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Trump May Scale Back on Virus Briefings After Disinfectant Debacle

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  • President Trump seemed to suggest Thursday that medical experts should explore the possibility of using disinfectant to treat the coronavirus, “by injection inside or almost a cleaning.”
  • Afterward, the CDC, the maker of Lysol, and other medical professionals warned against injecting or consuming household cleaners and disinfectants.
  • The White House said Trump’s comments were taken out of context by media and Trump later argued that he was being sarcastic. 
  • His advisors have allegedly been warning that his frequent appearances at virus briefings are not helping him in polls against Joe Biden, and this latest debacle might have finally made him agree, according to an Axios report.

Trump Under Fire 

President Donald Trump is reportedly planning to scale back on his appearances at coronavirus task force press briefings, according to a new Axios report published Friday. 

The news comes amid heavy backlash Trump is facing after suggesting medical experts look into the possibility of injecting disinfectant as a treatment for COVID-19. 

If you’re not already caught up on what the president, the White House, and medical experts have said, here’s a breakdown.

What Happened Thursday? 

As part of Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing, the public heard from William Bryan, the acting undersecretary of homeland security for science and technology. Bryan updated the public on preliminary government research about the coronavirus that can be used to inform responses to the pandemic. 

He shared a few trends and observations emerging in current research: that the virus has a much harder time surviving in hot or humid conditions, or when exposed to the ultraviolet rays of direct sunlight.

Now, these experiments aren’t entirely definitive in terms of implications for human-to-human transition in real-world conditions. For instance, we know that humid places like Singapore and Ecuador have seen significant outbreaks. Still, the point is that looking at this information can help inform best practices for policies and personal conduct.

Bryan also briefly mentioned that the department has confirmed the already-known fact that isopropyl alcohol and bleach kill the virus. He said isopropyl alcohol, an ingredient in most hand sanitizers, can kill the virus in 30 seconds. Bleach, which is commonly used in disinfectant products, can kill the virus in five minutes, Bryan explained.  

This is where things started to take a turn. At this point in the briefing, Trump appeared to suggest scientists should explore the possibility of bringing “light inside the body” and injecting patients with disinfectants. 

Here’s exactly what the President said:

TRUMP: ‘Thank you very much. So I asked Bill a question that probably some of you are thinking of, if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting. So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you said that that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that too. It sounds interesting.”

BRYAN: “We’ll get to the right folks who could.”

TRUMP: “Right. And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds — it sounds interesting to me. So we’ll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute, that’s — that’s pretty powerful.”

Later in the briefing, a reporter asked Bryan about the possibility of injecting people with those cleaners, saying: “There’s no scenario that that could be injected into a person, is there?”

Bryan responded, “No, I’m here to talk about the findings that we had in the study.  We won’t do that within that lab and our lab.”

The president then jumped and seemingly walked back on his previous suggestion, saying, “It wouldn’t be through injection. We’re talking about through almost a cleaning, sterilization of an area. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work.  But it certainly has a big effect if it’s on a stationary object.”

And then even later in the briefing, Trump again suggested applying light to cure the virus, asking Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the task force, if she’s ever heard of using that as a treatment.

Trump: “I would like you to speak to the medical doctors to see if there’s any way that you can apply light and heat to cure. You know — if you could. And maybe you can, maybe you can’t. Again, I say, maybe you can, maybe you can’t. I’m not a doctor. But I’m like a person that has a good you know what. Deborah, have you ever heard of that? The heat and the light, relative to certain viruses, yes, but relative to this virus?”

Birx: “Not as a treatment. I mean, certainly fever is a good thing. When you have a fever, it helps your body respond. But not as — I’ve not seen heat or light …”

Trump: “I think it’s a great thing to look at. I mean, you know. Okay?”

Backlash and Warnings 

Clips of the president’s comments spread quickly online. His initial remarks about injecting disinfectants, in particular, were met with widespread ridicule and concern. 

Some even began sharing videos of Dr. Birx’s facial reactions as the president spoke.

Many pointed out that there is a ton of extensive research about the impact household cleaners have on human health. That’s why the items all have warning labels on their packaging and why the Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that they should be kept out of children’s reach. That recommendation, of course, relies on the belief that most adults already know better than to ingest bleach and household cleaners. 

After Trump’s Thursday briefing, different agencies, doctors, and even the company that makes Lysol and Dettol warned that injecting or ingesting disinfectants is dangerous. 

“Household cleaners and disinfectants can cause health problems when not used properly. Follow the instructions on the product label to ensure safe and effective use,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tweeted Friday.

Maryland’s Emergency Management Agency also said, “This is a reminder that under no circumstances should any disinfectant product be administered into the body through injection, ingestion or any other route.”

“As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),” Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of Lysol and Dettol said.

Clorox, the maker of bleach, soon followed, calling it critical for consumers to understand the facts. “Bleach and other disinfectants are not suitable for consumption or injection under any circumstances,” it said.

Trump and White House Respond 

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany issued a statement Friday claiming that the media had taken the President’s comments out of context.

“President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday’s briefing,” McEnany said. “Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines.”

But when Trump was asked about his comments during a bill signing Friday, he said he was being sarcastic.

“I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen,” Trump told a reporter. 

He then suggested he was talking about disinfectants that can safely be rubbed on people’s hands, but afterward, he returned to the sarcasm explanation.

Trump: “Now, disinfectant, or doing this, maybe on the hands, would work. And I was asking the question of the gentleman who was there yesterday — Bill — because when they say that something will last three or four hours or six hours, but if the sun is out or if they use disinfectant, it goes away in less than a minute. Did you hear about this yesterday? But I was asking a sarcastic — and a very sarcastic question — to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside. But it does kill it and it would kill it on the hands and that would make things much better. That was done in the form of a sarcastic question to the reporters. Okay.”

When a reporter noted that he had asked his medical experts to look into it. Trump responded: “No, no, no, no — to look into whether or not sun and disinfectant on the hands, but whether or not sun can help us.”

When claiming again that his comments were said sarcastically to “a group of extraordinary hostile people, namely the fake news media,” the president suggested that he was looking at reporters when he spoke.

A reporter pushed back and said he was looking at Dr. Bix, which he was in fact doing for nearly the entirety of his comments about disinfectant. 

However, Trump claims he was actually looking at Bryan, Birx, and also “some of the reporters.”

Despite his claims, many agree that there was no indication the president was being sarcastic. Video also shows that Trump didn’t mention anything about disinfectant on the hands specifically. 

Dr. Birx also appeared on Fox News Friday where she seemed to defend Trump by explaining how he likes to process information.

“When he gets new information, he likes to talk that through out loud and really have that dialogue — and so that’s what dialogue he was having. I think he just saw the information at the time immediately before the press conference and he was still digesting that information,” Dr. Birx told host Jesse Watters

Plans to Pare Back Briefings 

According to a new report by Axios, four sources familiar with internal deliberations say the president is planning to “pare back” his coronavirus press conference.

The sources said he may stop appearing daily and may make shorter appearances when he does. This practice might have started with Friday’s presser, which was lasted under 25 minutes and included no questions from reporters. For comparison, last Friday’s briefing ran for about one hour and 45 minutes. 

The report says that a number of Trump’s most trusted advisers have urged him to stop doing so many briefings, but he has argued that they get good ratings. His advisors allegedly say he’s overexposed and that his appearances are part of the reason he’s struggling in polls against Joe Biden. 

“I told him it’s not helping him,” said one adviser to the president, according to Axios. “Seniors are scared. And the spectacle of him fighting with the press isn’t what people want to see.”

A senior administration official involved in the discussions said: “He should keep everyone guessing as to whether he appears day by day. And leave the technical briefings to others. Be there to announce victories.”

Another source argued that their just isn’t enough new material to justify his presence at every briefing. “I mean, you wonder how we got to the point where you’re talking about injecting disinfectant?” one source said. 

The report notes that while these conversations were underway before the disinfectant debacle, the recent incident might have helped Trump realize that the briefings aren’t helping him.

However, one of Axio’s sources cautioned that nothing is official until it’s official.

See what others are saying: (Axios) (FactCheck.org) (Vox

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Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”

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  • Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot. 
  • So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.

Florida Requires Proof of Residency

Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.

Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it. 

According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents. 

Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers. 

Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited

Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north. 

“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)

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Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”

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  • Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
  • Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
  • Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.

Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony. 

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.

“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”

Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing. 

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  

That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”

Nation Impressed by Gorman

“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment. 

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation. 

Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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