COVID-19 Update: Oops! White House Becomes Hot Zone While Urging Country To Open Up

Ken AshfordEbola/Zika/COVID-19 Viruses, Election 2020, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment



NC and local:

The news of the weekend of course is that yet another White House person has contracted COVID-19. This time it is Pence’s press secrteary, who is also the wife of Trump advisor Stephen Miller.

It’s not a good look when you’re trying to open up the country again so that everything looks good for the 2020 elections. By the way, how are those looking?

According to FiveThirtyEight’s presidential approval tracker, 42.9 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, while 52.4 percent disapprove (a net approval rating of -9.5 points). At this time last week, 43.4 percent approved and 52.6 percent disapproved (for a net approval rating of -9.2 points). One month ago, Trump had an approval rating of 45.8 percent and a disapproval rating of 49.7 percent, for a net approval rating of -3.9 points.

But don’t get too excited. The state by state battleground polls are close:

This data highlights a few things. First, at least at the moment, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are very close to the national tipping point — so they’re likely to be among the more determinative states this November. Second, the former vice president’s lead nationally is big enough to carry these states. This is important — if Biden wins all of the states Hillary Clinton won in 2016 plus any combination of three of these four, he would be elected president.

But crucially, Biden’s margins in these states are slightly smaller than his advantage in national polls. It’s worth thinking about the race at the state level in these relative terms because there’s still so much time for things to shift. If Biden’s lead nationally narrowed to 2 to 3 percentage points, these states would likely be much closer, if not lean toward Trump. Also, as The New York Times’ Nate Cohn wrote recently, Trump is likely to look stronger when pollsters start limiting their results to “likely voters.” Most of the April surveys in these four states were conducted among registered voters or all adults, two groups that include some people who may not vote in November.4

In other words, this data suggests Trump may have an Electoral College advantage again — he could lose the popular vote and win the election. Of course, this data also suggests that if Biden is winning overall by a margin similar to his advantage now, Trump’s potential Electoral College edge really won’t matter.

And here’s a look at just the states that polled in April. Who knows how meaningful any of that is:

Just remember. If it’s close they’ll steal it in the electoral college. They’ve squeaked through twice in the last 20 years that way . Don’t think for a moment they won’t do it. So, the Democrats and the Biden campaign cannot sleep on any of this.

This New York Times report about the whistleblower complaint by vaccine expert Dr. Bright is just … unbelievable:

The call in early February from the White House Situation Room came as a surprise to Rick Bright: Peter Navarro, President Trump’s trade adviser, wanted him to come present his ideas for fighting the coronavirus, alone.

Dr. Bright, whose tiny federal research agency was pursuing a coronavirus vaccine, had long been at odds with his boss at the Department of Health and Human Services, Robert Kadlec. His White House visits, twice in a single weekend, only exacerbated those tensions. “Weekend at Peter’s,” Dr. Kadlec quipped in the subject line of an email that expressed his displeasure.

The hostility between these two key officials in the government’s response to a pandemic that has claimed more than 75,000 American lives burst into public view Tuesday when Dr. Bright — who was abruptly dismissed last month as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority — filed a formal whistle-blower complaint. The document accuses Dr. Kadlec and other top administration officials of “cronyism” and putting politics ahead of science.

Whether or not the charges are ultimately proven, the 89-page complaint along with other documents and interviews expose troubling infighting at the Health and Human Services Department, the sprawling agency that includes BARDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and other arms of government, as officials there struggled to combat the worst public health crisis in a century.

“BARDA is the front edge of the global response, in terms of organizing the financing, laying down the bets on what’s coming forward as the options on vaccines and therapies,” said J. Stephen Morrison, a global health expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, adding that the infighting had consequences. “They need to move with incredible skill and judgment and speed.”

The internal clashes extend beyond Drs. Bright and Kadlec. Fierce battles have erupted between Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, and Seema Verma, the Medicare and Medicaid administrator. Mr. Azar has also clashed with a senior White House policymaker, Joe Grogan.

But the consequences of such clashes were vividly brought to life by Dr. Bright’s complaint. Email messages show that, as early as January, when President Trump was saying the outbreak was “totally under control,” Dr. Bright was pressing for the government to stock up on masks and drugs and to commence a “Manhattan Project” effort to develop a vaccine.

But Dr. Bright was largely sidelined by personal disputes with Mr. Kadlec and his aides, some of which long predated the coronavirus, the documents suggest. By the time the pandemic arrived in force, the relationship between them had become toxic, with Dr. Bright increasingly left out of key decisions. His ideas about battling the threat “were met with skepticism,” the complaint says, “and were clearly not welcome.”


Dr. Bright’s allies say he was viewed with suspicion in the Trump administration as an “Obama holdover.” One of his earliest clashes with Dr. Kadlec centered on a long-running contract BARDA had with a small biotechnology company and a consultant who, Dr. Bright said, invoked Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, in an apparent effort to salvage that contract.

The company, Aeolus Pharmaceuticals, was developing a drug to treat the effects of radiation from a potential nuclear attack when BARDA employees decided not to extend the contract in early 2017.

John L. McManus, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview that the decision was based on a flawed process, and appealed it directly to Dr. Bright. In August 2017, Dr. Bright’s complaint says, John M. Clerici, a consultant and Aeolus board member who is close to Dr. Kadlec, pleaded the company’s case to Dr. Bright over coffee and emphasized that Mr. McManus was “friends with Jared” and “has Hollywood connections.”

The article goes on to report several instances, going back before COVID, of corrupt practices, specifically trying to promote Jared’s buddies. Currying favor with the Prince is obviously one of the paths to promotion in the Trump White House.

Let’s just say that science and public health and even fiscal responsibility weren’t criteria that the brown-nosing Trump sycophants took into consideration before awarding massive sums to friends of Jared.

The relationship between Dr. Bright and Dr. Kadlec broke last month when Dr. Bright objected to the widespread use of a malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, that Mr. Trump had promoted as a treatment for Covid-19, and then leaked emails on the subject to a Reuters journalist.

Dr. Bright began sounding alarms on coronavirus within weeks of its emergence in January, expressing a sense of urgency that he felt his superiors and the president did not share. On Jan. 18, the complaint said, he pushed Dr. Kadlec to convene high-level meetings about the virus, but Dr. Kadlec “initially rejected” the request.

Dr. Bright had been in contact with Mike Bowen, an executive at Prestige Ameritech, a mask manufacturer, who had been warning for years that the United States was too dependent on China for its mask supply.

Mr. Bowen, who in an interview called Dr. Bright a “great public servant who didn’t have the authority to do anything,” told Dr. Bright on Feb. 5 that a “Trump insider” had heard his pleas.

“Please ask your associates to convey the gravity of this national security issue to the White House,” Mr. Bowen wrote, two days before Mr. Navarro invited Dr. Bright to meet with him at the White House. “I’m pretty sure you’ll get the chance.”

It’s the combination of ineptitude and corruption that’s killing us.

In further news of the Trump team’s blazing, no-holds-barred incompetence, The Washington Post reported Saturday on still another dropped ball in the earliest days of the pandemic: In late January, the owner of the American medical supply company Prestige Ameritech contacted the Department of Health And Human Services to let it know that the company could ramp up N95 mask production by 1.7 million masks per week, if it proved needed. It would be “very difficult” to get the then-mothballed machines running again, but it could be done “in a dire situation.”

Not only did the administration not see fit to help the company do that, despite numerous government experts sounding dire warnings that masks were in short supply and were going to be urgently needed—even now, it still hasn’t. And it all smells more than a little fishy, to be honest. There’s no question that we still need many more masks, and Trump has gone so far as to invoke the Defense Production Act to order companies to manufacture them. But not this company.

As is usual for this administration, the details as to why Trump’s team could not be mustered into action are now (ahem) somewhat in dispute. An anonymous “senior” government official told the Post that it was a legitimate offer but that HHS “didn’t have the money” to do it; this seems the incontrovertibly true part, evinced by Bright’s unsuccessful early quest to try to procure masks by tapping into funds for other “biodefense measures” that were not as immediately urgent.

White House economic adviser Peter Navarro, however, is suggesting that the company was “extremely difficult to work and communicate with,” compared to the Trump team’s now-preferred companies; this almost assuredly is not the full story. Whatever else could be said about Prestige owner Michael Bowen, the man seems unquestionably to have been on a 13-year tear to convince government to purchase his American-made masks, and went out of his way to warn the government that he was suddenly getting enormous orders for masks from China and Hong Kong—thus giving officials an even stronger clue that U.S. mask supplies were indeed going to be a near-term problem.

Reading between the lines, it seems that Bowen found the right people and made the right case, including to Navarro himself, but that the administration simply botched all follow-up. Instead, the company was put into the bureaucratic hopper of potential mask providers, sent a form letter, and that was that. Also reading between the lines, it sounds much like the major problem was that the company’s offer simply came during the looooong period of time when the Trump White House was actively hostile toward doing anything that might publicly suggest the pandemic would be more severe than Dear Leader’s own burpings claimed it would be, so there simply was no White House or HHS stomach for contradicting him.

(Also, Jared Kushner somehow managed to become involved in medical equipment procurement, along with two dozen or so “volunteers” with no particular experience for procuring anything, and the amount of things this government has done competently when Jared Kushner is even marginally involved continues to be zero point zero.)

Cut to the present, and the company still hasn’t restarted those dormant machines, even as other companies with little or no experience in making the same masks land expensive contracts with a now-desperate government. Reading between the lines yet again, it appears that Bowen’s eventual impatience with the administration’s uberbunglers pissed someone in the Trump administration off: If you’re not polishing every Team Trump shoe you are not going to be seen as an administration ally, worldwide deadly pandemic or no worldwide deadly pandemic, and now that the company has given Trump bad publicity it’s likely to rise rapidly up Trump’s hundred-page enemies list.

The Honeywell people, though, now they were willing to play the White House game. Apparently.

We’re also learning that the Trump administration has cut funding for coronavirus researcher, jeopardizing possible COVID-19 cure.

An American scientist who collaborates with the Wuhan Institute of Virology had his grant terminated in the wake of unsubstantiated claims that COVID-19 is either manmade or leaked out of a Chinese government lab.

Trump, this morning: