- After Trump said he wants to reopen the economy by Easter, several leaders seemed hesitant to do so, including Dr. Anthony Fauci. He said the day must be “flexible,” and that we must look at the situation on a “day-by-day and week-by-week basis.“
- Other governors like Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom expressed their doubts as well. Newsom thinks California might have another 8-12 of isolation measures, while Cuomo said that the economy cannot come at the cost of human life.
- But since The majority of states with shelter in place measures are run by Democrats, it looks like Trump’s messaging about keeping the economy alive could be resonating well within his party: Only four of the 17 states with these mandates have Republican governors.
- Trump is not the only global leader who wants to hop on the fast track to regular life, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro told the country they should go to work, which was met by people protesting from their windows.
Dr. Fauci Says Easter Goal Must Be “Flexible”
After President Donald Trump said he hopes to end federal restrictions and open the economy by Easter, several leaders expressed their concerns about this high-speed deadline.
Easter Sunday will be observed on April 12 this year, which is just 18 days away. Trump thinks getting people back to their day-to-day lives by then is a “beautiful timeline.” He even added that he hoped to see “packed churches” on the holiday.
Shortly after he continued to express this wish, however, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that date cannot be set in stone.
“That’s really very flexible,” he said during a Tuesday press conference. “We just had a conversation with the President in the Oval Office talking about, you know, you could look at a date but you’ve got to be very flexible on a literal day-by-day and week-by-week basis. You need to evaluate the feasibility of what you’re trying to do.”
Dr. Fuaci is among the majority of health experts who advise that a longer span of isolation is the most effective way to prevent the continued spread of the coronavirus. While speaking to reporters, he also said that because the country is so big and the situation so different in various areas, the response must be flexible and adaptive to that.
“So I think people might get the misinterpretation, you’re just going to lift everything up even if somebody’s going like that,” Dr. Fauci added, gesturing upward, suggesting a spike in cases. “That’s not going to happen, it’s going to be looking at the data.”
New York and California
On a state level, leaders also took issue with Trump’s messaging. California Governor Gavin Newsom said during a Tuesday press conference that his state, which is currently following “Safer at Home” guidelines until at least April 19, is looking at a much longer timeline.
According to Newsom, a “sober” assessment of the situation could mean another 8-12 weeks of California residents in isolation.
“I think April for California would be sooner than any of the experts I have talked to would believe is possible,” he told reporters.
Newsom is not the only governor questioning Trump’s fast track to economic recovery. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been regularly critical of the federal government’s lagging response to the coronavirus. During a Wednesday press conference, he said that economic relief should not come at the cost of human life.
“No one will say it is sustainable to keep the economy closed. It is not sustainable,” Cuomo, who has claimed the national spotlight during this pandemic said. “We all got that. China got that, South Korea got that, etc. That’s point one. Point two: everyone agrees, I believe, in this state, we do everything we can to save a life. We are not going to triage and say ‘Well these were old people there were vulnerable people, they had to die sometime soon anyway.’”
New York is now being considered an epicenter of the American outbreak of COVID-19. Residents are currently in a shelter in place, and those who have recently been to New York City have been advised to put themselves in a 14-day quarantine. The state has over 30,000 cases.
Still, New York does not have even close to the amount of resources they need to fight the virus. On Tuesday, Cuomo said New York is in need of 30,000 ventilators. While the state has gotten its hands on a couple thousand on its own, FEMA offered only 400.
“Really? What am I going to do with 400 ventilators when I need 30,000?” Cuomo asked during a press conference. “You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators.”
Blue States Shelter in Place
California and New York have something in common with many of the states observing shelter in place orders: Democratic leadership. There are currently 17 states following these guidelines, 13 of which have Democratic governors. Only four, Ohio, Indiana, Massachusetts, and West Virginia, are led by a Republican.
This divide gives the appearance Republican leaders are abiding by Trump’s tendency to put the economy first, and not strictly follow guidelines of social distancing. This creates an imbalance of the way the virus is being treated nationwide. This gap could be made more apparent on Easter if Trump goes through with his plans to open things up again.
Brazil and Bolsonaro
Trump is not the only leader on the global stage saying his country should already be opening businesses back up. On Tuesday, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said he would like to get his citizens back to work.
“We must return to normality,” he said. He also called the coronavirus a “small flu” in the same briefing. His response has not been received well by Brazilians.
Residents have proved that protesting while social distancing is in fact possible by taking to their windows to show their disapproval of Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic. While quarantining, many have been chanting or banging pots and pans, as isolation makes taking to the streets impossible.
“The feeling I have is that the presidential chair is empty,” one protester told The Guardian. “That we don’t have a president – we have a clown who doesn’t know what he is doing.”
See what others are saying: (Axios) (Wall Street Journal) (The Guardian)
Texas Doctor Says He Violated Abortion Law, Opening Matter Up for Litigation
Under the state’s new law, any citizen could sue the doctor, which would make the matter the first known test case of the restrictive policy.
Dr. Braid’s Op-Ed
A Texas doctor revealed in an op-ed published in The Washington Post Saturday that he performed an abortion in violation of the state’s law that bans the procedure after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
The law, which is the most restrictive in the country and does not have exceptions for rape and incest, also allows civilians to sue anyone who helps someone receive an abortion after six weeks.
In the op-ed, Dr. Alan Braid, who has been practicing as an OB/GYN in Texas for 45 years, said that just days after the law took effect, he gave an abortion to a woman who was still in her first trimester but already beyond the state’s new limit.
“I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care,” he wrote. “I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested.”
Braid went on to say that he understands he is taking a personal risk but that he believes it is worth it.
“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces,” he concluded. “I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.”
If someone does opt to sue Braid over this matter, he could potentially be the state’s first test case in playing out the legal process. However, it is unclear if anti-abortion groups will follow through, despite their threats to enforce the law.
A spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, which set up a website to report people suspected of violating the ban, told reporters this weekend that it is looking into Braid’s claims but added, “It definitely seems like a legal stunt and we are looking into whether it is more than that.”
Even if abortion opponents hold off on Braid’s case, there are other legal challenges to the Texas law.
Shortly after the policy took effect, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit attempting to stop it. Last week, the department filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge in the state to temporarily block the ban while that legal battle plays out, with a hearing for that motion set for Oct. 1.
Regardless of what side the federal judge rules for, the other is all but ensured to sue, and that fight could take the question to the Supreme Court in a matter of months.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Texas Tribune) (The Wall Street Journal)
Pfizer Says Low Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Is Safe and Effective in Kids 5 to 11
Pfizer Says Kids’ Vaccine Works
Pfizer announced Monday morning that its joint COVID-19 vaccine with BioNTech is safe and effective in kids ages 5 to 11.
While Pfizer’s vaccine candidate for younger children is the same version the FDA has already approved for people 12 and older, the children’s dose is only one-third of the amount given to adults and teens. Still, Pfizer said the antibody response they’ve seen in kids has been comparable to the response seen in older participants.
Similarly, the company said side effects in children have been similar to those witnessed in adults.
Pfizer said it expects to finish submitting data, which still needs to be peer-reviewed and then published, to the FDA by the end of the month. From there, the agency will ensure that Pfizer’s findings are accurate and that the vaccine will be able to elicit a strong immune response in kids at its current one-third dosage.
That process could take weeks or even all of October, but it does open the possibility that the vaccine candidate could be approved around Halloween.
While experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have called Pfizer’s announcement largely predictable, they’ve also urged people to let the research run its course.
With cases among children skyrocketing in recent months, some parents have begun urging pediatricians to give their children the jab early. Those kinds of requests are likely to increase with Pfizer’s announcement; however, officials have warned parents about acting too quickly.
“No one should really be freelancing — they should wait for the appropriate approval and recommendations to decide how best to manage their own children’s circumstances,” Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of vaccine clinical research and development, said according to The Washington Post.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Axios)
Contradicting Studies Leave Biden’s COVID-19 Booster Plan Up in the Air
While some studies show that the effectiveness of Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID vaccines decrease over time, other publications argue the decline is not substantial and a full-flung booster campaign is premature.
Booster Rollout in Flux
President Joe Biden’s plan to offer COVID-19 booster shots is facing serious hurdles just a week before it is set to roll out. Issues with the plan stem from growing divisions among the scientific community over the necessity of a third jab.
The timing of booster shots administration has been a point of contention for months, but the debate intensified in August when Biden announced that, pending regulatory approval, the government would start offering boosters on Sept. 20 to adults eight months after they received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna.
The announcement was backed by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, among others.
However, many scientists and other health experts both inside and outside of the government have continually criticized the plan. They have claimed the data supporting boosters was not compelling and argued that, while the FDA approved third doses for immunocompromised Americans, the push to give them to the general public was premature.
The plan also drew international backlash from those who argued the U.S. should not launch a booster campaign when billions of people around the world have not gotten their first dose yet. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) extended its request that wealthy countries hold off on giving boosters until at least the end of the year.
Those arguments appeared to be bolstered when federal health regulators said earlier this month that they needed more time to review Moderna’s application for booster shots, forcing the Biden Administration to delay offering third shots to those who received that vaccine.
Now, Pfizer recipients will be the only people who may be eligible for boosters by the initial deadline, though that depends on a forthcoming decision from an FDA expert advisory committee that is set to vote Friday on whether or not to recommend approval.
Debate Continues in Crucial Week
More contradictory information has been coming out in the days leading up to the highly anticipated decision.
On Monday, an international group of 18 scientists, including some at the FDA and the WHO, published a review in The Lancet arguing that there is no credible data to show the vaccines’ ability to prevent severe disease declined substantially over time, so boosters are not yet needed for the general, non-immunocompromised public.
The experts claimed that any advantage boosters may provide does not outweigh the benefit of giving the extra doses to all those who are unvaccinated worldwide.
On the other side, a study released Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people who received a third shot of Pfizer in Israel were much less likely to develop severe COVID than those who just had the first two jabs.
The same day, both Pfizer and Moderna published data backing that up as well. Pfizer released an analysis that said data on boosters and the Delta variant from both Israel and the U.S. suggested “that vaccine protection against COVID-19 infection wanes approximately 6 to 8 months following the second dose.”
Moderna also published data, that has not yet been peer-reviewed, which also found its jab provided less immunity and protection against severe disease as time went on.
Further complicating matters was the fact that the FDA additionally released its report on Pfizer’s analysis of the need for a booster shortly after Pfizer’s publication. Normally, those findings would shine a light on the agency’s stance on the issue, but the regulator did not take a clear stand.
“Some observational studies have suggested declining efficacy of [Pfizer] over time […] while others have not,” the agency wrote. “Overall, data indicate that currently US-licensed or authorized COVID-19 vaccines still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death.”
It remains unclear what the FDA panel will determine when they meet Friday, or what a similar CDC expert panel that is expected to meet next week will decide regarding vaccination policies.
Notably, officials at the two agencies are not required to follow the recommendations of their expert panels, though they usually do.
Even if the FDA approves Pfizer’s application as it stands to give boosters to those 16 and older, people familiar with the matter said the CDC might recommend the third jabs only for people 65 and older or those who are especially at risk.
Regardless of what is decided, experts have said that it is absolutely essential for the agency to stand firm in its decision and clearly explain its reasoning to the public in order to combat further confusion and misinformation.
“F.D.A. does the best in situations when there are strongly held but conflicting views, when they’re forthcoming with the data and really explain decisions,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a vice dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told The New York Times. “It’s important for the F.D.A. not to say, ‘Here’s our decision, mic drop. It’s much better for them to say, ‘Here’s how we looked at the data, here are the conclusions we made from the data, and here’s why we’re making the conclusions.’”