Former CDC heads: Trump undermining COVID-19 response

President Trump
President Trump

NASA, Bill Ingalls / Flickr cc

Four former directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) penned an editorial in today's Washington Post, saying the Trump administration is undermining the agency's ability to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, especially as the question of returning to schools in the fall looms over superintendents, politicians, and parents.

Last week, President Donald Trump tweeted that the CDC's guidelines on school reopening were too expensive and onerous, and said they needed to be revised. He also threatened cutting funding to public schools if they do not open fully in the fall.

"Through last week, and into Monday, the administration continued to cast public doubt on the agency's recommendations and role in informing and guiding the nation's pandemic response,” wrote Tom Frieden, MD, Jeffrey Koplan, MD, MPH, David Satcher, MD, PhD, and Richard Besser, MD. "The only valid reason to change released guidelines is new information and new science—not politics."

Combined, the directors led the CDC for 15 years, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, but they say they never experienced political pressure to revise recommendations that were made based on scientific evidence.

Trump offers Guard to replace CDC

The Trump administration is ready to ask governors to send the National Guard to collect hospitalization data, including information about patients and supply chain, thus circumnavigating the CDC's role as the primary repository for data collection in the pandemic.

According to a Washington Post story based on leaked documents and emails, Health and Human Services officials yesterday "finalized a new data reporting protocol for hospitals, which will eliminate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a data recipient, leaving health-care institutions to report information about covid-19 to a federal contractor or to their state, which would coordinate the federal reporting."

The administration said the reason to do this is to provide expedited information to state leaders.

IDSA defends Fauci

The divide between President Trump and public health experts continues to grow today, as the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the HIV Medicine Association released statements offering support to the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, MD.

Fauci, who was often seen at the president's side during the daily briefings that punctuated the first 3 months of the pandemic, has been sidelined in recent days. According to the New York Times, Trump aides have been providing media outlets with lists of erroneous statements he allegedly made during the early days of the pandemic.

Fauci, the document says, minimized the role of asymptomatic spread and did not initially call for major behavioral changes.

Last week on Fox News, President Trump said Fauci is "a nice man, but he's made a lot of mistakes."

Today Thomas File, MD, the director of IDSA said, "The only way out of this pandemic is by following the science, and developing evidence-based prevention practices and treatment protocols as new scientifically rigorous data become available. Knowledge changes over time. That is to be expected. If we have any hope of ending this crisis, all of America must support public health experts, including Dr. Fauci, and stand with science."

Cases mount in Texas, California, Florida

Outbreaks in the Sunbelt continue to worsen, as Florida, California, and Texas reported a combined 30,000 cases yesterday, representing 18% of the global daily total.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said he will once again shutter restaurants, bars, gyms, churches, salons, malls, and other businesses in 30 counties, effective immediately, in an effort to stop the spike in virus transmission. According to the LA Times, California has averaged 8,211 new cases each day in the past week.

The order is in effect in the state's biggest counties, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, and Marin.

In Texas, hospitals are starting to turn away transfer patients to make space for an expected surge in COVID-19 patients. Last week, Governor Greg Abbott banned elective surgeries in an effort to free up hospital space as the state battles one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the country.

According to the COVID-19 tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University, the United States has 3,406,945 COVID-19 cases and 136,244 fatalities.

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