Covid-19 🦠 Newsbites
The White House planted 2 political operatives in the CDC to keep tabs on director Robert Redfield and his scientists, report says
  • The White House positioned two political operatives at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June, the Associated Press reported.
  • The first, Nina Witkofsky was appointed as senior advisor to CDC Director Robert Redfield and promoted to acting chief of staff within weeks. The second, Chester Moeller, is her deputy.
  • A White House official told the AP the pair were placed there to control the agency's messaging because leaks were "upsetting the apple cart."
  • Their remit included keeping watch on Redfield and the agency's scientists, CDC officials told the AP.
  • The news is the latest in a series of moves that show how the White House has sought to control the CDC, and prevent it from influencing the government's reaction to the pandemic.

Stark contrast between Trump and Biden on display in dueling town halls
The President was non-committal at the NBC town hall on a question about whether he took a Covid-19 test on the day of his debate with Biden at the end of September -- even though he was required to do so. He was airlifted to hospital with Covid-19 days later. Nor did he express any regret for holding a Rose Garden ceremony for his Supreme Court nominee several days before that debate, a gathering now widely viewed as a "super-spreader" event. Trump also made the false claim that "85% of the people that wear masks catch it.”

... Voters flipping over to Biden's town hall might have felt like they'd entered a different universe. The former vice president spoke in measured tones during that more policy-heavy event. Unlike the first debate where Trump tried to rattle Biden by interrupting nearly every one of his answers, Biden would listen to the question from ABC's George Stephanopoulos or a voter and then answer at length, sometimes with long, winding responses.

Big global study finds remdesivir doesn't help Covid-19 patients
The antiviral drug remdesivir has "little or no effect on mortality" for hospitalized Covid-19 patients, nor does it help patients recover any faster, the World Health Organization found in a pre-print study that it described as both conclusive and disappointing.

Until now, remdesivir has been the only drug that appeared to have specific positive effects on the coronavirus. It was the only drug with an Emergency Use Authorization for Covid-19 from the FDA.

The WHO study reviewed remdesivir and three other repurposed drugs -- hydroxychloroquine, the HIV combination of lopinavir and ritonavir, and interferon -- in 11,000 Covid-19 patients in 30 countries. None of them helped patients live any longer or get out of the hospital any sooner, WHO said.

Queen Elizabeth has her first royal engagement in months -- but doesn't wear a mask
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William
Queen Elizabeth II carried out her first public engagement since Britain's coronavirus lockdown in March, stepping out on Thursday without a mask despite a resurgence of the virus.

The 94-year-old monarch was joined by her grandson Prince William on a visit to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, southwest England. Neither were wearing face coverings, though they were adhering to social distancing guidelines.

The UK government recommends wearing a face covering in indoor places where "social distancing may be difficult and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet."

... The royal family was directly impacted by the pandemic in March, when Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II's eldest son and heir to the British throne, tested positive for coronavirus. Charles, 71, completed his self-isolation in Scotland.

Prince Charles' office said at the time that it was unknown how he caught the virus because of his busy schedule of public events.

Britain is currently grappling with a spike in Covid-19 cases. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday imposed a three-tier Covid Alert system across England to try to staunch the spread of the virus, rolling out localized restrictions in some northern cities and the capital London.

In England, face coverings are compulsory in most indoor settings, including visitor attractions and entertainment venues, and in pubs and restaurants, unless seated to eat and drink.

According to the government, people in England are expected to wear a face covering before entering such settings, "unless there is a reasonable excuse for removing it."

A letter from more than 1,000 current and former ‘disease detectives’ decries the politicization of the C.D.C.
More than 1,000 current and former epidemic intelligence officers — the “disease detectives” of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — have signed an open letter decrying the politicization of the agency and calling for it to be restored to its “indispensable role” in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The letter has been gathering signatures since May, when it was first posted on Medium, but only recently surpassed the 1,000 mark, organizers said. It was republished on Friday with 1,044 signatories by the The Epidemiology Monitor, a trade publication that devoted its entire October edition to calling for a restoration of the C.D.C.’s reputation. The letter speaks to the growing sense of despair inside the disease control centers, where career government scientists are appalled by White House interference in their decision-making and are calling for their director, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, to push back. Many fear the Trump administration is doing irrevocable harm to the agency’s reputation. “The absence of national leadership on Covid-19 is unprecedented and dangerous,” the letter states, adding that states and territories “have been left to invent their own differing systems for defining, diagnosing and reporting cases of this highly contagious disease.” When the letter was first written, the authors state, the Covid-19 death toll had surpassed 100,000 in the United States — it is now twice that. “We urgently call upon the American people to demand and our nation’s leaders to allow C.D.C. to resume its indispensable role.” The signatories represent more than one quarter of all the epidemic intelligence officers who have been trained since the service began in 1951, said Dr. Charles Rabkin, who helped organize the petition. There are names of so-called “E.I.S. officers” from every class with the exception of 1953; the first one listed, Dr. Henry R. Shinefield, is 97, Dr. Rabkin said.