It also offers a grim omen for the vaccine deployment process, in which the president has already got a head start on science and appears to undermine public confidence in what is arguably the best chance to end. to the crisis.
On the same day, the CDC suddenly reverted to previous advice on coronavirus transmission, dropping the airborne transmission language it had posted on its website days earlier. The move came less than a week after Trump publicly berated the agency’s director, Dr Robert Redfield, who announced a schedule for all Americans to receive a vaccine by the second or third trimester of next year that was far less optimistic than those put forward by the president as the election looms.
Although there has been ample evidence of White House political interference in the work of government scientists, a federal official urged CNN, which was the first to report the CDC’s shift in focus, that ‘no political pressure had arisen in this matter. Even if this is true, it would not relieve an administration which has consistently challenged expert opinion from questions about its jurisdiction. Such uncertainty is only exacerbated by doubts about the president’s sincerity in tackling a virus that has crushed the economy and hampered his hopes for re-election.
Former CDC acting director Dr Richard Besser told CNN’s Erin Burnett that while the release of the new guidelines was made in error, he was hearing from inside the agency that the episode was still fueling the question of trust.
“I’m worried about that. I’m worried about people who question the great science that the CDC publishes because they’re not sure what great science is and … has the fingerprints of politics all over the place and that’s very, very worrying, “Besser said.
Far from being reprimanded by a death toll that has averaged around 800 per day in recent weeks, the president celebrated his leadership at a rally in Swanton, Ohio on Monday night, mistakenly claiming that the United States had done a better job than Europe in combating the pandemic and apparently rejoicing in a second wave of infections that is accumulating across the Atlantic. He also made the extraordinary statement that the virus affects few people as the country was on the brink of 200,000 deaths from Covid-19.
“We now know about the disease; we didn’t know it. Now we know it – it affects older people with heart problems and other problems. If they have other issues, that’s what it really affects. In some states, it affects thousands of people. No one under 18, like no one, ”Trump said, repeating a false statement that was a regular part of his comments during the pandemic. “They have a strong immune system, who knows. Hats off to the kids because they have a hell of a immune system.”
“But it hardly affects anyone. It’s an amazing thing.”
Trump compromises US health agencies
U.S. public health institutions have long been viewed as global pioneers and the gold standard for other countries to emulate. But they have been constantly compromised by a president who deeply distrusts a clever “deep state” of bureaucrats who contradict his hunches with science.
Organizations such as the CDC and the National Institutes of Health have been at the forefront of the United States and spearheaded global health efforts, including the US fight against HIV / AIDS in Africa and the successful mobilization for limit an Ebola outbreak between 2014 and 2016. But the president has been much more inclined to listen to conservative experts than the global experts who are available to him over the past eight months.
The president’s relentless assault on masks, downplaying Covid-19 testing, and demands to open schools and states before the virus is removed are reducing the preventative messages needed to alleviate the crisis. His adherence to unproven therapies such as hydroxychloroquine and his repeated declarations of victory over the pandemic have compounded the damage. Earlier this year, Trump criticized the CDC’s guidelines on reopening schools and said they were too restrictive, which led the agency to produce additional information.
In an act that symbolized his refusal to face reality, the president headed for another busy campaign movement on Monday that contradicts all good health practice. Trump’s rallies are currently one of the few mass-attended events in the Western world – in the United States and abroad, for example, sports leagues play almost exclusively in empty arenas and stadiums.
Before the president’s arrival, his crowd booed several times when the state’s Republican Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted tried to convince Trump supporters to wear masks.
“I’m trying to make the masks in America great again and I have President Trump’s masks,” Husted said, as he began to tout masks stamped with the campaign livery.
“I know we don’t all like to wear them,” Husted said finally. “Hang on now, wait. I understand.”
In another example of the administration’s refusal to take the virus seriously, experts who understand the true scope of the threat, such as Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Deborah Birx, have disappeared from US television screens.
Trump is once again calling for open states, despite the fact that those who followed his advice in the summer have plunged into a vortex of disease and death. Public confidence in the vaccine that could eventually end the pandemic wanes as Trump makes politicized promises that all Americans can get one by the end of April, even though clinical trials have so far failed. have not yet produced a dose that has been shown to be safe and effective. .
The United States does not have the national screening and testing system that could have made real progress in limiting the spread of infection today.
The new controversy over the administration’s response to the pandemic comes as the United States approaches the tragic milestone of 200,000 deaths from Covid-19. Instead of devoting himself back to preventing more deaths, Trump is showing few signs that he is ready to make amends for his negligence.
He’s focused on his run for re-election – and seems to have spent more energy over the past few days working on his sudden chance to fill an opening in the Supreme Court that he has only spent for weeks at s. striving to slow the carnage caused by Covid – 19.
In an interview on one of his favorite “Fox and Friends” media platforms on Monday, Trump was asked to rate his own performance during the pandemic.
“We’re turning the corner,” he said. “We’ve done a phenomenal job. Not just a good job, a phenomenal job. Other than PR, but that’s because I have fake news. On PR, I’m giving myself a D. On the work itself, we take an A +. “
Trump is bragging about his own success in conflict with the facts and signs of an increase in coronavirus infections as summer begins to give way to fall weather in the northern states.
The seven-day average of new coronavirus infections increased by more than 10% in 28 states last week. Only six states have declining cases during this period, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has placed the president’s poor response to the pandemic at the center of his argument that Trump does not deserve a second term, an argument he will take home when they meet on stage in the Ohio next week in the first presidential debate.
On Monday, the former vice-president, ostensibly wearing a mask contrasting with the president’s behavior, lamented the impending milestone of 200,000 dead.
“What worries me now is that we have been living with this pandemic for so long, I fear that we risk becoming unresponsive to the toll it has made for us, our country and our communities like this,” Biden said during a visit to the crucial swing state of Wisconsin. “We cannot let this happen, we cannot lose the ability to feel the grief, loss and anger for so many lives lost.”
The strategies followed by each candidate shape the perception of the current urgency in the home stretch of the November 3 elections. In a CNN / SSRS poll earlier this month, 87% of people who intend to vote for the Democrat said they were worried about the pandemic. But only 29% of registered Trump voters said the same.
Biden, whose campaign is growing empathy after a life of personal family tragedies as an antidote to Trump’s leadership style, has attempted to put a human face on the tragedy in ways the president has generally failed to do.
“We can’t let the numbers become statistics, background noise, just a blur that we see on the evening news,” Biden said, remembering “moms, dads, sons, daughters, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, coworkers who are no longer with us and many of them did not have to lose their lives because of this virus, frankly, if only the president had acted earlier. “
Jeremy Diamond of CNN contributed to this report.
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