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White House muzzles National Institute of Health doctor about coronavirus outbreak

White House muzzles National Institute of Health doctor about coronavirus outbreak

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The Trump White House is slamming the brakes on factual information from at least one of America’s top epidemiologists after a National Institute of Health (NIH) doctor explained that there won’t be a vaccine cure for the growing coronavirus outbreak.

Yesterday, President Trump held a press conference to formally designate Vice President Mike Pence as the “czar” for handling the federal government’s public health crisis response. He introduced a pair of actual scientists for a real update before he continued to spread his typical misinformation with a heaping dose of factless, wishful thinking and a side of partisan attacks.

President Trump introduced Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) top career official, Dr. Anne Schuchat, who explained yesterday that contrary to Trump’s assertion only minutes earlier that the risk to America is “very low,” she expects more transmissions of the disease and “this is a good time to prepare:”

“The coronavirus that we’re talking about is a respiratory virus. It’s spread in a similar way to the common cold, or to influenza,” Dr. Schuchat said, recounting the simple precautions anyone can take to stop the spread of the flu or the novel coronavirus. “It’s spread through coughs and sneezes, and so, those everyday sensible measures that we tell people to do every year with the flu are important here; covering your cough, staying home when you’re sick, and washing your hands. Tried and true, not very exciting measures, but really important ways that you can prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.”

She was followed by an NIH medical doctor who candidly stressed that “the answer to containing is public health measures. We can’t rely on a vaccine over the next several months to a year.”

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However, the New York Times reports that it may have contained the last does of unfiltered real information we could see for a while because that NIH doctor has now been muzzled:

“Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, one of the country’s leading experts on viruses and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, told associates that the White House had instructed him not to say anything else without clearance,” Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman write in the Times.

Last night, Vacaville, California doctors reported the first non-travel transmission of the novel coronavirus dubbed COVID-19.

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Not only is the Trump White House putting the breaks on more fact-based updates without its consent as the threat grows, but there is an ongoing scheme at the highest levels to pass the buck for ultimate responsibility for the federal government’s public health response to the novel coronavirus and it’s creating a “leadership” logjam.

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Less than 24-hours after last night’s press conference, chaos reigns in the chain of command as Vice President Pence has turned to a scientific expert to do his job for him—which is comforting considering his abysmal past history of public health failures as Indiana’s governor—while Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar continues to be the chairman of the federal coronavirus task force. Facing a real crisis, it’s the second time that the two top executives in the federal government have passed the buck in under two days. The New York Times reports:

“In turn, Mr. Pence said on Thursday that he had selected Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the director of the United States effort to combat H.I.V. and AIDS, to serve as the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House, enlisting an experienced scientist and physician to manage the response to the potential spread of the virus.”

“But with Mr. Pence’s announcement, Dr. Birx becomes the third person to be designated as the administration’s primary coronavirus official.”

Apparently, that means Pence’s role has been relegated to being Trump’s press agent, handling all statements about the coronavirus after the President vituperatively complained earlier this week that all the bad news about the growing pandemic is hurting him politically and personally by tanking the stock market.

It’s uncertain that the vice president is really even handling that, as he has decided to bring in Trump’s notoriously inaccurate chief economic advisor Larry Kudlow—who predicted no recession in 2007 before the financial crash began a year later—to continue in his role as a leading disinformation agent.

Now that there’s a growing sense of urgency over the virus, the strain of dismantling the public health infrastructure that President Obama created in the National Security Council to fight a major Ebola outbreak is starting to rear its ugly head as President Trump applies his usual style of mismanagement to a genuine national security threat.

Because the response to this coronavirus outbreak is a matter of life or death, Trump and his prevaricating band of panderers can’t pass the hot potato of the crisis response fast enough, while squelching scientific professionals who could do a better job of informing the public with facts instead of spin.

It’s unfortunate but completely unsurprising that the Trump administration is busy trying to lie its way out of a public health crisis since that’s pretty much all Donald Trump knows how to do.

In the sarcastic words of Dr. Michael R. Carpenter, Vice President Joe Biden’s former National Security Advisor who foresaw today’s crisis in public health response without the NCS’s Directorate on Global Health Security last month, “But we’re building an awesome border wall.”

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Grant Stern
is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and an unpaid senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition and a Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.

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