Public Health Experts Reject President’s View of Fading Pandemic

Public Health Experts Reject President’s View of Fading Pandemic


Public Health Experts Reject President’s View of Fading Pandemic

Public Health Experts Reject President’s View of Fading Pandemic

Public health experts warned on Sunday that the coronavirus pandemic is not going away anytime soon. They directly contradicted President Trump’s promise that the disease that has infected more than two million Americans would “fade away” and his remarks that disparaged the value of evidence from coronavirus tests.

A day after Mr. Trump told a largely maskless audience at an indoor rally in Tulsa, Okla., that he had asked to “slow down the testing” because it inevitably increased the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, infectious disease experts countered that the latest rise of infections in the United States is real, the country’s response to the pandemic is not working and rallies like the president’s risk becoming major spreading events.

Dr. Tom Inglesby, the director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said on “Fox News Sunday” that the spikes in confirmed cases in many states in the South and West are not simply a result of increased testing. Data show that the percentage of tests that are positive is increasing, he said, and in some states is accompanied by increased hospitalizations. In states like Arizona, Texas, North and South Carolina and Florida, he said, “That’s a real rise.”

On “Face the Nation” on CBS, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said, “We’re seeing the positivity rates go up. That’s a clear indication there is now community spread underway, and this isn’t just a function of testing more.”

And Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, repeated his call for a national plan to respond to the pandemic, calling the existing patchwork of state-by-state policy “disjointed.”

In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Dr. Osterholm noted, “We’re at 70 percent of the number of cases today that we were at the very height of the pandemic cases in early April.”

He said that a wave and trough pattern of the virus rising and falling like influenza was one of the scenarios described in an April report that he helped to write. Now, however, the data on how the virus spreads do not support that pattern. “I don’t see this slowing down for the summer or into the fall,” he said.

“I think this is more like a forest fire,” he said. “I think that wherever there’s wood to burn, this fire is going to burn it.”

The experts mainly urged greater use of proven interventions to slow the spread of disease, like hand-washing, mask-wearing and maintaining social distancing when out in public.

When asked whether states should consider reversing the levels of reopening, Dr. Inglesby did not recommend a return to lockdown.

“Each state has a different story,” he said, adding that “leaders should be encouraging people to use the tools we know work.”

He said indoor gatherings like the president’s rally were a concern, as were outdoor demonstrations like the mass protests against police brutality, but to a lesser degree. “We know from what we’ve seen so far in the last few months,” said Dr. Inglesby, “that outdoors is less of a risk than indoors and that mask use has a major impact.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he noted, has advised that “the highest-risk gatherings are those that are large indoors, where people can’t stay apart from each other more than six feet, and where people travel from out of town. And this rally met all of those criteria.”

He and other public health specialists expressed concerns about the potential for a significant spreading event. Oklahoma has a rapidly rising infection rate, although its absolute numbers are still small. It had a record number of cases — 450 — and the last five days have been the highest the state has recorded. Deaths in that state have been in the single digits since the end of April.

U.S. cases are up 15 percent in the past two weeks, with at least 2.2 million confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic and cases on the rise in 22 states.

Earlier in the week, Mr. Trump told Sean Hannity on Fox News that the virus will disappear. “It’s going to fade away,” he said.

  • Updated June 22, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said on CNN, “Not only is it not fading out — this will be with us for at least another 12 months, and that’s the most optimistic scenario for having a vaccine.”

Dr. Jha also responded to the president’s comments on testing. Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump’s trade adviser, said on “State of the Union” on CNN, that the president’s comment about testing was “tongue-in- cheek.” “This is unfortunately not a joke,” Dr. Jha said. He mentioned families who had lost relatives in nursing homes and Americans who had not been able to get tests.

Chad F. Wolf, acting secretary of Homeland Security, appearing on NBC’s news program, defended the precautions taken at the Trump rally as meeting C.D.C. guidelines, since masks were offered and social distancing was voluntary. He also said the administration was trying to get the country “up and running” in a safe way.

“And I think we’re doing a great job at that,” he said.


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