- 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)
Trump Signs Order Allowing Former Troops to Be Called Upon for Coronavirus Fight
- President Trump signed an executive order that allows for former troops to be brought back to active duty to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.
- This is not an immediate order to call former service members back, but it is typically used when the military is in need of specific skill sets, like persons with high demand medical capabilities.
- Officials are still reviewing who might be activated.
- The order comes just days after the Army called upon former service members to voluntarily rejoin and help in the military’s response efforts. Over 14,000 have expressed interest as of Friday.
Trump Signs Executive Order
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday that allows the Pentagon to bring former U.S. troops and members of the National Gaurd and reserve back to active duty to help those already battling the county’s coronavirus outbreaks.
During his press conference Friday night, Trump said the decision allows the federal government “to mobilize medical, disaster and emergency response personnel to help wage our battle against the virus by activating thousands of experienced service members including retirees.”
“We have a lot of people, retirees, great military people — they’re coming back in,” Trump added.
What This Means
The executive order released by the White House states that anyone recalled can remain on active duty for up to 24 months straight. It provides the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security the authority to order as many as 1 million individuals at one time, however, it is not an order to do so.
According to Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman, the order applies to units and individual members in the National Guard and Reserves and certain Individual Ready Reserve members who are normally in an inactive status.
Hoffman said that decisions about who may be activated are still being reviewed, but he added, “Generally, these members will be persons in Headquarters units and persons with high demand medical capabilities whose call-up would not adversely affect their civilian communities.”
As of now, the Individual Ready Reserve contains 224,841 members, according to the Department of Defense, and nearly 11,000 of those members “have medical capabilities.”
“This is a dynamic situation, we do not currently have a projected number of expected activations, but the Department is now fully authorized to make activations as needed,” Hoffman said.
He also stressed that the departments would consult with state officials before using any National Gaurd Reserve Component units under the executive order.
Earlier this week, the Army called upon former service members to voluntarily rejoin and help in the military’s pandemic response efforts. The Army said the initial response has been positive, with at least 14,6000 people expressing interest as of Friday.
See what others are saying: (Politico) (CNN) (Fox News)
FDA Authorizes Portable Test Kit That Can Detect COVID-19 in 5 Minutes
- The FDA has approved the use of a new coronavirus test kit that can give positive results in as little as 5 minutes and negative results in 13, leaps faster than the hours and sometimes days laboratory tests normally take.
- The tests are run on a lightweight and small portable device that can be used in emergency rooms, urgent care clinics, and even outside hospital walls.
- Abbott, the medical device company that makes the kits, plans to send out 50,000 tests a day starting next week.
New Test Approved
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave Emergency Use Authorization to the medical device company Abbott for a new coronavirus test kit that gives results within minutes.
Abbott announced the news in a Friday press release, saying it plans to start delivering 50,000 tests a day beginning next week. The tests run on the company’s ID NOW platform, a portable device about the size of a small toaster than weights only 6.6 pounds.
Its portability means it can be used directly in an emergency room or urgent care clinic and even, “outside the traditional four walls of a hospital in outbreak hotspots.”
The company called it “the fastest available molecular point-of-care test for the detection of novel coronavirus(COVID-19), delivering positive results in as little as five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes.”
Second Rapid Test to Be Approved by FDA
The approval from federal health officials means that regulators were satisfied with the test’s validation data and are confident that its benefits outweigh any risk, like false positives or negatives.
The FDA’s approval marks the seconds time it has green-lit a fast working test that could accelerate testing across the country. Last week, it approved a 45-minute rapid point of care test by the molecular diagnostics company Cepheid. However, that test is primarily intended for emergency rooms and hospitals, not doctors’ officers or urgent care clinics.
Still, those turnaround times are leaps faster than the hours to days it takes most laboratory tests to bring results.
Medical Shortages Still Cause Concern
The approval of the Abbott test comes as cities across the nation battle with numbers of potential patients that surpass available tests and resources. Even with insufficient testing, the United States became the country with the largest number of reported cases of coronavirus on Thursday, exceeding China and Italy. By Friday, the U.S. hit more than 100,000 cases.
Many fear that shortages of other critical medical equipment, like masks and swabs, could stifle the new rapid test’s impact. That’s because the kit requires a swab sample collected from patients, and many health care facilities are running desperately low on the tools needed to safely collect those samples.
The Center for Disease Control issued guidance Tuesday that allows some patients to collect their own nasal swabs in health care facilities, in an effort to reduce the amount of protective equipment needed for health care workers.
On the opposite end, however, others note that fast and efficient testing can help medical professionals determine how much protective equipment they actually need to wear when interacting with a patient, as well as what kind of care to provide. Since this test can be done in a doctor’s office, it could even potentially help diagnose patients with mild or asymptomatic cases of the virus and help stop them from unknowingly spreading it.
Experts also say drastically increasing testing capacity can help get the economy back on track sooner. With increased testing, measures like keeping everyone at home could be replaced with more targeted identification and isolation of those infected.
EPA Limits Environmental Regulations During Coronavirus Crisis
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it is scaling back its enforcement of environmental rules during the coronavirus emergency as businesses face challenges like layoffs and accessibility issues.
- The temporary policy allows companies to monitor their own compliance with environmental laws, and the EPA said it will not issue penalties for violations of certain reporting requirements.
- Many critics slammed the move, arguing that it opens doors to excess pollution and does not prioritize the health and safety of people and wildlife.
- The EPA defended the policy, saying it has reserved its authorities for situations other than routine monitoring and reporting and will consider the pandemic’s impacts on a “case-to-case basis.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it will limit the enforcement of certain regulations as the coronavirus pandemic continues, leaving companies in charge of monitoring their own compliance with environmental laws.
The agency unveiled the temporary policy on Thursday, arguing that businesses are running into obstacles like layoffs and accessibility issues as the virus alters normal life across the nation.
“EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.
Under normal circumstances, companies must report when their facilities release a certain amount of pollution into the air or water. Now, that requirement will be put on hold for the time being.
“In general, the EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that Covid-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request,” the policy states.
The agency also said it would exercise “discretion” in enforcing other environmental rules. It noted that the policy does not apply to criminal violations or hundreds of the country’s most toxic waste sites that fall under the Superfund act. The EPA also said it expects public water systems to maintain high standards.
“Public water systems have a heightened responsibility to protect public health because unsafe drinking water can lead to serious illnesses and access to clean water for drinking and handwashing is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the policy says.
The memo said that the changes will apply retroactively beginning on March 13, with no set end date indicated.
Criticism of New Policy
Some, including people in the oil industry, had been asking for these regulations to be loosened, but others slammed the EPA’s choice, claiming it is too broad and lax.
Gina McCarthy, who headed the EPA under the Obama administration and is now president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the policy an “open license to pollute.”
Some called the changes “outrageous” and “evil,” accusing the EPA of prioritizing businesses over the health of individuals and wildlife.
Prominent figures in the climate change fight slammed the move as well.
“The EPA uses this global pandemic to create loopholes for destroying the environment,” teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted. “This is a schoolbook example for what we need to start looking out for.”
Others pointed out the irony of suspending rules that preserve air quality while a respiratory disease makes its rounds across the country.
“What part of, ‘air pollution increases our vulnerability to respiratory diseases LIKE CORONAVIRUS,’ is not clear, EPA?” one Twitter user wrote.
Defense of Policy
The EPA stood behind their move and did not agree with its classification as a dismissal of regulations.
“It is not a nationwide waiver of environmental rules,” Andrea Woods, an E.P.A. spokeswoman, told The New York Times. “For situations outside of routine monitoring and reporting, the agency has reserved its authorities and will take the pandemic into account on a case-by-case basis.”
Susan Parker Bodine, the EPA official who issued the policy, said that it does not excuse organizations from consequences if they do committ environmental violations.
“If you do have violations of your permit, you’re still obligated to meet your permit limits, you’re supposed to do everything possible,” Bodine told ABC. “And after the fact the agency will take that all into consideration but there isn’t a promise of no penalties in those kinds of situations.”
“If you have an acute risk, if you have an imminent threat … the facility has to come in and talk to their regulator, their authorized state or come into the agency,” she added. “And the reason for that is that we want to, we want to put all of our resources into keeping these facilities safe keeping communities safe.”