COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Damning analysis of Trump's pandemic response suggested 40% of US COVID-19 deaths could have been avoided
  • A report on the Trump administration's public-health policies suggested 40% of US COVID-19 deaths were avoidable.
  • Compared to six similarly wealthy countries, the US failed to protect citizens' health during the pandemic.
  • Trump publicly downplayed COVID-19 and often undermined health guidelines.
The report, published by the Lancet Commission, excoriated Trump's handling of the pandemic and general approach to public health: "He expedited the spread of COVID-19 in the US," the authors wrote.

"Many of the cases and deaths were avoidable," they said, adding, "instead of galvanizing the US populace to fight the pandemic, President Trump publicly dismissed its threat (despite privately acknowledging it), discouraged action as infection spread, and eschewed international cooperation."

... The Lancet report did not place all the blame on Trump's policies, however; it also pointing to four decades of "long-standing flaws in US economic, health, and social policy" that compounded inefficiencies in the country's public-health systems prior to the pandemic.

... The US leads the world in total coronavirus deaths, though it does not have the highest COVID-19 deaths per capita.

For their new analysis, the Lancet authors compared the US's COVID-19 death rate to the average death rate of six other economically advanced nations: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK. They weighted those death rates by each country's population, since their sizes vary widely.

They concluded that 40% of the US's roughly 450,000 coronavirus deaths as of February 4 could have been avoided if the country had handled the pandemic in a similar manner to its wealthy peers. That's 180,000 lives.

The report added that other countries outperform the US being outperformed in other areas of public health, too. Average life expectancy in the US was 3.4 years lower than the average life in the six countries listed above in 2018. That year, the US had 461,000 excess deaths — more deaths than expected based on historical data — a figure that's been rising since 1980.

Trump publicly downplayed the threat of COVID-19 and habitually dismissed policy recommendations from top experts — including some from his White House coronavirus task force. In June, his campaign hosted an indoor rally in an Oklahoma arena that could seat 19,000 people.

He "repudiated science, leaving the US unprepared and exposed to the COVID-19 pandemic," the Lancet authors wrote.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN last month that a lack of clear messaging from the federal government "likely did" cost lives last year.

"People were not trusting what health officials were saying," Fauci added.

In February 2020, Nancy Messonnier, a senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that the virus was circulating in American communities and that people should prepare for "severe" disruptions to daily life.

But during the same press conference, Trump told the public that the number of COVID-19 cases would be "close to zero" within a couple of days.

Later, Trump privately told journalist Bob Woodward that he deliberately downplayed the threat of COVID-19 because he didn't want to cause a panic.

Two of the Lancet report's authors published a similar analysis of Trump's health policies in 2018. That report said that Trump's tax cuts for the wealthy, challenges to the Affordable Care Act, and refusal to give adequate aid to Puerto Ricans following Hurricane Maria all showed how the administration "favors industry and the wealthy and serves to endanger population and planetary health."
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Radio host Dave Ramsey slammed stimulus checks, and said you're 'already screwed' if $600 or $1,400 changes your life
  • Radio host Dave Ramsey said he's opposed to another round of stimulus check on Fox News.
  • "If $600 or $1,400 changes your life you were pretty much screwed already," he said.
  • Congress is working to pass another round of $1,400 checks.
Radio host and financial advisor Dave Ramsey said he was against another round of stimulus checks and those in need of them were already "screwed" during a Thursday morning appearance on Fox News.

"I don't believe in a stimulus check because if $600 or $1,400 changes your life you were pretty much screwed already," Ramsey said. "You got other issues going on."

Ramsey said those who need the money have problems with their careers, debt, relationships, or their mental health. and said the checks were simply throwing money at the problem or "peeing on a forest fire" but not fixing the issue.

"That's not talking down to folks. I've been bankrupt. I've been broke. I work with people every day who are hurting. I love people. I want people to be lifted up, but this is, again, it is just political rhetoric," he said.
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Human Rights Watch: governments are using Covid-19 to trample on free speech
At least 83 governments worldwide have used the pandemic to justify curbs on free speech and peaceful assembly, NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday.

Governments should counter Covid-19 by encouraging people to mask up, not shut up," Gerry Simpson, HRW's associate crisis and conflict director, said in a statement. "Beating, detaining, prosecuting, and censoring peaceful critics violates many fundamental rights, including free speech, while doing nothing to stop the pandemic."

Authorities have "attacked, detained, prosecuted, and in some cases killed critics," with victims including journalists, activists, health care workers, political opponents and others who have criticized those governments' Covid-19 responses,
HRW added.

In some countries, like China and Egypt, people remain in detention " simply for criticizing government responses to Covid-19 months earlier." It points to the plight of independent Chinese journalist Zhang Zhan, who reported from Wuhan at the height of the initial coronavirus outbreak.

She was jailed for four years in December after being found guilty of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble," according to one of her defense lawyers Zhang Keke.

Other trends include "military or police forces in at least 18 countries" physically assaulting civil society actors, "including some who criticized government responses to Covid-19 such as insufficient healthcare funding, lockdowns, and a lack of masks and gloves for medical workers." It says countries have also arbitrarily banned or broke up protests, and restricted access to public health information.

... “Excessive and sometimes violent crackdowns on critical speech by governments signify a perilous willingness to sideline a fundamental freedom in the name of countering Covid-19,” Simpson added. “The obligation of governments to protect the public from this deadly pandemic is not a carte blanche for placing a chokehold on information and suppressing dissent.”
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McCarthy defends attending his son's wedding amid peak of pandemic in December
"We spent the majority of the time outside with the dinner following the ceremony in an almost completely open area. We wore masks indoors that day, except in those instances where some had to let makeup dry or when we were eating. We were respectful of the event staff and each other -- on the day of the event and the lead-up as well," he said.

The wedding took place on December 5 in San Luis Obispo County, which was under a limited stay at home order at the time prohibiting gatherings between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. except for essential workers.

The California Republican shared a video of the wedding on February 6 on his official Facebook page, which revealed about a dozen or so maskless attendees outside for the ceremony.

Another video shows the attendees, as well as the groom and bride, indoors without face masks as well.
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Ohio Finds 4,000 Unreported Covid-19 Deaths

Ohio officials said on Thursday they discovered about 4,000 overlooked Covid-19 deaths that occurred over the past several months after the state’s Health Department said the deaths had not been properly merged between the internal death certificate database and the federal database.
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F.D.A. Agrees Moderna Can Increase Vaccine Supply in Each Vial
The Food and Drug Administration has informed the drugmaker Moderna that it can put up to 40 percent more coronavirus vaccine into each of its vials, a simple and potentially rapid way to bolster strained supplies, according to people familiar with the company’s operations.

While federal officials want Moderna to submit more data showing the switch would not compromise vaccine quality, the continuing discussions are a hopeful sign that the nation’s vaccine stock could increase faster than expected, simply by allowing the company to load up to 14 doses in each vial instead of 10.

Moderna currently supplies about half of the nation’s vaccine stock. A 14-dose vial load could increase the nation’s vaccine supply by as much as 20 percent at a time when governors are clamoring for more vaccine and more contagious variants of the coronavirus are believed to be spreading quickly.
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Three Men Are Accused in Scheme to Sell Covid-19 Vaccines
Three Baltimore men have been accused by federal prosecutors of putting up a fake website to sell Covid-19 vaccines for $30 a dose, prosecutors say.

The men, Olakitan Oluwalade, 22, and Odunayo Baba Oluwalade, 25, who are cousins, and Kelly Lamont Williams, 22, each face a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland said on Thursday.

Prosecutors said the men created a website that resembled that of Moderna, the biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Mass., that in December won federal approval to distribute its Covid-19 vaccine.

The genuine website is, and the website created by the men, which the authorities have since seized, was Prosecutors said the source code of the fake domain showed that its creator had used a tool to copy the real Moderna website.

“The logo, markings, colors and texts on the fake domain were visually similar” to the company’s actual home page, officials said in a statement. But prosecutors said the fake website had an addition: “YOU MAY BE ABLE TO BUY A COVID-19 VACCINE AHEAD OF TIME,” with a link to “Contact us.”

The men were caught after an undercover agent contacted the number on the fake website on Jan. 11 and set up a transaction for 200 doses of the vaccine for $6,000, according to the statement. Officials said the three men never actually had any doses.

The agent was instructed to transfer half of the funds to Mr. Williams’s account at the Navy Federal Credit Union, and by Jan. 15 agents had seized the fake domain and searched Mr. Williams’s home.

Investigators found texts between Mr. Williams and the cousins discussing the scheme, according to court documents.

An agent used Mr. Williams’s phone to send a message to Odunayo Baba Oluwalade and sent some of the money from the exchange to the cousins, prosecutors said. Both of their homes were soon searched, too.

It was unclear how much money the men defrauded people of. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office said Friday that she could not provide more details about the charges beyond what was in the statement.

... “As the public seeks vaccines to protect themselves and their families from Covid-19, fraudsters are waiting to take advantage of their desperation,” said James R. Mancuso, a special agent from Homeland Security Investigations. “We want to remind the public to exercise extreme caution online, especially when it comes to Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and protective equipment.”
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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It has since spread worldwide, leading to an ongoing pandemic.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are variable, but often include fever, cough, fatigue, breathing difficulties, and loss of smell and taste. Symptoms begin one to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. Most people (81%) develop mild to moderate symptoms (up to mild pneumonia), while 14% develop severe symptoms (dyspnea, hypoxia, or more than 50% lung involvement on imaging) and 5% of patients suffer critical symptoms (respiratory failure, shock, or multiorgan dysfunction). At least a third of the people who are infected with the virus remain asymptomatic and do not develop noticeable symptoms at any point in time, but can spread the disease. Some patients continue to experience a range of effects—known as long COVID—for months after recovery and damage to organs has been observed. Multi-year studies are underway to further investigate the long term effects of the disease.

Source: Coronavirus disease 2019 - Wikipedia