Not a good look for him
On the one hand, President Donald Trump is now boasting about the amount of coronavirus testing in the U.S. — "as of two days ago, more testing than the entire world together," he said on Wednesday.
The proportion of testing relative to population is actually well short of the world's best. With dozens of governors moving to ease their lockdown restrictions, many states have not put in place the robust testing that experts believe is necessary to detect and contain new outbreaks, either in the near term or to blunt a feared second wave toward the end of the year, The Associated Press reported.
Yet Trump resists making testing even more prevalent, and he gave a clue about the reason in remarks on Wednesday: He seems worried about how the numbers look and how they might reflect on him.
Trump argued that the scaling up of testing to date already means the United States is “going to have more cases” of COVID-19 than other countries. “In a way, by doing all this testing, we make ourselves look bad,” he said. The purpose of testing, of course, is not just to confirm the illness in people showing symptoms but to prevent those who are feeling fine — yet carrying coronavirus — from spreading it to others who could get sicker or die.
Remember two months ago when Trump was reluctant to let the cruise ship Grand Princess with 21 coronavirus-stricken passengers dock in California? That also was about the scoreboard. "I like the numbers being where they are. I don't need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn't our fault," he said then. There are now 1.23 million confirmed U.S. cases and more than 73,000 deaths, according to pandemic monitors from Johns Hopkins University.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday ridiculed a question on why all Americans shouldn't be able to receive coronavirus testing to feel safe going back to work.
“If we tested every single American in this country at this moment, we’d have to retest them an hour later, and then an hour later after that, because at any moment you could theoretically contract this virus,” McEnany replied. “So the notion that everyone needs to be tested is just simply nonsensical.” She argued that “the people who need to be tested are our vulnerable populations.”
The force is still with us
Trump on Wednesday did an about-face on plans to wind down his coronavirus task force over the next month. Now he's keeping it.
"I thought we could wind it down sooner,” Trump told reporters, adding, “I had no idea how popular the task force is.”
The indecision was emblematic of an administration — and a country — struggling with competing priorities of averting more deaths and more economic suffering, writes The Associated Press.
A White House official told AP that signaling on Tuesday that the task force was preparing to shut down had sent the wrong message and created a media maelstrom. Its medical experts, particularly Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, have emerged as among the most trusted voices on the virus response.
At least he didn't yell 'fake nurse'
Trump contradicted a nurse who said during a National Nurses Day meeting with him at the Oval Office Wednesday that some parts of the country are still suffering shortages of protective medical gear. Trump insisted the U.S. supply is “tremendous.”
Sophia Thomas, president of the National Association of Nurse Practitioners, works at the Daughters of Charity Health System in the New Orleans area. She said she had been wearing the same N95 face mask for “a few weeks” and called the supply of personal protective equipment at her health system “sporadic” though “manageable.”
Trump interrupted. “Sporadic for you” but not for a lot of other people, he said. Thomas agreed.
Trump insisted the country is “now loaded up” and added: “I’ve heard we have tremendous supply to almost all places.”
Other nurses at the meeting agreed with him, including Maria Arvonio, a nursing supervisor at a community hospital in Willingboro, New Jersey. “I really appreciate you saying that. It’s so nice that you stepped up because they’re fake news,” Trump said, referring to members of the news media who asked about protective equipment.
Janison: Coronavirus corruption
Opportunistic infections of a political type may be spreading, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. Recent instances of alleged corruption could stain federal and state efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic and begin rebuilding the economy.
Dr. Rick Bright, removed last month from his post as a top vaccine official, said he was penalized for trying to do his duty for public safety, and not just for resisting Trump's push for chloroquine malaria drugs as a possible coronavirus cure.
Leadership at the Department of Health and Human Services "pressured Dr. Bright to ignore expert recommendations and instead to award lucrative contracts based on political connections and cronyism," Bright's legal complaint states. One example Bright gave was a consultant who "emphasized" that his client was a friend of Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser.
A medical supply company, Blue Flame, is under Justice Department investigation. A business started in late March by two GOP-connected consultants, according to The Washington Post, it failed to deliver on a $12.5 million order by Maryland for personal protective equipment and ventilators.
Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, charged two New England men with fraudulently applying for aid under the massive U.S. program to help small businesses during the pandemic. The case raises questions about efforts to monitor this new blast of federal cash.
New Yorkers craft bipartisan aid bill
Counties, cities, towns and villages would get direct federal coronavirus aid regardless of their population size as the House crafts another massive relief package, according to bipartisan legislation to be proposed Thursday by New York congressional lawmakers, reports Newsday's Tom Brune.
That new funding package from House Democrats could include as much as $1 trillion nationally for state and local governments, including those that were too small to get funding from the $150 billion pool of money in the CARES Act enacted in March.
The bill, which outlines a formula for distribution of funds but not a dollar amount, will be announced Thursday by New York Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, Democratic Rep. Anthony Delgado of Rhinebeck and Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin of Shirley. The proposal faces resistance from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Biden tops poll despite allegation
A Monmouth University poll shows Joe Biden running ahead of Trump as voters weigh the sexual assault allegation made against Biden by a former Senate staffer.
In a two-way matchup between the Republican president and presumptive Democratic nominee, Biden led 50% to 41%. When voters were given a choice of a potential third-party candidate — Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan for the Libertarian Party — Biden got 47%; Trump, 40%; and Amash, 5%.
Monmouth found that 86% of people had heard about the allegation by Tara Reade. Biden said the assault she alleges "never happened." More (37%) believed Reade's account was "probably true" than "probably not true" (32%) while 31% had no opinion. Republicans were far more inclined than Democrats to believe Reade. Overall, almost a third of voters who believed her still favored Biden over Trump.
Obamacare still in Trump crosshairs
Trump says his administration won't back off from urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Obamacare, pandemic or no pandemic.
Attorney General Bill Barr this week warned top Trump officials about the political ramifications of undermining the health care safety net during the coronavirus emergency, Politico reports. Alex Azar, the Health and Human Services secretary, also favored a more moderate approach, but White House officials have been more supportive of the push to get it thrown out entirely.
"It was a disaster under President Obama, and it's very bad health care," Trump told reporters Wednesday. "What we want to do is terminate it and give health care. We'll have great health care, including preexisting conditions."
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Bart Jones. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- Stimulus payments from the Internal Revenue Service issued in the names of dead people have to be returned, the agency said in an update to an FAQ page on its website. The Treasury Department would not comment on how many dead people were sent stimulus payments, The Washington Post reported.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. does not have certainty about the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, despite claiming over the weekend there was "enormous evidence" the virus originated in a Chinese lab. He also insisted there was no contradiction between his position and comments by other senior US officials who have cast doubt on the lab theory.
- North Carolina businessman Louis DeJoy, a top donor to Trump and the Republican National Committee, will be named the new head of the Postal Service, The Washington Post reports. The move puts a Trump ally in charge of an agency where the president has long pressed for major changes in how it handles its business.
- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced finalized campus sexual assault rules that bolster the rights of the accused, reduce legal liabilities for schools and colleges and narrow the scope of cases schools will be required to investigate. It is meant to replace policies from the Obama administration that DeVos previously revoked.
- Trump once more is pushing to have his border wall painted black, a design change that is projected to add at least $500 million in costs, according to contracting estimates obtained by The Washington Post. Military commanders and border officials who saw the paint as unnecessary and a maintenance burden thought they'd talked the president out of it. But Trump insists the dark color will enhance the wall's appearance and leave the steel bollards too hot to touch during summer months.
- One of Trump's 2016 Republican primary opponents, Carly Fiorina, said she won't be voting for him in November and might vote for Biden. "I'm not willing to sell my soul for anyone," the former Hewlett-Packard CEO told podcaster Charlie Sykes.