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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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Lawmakers Call For Action as Oil Companies Post Record Profits Amid Rising Gas Prices

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A recent analysis from the Center for American Progress found that the top five oil companies earned over 300% more in profits during the first quarter of 2022 than the same period last year.


As Consumer Prices Climb, Big Oil Profits

American oil companies are facing increased scrutiny over profiteering practices as gas prices continue to surpass record highs driven by Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

Last week, costs surged to above $4 per gallon in all 50 states for the first time ever, according to the auto club AAA. Prices are currently averaging over $4.59 per gallon nationwide, which is 50% higher than they were this time last year.

In addition to consumers hurting at the pump, there are also rising concerns for industries that rely on fuel and oil like trucking, freight, airlines, and plastic manufacturers. 

To account for high prices, some in sectors have responded by ramping up prices further down the supply chain to account for costs, putting even more of a burden on consumers to pay for everyday items.

But as Americans struggle with sky-high gas prices at a time of record inflation, recently released earnings reports show that many of the world’s largest oil companies thrived in the first quarter of 2022.

ExxonMobil more than doubled its earnings from the same period last year, reporting a net profit of $5.5 billion. Meanwhile, Chevron logged its best quarterly earnings in almost a decade, and Shell had its highest earnings ever.

According to a new analysis conducted by the Center for American Progress, the top five oil companies — including the three mentioned above —  earned over 300% more in profits this quarter than during the same time last year.

“In fact, these five companies’ first-quarter profits alone are equivalent to almost 28 percent of what Americans spent to fill up their gas tanks in the same time period,” the report noted.

Per Insider, for at least four of those companies, that growth marks a tremendous increase in profits from even before the pandemic.

Lawmakers Ramp-Up Efforts to Reduce Prices

To address these startling disparities, federal lawmakers have moved in recent weeks to increase pressure on oil companies and take steps to lower prices.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill proposed by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Ca.) that aims to reduce gas prices. The legislation, called The Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, would give the president the authority to issue an Energy Emergency Declaration that would be effective for up to 30 days with the possibility of being renewed.

In that emergency period, it would be illegal for anyone to increase gas or home energy fuel prices to a level that is exploitative or “unconscionably excessive.” 

The proposal would also give the Federal Trade Commission the power to investigate and manage instances of price gouging from larger companies and give state authorities the ability to enforce price-gouging violations in civil courts.

The bill, which has already seen widespread opposition from Republicans and extensive lobbying from pro-oil interest groups, faces an uphill battle in the 50-50 split Senate.

During debate on the act Thursday, Rep. Porter delivered an impassioned speech accusing oil companies of driving their record profits by using their market power to unfairly increase prices.

“The oil and gas industry currently has more than 9,000 permits to drill for oil on federal land, but they are deliberately keeping production low to please their investors and increase their short-term profits,” she said. “Even when the price of crude oil falls, oil and gas companies have refused to pass those savings on to consumers.”

“Let me be clear: price gouging is anti-capitalist,” Porter continued. “It exploits a lack of competition, which is a hallmark of capitalism. It is an effort to juice corporate profits at the expense of customers. Energy markets are reeling because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Big oil companies, however, are using this temporary chaos to cover up their abuse.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Vox) (NPR)

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Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances

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Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.


One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down

After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.

The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.

Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.

A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.

The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.

In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.

The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.

A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.

Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye

“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.

Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.

Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.

“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.

When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.

“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”

On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.

On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)

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U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide

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India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.


One Million Dead

The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.

Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.

The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.

By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.

The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.

The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.

The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.

People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.

Fifteen Million Dead

On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.

Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.

Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.

The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)

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