Covid-19 🦠 Newsbites
White House chief of staff: 'We are not going to control the pandemic'
It's being called the "great American surrender." On Sunday, President Donald Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows admitted that the United States was "not going to control the pandemic," arguing in a stunning statement that "proper mitigation factors" like therapies and vaccines should be the priority, as new Covid-19 cases continue to spike.

But there is a problem with that logic. Even if a potential coronavirus vaccine is approved by regulators in the coming months, Americans won't be able to get it until well into next year. And letting the coronavirus rage unchecked in the interim, medical experts argue, is akin to a policy of herd immunity that would cost many thousands of lives.

Meadows' comments come as the White House contends with yet another coronavirus outbreak of its own. Vice President Mike Pence is refusing to accept CDC guidance on quarantining after his chief of staff and a 'body man' personal assistant were among five people in his orbit to test positive. The White House has declared Pence an "essential worker" -- a designation normally reserved for first responders and front-line medical staff -- so that he can continue campaigning.

It's the latest sign of the Trump team putting its own political priorities ahead of a duty of care to the American people as the country enters the final stretch before the election, Stephen Collinson writes. Despite a surge in cases in 35 states, the President is continuing his campaign blitz, criss-crossing the US in a frantic week of packed rallies that flout social distancing and mask-wearing measures.

Trump team just announced its surrender to the pandemic
Donald Trump has surrendered without ever joining the battle. I have no doubt he will be remembered as the greatest presidential failure in American history.
Trump's sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, has said he has no principles and only wants to appeal to his base. Yet his lack of principles is perhaps not the main reason for his surrender today. His remarkable and seemingly boundless stupidity is more likely the main cause.
As Bob Woodward's tapes made perfectly clear, Trump actually knew the extreme dangers of an epidemic that has so far claimed 230,000 US deaths ― a toll that rises by around 1,000 each day of Trump's inaction.
Trump's stupidity came in his false belief that the choice before the country was to let the epidemic rage or to shut down the economy. For many reasons, perhaps including the Trump Organization's heavy indebtedness, Trump chose at every moment the economy over trying to stop the spread of the virus.

Yet Trump's whole premise was deadly wrong. The correct choice was not to stop the economy, but instead to introduce basic public health policies that stop transmission of the virus without shutting the economy and without waiting for vaccines and therapeutics (as desirable as they will be when they arrive).

Trump surrounded himself with fools and knaves who echoed his false belief that the choice was Covid versus the economy. This includes three types of advisers who led Trump to his likely imminent political demise and to our nation's mass suffering.

The first group were the evangelical preachers who were more interested in packing their pews than in saving their parishioners who caught the disease in their megachurches. This is a key part of Trump's base. Its leaders helped lead Trump to calamity.

The second group was the Murdoch media empire with the "thought leadership" ― if one can call it that ― of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, and the nihilism of Fox News. What is incredible about the Wall Street Journal editorial board is that they were so fixated against closing the economy that they failed to give serious consideration to NPIs, despite their proven success in the Asia-Pacific. As a result, the Journal's editors overlooked the most effective policy approach and thereby helped steer Trump to disaster.

The third group was those who would stand up and oppose the overwhelming scientific consensus on NPI's, thereby bolstering Trump in his conviction to do nothing. The recent pseudo-scientific advice of Dr. Scott Atlas, from Stanford University's conservative Hoover Institution, provided the simulacrum of academic approval to the White House do-nothing position by calling it "herd immunity," a position roundly rejected by the public health community.

Trump may have surrendered, but the overwhelming majority of Americans have not. We'd rather apply the spirit of Winston Churchill's wartime determination to our battle against the virus, declaring that we will fight the pandemic "on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

US should consider national mask mandate for the winter, former FDA commissioner writes in op-ed
As the US reports its second-highest day of new Covid-19 cases amid the continuing fall surge, a former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration says it may be time for a national mask mandate.

In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Scott Gottlieb wrote the mandate could be "limited and temporary."

"A mandate can be expressly limited to the next two months," Gottlieb wrote, adding that it's easier to wear a mask in the winter than the summer. "The inconvenience would allow the country to preserve health-care capacity and keep more schools and businesses open."

With deaths expected to rise this winter, policymakers will have to make moves to slow the spread, Gottlieb wrote. There already is no support for reinstating the stay-at-home orders from the spring. If 95% of Americans wore masks in public, more than 100,000 lives could be saved in the United States through February, according to data released Friday by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

"If people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating it," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN's Erin Burnett on Friday.

... "States should be able to choose how to enforce a mandate, but the goal should be to make masks a social and cultural norm, not a political statement," he wrote. "Mandating masks has become divisive only because it was framed that way by some politicians and commentators."

Kansas counties with mask mandates had half the rate of new infections, a study finds.
The power of mask mandates

They’re restrictive, tedious and hotly contested, but since the early days of the pandemic we’ve known masks to be an efficient and cost-effective way to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

And they’re even better, it turns out, when you oblige people to wear them.

Take Kansas, where a real-world experiment in face coverings emerged this summer. In early July, Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, issued a statewide mask order, but was forced to let counties opt out of it under a law limiting her emergency management powers.

Only 20 of the state’s 105 counties enforced the order, which required residents to wear masks in public. Those 20 counties saw half as many new coronavirus infections as the counties that did not have the mandate in place, according to a new study from the University of Kansas.

Cellphone-tracking data from the University of Maryland showed no differences in how often people left home in the counties with or without mask mandates, so it seemed likely that the masks made the difference.

Experts say it’s part of a countrywide trend: Localities that impose mask mandates often see fewer cases, fewer hospitalizations, fewer deaths and lower test-positivity rates than nearby localities that do not.

Other studies have turned up similar results in Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. A recently published report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a 75 percent drop in coronavirus cases in Arizona less than a month after mask-wearing became enforced and bars and gyms were shuttered.

El Paso crosses another Covid-19 record as the children's hospital takes on extra patients
Texas' El Paso County has imposed a curfew after a surge in Covid-19 cases left ICU beds at full capacity and forced officials to seek additional morgue space.

First, funeral homes had to bring in extra refrigeration for the new coronavirus surge.

Then El Paso County enacted a curfew to try to limit the virus's spread.

Now, El Paso has surpassed its record-high number of new cases, with at least 1,559 infections reported Sunday.

And a local children's hospital is taking in patients from the overwhelmed University Medical Center of El Paso, which is struggling to keep up with the Covid-19 surge.

... The county -- which includes the city of El Paso and sits on the southwest border of Texas above Juarez, Mexico -- has seen a 160% increase in positivity rate since October 1 and a 300% increase in hospitalizations, Samaniego said.

Samaniego said that the curfew was put in place instead of another stay-at-home order because officials want to minimize the economic impact on businesses and families.

... The mayor urged people to stay at home as much as possible, have only one person go to the store to get essentials, and avoid gatherings, especially as holidays get closer.

"Our message is don't let down your guard. Wear your face coverings. Maintain your distancing. Avoid large gatherings. Avoid the family gatherings," Margo said.

The Fox News president and several anchors were advised to quarantine after possible virus exposure.
The president of Fox News and several of the network’s top anchors have been advised to quarantine after being exposed to someone on a private flight who later tested positive for the coronavirus, two people with direct knowledge of the situation said on Sunday.

The infected person was on a charter flight to New York from Nashville with a group of network executives, personalities and other staff members who attended the presidential debate on Thursday, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal network matters.

Everyone on board the plane has been told to get tested and quarantine. It was unclear whether more than one person had tested positive.

Those who were exposed include Jay Wallace, the president of Fox News Media; Bret Baier, the chief political anchor; Martha MacCallum, the anchor of Fox’s 7 p.m. show, “The Story”; and Dana Perino and Juan Williams, two hosts of “The Five.”

A network representative would not confirm any details of the exposure, citing the need to keep private health information confidential. Fox has been faster than other cable news and broadcast networks to resume in-studio programming. And it has had one of the largest in-person footprints of the news organizations that covered the presidential and vice-presidential debates. Several Fox shows are now regularly broadcast from its Midtown Manhattan headquarters, while others are done remotely, as is more common among competitors like CNN and MSNBC.

The anchors who were affected are expected to host their shows from home for the time being.

Network personnel have been serious about taking precautionary measures like wearing masks and avoiding proximity to one another, both in the studios and on the road for major events like the debates, network employees said. And Fox staff members on the ground in Nashville were regularly tested by the network and the Commission on Presidential Debates.

But on the air, Fox has not always treated the coronavirus like the serious and potentially fatal illness that it is.

In February and March, as the virus took hold in the United States, anchors and commentators like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham repeatedly echoed Mr. Trump’s claims that the mainstream news media and Democrats were exaggerating the issue to harm him politically.