GAO To Investigate Allegations Of Trump Administration Interference At CDC, FDA; Trump Calls Fauci, Scientists ‘Idiots’ In Campaign Call; Washington Post Highlights Discord Among White House COVID-19 Task Force

The Hill: Government watchdog to investigate allegations of Trump interference at CDC, FDA
“…The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said it had accepted a request from Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Patty Murray (Wash.) and Gary Peters (Mich.) to review whether the scientific integrity and communications policies of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been violated, and ‘whether those policies are being implemented as intended to assure scientific integrity throughout the agency.’ The senators requested the investigation earlier this month, following numerous reports of political meddling in the COVID-19 response at both CDC and FDA…” (Weixel, 10/19).

New York Times: A Viral Theory Cited by Health Officials Draws Fire From Scientists
“As the coronavirus pandemic erupted this spring, two Stanford University professors — Dr. Jay Bhattacharya and Dr. Scott W. Atlas — bonded over a shared concern that lockdowns were creating economic and societal devastation. Now Dr. Atlas is President Trump’s pandemic adviser, a powerful voice inside the White House. And Dr. Bhattacharya is one of three authors of the so-called Great Barrington Declaration, a scientific treatise that calls for allowing the coronavirus to spread naturally in order to achieve herd immunity — the point at which enough people have been infected to stall transmission of the pathogen in the community. … Alarmed and angry, 80 experts on Wednesday published a manifesto of their own, the John Snow Memorandum (named after a legendary epidemiologist), saying that the declaration’s approach would endanger Americans who have underlying conditions that put them at high risk from severe Covid-19 — at least one-third of U.S. citizens, by most estimates — and result in perhaps a half-million deaths…” (Mandavilli/Stolberg, 10/19).

POLITICO: ‘Fauci’s a disaster’: Trump attacks health officials in fiery campaign call
“President Donald Trump attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci and his administration’s other public health officials as ‘idiots’ in a heated call with his campaign staff Monday, even musing about potentially firing the nation’s top infectious disease expert. ‘People are tired of Covid. People are saying, ‘Whatever, just leave us alone.’ People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,’ Trump said on the call, which included press…” (Forgey, 10/19).

Washington Post: Trump’s den of dissent: Inside the White House task force as coronavirus surges
“…Discord on the coronavirus task force has worsened since the arrival in late summer of [Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist whose commentary on Fox News led President Trump to recruit him to the White House], whom colleagues said they regard as ill-informed, manipulative and at times dishonest. … Birx recently confronted the office of Vice President Pence, who chairs the task force, about the acrimony, according to two people familiar with the meeting. Birx, whose profile and influence have eroded considerably since Atlas’s arrival, told Pence’s office that she does not trust Atlas, does not believe he is giving Trump sound advice and wants him removed from the task force, the two people said. … The result has been a U.S. response increasingly plagued by distrust, infighting, and lethargy, just as experts predict coronavirus cases could surge this winter and deaths could reach 400,000 by year’s end. This assessment is based on interviews with 41 administration officials, advisers to the president, public health leaders, and other people with knowledge of internal government deliberations, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide candid assessments or confidential information…” (Abutaleb et al., 10/19).

Additional coverage of the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic is available from The Hill, POLITICO, Scientific American, and Washington Post.

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