with Brent D. Griffiths
Happy Friday, friends and Ramadan Mubarak! Have a great weekend and do not ingest any bleach or disinfectant. See you on Monday ☀️
At The White House
MOMENTS IN THE SUN: President Trump yesterday touted the bizarre idea disinfectant could somehow be applied to or ingested by humans to rid them of the novel coronavirus. Or that ultraviolet light or sunlight could be “brought inside the body” to help people with covid-19.
The president's unsubstantiated — and potentially dangerous — amateur musings came after William N. Bryan, the acting undersecretary for science and technology at the Homeland Security Department, announced an “emerging result” from a lab study showing direct sunlight helps kill the coronavirus.
- “I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning,” the president said during the daily virus task force briefing.
- “Is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets on the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that,” he added.
Nope, nope, nope: On Friday, the maker of Lysol and Dettol urged people not to ingest their product.
- “We must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),” the Reckitt Benckiser Group emailed The Washington Post. “With all products, our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines. Please read the label and safety information.”
Here is Dr. Birx's reaction when President Trump asks his science advisor to study using UV light on the human body and injecting disinfectant to fight the coronavirus. pic.twitter.com/MVno5X7JMA— Daniel Lewis (@Daniel_Lewis3) April 24, 2020
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn sought to frame Trump's medically risky musings as natural curiosity. “This is a conversation that occurs every day in America between a patient and a doctor. I've been in that position. I'm sure Dr. Gupta has as well,” Hahn said on CNN following the briefing, answering Sanjay Gupta, the network's chief medical correspondent.
Do not try this at home: A researcher as well as a medical and radiation oncologist, Hahn stressed no one should take matters into their own hands without consulting their doctor. And, stating the obvious, Hahn confirmed, “I certainly wouldn't recommend the internal ingestion of a disinfectant.”
- But Gupta was clearly jarred by the entire affair: “I have a lot of respect for Dr. Hahn, obviously, but I don't think this is a common conversation happening in doctor's offices,” said Gupta, who is also a practicing neurosurgeon. “I mean, I'm a doctor, Leana [Wen, former president of Planned Parenthood and an emergency room physician] you're a doctor, have patients been asking you should they inject themselves with bleach? I just don't think we should normalize that in any way, shape or form.”
- “My concern is that people will die. People will think this is a good idea,” Craig Spencer, director of global health in emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, told our colleagues Allyson Chiu and Katie Shepherd. “This is not willy-nilly, off-the-cuff, maybe-this-will-work advice. This is dangerous.”
Just a ‘suggestion’: Trump has repeatedly advanced unproven medical remedies from the White House podium as the coronavirus pandemic becomes the central challenge of his presidency — and as nearly 50,000 Americans have died of the disease.
His latest medical “suggestion,” as Trump called it, comes in the wake of a fresh Veterans Affairs study on his previously favorite remedy — hydroxychloroquine — found the anti-malarial drug to have no benefit in treating covid-19. The study instead found the drug was linked to higher death rates for hospitalized VA patients with the virus. Other clinical trials to gauge the drug's impact are ongoing.
From an infectious disease expert:
- “An association of increased overall mortality was identified in patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone,” wrote the authors. “These findings highlight the importance of awaiting the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies before widespread adoption of these drugs.”
- Up until this week, however, Trump was publicly betting on the controversial drug as a cure-all. Our colleagues Phil Rucker, Bob Costa, Laurie McGinley and Josh Dawsey reported friends like personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Fox host Laura Ingraham were lobbying the president on the drug's efficiacy.
- On Thursday, pressed by Phil during the briefing on why he stopped promoting the anti-malarial drug, Trump claimed he hadn't: “We’ve had a lot of very good results and we had some results that perhaps aren’t so good.”
- His FDA head had this to say afterwards of another study on hydroxychloroquine stopped because of cardiac events: “Obviously you need to wait for the entire cohort of individuals to have been treated with the complete course of treatment to get a full read on that."
The briefing as a traveling medicine show showcased Trump's desire to find a cure-all for a disease has caused confusion and turmoil within his administration's health agencies:
- Rick Bright, who was ousted as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority earlier this week, yesterday filed a whistleblower complaint. Bright alleges that he was removed after resisting the Trump administration's push for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.
- “I rightly resisted efforts to provide an unproven drug on demand to the American public,” Bright said, per our colleague Yasmeen Abutaleb. “I also resisted efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections.”
- “Sidelining me in the middle of this pandemic and placing politics and cronyism ahead of science puts lives at risk and stunts national efforts to safely and effectively address this urgent public health crisis,” Bright said in a statement first reported by the New York Times's Michael Shear and Maggie Haberman.
- Trump insisted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield would retract his statement to our colleague Lena H. Sun that a second virus wave could be “more difficult.” Instead, at the podium Wednesday, Redfield confirmed he was "accurately quoted in The Washington Post,” contradicting Trump's claims.
The behind-the-scenes drama has seeped into public view as well. The daily task force briefings have become soap operas where Trump's grievances and frustrations with media coverage and his own staff play out in real time.
- The New York Times's Katie Rogers and Annie Karni report Trump usually doesn't prepare for sometimes marathon briefings where he dispenses medical advice: “Mr. Trump rarely attends the task force meetings that precede the briefings, and he typically does not prepare before he steps in front of the cameras. He is often seeing the final version of the day’s main talking points that aides have prepared for him for the first time although aides said he makes tweaks with a Sharpie just before he reads them live. He hastily plows through them, usually in a monotone, to get to the question-and-answer bullying session with reporters that he relishes,” Rogers and Karni report.
Fit for a 'king': Trump has chafed over repeated questioning whether the country is testing enough people. He has proclaimed the U.S. the “king of testing” despite governors and local officials still scrambling to get supplies. The latest person to trigger the president's ire was Anthony S. Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, who questioned the country's capabilities:
- “We need to significantly ramp up not only the number of tests, but the capacity to perform them, so that you don’t have a situation where you have a test but it can’t be done because there isn’t a swab, or because there isn’t extraction media, or not the right vial,” Fauci told Time magazine. “I am not overly confident right now at all that we have what it takes to do that. We are doing better, and I think we are going to get there, but we are not there yet.”
- When asked about Fauci's comments, Trump said, “No, I don't agree with him on that … I think we're doing a great job on testing.”
- More: “Trump and some in his inner circle have grown frustrated at Fauci’s willingness to break with the president both in interviews and during the briefings. Although Trump has not discussed firing Fauci, despite a clamor from some on the right, he has expressed annoyance at Fauci’s positive press coverage — and word was sent from the White House that the doctor should not participate in any more personal profile stories,” the Associated Press's Deb Riechmann, Aamer Madhani, and Jon Lemire report.
Please don't eat tide pods or inject yourself with any kind of disinfectant.— WA Emergency Management (@waEMD) April 23, 2020
If you do need help with #COVID19 issues, we have lots of resources at https://t.co/C4x8jjWL0x
Just don't make a bad situation worse.
Outside the Beltway
GOVS BLINDSIDE THEIR OWN STAFFS WITH HASTY REOPENINGS: “Governors preparing to roll back restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus are in some cases acting without the input and against the wishes of their own medical and emergency management staff,” Isaac Stanley-Becker and Rachel Weiner report.
Just look at Georgia: “Gov. Brian Kemp (R) announced he would let tattoo parlors, hair salons and bowling alleys reopen without receiving guidance from the panel of doctors tapped to advise him and without giving advance notice to regional health departments responsible for carrying out his orders, according to physicians and state officials,” our colleagues write.
Trump admonished Kemp again for not following the White House guidelines: “I said ‘you do what you think is best’ but if you ask me ‘am I happy about it’, I'm not happy about it and I'm not happy about Brian Kemp,” the president said during yesterday's briefing.
- But the president reportedly praised Kemp's plan earlier this week: “On Tuesday night, Vice President Pence and [Trump], in separate phone calls, each expressed his support for the governor’s coronavirus response, said an official familiar with the calls who was unauthorized to speak about the matter,” the New York Times's Richard Fausset and Rick Rojas report.
TIDAL WAVE OF JOB LOSSES CONTINUE: “More than 4.4 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, according to the Labor Department,” Rachel Siegel and Andrew Van Dam report. “It’s the fifth straight week that job losses were measured in the millions."
- Millions are still waiting for their checks: “The economic carnage wrought by the coronavirus has resulted in a national backlog of at least 3 million unpaid jobless claims, according to a new analysis by The Washington Post, threatening Americans around the country with even more financial hardship than they anticipated,” Tony Romm and Heather Long report.
On The Hill
HOUSE PASSES $484 BILLION VIRUS BILL: “The legislation, approved 388-5, would restart a small-business loan program that was swamped by demand and allocate more money for health-care providers and virus testing. The vote was historic, as many lawmakers wore masks on the House floor, some even speaking through face coverings as they delivered impassioned remarks,” Erica Werner reports.
The people's House amid a pandemic: “There were many, many masks, and in some cases gloves. Sanitizing hand wipes were placed on every row. Signs on the chairs forbid lawmakers from sitting any closer than three seats apart,” Paul Kane reports. “Most lawmakers wore masks inside the chamber, although quite a few Republicans declined to wear them at all, a point of tension for some Democrats who want everyone to don some face covering.”
- House members haven't seen each other since March 27 or held a formally recorded vote since March 13: “Rather than the normal 15-minute vote — with several hundred lawmakers crammed into the chamber at once — House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) worked with GOP leaders to minimize the number of lawmakers on the floor,” PK writes. “Shortly after 3 p.m., as the first vote began, the initial wave of lawmakers were ushered onto the floor almost one at a time, from either side of the House floor. They were greeted by a staffer and two hand sanitizer stations. There were eight waves arranged alphabetically — the first group ranging from the As to the middle of the Cs, and so on."
THE NEXT BIG DEBATE IS POISED TO BE A BATTLE: “ … The focus is quickly shifting to an escalating battle over whether Congress will provide hundreds of billions of dollars to states staggering under the costs of [the outbreak],” the New York Times's Carl Hulse reports.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested some states consider bankruptcy: He said he isn't in any mood for legislation with lots of 0s to help states he claims mismanaged their funds before the crisis. That has not gone over well, even with some fellow Republicans, John Wagner reports.
- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said the majority leader would “regret” his statement: “The last thing we need in the middle of an economic crisis is to have states all filing bankruptcy all across America and not able to provide services to people who desperately need them,” said Hogan, who also chairs the bipartisan National Governors Association. Both Hogan and New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) previously pleaded for more funding.
- Cuomo tore into McConnell: “[The governor] pointed out pointed out that McConnell’s state of Kentucky currently receives more federal dollars for services than its taxpayers contribute, while the opposite is true of New York,” our colleague writes. “Your state is getting bailed out. Not my state,” Cuomo said.
The president has yet to take a concrete position: “During a White House briefing, Trump said aid to the states is ‘certainly the next thing we’re going to be discussing”’ but also said ‘a lot of people’ are sympathetic to what McConnell is saying …,” our colleague writes.
BIDEN LOOKS STRONG WITH OLDER VOTERS: “A string of recent polls shows troubling signs for [Trump] with older voters, a group central to his reelection effort that appears to be drifting away from him amid a pandemic that has been especially deadly for senior citizens,” Toluse Olorunnipa reports.
Warning signs in Florida: “ … A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed Biden leading Trump by a 10-point margin, 52 to 42, among voters 65 and older — the latest poll showing Trump losing ground with seniors in key battlegrounds,” our colleague writes. “In 2016, exit polls showed Trump winning seniors in Florida by 17 points over Hillary Clinton, a crucial margin in a state where older voters make up a large percentage of the voting population.”
- But it's more than just the Sunshine State: “Fox News polls released Wednesday showed Biden ahead 51 percent to 44 percent among baby boomers in Pennsylvania, and leading 56 to 38 with members of that cohort in Michigan.”
- The Trump campaign says November is a long ways: “These polls don’t reflect what we see internally.” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told our colleague. He added, “Remember that Joe Biden only just became President Trump’s apparent opponent and we have not yet begun to define him.”
In the Media
WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Trump administration considers strong arming the Post Office: “The Treasury Department is considering taking unprecedented control over key operations of the U.S. Postal Service by imposing tough terms on an emergency coronavirus loan from Congress, which would fulfill [Trump’s] longtime goal of changing how the service does business, according to two people familiar with the matter,” Jacob Bogage and Lisa Rein report.
- The president has long attacked the USPS: “Trump has railed for years against what he sees as mismanagement at the Postal Service, which he argues has been exploited by e-commerce sites such as Amazon, and has sought to change how much the agency charges for the delivery of packages,” our colleagues write. (Amazon’s founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
The anthem for our moment: “ … ‘Rainbow’ has lived many lives. It wound up as an album favorite. It became an anthem for the LGBTQ community. It surged again when [Kacey] Musgraves performed it during the 2019 Grammy Awards, where she won four trophies, including album of the year. And now, in a terrifying time during the covid-19 pandemic, it has evolved into the comforting song that many people are turning to,” Emily Yahr writes of the song on Musgraves's first album that keeps reminding us, “It all be alright.”
“Nothing about the June/July issue of Vogue is normal”: “And so, the most intriguing images in the newest edition of this iconic publication are not of models, actors or spit-shined politicians. They are four pictures of health professionals in scrubs,” Robin Givhan writes. “Instead, the four women — part of a medical portfolio — have been elevated. Everyone else in the magazine, by comparison, has been diminished.”