Archives for category: Science

Economist Emily Oster of Brown University has become the go-to expert on the risks that children might get COVID. She has written widely in the popular press and been quoted extensively by others about the low risk of reopening schools. Oster is an economist, not a public health expert.

Writing in The American Prospect, journalist Rachel Cohen quotes many public health experts who disagree with Oster. She writes that Oster’s datasets are incomplete and flawed. There is more uncertainty about the risks to children than Oster reports, she writes.


But she concludes by giving Oster credit:

Oster, unlike others and to her credit, does acknowledge that some people will get sick and even die if schools reopen. In addition to emphasizing the social, emotional, and academic harms students face by missing in-person school, Oster says we accept mortality risks in normal times, like allowing people to drive cars, have swimming pools, and avoid the flu shot. “There will be some in-school transmission, no matter how careful we are,” she wrote in July. “This is the unfortunate reality. Some of these people may get very sick. If we are not willing to accept this, we cannot open schools.”

Not only does Trump feel no sympathy for the 225,000 Americans who died of coronavirus (so far), he thinks that doctors across America have inflated the death rate to make him look bad.

The Boston Globe reports:

Dr. Abraar Karan, an internal medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, had just finished a 15-hour shift Saturday night when he opened Twitter and saw a video of President Trump on the campaign trail, parroting a roundly debunked conspiracy theory that hospitals have been inflating COVID-19 deaths for financial gain.

At a rally in Waukesha, Wisc., on Saturday, Trump said “doctors get more money and hospitals get more money” if they report that their patients died of COVID-19, as opposed to other preexisting conditions or comorbidities. “Think of this incentive,” the president said, insinuating as he has before that the death toll from the virus is not to be trusted. He then falsely claimed the pandemic, which has killed more than 226,000 Americans, is “going away,” even as the country approaches a third wave of infections.

“When I got out and I saw that, I found it extremely insulting and frustrating,” Karan said of the president’s comments. “This is somebody who just got taken care of by doctors, who just benefited from our medical system — presumably on taxpayer money — and he’s coming out criticizing the health care profession in what seems like a politically motivated attempt to further downplay the seriousness of the virus.”

Trump’s baseless accusations that doctors are overcounting COVID-19 deaths have sparked a surge of criticism from the American medical community. In a statement issued Sunday, the American College of Emergency Physicians called the president’s assertions “reckless and false.” The American College of Physicians, which represents internal medicine doctors, denounced the president’s allegations as “a reprehensible attack on physicians’ ethics and professionalism.” The Council of Medical Specialty Societies said Trump’s claims “promulgate misinformation that hinders our nation’s efforts to get the Covid-19 pandemic under control...”

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, said Trump’s suggestion that doctors are falsifying COVID-19 deaths is not only demeaning — to health care workers, to those who have died from COVID-19, and to their families — but nonsensical.

“You have to believe a few things for this conspiracy theory to make sense,” Jha said. “One is you have to believe that all the doctors, all the nurses, and all the health care executives are morally corrupt. Second, that you can do widespread fraud across the entire system and no one is really going to pick it up and that there would be no repercussions to this. You would just have to believe things that are so clearly not true.”

Nükhet Varlik, a historian at the University of South Carolina, studies the history of diseases and public health. In this article, she reveals that epidemics and pandemics seldom completely disappear. Only one epidemic–smallpox–has been eradicated. Many others survive.

She writes:

A combination of public health efforts to contain and mitigate the pandemic – from rigorous testing and contact tracing to social distancing and wearing masks – have been proven to help. Given that the virus has spread almost everywhere in the world, though, such measures alone can’t bring the pandemic to an end. All eyes are now turned to vaccine development, which is being pursued at unprecedented speed.

Yet experts tell us that even with a successful vaccine and effective treatment, COVID-19 may never go away. Even if the pandemic is curbed in one part of the world, it will likely continue in other places, causing infections elsewhere. And even if it is no longer an immediate pandemic-level threat, the coronavirus will likely become endemic – meaning slow, sustained transmission will persist. The coronavirus will continue to cause smaller outbreaks, much like seasonal flu.

The history of pandemics is full of such frustrating examples.

Whether bacterial, viral or parasitic, virtually every disease pathogen that has affected people over the last several thousand years is still with us, because it is nearly impossible to fully eradicate them.

The only disease that has been eradicated through vaccination is smallpoxMass vaccination campaigns led by the World Health Organization in the 1960s and 1970s were successful, and in 1980, smallpox was declared the first – and still, the only – human disease to be fully eradicated.

We can all do our part to reduce the danger of COVID-19 by wearing masks and social distancing. When there is a vaccine available, we should take it. It may never be completely eradicated, but we can protect ourselves and our communities by following the practices that scientists have agreed are effective.

Anya Kamenetz, education reporter for NPR, writes here about research findings that suggest the risk of reopening schools during the pandemic have been exaggerated.

Of course, there is good reason to be concerned because the U.S. Congress has not passed the funding needed by schools for safe reopening. Congress has bailed out major corporations, but allotted only $13.2 billion for the nation’s nearly 100,000 schools and more than 50 million students. Public schools were not allowed to request money from the $660 Billion Paycheck Protection Program, but charter schools, private schools, and religious schools were eligible to request PPP funding, and some received millions of dollars.

Kamenetz begins:

Despite widespread concerns, two new international studies show no consistent relationship between in-person K-12 schooling and the spread of the coronavirus. And a third study from the United States shows no elevated risk to childcare workers who stayed on the job.

Combined with anecdotal reports from a number of U.S. states where schools are open, as well as a crowdsourced dashboard of around 2,000 U.S. schools, some medical experts are saying it’s time to shift the discussion from the risks of opening K-12 schools to the risks of keeping them closed.

“As a pediatrician, I am really seeing the negative impacts of these school closures on children,” Dr. Danielle Dooley, a medical director at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., told NPR. She ticked off mental health problems, hunger, obesity due to inactivity, missing routine medical care and the risk of child abuse — on top of the loss of education. “Going to school is really vital for children. They get their meals in school, their physical activity, their health care, their education, of course.”

While agreeing that emerging data is encouraging, other experts said the United States as a whole has made little progress toward practices that would allow schools to make reopening safer — from rapid and regular testing, to contact tracing to identify the source of outbreaks, to reporting school-associated cases publicly, regularly and consistently.

“We are driving with the headlights off, and we’ve got kids in the car,” said Melinda Buntin, chair of the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt School of Medicine, who has argued for reopening schools with precautions.

Tom Frieden, a physician, is former director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). His article appeared in the Washington Post.

He writes:

As the covid-19 pandemic continues in the United States and many parts of the world, millions of Americans are increasingly impatient for the economy and society to regain a more normal footing. Some “maverick scientists” with “an audience inside the White House,” as The Post reported last week, argue for “allowing the coronavirus to spread freely at ‘natural’ rates among healthy young people while keeping most aspects of the economy up and running.”

Their aim is to achieve “herd immunity,” the concept that if enough people are immune, those without immunity can be protected. Usually this refers to immunity gained from vaccination; the goal of herd immunity has typically not been applied to a disease for which there is no vaccine.

There is a saying that for every complicated problem, a solution exists that is quick, simple — and wrong. That applies here: Pursuing herd immunity is the wrong, dead wrong, solution for the pandemic. Discussing such a reckless approach shouldn’t be necessary, except that it echoes the misguided ideas of neuroradiologist Scott Atlas, who in recent months has become an influential medical adviser to President Trump.

Atlas, The Post reported, has relied on similar-minded scientists “to bolster his in-house arguments.”

Less than 15 percent of Americans have been infected by the virus that causes covid-19. If immunity among those who have been infected and survived is strong and long-lasting (and it may well be neither), and if herd immunity kicks in at 60 percent infection of the population (and it might be higher), with a fatality rate of 0.5 percent among those infected, then at least another half-million Americans — in addition to the 220,000 who have already died — would have to die for the country to achieve herd immunity. And that’s the best-case scenario. The number of deaths to get there could be twice as high.

The route to herd immunity would run through graveyards filled with Americans who did not have to die, because what starts in young adults doesn’t stay in young adults. “Protecting the vulnerable,” however appealing it may sound, isn’t plausible if the virus is allowed to freely spread among younger people. We’ve seen this in families, communities and entire regions of the country. First come cases in young adults. Then the virus spreads to older adults and medically vulnerable people. Hospitalizations increase. And then deaths increase.

The vulnerable are not just a sliver of society. The 65-and-over population of the United States in 2018 was 52 million. As many as 60 percent of adults have a medical condition that increases their risk of death from covid-19 — with many unaware of their condition, which can include undiagnosed kidney disease, diabetes or cancer. The plain truth is that we cannot protect the vulnerable without protecting all of us.

A one-two punch is needed to knock out the virus — a combination approach, just as multiple drugs are used to treat infections such as HIV and tuberculosis. That in turn will allow the accelerated resumption of economic and social activity.

First, knock down the spread of the virus. The best way to do this is — as the country has been trying to do, with uneven success — to reduce close contact with others, especially in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation. Increase adherence to the Three W’s: wear a mask, watch your distance and wash your hands (or use sanitizer). Where restrictions have been loosened, track early-warning triggers and activate strategic closures to prevent an explosive spread.

Second, box the virus in to stop cases from becoming clusters and clusters from becoming outbreaks. Rapid testing should focus on those at greatest risk of having been exposed. The sooner people who are infectious get isolated, the fewer secondary cases there will be. That means rapid testing and rapid action when tests are positive. Close contacts need to be quarantined so that if they develop infection, the chain of transmission will stop with them.

A safe and effective vaccine may become available in the coming months — or it may not. Yet even if it were widely administered (a big if), it wouldn’t end the pandemic. Even if a vaccine that’s 70 percent effective is taken by 70 percent of people — optimistic estimates — that leaves half of the population unprotected. For the foreseeable future, masks will be in, at least indoors, and handshakes will be out.

Although there’s no quick fix, this pandemic will end one day. In the interim, there are actions individuals, families and communities across the country can take to reduce risk. The sooner the virus is under control, the quicker and more complete the recovery will be.

In recent months, Trump has increasingly turned to Dr. Scott Atlas for advice on the coronavirus, even though Dr. Atlas is a radiologist with no experience in epidemiology or infectious diseases.

A few days ago, Dr. Atlas tweeted that masks don’t work, and Twitter blocked his tweet because it is inaccurate and misleading. People’s lives are at stake.

MarketWatch reported:

Twitter Inc. on Sunday blocked a post by Dr. Scott Atlas, one of President Donald Trump’s top health advisers, after he claimed face masks were ineffective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

“Masks work? NO” he tweeted Sunday, following by a thread of posts that misrepresented scientific findings on masks.

Twitter TWTR blocked the post citing a violation of its policy against sharing false or harmful information.

Atlas’s tweet also contradicts the official guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends wearing a mask when outside one’s home. There is widespread agreement among health experts that wearing face masks is the simplest and most effective way to curtail the spread of COVID-19 until a vaccine is developed.

Atlas, a Stanford radiologist with no background in infectious diseases, joined the White House coronavirus task force in August. He has been a vocal supporter of Trump and opposes lockdowns in favor of pursuing a strategy of herd immunity. 

Also Sunday, Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious-disease expert, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Atlas’ herd-immunity theory “is the most amazing combination of pixie dust and pseudoscience I’ve ever seen.” Osterholm said herd immunity requires 50%-70% of the population getting infected — far more than Atlas claims — which would likely cause tens of thousands of preventable deaths.

Others have been similarly dismissive of Atlas. Last month, CDC Director Robert Redfield was overheard on a phone call saying of Atlas:  “Everything he says is false.”

Trump saw Dr. Scott Atlas on FOX News and decided to bring him onto the administration’s coronavirus task force. Since Atlas’s arrival, the task force has been riven with dissent. Drs. Birk and Fauci have fallen out of favor. Atlas has been accused of favoring “herd immunity,” which he denies. But he is close to Trump, and Trump listens to his advice.

As summer faded into autumn and the novel coronavirus continued to ravage the nation unabated, Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist whose commentary on Fox News led President Trump to recruit him to the White House, consolidated his power over the government’s pandemic response.

Atlas shot down attempts to expand testing. He openly feuded with other doctors on the coronavirus task force and succeeded in largely sidelining them. He advanced fringe theories, such as that social distancing and mask-wearing were meaningless and would not have changed the course of the virus in several hard-hit areas. And he advocated allowing infections to spread naturally among most of the population while protecting the most vulnerable and those in nursing homes until the United States reaches herd immunity, which experts say would cause excess deaths, according to three current and former senior administration officials.

Atlas also cultivated Trump’s affection with his public assertions that the pandemic is nearly over, despite death and infection counts showing otherwise, and his willingness to tell the public that a vaccine could be developed before the Nov. 3 election, despite clear indications of a slower timetable.

Atlas’s ascendancy was apparent during a recent Oval Office meeting. After Trump left the room, Atlas startled other aides by walking behind the Resolute Desk and occupying the president’s personal space to keep the meeting going, according to one senior administration official. Atlas called this account “false and laughable.”

Discord on the coronavirus task force has worsened since the arrival in late summer of Atlas, whom colleagues said they regard as ill-informed, manipulative and at times dishonest. As the White House coronavirus response coordinator, Deborah Birx is tasked with collecting and analyzing infection data and compiling charts detailing upticks and other trends. But Atlas routinely has challenged Birx’s analysis and those of other doctors, including Anthony S. Fauci, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, with what the other doctors considered junk science, according to three senior administration officials.

Birx recently confronted the office of Vice President Pence, who chairs the task force, about the acrimony, according to two people familiar with the meeting. Birx, whose profile and influence has eroded considerably since Atlas’s arrival, told Pence’s office that she does not trust Atlas, does not believe he is giving Trump sound advice and wants him removed from the task force, the two people said.

In one recent encounter, Pence did not take sides between Atlas and Birx, but rather told them to bring data bolstering their perspectives to the task force and to work out their disagreements themselves, according to two senior administration officials.

The result has been a U.S. response increasingly plagued by distrust, infighting and lethargy, just as experts predict coronavirus cases could surge this winter and deaths could reach 400,000 by year’s end.

This assessment is based on interviews with 41 administration officials, advisers to the president, public health leaders and other people with knowledge of internal government deliberations, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide candid assessments or confidential information.

Atlas defended his views and conduct in a series of statements sent through a spokesperson and condemned The Washington Post’s reporting as “another story filled with overt lies and distortions to undermine the President and the expert advice he is being given.”

Atlas said he has always stressed “all appropriate mitigation measures to save lives,” and he responded to accounts of dissent on the task force by saying, “Any policy discussion where data isn’t being challenged isn’t a policy discussion.”

On the issue of herd immunity, Atlas said, “We emphatically deny that the White House, the President, the Administration, or anyone advising the President has pursued or advocated for a wide-open strategy of achieving herd immunity by letting the infection proceed through the community.”

The doctor’s denial conflicts with his previous public and private statements, including his recent endorsement of the “Great Barrington Declaration,” which effectively promotes a herd immunity strategy.

On Saturday, Atlas wrote on Twitter that masks do not work, prompting the social media site to remove the tweet for violating its safety rules for spreading misinformation. Several medical and public health experts flagged the tweet as dangerous misinformation coming from a primary adviser to the president.

“Masks work? NO,” Atlas wrote in the tweet, followed by other misrepresentations about the science behind masks. He linked to an article from the American Institute for Economic Research — a libertarian think tank behind the Barrington effort — that argued against masks and dismissed the threat of the virus as overblown.

Trump and many of his advisers have come to believe that the key to a revived economy and a return to normality is a vaccine.

“They’ve given up on everything else,” said a senior administration official involved in the pandemic response. “It’s too hard of a slog.”

Infectious-disease and other public health experts said the friction inside the White House has impaired the government’s response.

“It seems to me this is policy-based evidence-making rather than evidence-based policymaking,” said Marc Lipsitch, director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “In other words, if your goal is to do nothing, then you create a situation in which it looks okay to do nothing [and] you find some experts to make it complicated.”

These days, the task force is dormant relative to its robust activity earlier in the pandemic. Fauci, Birx, Surgeon General Jerome Adams and other members have confided in others that they are dispirited.

Birx and Fauci have advocated dramatically increasing the nation’s testing capacity, especially as experts anticipate a devastating increase in cases this winter. They have urged the government to use unspent money Congress allocated for testing — which amounts to $9 billion, according to a Democratic Senate appropriations aide — so that anyone who needs to can get a test with results returned quickly.

But Atlas, who is opposed to surveillance testing, has repeatedly quashed these proposals. He has argued that young and healthy people do not need to get tested and that testing resources should be allocated to nursing homes and other vulnerable places, such as prisons and meatpacking plants.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews defended Trump and the administration’s management of the crisis.

“President Trump has always listened to the advice of his top public health experts, who have diverse areas of expertise,” Matthews said in a statement. “The President always puts the well-being of the American people first as evidenced by the many bold, data-driven decisions he has made to save millions of lives. Because of his strong leadership, our country can safely reopen with adequate PPE, treatments, and vaccines developed in record time.”

Yet 10 months into a public health crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 219,000 people in the United States — a far higher death toll than any other nation has reported — a consensus has formed within the administration that some measures to mitigate the spread of the virus may not be worth the trouble.

The president gave voice to this mind-set during an NBC News town hall Thursday night, when he declined to answer whether he supported herd immunity. “The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself,” Trump told host Savannah Guthrie.

But medical experts disagreed, saying it is dangerous for government leaders to advocate herd immunity or oppose interventions.

“We’d be foolish to reenter a situation where we know what to do and we’re not doing it,” said Rochelle Walensky, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “This thing can take off. All you need to do is look at what’s happened at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue over the last two weeks to see that this thing is way faster than we’re giving it credit for.”

After Trump came home from the hospital this month, he all but promised Americans that they could soon be cured from the coronavirus just as he claimed to have been. In a video taped at the White House on Oct. 5, he vowed, “The vaccines are coming momentarily.”

Then, at a rally last Tuesday night in Johnstown, Pa., Trump told supporters, “The vaccines are coming soon, the therapeutics and, frankly, the cure. All I know is I took something, whatever the hell it was. I felt good very quickly . . . I felt like Superman.”

Trump’s miraculous timeline has run headlong into reality, however. On the same day that he declared “the cure” was near, Johnson & Johnson became the second pharmaceutical giant, after AstraZeneca, to halt its vaccine trial. A third trial, a government-run test of a monoclonal antibody manufactured by Eli Lilly & Co., was also paused. Each move was prompted by safety concerns.

And on Friday, Pfizer said it will not be able to seek an emergency use authorization from the FDA until the third week of November, at the earliest, seemingly making a vaccine before Election Day all but impossible.

Trump’s notion of a vaccine as a cure-all for the pandemic is similarly miraculous, according to medical experts.

“The vaccines, although they’re wonderful, are not going to make the virus magically disappear,” said Tom Frieden, a former CDC director who is president of Resolve to Save Lives. “There’s no fairy-tale ending to this pandemic. We’re going to be dealing with it at least through 2021, and it’s likely to have implications for how we do everything from work to school, even with vaccines.”

Frieden added: “Remember, we have vaccines against the flu, and we still have flu.”

The article goes on to describe the pressure that Trump and his chief of staff Mark Meadows are putting on the CDC, the FDA, and the NIH to accelerate the approval of a vaccine before November 3, election day. Pence has been assigned the job of smooth-talking the governors and assuring them that a vaccination will soon be available. Meanwhile, the politicization of the vaccine approval process has caused a decline in the proportion of the public that is willing to take a new vaccine if it becomes available.

Trump and his close advisor Scott Atlas have pointed to the Great Barrington Declaration as evidence for their views; it was allegedly signed by 15,000 scientists. However, the Daily Beast was able to scrutinize some of the signers, and among them were obviously fake names.

The White House has reportedly embraced a declaration by a group of scientists arguing for a “herd immunity” strategy to deal with America’s coronavirus pandemic—days after the validity of the declaration came under question due to a number of apparently fake names among its expert signatories, including “Dr. Johnny Bananas.” According to The New York Times, on a call convened Monday by the White House, two anonymous administration officials cited the petition, titled The Great Barrington Declaration, which argues that COVID-19 should be allowed to spread through the population. The declaration’s website claims the petition has been signed by more than 15,000 scientists, but, last week, Sky News found dozens of fake names on the list of medical signatories, including Dr. I.P. Freely, Dr. Person Fakename, and Dr. Johnny Bananas.

A government agency that has long been trusted as nonpartisan relies on public trust for the information it releases. When that agency is the Centers for Disease Control, public trust is essential to persuading the public that its advisories represent the work of scientists, unaffected by political considerations. This article by ProPublica describes how the Trump administration persistently interfered in CDC guidelines in an attempt to convince the public that the pandemic was no big deal and that the administration was doing a fabulous job in handling it.

It begins:

At 7:47 a.m. on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, Dr. Jay Butler pounded out a grim email to colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Butler, then the head of the agency’s coronavirus response, and his team had been trying to craft guidance to help Americans return safely to worship amid worries that two of its greatest comforts — the chanting of prayers and singing of hymns — could launch a deadly virus into the air with each breath.

The week before, the CDC had published its investigation of an outbreak at an Arkansas church that had resulted in four deaths. The agency’s scientific journal recently had detailed a superspreader event in which 52 of the 61 singers at a 2½-hour choir practice developed COVID-19. Two died.

Butler, an infectious disease specialist with more than three decades of experience, seemed the ideal person to lead the effort. Trained as one of the CDC’s elite disease detectives, he’d helped the FBI investigate the anthrax attacks, and he’d led the distribution of vaccines during the H1N1 flu pandemic when demand far outstripped supply.

But days earlier, Butler and his team had suddenly found themselves on President Donald Trump’s front burner when the president began publicly agitating for churches to reopen. That Thursday, Trump had announced that the CDC would release safety guidelines for them “very soon.” He accused Democratic governors of disrespecting churches, and deemed houses of worship “essential services.”

Butler’s team rushed to finalize the guidance for churches, synagogues and mosques that Trump’s aides had shelved in April after battling the CDC over the language. In reviewing a raft of last-minute edits from the White House, Butler’s team rejected those that conflicted with CDC research, including a worrisome suggestion to delete a line that urged congregations to “consider suspending or at least decreasing” the use of choirs.

On Friday, Trump’s aides called the CDC repeatedly about the guidance, according to emails. “Why is it not up?” they demanded until it was posted on the CDC website that afternoon.

The next day, a furious call came from the office of the vice president: The White House suggestions were not optional. The CDC’s failure to use them was insubordinate, according to emails at the time.

Fifteen minutes later, one of Butler’s deputies had the agency’s text replaced with the White House version, the emails show. The danger of singing wasn’t mentioned.

Early that Sunday morning, as Americans across the country prepared excitedly to return to houses of worship, Butler, a churchgoer himself, poured his anguish and anger into an email to a few colleagues.

“I am very troubled on this Sunday morning that there will be people who will get sick and perhaps die because of what we were forced to do,” he wrote.

When the next history of the CDC is written, 2020 will emerge as perhaps the darkest chapter in its 74 years, rivaled only by its involvement in the infamous Tuskegee experiment, in which federal doctors withheld medicine from poor Black men with syphilis, then tracked their descent into blindness, insanity and death.

With more than 216,000 people dead this year, most Americans know the low points of the current chapter already. A vaunted agency that was once the global gold standard of public health has, with breathtaking speed, become a target of anger, scorn and even pity.

How could an agency that eradicated smallpox globally and wiped out polio in the United States have fallen so far?

ProPublica obtained hundreds of emails and other internal government documents and interviewed more than 30 CDC employees, contractors and Trump administration officials who witnessed or were involved in key moments of the crisis. Although news organizations around the world have chronicled the CDC’s stumbles in real time, ProPublica’s reporting affords the most comprehensive inside look at the escalating tensions, paranoia and pained discussions that unfolded behind the walls of CDC’s Atlanta headquarters. And it sheds new light on the botched COVID-19 tests, the unprecedented political interference in public health policy, and the capitulations of some of the world’s top public health leaders.

Senior CDC staff describe waging battles that are as much about protecting science from the White House as protecting the public from COVID-19. It is a war that they have, more often than not, lost.

Please open the link and read it all.

The Wall Street Journal reports that more than 1,000 current and former officials at the Centers for Disease Control denounced the Trump administration’s response to COVID-19.

More than 1,000 current and former officers of an elite disease-fighting program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have signed an open letter expressing dismay at the nation’s public-health response to the Covid-19 pandemic and calling for the federal agency to play a more central role.

“The absence of national leadership on Covid-19 is unprecedented and dangerous,” said the letter, signed by current and former officers of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service of outbreak investigators. “CDC should be at the forefront of a successful response to this global public health emergency.”

Signers included two former CDC directors: Jeffrey Koplan, who led the agency under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and Tom Frieden, who served under President Barack Obama.

All of the signatories were writing to “express our concern about the ominous politicization and silencing of the nation’s health protection agency” during the current pandemic, said their letter, which was published Friday in the Epidemiology Monitor, a newsletter for epidemiologists.

“CDC has today, as it has every day during its 74-year history, provided the best available information and recommendations to the American public,” the agency said in a response to the letter. “Since January, more than 5,200 CDC personnel have dedicated themselves to protecting the health of the American people.”

Long regarded as the world’s premier public health agency, the CDC normally plays a leading role globally in a response to epidemics.

The Trump administration has been deeply involved at times in the shaping of scientific recommendations at the CDC during the pandemic, raising objections to guidelines for reopening churches and schools and for wearing masks, The Wall Street Journal reported. An administration spokesman said that “the CDC occupies a critical seat on the (coronavirus) task force, which is made up of public health leaders with an array of valuable expertise.”

I get many requests for donations in my email daily. Some come from the Committee to protect Medicare.

This was written by Dr. Rob Davidson, executive director of the Committee:

For the past three days, I’ve watched Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings in the Senate. As a doctor, it’s beyond bizarre to see a potential Supreme Court Justice say she’ll make decisions about health care based on Originalism — what she thinks people in the 1700s would have intended.

How different was medicine back then? 

The first vaccine wasn’t developed until 1799 (smallpox). Does Judge Barrett support Medicaid covering the routine immunization of kids against deadly diseases? Would she oppose Donald Trump providing a coronavirus vaccine to us, even though the founders would be confused? 

 1846 saw the first demonstration of anesthesia in the world. Should Medicare pay for anesthesia for hip replacements or heart bypasses, even though the constitution doesn’t mention anesthesia? 

 To Judge Barrett, would my evaluations of Medicare patients with chest pain be unconstitutional since EKG’s and X-rays weren’t used until 1895?  

This list goes on and on. Nearly every aspect of modern medicine was non-existent in the late 18th century. An “originalist” approach to the government funding of any type of health care today might deem all of them unconstitutional. 

This is personal for me. Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation is all but certain to doom the Affordable Care Act and rip health care from over 20 million Americans, including over 8,000 people in my poor, red, rural Michigan county of 48,000. Is the ACA just the first step? Is Medicare next on the chopping block?

 If Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed, we need to be able to push twice as hard to reach voters in these final weeks to convey just how high the stakes are for health care. Can you chip in $5, $10, or more today to help us reach voters in swing states and save Medicare in these final 19 days? Click here to chip in now.If you’ve saved your payment information with ActBlue Express, your donation will process automatically:

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Thank you so much for your support,

 Dr. Rob Davidson
Executive Director of Committee to Protect Medicare