the US can least afford it. People will be looking for a site that tells them where to get tested; unless they live in a handful of zip codes, it will be useless to them for the foreseeable future. That Trump said untrue things about a focal point of his plan also does not engender confidence in the rest of the measures. The US needs reliable, wide-scale testing, now. Without that, the site issue is moot.

“Will patients who are indicated for testing actually be able to get tested,” says Friese. “There are ample credible reports that is not the case presently. If patients still cannot get tested, the website is nothing more than lipstick on a pig.”

Or, as it turns out, an empty lipstick tube.

[Wired]

Trump Snaps at ‘Nasty Question’ About Disbanding White House Pandemic Office in 2018

President Donald Trump snapped at a reporter’s “nasty question” about his administration decimating the White House pandemic department in 2018.

PBS News reporter Yamiche Alcindor asked Trump on Friday during a coronavirus press conference about his claim he takes no responsibility for problems with the response to the pandemic.

“My first question is you said that you don’t take responsibility but you did disband the White House pandemic office and the officials that were working in that office left this administration abruptly. So what responsibility do you take to that?” asked the PBS NewsHour reporter. “The officials that worked in that office said that the White House lost valuable time because that office was disbanded. What do you make of that?”

“Well, I just think it’s a nasty question because what we’ve done, and Tony [Fauci] had said numerous times that we saved thousands of lives because of the quick closing,” President Trump responded. “And when you say me, I didn’t do it. We have a group of people… I could have perhaps ask Tony about that because I don’t know anything about it. I mean you say we did that, I don’t know anything about it. It’s the administration, perhaps, they do that. You know people let people go.”

“You used to be with a different newspaper than you are now, you know things like that happen,” he continued, before adding, “We are doing a great job. Let me tell you, these professionals behind me and these great incredible doctors and business people, the best in the world, and I can say that whether it’s retailers or labs or anything you want to say.”

“These are the best in the world,” President Trump concluded. “We are doing a great job.”

[Mediaite]

Media

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