Archive for the ‘COVID-19’ 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)

Russia offers its untested COVID-19 vaccine for free to UN officials

September 23rd, 2020
A smirking man in a suit sits in front of a UN flag.

Enlarge / Russian President Vladimir Putin address the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, via teleconference call, in Moscow on September 22, 2020. (credit: Getty | MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV)

Some United Nations staff are likely brushing up on their Russian—specifically how to say “Thanks, but no thanks” in the nicest way possible.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered UN staff free doses of the country’s COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, which has not completed clinical trials for efficacy and has not been thoroughly vetted for safety.

Still, Putin suggested that his offer was prompted by the desire to give the people what they want: “Some colleagues from the UN have asked about this, and we will not remain indifferent to them,” he said during a speech Tuesday at this year’s (virtual) General Assembly.

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Posted in clinical trials, COVID-19, efficacy, Putin, russia, safety, SARS-CoV-2, science, Sputnik V, UN, 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)

Blogger who trashed Fauci online “retires” after being ID’d as NIH staffer

September 22nd, 2020
A man in a suit and a face mask stands in a wood-paneled room.

Enlarge / Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wears a Washington Nationals protective mask after a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

A public affairs officer at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is out of a day job after a report found he was moonlighting pseudonymously as an editor for a conservative website, where he regularly trashed his agency and its director, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The RedState managing editor known as "streiff" is actually William Crews, The Daily Beast reported yesterday. Crews was, until this week, a public affairs specialist at NIAID, which is one of the 27 institutes and centers that comprise the National Institute of Health.

As streiff, Crews "derided his own colleagues as part of a left-wing anti-Trump conspiracy and vehemently criticized the man who leads his agency," according to The Daily Beast. Additionally, he described his boss as "attention-grubbing and media-whoring Anthony Fauci" and "a mask nazi."

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Posted in anthony fauci, COVID-19, dr. anthony fauci, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, niaid, NIH, Policy, RedState, sabotage, science | 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)

CDC dramatically restores COVID-19 testing advice marred by political meddling

September 18th, 2020
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters stands in Atlanta, Georgia, US, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. As the novel coronavirus has spread in the US, the CDC is under increasing heat to defend a shaky rollout of crucial testing kits. Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Enlarge / The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters stands in Atlanta, Georgia, US, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. As the novel coronavirus has spread in the US, the CDC is under increasing heat to defend a shaky rollout of crucial testing kits. Photographer: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

In a dramatic move, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday restored its recommendation to test people who have been exposed to the pandemic coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, but don’t have symptoms—erasing politically motivated changes made by members of the Trump administration without the support or input of CDC scientists.

The CDC had—until August 24—always recommended testing for all people who have had close contact (within 6 feet for 15 minutes or more) with someone infected with SARS-CoV-2, regardless of symptoms. The CDC stated clearly that this is “important” and should be done quickly “because of the potential for asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission,” which is largely thought to drive the pandemic.

But the guidance was abruptly and quietly changed August 24 to say that exposed people who do not have symptoms “do not necessarily need a test.”

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Posted in CDC, COVID-19, public health, SARS-CoV-2, science, testing | Comments (0)

White House-CDC tensions explode as Trump contradicts its leadership

September 17th, 2020
Image of President Trump speaking from behind a lectern.

Enlarge / US President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in which he frequently contradicted his own health experts. (credit: Bloomberg/Getty Images)

There was good news and then bad news for public health expertise yesterday. In the wake of increasingly unhinged behavior from a President Trump-appointed communications director at the US Department of Health and Human Services, he and one of his key appointees have left their posts—one for two months, one permanently. But any hopes that science might resume being the main driver of US health policy were short-lived. Earlier in the day, CDC head Robert Redfield and other Health and Human Services officials testified before a Senate panel. By the evening, the president himself was calling his own CDC director mistaken about everything from mask use to the schedule of vaccine availability.

By the end of the day, Redfield was tweeting statements that balanced ambiguity against seeming to support Trump's view.

A backdrop of turmoil

A constant background of tension has existed between the Trump administration (which wants the country to return to normal operations despite the medical consequences) and public health officials (who actually want to protect the public's health). But several things have driven those tensions into the open recently, starting with last week's revelation that political appointees were attempting to interfere with reports from career scientists at the CDC. That issue was seemingly resolved in the CDC's favor, as a key administration figure in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Michael Caputo, took a two-month medical leave after making a video in which he spoke of armed uprisings and conspiratorial cabals of CDC scientists.

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Posted in CDC, COVID-19, HHS, masks, Policy, redfield, science, testing, Trump, vaccine | 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)

Political appointees demand ability to rewrite CDC case reports

September 12th, 2020
Image of a man holding his hand to his ear in order to hear better.

Enlarge / Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), listens during a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus. Redfield may be finding himself trapped between scientists and political appointees. (credit: Getty Images)

Political appointees in the Department of Health and Human services are objecting to reports on the COVID-19 pandemic from the Centers for Disease Control, and are trying to exercise editorial control of future reports. That's the bottom line of an extensive report from Politico that was based on both internal emails and interviews with people in the organization. The problems apparently stem from the fact-based reports from the CDC running counter to the Trump administration's preferred narrative about the spread of the pandemic and the appropriate public health responses.

The CDC documents at issue are termed Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which provide rapid summaries of the state of our knowledge about public health issues. Typically, they're the product of a CDC-backed investigation into a known issue; in the past, they've focused on things like outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. While they don't have the weight of peer-reviewed literature, they're widely considered to be scientifically reliable, and their rapid publication makes them a valuable resource for public health officials.

It's easy to see how the reports' accurate information could be viewed as counter to the preferred message of the Trump administration. Trump has made reopening schools a centerpiece of his pandemic policy, but CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly reports have described how SARS-CoV-2 can spread rapidly in a school-aged population, how young children can bring the disease home and pass it on to adults, and how children can suffer severe complications from the disease.

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Posted in CDC, COVID-19, HHS, Policy, SARS-CoV-2, science | Comments (0)