The White House coronavirus task force has warned that deaths will continue to spike within the next several weeks as the nation responds to a “new phase” of the pandemic that has gripped both rural and urban areas despite scrutiny from health experts that the administration failed to respond to the crisis at its onset.
Donald Trump has meanwhile issued a rare direct rebuke of the nation’s leading infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci, whom the president said is “wrong” to blame the surging public health crisis on the nation’s failure to shut down its economy.
A vote to secure the president’s nomination for his re-election could be held privately without members of the press later this month, for the first time in modern history. A spokesperson for the Republican National Convention (RNC) said the decision was due to “health restrictions and limitations in place within the state of North Carolina”, where 336 delegates were scheduled to gather in Charlotte on 24 August to formally vote to make Mr Trump the party’s standard-bearer once again. But GOP officials said on Sunday that organisers are still determining logistics to accomodate the press.
Such nominating conventions are traditionally designed to be in the media’s spotlight so political parties can draw attention to the events and amplify their platforms.
The news comes as Tropical Storm Isaias, which was downgraded from a hurricane, is set to brush the east coast of Florida as it heads northwest with top sustained winds of 70 miles per hour. The National Hurricane Centre has said the storm will move near or along the state’s east coast on Sunday. Florida’s central and northern east coast could be hit by a storm surge of as much as four feet (1.22m) as the storm pushes tidal levels above normal.
National mask mandate? Compliance is key, administration official says
Facing calls for a federal mandate for Americans to wear face coverings in public to help combat the spread of coronavirus, Admiral Brett Giroir told NBC that masks would have to be “voluntary by the American people” to truly work, amid debate that people would “rebel” against such orders.
“The public health message is: we’ve got to have mask wearing,” he said. “If we don’t do that … the virus will continue to run.”
But significantly cutting the infection rate would require “85 to 90 per cent” compliance with federal health guidelines to wear masks in public, despite no such orders implemented on a national level and instead relying instead of state and local officials to issue them.
“We are very concerned,” Admiral Giroir said. “Deaths will continue to increase for the next few weeks.”
Birx: ‘We are in a new phase’ of coronavirus
Asked how the administration plans to address surges of coronavirus infections in “hot spots” across the US months after the onset of the outbreak in the country, White House coronavirus task force member Dr Deborah Birx claims that new infections are different from the case spikes in the spring.
“It is extraordinarily widespread, it’s into the rural as equal as urban areas, and yo everyone who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus,” she told CNN. “This epidemic right now is different.”
Dr Birx and the administration have faced intense scrutiny for failing to respond to the pandemic at its early onset, relying on a patchwork response from states without a national testing regimen or adequate containment and relief efforts to keep Americans safely at home.
Congress has ‘not come to an agreement on’ coronavirus relief, Pelosi says
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says despite months of arguments to expand testing, Congress has reached a stalemate over the coronavirus response and expanded federal relief legislation as unemployment benefits expire and cases increase.
Donald Trump has “stood in the way” of the legislation, she said, following his claims on Twitter that Democrats – despite drafting legislation that has been blocked in the Republican-controlled Senate – are responsible for withholding that relief.
“We have been for the $600” in additional federal unemployment benefits, she said. “They have a $200 proposal which does not meet the needs of working families … The idea that they made a proposal is really not actually factual.”
‘Never done before’: Trump doubles down on promise to lower drug prices
President Donald Trump has called for supporters to “forget” what drug companies who take “massive television ads against me” say, and insisted his administration will bring the price of prescription drugs in the US down.
It was unclear what drug companies he was referring to, but the president last week slammed “Big Pharma” television ads, calling them “nasty” and claiming he has reduced drug prices by 50 per cent “at least”.
Earlier this month, Mr Trump signed four executive orders aimed at cutting prescription drug prices in the US.
But pharmaceutical industry analysts have said the move would not have much effect.
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said in a statement: “This administration has decided to pursue a radical and dangerous policy to set prices based on rates paid in countries that he President Trump has labelled as socialist, which will harm patients today and into the future.”
But Mr Trump insists: “Favoured Nations Clause means USA will pay the lowest price of any nation in the World. Never done before. Watch!!!”