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FDA commissioner refuses to defend Trump claim that 99% of Covid-19 cases are ‘harmless’ – CNN

(CNN)The commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration on Sunday declined to defend President Donald Trump’s unfounded claim that 99% of coronavirus cases are “totally harmless” and repeatedly refused to say whether Trump’s remark is true or false.

“I’m not going to get into who is right and who is wrong,” Dr. Stephen Hahn, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”
During his remarks Saturday at the White House Independence Day event, Trump claimed without evidence that 99% of coronavirus cases “are totally harmless.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 35% of cases are asymptomatic, but even people with mild or no symptoms can spread the virus to others.
While the World Health Organization has said the global fatality rate is likely less than 1%, the WHO also said about 20% of all people who are diagnosed with coronavirus are sick enough to need oxygen or hospital care.
“I totally support the CDC and the information that they’re putting out with respect to this pandemic,” Hahn said Sunday.
Hahn said the coronavirus pandemic is “a rapidly evolving situation” but stressed that the US “absolutely must take this seriously.”
Pressed by Bash on the program whether the President’s comment is true or false, Hahn again did not defend the President’s claim.
“What I’ll say is that we have data in the White House task force. Those data show us that this is a serious problem. People need to take it seriously,” Hahn said.
There have been more than 2.8 million cases of coronavirus in the United States and at least 129,000 people in the US have died, according to Johns Hopkins University’s latest tally.
Trump celebrated the Fourth of July at Mount Rushmore on Friday and at the White House’s “Salute to America” on Saturday, where many attendees were seen neither socially distancing nor wearing masks at both events.
“if you don’t follow local and state guidelines about what to do, if you’re not following the CDC and White House task force guidelines, you are putting yourselves and you’re putting your loved ones at risk,” Hahn said.
Asked if he was uncomfortable by the President holding those events that put Americans at risk, Hahn said the circumstances are different.
“I think in terms of that specific instance at the White House, it’s important for everyone to remember that it’s a different set of circumstances. People are tested regularly. The President is tested regularly,” Hahn said.
Hahn was also questioned about the President’s recent doubling down in a Fox Business interview of his belief that coronavirus will “sort of just disappear.”
“No, we’re seeing the surge in cases, particularly across the Sun Belt. And so this virus is still with us,” the FDA commissioner told CNN.

‘Too early to tell’ if Florida is safe for GOP convention

Hahn said it is “too early to tell” whether Florida will be a safe place for the Republican National Convention next month amid a surge of Covid-19 cases there.
“We’ll have to see how this unfolds in Florida and around the country,” Hahn said.
Florida set an all-time record of the most coronavirus cases in the US in a single day on Saturday, with a total of 11,458 cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Republican National Committee spokesman Mike Reed told CNN the party is committed to holding the convention in Florida but will be conducting temperature checks and have testing available to attendees.
“The RNC is committed to holding a safe convention that fully complies with local health regulations in place at the time. The event is still almost two months away, and we are planning to offer health precautions including but not limited to temperature checks, available (personal protective equipment), aggressive sanitizing protocols, and available COVID-19 testing,” Reed said in a statement.
Reed added that the RNC will continue to coordinate with local leadership in Jacksonville and state of Florida.
“We will continue to work with state and local officials to ensure the safety of all attendees. The President is looking forward to a great celebration,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement provided to CNN.
The convention is slated for August 24-27 in Jacksonville, Florida, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Trump will accept the nomination this year in Jacksonville, which implemented mandatory face mask requirements last week due to the spike in infections, but the Republican National Committee is contractually obligated to hold a portion of its convention in Charlotte.
The President’s reelection team selected the Sunshine State as the new location for much of the convention after sparring with officials in North Carolina over convention size and social distancing requirements.
This story has been updated with additional details.

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Trump refuses to lead as pandemic worsens and allies desert him on masks – CNN

(CNN)Most Presidents would try to stop the United States from barreling toward disaster. But Donald Trump has nothing to say and no answers to mitigate a calamity unfolding on his watch that he seems resolved to ignore.

On the day when the government’s top infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci said he would not be surprised to see the US record 100,000 new coronavirus cases per day, Trump refused to break his deafening silence.
And the day after his White House described record-breaking new infections that are sweeping the nation as “embers that need to be put out,” Trump’s campaign claimed credit for the “phenomenal” success of his botched pandemic leadership.
Trump is now pretty much the sole figure in authority in either party — including his major Republican allies — who refuse to wear or endorse face masks that are proven to slow the spread of coronavirus but that he has stigmatized as a liberal plot to harm him politically.
“We must have no stigma, none, about wearing masks when we leave our homes and come near other people. Wearing simple face coverings is not about protecting ourselves, it is about protecting everyone we encounter,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday.
But Trump on Tuesday tweeted cryptically “THE LONE WARRIOR!” — apparently embracing his isolation from even political allies and the scientific approaches that have proven elsewhere to at least slow the spread of the coronavirus in the short term.
Undeterred by the deepening national crisis, Trump is pressing ahead with plans for an early July Fourth celebration at Mount Rushmore that will bracket him symbolically and without irony alongside four of America’s most revered Presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. The social distancing advised by Trump’s government will not be enforced.
The White House did hold a briefing on Wednesday, but it appeared to be a premeditated attempt by White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany to fog the water around another drama rocking Trump — claims that he did nothing about a Russian military intelligence scheme to put a bounty on the heads of US troops in Afghanistan. McEnany left the briefing room before she could be questioned about the pandemic.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, whose current wide lead in most general election polls can be explained partly by Trump’s performance during the pandemic, pounced on the latest grave developments to lambast the President.
Seizing on Trump’s remark in April that he was now a “wartime President,” Biden adopted a tone of scathing mockery.
“What happened? Now it’s almost July, and it seems like our wartime president has surrendered — waved the white flag and left the battlefield,” the Democrat said in a speech in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.
In the vacuum left by resolute guidance that only the person in the Oval Office can provide, the coronavirus is quickening its deadly march across the country, with 36 states now seeing rising cases, and at least 16 slowing the reopening plans championed by the President while hospital emergency rooms see increasing admissions that suggest a fast rising death toll could be only days away.
Far from the four Presidents whose images he will survey in North Dakota, Trump’s perverse failure to crank up a federal government effort to fight a worsening pandemic over which he has said the US has “prevailed” is beginning to resemble Herbert Hoover’s indifference during the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Refusing to lead

As the rest of the Western world presses ahead with careful reopening plans after governments suppressed their curves — and bans American tourists because of the skyrocketing US infection rates — Trump appears to have made a political calculation that the best approach is to refuse to lead.
Mounting a successful federal government response at this stage would require the capacity to unite the country and to brainstorm innovative solutions, as well as a President who is a master of detail and can unleash the promise of science and empathize with his compatriots at a tragic time.
But Trump’s alternative method of presidential leadership has come unstuck. Dividing the country — between Republican governors itching to open economies and Democrats who worried about a viral resurgence — has proved disastrous to states that support him. The Trumpian tactic of demonizing opponents, lying about the facts and building an alternative reality in which everything is fine has been exposed by the pandemic.
And for all his claims to be a builder, Trump has failed to construct solutions in his near four years in power.
Many Trump supporters voted for the President in 2016 because they felt betrayed by the status quo and the political establishment. His still healthy ratings from his base suggest that not all voters share the horror of many in Washington at his negligence or even think Trump should be leading a role in fighting the pandemic that almost all of his predecessors would surely have demanded for themselves.
And the President is not directly to blame for the young Americans who continue to flock to bars or beaches or those who refuse to obey social distancing rules or to wear the masks in behaviors that could make the business or reopening economies safer and more sustainable.
But Trump’s refusal even to set an example and to explain the gravity of the situation, coupled with his habit of prioritizing his own political prospects and interests over the national interest, has left much of the rest of the country in the lurch.
A former senior administration official who spoke to CNN’s Jim Acosta Tuesday was referring to the President’s frustration with intelligence briefings in connection with the latest Russia drama, their comment held lessons for his role in the pandemic as well.
“He’s typically frustrated with intelligence because it shows a problem but doesn’t provide an answer,” the former official said.
As several past presidents have noted, the only problems that reach the Oval Office desk are those that others have failed to solve.

Scary statistics but it could get worse

Days of scary statistics are telling a devastating story that cannot be disguised by Team Trump’s spin. The US represents just 4% of the world’s population but has a quarter of all coronavirus cases. On average, more than 1,000 Americans die every day from the disease. Some 126,000 have already succumbed. Black Americans are more than twice as likely to die from it, in figures that reflect the racial disparities currently driving another national crisis.
It is a measure of the odd limbo caused by lockdowns that the human toll that these figures represent — as well as the severe economic blight caused by a pandemic that Trump denied for months, mismanaged, politicized and then ignored again — is hidden from many Americans.
As bad as the latest statistics may be, Fauci raised the horrific prospect that things are going to get worse, a dispiriting prospect in a country already seared by months of social distancing and lockdowns.
“We are now having 40-plus thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around and so I am very concerned,” Fauci told a Senate committee on Tuesday.
Fauci expressed dismay over people congregating in crowds and not wearing masks and inadequate attention being paid to federal guidelines on reopening that the President has declined to enforce.
“We’re going to continue to be in a lot of trouble, and there’s going to be a lot of hurt if that does not stop,” he said.
As Trump shows no willingness to shift course and set a national example or lead a federal response to the virus, other medical experts are expressing fears that the coming July Fourth holiday could spark a similar spike in infections as appears to have been triggered by Memorial Day at the end of May.
“The virus is spreading rapidly. The time to act is now,” said Houston Methodist Hospital President and CEO Marc Boom. Texas as a whole, which is seeing a rapidly rising curve, reported a record 6,975 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday.
Another state that is an epicenter of the coronavirus’ prolonged surge is Florida, which put up more than 6,000 new cases on Tuesday. But Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Trump ally, continued to minimize the situation, making the case that it was good news that younger people — who have traditionally been less severely affected by Covid-19, were a higher proportional slice of those who tested positive than was the case in the past.
“We’re not going back, closing things,” DeSantis said.

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Trump refuses to quarantine in New Jersey after visiting county with ‘high’ coronavirus activity – The Independent

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Donald Trump will opt out of a new coronavirus quarantine policy in effect in New Jersey when he visits his golf resort in Bedminster at the weekend, the White House says, as he heads into a Covid-heavy county in Wisconsin on Thursday.

“The president of the United States is not a civilian,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said. “Anyone who is in close proximity to him, including staff, guests, and press are tested for Covid-19 and confirmed to be negative.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, along with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced on Wednesday that each state would “invite” travellers entering their states from ones with high numbers of coronavirus cases to self-quarantine for 14 days.

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Mr Trump visited Arizona earlier this week amid a spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths there. The state’s health department reported a one-day high record of 3,591 cases on Tuesday.

The department also reported 1,795 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday morning, about half the previous day’s single-day record of 3,591.

The president travelled to Wisconsin on Thursday, and he is again headed into a Covid-heavy zone.

His schedule in the 2020 swing state starts with the taping of a Fox News town hall in Green Bay, which is in Brown County. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services on Wednesday released data that said Brown has a “high” level of coronavirus activity.

Later, the president will tour a Fincantieri Marinette Marine facility in Marinette that earlier this year won the first part of a $5bn US Navy contract to start building as many as 10 missile frigate ships. The Marinette-based company says it will eventually hire 1,000 more workers.

That city is in a county with the same name – and a “medium” level of Covid activity, according to the Wisconsin DHS.

White House officials said all precautions to adhere to Arizona policies were used during his Tuesday visit, and they will do the same in Wisconsin.

His visit comes as multiple polls there show Mr Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, by double digits. Mr Trump won the state in 2016 by less than 1 percentage point.

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