Archive for the ‘pandemic’ Category

Man refused to disband party that violated COVID order, gets year in jail

September 29th, 2020
Picture of a jail cell in which a man's handcuffed hands are sticking out through the bars.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Caspar Benson)

A Maryland judge sentenced a man to one year in jail after finding him guilty of throwing two large parties in violation of a state pandemic order that banned large gatherings. Police were called to the man's home twice in one week, and he refused to disband the party on the second occasion, authorities said.

Shawn Marshall Myers, 42, was sentenced on Friday at the District Court of Maryland, said an announcement by the state's attorney for Charles County. Myers' legal troubles began on March 22 when "multiple officers responded to Myers' residence... for the report of a large party" violating Governor Larry Hogan's order in which "large gatherings were strictly prohibited," the state's attorney office said.

Myers allegedly hosted about 50 people at the party. "Upon arrival, officers told Myers that his party violated the current mandate. Myers was argumentative with officers but eventually agreed to disband his party," the state's attorney office said.

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Posted in coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, Policy | Comments (0)

Trump may reject FDA’s stricter regulations for COVID-19 vaccine

September 24th, 2020
The Food and Drug Administration headquarters in White Oak, Maryland.

Enlarge / The Food and Drug Administration headquarters in White Oak, Maryland. (credit: Getty | Congressional Quarterly)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he may reject the Food and Drug Administration’s plan to issue stricter safety and efficacy standards for COVID-19 vaccines, calling the plan a “political move.”

The new standards are aimed at bolstering public confidence in the FDA and its vaccine review process, which has been severely damaged by many reports of political meddling and interference by the Trump administration. Those reports include claims that the FDA was pressured by the White House into allowing COVID-19 patients to be treated with unproven blood plasma and the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which was personally touted by Trump. (The authorization of hydroxychloroquine was later revoked by the FDA.) Just last week, Trump’s secretary of health and human services, Alex Azar, revoked the FDA’s authority to sign new regulations.

Trump himself has continually undercut federal public health guidance and government scientists, particularly Robert Redfield, his director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trump has also repeatedly pushed for a pre-election release of a vaccine, though experts have, in turn, repeatedly pointed out that such a speedy release is nearly impossible based on the timeline of the clinical trials underway and the amount of data needed to make even preliminary evaluations of safety and efficacy.

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Posted in CDC, clinical trials, COVID-19, fda, Infectious disease, pandemic, public health, science, Trump, vaccine | Comments (0)

US has topped 200,000 COVID-19 deaths—and many more to come

September 22nd, 2020
A medical technician in protective gear handles a wrapped corpse on a gurney.

Enlarge / Transporter Morgan Dean-McMillan prepares the body of a COVID-19 victim at a morgue in Montgomery county, Maryland, on April 17, 2020. (credit: Getty | ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS)

The US death toll from COVID-19 topped 200,000 Tuesday as daily reports of new cases still hover around 40,000 and daily deaths are in the 700s.

The grim milestone of 200,000 deaths is equivalent to the death toll from the 9/11 attacks occurring every day for 66 days. It’s also equivalent to losing about the entire population Salt Lake City, Utah, or nearly the population of Rochester, New York. COVID-19 has killed more in the United States than the number of Americans who died in the five most recent wars combined (the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, the War in Afghanistan, and the Persian Gulf War).

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, the COVID-19 death toll had already reached 200,541 deaths, stemming from more than 6.88 million cases. While these figures are based on data from state health authorities, the actual death toll is expected to be much higher.

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Posted in COVID-19, deaths, Infectious disease, pandemic, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, Trump, us | Comments (0)

156 countries commit to fair COVID-19 vaccine access, but US won’t join

September 22nd, 2020
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organized by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, on July 3, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva.

Enlarge / World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference organized by the Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, on July 3, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. (credit: Getty | Fabrice Cof)

A total of 156 countries—representing about 64 percent of the world’s population—have committed to pooling resources to help develop, buy, and equitably distribute two billion doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2021.

“This isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, which is co-leading the effort along with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

So far, 64 high-income countries have signed on to the effort, as well as 92 low- and middle-income countries, which would be eligible for support in procuring vaccine doses. Gavi CEO Seth Berkley said in a WHO press conference on Monday that he expects 38 more countries to sign up in the coming days.

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Posted in china, COVAX, COVID-19, Infectious disease, pandemic, Policy, public health, russia, SARS-CoV-2, science, us, vaccine, WHO | Comments (0)

AG Barr: COVID lockdowns are worst threat to civil liberties since slavery

September 17th, 2020
Attorney General William Barr walking down a hallway while wearing a mask.

Enlarge / William Barr, US attorney general, center, arrives for a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., US, on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

US Attorney General William Barr yesterday compared lockdown orders to slavery, saying that measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic are one of the biggest violations of civil liberties in US history.

"Putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders, is like house arrest. Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history," Barr said in a Q&A session after delivering a speech at Hillsdale College in Michigan.

Based on that comment, Barr apparently thinks stay-at-home orders designed to reduce the spread of a deadly virus are a greater violation of civil liberties than Jim Crow laws, oppression of Native Americans, and Japanese internment camps run by the US during World War II. Besides that, there was never actually a national lockdown, largely due to the actions of Trump himself. States imposed varying levels of movement restrictions and stay-at-home orders while the Trump administration refused to implement a coherent national strategy and while Trump repeatedly undermined governors by claiming he has "total" authority to override their stay-at-home orders. As Trump downplayed the virus's severity and made calls to "liberate" residents of states with aggressive pandemic responses, Barr threatened to have the US government sue states that don't lift stay-at-home and business-shutdown orders.

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Posted in COVID-19, lockdowns, pandemic, Policy, stay-at-home orders, William Barr | Comments (0)

Bonkers federal podcast downplays COVID-19, blasts health restrictions

September 15th, 2020
Former Trump campaign official Michael Caputo arrives at the Hart Senate Office building to be interviewed by Senate Intelligence Committee staffers, on May 1, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / Former Trump campaign official Michael Caputo arrives at the Hart Senate Office building to be interviewed by Senate Intelligence Committee staffers, on May 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | Mark Wilson)

In a stunning podcast released by the Department of Health and Human Services, two top officials at the department repeatedly downplayed the COVID-19 pandemic, railed against mitigation efforts, called closures of in-person schooling “nonsense,” and said US journalists do not “[give] a damn about public health information.”

The podcast, released on the HHS website September 11, is part of a series hosted by Michael Caputo, who currently holds the title of HHS assistant secretary of public affairs. Though Caputo has no background in health care, the White House installed him in the department in April—a move reportedly made to assert more White House control over HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Caputo is a longtime Trump loyalist and former campaign official. He got his start as a protégé of Roger Stone and later worked as a Moscow-based advisor to Boris Yeltsin and did public relations work for Vladimir Putin.

Learning curve

Caputo has most recently made headlines for working to interfere with and alter scientific reports on COVID-19 prepared by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The meddling was intended to make reports more in line with messaging from Trump, who has admitted to downplaying the pandemic. Caputo also raised eyebrows with a Facebook live video, reported by The New York Times Monday, in which, without evidence, he accused government scientists of engaging in “sedition” and claimed that the CDC is harboring a “resistance unit.” He also spoke of long “shadows” in his DC apartment and said left-wing “hit-squads” were preparing for armed insurrection after the election.

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Posted in alex azar, caputo, CDC, coronavirus, HHS, McCance-Katz, pandemic, public health, SAMHSA, SARS-CoV-2, science | Comments (0)

Trump audio shows he knew about COVID’s severity even as he misled public

September 9th, 2020

On February 7 this year, President Donald Trump admitted in an interview with journalist Bob Woodward that the coronavirus was far more deadly than the flu even as Trump continued misleading the public about the pandemic's severity. In another interview on March 19, Trump told Woodward that he was intentionally downplaying the virus's severity. "I wanted to always play it down," Trump said.

Woodward's new book, Rage, is scheduled for release next week, but excerpts of the book along with recordings of Trump's interviews with Woodward became public today. This CNN article contains several audio clips from the interviews.

The audio excerpts came from 18 interviews between December 5, 2019, and July 21, 2020, that "were recorded by Woodward with Trump's permission," CNN wrote. In the February 7 interview, Trump noted that the flu kills 25,000 or 30,000 people a year in the United States. "This is more deadly," Trump then told Woodward, referring to the coronavirus. (So far, about 190,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.)

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Posted in bob woodward, coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, Policy, science, Trump | Comments (0)

“Not uncommon at all”: AstraZeneca pauses COVID-19 vaccine trial

September 9th, 2020
A double-masked health care worker jabs a needle into the arm of a seated woman in a mask.

Enlarge / A volunteer receives an injection of AZD1222 from a medical worker during the country's first human clinical trial for a potential vaccine against COVID-19 at the Baragwanath Hospital on June 28, 2020, in Soweto, South Africa. It is reported that Africa's first COVID-19 vaccine trial began on June 24 in South Africa. (credit: Getty Images | Felix Dlangamandla)

With the coronavirus crisis gripping the globe, all eyes are on every bump and dip on the path to the pandemic’s end. So, of course, news that researchers triggered a common pause to the clinical trials of a leading COVID-19 vaccine candidate made swift and alarming headlines late Tuesday.

The global phase III trials for the vaccine AZD1222 (formerly ChAdOx1)—developed by the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca—were put on a “temporary” and “voluntary” pause for a “standard review process,” AstraZeneca said in a statement Wednesday.

According the company, the pause was triggered by a “potentially unexplained illness” in one of thousands of participants involved in its trials. Per standard protocol, researchers must pause the trial to investigate whether the illness is related to exposure to the experimental vaccine or not.

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Posted in adverse event, Astrazeneca, clinical trial, COVID-19, Oxford University, pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, science, vaccine | Comments (0)

National Institutes of Health disses FDA on plasma as COVID treatment

September 2nd, 2020
Image of an older male with glasses, seated at a microphone.

Enlarge / Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, reportedly objected to the FDA's decision to grant an Emergency Use Authorization to plasma treatments. (credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images)

Last week, the FDA announced that it was issuing an emergency use authorization for the treatment of COVID-19: the blood plasma of people who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection. But controversy quickly engulfed that announcement after it became clear that the head of the FDA had exaggerated the effectiveness of the treatment when explaining why it was being approved.

The FDA's salesmanship of blood plasma—which is a treatment of unknown efficacy—was taken as evidence that the emergency use authorization was the product of political pressure exerted by a Trump administration anxious to have some good news to promote its reelection campaign. Additionally, health experts at the National Institute of Health (NIH) didn't agree with the decision and had tried to block it a week ago. Now, the NIH may be striking back, releasing a document that basically says it's looked at the evidence and is not convinced.

Not so fast

While the CDC and FDA have led some aspects of the coronavirus response, the NIH is the employer of Anthony Fauci and the largest biomedical research organization in the world. So it certainly has things to say about how to handle the pandemic, and it maintains a COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel. This, as its name implies, maintains guidelines on different aspects of care for the disease. So, given that the FDA has just given an Emergency Use Authorization to a treatment, it essentially forced the NIH to respond in some way.

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Posted in antibodies, CDC, COVID-19, fda, NIH, pandemic, plasma, Policy, SARS-CoV-2, science | Comments (0)

“Shortsighted” and “Self-defeating”: US rejects global COVID-19 vaccine effort

September 1st, 2020
Close-up photograph of a gloved hand holding a tiny bottle of clear liquid.

Enlarge / A medical worker holds a bottle of a candidate COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University that is being tested in a trial in Soweto, South Africa. (credit: Getty | Gallo Images)

The Trump administration will not take part in a global effort to help develop and equitably distribute a COVID-19 vaccine—a decision experts called “shortsighted” and “self-defeating”—according to a report by The Washington Post.

The White House cited the involvement of the World Health Organization in its decision to shun the effort. President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the WHO for being soft on China during the global health crisis, despite the fact that Trump himself repeatedly praised China for its “transparency” and response to the pandemic in January and February. At the end of May, Trump abruptly announced that he was “terminating our relationship” with the WHO, a move that alarmed public health experts.

White House spokesperson Judd Deere told the Post that “The United States will continue to engage our international partners to ensure we defeat this virus, but we will not be constrained by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China.”

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Posted in CEPI, COVID-19, gavi, pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, science, Trump, trump administration, vaccine, WHO | Comments (0)