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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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College Board Changes AP African American Studies After Backlash From DeSantis Amid Education Culture War

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As requested by DeSantis, the College Board removed lessons on contemporary topics including Black Lives Matter, queer studies, and reparations.


College Board Rolls Out Curriculum

The College Board, which oversees Advanced Placement high school courses, announced an official curriculum framework for its new, landmark Advanced Placement African American studies on Wednesday.

The announcement, made on the first day of Black History Month, has faced scrutiny for seeming to scale back a number of relevant subjects that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other state education officials had criticized.

In January, DeSantis said that the new course would be banned in Florida unless changes were made, arguing that a draft version of the course was “woke.” 

Education officials claimed that the class, which had been in the making for nearly a decade, violated a recent state law dubbed the Stop WOKE Act. The legislation regulates public school instruction on race by banning critical race theory and any education that describes some groups as oppressed and others as privileged based on race or sex.

Democrats denounced DeSantis’ action as a political stunt and urged the College Board to maintain its principles.

According to reports, many historical topics like slavery largely remain intact from the previous draft. However, important contemporary issues like Black Lives Matter, affirmative action, queer studies, reparations, and intersectionality — all of which Florida leaders objected to — were removed from curriculum requirements and are no longer part of the AP exam.

Instead, those areas of study have been downgraded to be part of a list of options students can pursue for a mandatory research project. The College Board also added a new research project idea to that list that will certainly please the right: “Black conservatism.”

It has additionally been reported that the organization pulled names of multiple Black authors the state education officials had flagged as problematic, including many famous and pioneering Black scholars who wrote about critical race theory, the queer experience, and Black feminism. 

The College Board defended itself against criticism in a press release announcing the changes, claiming that the process of developing the framework “has operated independently from political pressure.”

DeSantis’ Ongoing Culture War

DeSantis’ attempts to influence the national curriculum of an AP course are just his latest in a much broader effort to control what is and is not taught in public schools.

Just one day before the College Board announced the revised course, the governor outlined what The New York Times described as “his most aggressive swing yet at the education establishment.”

Specifically, he proposed a massive overhaul to higher education in the state that would defund and eliminate diversity and equity programs, mandate courses on Western civilization, and reduce tenure protections that are essential to ensure professors have freedom of expression.

Furthermore, the effects of another law DeSantis signed last year are now just beginning to materialize. The policy, which went into effect this July, requires every school book to be age-appropriate, “free of pornography,” and “suited to student needs.” 

To follow those guidelines, school books have to be approved by a certified media specialist who has undergone specific training.

Notably, the law also states that teachers can be charged with third-degree felonies if they “knowingly or unknowingly” give students access to a book that the specialists say is harmful — meaning that they could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Last month, the state education department clarified that the rule does not just apply to school libraries, but also to any books a teacher keeps in their classroom too. 

Multiple outlets reported this week that records they obtained show at least two school districts have now directed teachers to either remove their books or hide them until review to avoid the possibility of going to jail.

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

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Biden Announces Plan to End COVID Emergency in May

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The decision would drastically change the government’s long-standing pandemic response and shift Americans’ access to COVID-related services.


Emergency Declarations at an End

In a statement Monday, The White House announced that it would be ending the COVID national emergency and public health emergency declarations on May 11.

The move will entirely restructure the federal government’s response to the pandemic to treat it as endemic and upend policies that have been in place for the last three years. Although more than 500 people in the U.S. are still dying from COVID on average each day — which is around two times the number of daily deaths during a bad flu season — life has largely returned to normal.

Most Americans are vaccinated, and even President Joe Biden himself said the pandemic was “over” back in September. The new announcement comes in part as a response to resolutions Republicans brought to the House floor last week that would end the declarations immediately.

“An abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans,” the White House argued.

Lapses in Coverage and Care

Federal officials decided that a phase-out would make more sense because the U.S. has come to rely on several systems and benefits under the emergencies.

One of the most significant changes that will have the biggest impact on Americans in their day-to-day lives is access to COVID tests, treatments, and vaccines that have been free throughout the pandemic.

Once the emergencies end, a very complex wave of changes will take place that differs from person to person depending on their insurance — or lack thereof — and even possibly what state they live in.

Currently, people with private health insurance or Medicare coverage have been allowed eight free COVID tests a month and insurers had to cover those tests, even if they were administered out of network.

Once the emergency ends, some Americans will have to pay out of pocket, as well as for antiviral COVID treatments like Paxlovid. 

Notably, it has been reported that vaccines will still be included for all those people covered by both private and public insurance. That, however, may not be the case for those without insurance — a group that is also more likely to be the most affected by rising costs for tests and treatments.

Jen Kates, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told The Washington Post that when the emergency declarations end, states that opted to provide Medicaid coverage for tests, treatments, and shots will lose the federal funds that matched costs at 100%.

“To me, that’s the biggest issue for the general public to think about,” she said. “The uninsured and underinsured have no guaranteed access to covid vaccines, tests or treatments.”

When it comes to vaccines, those costs could be significant. Moderna and Pfizer have both said they might charge as much as $130 per dose of vaccine once the federal government stops paying and the shots are transitioned to the private market. That figure is nearly quadruple what federal offices have paid for the doses.

The shift to the private market could happen fairly soon, especially because Republicans have refused Biden’s request that they put billions of dollars towards additional free COVID testing and shots to extend those efforts.

There could also be a spike in the number of uninsured or underinsured Americans because the $1.7 trillion spending bill passed last year ends a rule that banned states from kicking people off Medicaid, leaving millions at risk of losing coverage.

Other Possible Outcomes

Ending the declarations could also set up a battle around immigration because the Biden administration has said the move will bring an end to Title 42 — the Trump-era public health measure that placed restrictions on border crossings and other migrant policies.

Biden has previously tried to cut the program, but the Supreme Court kept it in place. House Republicans rejected the White House’s claim that the program would be terminated, arguing it is not tied to the public health emergency.

Beyond that, the termination of the declarations would require health providers to make numerous adjustments because many of the flexibilities they were allowed in a number of areas would be cut. 

As a result, the administration says a phase-out of those policies over the next few months is necessary, arguing that hospitals and nursing homes “will be plunged into chaos” if they are cut immediately. House Republicans, however, are insistent on moving forward their legislation that would do just that, though the Democratic-controlled Senate could block their proposals.

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

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Conservatives are Mad at “Woke” Xbox for Minor Climate-Related Updates

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The fury comes after Xbox announced it was slightly altering existing consoles to better utilize and save energy.


Same War, New Battlefield

Mere days after M&M canceled their “spokescandies” due to backlash from the right, led largely by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, conservatives have found a new front for their ongoing culture war: Xbox.

Carlson spent months complaining that small character redesigns were “woke” because they made the animated anthropomorphized M&M’s — in his own words — “less sexy.” His campaign finally proved successful on Monday when the company announced it would be doing away with the spokescandies and replacing them with actress Maya Rudolph.

Conservatives, now facing a sudden dearth of non-issues to complain about, quickly found a new issue to rage against. Xbox announced in a blog post earlier this month that it is making minor updates to lower its environmental impact as part of an effort to reach Microsoft’s goal of being carbon-negative by 2030.

Now, instead of having an Xbox wake up to update games, apps, and software during random times of the night, it will do that at a time of night when a user’s local energy grid is generating the most power it can from renewable sources. 

Xbox also said it would automatically update some older consoles to a power-saving mode that aims to reduce electricity consumption when it is turned off — a feature that is already the default on newer consoles.

According to The Verge, the only difference for users is that an Xbox in power-saving mode takes around 15 seconds to boot up instead of doing so immediately as the console does in “sleep” mode. The change is a small price to pay for what the outlet described as “significant” energy savings.

Xbox Under Fire

To many leading conservative voices, the minimal shifts were just another example of “woke” culture. 

While discussing M&M’s spokescandies Tuesday morning, “Fox and Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt brought up Xbox’s new changes with Fox radio host Jimmy Failla.

“So Xbox has also announced that they’re going woke too, you know, because of climate change,” Earhardt said.

“I mean, it’s crazy what they’re doing, but we understand what this is. It’s not that it’s actually going to offset emissions, okay — the level of reduction is infinitesimal,”  Failla claimed, without evidence. “But they’re trying to recruit your kids into climate politics at an earlier age; make them climate conscious now.”

“Yeah, I didn’t think of that — you’re right, they’re going after the children,” Earhardt agreed, despite the fact that internal data from Microsoft shows just around 10% of Xbox owners are under the age of 18.

Other prominent conservatives also did their part to bait Americans into anger on social media, including America’s Foundation, which posted a tweet stating that “the woke brigade is after video games.”

The post linked an article from the right-wing website TheBlaze, which asserted that “Xbox will force gamers to power down to fight climate change.”  That, however, is false — Xbox has said users can switch back and change the settings any time they want

Still, top lawmakers continued to share the article and spread its false claims, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.).

“First gas stoves, then your coffee, now they’re gunning for your Xbox,” he wrote in the post, which was flagged by Twitter and given an “added context” warning.

The same warning, however, was not placed in a very similar post by Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Tx.), who also shared the article.

“They want to take your guns. They want to take your gas stoves. And now they want to take your Xbox. What’s next?” he wrote.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Daily Beast) (VICE)

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