Headlines: May 6, 2020
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Rick Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) who was fired from his position has filed a whistleblower complaint. In it he alleges that he warned the Department of Health and Human Services about the dangers of the coronavirus but that he was met with “indifference which then developed into hostility.” Mr. Bright also cites how he pushed back against the top leadership at the HHS over the government’s interest in the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine. As per the complaint Mr. Bright’s “efforts to prioritize science and safety over political expediency … rankled those in the Administration who wished to continue to push this false narrative.” Mr. Bright has now agreed to testify before Congress next week.
A day after reports emerged that the White House was considering disbanding its coronavirus task force, President Trump announced that it would remain intact but that its focus would shift from safety to reopening the nation’s economy. Vice President Mike Pence had said that the federal government would begin letting states take the lead in responding to the pandemic – but that was already the federal government’s de facto position. When asked if the two leading scientists on the task force – Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx – would remain on the team, Pence said only that they would, “continue to provide the very best counsel to the president.” Meanwhile Dr. Fauci is scheduled to testify next week before a Senate committee. Trump, who has blocked officials like Fauci from testifying to House committees said, “The House is a setup…The House is a bunch of Trump haters.”
As Trump moves toward opening up the US economy, he has openly admitted that doing so before the coronavirus was under control would result in more American deaths. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday Trump said, “Will some people be affected? Yes…Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open, and we have to get it open soon.” Texas Governor Rick Abbott, a Republican, admitted the human cost in even starker terms during a private phone call to state lawmakers whose audio was obtained by the Daily Beast. Meanwhile the scientist whose models predicting higher death tolls were cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spoke with CNN. Mr. Youyang Gu explaned that, “”It will be at least two to three weeks before we see an increase in the number of infections because it takes time for individuals to infect others and for them to display symptoms.” He warned, “you don’t want to rush the reopening because by the time you realize what’s happened, it’ll be too late to reverse the decision.”
The Trump administration continues to face scrutiny for its poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic with the recent revelation that Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, “relied in part on volunteers from consulting and private equity firms with little expertise in the tasks they were assigned.” That reliance led to the, “exacerbating chronic problems in obtaining supplies for hospitals and other needs.” One of those volunteers left the effort in frustration and filed a complaint anonymously with the House Oversight committee. The Washington Post obtained a copy of that complaint that showed conservative journalists from Fox News were directing the White House’s efforts including how host “Jeanine Pirro … repeatedly lobbied the administration for a specific New York hospital to receive a large quantity of masks.” The Post also explained that, “Kushner had originally promised thousands of testing sites, but only 78 materialized.” When confronted about his administration’s shortcomings Trump said, “Well, I’ll be honest, I have a lot of things going on.” On Tuesday the President toured a Honeywell factory in Phoenix, Arizona that is manufacturing medical masks. Neither he nor anyone in his contingent wore protective masks. NBC reports that the Guns N’ Roses song “Live and Let Die” played on the PA system during Trump’s tour.
New data by the ADP Research Institute shows that the private sector lost a whopping 20.2 million jobs in the month of April. An ADP spokesperson said, “The total number of job losses for the month of April alone was more than double the total jobs lost during the Great Recession.” The report comes as AirBnB announced it will fire a quarter of its workforce or 1,900 workers. The ride share app Uber is also laying off 3,700 employees, and the clothing brand J. Crew has filed for bankruptcy. The Washington Post reported that, “as thousands of their workers were filing for unemployment benefits, these companies also rewarded their shareholders with more than $700 million in cash dividends.” As Congress attempts to piece together another economic relief package for those who are financially hurting, President Trump has made clear what his priorities are, insisting that he will only sign a new bill into law if it further cuts taxes. The New York Times explained that among the proposals Republicans and the White House are considering are, “a reduction in the capital gains tax rate and measures that would allow companies to deduct the full costs of any investments they make now or in the future.” Even more egregiously, Trump wants, “the suspension of payroll taxes for workers and an expanded deduction for corporate spending on meals and entertainment.” Payroll tax cuts directly lead to cuts in Social Security and Medicare and do not help the unemployed who have no pay checks.
In the latest scientific findings on the coronavirus, some scientists are warning that a new and highly contagious strain of COVID-19 is spreading. The mutation appears to have started spreading in Europe as per a newly published paper. But Francis Collins, director the National Institutes of Health expressed skepticism about the paper saying it, “draws rather sweeping conclusions.” And, another study found that although children appear far less likely to get infected, they may play a role in spreading infection.
A federal judge in New York has reinstated the state primary elections for June 23rd in response to a lawsuit by candidate Andrew Yang. After progressives, including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, expressed outrage at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to cancel the election. Sanders’ name will now appear on the ballot.
The suspected killers of a black jogger in Georgia named Ahmaud Arbery will be tried by a Grand Jury. A white man named Gregory McMichael and his son Travis pursued Mr. Arbery saying they were suspicious of him and allegedly shot and killed him. After the state took no action, local outrage led to the grand jury indictment. In other news of racial violence, an LAPD officer was caught on video viciously beating an unarmed black man in in the Los Angeles suburb of Boyle Heights. The man was already under arrest and as per the video did not even resist while one officer repeatedly assaulted him and the other watched.