COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
As he faced death threats, Fauci said he once opened an envelope that contained a 'puff of powder' he feared was anthrax or ricin
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said he last year opened a letter that was filled with a "puff of powder."
  • While the substance turned out to be benign, he said he feared it was either anthrax or ricin.
  • In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, Fauci detailed his experience under Trump.
Fauci said when he opened the letter, a powder immediately covered his face and chest. His beefed-up security detail, which was brought on after he began receiving threats, advised Fauci to stay still before a hazmat team "sprayed him down."

"It was a benign nothing," Fauci said of the substance found in the envelope. "But it was frightening. My wife and my children were more disturbed than I was. I looked at it somewhat fatalistically. It had to be one of three things: A hoax. Or anthrax, which meant I'd have to go on Cipro for a month. Or if it was ricin, I was dead, so bye-bye."

Fauci told The New York Times over the weekend he began receiving death threats on March 28 last year, not long after he took on a high-profile role in the fight against COVID-19, often appearing at the White House meetings and press briefings. But Fauci and Trump often seemed at odds during the former president's final year in office, as Trump and his allies often publicly flouted Fauci and science-driven approaches to the pandemic.

Fauci said Trump would sometimes call him after he gave an interview, asking why he didn't provide a more "positive" outlook on the pandemic, which has now killed more than 400,000 people in the US. Other advisers, like former chief of staff Mark Meadows, would call Fauci to ask why he had contradicted the president, according to the report.

In the interview, Fauci also said he made it a point during the prior administration to avoid "proactively" criticizing Trump but said he would do so if asked by a reporter to respond to a specific claim made by the former president. At a White House press briefing last week, Fauci said it was "liberating" to no longer be working with Trump.

Despite the threats against his life and pushback from the Trump administration, Fauci told The New York Times he never considered leaving his longtime role, even though his wife had suggested the possibility.

In the interview, Fauci, currently serving as the chief medical adviser to Biden, said he wasn't sure how many more years he planned to work, but indicated he wasn't ready to depart Washington or his office in nearby Bethesda, Maryland, anytime soon.

"I think what I bring to the table is something that's very much value-added," he said."I want to keep doing it until I see us crushing this outbreak, so that people can get back to normality. And even after then, I've left some unfinished business."
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Oxfam: The megarich have already recovered from the pandemic. It may take the poor a decade to do so
Nine months. That's how long it took the world's top 1,000 billionaires to recoup their fortunes after the coronavirus pandemic hit.

It could take the world’s poorest more than a decade to recover,
according to Oxfam International's annual inequality report. The report, released on Sunday ahead of the World Economic Forum's virtual meeting of political and financial leaders, typically held in Davos, Switzerland, lays out the virus' disparate impact around the globe. The pandemic could increase economic inequality in almost every country at once, the first time this has happened, Oxfam found.

"We stand to witness the greatest rise in inequality since records began. The deep divide between the rich and poor is proving as deadly as the virus," said Gabriela Bucher, Oxfam's executive director. "Rigged economies are funneling wealth to a rich elite who are riding out the pandemic in luxury, while those on the front line of the pandemic — shop assistants, health care workers, and market vendors — are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table."

... Other reports have also found that the pandemic has greatly hurt the poor. A separate World Bank study in October that found the pandemic could push as many as 60 million people into extreme poverty.

To fight this growing inequality, governments should ensure that everyone has access to a Covid-19 vaccine and financial support if they lose their jobs, Bucher said. Also, this is the time for longer-term investments in public services and low-carbon sectors to create millions of jobs and ensure everyone has access to education, health care and social care, she said.

... "These measures must not be Band-Aid solutions for desperate times, but a 'new normal' in economies that work for the benefit of all people, not just the privileged few," Bucher said.
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38 Capitol Police officers test positive for Covid-19 after Capitol riot
It's unclear how many of the 38 officers may have been on duty during the attack or when they contracted the virus. But health officials have worried that the mass of largely unmasked people, many shouting and pushing, would result in the spread of the virus. Several police officers were directly assaulted during the insurrection.

By Friday, 19 Capitol Police officers had tested positive in the more than two weeks since the attack, Gus Papathanasiou, chair of the United States Capitol Police Labor Committee, told CNN in an email. The union could also not confirm that those officers were on duty the day of the attack.

"I do think you have to anticipate that this is another surge event. You had largely unmasked individuals in a non-distanced fashion, who were all through the Capitol," former US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield said in an interview earlier this month with the McClatchy newspaper group.

Several lawmakers tested positive in the wake of the attack, with some Democrats saying they tested positive after sheltering in place with other members of Congress who were not wearing masks.
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Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador tests positive for Covid-19
The President, who tweeted from his official Twitter account, said his symptoms are mild and that he was receiving medical treatment.

"I regret to inform you that I have contracted Covid-19. The symptoms are mild, but I am already receiving medical treatment. As always, I am optimistic. We will move forward," Lopez Obrador wrote.

The President added that he would continue his duties from the Presidential Palace, which include conducting a planned phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the topic of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine Monday.

Lopez Obrador, who rarely wears a mask, has faced widespread criticism over his handling of the pandemic.

Mexico has one of the lowest testing rates of any major country around the world and tests are often expensive and difficult to come by.
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Google Maps will soon display Covid-19 vaccination sites
The feature is rolling out in the coming weeks, beginning in four states: Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Google (GOOGL) announced Monday that searches for "vaccines near me" have increased five fold since the beginning of the year and it's implementing this feature to ensure it's "providing locally relevant answers."

The results, which will also be shown in search results in designated information panels, include details about whether an appointment is required, if the vaccine is only available to certain groups and if there's a drive-thru. Google said it's working with "authoritative sources" for the information, including local governments and retail pharmacies. Information about vaccine sites will roll out to other states and countries later.

Confusion about the vaccine is rampant with 60% of Americans saying they don't know when or where to get it, according to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Vaccine availability in the United States has also been problematic with President Joe Biden urging patience that the rollout will soon be improved. He's ultimately aiming to deliver 100 million doses of the vaccine in his first 100 days iin office.

It's the latest change to Google Maps in relation to the pandemic. In September, the Maps app began displaying seven-day averages of new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people.

Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai also said Monday that the company is donating $100 million in ad grants to CDC Foundation, the World Health Organization and other nonprofits to run "critical public service health announcements" about the virus. "We recognize that getting vaccines to people is a complex problem to solve, and we're committed to doing our part," he said.

Certain parts of Google facilities, including parking lots and open spaces, in California, New York and Washington will also be opened for vaccination efforts and administration. It's the latest corporate conglomerate to help improve the vaccine roll out, with Starbucks (SBUX), Amazon (AMZN) and Walmart (WMT) offering similar efforts in recent weeks.
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Deborah Birx said Trump was being given ‘parallel data’ on covid-19
As the previous administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, Deborah Birx provided President Donald Trump with hard numbers to guide the fight against the pandemic. But all along, she said, Trump was receiving different statistics from someone else.

“Someone out there, or someone inside, was creating a parallel set of data and graphics that were shown to the president,” she said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “I know what I sent up, and I know that what was in his hands was different.”

... But even after she arrived at the White House and briefed Trump on the growing threat to the country, Birx said he continued receiving — and passing on — “a parallel data stream coming into the White House that were not transparently utilized.”

“I saw the president presenting graphs that I never made,” she said.

Birx added that she believed at least some of the data had been funneled along by Scott Atlas, then a White House coronavirus adviser. He was widely rebuked for playing down the pandemic despite having no infectious-disease or public health background.

... Anecdotes like those from Birx could be a preview of the disclosures still to come from other former Trump officials, who were tasked with battling a pandemic that has now killed more than 418,000 people in the United States.
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Governors’ shutdowns did not cause the pandemic jobs crisis
People started staying at home before the shutdowns were ordered, data shows

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 416,000 Americans and recently pulled the U.S. economic recovery into reverse. Some states have shut down again to get a handle on surging caseloads. And critics have blamed those states’ governors, typically Democrats, for job losses.

But pandemic-related economic research shows the shutdowns aren’t killing jobs; the virus is.

In the first outbreaks last spring, people stayed home to avoid contracting the deadly novel coronavirus, regardless of what their governor said.

If stay-at-home orders poisoned an otherwise healthy economy, business should have crumpled the moment they kicked in.

... One other piece of supporting evidence? The economists found that businesses that drew the largest crowds before the pandemic were the same ones that saw the sharpest declines, relative to their size. That indicates consumers were spooked by the virus and sought out stores they knew were likely to have few customers. That trend was especially pronounced in areas with worse coronavirus outbreaks.

... The Washington Post often hears from readers who blame job losses on Democratic governors who have often imposed shutdowns when coronavirus cases surge. If Democrats are really responsible for job losses, we would expect to see employment fall off the cliff in blue states while employment in red states sail on untouched. But even the simplest analysis shows job losses don’t depend solely on the governor’s party. Some red states struggled; some blue states thrived.
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Arizonans seeking vaccination are mistakenly calling an 8-year-old girl in Missouri.
An 8-year-old girl in Missouri is getting an earful from frustrated Arizonans who are trying to get inoculated against Covid-19 and mistakenly calling her instead.

Sophia Garcia of Sullivan, Mo., who used to live in Arizona, has been receiving dozens of calls from people in the state on her hand-me-down phone, whose Phoenix number is just one digit different from the Arizona health department’s vaccine help line.

“Every five minutes my phone keeps ringing,” she told Phoenix’s CBS affiliate, KPHO/KTVK. Callers have been complaining about scheduling difficulties and asking how to book an appointment, her family said. In response, Sophia has recorded a voice mail message directing callers to the appropriate number.

Her story offers a glimpse of the struggles and at times desperation of people seeking vaccination in Arizona and elsewhere. People across the United States have complained of their second dose appointments being canceled after vaccination sites ran out of supplies. And there are concerns that President Biden’s goal of 100 million shots in 100 days may not be ambitious enough.

... In the meantime, Arizonans who inadvertently call Sophia in Missouri will get this firm but encouraging message: “Hopefully, if you try carefully, you could get the right number.”
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