Posts tagged with "NIAID"

With Trump oblivious to COVID crisis, GOP begins to break ranks

July 21, 2020

President Donald Trump continues to press for a quick return to life as usual, but Republicans who fear a rampaging disease and angry voters are increasingly going their own way, The New York Times reports.

Indeed, the Times notes, both the president’s “failure to contain the coronavirus outbreak and his refusal to promote clear public-health guidelines have left many senior Republicans despairing that he will ever play a constructive role in addressing the crisis”—with some concluding that they must work around Trump and ignore or even contradict his pronouncements.

In recent days, some of the most prominent figures in the GOP outside the White House have broken with the Denier-in-Chief over issues like the value of wearing a mask in public.

In addition , they have been acknowledging the importance of heeding the advice of health experts, such as  the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Director Anthony Fauci, M.D., whom the president and other hard-right figures within the Administration have subjected to caustic personal criticism.

According to the Times, they appear to be spurred by several overlapping forces— including deteriorating conditions in their own states, the president’s seeming indifference to the problem; and the approach of a presidential election in which Trump is badly lagging his Democratic challenger, Joseph R. Biden Jr., in the polls.

Once-reticent Republican governors are now issuing orders on mask-wearing and business restrictions that run counter to the president’s demands. Some of those governors have been holding late-night phone calls among themselves to trade ideas and grievances; they have sought out partners in the administration other than the president, including Vice President Mike Pence, who, despite echoing Trump in public, is seen by governors as far more attentive to the continuing disaster.

 “The president got bored with it,” David Carney, an adviser to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, said of the pandemic. He noted that Abbott, a Republican, directs his requests to Pence, with whom he speaks two to three times a week.

A handful of Republican lawmakers in the Senate have privately pressed the administration to bring back health briefings led by figures like Dr. Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, who regularly updated the public during the spring until the president  upstaged them with his own briefing-room monologues. And in his home state of Kentucky last week, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, broke with Trump on nearly every major issue related to the virus, the Times reports.

McConnell stressed the importance of mask-wearing, expressed “total” confidence in Dr. Fauci and urged Americans to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that Trump has ignored or dismissed.

“The straight talk here that everyone needs to understand is: This is not going away until we get a vaccine,” McConnell said on Wednesday, July 15, contradicting Trump’s rosy predictions that the virus “will just go away.”

The emerging rifts in Trump’s party have been slow to develop, but they have rapidly deepened since a new surge in coronavirus cases began to sweep the country last month.

In the final days of June, the Governor of Utah, Gary Herbert, a Republican, joined other governors on a conference call with the vice president  and urged the Administration to do more to combat a sense of “complacency” about the virus. Herbert said it would help states like his own if Trump and Pence were to encourage mask-wearing on a national scale, according to a recording of the call.

“As a responsible citizen, if you care about your neighbor, if you love your neighbor, let us show the respect necessary by wearing a mask,” Mr. Herbert said, offering language

Pence said the suggestion was “duly noted” and said that mask-wearing would be a “very consistent message” from the Administration.

But no such appeal was ever forthcoming from Trump, who asserted afterward that he would never advocate a national policy on mask-wearing or shutdowns.

Judd Deere, a White House spokesperson, rejected criticisms of Trump’s lack of a hands-on approach. “Any suggestion that the president is not working around the clock to protect the health and safety of all Americans, lead the whole-of-government response to this pandemic, including expediting vaccine development, and rebuild our economy is utterly false,” Deere said in a statement.

Research contact: @nytimes

Trump cites game show host Chuck Woolery on pandemic while sabotaging Dr. Anthony Fauci

July 15, 2020

On Monday, July 13, President Donald Trump retweeted a message from Chuck Woolery, a longtime game show host and conservative commentator, which accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of “lying” to the American public about the coronavirus, The Washington Post reported.

The most outrageous lies are the ones about COVID-19,” Woolery said in his tweet, adding, “Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most ,that we are told to trust. I think it’s all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I’m sick of it.”

Trump in recent days has also accused Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and  the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, of making “mistakes,” blasted CDC guidelines for opening schools as “impractical,” and repeatedly undercut public health officials’ recommendations by questioning the efficacy of masks and social distancing.

Taken together, the president’s efforts have led to a lack of clarity and consistency in the national response to the virus, Ben Sommers, a doctor who teaches at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the Post.

“When the president is calling the guidance wrong and endorsing the view that these public health experts are lying, it makes it incredibly difficult for the public to know what to do,” he said. “It erodes the long-term ability of our government to provide one of its basic goals which is to protect the public safety.”

While Trump has played down the virus and dismissed the warnings of public health experts for months, his recent push has come amid a fresh surge in cases and concern over how to safely reopen schools in the coming weeks. Trump primarily has been focused on trying to revitalize the economy, which has been devastated by the pandemic, seeing its revival as key to his reelection chances this fall.

Indeed,  the Post notes,Trump also retweeted a post from Woolery, who hosted “Love Connection” in the 1980s, pointing to “worldwide and overwhelming” scientific evidence that schools should reopen in the fall. Trump and his aides have tried to make the restart of schools a simple choice of opening or not opening. Public health experts have said that while restarting schools should be a top priority, the issue is that without proper safety measures the move could worsen the pandemic.”

 Trump’s aides have amplified his statements promoting a return to normalcy and undermining government health expertise in the middle of a pandemic. White House officials disseminated negative talking points about Fauci to reporters over the weekend after The Washington Post reported that Fauci had been sidelined by Trump in recent weeks.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany used a news briefing Monday to defend those criticisms of Fauci and reinforce the president’s attacks on the government’s health experts. She accused “some rogue individuals” at the CDC of misleading the public and defended Trump’s retweet of Woolery by saying he was calling out scientists for engaging in politics.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

‘Of course not’: Fauci says he won’t attend Trump rallies; advises Americans to avoid big crowds

June 18, 2020

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)—and the top expert on COVID-19 in America— says he would not personally attend any upcoming rallies that President Donald Trump plans to hold for his 2020 re-election campaign because the coronavirus is still spreading.

“I’m in a high-risk category. Personally, I would not. Of course not,” Fauci, who’s 79, said in an interview with The Daily Beast on Tuesday, June 16.

He added about Trump campaign rallies, “outside is better than inside, no crowd is better than crowd” and “crowd is better than big crowd.”

Trump is scheduled to host his first campaign rally in months on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, inside of the city’s BOK Center, which can hold more than 19,000 people, NBC News reports. The president claimed on Monday, June 15, that 1 million people had requested tickets to the event.

Senior officials said Monday that hand sanitizer and face masks will be offered to all attendees, although they are not required to use them. They also will have their temperatures taken before entering the arena.

Some Tulsa officials have been warning Trump that the rally could worsen a current spike in coronavirus cases and local newspaper, NBC notes. Tulsa World published an editorial titled, “This is the wrong time and Tulsa is the wrong place for the Trump rally.”

Meanwhile, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, is expected to visit the White House this week, ahead of the rally, to discuss reopening the economy.

Conversely, Dr. Fauci told The Daily Beast that he’s still worried about the uptick in COVID-19 cases in some states across the country. “We are seeing infections to a greater degree than they had previously seen in certain states, including states in the southwest and in the south,” he said.

A key member of the president’s coronavirus task force, Fauci also said in an interview Tuesday with NPR’s “1A” on WAMU in Washington, D.C., that he hasn’t spoken with Trump in two weeks. He said that he spoke with him “two weeks ago” and the conversation was about “vaccine development efforts.”

Asked for a response to Fauci’s latest interviews, the White House defended the current phased reopenings that it has been pushing without addressing Fauci directly.

“As the president has said, the cure cannot be worse than the disease and that is why all 50 states have begun the process of a phased reopening,” said White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere. “As this continues, the American people will use what they have learned about COVID-19 and take the appropriate precautions, such as social distancing, facial coverings, and regularly washing hands, to protect the public health and return us to a growing economy.”

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Dr. Fauci re-emerges from media blackout; says we’ll be ‘seeing more’ of him

May 25, 2020

He’s back! After a deafening silence that persisted for more than two weeks, top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci re-emerged on the national stage on Thursday, May 21—appearing on CNN’s coronavirus town hall to mark his first major television interview since May 4.

While Fauci has recently been on a “modified quarantine” due to possible exposure to the White House staffers who have tested positive for COVID-19, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) chief has continued to participate in the White House coronavirus task force and testified before the Senate last week via remote, The Daily Beast reported.

Fauci, who has been targeted by pro-Trump figures after appearing to contradict some of the president’s comments on the virus, has been conspicuously absent from TV as the White House pushes for a robust reopening of the economy, as CNN’s Oliver Darcy reported earlier this week. Other public health experts on the task force, such as Dr. Deborah Birx, also have been been noticeably absent.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper immediately greeted Dr. Fauci on Thursday night by asking why the American public has heard so little from the task force and medical experts in recent weeks.

“And if they aren’t going to have daily briefings about facts and science, can you or the NIH or can the CDC have their own daily briefings with top scientists? There are a lot of Americans out there who still want to hear from scientists every day,” Cooper added.

“That’s a good point,” Fauci reacted. “I think you’re probably going to be seeing a little bit more of me and my colleagues. There was a period of time, there was a little bit of a lull of our being out there with the press.”

“I believe that’s going to change. We’ve been talking with the communications people and they realize we need to get some of this information out, particularly some of the scientific issues for which I’m predominantly responsible for. So hopefully we’ll be seeing more of us,” he continued.

The Daily Beast noted, Fauci would go on to say that the task force has “changed a bit” and that he’s in a subgroup with other public health leaders “talking about some of the scientific issues.” He further noted that the task force as a whole is more focused on reopening the economy and the economic impact of the pandemic.

Research contact: @thedailybeast