As COVID deaths climb, White House increasingly at odds with public health advice

Late last week Politico reported that communication aides within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have demanded the right to review and suggest changes to studies on COVID-19 published in the Center for Disease Prevention and Control's (CDC's) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

The aides have attempted to add caveats to the CDC's findings in an attempt to align them with President Trump's statements on the virus. According to three people familiar with the communications, the aides emailed CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, and expressed concerns that study findings contradicted President Trump's more optimistic take on the virus.

The direction to monitor and alter the MMWR comes from Michael Caputo, the Health and Human Services (HHS) department's spokesperson. Caputo, a Trump campaign official who took over the position in April, has no medical or scientific background.

In a statement to Politico, Caputo said HHS's requests to review were appropriate. "Our intention is to make sure that evidence, science-based data drives policy through this pandemic—not ulterior deep state motives in the bowels of CDC," he said.

Today the New York Times reports that Caputo posted a video on his personal Facebook account over the weekend in which he promoted several conspiracy theories, and warned of an armed revolt by trained left-wing radicals if Donald Trump gets reelected in November. He also said CDC scientists were acting in sedition, and harboring a "resistance unit" against the president.

Caputo also said his life and his family's lives were regularly threatened.

In related news, President Trump held his first indoor campaign rally since June this weekend in Nevada, in direct defiance of the state's ban on gatherings of more than 50 people indoors. The crowd was mostly mask-less as Trump told supporters he was "making the last turn" in defeating the novel coronavirus.

"We are not shutting the country again. A shutdown would destroy the lives and dreams of millions [of] Americans," said Trump. "We will very [easily] defeat the ... virus."

Vaccine trial expands; promise for rheumatoid arthritis drug

Today Pfizer and BioNTech announced they would expand phase 3 trials of their COVID-19 vaccine in the US to now include 44,000 participants, up from an initial goal of 30,000, according to Stat News. The increase will need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Pfizer said the company expects efficacy results by the end of October.

Eli Lilly and Co announced today their rheumatoid arthritis drug, baricitinib, shortened the recovery time for hospitalized COVID-19 patients by a day in combination with remdesivir, when compared to remdesivir alone.

The results came from a trial of 1,000 participants. Eli Lilly said they were planning on applying for an emergency use authorization from the FDA.

The United States reported 34,450 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, and 378 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. The national total now stands at 6,539,483 cases and 194,339 deaths.

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