June 10, 2020

DONALD WHO?:

White House goes quiet on coronavirus as outbreak spikes again across the U.S. (DAN DIAMOND, 06/10/2020, Politico)

[T]he White House's apparent eagerness to change the subject comes as new coronavirus clusters -- centered around meatpacking plants, prisons and other facilities -- drive spikes in disparate states like Utah and Arkansas. Meanwhile, states and major cities are lifting lockdowns and reopening their economies, prompting public health experts to fret that additional outbreaks are imminent. And several Democratic governors also have defied their own states' social distancing restrictions to join mass protests over police brutality, where hundreds of thousands of Americans have spilled into the streets, further raising public health risks.

The fear is that all the mixed signals will only confuse people, stoke public skepticism over the health threat and promote the belief the worst is over just as the outbreak enters a dangerous new phase.

"Cases are rising, including from cases in congregate settings," said Luciana Borio, who led pandemic preparedness for the National Security Council from 2017 to 2019. "We still have a pandemic."

Nine current and former administration officials, as well as outside experts, further detailed how the White House is steadily ramping down the urgency to fight a threat that continues to sicken more than 100,000 Americans per week and is spiking in more than 20 states.

For instance, the administration in recent days told state health officials that it planned to reorganize its pandemic response, with the Department of Health and Human Services and its agencies taking over the bulk of the day-to-day responsibilities from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"The acuity of the response is not what it was, so they're trying to go back to a little more of a normal ongoing presence," said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

The coronavirus task force, which used to send daily updates to state officials, has done so with less regularity over the last several weeks, Plescia said. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has restructured its daily conference calls with states, moving away from the practice of giving top-down briefings to encouraging state officials to offer updates on what they're seeing in their parts of the country.

One current and one former FEMA official also said they're keen to have HHS resume its leadership role in containing the coronavirus so FEMA can make contingencies for a summer of hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters.

"Given the likelihood that we will soon see both hurricanes and coronavirus, HHS should manage the ongoing pandemic response so FEMA can prepare for coming 'coronacanes,'" Daniel Kaniewski, who served as the top deputy at FEMA through January, wrote last week. "But they need to act soon. Coronacanes are in the forecast."

Meanwhile, officials in at least 19 states have recorded two-week trends of increasing coronavirus cases, including spikes of more than 200 percent in Arizona and more than 180 percent in Kentucky. Two months after the White House issued so-called gating criteria that it recommended states hit before resuming business and social activities, many states have moved forward despite not meeting all the benchmarks. Only a handful of states -- like Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and South Dakota -- are currently trending in the right direction on measures like declining case count and robust testing platforms, according to CovidExitStrategy.org.

Bad time to have no president.

Posted by at June 10, 2020 12:00 AM

  

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