with Paulina Firozi
Even if President Trump is tired of fighting the novel coronavirus, the virus hasn’t stopped fighting the nation he leads.
The president has scheduled his first campaign rally as hospitals start to fill up again with covid-19 patients and cases rise in some places.
Trump’s campaign confirmed yesterday that the president will hold his first campaign rally since the outbreak on June 19 in Tulsa, in a county that has reported a gradual uptick in new cases since the beginning of June. Campaign officials are unlikely to put into place any social distancing measures for attendees or require them to wear masks, the New York Times reports.
“We’re going to start our rallies back up now,” Trump said. “We’ve had a tremendous run at rallies.”
The president also mentioned campaign stops in states that have seen sharp increases in new cases and hospitalizations: Florida, Texas, Arizona and North Carolina, my Post colleagues report.
It’s just one sign that the president has moved on from a pandemic that consumed much of his attention throughout the spring.
Trump and his administration are saying little about the coronavirus anymore.
The media appearances of prominent Trump administration officials were dramatically scaled back in May, compared to their frequent interviews on television and radio stations throughout the spring. It’s been more than a month since Trump’s coronavirus task force gave a daily briefing. Lately, the president has been tweeting about the protests over the police killing of George Floyd, not the pandemic.
More than a dozen states are showing new highs in the number of covid-19 cases or hospitalizations.
Yesterday, Texas reported a record number of hospitalized covid-19 patients for the third day in a row. More than 2,100 people in the state were hospitalized, up from a previous high before the past few days of 1,888 hospitalizations on May 5, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
In Arizona, the state’s health director has directed hospitals to “fully activate” their emergency plans for caring for covid-19 patients. Banner Health, the largest hospital system in Arizona, has warned its intensive care units are filling up and more ventilators are being used.
“Worse times are ahead,” Joe Gerald, an associate professor and public health researcher at the University of Arizona told The Post’s Chelsea Janes, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Rachel Weiner. “The preponderance of evidence indicates community transmission is increasing.”
Arkansas has had an 88 percent increase in hospitalizations since Memorial Day. North Carolina has had the second-largest spike in hospitalizations, behind Texas. In South Carolina, 12 counties have reached 75 percent of hospital capacity or greater.
“Texas, Arkansas, South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona, North Carolina, Oregon, Florida and Utah all set new highs in seven-day rolling case averages Wednesday, according to Post data,” my colleagues write.
“Montana, Arkansas, Utah, Arizona and Texas have all seen coronavirus hospitalizations rise by at least 35 percent in the weeks since Memorial Day,” they add.
State leaders are still grappling with cases on the rise.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) renewed the state of emergency for an additional 30 days, the third time she has extended her emergency declaration.
“It is important for all of us to remember that this dangerous, highly contagious and untreatable virus is still all around us,” Mills said yesterday.
In rural parts of Maine, the state has eased restrictions in that restaurants can offer dine-in service in most of the state’s 16 counties, my Post colleagues report.
“However, the more populous counties York, Cumberland and Androscoggin, which account for 1,801 of the state’s 2,350 confirmed cases, have remained under closure limitations until infections decline,” they write.
Trump administration officials are quietly worried, even if they’ve been saying less to the public.
Anthony Fauci called the pandemic “his worst nightmare” at a conference on Tuesday.
“In a period of four months, it has devastated the world,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said at the BIO Digital health-care conference.
“Like, oh, my goodness, when is it going to end?” he said. “It really is very complicated. So we’re just at almost the beginning of really understanding.”
The spikes appear linked to reopening – before the protests over police treatment of African Americans.
But Fauci and others have expressed concerns that the widespread protests over the killing of George Floyd — attended by hundreds of thousands of people over the past two weeks — will cause cases to spike.
That might be the case, but it’s still too early to tell.
Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation:
— Larry Levitt (@larry_levitt) June 10, 2020
Megan McArdle, columnist for The Washington Post:
This suggests that if the protests seeded infections, we’ll know by mid-July, when stuff gets bad in cities like mine that hadn’t much relaxed their restrictions. https://t.co/hAoPITaZ8E
— Megan McArdle (@asymmetricinfo) June 10, 2020
Ahh, oof and ouch
AHH: The U.S. government will fund critical studies of three coronavirus vaccine candidates beginning this summer.
The candidates will be developed by Moderna, followed by Oxford University in coordination with AstraZeneca and a third by Johnson & Johnson, John Mascola, director of the vaccine research center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Wall Street Journal’s Peter Loftus.
These phase-three vaccine trials are meant to determine whether the vaccine is safe and effective. It’s the last stage of testing and will include tens of thousands of subjects around the country.
“The timetable suggests researchers are making relatively rapid progress advancing their vaccines through earlier stages of testing — focused on whether they are safe and induce the desired immune response — to at least merit the planning,” Peter reports.
It’s also notable because most vaccine candidates don’t make it through all the trial phases.
OOF: As the outbreaks in some countries ease, vaccine developers warn there may not be enough people to determine if they work.
It’s good news that new infections in previous hot spots are slowing, but it complicates the push to develop a vaccine.
“A leader of the Oxford University group, one of the furthest ahead with human trials, admits the reality is paradoxical, even ‘bizarre,’ but said the declining numbers of new infections this summer could be one of the big hurdles vaccine developers face in the global race to beat down the virus,” William Booth and Carolyn Y. Johnson report. “Even as new cases are growing worldwide, transmission rates are falling in Britain, China and many of the hardest-hit regions in the United States — the three countries that have experimental vaccines ready to move into large-scale human testing in June, July and August.”
Here’s why it’s a problem: If the vaccine isn’t circulating enough in the general population, it’s more difficult to test whether the vaccine is protecting trial participants from exposure when they’re out in public, at clinics or in the workplace.
“If there’s not much chance of volunteers running into someone with the virus, researchers will have to expand their efforts and potentially chase down outbreaks in other countries, delaying the prospect of a successful vaccine,” William and Carolyn write.
OUCH: Louisiana has been ramping up its contact tracing efforts as the state reopens. But people are ignoring the calls.
Fewer than half of infected people that callers contacted between May 15 and June 2 were reached, the Advocate’s Sam Karlin reports, citing information from the Louisiana Department of Health.
Contact tracers are meant to call individuals infected with covid-19 and track down their contacts. But the low numbers in Louisiana are “similar to those seen in some other states, and raise questions about how effective the program will be in tamping down the spread of the highly-contagious coronavirus, especially as the state marches through its phased reopening plan.”
Sam adds: “State leaders have urged people to answer the calls and take part in the program — especially so the people they may have exposed to the virus can be notified.”
State officials yesterday expressed concern that not enough Louisiana residents were picking up these calls or wearing face masks.
In the states
States are grappling with how to expand testing as they move forward without overarching guidance from the administration.
Some states are opening testing to individuals even if they don’t show covid-19 symptoms, while others have sought to limit testing to people with symptoms.
“The wide range of approaches across the country comes as the federal government has offered little guidance on the best way to test a broad swath of the population, leaving state public health officials to wrestle on their own with difficult questions about how to measure the spread of the virus and make decisions about reopening their economies,” Rachel Weiner and Rosalind S. Helderman reports.
States are also using different tests with varying levels of reliability.
The patchwork system in the states has let Americans confused about if and how to get tested and has complicated reopening strategies.
“So far, about 460,000 Americans are being tested a day — 0.15 percent of the population, and still shy of the 900,000 to 30 million that experts say need to be tested daily to capture the extent of the virus’s spread,” they add.
The Trump administration’s response
Federal health officials last week awarded a $628 million contract to a company linked to an official leading the pandemic response.
The Department of Health and Human Services awarded the contract to Emergent Biosolutions, a company where Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response, served as a consultant until 2015, Roll Call’s Emily Kopp reports.
“Since Kadlec’s 2017 confirmation, the biodefense company has received more than $1.2 billion from the division Kadlec oversees, including a part of HHS known as the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, federal records and company news releases show,” Emily writes.
She adds: “The contract raises questions because a whistleblower complaint filed in May by former BARDA Director Rick Bright alleges Kadlec and other officials may have broken the law by awarding lucrative contracts to former business acquaintances and friends.”
HHS’s internal watchdog is now considering a review of BARDA contracts starting in fiscal year 2017 until May 2019.
Consumer fear and government spending in response to the pandemic has sparked scams and fraud.
A report from Faegre Drinker Consulting finds loosened regulations, the infusion of funds into the economy from coronavirus relief packages and general consumer fear amid the high demand for medical services created an environment ripe for fraud.
“From fake vaccines and cures to subpar personal protective equipment to hoarding and price gouging, indictments and arrests are occurring at an alarming rate,” the firm writes.
The report found a total of 315 pandemic-related enforcement actions, such as warning letters, were taken by federal agencies as of June 5. The most actions – 183 – were taken by the Federal Trade Commission. Of the 46 charges law enforcement has brought in alleged coronavirus-related fraud schemes since March, 23 have been for false claims.
For example, federal authorities announced last week a civil injunction against a 73-year-old Texas resident to stop the “sale of fraudulent COVID-19 cures through his business and his website.”
Here are a few more stories to catch up on this morning:
The hardest hit:
- Kenna Allen, a 34-year-old single mother, was already navigating a high-risk pregnancy. Then, after contracting the coronavirus, she unknowingly gave birth while on a ventilator, Samantha Schmidt writes in this heartbreaking story. Kenna didn’t learn about her baby’s death until days later, after the first coronavirus-related death of a baby in Louisiana had already made the news.
The latest research:
- A new British study suggests the widespread use of face masks could prevent a second wave of coronavirus infections, Reuters’s Kate Kelland reports.
Around the world:
- Following a court order, the Brazilian government has resumed releasing coronavirus case and death data, Terrence McCoy reports.
Crawling toward a new normal:
- United Airlines is the latest airline to ask travelers to answer questions about their health status before getting on a flight, Lori Aratani reports.