The Health 202: Trump tests positive for coronavirus, throwing into chaos final days of campaign

Trump tweeted this shortly before 1 a.m.:

First lady Melania Trump chimed in:

“Trump’s early morning announcement was an extraordinary turn for the first family, coming little more than a month before Election Day and as Trump has escalated his campaign pace in an effort to catch Democratic nominee Joe Biden,” my colleagues Josh Dawsey and Colby Itkowitz write. “He trails largely, aides and voters say, due to his handling of the virus, which has dominated voters’ attention along with the economic collapse caused by pandemic shutdowns.

“Even as the virus exploded around the nation, Trump has continued to hold large events featuring mostly maskless crowds of people who squeezed together to greet the president,” they add. “Trump has regularly appeared in public and in private without a mask, and has mocked Biden for wearing one and for curbing his campaign events. Many of Trump’s aides also have eschewed masks, both in the West Wing presidential offices and on trips.”

Now Trump can’t hold his beloved rallies — at least for the next two weeks.

The president’s physician, Sean P. Conley, wrote that Trump and Melania “are both well at this time, and they plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence.” Conley didn’t provide any information on whether the president or first lady are experiencing any symptoms.

The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman:

CNN’s Manu Raju noted the president, 74, is considered high-risk for serious covid-19 complications:

Trump’s quarantine — and the possibility he infected Vice President Pence — throws the rest of the presidential debates into question. Pence is scheduled to debate Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), next Wednesday. The second and third debates between Trump and Biden are scheduled for Oct. 15 and 22.

Trump was in the presence of many aides and prominent people over the past week.

They included his own Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, and Biden — although the two were roughly 12-feet apart during Tuesday’s debate and didn’t shake hands. 

Hicks, a top Trump aide who traveled with him on Air Force One and Marine One this week, tested positive yesterday morning. 

Trump suggested Hicks could have contracted the virus while meeting with members of the military or law enforcement. Hicks has been spotted on multiple occasions without a mask, including at a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday. Trump rarely wears a mask and is often seen close to aides. 

“It is very, very hard when you are with people from the military, or from law enforcement, and they come over to you, and they want to hug you and they want to kiss you, because we really have done a good job for them,” Trump told Fox News’s Sean Hannity last night. 

“You get close, and things happen. I was surprised to hear with Hope, but she is a very warm person with them. She knows there’s a risk, but she is young.”

Trump has a long record of claiming invincibility when it comes to covid-19.

Just a few days ago, at the first presidential debate in Cleveland, Trump was pressed on his insistence on having huge campaign rallies where no one is required to wear facial coverings or to socially distance.

“We’ve had no negative effect, and we’ve had, 35,000 to 40,000 people at some of these rallies,” Trump said.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden shot back: “He’s been totally irresponsible the way in which he has handled the social distancing and people wearing masks, basically encouraged them not to,” Biden said. “He’s a fool on this.”

“If you could get the crowds, you would have done the same thing,” Trump said. “But you can’t. Nobody cares.”

In May, Trump told reporters “I felt no vulnerability whatsoever” to the virus.

HuffPost’s Kevin Robillard:

Ahh, oof and ouch

AHH: House Democrats passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill. 

The bill, which passed almost entirely along party lines, has no chance of advancing in the Republican-led Senate. Behind the scenes, however, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continue negotiations in an attempt to find a compromise that can gain bipartisan support, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report. 

Republicans accused Pelosi of playing politics in passing a bill with no chance of advancing, while 18 mostly centrist Democrats voted “no,” with some expressing frustration that the bill would not go anywhere. 

But Pelosi and Mnuchin spent much of Tuesday trading phone calls and negotiating over granular details, such as a coronavirus testing plan or at what level to set a refundable child tax credit. 

“Mnuchin went into the talks with Pelosi with a $1.62 trillion offer, the White House confirmed Thursday — a sum the speaker still views as too low,” Werner and Stein write.  

“But the fact that Pelosi and Mnuchin are now trading offers in earnest appears to suggest there’s some hope of success. Even if they do manage to clinch a deal, however, the White House would still have to sell it to Senate Republicans, who have been highly skeptical of any legislation over $1 trillion,” Erica and Jeff write.

OOF: Misinformation about Biden’s health has proliferated on social media platforms.

A series of videos and posts implying that Biden used an earpiece or wire to cheat in Tuesday’s debate have gained traction on social media, fueled by a misleading Facebook ad from the Trump campaign. The posts play into Trump’s strategy of questioning Biden’s health and implying that he is suffering from dementia. The day before the debate, Trump demanded that Biden take a drug test, Elizabeth Dwoskin reports.

The Trump campaign ad promotes a false story that Biden used an earpiece during the debate, urging people to “Check Joe’s Ears” and implying that the Democratic nominee needed to be fed debate answers.

While social media giants have taken steps to combat misinformation going into the election, “the latest evidence shows that they continue to struggle, particularly when it comes to falsehoods spread by the president and his followers,” Dwoskin writes.

TikTok removed a series of baseless videos that purported to show Biden wearing a wire during the debate after the company was contacted by The Washington Post.

“The campaign ad on Facebook focusing on Biden reveals a significant hole in the social media giant’s enforcement efforts, Dwoskin writes. “[T]he social network does not fact-check political ads as a matter of policy. That makes paid speech an exploitable category for misinformation.”

OUCH: Senate Democrats urged the Health and Human Services inspector general to investigate political interference.

“Senate Democrats on Thursday urged the health department’s watchdog to probe whether Trump administration political appointees interfered with the Covid-19 response to play down the virus’ risks and change language to align with President Donald Trump, citing reports from POLITICO and other news outlets,” Politico’s Dan Diamond reports.

“The consistent pattern running through these reports of political interference is the ongoing effort to minimize the seriousness of the virus,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and colleagues wrote in a letter to HHS Principal Deputy Inspector General Christi Grimm. 

The letter asks the office of the inspector general to investigate whether political interference has undermined the scientific and public health processes within the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. 

Senate Democrats cited news reports of political appointees interfering with recommendations and reports from career scientists at the FDA and the CDC, including reports that HHS appointees sought to review the CDC’s weekly scientific reports. The letter also raised concerns about HHS overruling FDA scientists on the regulation of lab-based coronavirus tests, as well as concerns that political pressure led the FDA to rush an emergency-use authorization for convalescent plasma to treat covid-19 patients.

Coronavirus latest

  • Amazon said Thursday that nearly 20,000 of its U.S. front-line workers had caught the coronavirus. The company claimed that this represented about 1.44 percent of its front-line workforce, which includes warehouse workers and Whole Foods cashiers. The company claims that this is less than the overall infection rate of the U.S. population. Amazon has come under fire during the pandemic for inadequate workplace protections and for allegations of retaliation against whistleblowers who raised safety concerns, Rachel Lerman reports.
  • Gilead Sciences began selling its covid-19 drug remdesivir directly to hospitals on Thursday, after the U.S. government relinquished control of the drug’s distribution. HHS was initially charged with allocating the supply of the drug out of concerns of potential shortages, but the health department found in recent weeks that the supply of the drug now outweighs demand, the Wall Street Journal’s Joseph Walker reports.
  • Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said that the company won’t succumb to political pressure on a vaccine timeline, even as he criticized those calling for a delay, in an internal memo to company staff on Thursday, Politico’s Sarah Owermohle reports. Bourla also referenced Tuesday’s presidential debate, writing, “I was disappointed that the prevention for a deadly disease was discussed in political terms rather than scientific facts.”

Elsewhere in health care

The nation’s largest doctors group asked the Supreme Court to strike down a Trump abortion rule.

“The AMA’s move will raise the profile of a reproductive rights issue overshadowed by bigger election-year battles,” Zaldivar writes.

Nearly 900 women’s health clinics — out of some 4,000 receiving federal funding — have left the federal family planning program known as Title X since the Trump administration rules went into effect.

“Advocates say the exodus has disrupted care for women who receive birth control and routine medical attention from the clinics. The program usually serves some 4 million clients, and the AMA says that was down about 20% last year,” Zadivar writes.

The request to the Supreme Court comes after two U.S. appeals courts issued conflicting rulings over the legality of the Trump administration restrictions. The AMA cast the restrictions on communications between doctors and patients as an issue of free speech and medical ethics.

Sugar rush

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