U.S. Coronavirus Blog: Protest Scenes 'Devastatingly Worrisome'

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The reckless manner in which some people are protesting stay-at-home orders is “devastatingly worrisome” and could further the spread of the new coronavirus, a top White House doctor says.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” that protesters who are not observing social distancing guidelines and are congregating without masks pose a danger to others.

Birx, who was discussing gatherings on beaches and individual states beginning to reopen, particularly lamented the actions of protesters in Michigan.

“It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a co-morbid condition and they have a serious or a very unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives,” Birx said. “So we need to protect each other at the same time we’re voicing our discontent.”

Birx also told people to continue social distancing even as states try to pry open their economies by loosening restrictions. Many of those states haven’t met the federal guidelines for entering Phase 1 of reopening.

Birx said it’s important for the most vulnerable people to continue to stay home through the beginning stages of any reopening.

“And I think, most importantly, if you have any pre-existing condition, through Phase 1 and Phase 2 of any reopening, we have asked you to continue to shelter in place,” she said. “We know who’s at very particular risk for a very difficult course for this virus.”

Even as several states see protesters march on their capitols, the Michigan protests have drawn criticism by many for being especially ugly.

The protesters carrying Confederate flags and swastikas showed “some of the worst racism and awful parts of our history in this country,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Sunday on CNN’s “State Of The Union.”

“The Confederate flags and nooses, the swastikas, the, you know, behavior that you’ve seen in all of the clips, is not representative of who we are in Michigan,” she told Jake Tapper. “And the fact of the matter is, I mean, we’re in a global pandemic.”

Protesters in Whitmer’s state have been buoyed by President Donald Trump’s Twitter account. Trump on Friday sided with protesters — some who were armed — saying Whitmer should “give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

Whitmer said Sunday she will continue what she believes is right and safe for the people of her state.

“I’m going to continue to do my job regardless of what tweets come out or what polls come out or what people think that makes sense,” she said. “We’re going to listen to facts and science because we’ve got to get this right.”

There was hope on the horizon as this past week came to a close. States started the arduous process of reopening, a treatment for the new coronavirus was approved, and cats and dogs finally learned how to get along.

However, experts say you should hold off on making any big plans this fall and winter because the coronavirus likely won’t be a thing of the past anytime soon.

A second round of infections is “inevitable” come fall, brought on as Americans resume normal life and more states ease or lift their stay-at-home orders, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

In fact, Americans could be in for a bad fall and winter, Fauci said during an Economic Club of Washington webinar this past week.

Mike Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said the coronavirus is “not going to stop” until it infects 60 to 70 percent of people.

“The idea that this is going to be done soon defies microbiology,” Osterholm told CNN.


McConnell, Pelosi Decline Rapid Testing Offer

For a brief moment on Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi were able to agree on something.

Though it had little to do with creating new federal policies and drafting groundbreaking bipartisan legislation, the duo did come together to say, “thanks, but no thanks,” to the White House’s offer to bring rapid testing to Capitol Hill.

In a rare joint statement, McConnell and Pelosi urged the White House to direct resources where they are “needed most.”

“Congress is grateful for the Administration’s generous offer to deploy rapid COVID-19 testing capabilities to Capitol Hill, but we respectfully decline the offer at this time,” McConnell and Pelosi said in the statement. “Our country’s testing capacities are continuing to scale up nationwide and Congress wants to keep directing resources to the front-line facilities where they can do the most good the most quickly.”

On Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced that the Senate would receive three rapid-results testing machines and 1,000 tests, a move that would hopefully prompt House members to return to Capitol Hill and ease anxieties for senators returning Monday.

McConnell and Pelosi indicated that Congress will rely on the testing procedures outlined by the Office of the Attending Physician until “these speedier technologies become more widely available,” Politico reported.


FDA Allows Emergency Use Of Drug For Coronavirus

A drug that’s helped those with the new coronavirus get better faster got the necessary green light this past week.

U.S. regulators on Friday approved the emergency use of the experimental drug remdesivir, which has proved effective in fighting COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The Food and Drug Administration gave the drug the go-ahead after preliminary results from a government-sponsored study showed that remdesivir, manufactured by California- based Gilead Sciences, shortened the time to recovery by 31 percent.

The study of 1,063 patients is the largest and most strict test of the drug and included a comparison group that received just usual care so remdesivir’s effects could be rigorously evaluated.

See Which States Are Reopening and Which Are Still Shut Down: NYT

Life for many Americans is finally returning to normal — well, somewhat. And that all depends on where you live.

Most states, like many of us, are eager to find a shred of normalcy after weeks of social distancing meant to help mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus. Some states are more eager than others, though, as the first day of the new month marks the end of stay-at-home orders, business closures and other restrictions for some.

As the U.S. death total topped 67,800 as of Monday morning, only time will tell if these states were a little too eager.

Governors in several states — including Alabama, Maine, Tennessee and Texas — allowed stay-at-home orders to expire Thursday night, paving the way for certain businesses to reopen. Iowa, North Dakota and Wyoming are also among states easing their rules.

Texas took one of the most expansive actions on Friday, allowing retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls to reopen and operate at 25 percent capacity.

In Alabama, the easing of restrictions comes under a new “safer-at-home” order that runs through May 15, replacing Gov. Kay Ivey’s stay-at-home order that expired Thursday.


The Surprising Popularity Of The Great Lockdown

Despite protests over stay-at-home orders, most Americans would rather stay put right now than venture out and risk exposure to coronavirus. While most aren’t thrilled about having to stay home, most agree there’s a need for it.

Several recent polls back this up, according to The Hill.

In a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 80 percent of respondents said stay-at-home orders are worth it. Only 17 percent of adults who responded to a Washington Post/University of Maryland poll think current guidelines are too restrictive.

Finally, when asked by a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll whether it would be a good or bad idea to reopen businesses and schools, for example, only 19 percent of adults supported allowing restaurants to reopen. A meager 14 percent favored a return to school, and just 8 percent were willing to endorse a return to large sporting events.

Fauci Blocked From Testifying Before Panel

A House subcommittee investigating the U.S. response to the coronavirus wants to hear from Fauci, but the White House isn’t having it.

According to a report by The Washington Post, the Trump administration said it would be “counterproductive” for the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a familiar face within the team leading the government response to make the appearance.

“While the Trump Administration continues its whole-of-government response to COVID-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counterproductive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement. “We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.”

Fauci is expected to appear at a Senate hearing related to testing the following week, the Post reported.

Betsy DeVos Sued For Seizing Wages

A home health aid in New York is suing the U.S. Department of Education and department head, Betsy DeVos, for continuing to collect on her defaulted student loans during the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit comes a month after DeVos said she would halt collections, including wage garnishments and tax refund offsets on defaulted loans, a step to provide relief for those struggling during the outbreak.

Plaintiff Elizabeth Barber said her paycheck has been garnished several times over the past month, most recently on April 24, CNN Politics reported.

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