Headlines: May 15, 2020
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:24 — 7.7MB)
Nearly 86,000 Americans have perished from the coronavirus, a stunning number that appears on track to hit 100,000 sooner than previously thought. President Donald Trump during his visit on Thursday to a medical supplies distributor in Allentown, Pennsylvania, made a shocking claim saying: “Don’t forget, 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 [the media] don’t want to write that.”
Per capita the US is far behind most nations. He was ridiculed on social media for saying that if you don’t test for a disease there is no disease. One oncologist tweeted, “Ask any oncologist and they’ll tell you the secret to beating cancer is just never to get screened for it.” At the same factory visit in Pennsylvania Trump also tried to honor nurses by saying that healthcare workers, “running into death,” was, “a beautiful thing to see.” And, “They are warriors, aren’t they? When you see them going into those hospitals and they’re putting the stuff that you deliver, but they’re wrapping themselves and the doors are opening and they’re going through the doors and they’re not even ready to go through those doors. They probably shouldn’t.”
Healthcare workers were shocked at this visual imagery especially considering that many have still not been supplied with adequate Personal Protective Equipment to safeguard themselves as they attempt to save lives. One doctor said, “”Donald Trump should be ashamed to suggest that we healthcare workers ‘running into death’ is beautiful…Death is not beautiful. Inadequate PPE is not beautiful. He should use the [Defense Production Act] to ensure an abundant supply of PPE and tests.”
Scientists and doctors have been appalled at Trump’s response to the pandemic with the world’s most prestigious medical journal on Friday publishing an op-ed that denounced the undermining of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Lancet’s editorial slammed Trump’s, “inconsistent and incoherent national response” to the pandemic and added, “The CDC needs a director who can provide leadership without the threat of being silenced.” Such a political editorial is quite rare for a medical journal, especially The Lancet. The journal went as far as recommending Americans reject Trump at the polls saying, “Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics.” As if to underscore the Lancet’s point, the few trusted scientists who have been part of the Trump’s coronavirus task force including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, have now disappeared from television interviews, likely because their advice contradicts Trump’s claims. One attempt that Trump and his followers seem to be making in order to downplay the seriousness of the virus is to deny the extent of deaths. Several rightwing media figures on Fox News and other outlets have been making unfounded claims that the death toll is greatly exaggerated when in fact most scientists agree that the official death toll is likely an underestimate.
After several reports that the CDC’s detailed guidelines for the federal government and states to reopen have been censored by the White House, the severely hobbled agency on Friday released a brief set of checklists. The advice has come weeks after several states have already opened and are far less detailed than earlier drafts that were leaked to the press. Offering some understanding of how the Trump administration has made internal decisions, the Financial Times on Thursday published a detailed account based on dozens of interviews with White House insiders, outside advisers, and other officials and expert. The most shocking aspect of the account was the following: “Any signal that the US was bracing for a pandemic – including taking actual steps to prepare for it – was discouraged…’Jared [Kushner] had been arguing that testing too many people, or ordering too many ventilators, would spook the markets and so we just shouldn’t do it,’ says a Trump confidant who speaks to the president frequently. ‘That advice worked far more powerfully on him than what the scientists were saying. He thinks they always exaggerate.’”
As states begin to reopen, a new Gallup poll finds that Americans are socially distancing themselves less with only 58% of adults saying they are staying entirely or mostly at home – down from 75% in early April. Workers in states like Georgia, Texas, and Florida have been forced to return to work even if they feel unsafe and a Washington Post/Ipsos poll found that nearly 60% of Americans feared infecting a member of their family. Some Americans, who have been following Fox News and Trump’s suggestion that the virus threat is not serious are finding out the hard way. A local news outlet in West Palm Beach, Florida reported one man who continued working as a ride share driver saying he thought protective measures were “hysteria” until he contracted Covid-19. He now says, “This wasn’t some scare tactic that anybody was using. It wasn’t some made-up thing. This was a real virus you gotta take seriously… I don’t want to see anyone go through what I went through.” His wife also caught it and is now on a ventilator fighting for her life. A similar story of a barber in New York City who defied lockdown orders and continued to operate his business also caught the virus. The city, which has been the epicenter of Covid-19 infections has extended its lockdown until June 13th even as other parts of the nation have begun easing up.
President Trump has just appointed Moncef Slaoui, a former pharmaceutical executive, to lead the White House’s coronavirus vaccine taskforce. Slaoui heads up an effort that Trump has dubbed “Operation Warp Speed,” which claims it will have 300 million doses of a viable Covid-19 vaccine by January 2021. Slaoui says such a timeline was “achievable,” but acknowledged the difficulties associated with it.
The government released new financial data on Friday showing that retail sales in the US dropped sharply by 16.4% in April. The news comes a day after unemployment figures have been shown to rise to 36.5 million over 2 months. A detailed look at those numbers show that women have been disproportionately impacted than men, which is the opposite of what is usually expected during downturns. The healthcare sector has also ironically been extremely hard hit with hospital revenues plunging as surgeries and other money-making diagnostics are canceled. The profit-making model that most run on is showing itself to be weak as the American Hospital Association shows hospitals are losing a whopping $50 billion in revenues each month.
Democrats are voting on a $3 trillion package called the HEROES Act that would increase funding for states and small businesses but that has been slammed by some progressives for bailing out corporate lobbyists and not going far enough. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already indicated he is not interested in bringing the legislation before his body. Meanwhile Democrats in the Senate happily cooperated with McConnell on Thursday in joining Republicans to vote on a bill that extends troubling aspects of the USA Patriot ACT.
Finally, Presidential candidate Joe Biden appeared at an event after days of criticism over his continued absence from the campaign trail. He hosted two female politicians who are on a list of women being considered for his running mate: Gretchen Whitmer and Stacey Abrams. Biden claimed during the event that he did not remember his former Senate staffer Tara Reade who has accused him of sexual assault. He said, “I wouldn’t vote for me if I believed Tara Reade.”