The Trump administration is shutting down its international Coronavirus Task Force despite the pandemic surging across the globe, including in the United States. Coronavirus deaths globally just passed 900,000, with the number of cases approaching 28 million.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which was the base of operations for the administration’s international Coronavirus Task Force, will deactivate the unit Wednesday, according to Politico.
“As we approach the deactivation of the Task Force on Sept. 9, the entire team is focused on ensuring a smooth transition of key functions back to Bureaus and Independent Offices,” an internal note to staffers reads.
President Donald Trump has not held a regular coronavirus press briefing in weeks, and during the Republican National Convention many in his administration referred to the pandemic in the past tense. He also has not been seen wearing a mask since July.
Since April “the White House has placed a slew of new political appointees at USAID,” Politico notes, “some of whom have in the past made comments that have offended women, Muslims, members of the LGBTQ community and others. There have been calls for several of these political appointees to be fired.”
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Ivanka Trump and Kellyanne Conway Sent ‘Dictates’ to CDC to Downplay COVID Severity Say Former Trump Appointees
Ivanka Trump and Kellyanne Conway sent “dictates” to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordering the public health agency to downplay the severity of its coronavirus messaging, two former members Trump appointees tell The New York Times.
“Every time that the science clashed with the messaging, messaging won,” former chief of staff at CDC Kyle McGowan says. McGowan had worked with Tom Price, first in the Georgia Republican Congressman’s office, and then at Health and Human Services after Trump appointed him Secretary of the agency. Price left HHS in disgrace.
Conway and Trump, both top advisors to the president, were focused on churches and schools. During the course of the pandemic the CDC first held back guidance it had prepared to help churches re-open safely. The Trump administration rewrote that guidance to allow houses of worship greater freedom, but at a huge cost in American lives. President Trump spent months demanding schools reopen, ignoring CDC guidance, and providing state and local governments few if any tools or financial support to protect students and staff.
McGowan and his deputy, Amanda Campbell, say the White House slowly but surely crushed the CDC, interfering with public announcements or pronouncements, all in the interest of protecting the health of the economy instead of the health of the American people.
In one instance McGowan says he and CDC Director Robert Redfield were forced to alter language on social distancing guidance, after White House budget director Russell Vought told them specifics on spacing requirements would be too onerous for businesses. In the end, no specifics on social distancing requirements were provided.
McGowan and Campbell say they “mediated between Dr. Redfield and agency scientists when the White House’s requests and dictates would arrive: edits from Mr. Vought and Kellyanne Conway, the former White House adviser, on choirs and communion in faith communities, or suggestions from Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and aide, on schools.”
CDC Updates Guidance It Had Removed: Coronavirus Can ‘Spread by Airborne Transmission’ and at Even ‘More Than 6 Feet’
Weeks ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was criticized for quietly updating its COVID-19 guidance to admit that the deadly coronavirus is airborne and can travel by air at distances further than six feet – and then quickly taking that guidance down once the press reported on it. The CDC claimed it had erroneously published a draft that was not finalized.
Finally, after a week that included President Donald Trump, the First Lady, and at least ten others who attended the Rose Garden Supreme Court nominating ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett contracting COVID-19, the CDC has again quietly updated its guidance to admit what many, including experts, believed for months.
“COVID-19 can sometimes be spread by airborne transmission,” the CDC is now admitting, weeks later.
“There is evidence that under certain conditions, people with COVID-19 seem to have infected others who were more than 6 feet away,” the new guidance reads. “These transmissions occurred within enclosed spaces that had inadequate ventilation. Sometimes the infected person was breathing heavily, for example while singing or exercising.”
“Under these circumstances, scientists believe that the amount of infectious smaller droplet and particles produced by the people with COVID-19 became concentrated enough to spread the virus to other people. The people who were infected were in the same space during the same time or shortly after the person with COVID-19 had left.”
But the draft guidance which was pulled Sept. 21 was more descriptive – and thus more helpful in preventing the spread of the virus. For example, one portion noted spread can occur “for example, during choir practice, in restaurants, or in fitness classes.”
That violates the Trump administration’s push to have all businesses and public spaces fully re-opened.
CDC Chief Slightly Walks Back New White House Imposed COVID Testing Policy Experts Say ‘Will Kill’ – Still Toes Trump Line
Dr. Robert Redfield, the controversial and embattled Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Thursday slightly walked back guidance his agency had published on Monday that dramatically reversed months-long policy on coronavirus testing.
That new guidance decreed that even those who have come in close contact with people infected with coronavirus should not be tested unless they were showing symptoms. President Donald Trump has been trying for months to have fewer coronavirus tests performed.
Experts assailed the new policy, with one saying it “will kill” Americans.
The walk back was nuanced. CNBC described Redfield’s remarks as “defending” the guidance released earlier this week.
On Monday the CDC said those those who “have been in close contact (within 6 feet) of a person with a COVID-19 infection for at least 15 minutes but do not have symptoms…do not necessarily need a test.”
On Thursday Redfield massage the policy to say for those who have been exposed, “testing may be considered.”
It’s a small but important – for the Trump- administration – change, because it keeps the decision to test in the hands of medical professionals, which means fewer Americans will get tested, achieving Trump’s goal.
The decision to change the policy came from the top of the Trump White House, CNN reported Wednesday.
On Thursday, Redfield was careful to toe Trump’s line, even saying – falsely – that “Everyone who needs a Covid-19 test, can get a test.”
The Hill notes that Trump is achieving his goal of less testing.
“After reaching a peak of nearly a million new tests a month ago, the number of tests conducted on a daily basis has declined to fewer than 700,000 over the last four days, according to data maintained by the Covid Tracking Project, an independent group of researchers.”
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