- A video of Dr. Stella Immanuel went viral on Monday on multiple platforms after she claimed that hydroxychloroquine was a cure for COVID-19.
- Immanuel also claimed that people should not be wearing masks and suggested that lockdowns are unnecessary.
- Her claims fly in the face of warnings and recommendations from the broader medical community, and she has made even bolder claims in the past, including that alien DNA is being used in medical treatments and that the government is run by inhuman beings, among other things.
- Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have all worked to scrub the video from their platforms; however, it received further attention when President Donald Trump retweeted the video before Twitter took it down.
#HydroxychloroquineWorks Video Trends
Social media sites like Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter have all moved to delete a viral video that shows a doctor touting hydroxychloroquine as a “cure” for COVID-19, claiming that people should not wear masks, and suggesting that lockdowns are unnecessary.
The video was ultimately seen more than 13 million times on Facebook alone and trended under #HydroxychloroquineWorks on Twitter. Before Twitter deleted it on Tuesday morning, the video had already been shared by President Donald Trump on his personal account.
In that video, a group of physicians can be seen standing outside of the Supreme Court’s steps in Washington D.C. Reportedly, they are part of a conference known as the America’s Frontline Doctors Summit, which started Monday and goes through Tuesday.
“…there is no way I can treat 350 patients and counting, and nobody is dead, and they all did better,” Houston-based Dr. Stella Immanuel says in the video. “And then you’re going to tell me that you did it on 20 people, 40 people, and it didn’t work. I’m a true testament. So I came here to Washington D.C. to tell America nobody has to get sick. This virus has a cure. It’s called hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax.”
Despite Immanuel’s claims, both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently state that there is no known cure or effective treatment option for COVID-19.
Immanuel also continues by making more statements that are at odds with the recommendations of the broader medical community.
“I know you people want to talk about masks,” she said. “Hello, you don’t need masks. There is a cure. I know they don’t want to open schools. No, you don’t need for people to be locked down. There is prevention and there is a cure.”
Despite arguing that Americans don’t need to wear masks, current CDC guidance states:
“Cloth face coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others. Wearing a cloth face covering will help protect people around you, including those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and workers who frequently come into close contact with other people.”
Immanuel’s suggestion that there shouldn’t be lockdowns also conflicts with many health professionals’ recommendations and seemingly doesn’t take into account states like Florida and California, where COVID-19 cases have spiked following partial reopenings.
Who is Dr. Stella Immanuel?
Dr. Stella Immanul is a general practitioner from Houston and has reportedly been at the Rehoboth Medical Center since October 2019. She is also the founder of Fire Power Ministries, a church she founded in 2002.
However, she’s made a number of bold — to say the least — claims in the past. For example, she has claimed that gynecological problems like cysts, endometriosis, and infertility can be caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches, which she refers to as “spirit husbands” and “spirit wives.”
She has also claimed that alien DNA is currently being used in medical treatments and suggested that scientists are using vaccines to prevent people from being religious. She has also suggested that the government is run by inhuman beings.
“There are people that are ruling this nation that are not even human,” Immanuel said in a 2015 sermon, before saying she had a conversation with a “reptilian spirit” that was “half-human, half-E.T.”
Video Taken Down on Social Media, Shared by Trump on Twitter
Facebook has said it took down the clip of Immanuel on Monday night because it shared “false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19.”
“We’re showing messages in News Feed to people who have reacted to, commented on or shared harmful COVID-19-related misinformation that we have removed, connecting them to myths debunked by the WHO,” a Facebook spokesperson added.
After that, YouTube removed the video from its platform.
Tuesday morning, Twitter followed suit. While in many cases, it only removed the video embedded into tweets, not the tweets themselves, it did go further in two notable cases.
For example, Twitter has completely removed a retweet of that clip from the president’s personal account, even though that tweet still exists outside of his account (albeit just without the embedded clip). Notably, that tweet calls Immanuel a “fearless warrior of truth.”
The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., also caught Twitter’s attention for uploading a clip of Immanuel’s speech. Because of that, Twitter then restricted his ability to tweet for 12 hours.
Still, even though these platforms have “taken down” the clip, it’s not really gone. A simple search on Twitter easily yields the clip within the first few results.
What Is Hydroxychloroquine?
Hydroxychloroquine has been touted repeatedly by Trump as a treatment for COVID-19, despite there being major concerns around it.
While hydroxychloroquine is approved by the FDA, it is only approved for use in malaria patients, as well as patients with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis; however, doctors are still able to prescribe it “off-label.”
Early in the pandemic, several small studies indicated that maybe hydroxychloroquine could be used to effectively treat COVID patients. From there, Trump began describing the drug as a “game-changer.”
In late March, the FDA gave emergency approval to the Trump administration to distribute millions of hydroxychloroquine pills to hospitals in an attempt to treat COVID patients. At the time, the FDA said that the benefit of trying the still unproven use of the drug outweighed the risks.
In April, the FDA issued a warning for hydroxychloroquine, saying it should only be used in hospital settings or clinical trials, this because studies have shown it to cause heart arrhythmias. In fact, in one study looking at Veterans Affairs patients who had contracted COVID-19, it was even linked to higher rates of death. In June, the FDA rescinded its emergency approval, saying that hydroxychloroquine is “unlikely to be effective.”
The administration also then flipped its original statement, saying any potential benefits are outweighed by safety risks.
There, the FDA cited 400 reports of adverse events—including 109 serious cardiac episodes, 25 of which resulted in death. For most cases, the FDA said affected patients were also taking other drugs that also raised risks of heart problems.
Earlier this month, the journal Annals of Internal Medicine reported that hydroxychloroquine as an early treatment for COVID-19 did not work better than a placebo at reducing patients’ severity of symptoms over 14 days.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Heavy) (Daily Beast)
U.S. Cracks Down on Flying With Emotional Support Animals
- The Department of Transportation announced new rules Wednesday that only allow dogs to be considered “service animals” for the purposes of flying on a plane.
- This means airlines will soon no longer need to accommodate emotional support animals and can block them from getting free airfare as well as cabin space.
- In the past, the department treated service animals and emotional support animals largely the same, despite there being a difference.
- The rule change has been celebrated by airline groups and passengers who argue that emotional support animals are often used as a way to game the system and transport an animal for free.
- However, critics of the rule said it would be better to more strictly regulate what qualifies as an emotional support animal and to require training that is more in-line with what service animals go through.
No More Peacocks on Planes
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced new rules on Wednesday that more clearly define what qualifies as a service animal, allowing airlines to turn away hundreds of thousands of animals classified as emotional support animals.
In the past, the Department of Transportation (DOT) treated service animals and emotional support animals largely the same, despite there being a difference. Service animals are trained to help someone with a disability; with certain types of animals being defined under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Emotional support animals are prescribed by a mental health professional and have no training requirements.
For U.S. airlines, there will now be a fundamental difference. According to the DOT’s new rules, airlines will only be required to allow “a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”
Rule Has Long Been in the Works
This new rule wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. For years airlines have asked the DOT to regulate the issue out of concern that people were passing off their pets as emotional support animals. With the lack of regulation about what an ’emotional support animal’ actually is, there was little recourse for airlines.
Rules around emotional support animals have proven to be much more relaxed. In fact, there are mental health companies that will give such a classification online without ever physically seeing the patient or the animal. On top of people trying to get their pets onto flights for free, according to the DOT, airlines were fed up with “requests to transport unusual species of animals onboard aircraft.”
These animals often lacked specific training to be transported in planes, in a cramped space, and surrounded by people for hours on end, leading to animals misbehaving on planes.
According to American Airlines, between 2016 and 2017, the number of emotional support animals being brought on planes went from 481,000 to over 750,000.
The new rule isn’t a blank check for service animal owners.
Under the new rule, airlines are allowed to block certain service dogs from being on a plane if they’re obnoxious to passengers – a rare occurrence considering how well-trained the dogs are.
Additionally, they can ask that owners fill out a new form “attesting to the animal’s training and good behavior, and certifying the animal’s good health.”
Another stand-out in the new ruling was the decision to exclude other highly trained service animals. The DOT considered expanding the rules to allow more than just dogs to be qualified as service animals, which are by far the most common type of service animal.
However, The American With Disabilities Act (ADA) also includes miniature horses as service animals. Those horses can often be smaller than some of the largest breed of dogs. Still, there’s nothing in the ADA that conflicts with the DOT’s decision, as it allows for some restrictions to be placed on miniature horses.
While the ADA only recognizes dogs and miniature horses, there are other intelligent animals that have been used as service animals, such as Capuchin monkeys. These monkeys are increasingly used as service animals because of their dexterity for people with mobility impairments.
Airlines and Services Speak Out
Airlines for America, a trade group for U.S. airlines, was happy with the new rule.
“The Department of Transportation’s final rule will protect the traveling public and airline crewmembers from untrained animals in the cabin, as well as improve air travel accessibility for passengers with disabilities that travel with trained service dogs,” it said in a statement.
American Airlines made a similar statement, with a spokesperson telling outlets: “This new rule reflects a respect for individuals with disabilities who travel with legitimate service animals, which we share while providing clear and practical guidelines that will eliminate the abuse of the system that has been a source of concern for our team members and customers.”
CertaPet, a company that will screen animals and provides letters saying they are emotional support, said in a statement that the rule is “a great disservice to those facing mental health challenges that get emotional support from their animal.”
The company thinks a better approach would have been to more strictly regulate what qualifies as an emotional support animal and to require training more in-line with what service animals go through.
We understand that there have been incidents that have discredited emotional support animals and the service they provide, but those situations could be prevented by increased regulation,” CertaPet added.
“We think emotional support peacocks are ridiculous too.”
The new rules aren’t in place quite yet. They’re set to go into effect 30 days after they enter the Federal Registrar, which still hasn’t happened. Additionally, this ruling doesn’t preclude airlines from freely allowing emotional support animals on their flights.
It’s recommended to check with your airline before expecting your emotional support animal will get free airfare.
Former Presidents Pledge To Get COVID-19 Vaccine Publicly To Prove It’s Safe
- Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton have pledged to take a coronavirus vaccine once it is made available to the general public.
- Their promise comes as a vaccine is on the horizon, but many are unwilling to take it. According to a Gallop poll, 42% of Americans do not want to take the vaccine, with many feeling uneasy about how quickly it has been developed and others wanting to wait and see how safe it is.
- The three former presidents hope their willingness to take it will boost public trust in the vaccine. Facebook is also engaging in efforts to promote that trust by removing posts with misinformation about coronavirus vaccines.
- The timing for a vaccine could not be any more crucial. On Wednesday the U.S. broke two devastating records, reporting over 2,800 deaths in a day and 100,000 hospitalizations.
Presidents Pledge To Take Vaccine
The three most recent former U.S. presidents have pledged to take the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available to the general public.
During an interview Barack Obama did on the Joe Madison Show that was published Wednesday, the 44th president said that as long as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases thinks it’s safe, so does he.
“I promise you that when it’s been made for people who are less at risk, I will be taking it,” he added. “I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science.”
Representatives for George W. Bush and Bill Clinton told CNN that both would be willing to participate in any effort to encourage people to vaccinate themselves against the deadly coronavirus, which has sickened 14 million Americans and killed over 274,000.
“A few weeks ago President Bush asked me to let Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx know that, when the time is right, he wants to do what he can to help encourage his fellow citizens to get vaccinated,” Bush’s Chief of Staff Freddy Ford told CNN. “First, the vaccines need to be deemed safe and administered to the priority populations. Then, President Bush will get in line for his, and will gladly do so on camera.”
Angel Urena, Clinton’s press secretary, said that he will “definitely take a vaccine as soon as available to him, based on the priorities determined by public health officials. And he will do it in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same.”
Americans Skeptical of Vaccine
This comes as a vaccine for COVID-19 is on the horizon. Both Pfizer and Moderna have submitted their vaccines for FDA approval and expect to get the go-ahead in just a few weeks. Healthcare workers and vulnerable populations could get shots this month, but many Americans are unwilling to get this vaccine.
A mid-November Gallup poll asked participants: “If an FDA-approved vaccine to prevent coronavirus/COVID-19 was available right now at no cost, would you agree to be vaccinated?”
In response, 58% said they would, and 42% said they would not. This shows slightly more interest in the vaccine now than in the fall, when Americans were at a 50/50 split on the subject. However, it shows less enthusiasm than in the summer, when 66% of people said they would get the vaccine and only 36% said they would not.
As far as why so many people would turn down the vaccine, 37% of those who said ‘no’ claimed they felt the vaccine timeline and development was rushed. Another 26% said they wanted to wait to confirm it was safe, while 10% said they wanted to wait to see how effective it is. Many of these people could likely come around and choose to take the vaccine later on. Still, 12% of those who responded ‘no’ said that they do not trust vaccines in general.
Combatting Vaccine Hesitancy
Health officials are working hard on messaging that aims to limit vaccine hesitancy. During a Wednesday appearance on Fox News, Dr. Fauci criticized the fast pace in which the U.K. approved Pfizer’s vaccine, claiming that a turnaround that fast will lead to people questioning whether or not they should take it.
“If you go quickly and you do it superficially, people are not going to want to get vaccinated,” he explained. “We have the gold standard of a regulatory approach with the FDA. The U.K. did not do it as carefully and they got a couple of days ahead, I don’t think that makes much difference.”
Social media companies like Facebook are also working on vaccine messaging. On Thursday, the company put out a blog post promising to remove COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. This could involve taking down conspiracy theories and false claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects of the vaccines.
The need for a coronavirus vaccine has never been greater. On Wednesday, for the first time since the pandemic began, hospitalizations for COVID-19 topped 100,000, which is a 26% jump from two weeks ago. The U.S. also reported over 2,800 deaths, another pandemic record. Some experts believe the country is on track to regularly surpass 2,000 or 3,000 deaths a day, and even approach 4,000.
COVID-19 May Have Been in the U.S. December 2019, New Study Shows
- A new government report found that the coronavirus may have been in the United States in December 2019, weeks before the first confirmed case.
- For the study, the CDC looked at over 7,000 blood samples taken in nine states between December 13, 2019 and January 12, 2020.
- Researches found COVID-19 antibodies in 106 of those samples, with at least one sample per state having antibodies.
- These findings are in line with several other studies in the U.S. and well other countries which have found that the coronavirus was likely spreading globally before health officials were aware of it.
Report Shows Potential U.S. Cases in December
COVID-19 may have made its way to the United States in December of 2019, weeks earlier than previously thought, according to a new government study.
That study was published Monday in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal. The first coronavirus case was reported in Wuhan, China at the end of December. The first case in the United States was not reported until mid-January, but health experts have long wondered if the disease had been spreading sooner than that.
For the study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at 7,389 blood donations collected by the American Red Cross between December 13, 2019 and January 17, 2020 from donors across nine states. Of those samples, antibodies showed up in 106. Antibodies came up from people in each state, with 39 coming from California, Oregon and Washington and the other 67 coming from Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Connecticut or Rhode Island.
Further testing was done on a majority of these samples to confirm that these antibodies were related to this specific outbreak and not part of other common coronaviruses. The data showed that they “were obviously from SARSCoV-2 infected individuals.”
“The findings of this report suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infections may have been present in the U.S. in December 2019, earlier than previously recognized,” the authors wrote.
The study provides major context about the virus and the way it may have been spreading, completely unknown to public health officials for quite some time. The authors of the study believe this information will kelp experts better understand the pandemic, how it started, and how it can be mitigated.
“Understanding the dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 pandemic from early introduction throughout further progression will advance understanding of the epidemiology of this novel virus and inform allocation of resources and public health prevention interventions to mitigate morbidity and mortality associated with COVID-19,” the report said.
While the study provides incredible insight into the start of the coronavirus, the authors did also note there are limitations to what can be learned from it. For example, the data in the study should not be used to measure the magnitude of infections on a state or national level. It also cannot determine if these people came into contact with the virus from traveling, community spread, or another means of transmission. Though, a previous study of blood donors indicated that only around 3% had traveled outside of the U.S. in the 28 days prior to their donation.
Other Studies Suggest Earlier Spread
This is not the first study to suggest that COVID-19 was spreading this widely so soon. Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist explained on Twitter that this news matches up with a wastewater analysis, which found that the virus was potentially in Europe, specifically in Northern Italy, in mid-December. It also matches early indicator data that found excess flu illnesses in the province Wuhan is in during early December.
Additionally, a separate report published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal last week found that the United States may have had significantly more COVID-19 cases than recorded. Since so many cases go unreported and undetected because many have no or mild symptoms, the study aimed to find the true number of cases the country may have seen at this point.
“To estimate the cumulative incidence SARS-CoV-2 infections, symptomatic illnesses, and hospitalizations, we adapted a simple probabilistic multiplier model,” the study explained. “Laboratory-confirmed case counts that were reported nationally were adjusted for sources of under-detection based on testing practices in inpatient and outpatient settings and assay sensitivity.”
The authors found that only one out of every 2.5 hospitalized infections and one out of every seven non-hospitalized illnesses may have been nationally reported. This means that between February 27 and September 30, there may have been 52.9 million total infections in the U.S.
These cases, however, are unconfirmed and based on the model created. Currently, the U.S. has seen 13.6 million confirmed cases and lost 268,626 lives to the coronavirus.