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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 37)

Science Offers Sunlight as Way to Tame Virus, and Trump Rushes Toward It

Westlake Legal Group science-offers-sunlight-as-way-to-tame-virus-and-trump-rushes-toward-it Science Offers Sunlight as Way to Tame Virus, and Trump Rushes Toward It Ultraviolet Light Trump, Donald J Sunlight Homeland Security Department Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Cleansers, Detergents and Soaps
Westlake Legal Group merlin_171873681_beeb57d3-2564-43c0-9d5c-7277606d43c7-facebookJumbo Science Offers Sunlight as Way to Tame Virus, and Trump Rushes Toward It Ultraviolet Light Trump, Donald J Sunlight Homeland Security Department Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Cleansers, Detergents and Soaps

President Trump has long pinned his hopes on the powers of sunlight to defeat the Covid-19 virus. On Thursday, he returned to that theme at the daily White House coronavirus briefing, bringing in a top administration scientist to back up his assertions and eagerly theorizing — dangerously, in the view of some experts — about the powers of sunlight, ultraviolet light and household disinfectants to kill the coronavirus.

After the scientist, William N. Bryan, the head of science at the Department of Homeland Security, told the briefing that the government had tested how sunlight and disinfectants — including bleach and alcohol — can kill the coronavirus on surfaces in as little as 30 seconds, an excited Mr. Trump returned to the lectern.

“Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light,” Mr. Trump said. “And I think you said that hasn’t been checked, but we’re going to test it?” he added, turning to Mr. Bryan, who had returned to his seat. “And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, either through the skin or some other way.”

Apparently reassured that the tests he was proposing would take place, Mr. Trump then theorized about the possible medical benefits of disinfectants in the fight against the virus.

“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?” he asked. “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.”

Experts have long warned that ultraviolet lamps can harm humans if used improperly — when the exposure is outside the body, much less inside. But bottles of bleach and other disinfectants carry sharp warnings of ingestion dangers. The disinfectants can kill not only microbes but humans.

Yet despite a lack of scientific evidence, Mr. Trump has long pinned his hopes on an array of possible cures for the coronavirus, from sunlight and warmer temperatures to an array of drugs, including the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which he has promoted as a “what have you got to lose” remedy.

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Shortly after Mr. Trump made his latest comments on Thursday, emergency management officials in Washington State posted a warning on Twitter against following the president’s suggestions.

“Please don’t eat tide pods or inject yourself with any kind of disinfectant,” they wrote, before urging the public to rely only on official medical advice about Covid-19. “Just don’t make a bad situation worse.”

When a reporter suggested that Mr. Trump’s proposed treatments might be dangerous, letting “people think they would be safe by going outside in the heat considering that so many people are dying in Florida,” Mr. Trump pivoted to another of his regular briefing themes: attacking the news media.

“Yeah, here — here we go,” he began, clearly irritated. “The new headline is, ‘Trump asks people to go outside, that’s dangerous.’ Here we go same old group. Are you ready? I hope people enjoying the sun, and if it has an impact, that’s great.”

Seeking affirmation of his opinion, Mr. Trump turned to Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator. He asked if she had heard of the success of sunlight as an effective tool against viruses, and more specifically the coronavirus.

“Not as a treatment,” Dr. Birx replied. “I mean, certainly fever is a good thing when you have a fever. It helps your body respond. But not as — I have not seen heat or ….”

Mr. Trump cut short her answer.

“I think that’s a great thing to look at,” he said. “I mean you know, OK?”

As the pandemic has spread to countries experiencing hot weather, including Australia and Iran, some groups have investigated whether the warmer summer season would slow the virus. Early this month, a committee of the National Academy of Sciences looked exclusively at humidity and temperature and found that they would have a minimal impact on the virus.

In his remarks, Mr. Bryan told the briefing that the novel coronavirus dies rapidly when exposed to sunlight, high temperatures and humidity. He cited experiments the agency had conducted at a high-security laboratory in Frederick, Md.

“Our most striking observation to date is the powerful effect that solar light appears to have on killing the virus — both surfaces and in the air,” Mr. Bryan said. “We’ve seen a similar effect with both temperature and humidity as well, where increasing the temperature and humidity, or both, is generally less favorable to the virus.”

The sunlight finding was no surprise to life scientists who, for many decades, have reported that ultraviolet light — an invisible but energetic part of the sun’s electromagnetic spectrum — can damage DNA, kill viruses and turn human skin cells from healthy to cancerous.

For public health, the big challenge is widening such narrow laboratory findings so they take into account how the global environment and its changing weather and endless nuances can impact the overall result — most especially on the question of whether the virus that causes Covid-19 will diminish in the summer. This week, a pair of ecological modelers at the University of Connecticut reported evidence that balmy weather may indeed slow the coronavirus, but not enough to do away with the social-distancing measures advised by public health officials.

The inherent limitations of lab studies were driven home on April 7 in a letter to the White House from a National Academy of Sciences panel looking into research on the coronavirus. “With experimental studies,” the panel said, “environmental conditions can be controlled, but almost always the conditions fail to adequately mimic those of the natural setting.”

Katie Rogers contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Home Alone at the White House: A Sour President, With TV His Constant Companion

Westlake Legal Group home-alone-at-the-white-house-a-sour-president-with-tv-his-constant-companion Home Alone at the White House: A Sour President, With TV His Constant Companion White House Building (Washington, DC) United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Rumors and Misinformation Polls and Public Opinion News and News Media Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Westlake Legal Group 22dc-virus-memo1-facebookJumbo Home Alone at the White House: A Sour President, With TV His Constant Companion White House Building (Washington, DC) United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Rumors and Misinformation Polls and Public Opinion News and News Media Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — President Trump arrives in the Oval Office these days as late as noon, when he is usually in a sour mood after his morning marathon of television.

He has been up in the White House master bedroom as early as 5 a.m. watching Fox News, then CNN, with a dollop of MSNBC thrown in for rage viewing. He makes calls with the TV on in the background, his routine since he first arrived at the White House.

But now there are differences.

The president sees few allies no matter which channel he clicks. He is angry even with Fox, an old security blanket, for not portraying him as he would like to be seen. And he makes time to watch Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s briefings from New York, closely monitoring for a sporadic compliment or snipe.

Confined to the White House, the president is isolated from the supporters, visitors, travel and golf that once entertained him, according to more than a dozen administration officials and close advisers who spoke about Mr. Trump’s strange new life. He is tested weekly, as is Vice President Mike Pence, for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The economy — Mr. Trump’s main case for re-election — has imploded. News coverage of his handling of the coronavirus has been overwhelmingly negative as Democrats have condemned him for a lack of empathy, honesty and competence in the face of a pandemic. Even Republicans have criticized Mr. Trump’s briefings as long-winded and his rough handling of critics as unproductive.

His own internal polling shows him sliding in some swing states, a major reason he declared a temporary halt to the issuance of green cards to those outside the United States. The executive order — watered down with loopholes after an uproar from business groups — was aimed at pleasing his political base, people close to him said, and was the kind of move Mr. Trump makes when things feel out of control. Friends who have spoken to him said he seemed unsettled and worried about losing the election.

But the president’s primary focus, advisers said, is assessing how his performance on the virus is measured in the news media, and the extent to which history will blame him.

“He’s frustrated,” said Stephen Moore, an outside economic adviser to Mr. Trump who was the president’s pick to run the Federal Reserve before his history of sexist comments and lack of child support payments surfaced. “It’s like being hit with a meteor.”

Mr. Trump frequently vents about how he is portrayed. He was enraged by an article this month in which his health secretary, Alex M. Azar II, was said to have warned Mr. Trump in January about the possibility of a pandemic. Mr. Trump was upset that he was being blamed while Mr. Azar was portrayed in a more favorable light, aides said. The president told friends that he assumed Mr. Azar was working the news media to try to save his own reputation at the expense of Mr. Trump’s.

Aides said the president’s low point was in mid-March, when Mr. Trump, who had dismissed the virus as “one person coming in from China” and no worse than the flu, saw deaths and infections from Covid-19 rising daily. Mike Lindell, a Trump donor campaign surrogate and the chief executive of MyPillow, visited the White House later that month and said the president seemed so glum that Mr. Lindell pulled out his phone to show him a text message from a Democratic-voting friend of his who thought Mr. Trump was doing a good job.

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Mr. Lindell said Mr. Trump perked up after hearing the praise. “I just wanted to give him a little confidence,” Mr. Lindell said.

The daily White House coronavirus task force briefing is the one portion of the day that Mr. Trump looks forward to, although even Republicans say that the two hours of political attacks, grievances and falsehoods by the president are hurting him politically.

Mr. Trump will hear none of it. Aides say he views them as prime-time shows that are the best substitute for the rallies he can longer attend but craves.

Mr. Trump rarely attends the task force meetings that precede the briefings, and he typically does not prepare before he steps in front of the cameras. He is often seeing the final version of the day’s main talking points that aides have prepared for him for the first time although aides said he makes tweaks with a Sharpie just before he reads them live. He hastily plows through them, usually in a monotone, in order to get to the question-and-answer bullying session with reporters that he relishes.

The briefing’s critics, including Mr. Cuomo, have pointed out the obvious: With two hours of the president’s day dedicated to hosting what is still referred to as a prime-time news briefing, who is going to actually fix the pandemic?

Even Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, one of the experts appointed to advise the president on the best way to handle the outbreak, has complained that the amount of time he must spend onstage in the briefings each day has a “draining” effect on him.

They have the opposite effect on the president. How he arrived at them was almost an accident.

Mr. Trump became enraged watching the coverage of his 10-minute Oval Office address in March that was rife with inaccuracies and had little in terms of action for him to announce. He complained to aides that there were few people on television willing to defend him.

The solution, aides said, came two days later, when Mr. Trump appeared in the Rose Garden to declare a national emergency and answer questions from reporters. As he admonished journalists for asking “nasty” questions, Mr. Trump found the back-and-forth he had been missing. The virus had not been a perfect enemy — it was impervious to his browbeating — but baiting and attacking reporters energized him.

“I don’t take responsibility at all,” Mr. Trump told White House correspondents in answer to one question.

His first news conference in the briefing room took place the next day, on a Saturday, after Mr. Trump arrived unannounced in the Situation Room, wearing a polo shirt and baseball cap, and told the group he planned to attend the briefing and watch from a chair on the side. When aides told him that reporters would simply yell questions at him, even if he was not on the small stage, he agreed to take the podium. He has not looked back since.

When Mr. Trump finishes up 90 or more minutes later, he heads back to the Oval Office to watch the end of the briefings on TV and compare notes with whoever is around from his inner circle.

That circle has shrunk significantly as the president, who advisers say is more sensitive to criticism than at nearly any other point in his presidency, has come to rely on only a handful of longtime aides.

Hope Hicks, a former communications director who rejoined the White House this year as counselor to the president, maintains his daily schedule. His former personal assistant, Johnny McEntee, now runs presidential personnel.

Ms. Hicks and Mr. McEntee, along with Dan Scavino, the president’s social media guru who was promoted this week to deputy chief of staff for communications, provide Mr. Trump with a link to the better old days. The three are the ones outside advisers get in touch with to find out if it’s a good time to reach the president or pass on a message.

Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s new chief of staff, is still finding his footing and adjusting to the nocturnal habits of Mr. Trump, who recently placed a call to Mr. Meadows, a senior administration official said, at 3:19 a.m. Mr. Meadows works closely with another trusted insider: Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and de facto chief of staff.

“They have been really confined and figuratively imprisoned,” Matthew Dallek, a political historian at George Washington University, said about presidents who have kept close to the White House in times of crisis.

While many officials have been encouraged to work remotely and the Old Executive Office Building is empty, the West Wing’s tight quarters are still packed. Mr. Pence and his top aides, usually stationed across the street, are working exclusively from the White House, along with most of the senior aides, who dine from the takeout mess while the in-house dining room remains closed. Few aides wear masks except for Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser, and some of his staff.

As soon as he gets to the Oval Office, the president often receives his daily intelligence briefing, and Mr. Pence sometimes joins him. Then there are meetings with his national security team or economic advisers.

Throughout the day, Mr. Trump calls governors, will have lunch with cabinet secretaries and pores over newspapers, which he treats like official briefing books and reads primarily in paper clippings that aides bring to him. He calls aides about stories he sees, either to order them to get a world leader on the phone or to ask questions about something he has read.

Many friends said they were less likely to call Mr. Trump’s cellphone, assuming he does not want to hear their advice. Those who do reach him said phone calls have grown more clipped: Conversations that used to last 20 minutes now wrap up in three.

Mr. Trump will still take calls from Brad Parscale, his campaign manager, on the latest on polling data. The president will in turn call Mr. Meadows and Kellyanne Conway about key congressional races.

The president’s aides have slowly lined up more opportunities to keep him engaged. Last week, a small group of coronavirus survivors were led into the White House, and Mr. Trump took one of them to see the White House physician. Then Mr. Trump hosted a celebration of America’s truckers on the South Lawn.

After he is done watching the end of the daily White House briefing — which goes seven days a week, sometimes as late as 8 p.m. — Mr. Trump eats his usual comfort foods, including French fries, in his private dining room off the Oval Office. He asks staff members who may still be around for an assessment of how the briefing went.

Lately, aides say, his mood has started to brighten as his administration moves to open the economy. His new line, both in public and in private, is that there is reason to be optimistic.

“And at the end of that tunnel, we see light,” Mr. Trump said in the Rose Garden last week.

If he is not staying late in the West Wing, Mr. Trump occasionally has dinner with his wife, Melania Trump, and their son, Barron, who recently celebrated his 14th birthday at home.

By the end of the day, Mr. Trump turns back to his constant companion, television. Upstairs in the White House private quarters — often in his own bedroom or in a nearby den — he flicks from channel to channel, reviewing his performance.

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The Cold Calculations Governors Will Have to Make Before Reopening

Westlake Legal Group 20dc-trump-governors1-facebookJumbo The Cold Calculations Governors Will Have to Make Before Reopening United States Politics and Government United States Economy Trump, Donald J States (US) Shutdowns (Institutional) Quarantines Layoffs and Job Reductions Governors (US) Federal-State Relations (US) Emanuel, Rahm Emanuel, Ezekiel J Deaths (Fatalities) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — How many deaths are acceptable to reopen the country before the coronavirus is completely eradicated? “One is too many,” President Trump insists, a politically safe formulation that any leader would instinctively articulate.

But that is not the reality of Mr. Trump’s reopen-soon approach. Nor for that matter will it be the bottom line for even those governors who want to go slower. Until there is a vaccine or a cure for the coronavirus, the macabre truth is that any plan to begin restoring public life invariably means trading away some lives. The question is how far will leaders go to keep it to a minimum.

Some of the more provocative voices on the political right say that with tens of millions of Americans out of work and businesses collapsing, some people must be sacrificed for the greater good of restoring the economy quickly. To many, that sounds unthinkable, but less inflammatory experts and policymakers also acknowledge that there are enormous costs to keeping so much of the work force idle, with many of the unemployed struggling to pay for food, shelter or medical care for other health challenges.

And so the nation’s leaders are left with the excruciating dilemma of figuring out how to balance life and livelihood on a scale unseen in generations. “Every governor in the nation is asking that,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, where 2,700 have died and more than 1 million have lost jobs, said this week. “There’s no such thing as zero risk in the world in which we’re living. But we know that not taking measures to control the spread means that’s going to translate into lives lost.”

With no cure available for the coronavirus and no vaccine likely for another year or more, governors in hard-hit states are seeking ways to minimize the number of additional deaths by staging and structuring any reopening. Time and testing are key, according to public health experts. The longer a quarantine can be extended the better, they say, and the more testing made available, the easier it would be to properly calibrate a reopening and respond to any new outbreak.

Pushing to restore business sooner rather than later, Mr. Trump has dismissed waiting until comprehensive testing provides a better map of where the infection has spread. Instead, the federal government’s guidelines envision “sentinel surveillance” testing of vulnerable places like nursing homes and inner-city health centers, while gradually reopening businesses, schools and other venues in stages with precautions like masks, gloves and social distancing.

All of which could mitigate future infections but would not halt them. The reason the death toll projection may be closer to 60,000 rather than the 2 million of one estimate was because society largely shut down. One recent study said that the 60,000 deaths would have been 6,000 had quarantine measures been imposed just two weeks earlier. So easing measures means the death toll will go up even with safeguards.

But remaining closed is not without a cost either. In just four weeks, a staggering 22 million Americans have lost their jobs, the equivalent of the entire labor force of 23 states.

The question divides not only the nation but even families. Rahm Emanuel, the former mayor of Chicago and White House chief of staff, and his brother, Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, a prominent medical ethicist and vice provost of global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, have engaged in a running quarrel about how soon society should reopen.

Rahm Emanuel considers it untenable to keep most of the country closed until the virus is completely under control, while Ezekiel Emanuel maintains that the pandemic is too much of a threat to rush back to life as usual.

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“There’s nothing you can do risk free. Nothing,” Rahm Emanuel said last week. “And the missing ingredient is what do you think the public can accept and what will you do to be forthright and honest?” The public, he said, understands that life comes with peril as long as measures are taken to minimize it. “If you reduce the speed limit dramatically, you’d have less deaths,” Mr. Emanuel said. “But we allow it to go to a certain level.”

In a separate call, Ezekiel Emanuel said: “I think Rahm is wrong on how bad it could be by letting it run around the population. I’m not for keeping the economy closed forever. Sometimes my brother paints me in a picture. But you have to do it safely. Safely doesn’t mean no deaths. I never said no Covid deaths. But you have to do it in a way that is measured, not irresponsible where you’re going to get to 2 million deaths.”

The trade-offs have stirred angry exchanges since the start of the lockdowns. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas, who is 70, said last month that older people like himself should be ready to risk death to save the economy for their grandchildren, comments he defended on Fox News on Monday night. In a separate appearance on Fox last week, Dr. Mehmet Oz, the television host, cited a study to argue that reopening schools “may only cost us 2 to 3 percent in terms of total mortality,” calling it “a trade-off some folks would consider.” After a backlash, he said he “misspoke” and expressed regret that he “confused and upset people.”

Some of those charged with making these decisions said far more information is required to reopen with enough confidence to constrain further spread of the virus and avoid a deadly second wave. Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey said his state would need to double the number of tests.

“You have to crack the back of the personal health piece before you can crack the back of the economic piece,” he said this week. Noting that 177 people in his state died the day before, he added: “The house is still on fire and the fire brigade is still out there trying to put the fire out.”

The situation, not surprisingly, looks different in different parts of the country. The trade-offs in Wyoming, where there have been six deaths, or in Hawaii, with 12 deaths, hardly compare to those in New Jersey, where more than 5,000 have died, or in New York, where more than 15,000 have died.

The United States has always tolerated a certain amount of preventable death. To use Rahm Emanuel’s example, Americans reduce traffic fatalities by requiring seatbelts and airbags, imposing speed limits and employing police. But until better technology is perfected, the only way to actually stop all car crashes — banning cars — is untenable, so some deaths are countenanced, a total of 38,800 in 2019.

Auto accidents are not communicable so not an apples-to-apples comparison to the coronavirus. But the ordinary flu still claims thousands of lives a year — anywhere from 12,000 in the 2011-12 season up to an estimated 61,000 in 2017-18 — which society accepts without stay-at-home orders. Those seasonal deaths, however, are spread over many months, while the coronavirus hit with catastrophic fury in a matter of weeks and would have caused even more devastation without the quarantines.

Government makes money-versus-lives trade-offs all the time. When a regulatory agency weighs a new safety rule, it measures the cost to industry or consumers against the gain by assigning a dollar value to each life that might be saved. If a new rule costs billions of dollars but would only prevent a few dozen deaths, it likely would not be adopted — even though someone would die as a result.

The idea that the government translates life to dollars and cents may sound bloodless but it is not unusual. A White House report from 2017, for instance, estimated the cost of 41,000 deaths attributed to opioid overdoses in 2015 at $431.7 billion, an average of $10.5 million per person.

By that calculation, the 60,000 deaths projected from the coronavirus would be valued at $631.8 billion — while the roughly 2 million lives theoretically saved by lockdowns would be worth about $21 trillion, or nearly eight times the $2.7 trillion in relief spending brokered by Congress and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

But James H. Stock, a Harvard economist who served on President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, said this crisis goes beyond such ordinary calculations because a shuttered economy represents an almost existential threat to the very idea of America.

“We really have to be talking not just about our reduction in consumption in the short run but what this is going to be doing to the economy and the republic in the long run,” he said. “It’s those big issues that we’ve been afraid to talk about. A year of this and we would just see an unrecognizable transformation of what America would look like coming out of it.”

Stephen Moore, a conservative economist who serves on Mr. Trump’s reopening committee, said those advocating restarting the economy are caricatured as putting profits over lives.

“I reject this idea that the people who are for keeping the economy shut down are the angels because they’re the ones who care about human life,” said Mr. Moore, who has coordinated with lockdown protesters. “What about the poverty? What about the suicides? What about the child abuse cases and the alcoholism and the drug overdoses and the depression and all of the negative effects to health and well-being that are associated with an economy in recession?”

Some scholars argue that reopening too quickly would actually hurt the economy, particularly if it resulted in a second wave that destroyed public confidence. A study of the 1918 influenza pandemic found that cities that closed schools and banned public gatherings earlier and kept them shut longer not only had fewer deaths but emerged better economically.

Governor Murphy said resuming public life would not succeed if people did not feel certain that the virus had been contained. Indeed, 76 percent of Americans said social distancing should continue as long as needed to curb the virus even if it meant continued damage to the economy, according to a new poll by Politico and Morning Consult, while just 14 percent favored an end to restrictions to stimulate the economy even if it meant spreading the virus.

“If you opened every restaurant in New Jersey tomorrow, I don’t think anybody would show up,” Governor Murphy said. “It’s not like we’re holding back some pent-up demand. I don’t blame them — there are folks out there who are frustrated, who have cabin fever, who want to break free. So do I, by the way. But I think folks also want to have confidence that they’re not going to get sick and die.”

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Coronavirus Vaccine Doctor Says He Was Fired Over Doubts on Hydroxychloroquine

WASHINGTON — The official who led the federal agency involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine said on Wednesday that he was removed from his post after he pressed for rigorous vetting of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug embraced by President Trump as a coronavirus treatment, and that the administration had put “politics and cronyism ahead of science.”

Rick Bright was abruptly dismissed this week as the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, and removed as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response. He was given a narrower job at the National Institutes of Health.

In a scorching statement, Dr. Bright, who received a Ph.D. in immunology and molecular pathogenesis from Emory University, assailed the leadership at the health department, saying he was pressured to direct money toward hydroxychloroquine, one of several “potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections” and repeatedly described by the president as a potential “game changer” in the fight against the virus.

“I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” he said in his statement. “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”

Doubts about the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus and the lack of evidence about the drug’s effectiveness — including some small studies that indicated patients could be harmed — appear to have dampened Mr. Trump’s enthusiasm for it.

As the seriousness of the pandemic became clearer in mid-March, the president seized on anecdotal reports about victims of the coronavirus who recovered quickly after using the drug. Desperate for good news as he watched the death toll climb and the stock market plummet, Mr. Trump could hardly contain his excitement.

In a post on Twitter on March 21, the president urged federal officials to quickly approve the use of hydroxychloroquine with an antibiotic called azithromycin — a combination that he believed could work on the coronavirus.

“Hopefully they will BOTH (H works better with A, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents) be put in use IMMEDIATELY,” he tweeted. “PEOPLE ARE DYING, MOVE FAST, and GOD BLESS EVERYONE!”

By then, Mr. Trump’s favorite Fox News hosts were echoing his optimism that hydroxychloroquine could be a magic bullet against the virus. A day after meeting in the Oval Office with one of the hosts, Laura Ingraham, and two doctors promoting the drug as a cure-all, Mr. Trump became First Salesman, promoting it from the White House briefing room.

“I’ll say it again: What do you have to lose?” Mr. Trump said on April 4, carefully pronouncing hydroxychloroquine. His presidential prescription: “Take it.”

Video

transcript

‘What Do You Have to Lose?’ How Trump Has Promoted Malaria Drug

President Trump has pushed a malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, as a treatment for coronavirus patients. A recent study found that patients taking it had higher death rates compared with those who did not.

It is known as a malaria drug, and it’s been around for a long time. And it’s very powerful, but the nice part is it’s been around for a long time, so we know that if things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody. And it’s shown very encouraging very, very encouraging early results. There’s a possibility — a possibility — and I say it: What do you have to lose? I’ll say it again, what do you have to lose? Take it. I really think they should take it. But it’s their choice, and it’s their doctor’s choice or the doctor’s and the hospital. But hydroxychloroquine, try it if you’d like. It will be, not a game changer because that’s not a nice enough term — it will be wonderful. It’ll be so beautiful. It’ll be a gift from heaven. If it works that would be great. If it doesn’t work, we know for many years — malaria, it’s incredible what it’s done for malaria. It’s incredible what it’s done for lupus. But it doesn’t kill people. But if it was somebody else other than President Trump that put it forward, if some other person put it forward that said, “Oh, let’s go with it, you know, what do you have to lose?”

Westlake Legal Group 22dc-virus-drug1-videoSixteenByNine3000 Coronavirus Vaccine Doctor Says He Was Fired Over Doubts on Hydroxychloroquine Whistle-Blowers Vaccination and Immunization United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J national institutes of health Hydroxychloroquine (Drug) Health and Human Services Department Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Chloroquine (Drug) Bright, Rick A Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority
President Trump has pushed a malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, as a treatment for coronavirus patients. A recent study found that patients taking it had higher death rates compared with those who did not.CreditCredit…Craig Lassig/Reuters

In briefing after briefing with reporters at the White House, Mr. Trump defied the voices of medical experts and some of his own top advisers — including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease specialist and an adviser to the coronavirus task force. They cautioned that hydroxychloroquine, which is used to treat autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus as well as malaria, needed to undergo the same kind of rigorous evaluation that other drugs do.

At the end of March, a division of Novartis, a leading pharmaceutical company, donated 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate to the health department’s stockpile for the possible use of treating Covid-19. Mr. Trump heralded the announcement a few days later, saying that the drug “may work, then again, it may not work.”

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But in mid-April, a small drug trial in Brazil was halted after some patients developed irregular heart rates. Then a study this week of 368 V.A. patients, which has not been peer-reviewed, found that it did not help patients avoid the need for ventilators, and that the use of the drug alone was associated with an increased risk of death. And , a panel of the government’s own experts at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said there was “insufficient data” to recommend taking it to treat symptoms from the virus.

The president has not talked much since then about hydroxychloroquine.

In his statement, Dr. Bright did not directly name Mr. Trump. But the searing language he used left little doubt that he viewed the administration’s support for the drug as pressure to ignore scientific facts in favor of politics.

“My professional background has prepared me for a moment like this — to confront and defeat a deadly virus that threatens Americans and people around the globe,” Dr. Bright wrote. “To this point, I have led the government’s efforts to invest in the best science available to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“Unfortunately, this resulted in clashes with H.H.S. political leadership, including criticism for my proactive efforts to invest early into vaccines and supplies critical to saving American lives. I also resisted efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections,” he said, adding that hydroxychloroquine was “promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which clearly lack scientific merit.”

But Trump administration officials painted a different picture of Dr. Bright’s tenure.

Dr. Bright and Dr. Robert Kadlec, the assistant health secretary for preparedness and response, clashed repeatedly, according to those officials. While Dr. Bright followed careful procedures, they said, he was a polarizing figure within the Department of Health and Human Services, where concerns had circulated about a management style that was described as confrontational.

Those officials said that there had been discussions about removing Dr. Bright for many months, and that they came to a head after emails were leaked to Reuters last week detailing internal discussions about chloroquines.

A senior administration official said that Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, told the coronavirus task force members in their meeting on Wednesday about Dr. Bright’s departure from BARDA, describing it as a promotion to the vice president. Officials left the meeting and learned of Dr. Bright’s public statement.

In a statement, Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said that “Dr. Bright has departed BARDA to N.I.H., where he’ll work on development and deployment of novel point-of-care testing platforms.”

She added: “As it relates to chloroquine, it was Dr. Bright who requested an Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for donations of chloroquine that Bayer and Sandoz recently made to the Strategic National Stockpile for use on Covid-19 patients. The E.U.A. is what made the donated product available for use in combating Covid-19.”

Asked about Dr. Bright and his transfer on Wednesday at the daily White House briefing, Mr. Trump said he did not know who he was.

“I never heard of him,” the president told reporters. “You just mentioned the name, I never heard of him. When did this happen? I never heard of him. The guy says he was pushed out of a job. Maybe he was. Maybe he wasn’t; I’d have to hear the other side. I don’t know who he is.”

A career government official who has led BARDA since 2016, Dr. Bright pointed specifically to the initial efforts to make chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine widely available before it was scientifically tested for efficacy with the coronavirus.

“While I am prepared to look at all options and to think ‘outside the box’ for effective treatments, I rightly resisted efforts to provide an unproven drug on demand to the American public,” Dr. Bright said. He went on to describe what he said ultimately happened: “I insisted that these drugs be provided only to hospitalized patients with confirmed Covid-19 while under the supervision of a physician.”

A person familiar with Dr. Bright’s account said that Dr. Bright was pressured to rush access to the drug after the president and Larry Ellison, the chairman and chief technology officer of Oracle, had a conversation about chloroquines. Dr. Bright was then directed to put in place a nationwide expanded access program to make the drugs available on a broad basis without specific controls in place, according to the person familiar with his account.

Medical experts say that it is still not known whether hydroxychloroquine might emerge as an effective treatment for the most devastating symptoms of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The studies in Brazil and at the Department of Veterans Affairs were small and limited. Comprehensive, peer-reviewed studies have yet to be completed, and while hospitals are using the drug, many doctors acknowledge they are doing so only because they have few other tools to help dying patients.

And inside the White House, the drug still has its true believers, including Peter Navarro, a trade adviser who has been put in charge of procuring protective gear and other medical supplies to fight the virus. Mr. Navarro is relentless with anyone in the West Wing who will listen, encouraging the government to keep stockpiling the drug and dismissing the recent studies as “deeply flawed.”

The Brazil study gave doses of hydroxychloroquine in excess of the levels recommended by the Food and Drug Administration, Mr. Navarro said in an interview. The veterans study administered the medicine too late and focused narrowly on an older population with high incidences of cardiac failure, diabetes and lung disease, among other issues, he insisted.

“None of this was reported by a mainstream media which appears incapable of reading anything more than study headlines,” he said. “To date, almost 40 studies have reported apparent usefulness of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine in shortening length of hospital stay, improving symptoms, and resolving lung lesions as seen on X-rays.”

And some doctors around the country are still hopeful that more complete tests of the drug might still yield some positive news.

Dr. William W. O’Neill, a cardiologist at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit who is organizing a large randomized study using the drug as a preventive medication in health care workers and emergency medical workers, said he had “cautious optimism” but urged the public to avoid drawing premature conclusions.

“Everybody is desperate to find out all the answers,” Dr. O’Neill said. “But we have to be careful about jumping to conclusions either way.”

Dr. Bright said his superiors at the Department of Health and Human Services were doing exactly that.

Dr. Bright is represented by two lawyers who work with whistle-blowers, and who represented Christine Blasey Ford, who testified against the nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, accusing him of sexual misconduct decades ago, a claim he denied.

In a statement, they called Dr. Bright’s change in position “retaliation, plain and simple” and said they planned to ask for an investigation.

Michael D. Shear reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York. Katie Thomas contributed reporting from Chicago, and Kenneth P. Vogel and Ana Swanson from Washington.

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Social Distancing for Coronavirus Has a History

Westlake Legal Group 00dc-virus-distance1-facebookJumbo Social Distancing for Coronavirus Has a History Veterans Affairs Department University of Michigan United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J St Louis (Mo) Shutdowns (Institutional) Sandia National Laboratories Quarantines Philadelphia (Pa) Obama, Barack Influenza Epidemic (1918-19) Influenza Health and Human Services Department Epidemics Defense Department Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Bush, George W

WASHINGTON — Fourteen years ago, two federal government doctors, Richard Hatchett and Carter Mecher, met with a colleague at a burger joint in suburban Washington for a final review of a proposal they knew would be treated like a piñata: telling Americans to stay home from work and school the next time the country was hit by a deadly pandemic.

When they presented their plan not long after, it was met with skepticism and a degree of ridicule by senior officials, who like others in the United States had grown accustomed to relying on the pharmaceutical industry, with its ever-growing array of new treatments, to confront evolving health challenges.

Drs. Hatchett and Mecher were proposing instead that Americans in some places might have to turn back to an approach, self-isolation, first widely employed in the Middle Ages.

How that idea — born out of a request by President George W. Bush to ensure the nation was better prepared for the next contagious disease outbreak — became the heart of the national playbook for responding to a pandemic is one of the untold stories of the coronavirus crisis.

It required the key proponents — Dr. Mecher, a Department of Veterans Affairs physician, and Dr. Hatchett, an oncologist turned White House adviser — to overcome intense initial opposition.

It brought their work together with that of a Defense Department team assigned to a similar task.

And it had some unexpected detours, including a deep dive into the history of the 1918 Spanish flu and an important discovery kicked off by a high school research project pursued by the daughter of a scientist at the Sandia National Laboratories.

The concept of social distancing is now intimately familiar to almost everyone. But as it first made its way through the federal bureaucracy in 2006 and 2007, it was viewed as impractical, unnecessary and politically infeasible.

“There were two words between ‘shut’ and ‘up’” initially, said Dr. Howard Markel, who directs the University of Michigan’s Center for the History of Medicine and who played a role in shaping the policy as a member of the Pentagon research team. “It was really ugly.”

Dr. Mecher was there when Dr. Hatchett presented government public health experts the plan that the two of them and Dr. Lisa M. Koonin of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had reviewed over burgers and beer.

“People could not believe that the strategy would be effective or even feasible,” Dr. Mecher recalled.

But within the Bush administration, they were encouraged to keep at it and follow the science. And ultimately, their arguments proved persuasive.

In February 2007, the C.D.C. made their approach — bureaucratically called Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions, or NPIs — official U.S. policy.

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The effort began in the summer of 2005 when Mr. Bush, already concerned with bioterrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, read a forthcoming book, “The Great Influenza,” by John M. Barry, about the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918.

Mr. Bush’s concern was elevated by a string of new outbreaks caused by infectious diseases transferring from birds and other animals to humans, including an avian flu outbreak that year in Vietnam. Because there was no vaccine for these new threats, they could spread rapidly.

“A pandemic is a lot like a forest fire,” Mr. Bush said in a speech at the National Institutes of Health. “If caught early it might be extinguished with limited damage. If allowed to smolder, undetected, it can grow to an inferno that can spread quickly beyond our ability to control it.”

To develop ideas, the Bush administration enlisted Dr. Hatchett, who had served as a White House biodefense policy adviser, and Dr. Mecher, who was a Veterans Affairs medical officer in Georgia overseeing care in the Southeast.

“‘Someone from the White House is on the phone,’” Dr. Mecher, then 49, recalled his secretary telling him in the fall of 2005, her voice expressing some disbelief.

A blunt-speaking, Chicago-born intensive care physician, Dr. Mecher had almost no pandemic policy expertise. Instead, he was recruited because they needed someone who understood how a hospital actually worked, said Dr. Rajeev Venkayya, who was a special assistant to Mr. Bush for biodefense.

Dr. Koonin, who worked on preparedness planning at the C.D.C., also played a key role.

Strategic, out-of-the-box thinkers,” is how Dr. Venkayya, who now oversees vaccine production at Takeda, a Japan-based pharmaceutical company, described what he was looking for.

Given the increased danger from new strains of influenza and the reality that existing antiviral drugs like Tamiflu did not work against all contagious diseases, Drs. Hatchett and Mecher and their team began exploring other ways to combat a large-scale contagion.

It was about that time that Dr. Mecher heard from Robert J. Glass, a senior scientist at Sandia in New Mexico who specialized in building advanced models to explain how complex systems work — and what can cause catastrophic failures.

Dr. Glass’s daughter Laura, then 14, had done a class project in which she built a model of social networks at her Albuquerque high school, and when Dr. Glass looked at it, he was intrigued.

Students are so closely tied together — in social networks and on school buses and in classrooms — that they were a near-perfect vehicle for a contagious disease to spread.

Dr. Glass piggybacked on his daughter’s work to explore with her what effect breaking up these networks would have on knocking down the disease.

The outcome of their research was startling. By closing the schools in a hypothetical town of 10,000 people, only 500 people got sick. If they remained open, half of the population would be infected.

“My God, we could use the same results she has and work from there,” Dr. Glass recalled thinking. He took their preliminary data and built on it by running it through the supercomputers at Sandia, more typically used to engineer nuclear weapons. (His daughter’s project was entered in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2006.)

Dr. Mecher received the results at his office in Washington and was amazed.

If cities closed their public schools, the data suggested, the spread of a disease would be significantly slowed, making this move perhaps the most important of all of the social distancing options they were considering.

“Targeted social distancing strategies can be designed to effectively mitigate the local progression of pandemic influenza without the use of vaccine or antiviral drugs,” concluded a study that Dr. Glass published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal. Laura, then a high school junior, got a credit.

Drs. Hatchett and Mecher and their team soon found themselves measuring the width of the standard school bus seat and the average classroom size in the United States, calculating how closely spaced students are and agreeing that any plan would have to feature closing schools.

At the same time, they were circling in on another fundamental challenge: If a government was going to rely on the blunt instrument of social distancing to prevent widespread death, how early would it have to act?

Dr. Markel had spent his career studying contagious disease outbreaks. Recently, he had been working on a related assignment from the Pentagon, which had a narrower but equally urgent concern: the vulnerability of U.S. military personnel to a viral health threat.

Asia was hit in 2005 by a bird flu that crossed over to humans and spread to locations where the United States had forces stationed, including the Philippines. That led Dr. Markel to propose — after consulting a dictionary and thesaurus — what he called “protective sequestration,” like keeping military personnel in mass isolation on docked ships.

The bird flu, while often fatal, did not continue to cross over in large numbers to humans, and the steps he was proposing turned out to be unnecessary. But the work led him to think about the need for a large-scale isolation plan for the United States.

Dr. Markel had published a book, “When Germs Travel,” in 2004 that examined six major epidemics since 1900 and how they had traveled across the United States. He decided to work with Dr. Martin S. Cetron, the director of the C.D.C.’s quarantine division, to look more closely at the lessons of the Spanish flu of 1918.

Officials in Philadelphia did not want to let the flu disrupt daily life, so they went ahead in September 1918 with a long planned parade that drew hundreds of thousands of spectators to promote war bonds.

In St. Louis, by contrast, the city health commissioner quickly moved to close schools, churches, theaters, saloons, sporting events and other public gathering spots.

Dr. Markel and his team set out to confirm just how important a role timing had played in reducing deaths. They gathered census records and thousands of other documents detailing the date of the first infection, the first death, the first social distancing policies and how long they were left in place in 43 American cities.

Separately, Dr. Mecher and his team looked at the experience of 17 cities, using newspaper clips and other sources.

Both teams came to the same conclusion and published papers on their findings within months of each other in 2007. Early, aggressive action to limit social interaction using multiple measures like closing schools or shutting down public gatherings was vital to limiting the death toll, they found.

“It’s like treating heart-attack patients,” Dr. Mecher said. “Timing matters.”

After decades of advances by the nation’s pharmaceutical companies — finding treatments or vaccines for major illnesses, including H.I.V. and smallpox — Americans by the early 21st century had a built-in expectation that no matter what the ailment, there must be some kind of available fix. Locking your family inside your home seemed backward, and encouraging people not to go to work economically disastrous.

So the considerable skepticism among local officials, public health experts and policymakers in Washington was not surprising.

One particularly vociferous critic was Dr. D.A. Henderson, who had been the leader of the international effort to eradicate smallpox and had been named by Mr. Bush to help oversee the nation’s biodefense efforts after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Dr. Henderson was convinced that it made no sense to force schools to close or public gatherings to stop. Teenagers would escape their homes to hang out at the mall. School lunch programs would close, and impoverished children would not have enough to eat. Hospital staffs would have a hard time going to work if their children were at home.

The answer, he insisted, was to tough it out: Let the pandemic spread, treat people who get sick and work quickly to develop a vaccine to prevent it from coming back.

The administration ultimately sided with the proponents of social distancing and shutdowns — though their victory was little noticed outside of public health circles. Their policy would become the basis for government planning and would be used extensively in simulations used to prepare for pandemics, and in a limited way in 2009 during an outbreak of the influenza called H1N1.

Then the coronavirus came, and the plan was put to work across the country for the first time.

Dr. Mecher was a key voice on the “Red Dawn” email chain of public health experts in raising early warnings this year about the coronavirus outbreak and Mr. Trump’s reluctance to embrace shutdowns and social distancing. Others involved in development of the policy watched with mixed feelings as their policy was put into action.

Dr. Markel called it “very gratifying to see our work used to help save lives.” But, he added, “it is also horrifying.”

“We always knew this would be applied in worst-case scenarios,” he said. “Even when you are working on dystopian concepts, you always hope it will never be used.”

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As Leaders Urge Face Masks, Their Behavior Muffles the Message

Westlake Legal Group 22facemasks-01-copy-facebookJumbo-v2 As Leaders Urge Face Masks, Their Behavior Muffles the Message United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Protective Clothing and Gear Politics and Government Polis, Jared S (1975- ) Pence, Mike Mayors Masks Governors (US) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — When Vice President Mike Pence descended onto the tarmac in Colorado Springs last Saturday, his first appearance outside the White House grounds in over a month, he was greeted by the Democratic governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, who was wearing a face mask emblazoned with images from his state flag.

Mr. Pence tapped elbows with Mr. Polis, rather than offering a hand, but he kept his face uncovered, a decision in line with President Trump’s position: Mr. Trump said this month that he would not follow guidelines from his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and wear a face mask.

The tarmac photo opportunity between two elected officials in various states of facial undress underscored how politicians are, or aren’t, modeling the precautions they have recommended to their constituents.

For the most part, top officials — from governors and mayors to Mr. Trump and his team — have chosen not to use masks, at least in public or at televised events, even as they encourage people to wear them. Some political analysts say image-conscious politicians may resist masks, even if they are warranted, for fear that the coverings might make them look pessimistic or nervous.

But leaders inevitably risk looking hypocritical by preaching a message about masks and then forgoing, especially when they are surrounded by aides and others. Health experts say modeling behavior is the right thing for public officials to do.

“If you’re instructing people to do stuff and you yourself aren’t doing it, that often sends the wrong message, and that’s an inconsistency in the guidance,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Political advisers acknowledged that more might go into the decision to don a mask than the advice of health experts. “Masks, whether worn by superheroes or villains, hide your identity,” said Philippe Reines, a longtime aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “Not always a good idea when you’re selling yourself.”

The decision of whether to appear in public in a face mask does not seem to break down by political party, or by whether a lawmaker represents one of the hot spots of the outbreak.

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For instance, Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, has been wearing a mask in public since the C.D.C. put out its recommendation, while Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, a Democrat, has defended his decision not to cover his face during news conferences. Both governors lead states with widespread outbreaks of the coronavirus.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Democrat of Michigan, was photographed in a mask on April 14 while she toured an alternative care facility.

Last weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, a Democrat who recently issued an executive order requiring New Yorkers to wear a mask in many public places, was seen leaving his house for a walk with what appeared to be a bandanna tied around his face, the first time the public had seen him cover up.

His rule of thumb, aides said, is to wear a mask or face covering, in public or in private, whenever he is less than six feet from anyone else. That doesn’t include his daily news conference, where reporters and government officials sit far apart from one another.

Mr. DeSantis was slow to shut down his state but quicker to don a mask in public, being photographed wearing one on April 8.

Several other governors have worn face coverings in public, including Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, and J.B. Pritzker of Illinois and Jay Inslee of Washington, both Democrats.

“I’ve been wearing a mask when I go out,” Mr. Pritzker told reporters on April 5, after entering the briefing room with his mouth and nose covered. “I did it this morning when I was out, and I did it when I came here.”

Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey, also a Democrat, said at a news conference this month that he had taken his mask off “because otherwise I’m not sure you’d be able to understand us.”

“We’ll keep them on for the balance of any amount of time we’re remotely near anybody,” Mr. Murphy said.

On Capitol Hill, many senators have not worn masks during their pro forma sessions. But the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, a Republican, was photographed in a surgical mask outside of the Senate on Monday, removing it to deliver his remarks on the Senate floor. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday simply pulled a blue patterned scarf over her face as she arrived at and departed her news conference.

At the White House, aides have dismissed the few National Security Council officials who wear masks in the West Wing as “alarmists.” And Mr. Trump appeared to scoff at a reporter who tried to ask a question at a recent news conference while wearing a mask, saying he could “barely” hear his question.

Administration officials also dismissed Mr. Polis’s decision to wear a mask while greeting Mr. Pence as a bit of political theater. (Mr. Polis’s office did not return a phone call on Tuesday.) The vice president, aides said, did not need to wear one because he is tested regularly for the coronavirus — a faulty argument, according to public health experts.

“When the face-covering guidelines were developed, it was with the intention to not only protect yourself, but primarily to protect others from asymptomatic spread,” said Katie Miller, Mr. Pence’s spokeswoman. “Vice President Pence is negative for Covid-19 and is therefore not asymptomatic.”

Mr. Pence could, of course, contract the virus between tests. More important, public health experts noted that the tests themselves were not infallible.

Even in Covid-19 patients who are showing symptoms, diagnostic tests may detect the virus only 75 percent of the time, said Dr. Mark Loeb, a microbiologist and infectious disease specialist at McMaster University, and it isn’t clear how sensitive the tests are in asymptomatic cases.

“We don’t actually have the estimates for the sensitivity, the ability to rule out false negatives, for asymptomatic testing,” Dr. Loeb said. “So it’s certainly something, but it doesn’t necessarily rule out infection.”

At a White House news conference on Monday night, Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator, also emphasized that tests were not always reliable.

Other experts said that, while preventing asymptomatic transmission is the medical goal of the guidelines on masks, it is not the only reason for public officials to wear them. By wearing masks in public, officials model the behavior they are asking citizens to adopt and can help influence people to take the guidelines seriously.

There is disagreement within the medical community on how effective cloth masks — as opposed to surgical or N95 masks — are in preventing asymptomatic transmission, Dr. Adalja said, but “if you’re part of a team that’s actually advocating people to wear those masks, then I think it becomes odd if you’re not wearing a mask.”

“You can do it,” he said. “You don’t have to do it. I am choosing not to do it.”

“Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens — I don’t know,” he added. “Somehow, I don’t see it for myself.”

Annie Karni reported from Washington, and Maggie Astor from New York. Kitty Bennett contributed research and Emily Cochrane contributed reporting from Washington.

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Chinese Agents Spread Messages That Sowed Virus Panic in U.S., Officials Say

Westlake Legal Group 20dc-virus-chinadisinfo1-facebookJumbo Chinese Agents Spread Messages That Sowed Virus Panic in U.S., Officials Say Xi Jinping Trump, Donald J State Department Social Media Rumors and Misinformation National Security Council Homeland Security Department Federal Bureau of Investigation Facebook Inc Espionage and Intelligence Services Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Defense Department Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Communist Party of China China Central Television central intelligence agency Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Spread the word, the messages said: The Trump administration was about to lock down the entire country.

“They will announce this as soon as they have troops in place to help prevent looters and rioters,” warned one of the messages, which cited a source in the Department of Homeland Security. “He said he got the call last night and was told to pack and be prepared for the call today with his dispatch orders.”

Since that wave of panic, United States intelligence agencies have assessed that Chinese operatives helped push the messages across platforms, according to six American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to publicly discuss intelligence matters. The amplification techniques are alarming to officials because the disinformation showed up as texts on many Americans’ cellphones, a tactic that several of the officials said they had not seen before.

That has spurred agencies to look at new ways in which China, Russia and other nations are using a range of platforms to spread disinformation during the pandemic, they said.

The origin of the messages remains murky. American officials declined to reveal details of the intelligence linking Chinese agents to the dissemination of the disinformation, citing the need to protect their sources and methods for monitoring Beijing’s activities.

The officials interviewed for this article work in six different agencies. They included both career civil servants and political appointees, and some have spent many years analyzing China. Their broader warnings about China’s spread of disinformation are supported by recent findings from outside bipartisan research groups, including the Alliance for Securing Democracy and the Center for a New American Security, which is expected to release a report on the topic next month.

Two American officials stressed they did not believe Chinese operatives created the lockdown messages, but rather amplified existing ones. Those efforts enabled the messages to catch the attention of enough people that they then spread on their own, with little need for further work by foreign agents. The messages appeared to gain significant traction on Facebook as they were also proliferating through texts, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

American officials said the operatives had adopted some of the techniques mastered by Russia-backed trolls, such as creating fake social media accounts to push messages to sympathetic Americans, who in turn unwittingly help spread them.

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The officials say the Chinese agents also appear to be using texts and encrypted messaging apps, including WhatsApp, as part of their campaigns. It is much harder for researchers and law enforcement officers to track disinformation spread through text messages and encrypted apps than on social media platforms.

American intelligence officers are also examining whether spies in China’s diplomatic missions in the United States helped spread the fake lockdown messages, a senior American official said. American agencies have recently increased their scrutiny of Chinese diplomats and employees of state-run media organizations. In September, the State Department secretly expelled two employees of the Chinese Embassy in Washington suspected of spying.

Other rival powers might have been involved in the dissemination, too. And Americans with prominent online or news media platforms unknowingly helped amplify the messages. Misinformation has proliferated during the pandemic — in recent weeks, some pro-Trump news outlets have promoted anti-American conspiracy theories, including one that suggests the virus was created in a laboratory in the United States.

American officials said China, borrowing from Russia’s strategies, has been trying to widen political divisions in the United States. As public dissent simmers over lockdown policies in several states, officials worry it will be easy for China and Russia to amplify the partisan disagreements.

“It is part of the playbook of spreading division,” said Senator Angus King, independent of Maine, adding that private individuals have identified some social media bots that helped promote the recent lockdown protests that some fringe conservative groups have nurtured.

The propaganda efforts go beyond text messages and social media posts directed at Americans. In China, top officials have issued directives to agencies to engage in a global disinformation campaign around the virus, the American officials said.

Some American intelligence officers are especially concerned about disinformation aimed at Europeans that pro-China actors appear to have helped spread. The messages stress the idea of disunity among European nations during the crisis and praise China’s “donation diplomacy,” American officials said. Left unmentioned are reports of Chinese companies delivering shoddy equipment and European leaders expressing skepticism over China’s handling of its outbreak.

Mr. Trump himself has shown little concern about China’s actions. He has consistently praised the handling of the pandemic by Chinese leaders — “Much respect!” he wrote on Twitter on March 27. Three days later, he dismissed worries over China’s use of disinformation when asked about it on Fox News.

“They do it and we do it and we call them different things,” he said. “Every country does it.”

Asked about the new accusations, the Chinese Foreign Ministry released a statement on Tuesday that said, “The relevant statements are complete nonsense and not worth refuting.” Zhao Lijian, a ministry spokesman, has separately rebutted persistent accusations by American officials that China has supplied bad information and exhibited a broader lack of transparency during the pandemic. “We urge the U.S. to stop political manipulation, get its own house in order and focus more on fighting the epidemic and boosting the economy,” Mr. Zhao said at a news conference on Friday.

As diplomatic tensions rose and Beijing scrambled to control the narrative, the Chinese government last month expelled American journalists for three U.S. news organizations, including The Times.

The extent to which the United States might be engaging in its own covert information warfare in China is not clear. While the C.I.A. in recent decades has tried to support pro-democracy opposition figures in some countries, Chinese counterintelligence officers eviscerated the agency’s network of informants in China about a decade ago, hurting its ability to conduct operations there.

Chinese officials accuse Mr. Trump and his allies of overtly peddling malicious or bad information, pointing to the president’s repeatedly calling the coronavirus a “Chinese virus” or the suggestion by some Republicans that the virus may have originated as a Chinese bioweapon, a theory that U.S. intelligence agencies have since ruled out. (Many Americans have also criticized Mr. Trump’s language as racist.)

Republican strategists have decided that bashing China over the virus will shore up support for Mr. Trump and other conservative politicians before the November elections.

Given the toxic information environment, foreign policy analysts are worried that the Trump administration may politicize intelligence work or make selective leaks to promote an anti-China narrative. Those concerns hover around the speculation over the origin of the virus. American officials in the past have selectively passed intelligence to reporters to shape the domestic political landscape; the most notable instance was under President George W. Bush in the run-up to the Iraq War.

But it has been clear for more than a month that the Chinese government is pushing disinformation and anti-American conspiracy theories related to the pandemic. Mr. Zhao, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, wrote on Twitter in March that the U.S. Army might have taken the virus to the Chinese city of Wuhan. That message was then amplified by the official Twitter accounts of Chinese embassies and consulates.

The state-run China Global Television Network produced a video targeting viewers in the Middle East in which a presenter speaking Arabic asserted that “some new facts” indicated that the pandemic might have originated from American participants in a military sports competition in October in Wuhan. The network has an audience of millions, and the video has had more than 365,000 views on YouTube.

“What we’ve seen is the C.C.P. mobilizing its global messaging apparatus, which includes state media as well as Chinese diplomats, to push out selected and localized versions of the same overarching false narratives,” Lea Gabrielle, coordinator of the Global Engagement Center in the State Department, said in late March, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

But Chinese diplomats and operators of official media accounts recently began moving away from overt disinformation, Ms. Gabrielle said. That dovetailed with a tentative truce Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi reached over publicly sniping about the virus.

American officials said Chinese agencies are most likely embracing covert propagation of disinformation in its place. Current and former American officials have said they are seeing Chinese operatives adopt online strategies long used by Russian agents — a phenomenon that also occurred during the Hong Kong protests last year. Some Chinese operatives have promoted disinformation that originated on Russia-aligned websites, they said.

And the apparent aim of spreading the fake lockdown messages last month is consistent with a type of disinformation favored by Russian actors — namely sowing chaos and undermining confidence among Americans in the U.S. government, the officials said.

“As Beijing and Moscow move to shape the global information environment both independently and jointly through a wide range of digital tools, they have established several diplomatic channels and forums through which they can exchange best practices,” said Kristine Lee, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security who researches disinformation from China and Russia.

“I’d anticipate, as we have seen in recent months, that their mutual learning around these tools will migrate to increasingly cutting-edge capabilities that are difficult to detect but yield maximal payoff in eroding American influence and democratic institutions globally,” she added.

The amplification of the fake lockdown messages was a notable instance of China’s use of covert disinformation messaging, American officials said.

A couple of versions of the message circulated widely, according to The Times analysis. The first instance tracked by The Times appeared on March 13, as many state officials were enacting social distancing policies. This version said Mr. Trump was about to invoke the Stafford Act to shut down the country.

The messages generally attributed their contents to a friend in a federal agency — the Pentagon, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the F.B.I., the C.I.A. and so on. Over days, hundreds of identical posts appeared on Facebook and the online message board 4chan, among other places, and spread through texts.

Another version appeared on March 15, The Times found. This one said Mr. Trump was about to deploy the National Guard, military units and emergency responders across the United States while imposing a one-week nationwide quarantine.

That same day, the National Security Council announced on Twitter that the messages were fake.

“There is no national lockdown,” it said, adding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “has and will continue to post the latest guidance.”

“I received several texts from loved ones about content they received containing various rumors — they were explicitly asked to share it with their networks,” she wrote. “I advised them to do the opposite. Misinfo is not what we need right now — from any source foreign or domestic.”

Since January, Americans have shared many other messages that included disinformation: that the virus originated in a U.S. Army laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland, that it can be killed with garlic water, vitamin C or colloidal silver, that it thrives on ibuprofen. Often the posts are attributed to an unnamed source in the U.S. government or an institution such as Johns Hopkins University or Stanford University.

As the messages have sown confusion, it has been difficult to trace their true origins or pin down all the ways in which they have been amplified.

Ben Decker contributed reporting from Boston. Claire Fu contributed research.

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Trump Blocks Green Cards During Coronavirus

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-virus-immig1-facebookJumbo Trump Blocks Green Cards During Coronavirus United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Immigration and Emigration Green Cards (US) Foreign Workers Executive Orders and Memorandums Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Tuesday that he would order a temporary halt in issuing green cards to prevent people from immigrating to the United States, but he backed away from plans to suspend guest worker programs after business groups exploded in anger at the threat of losing access to foreign labor.

Mr. Trump, whose administration has faced intense criticism in recent months for his handling of the coronavirus crisis, abruptly sought to change the subject Tuesday night by resuming his assault on immigration, which animated his 2016 campaign and became one of the defining issues of his presidency.

He cast his decision to “suspend immigration,” which he first announced on Twitter Monday night, as a move to protect American jobs. But it comes as the United States economy sheds its work force at a record rate and when few employers are reaching out for workers at home or abroad. More than 22 million Americans have lost their jobs in the economic devastation caused by the virus and efforts to contain it.

Mr. Trump said that his order would initially be in effect for 60 days, but that he might extend it “based on economic conditions at the time.”

“We can do that at a little bit different time if we want,” he said of a second executive order that could further restrict immigration.

While numerous studies have concluded that immigration has an overall positive effect on the American work force and wages for workers, Mr. Trump ignored that research on Tuesday, insisting that American citizens who had lost their jobs in recent weeks should not have to compete with foreigners when the economy reopens.

“By pausing immigration, we will help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens. So important,” the president said. “It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad. We must first take care of the American worker.”

Lawyers at the Justice Department were still studying whether the president had the legal authority to unilaterally suspend the issuance of green cards, an order that caught officials at the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security off guard, according to people with knowledge of the announcement.

The decision not to block guest worker programs — which provide specific visas for technology workers, farm laborers and others — is a concession to business groups, which assailed the White House on Tuesday. Jason Oxman, the president of the Information Technology Industry Council, a trade group, said in a statement earlier in the day that “the United States will not benefit from shutting down legal immigration.”

Rob Larew, the president of the National Farmers Union, said even talk of restrictions on immigrant farm workers was disruptive. “It just adds to an already stressed food system,” he said.

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“If we do not have enough workers at the front end of that, it just adds more challenges to folks that need to get the food,” he added.

As late as Monday night, after Mr. Trump’s tweet, top White House officials said they believed the president’s order would apply to some of the guest worker programs, while exempting others. By Tuesday afternoon — amid the business backlash — officials acknowledged that devising an order that applied to some guest workers but not others would be overly complicated, and they abandoned it.

Mr. Trump said that his “pause” in immigration “will not apply to those entering on a temporary basis,” a reference to the worker visas, though he hinted that could change. “We want to protect our U.S. workers,” he said, “and I think as we move forward, we will become more and more protective of them.”

The decision to maintain most temporary work visas is certain to please business executives, but it will disappoint anti-immigrant groups, which have long called on the president to put an end to the guest worker programs they view as robbing Americans of jobs. And it could undermine Mr. Trump’s message to voters, many of whom are angry about competition from the foreign workers brought into the United States through those programs.

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has used health concerns to justify aggressively restricting immigration. Even before Tuesday’s announcement, the administration had expanded travel restrictions, slowed visa processing and moved to swiftly return to their home countries asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants who cross the border, alarming immigration advocates who have said that Mr. Trump and his advisers are using the pandemic to further hard-line immigration policies.

The president’s new executive order, which he could sign as early as Wednesday, will further close off the United States to tens of thousands of people seeking to live and work in the country, a move intended in part to stoke populist anger among his core supporters as he heads toward Election Day in November. Last year, about one million people were granted legal permanent resident status, commonly referred to as a green card.

Officials said on Tuesday that American citizens seeking to bring their children or spouses to the United States would still be allowed to do so. But the path to living and working in the country legally would be blocked for other foreigners, including the relatives of current green card holders and those seeking green cards based on a job offer.

An analysis by the Migration Policy Institute estimates that the policy could affect as many as 660,000 people.

The announcement on green cards elicited a fierce reaction from immigration rights advocates, who accused Mr. Trump and Stephen Miller, the architect of the president’s immigration agenda, of using the grim economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic as a justification for a broad assault on the nation’s legal immigration system.

“No one is losing their job because of competition from immigrants; they’re losing their job because no one can leave their house,” said Doug Rand, who worked on immigration in the Obama administration and helped found a technology company in Seattle that helps immigrants obtain green cards and citizenship. He said the president’s advisers were using the pandemic to cut back on immigration the way they had always wanted to.

Others called the president’s announcement misguided and accused Mr. Trump of being motivated by an ugly, anti-immigrant sentiment.

“This is both a political act to demagogue and distract from his awful handling of the Covid-19 crisis and lack of testing,” said Todd Schulte, the president of FWD.us, a technology group that advocates immigration, “and it is also a policy effort by hard-liners to use this crisis to enact their awful, decades-old wish list to radically slash immigration.”

The president’s re-election campaign on Tuesday sent an email to his supporters underscoring the political importance of the issue for Mr. Trump, who successfully used anti-immigrant talk as a weapon in the 2016 campaign and made attempts to sharply reduce immigration one of the defining issues of his time in the White House.

“Pres. Trump will sign an Executive Order to suspend immigration,” read a text message to supporters. “Do you support his decision to protect us from the Coronavirus? Take Survey NOW.”

Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the president’s 2020 campaign, said in a statement that “at a time when our economy has been artificially interrupted by the virus, introducing more competition for jobs would worsen unemployment and depress wages, especially in black and Latino communities.”

Anti-immigration activists said they were hopeful that the president’s executive order would make good on the sweeping promise from Monday night’s tweet to suspend immigration into the United States.

Roy H. Beck, the founder of NumbersUSA, a group that presses for deep cuts in legal immigration, said that such a message would be a potent political tool as Mr. Trump faces off against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the election.

“Absolutely it’s powerful,” Mr. Beck said. “If he comes out with an executive order that honors that tweet, he really is telling voters, I get it. When you have job loss, you can’t have immigration. That is the populist message that I think was his strongest suit in 2016.”

It was unclear what legal authority the president will claim to shut off the decades-old immigration system, even temporarily. In the past, he has cited health emergency powers to restrict asylum at the southwestern border, and the White House has repeatedly invoked broad executive powers in immigration law to impose travel bans.

A Homeland Security Department official said early Tuesday that the executive order was still being drafted — leaving some top agency officials in the dark — and that details of the potential ban, including on specific exemptions, were subject to change. Officials said the effort was being coordinated by Mr. Miller and a handful of his allies, including Robert Law, the chief of policy and strategy for Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Some military officials also seemed to be caught by surprise on Tuesday by Mr. Trump’s late-night Twitter message. Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the head of the military’s Northern Command, which supports homeland defense and border security, said on Tuesday that he had not received any new orders to assist border operations.

Even before the president’s announcement Tuesday evening, officials were working on the assumption that visas for guest workers, including farm laborers, would be exempt from the executive order, according to an official. Hours before Mr. Trump tweeted the announcement, the administration published a final rule that eased requirements for employers like farmers that use the H-2A program by lifting a three-year limit for such seasonal workers.

The State Department suspended visa services last month at U.S. embassies and consulates, but immigrants were still able to take procedural steps to come to the United States. Those already in the country were also still able to petition for their relatives abroad to come to the United States in the hopes of reuniting with their families. While the Trump administration has already paralyzed multiple aspects of the immigration system, including halting in-person interviews and naturalization ceremonies, immigration experts and administration officials said an executive order could have longstanding consequences.

“Their first impulse when you’re confronted with a crisis is to shut down immigration,” Jeh Johnson, a homeland security secretary under President Barack Obama, said on Tuesday during an online panel hosted by the House Homeland Security Committee.

“The first impulse and the last impulse,” he said, “can’t always just be stop immigration to prevent a public health disaster that is already here within our borders.”

Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs reported from Washington, and Caitlin Dickerson from New York. Lola Fadulu and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

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New U.S. Treatment Guidelines for Covid-19 Don’t See Much Progress

Westlake Legal Group 21VIRUS-TREATMENT-facebookJumbo New U.S. Treatment Guidelines for Covid-19 Don’t See Much Progress your-feed-healthcare Veterans Affairs Department Veterans Trump, Donald J National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Hydroxychloroquine (Drug) Fauci, Anthony S Drugs (Pharmaceuticals) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Clinical Trials Azithromycin (Drug)

The federal agency led by Dr. Anthony Fauci issued guidelines on Tuesday that stated there is no proven drug for treating coronavirus patients, a finding that essentially reinforces Dr. Fauci’s dissent from President Trump’s repeated promotion of certain drugs without evidence to support their use.

The report echoed what frustrated doctors already know: Not enough is known about the highly infectious virus or how to combat it.

Months into the pandemic, a panel of experts convened by the research center Dr. Fauci leads, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, concluded that whenever possible, drug therapy should be given as part of a clinical trial, so that data can be collected to determine whether treatments work.

At the White House briefing, Mr. Trump said he had not seen the panel’s guidelines. Dr. Fauci, who often attends the briefings, was not there on Tuesday.

Dr. Fauci has repeatedly pushed back at the president’s enthusiasm over the malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, sometimes disagreeing in public with Mr. Trump.

For weeks Dr. Fauci has stressed the lack of scientific evidence to back up any potential treatment, and this new document, which includes the expertise of more than a dozen federal agencies and professional groups, underscores his reasoning.

In a separate interview before the guidelines were released, Dr. Fauci said there were many clinical trials underway. “Right now, it is premature to say if something is going to be a home run or not,” he said. “Right now there are no early indications of a home run anywhere. There’s nothing that has been dramatic at all.”

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Clinical trials are monitored by safety boards that can stop a trial early if a treatment shows a powerful effect. So far, none of the trials have been halted, Dr. Fauci said.

Experts have collected insufficient data to recommend either for or against the use of any antiviral drug or medication that affects the immune system in patients with Covid-19 who have mild, moderate, severe or critical illness, according to the guidelines.

The decision by the National Institutes of Health panel not to recommend either for or against a treatment included the antiviral remdesivir, which is being studied in several trials in the United States and around the world. Data is also lacking about the use of so-called convalescent plasma donated by coronavirus survivors to provide antibodies that might help patients fight the disease.

But the expert panel did specifically advise against several treatments unless they were given in clinical trials. One was the combination of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine plus the antibiotic azithromycin, which Mr. Trump has repeatedly promoted despite the lack of evidence that they work.

Those drugs should be used only in clinical trials “because of the potential for toxicities,” the experts said.

The panel also had cautionary advice about hydroxychloroquine and the closely related drug chloroquine, even when given without azithromycin, saying that patients receiving them should be monitored for adverse effects, particularly an abnormality in heart rhythm called prolonged QTc interval.

A study of the records of 368 Veterans Affairs patients, posted on Tuesday but not yet peer-reviewed, found that hydroxychloroquine, with or without azithromycin, did not help patients avoid the need for ventilators. And hydroxychloroquine alone was associated with an increased risk of death.

But the study was not a controlled trial, and patients who received the drugs were sicker to begin with. The authors wrote, “These findings highlight the importance of awaiting the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies before widespread adoption of these drugs.”

At Tuesday’s White House briefing, Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, described the study as small and retrospective, adding, “what F.D.A. will require is data from randomized clinical trials.”

Even so, he said, “This is something a doctor would need to consider in the decision to write a prescription for hydroxychloroquine.”

The N.I.H. panel also said that combined H.I.V. drugs lopinavir and ritonavir (sold as Kaletra), and other drugs known as H.I.V. protease inhibitors, should not be given outside of clinical trials, because trial data so far has shown no benefit and some unfavorable effects.

Drugs known as interferons should also not be used outside trials, the group advising the infectious disease institute said, because they did not help patients with the other coronavirus diseases SARS and MERS. The same advice applies to a class of drugs called janus kinase inhibitors (the drug baricitinib is one example) because they broadly suppress the immune system.

The guidelines also contain detailed advice for health care providers about the care of infected children and pregnant women, and the use of oxygen, ventilators and steroid drugs in very sick patients.

All the advice will be updated as new data emerges.

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‘I’m Just Living a Nightmare’: Oil Industry Braces for Devastation

Westlake Legal Group im-just-living-a-nightmare-oil-industry-braces-for-devastation ‘I’m Just Living a Nightmare’: Oil Industry Braces for Devastation Wages and Salaries United States Economy Trump, Donald J Texas Strategic Petroleum Reserve (US) Shutdowns (Institutional) Production Prices (Fares, Fees and Rates) Politics and Government Permian Basin (North America) Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Layoffs and Job Reductions Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Westlake Legal Group 21virus-oil-facebookJumbo ‘I’m Just Living a Nightmare’: Oil Industry Braces for Devastation Wages and Salaries United States Economy Trump, Donald J Texas Strategic Petroleum Reserve (US) Shutdowns (Institutional) Production Prices (Fares, Fees and Rates) Politics and Government Permian Basin (North America) Oil (Petroleum) and Gasoline Layoffs and Job Reductions Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

HOUSTON — Workers at Marathon Petroleum’s refinery in Gallup, N.M., are turning off the valves. Oil companies in West Texas are paying early termination fees to contract employees rather than drill new wells. And in Montana, producers are shutting down wells and slashing salaries and benefits.

Just a few months ago, the American oil industry was triumphant in its quest for energy independence, having turned the United States into the world’s biggest petroleum producer for the first time in decades. But that exhilaration has given way to despair as the coronavirus has kneecapped the economy, destroying demand for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel as cars sit parked in driveways and planes are consigned to remote fields and runways.

The oil industry has lived through many booms and busts, but never before have prices collapsed as they have this week. On Monday, one closely watched price fell below zero, meaning some traders had to pay others to take crude oil off their hands. That price — for May delivery — recovered on Tuesday, but not nearly to levels where oil companies can make a profit. At the same time, the price of oil for June delivery fell by about half to roughly $10 a barrel.

“I’m just living a nightmare,” said Ben Sheppard, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, which represents companies in the area of Texas and New Mexico that became the world’s most productive oil field last year.

In Midland, Texas, the epicenter of the oil shale boom over the last decade, parking lots at companies like Chevron, Diamondback and Apache are empty aside from a scattering of pumping trucks. Executives are working from home, huddling with their colleagues and board members to decide how quickly to shut down production and lay off workers. Oil giants like Exxon Mobil have slashed their 2020 exploration and production budgets by nearly a third, and that was before the total oil price collapse at the start of this week.

Many smaller oil companies are expected to seek bankruptcy protection in the coming months after having spent years borrowing billions of dollars to extract and move crude. Production companies have $86 billion in debt coming due between 2020 and 2024, and pipeline companies have an additional $123 billion they have to repay or refinance over the same period, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

“We are worried that the current disorderly market has adversely damaged the industry,” said Ben Luckock, co-head of oil trading at Trafigura, a large exporter of American crude. “In the short term some form of government assistance is likely needed because the price levels we are currently transacting at are unsustainable for U.S. producers.”

The reverberations to other industries could be significant. A decade or two ago, low oil prices would serve to bolster the American economy by reducing energy costs. But the oil industry has become so big and important — it directly and indirectly employs 10 million people — that its problems will deal a blow to many kinds of businesses, including manufacturers that build its equipment, steel companies that make its pipes and banks and hedge funds that lend it money.

President Trump has said that he stands ready to help U.S. oil and gas businesses, a position he reiterated on Tuesday. But the policies he and other administration officials have proposed — imposing tariffs on foreign oil or filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — would do so little that their impact would amount to a rounding error.

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Simply put, the global oil industry is producing vastly more oil than the world needs — about 30 million barrels a day too much. Even if the federal government started buying oil for the reserve immediately, it could absorb only half a million barrels a day, or less than 2 percent of the excess world production.

Some industry executives had pinned their hopes on the Texas Railroad Commission, asking it to exercise a power it has not used since 1973 to force oil companies in the state to cut production. But the commission, which regulates the industry there, declined to do so at a meeting held by videoconference on Tuesday, with two of its three commissioners saying that they needed more legal advice before making a decision.

All the while, the glut of oil keeps growing. And refineries, storage tank hubs and pipelines are quickly filling to the brim, while ocean tankers carrying as much as 300 million barrels of oil are floating or sailing figure-eights waiting for buyers.

The tanker operators, who can make more than $100,000 a day for spot charters of their ships, may be the only ones making money right now.

Mr. Trump’s biggest service to the industry was to help push Saudi Arabia, Russia and other producers to reach a deal on April 12 to cut 9.7 million barrels of daily oil output. But oil prices fell sharply after that agreement as traders realized its inadequacy. It also doesn’t help that the pact won’t even go into effect until May 1.

With 73 employees, Texland Petroleum, a producer in the Permian Basin that has 1,211 wells, is typical of hundreds of independent companies that represent the backbone of the industry, especially in rural areas of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and North Dakota. In business since 1973, it has survived several downturns but always managed to sell its oil at prices that allowed it to at least break even.

That is not true anymore. At least four customers have canceled purchases in recent days. One customer canceled contracts effective May 1 for 2,000 barrels a day, nearly 30 percent of the company’s output.

“It’s a sad time for our business, that’s for damn sure,” said Jim Wilkes, president of Texland. “The future is very cloudy right now because the pricing is below our production costs.”

Mr. Wilkes has decided to shut all production and end all sales on May 1. Shutting wells is an expensive, laborious process, he explained, with workers obliged to treat well casings with chemicals so they do not corrode once oil stops flowing. And there is no guarantee that a shuttered well can be restarted and be made to pump out as much oil as it did earlier.

Mr. Wilkes said he was not planning to fire anyone, at least not now, because he took a Small Business Administration loan to pay his workers for two months, at which point the loan will be forgiven. But he is not sure what he will do after that.

“April is going to be terrible, but May is going to be impossible,” he said.

Montalban Oil & Gas Operations, a company with 200 wells in Montana, is planning to shut all of its wells in 10 days when its executives expect to run out of storage space. It has slashed its payroll by 25 percent, and its president, Patrick Montalban, and other senior executives have taken a 50 percent pay cut.

Aside from worrying about the future, Mr. Montalban said he had been stocking up on $6 bottles of chardonnay, his drink of choice.

“It’s a bloodbath out there; can you imagine minus $37 a barrel?” he said, referring to the price oil fell to on Monday. “There is something wrong with that market. It’s ridiculous.”

Oil companies generally employ service companies to do their drilling and fracking, and so the downturn is particularly painful for those businesses — Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Schlumberger. Services companies have slashed payrolls and budgets in recent weeks, as have the thousands of smaller contractors that take care of things like cleaning spills, seismic testing and supplying trucks.

Offshore drillers, which had done a brisk business over the last three years, have gone into a tailspin, with delays in investment decisions and canceled rig contracts. Diamond Offshore missed an interest payment on its debts last week and has hired legal and financial advisers for a potential restructuring.

Latshaw Drilling, a company active in Texas and Oklahoma, has laid off 300 of its 500 employees over the last six weeks. It is operating six of its 41 rigs and dropping an additional rig next week. Trent Latshaw, the company president, said he was confident the industry would eventually come back after the virus is tamed.

“If for some reason Latshaw Drilling doesn’t make it through this,” Mr. Latshaw said, “the good Lord has something else planned for me.”

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