for links to POSTS 1-143 in chronological order, highlight and click on
In August, the CDC revised its Covid-19 testing guidance to say that people who don’t have symptoms “do not necessarily need a test” even if they were exposed to an infected person. The move was widely criticized by public health specialists and politicians, who said testing asymptomatic people is an important part of identifying and cutting off chains of spread.
Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir, who led the Trump administration’s testing effort, at the time firmly denied allegations the White House was pressuring health officials to change the guidance.
But the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis on Monday released newly obtained emails from a political appointee within the Department of Health and Human Services that indicate he pushed for the new guidance.
In the emails, former HHS scientific advisor Paul Alexander defended the change in testing policy and downplayed the importance of testing people without symptoms, saying it “is not the point of testing.” Alexander was brought into HHS by Michael Caputo, a longtime Trump ally who led the department’s communications last year before departing abruptly after he accused CDC scientists of sedition.
“Testing asymptomatic people to seek asymptomatic cases is not the point of testing, for in the end, all this accomplishes is we end up quarantining asymptomatic, low risk people and preventing the workforce from working,” Alexander wrote one day after the change in CDC testing guidance was reported in an email to other HHS officials.
“In this light, it would be unreasonable based on the prevailing data to have widespread testing of schools and colleges/universities. This will not allow them to optimally re-open,” he added, defending the policy change.
In September, the CDC quietly reversed the guidance, saying that anyone, even those without symptoms, who has been in close contact with an infected person needs a Covid-19 test.” (A)
“Those altered reports are said to have produced a false sense of security pushed by the CDC that allowed businesses and some schools to open, made people feel secure in public places, and downplayed the importance of wearing a mask.
According to one of the documents released, the Trump administration changed the guidance for the “explicit purpose of reducing testing and allowing the virus to spread while quickly reopening the economy.”
On Sept. 11, 2020, for example, top Trump HHS adviser Paul Alexander emailed senior COVID Task Force adviser Scott Atlas about a forthcoming CDC report on deaths in young people, which Alexander claimed that, despite being true, was “very duplicitous to damage the administration.” He tried to engage Atlas to help “craft an op-ed .. disputing the reporting for on face value, it is meant to mislead,” according to the documents.
In the email, which is part of the cache of documents released Monday, Alexander warned, “The timing of this is meant to interfere with school re-opening and we need to get something out fast to preempt this in the next day or so and I can work with you on it.”
Alexander became the focus of public outrage in December when internal emails emerged showing he was pushing top Trump health officials to adopt a “herd immunity” strategy for the U.S. “There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high risk groups expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD,” his letter to Trump HHS public-affairs adviser Michael Caputo read. “Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk…. so we use them to develop herd… we want them infected….”…
The documents show how Alexander pressured Food and Drug Administration officials to go so far as to quickly approve emergency use of convalescent plasma as treatment, even advising them to disregard concerns from National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins and Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Anthony Fauci, instead accusing the NIH of “stepping out of their lane.”” (B)
“The United States has by far the highest number of confirmed infections and deaths from Covid-19 in the entire world. Recent harmful trends in the federal government — including distortions of science, attacks on government scientists and other experts, unqualified leadership and widespread vacancies in key posts, conflicts of interest, and other abuses of power — have prevented the federal government from responding effectively to the pandemic.
Communities of color have too often borne the brunt of these failures. Native, Black, and Latino Americans are suffering from Covid-19 at vastly disproportionate rates compared to white people in this country, a disparity resulting from decades of racist economic, healthcare, and housing policies. The Trump administration’s failure to effectively manage the crisis has made an already perilous situation worse. The racial injustice exposed by the pandemic underscores the urgent need for executive branch leaders to work for — and be accountable to — the American public.
Collected below are examples of norm violations and other abuses that have hampered the federal government’s response to this historic public health crisis.
Congress and the next president must take bold action to repair what has been broken. The Brennan Center has advocated for a number of reforms that, while not solving all of the problems exposed by the Covid-19 crisis and the many other crises and scandals of the Trump era, would go a long way to curtail abuses of power. For instance, the Brennan Center’s bipartisan National Task Force on Rule of Law and Democracy has published two reports that lay out a legislative agenda to prevent many abuses of executive power that have become commonplace during the Covid-19 crisis. The Task Force’s proposals include legislation to protect government science from political interference, strengthen federal ethics laws, and curb the practice of placing acting officials in key government positions.The Brennan Center has also put forward a series of actions the president can take to curb executive branch abuses.” (C)
POST 53. October 20, 2020. CORONAVIRUS. “a…“herd-immunity strategy” is a contradiction in terms, in that herd immunity is the absence of a strategy.”
POST 58. November 4, 2020. CORONAVIRUS. “…the president has largely shuttered the White House Coronavirus Task Force and doubled down on anti-science language…”
POST 70. November 16, 2020. CORONAVIRUS. “White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Atlas criticized Michigan’s new Covid-19 restrictions..urging people to “rise up” against the new public health measures.
POST 81. December 1, 2020. CORONAVIRUS. “Dr. Atlas, … who espoused controversial theories and rankled government scientists while advising President Trump on the coronavirus pandemic, resigned…”
(A)Trump administration influenced CDC guidance to suppress Covid testing, House panel says, By Will Feuer, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/08/trump-administration-influenced-cdc-guidance-to-suppress-covid-testing-house-panel-says.html
(B) Trump Team Suppressed COVID Tests, Weakened CDC Guidance to Protect President: Report, by Barbie Latza Nadeau, https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-team-suppressed-covid-tests-weakened-cdc-reopening-guidance-to-protect-president-says-report?source=articles&via=rss
(C) Trump Administration Abuses Thwart US Pandemic Response, by Martha Kinsella, Gareth Fowler, and Julia Boland, https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/trump-administration-abuses-thwart-us-pandemic-response