Wednesday, September 2, 2020

-Donald Trump, really getting the hang of this fearmongering thing

With coronavirus numbers still spiking in several states and flu season just around the corner, President Trump has brought out the most reliable tools in his pandemic toolkit: A guy he saw on Fox News, a conspiracy theory he saw on the internet, and some good old fashioned nationalism. 

  • Coronavirus outbreaks have been surging across the midwest over the past week, with case numbers rising dramatically in Iowa and the Dakotas. (A special shout-out to Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) for welcoming the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, which has just been linked to its first death, and for continuing to reject a mask mandate or lockdown orders.) As we head into fall, the U.S. is averaging 40,000 new cases per day—a level that Dr. Anthony Fauci today called “an unacceptably high baseline.”
  • Unfortunately, for every Fauci there is an equal and opposite anti-Fauci. Trump has increasingly favored the input of Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who earned a spot on the White House coronavirus task force last month by dint of having appeared on Fox News a lot. Atlas, who has no epidemiological expertise, has questioned the science of mask-wearing, falsely argued that children can’t transmit the coronavirus, and advocated for the dangerous herd immunity strategy that Trump hollered back into the Fox News echo chamber this week. Atlas was also reportedly behind the CDC’s awful new recommendation that people without symptoms need not get tested. 
  • While Trump takes his cues from the guy who tells him what he wants to hear, his GOP allies are picking up his favorite conspiracy theories and running with them. In Iowa, where the coronavirus has killed 1,126 people as of Wednesday, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) parroted a QAnon fantasy that the national death toll is inflated: “These health-care providers and others are reimbursed at a higher rate if covid is tied to it, so what do you think they’re doing?” Have fun getting to the bottom of that in your retirement, Joni.

Trump’s one public health interest is the effort to develop a vaccine—so long as he gets to claim full credit for it before the election.

  • The CDC has notified health officials in all 50 states to be ready to distribute a vaccine to health-care workers and other high risk groups by early November, in the latest very subtle preview of Trump’s October Surprise. The documents were sent out the same day as Trump’s RNC address, in which he said that a vaccine could be in circulation by the end of the year.  Both Fauci and FDA chief Stephan Hahn said in interviews this week that a vaccine could be authorized for emergency use before Phase 3 trials have completed, if the trial results are overwhelmingly positive. 
  • No matter the timeline, we’ll be going it alone. The Trump administration said that the U.S. will not participate in an international coalition to find and distribute a coronavirus vaccine, in part because the initiative is co-led by the World Health Organization, which Trump is pretending to be mad at as part of his bid to blame China for his own failures. Even if the U.S. does distribute a viable vaccine on its own, which it seems likely to do, the move could further threaten the global supply chain, lead to vaccine hoarding that hurts higher-risk populations around the world, and squander another opportunity for international leadership. 

Here’s a quick side-by-side of the last 24 hours: While Donald Trump demanded the resumption of college football and held another superspreading event in North Carolina, Joe Biden received a briefing from education leaders, and delivered a speech on his plan to safely reopen schools. There is a way out of this purgatory, if we’re willing to put in the work

In the third annual Ira and Louis Variety Hour, they discuss the socially distanced VMA ceremony, Adele’s Bantu knots, Club Future Nostalgia, the NBA strike, unfollowing Shaun King, and the shocking loss of Chadwick Boseman. Plus, a conversation about finding faith as queer people with Phillip Picardi, host of our new podcast Unholier Than Thou. Check out today's Keep It wherever you get your podcasts 

The Department of Homeland Security withheld an intelligence bulletin warning law enforcement agencies that Russia would try to sow disinformation about Joe Biden’s mental health.  According to the bulletin, analysts had determined with “high confidence” that Russian actors were likely to continue denigrating Biden’s mental fitness in order to influence the election. An hour after a draft of the document was submitted on July 7, a senior DHS official intervened to pause its distribution to federal, state and local law enforcement: “Please hold on sending this one out until you have a chance to speak to [acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf].” The bulletin was never circulated, and the Trump campaign has continued to echo the same false claims. This is what collusion looks like when the colluders control the government. 

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent, according to the German government. A German military laboratory identified it as a variant of Novichok, the same Soviet-era nerve agent used to poison former KGB spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in 2018. German Chancellor Angela Merkel characterized the attack as “an attempted murder” intended to silence Navalny, and called on the Kremlin to explain the attack. President Trump, who today issued multiple full-throated, hypocritical rebukes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her visit to a hair salon, has said nothing.

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Corticosteroids significantly improve survival rates among severely ill COVID-19 patients, according to an analysis of seven international trials. 

Old Navy has pledged to pay store employees to serve as poll workers in November. (They’ll also be eligible for the normal poll worker compensation from their local jurisdiction.)

Colorado residents, even some who don’t work for Old Navy, have signed up to be election workers in record numbers. 

A second federal judge temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s repeal of ACA nondiscrimination protections for transgender people, in one of five current legal challenges.

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