The Past 24 Hours or So

Read Time: 7 minutes

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates

  • Ahead of congressional testimony from Rick Bright, the ousted vaccine development chief who claims he was retaliated against for warning the government was slow in responding to the novel coronavirus, President Donald Trump Tweeted: “I don’t know the so-called Whistleblower Rick Bright, never met him or even heard of him, but to me he is a disgruntled employee, not liked or respected by people I spoke to and who, with his attitude, should no longer be working for our government!”
  • As Dr. Bright testified, Health and Human Services distributed a press release attacking him, titled “CLAIM vs. REALITY.” “Mr. Bright has not yet shown up for work, but continues to collect his $285,010 salary … His whistleblower complaint is filled with one-sided arguments and misinformation.”
  • Dr. Rick Bright on vaccine timeline: “A lot of optimism is swirling around a 12-18 month timeframe, if everything goes perfectly. We’ve never seen everything go perfectly … I still think 12-18 months is an aggressive schedule, and I think it’s going to take longer than that.”
  • “The best scientific guidance and advice was not being conveyed to the American public at that time,” Dr. Rick Bright says, after he was read a number of the president’s early comments and asked to respond. Bright said a different approach could have prepared people and “saved more lives.”
  • Dr. Rick Bright: “It was quite a surprise to me that the urgent ramp up of the testing did not include full consideration of all the critical supplies needed to support that ramp up of testing, including those materials you mentioned swabs, viral transport media, buffers, etc.”
  • Dr. Rick Bright says he will never forget receiving an email from an N95 manufacturer warning: “We’re in deep shit. The world is, and we need to act.”

Bright told Congress that he forwarded the message, which fell on deaf ears. He also wrote that in his complaint.

  • Dr. Bright on his warnings about rapidly diminishing PPE supplies: “I was met with indifference, saying they were either too busy, they didn’t have a plan, they didn’t know who was responsible for procuring those … A number of excuses. But never any action.”
  • Dr. Rick Bright told lawmakers the U.S. needs to empower leadership and “unleash the voices of the scientists” to fight COVID-19.

He said later: “We don’t have a single point of leadership right now for this response, and we don’t have a master plan for this response.”

  • Dr. Rick Bright says President Trump had him fired from leading the quest for a vaccine as political payback for questioning Trump’s unfounded claims about hydroxychloroquine.
  • Rep. Debbie Dingell: “Even this week, as we’re being told anybody who wants a test can have a test, is that true in the United States of America?”

Bright: “No.”

  • Dr. Bright with a damning statement on the Trump administration’s virus response: “We did not forewarn people. We did not train people. We did not educate them on social distancing and wearing a mask as we should have in January and February. All those…could have…saved more lives.”
  • During a White House meeting with governors, President Donald Trump claimed that “the airline industry is in good shape.”

The president’s comments stand in stark contrast to the fact that bookings on airlines have plummeted 98 percent from the same time last year.

Airlines are in an especially precarious situation due to the high operating cost of business. Several airlines are reportedly at risk of bankruptcy, and JP Morgan has warned that American Airlines could be particularly at risk.

  • The Agriculture Department has awarded multimillion-dollar contracts to companies that appear to have little experience working with food banks or farmers, spurning several big produce companies with extensive expertise in food distribution.

An event planning company in San Antonio, Texas, known for throwing lavish weddings and high-end conferences, was awarded more than $39 million — one of the largest contracts handed out by USDA under a new program aimed at matching up food banks with surplus produce, meat and dairy.

Also on the list was a company that specializes in trade-related finance and one that sells health and wellness items for travelers.

  • A senior defense official who has overseen the Pentagon’s use of the Defense Production Act in the coronavirus response has been removed from her job, defense officials said Thursday.

Jennifer Santos, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy, will be reassigned to the Navy to oversee “critical projects,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Andrews, a Pentagon spokesman.

  • Nancy Beck, President Trump’s nominee for the nation’s top consumer safety watchdog, was reportedly involved in the Trump administration’s decision to shelve CDC guidelines on reopening public spaces amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, serving as the main point of contact between health officials and the White House.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines for schools, workplaces and other venues throughout the United States to reopen safely as the country continues to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic.

The CDC’s guidelines come following uproar after The Associated Press reported that the White House blocked an earlier iteration of the guidelines, saying that they were too restrictive.

  • President Trump suggested the practice of widespread coronavirus testing may be “overrated,” even as health experts insist it is critical to safely loosen restrictions and reopen businesses.

Trump boasted about the United States’s testing capabilities during remarks at a Pennsylvania medical equipment distribution center, where he announced the country has administered 10 million tests since the outbreak began.

“We have the best testing in the world,” Trump told employees at Owens & Minor Inc. in Allentown. “Could be that testing’s, frankly, overrated. Maybe it is overrated.”

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an emergency advisory about a mysterious inflammatory illness believed to be connected to the coronavirus in children. 

The CDC asked that health care providers report instances of pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), a condition health officials say is similar to Kawasaki Disease — a rare illness that causes inflamed blood vessels, typically in young children.

  • President Trump said he would prepare the U.S. military to disburse COVID-19 vaccines when they are ready.

“We’re mobilizing our military and other forces, but we’re mobilizing our military on the basis that we do have a vaccine,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo.

Other Administration News 

  • President Trump escalated his attacks against former President Obama over what Trump has viewed as wrongdoing against his campaign by officials in the previous administration, saying that Republicans should call on the former president to testify.

“If I were a Senator or Congressman, the first person I would call to testify about the biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA, by FAR, is former President Obama,” Trump tweeted. “He knew EVERYTHING.”

  • A lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of violating the Constitution by accepting foreign government money through his luxury Washington hotel can proceed to fact-gathering about Trump’s profits, a federal appeals court ruled.

The Richmond-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals voted, 9-6, to reject Trump’s bid to shut down the lawsuit the governments of Maryland and the District of Columbia brought alleging violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clauses.

  • President Trump was wary of making preparations for the coronavirus pandemic because he was concerned that doing so would send the stock market into a panic, the Financial Times reports. In a quote attributed to a Trump confidant who is said to speak to the president frequently, it’s claimed: “Jared [Kushner] had been arguing that testing too many people, or ordering too many ventilators, would spook the markets and so we just shouldn’t do it… That advice worked far more powerfully on [Trump] than what the scientists were saying. He thinks they always exaggerate.”
  • Nearly 3 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week — bringing the total to 36.5 million in the past eight weeks, the Labor Department said Thursday.
  • The Trump administration will not impose any limits on perchlorate, a toxic chemical compound which is used in rocket fuel, among other applications, that contaminates water and has been linked to fetal and infant brain damage.

The decision by Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the E.P.A., appears to defy a court order that required the agency to establish a safe drinking-water standard for the chemical by the end of June. The policy, which acknowledges that exposure to high levels of perchlorate can cause I.Q. damage but opts nevertheless not to limit it, could also set a precedent for the regulation of other chemicals.

In 2011, the Obama administration announced that it planned to regulate perchlorate for the first time, reversing a decision by the George W. Bush administration not to control it. But the Defense Department and military contractors such as Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have waged aggressive efforts to block controls, and the fight has dragged on.

  • The United States blamed Islamic State militants — not the Taliban — for a gruesome hospital attack in Afghanistan this week that killed two newborn babies, and it renewed calls for Afghans to embrace a troubled peace push with the Taliban insurgency.

Sources:  ABC News, Axios, CBS News, CNN, Financial Times, Fox News,The Hill, NBC News, NPR, NY Times, Politico, Reuters, Salon, Vanity Fair, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post

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