Covid-19 🦠 Newsbites
Trump claims he 'up-played' the COVID-19 crisis despite admitting on tape that he 'downplayed' the pandemic from the start
  • President Trump falsely claimed on Tuesday that he "up-played" the COVID-19 pandemic despite making remarks in public and on audio tape showing otherwise.
  • "I didn't downplay it," Trump said in response to a question about his handling of the pandemic during an ABC News town hall. "I actually in many ways up-played it in action."
  • In fact, Trump told the veteran reporter Bob Woodward that he knew the coronavirus was easily transmissible and deadlier than the flu, and that he intentionally "wanted to play it down" so it wouldn't "create a panic."
  • As of Tuesday, he coronavirus has infected 6.6 million Americans and killed nearly 196,000. The US has roughly 25% of the world's confirmed cases despite making up just 4% of its population.

Trump floats 'herd mentality' coronavirus strategy — instead of immunity — and insists that the disease that has killed nearly 200,000 Americans will disappear
  • During an ABC News town hall on Tuesday night, President Donald Trump touted herd immunity, but mistakenly referred to the controversial coronavirus strategy as "herd mentality."
  • "You'll develop like a herd mentality, it's going to be herd-developed, and that's going to happen," he said.
  • Herd immunity is when enough of a population is immune to a virus, interrupting its transmission.
  • Health experts, however, have cautioned against this approach in the absence of a vaccine because it could cause hundreds-of-thousands more deaths.

Trump criticizes Biden in town hall for not issuing a national mask mandate — but Biden as a candidate has no authority to do so
  • President Donald Trump called out former Vice President Joe Biden for not implementing a national mask mandate, though as Biden has no authority to do so.
  • "They said 'we're going to do a national mandate on masks,'" Trump said Tuesday evening during an ABC News town hall. "But he didn't do it, I mean, he never did it."
  • Biden has previously stated his support for universal mask-wearing, while Trump has shut down consideration of the idea.
  • Trump defended his stance by claiming that "a lot of people don't want to wear masks."

White House largely disregards coronavirus precautions during Abraham Accords signing
Trump and the White House have been widely criticized for flouting government guidelines designed to limit the transmission of Covid-19, including social distancing and wearing a mask. On Tuesday, Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain at the White House to sign normalization agreements between Israel and the two Arab countries. None of the officials wore masks, and after the meetings, a large crowd sat shoulder-to-shoulder outside to watch the leaders sign the agreements.

If rich countries get the vaccine first, twice as many people will die: study
New modelling from Northeastern University shows that a coordinated vaccine response that provides countries with a number of doses proportionate to their population will save twice as many lives than if rich countries were prioritized.

If the vaccine is distributed based on population numbers, it could avert 61% of global deaths. But if higher numbers of doses are given to wealthier countries, just 33% of deaths could be prevented. The US and China are among nations that have not joined an international effort to develop and distribute a vaccine ahead of a deadline on Friday.

WHO chief scientist says pre-Covid life may not return until 2022
That’s the stark warning from the World Health Organization’s chief science officer, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, who said there needs to be 60% to 70% of the population with immunity before a dramatic reduction in viral transmission is realistic. "We're looking at 2022 at least before enough people start getting the vaccine to build immunity.”

A WHO special envoy, David Nabarro, also warned that the pandemic has just begun. "This is really serious -- we're not even in the middle of it yet,” he told British lawmakers. “And it's getting nastier as we go into this particular phase in Europe of watching the thing come back again."

Study hints Covid-19 may have been in the US as early as December
Researchers believe they have found evidence that the novel coronavirus may have been circulating in the US as early as late December, about a month before the current timeline from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

This study, published last Thursday in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, found a statistically significant uptick in clinic and hospital visits by patients who reported respiratory illnesses as early as the week of December 22.

The researchers noticed this trend by looking through nearly 10 million medical records from the UCLA Health system, including three hospitals and 180 clinics.

Democrats say they need to hear from scientists, not Trump, that vaccine is safe
Congressional Democrats -- citing concerns over the possibility of political interference in the rush to develop a coronavirus vaccine -- say they will look to scientists, not President Donald Trump, to ensure that if one becomes available it is both safe and effective.

In more than a dozen interviews with Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, most members of Congress said they stand ready and willing to take any potential Food and Drug Administration-approved coronavirus vaccine. But Democrats insist that they will need more than a promise from Trump that it will work, and argue that the President does not have credibility on the issue at a time when his administration has stumbled to contain the pandemic and has made sweeping promises about the timeline for a vaccine and treatments.

NIH 'very concerned' about serious side effect in AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine trial
The Food and Drug Administration is weighing whether to follow British regulators in resuming a coronavirus vaccine trial that was halted when a participant suffered spinal cord damage, even as the National Institutes of Health has launched an investigation of the case.

"The highest levels of NIH are very concerned," said Dr. Avindra Nath, intramural clinical director and a leader of viral research at the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, an NIH division. "Everyone's hopes are on a vaccine, and if you have a major complication the whole thing could get derailed."

A great deal of uncertainty remains about what happened to the unnamed patient, to the frustration of those avidly following the progress of vaccine testing. AstraZeneca, which is running the global trial of the vaccine it produced with Oxford University, said the trial volunteer recovered from a severe inflammation of the spinal cord and is no longer hospitalized.

AstraZeneca has not confirmed that the patient was afflicted with transverse myelitis, but Nath and another neurologist said they understood this to be the case. Transverse myelitis produces a set of symptoms involving inflammation along the spinal cord that can cause pain, muscle weakness and paralysis. Britain's regulatory body, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, reviewed the case and has allowed the trial to resume in the United Kingdom.