- President Trump accused healthcare workers in New York of stealing supplies, suggesting that it explained the increased demand for masks.
- Experts hit back, explaining that because of the pandemic more equipment than normal is needed in hospitals.
- Meanwhile, healthcare workers all over the country are reporting dangerous shortages of supplies and other personal protective equipment.
- Some workers have resorted to reusing masks, making their own masks, wearing trash bags, and using other methods that could risk their lives as stockpiles continue to run low.
President Donald Trump is doubling down on accusations that healthcare workers are stealing medical supplies amid an unprecedented country-wide supply shortage.
All over the country, healthcare workers who are already on the front lines risking their lives do not have enough masks, gloves, gowns, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) that is crucial for safety.
Recent reports have found that healthcare workers have resorted to reusing and sterilizing masks meant for single use. In some places, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has even told healthcare providers to use homemade gear like bandanas or scarves “if necessary.”
Pictures have been circulating the internet of medical staff wearing trash bags and homemade masks.
Health officials have been relying heavily on donations from laboratories, tattoo parlors, and construction companies. Some have been forced to buy their own supplies, while others have even taken to Twitter to ask for help getting more with the hashtag #GetMePPE.
Manufacturers have said they will help produce some gear on their own accord. Meanwhile, states and governors have criticized the Trump administration for not helping them enough or sending an adequate amount of supplies, especially masks.
Trump, for his part, has said that governors need to be buying most of their own provisions, not the federal government.
On top of that, at least two major cities with large outbreaks have reported problems with the scant supplies they were sent by the federal government.
On Saturday, California Governor Gavin Newsom said the Trump administration sent Los Angeles 170 broken ventilators. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker also said Monday that he had been sent a shipment of the wrong masks.
These shortages are expected to get worse as the pandemic continues to grow. Hospitals all over the country warn their equipment stockpiles will not last through the pandemic.
Trump, for his part, did not appear to acknowledge that there was any shortage at all during a press conference Sunday.
“It’s really incredible, frankly. Many of the states are stocked up,” he said. “Some of them don’t admit it, but they have — we have sent just so much — so many things to them and — including ventilators.”
Trump went on to accuse hospitals of “hoarding” ventilators and insinuated that New York hospitals asked for more masks than normal because healthcare workers were stealing medical supplies.
“How do you go from 10 to 20, to 300,000? 10- to 20,000 masks to 300,000? Even though this is different, something is going on, and you ought to look into it as reporters. Where are the masks going? Are they going out the back door?” the president said.
“I think people should check that because there’s something going on, whether — it’s not — I don’t think it’s hoarding; I think it’s maybe worse than hoarding.”
Trump reiterated the same claims again in a press briefing on Monday.
Trump’s remarks received a lot of backlash and pushback from both medical professionals and New York officials.
Many criticized Trump for accusing medical workers of stealing supplies without any evidence, while those workers continue to risk their lives in dangerous conditions because they do not have adequate supplies.
Others debunked Trump’s claim, explaining that healthcare workers need thousands of more masks than they normally need because this is not normal— it’s a pandemic.
“There’s hospital systems that have gone through their entire personal protective equipment stores for the season, they’ve gone through this in a week,” explained CNN healthcare analyst Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
“You’ve got to treat every patient that comes in, even if they’re not coming with a specific coronavirus, covid-like symptoms, you have to still treat them like they might have it,” he continued.
“That means that every single time patients are seen by these doctors, the medical students, residents, nurses, therapists, whoever, they need to be wearing this protective gear. You’re going to be going through a lot of protective gear as a result.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, also hit on a similar point while speaking to CNN Monday.
“I have not looked at that carefully, so I can’t really can’t comment,” he said. “I mean, it could be that there are many more patients there that need them and they’re actually not walking out the door, they’re actually being utilized.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill De Blasio also contested Trump’s claims
“It’s insulting, it’s outrageous, it’s incredibly insensitive to people right now who are giving their all,” De Blasio said in an interview with NY1 on Monday. “Our healthcare workers are suffering — they’re literally watching some of their own lost to this disease. They’re fighting with all they got.”
“It’s not true,” he added. “And it’s the wrong thing for him to do and he should just get back to work, be the commander-in-chief and get us help.”
“If you are not preparing for the apex and for the high point, you are missing the entire point of the operation,” Cuomo said Monday at his daily press breifing in New York. “It is a fundamental blunder to only prepare for today, that’s why in some ways we are where we are. We’ve been behind this virus from Day One.”
“In terms of the suggestion that PPE equipment is not going to a correct place, I don’t know what that means, I don’t know what he’s trying to say. If he wants to make an accusation, let him make an accusation,” he added.
Defense Production Act
Some have taken it even farther, directly blaming Trump and his administration for the shortage.
Many have accused Trump of downplaying the virus for weeks rather than taking necessary precautions.
“Given the chance to prepare hospitals and health-care workers for the expected influx of covid-19 patients, the Trump administration did not take action to build up supplies of the vital equipment experts knew would be needed,” Deborah Levine, a historian of medicine wrote in the Washington Post.
Levine referenced a report that the National Security Council laid out a 69-page playbook on fighting pandemics that the Trump team ignored.
“Indeed, the administration has so far refused to use the Defense Production Act, or DPA, to ramp up production of even fairly basic but essential medical supplies, despite many urgent calls to do so,” Levine continued.
This is another essential piece of the medical shortages puzzle. The DPA, which is a wartime law, would let the federal government ask companies to make certain things, like masks, and give those companies loans to do so.
Despite the fact that basically all Trump would have to do was say the word “go,” he put off enacting it for weeks, even in the face of enormous pressure.
Trump finally pulled the trigger Saturday, but so far, he has only asked General Motors to speed up production for ventilators they have already offered. He has refused to ask other companies to help produce other products that could be life-saving.
Trump’s reluctance has baffled a lot of people, and he has not given much of an explanation for why he does not utilize this seemingly simple act that has been put in place for a situation exactly like this.
One of the reasons Trump has said he does not want to use the act is because it would turn the United States into a socialist country.
“We’re a country not based on nationalizing our business,” Trump said last week.
The act does not cause companies to be owned by the government, it just directs them to make essential and life-saving products.
Trump has also argued that companies are doing enough voluntarily, and so he does not have to compel them to help. But even with companies volunteering, it is clearly not enough to address the current and impending medical shortages.
See what others are saying: (ABC News) (Common Dreams) (Vox)
Jan. 6 Committee Prepares Criminal Charges Against Steve Bannon for Ignoring Subpoena
The move comes after former President Trump told several of his previous aides not to cooperate with the committee’s investigation into the insurrection.
Bannon Refuses to Comply With Subpoena
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection announced Thursday that it is seeking to hold former White House advisor Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
The decision marks a significant escalation in the panel’s efforts to force officials under former President Donald Trump’s administration to comply with its probe amid Trump’s growing efforts to obstruct the inquiry.
In recent weeks, the former president has launched a number of attempts to block the panel from getting key documents, testimonies, and other evidence requested by the committee that he claims are protected by executive privilege.
Notably, some of those assertions have been shut down. On Friday, President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s effort to withhold documents relating to the insurrection.
Still, Trump has also directed former officials in his administration not to comply with subpoenas or cooperate with the committee.
That demand came after the panel issued subpoenas ordering depositions from Bannon and three other former officials: Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.
After Trump issued his demand, Bannon’s lawyer announced that he would not obey the subpoena until the panel reached an agreement with Trump or a court ruled on the executive privilege matter.
Many legal experts have questioned whether Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, can claim executive privilege for something that happened when he was not working for the executive.
Panel Intensifies Compliance Efforts
The Thursday decision from the committee is significant because it will likely set up a legal battle and test how much authority the committee can and will exercise in requiring compliance.
It also sets an important precedent for those who have been subpoenaed. While Bannon is the first former official to openly defy the committee, there have been reports that others plan to do the same.
The panel previously said Patel and Meadows were “engaging” with investigators, but on Thursday, several outlets reported that the two — who were supposed to appear before the body on Thursday and Friday respectively — are now expected to be given an extension or continuance.
Sources told reporters that Scavino, who was also asked to testify Friday, has had his deposition postponed because service of his subpoena was delayed.
As far as what happens next for Bannon, the committee will vote to adopt the contempt report next week. Once that is complete, the matter will go before the House for a full vote.
Assuming the Democratic-held House approves the contempt charge, it will then get referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to bring the matter before a grand jury.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Bloomberg)
Senate Votes To Extend Debt Ceiling Until December
The move adds another deadline to Dec. 3, which is also when the federal government is set to shut down unless Congress approves new spending.
Debt Ceiling Raised Temporarily
The Senate voted on Thursday to extend the debt ceiling until December, temporarily averting a fiscal catastrophe.
The move, which followed weeks of stalemate due to Republican objections, came after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) partially backed down from his blockade and offered a short-term proposal.
After much whipping of votes, 11 Republicans joined Democrats to break the legislative filibuster and move to final approval of the measure. The bill ultimately passed in a vote of 50-48 without any Republican support.
The legislation will now head to the House, where Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said members would be called back from their current recess for a vote on Tuesday.
The White House said President Joe Biden would sign the measure, but urged Congress to pass a longer extension.
“We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months,’’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Under the current bill, the nation’s borrowing limit will be increased by $480 billion, which the Treasury Department said will cover federal borrowing until around Dec. 3.
The agency had previously warned that it would run out of money by Oct. 18 if Congress failed to act. Such a move would have a chilling impact on the economy, forcing the U.S. to default on its debts and potentially plunging the country into a recession.
Major Hurdles Remain
While the legislation extending the ceiling will certainly offer temporary relief, it sets up another perilous deadline for the first Friday in December, when government funding is also set to expire if Congress does not approve another spending bill.
Regardless of the new deadline, many of the same hurdles lawmakers faced the first time around remain.
Democrats are still struggling to hammer out the final details of Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending agenda, which Republicans have strongly opposed.
Notably, Democratic leaders previously said they could pass the bill through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with 50 votes and no Republican support.
Such a move would require all 50 Senators, but intraparty disputes remain over objections brought by Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), who have been stalling the process for months.
Although disagreements over reconciliation are ongoing among Democrats, McConnell has insisted the party use the obscure procedural process to raise the debt limit. Democrats, however, have balked at the idea, arguing that tying the debt ceiling to reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.
Despite Republican efforts to connect the limit to Biden’s economic agenda, raising the ceiling is not the same as adopting new spending. Rather, the limit is increased to pay off spending that has already been authorized by previous sessions of Congress and past administrations.
In fact, much of the current debt stems from policies passed by Republicans during the Trump administration, including the 2017 tax overhaul.
As a result, while Democrats have signaled they may make concessions to Manchin and Sinema, they strongly believe that Republicans must join them to increase the debt ceiling to fund projects their party supported.
It is currently unclear when or how the ongoing stalemate will be resolved, or how either party will overcome their fervent objections.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
California Makes Universal Voting by Mail Permanent
California is now the eighth state to make universal mail-in ballots permanent after it temporarily adopted the policy for elections held amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
CA Approves Universal Voting by Mail
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill Monday requiring every registered voter in the state to be mailed a ballot at least 29 days before an election, whether they request it or not.
Assembly Bill 37 makes permanent a practice that was temporarily adopted for elections during the COVID-19 pandemic. The law, which officially takes effect in January, also extends the time mail ballots have to arrive at elections offices from three days to seven days after an election. Voters can still choose to cast their vote in person if they prefer.
Supporters of the policy have cheered the move, arguing that proactively sending ballots to registered voters increases turnout.
“Data shows that sending everyone a ballot in the mail provides voters access. And when voters get ballots in the mail, they vote,” the bill’s author, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), said during a Senate committee hearing in July.
Meanwhile opponents — mostly Republicans — have long cast doubts about the safety of mail-in voting, despite a lack of evidence to support their claims that it leads to widespread voter fraud. That strategy, however, has also faced notable pushback from some that a lot of Republicans who say it can actually hurt GOP turnout.
Others May Follow
The new legislation probably isn’t too surprising for California, where over 50% of votes cast in general elections have been through mail ballots since 2012, according to The Sacramento Bee. Now, many believe California will be followed by similar legislation from Democrats across the country as more Republican leaders move forward with elections bills that significantly limit voting access.
Newsome signed 10 other measures Monday changing election and campaign procedures, including a bill that would require anyone advocating for or against a candidate to stand farther away from a polling place. Another bill increases penalties for candidates who use campaign funds for personal expenses while a third measure increases reporting requirements for limited liability corporations that engage in campaign activity.
“As states across our country continue to enact undemocratic voter suppression laws, California is increasing voter access, expanding voting options and bolstering elections integrity and transparency,” Newsom said in a statement.
“Last year we took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election.”
The news regarding California came just in time for National Voter Registration day today, giving Americans another reminder to make sure they’re registered in their states. For more information on how to register, visit Vote.gov or any of the other resources linked below.