Thursday, August 13, 2020

Trump challenged over claims as deaths mount

Jul 20. 2020
President Trump /File photo
President Trump /File photo
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By The Washington Post · Derek Hawkins, Felicia Sonmez · NATIONAL, HEALTH 

With coronavirus cases rising across the country and the U.S. death toll topping 137,000, President Donald Trump on Sunday dismissed concerns about the spike in infections, telling Fox News that "many of those cases shouldn't even be cases."

"Many of those cases are young people that would heal in a day," the president told Fox News host Chris Wallace in an interview. "They have the sniffles and we put it down as a test."

While young people make up an increasing share of new cases, the virus has affected people in all age groups. A surge of infections is driving deaths back up again after months of decline, and hospitals in hard-hit states such as Florida, Texas and Arizona are facing an influx of patients that health officials say could soon overwhelm medical systems. Nationwide, hospitalizations were on track to exceed their previous peak of roughly 60,000, reached in the pandemic's early months.

Here are some other significant developments:

The Trump administration is trying to block billions of dollars for states to conduct testing and contact tracing in an upcoming coronavirus relief bill, people involved in the talks said Saturday. The administration is also trying to block billions that GOP senators want to allocate for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the people said.

A growing number of Americans disapprove of Trump's handling of the pandemic. Currently, 38 percent approve of his handling, and 60 percent disapprove, according to a new Post-ABC News poll.

A study from South Korea could bolster those who argue that reopening classrooms in much of the United States is too risky, suggesting that while children under 10 are less likely to spread the coronavirus, those between ages 10 and 19 will spread it similarly to adults.

Georgia's presentation of its coronavirus data is again under scrutiny, with a viral tweet pointing out how the color-coding of a government map has evolved. At the beginning of the month, for instance, a county needed at least 5,959 coronavirus cases to be colored red in the state's map of the outbreak. Now, a county needs at least 9,597 - with the result that no other county has newly joined the four that have been colored red since July 1, even as the state's cases have jumped by more than 37 percent in that period.

Health authorities are seeking to conduct testing faster while conserving resources. The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday reissued an emergency use authorization to Quest Diagnostics for a coronavirus test to be used in pool testing, which involves combining samples from several people and testing them all at once.

Trump's remarks came after another week of grim data highlighting the uncontrolled spread of the virus. Infections rose in states from every region of the country, with more than a dozen states on Saturday reaching record highs in their seven-day averages for new daily cases.

Georgia, Missouri, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Kentucky reported new single-day case records on Saturday, while states from Vermont to North Dakota to Oregon showed significant increases in their weekly averages, according to tracking by The Washington Post.

More than 20 states are reporting seven-day averages in coronavirus-related deaths that are higher than at the end of June, underscoring the turnaround since May and June, when deaths declined nationally - which Trump had touted as a sign of progress.

Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., whose district encompasses parts of Miami with widespread infections, pushed back on the notion that the new cases were limited to young, healthy people and weren't a cause for concern.

"It's the working poor, it's seniors, it's now young people, and it's totally out of control," Shalala, a former health and human services secretary, said on ABC News's "This Week." "We need to close down again ... That's our worst nightmare, and we're going to have to do that."

In Sunday's interview, Wallace noted that new cases had far outpaced increases in testing over the past month. He also confronted Trump about his incorrect and oft-repeated predictions that the virus would "disappear."

"I will be right eventually," Trump told the host. "You know I said, 'It's going to disappear.' I'll say it again."

"Does that discredit you?" Wallace asked.

Trump said he didn't think so. "It's going to disappear, and I'll be right," he said.

The president's dismissive attitude toward the coronavirus appears to be costing him public support as the 2020 presidential election draws closer. The approval rating for his handling of the pandemic has dropped 28 points since March as he has disregarded health experts and sowed confusion about the importance of public health measures, according to a new Post-ABC News poll. Thirty-eight percent of Americans currently approve of his handling of the pandemic, compared with 60 percent who disapprove.

The White House's approach to the pandemic is also starting to put Trump at odds with fellow Republicans as Congress debates another round of coronavirus relief funding. The administration is seeking to block billions of dollars for states to conduct testing and contact tracing, along with billions of dollars that Republican lawmakers want to allocate for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials speaking on the condition of anonymity to reveal confidential deliberations said the administration's stance had angered some Republican senators, who were pushing to secure the funds.

The country's already feeble coronavirus testing system is under increased strain from the wave of new infections, with labs in some places taking a week or more to provide results to patients. Health experts say such wait times render tests useless in efforts to control the spread of the virus.

"The national testing scene is a complete disgrace," Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, told NBC News's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, adding that tests sent to out-of-state private labs were taking as many as nine days to return results.

Once a test is delayed for more than 48 hours, it becomes "not very useful for clinical decision-making," former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on CBS News's "Face the Nation."

"We've had plenty of time to get this right," he said. "What we don't have is excess capacity that we can surge into these epidemic cities." Testing companies were falling behind not just in hotbeds such as California, Florida and Texas, he said, "but now they're pulling testing out of other regions and you're seeing delays there."

With little leadership from the federal government, state and local officials were pressing forward with a patchwork of efforts to control their own outbreaks.

In Los Angeles, where cases have reached record levels, Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Democrat, warned that the city was "on the brink" of another stay-at-home order. He told CNN's "State of the Union" that the city reopened too quickly and called for patience as businesses shuttered again. "We have to be as vigilant today as we were the first day," he said.

A growing number of states have instituted mask requirements, with governors from both major parties urging people to stop politicizing the issue. "It shouldn't be about politics," Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, who last week issued a statewide requirement for people to wear face masks in public, told ABC on Sunday. "It's not popular, it's not something that we want to do, it's not the first lever we pull, but it is one that when the data says it's necessary, we do it, and I think this is the right approach that we have to take."

 

 

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