Coronavirus response: Trump denies funeral aid as minority communities suffer without tests & treatment
Welcome, dear readers, to my coronavirus roundup. I’m posting these every Friday in addition to Lost in the Sauce on Mondays (for non-coronavirus news).
Title refers to the sections “Minorities and low-income communities” and “Trump sits on funeral aid”
Short summary at very end – scroll to bottom if you’re short on time.
- HOW TO SUPPORT: I know we are all facing unprecedented financial hardships right now. If you are in the position to support my work, I have a patreon, venmo, and a paypal set up. No pressure though, I will keep posting these pieces no matter what.
- NOTIFICATIONS: You can signup to receive notifications when these coronavirus-centric posts are done and/or the weekly political-legal posts (Lost in the Sauce) are done.
More than a dozen issues of the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) in January and February contained warnings about the novel coronavirus, its spread, and the suppression of information in China. During this period, Trump downplayed the virus and insisted it was under control.
U.S. officials emphasized that the PDB references to the virus included comprehensive articles on aspects of the global outbreak, but also smaller digest items meant to keep Trump and senior administration officials updated on the course of the contagion… One official said that by mid- to late January the coronavirus was being mentioned more frequently, either as one of the report’s core articles or in what is known as an “executive update,” and that it was almost certainly called to Trump’s attention orally.
Part of a pattern
The president did not take the warnings seriously, if he noticed them at all: Trump “routinely skips reading the PDB and has at times shown little patience for even the oral summary he takes two or three times per week.”
According to then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo in 2017, Trump prefers “killer graphics” in his briefings and doesn’t want too many details so intelligence officials try to “get to the core of the issue quickly.” A year later, in 2018, the Washington Post reported that even the simplified briefings were too much of a hassle for Trump:
Trump has opted to rely on an oral briefing of select intelligence issues in the Oval Office rather than getting the full written document delivered to review separately each day…Reading the traditionally dense intelligence book is not Trump’s preferred “style of learning” …After several months, Trump made clear he was not interested in reviewing a personal copy of the written intelligence report known as the PDB
Critically, years ago intelligence officials warned that “by not reading the daily briefing, the president could hamper his ability to respond to crises in the most effective manner.” Trump’s handling of the pandemic proves that his inability or refusal to pay attention to the intelligence briefings has harmed our country, leading to tens of thousands of deaths that could have been prevented with a faster response.
Trump blames Pelosi?
ABC News reporter Jon Karl asked Trump about the report, to which Trump responded by repeating a fake story about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
Karl: “Were you warned about coronavirus back in January?”
Trump: “I think probably a lot more than the Democrats because a month later, Nancy Pelosi was saying, ‘Let’s dance in the streets of Chinatown.” (video)
Trump then lied about Dr. Fauci saying the virus “was no problem” in late February – Fauci did not say that – and pivoted to talking about the restrictions he placed on travel from China. Karl pressed him again on when he received warnings in his briefings and Trump said: “I would have to check, I want to look as to the exact dates of warnings.”
Trump has repeatedly lied about Pelosi’s February trip to Chinatown in San Francisco. Before any shelter-in-place orders were issued, tourism in the area had fallen dramatically amid public fears of a Chinese virus and prejudice against Asian Americans.
Pelosi while in Chinatown on Feb. 24: “I do think that because it started in China, there’s a concern that are the — is the Chinese government doing what it needed to do early enough, and now as we go forward. But that should not be carried over to Chinatown and San Francisco.”
She did not “dance in the streets” or propose a parade, as Trump has previously claimed. In hindsight, Chinatown was exceptionally well-prepared to handle the coronavirus: According to the New York Times, the community put in a place a plan of action on Feb. 1 “emphasizing frequent hand-cleaning, availability of sanitizers and education on basic hygiene principles, including frequent use of masks.” Trump, on the other hand, did not address the need for such measures until mid-March.
Man-made virus conspiracy
Last Friday, the Trump administration abruptly cut off funding for a project studying the transmission of coronaviruses from bats to humans after conspiracy theories linked the work to a lab in Wuhan, China. An official with the National Institutes of Health claimed the project does not align with “agency priorities,” but the NIH’s strategic plan for studying the coronavirus includes the exact mission of the bat project: understanding the origin and transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Suddenly ending a grant early is an unusual move for the NIH, which typically takes such steps only when there is evidence of scientific misconduct or financial improprieties — neither of which it has alleged took place in this case.
The project is run by a U.S. based nonprofit called EcoHealth Alliance, which invests in health research across the world. The nonprofit has been given millions of dollars in grants over the years, most recently in 2019.
- Scientists have studied the genetic structure of the novel coronavirus and confirmed that it is naturally-occurring: “Two features of the virus, the mutations in the RBD portion of the spike protein and its distinct backbone, rules out laboratory manipulation as a potential origin for SARS-CoV-2.” There is also no evidence that a natural bat virus “escaped” a lab: “the level of genome sequence divergence between SARS-CoV-2 and RaTG13 is equivalent to an average of 50 years (and at least 20 years) of evolutionary change.”
Rightwing media in America seized on an April 11 story in the Daily Mail, a British tabloid, that implied a link between these grants and the spread of the pandemic. On April 17 the story entered the mainstream when a Newsmax reporter asked Trump about the grants, framing it as an Obama Administration decision. In reality, the NIH has awarded grants to EcoHealth since 2005, which distributed the money to fund research in Shanghai, Beijing, and Singapore, as well as Wuhan.
On April 26, Rudy Giuliani appeared on a New York radio show to falsely suggest that the coronavirus was created as a biological weapon, blaming Dr. Fauci and Obama for the spread:
“China for the last 10 to 12 years has been carrying on these experiments, including in this Wuhan laboratory, with animals, and actually making this virus more dangerous,” Giuliani said on the show. “You could say that’s for scientific purposes, or you could say that’s for the purpose of weaponizing them.”
Trump buys in
Days after Giuliani’s interview, the New York Times reported (non-paywalled) that the Trump administration had tasked intelligence agencies to “hunt for evidence to support” the theory that the virus originated in the Wuhan laboratory.
Most intelligence agencies remain skeptical that conclusive evidence of a link to a lab can be found, and scientists who have studied the genetics of the coronavirus say that the overwhelming probability is that it leapt from animal to human in a nonlaboratory setting, as was the case with H.I.V., Ebola and SARS.
Yesterday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence – currently run by Trump loyalist Richard Grenell – released a statement refuting the conspiracy touted by Trump allies: “The Intelligence Community also concurs with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified.”
Current and former national security officials said they were surprised by the release, and suggested it could be a sign that the intelligence community feels it is being pulled into a political battle. The administration has been pressuring analysts, particularly at the CIA, to search for evidence that the virus came from a lab and that the World Health Organization helped China cover it up, according to a person briefed on the discussions.
Later in the day, Fox News reporter John Roberts asked Trump about the statement, who responded by casting doubt on the director he handpicked for the job:
Roberts: The Director of National Intelligence today put out a statement saying they believe [the coronavirus] was naturally occurring, it was not manmade-
Trump: Who was that-who was that who said that?
R: the Office of the Director of National Intelligence
T: But who in particular? Who was the man who made that statement?
R: It was a statement from the ODNI-
T: Oh, he would know that, huh? National Intelligence. So we’ll see-
R: That would be your Director of National Intelligence, Ric Grenell
T: No I know, I think it’s – I mean you’d have to tell me who specifically, who made the statement?
R: The statement was just put out under the offices of the ODNI.
T: Okay, we’ll see. I mean, I have to see the statement. I just haven’t seen it. (video)
Roberts then redirected the question, asking:
R: Have you seen anything at this point that gives you a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the origin of this virus?
T: Yes, I have. And I think that the WHO should be ashamed of themselves, because they’re like the PR agency for China… They shouldn’t be making excuses when people make horrible mistakes. Especially mistakes that are causing hundreds of people around the world to die. (video)
“And what gives you a high degree of confidence that this originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology?” Roberts asked again, later.
“I can’t tell you that,” Trump said. “I’m not allowed to tell you that.” (video)
- Further reading: Reuters “Trump says China wants him to lose his re-election bid,” CNN “Trump administration draws up plans to punish China over coronavirus outbreak.”
White House testing plan
On Monday, Trump unveiled an 8-part plan to increase testing capacity across the country with the goal to reopen states. The presentation slide showed blue checkmarks indicating stage 1 “launch” and stage 2 “scale” are already complete, with only one step remaining to “support opening up again.” Conveniently for the administration, this final step is the responsibility of the governors, who must find a way to fulfill to vague mandates: “develop testing plans and rapid response programs” and “maximize the use of all available testing platforms and venues.”
“This document does nothing new and will accomplish nothing new,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a statement. “It doesn’t set specific, numeric goals, offer a timeframe, identify ways to fix our broken supply chain, or offer any details whatsoever on expanding lab capacity or activating needed manufacturing capacity. Perhaps most pathetically, it attempts to shirk obviously federal responsibilities by assigning them solely to states instead.”
The president said the federal government will be shipping states a once-per-month supply large enough to test 2% of the population. Experts say this is not nearly enough:
Paul Romer, a Nobel Prize-winning economist from New York University who has recommended that 50 percent of the population be tested each week, said testing 2 percent “is not enough to test everyone in health care even once, let alone to keep retesting them every day, which is what it would take to keep those who do get infected from going on shift and infecting their colleagues.”
At this pace, testing 2% of the population at a time, it would take almost four years to test the entire U.S. population once, assuming the supply chain problems that have plagued the federal government’s response thus far suddenly clear up.
Despite the White House’s plan, during a press briefing on Wednesday President Trump downplayed the importance of testing:
“You shouldn’t be hearing about testing, but that’s the last thing [the media] can complain about I guess …We’ve done incredible with the testing… I don’t know that all that [testing] is even necessary.” (video)
- Fact check: Trump has claimed on a regular basis (video) that the U.S. has “tested more than every country combined.” Even just taking the top five countries as far as cumulative number of tests, the U.S. has actually conducted about 20 million fewer tests than those five countries combined.
- Additionally, what matters most is the per capita testing rate. The United States’ number of COVID-19 tests performed per 1,000 people is below the average of the 36 member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, according to figures released Tuesday by the international body. The United States had conducted 16.4 tests per 1,000 people, compared to Iceland, top of the list, which had tested 135 people per 1,000.
- More: Politico: As Trump Claims US Has Best Covid-19 Testing in the World, Capitol Physician Says He Lacks Capacity to Test All 100 Senators
Minorities and low-income communities
Meanwhile, there are still people in the nation dying after being denied a coronavirus test. A Detroit phlebotomist, Deborah Gatewood, reportedly died from coronavirus symptoms on April 17 after being denied a test four times. Her daughter told NBC News that Beaumont Hospital “said she wasn’t severe enough and that they weren’t going to test her…They told her to just go home and rest.”
It is unclear why Gatewood was denied a test so many times, but hospitals across the country have complained of shortages of swabs, reagents and other supplies needed for testing kits, as well as delays in securing test results.
Gatewood’s story also exemplifies the disparities in testing and treatment between minorities and classes in America. From Charlotte, NC, to Illinois to Michigan, African Americans make up a disproportionately large amount of coronavirus cases compared to the demographics of the population. Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, is just 26% black, yet African-Americans account for almost half of the coronavirus cases and 80% of the deaths,
Dr. Barbara Ferrer, LA County health director: People who live in wealthier communities in LA County have been tested more than people who are living in communities where there is less income. (video)
Fisher Island, a private island off the coast of Miami, Florida, is the richest ZIP code in the US, home to 800 families and staffed by over 400 workers. While the majority of Americans cannot get tested and some are denied tests even if they present symptoms of COVID-19, residents of the private island have spent tens of thousands of dollars to purchase thousands of rapid COVID-19 blood test kits that detect antibodies.
The purchase and availability of the testing are in sharp contrast to much of the rest of the state, where only about 1 percent of the population has been tested for the deadly virus that has caused a global pandemic… The tests, which are finger-prick blood tests, detect the presence of antibodies, an important aspect that could determine who has already had the disease and is likely immune… The tests haven’t been widely available in South Florida.
Trump sits on funeral aid
ProPublica reported yesterday that Trump has yet to release federal assistance specifically intended to help families cover burial costs for victims of the coronavirus.
Approximately 30 states and territories have requested the funding as the pandemic spreads across the country and struggling families ask for help burying their dead… In response to questions, FEMA stated that the decision on which programs to fund is in Trump’s hands.
…GoFundMe sites that have sprung up in the crisis show the shortfalls many families are facing. Family and friends of Devin Francis, a 44-year old radiology technician in Miami who was about to get married when he died of COVID-19 in early April, raised $4,300 of its $5,000 GoFundMe goal. Other posts cite burial costs for a father and son in New York who both died of the disease, and a chef in Chicago.
Each week we learn of more and more instances of the federal government intervening to seize supplies ordered by states and hospitals. Yet, in many cases, we still don’t know for certain where these supplies are ultimately going and why.
Last weekend, Executive in Charge of the Veterans Health Administration Richard Stone finally acknowledged the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) at the VA and revealed that FEMA blocked an order of 5 million masks from reaching VA facilities. “I had 5 million masks incoming that disappeared,” Stone said, adding that FEMA instead sent the masks to the Strategic National Stockpile.
VA’s four-week supply of equipment — on the shelves of 170 medical centers and in an emergency cache normally used for hurricane responses — was almost gone, and employees have held protests to say they were not safe… After an appeal from Secretary Robert Wilkie to top FEMA officials, the emergency management agency provided VA with 500,000 masks this week, FEMA said in a statement. It did not address questions about the agency’s diverted equipment orders.
Miami firefighters’ masks
Last Wednesday, the director of emergency management for Miami-Dade County (Florida)reported that a shipment of 1 million N95 face masks meant for local firefighters had been seized by FEMA. “We thought we were in pretty good shape with having that amount coming in, and they were — we were — usurped,” Director Frank Rollason said.
FEMA defended such confiscations, saying that bringing too much personal protective equipment into coronavirus hotspots can disrupt supply chains to other parts of the country. However, the White House repeatedly told state and local authorities to obtain supplies wherever they could.
At the time of writing this post, Miami-Dade county surpassed 12,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, the highest in the state.
San Francisco’s challenges
Last Friday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed held a press conference in which she described the difficulties the city has faced obtaining PPE:
“We’ve had issues of our orders being relocated by our suppliers in China,” she said. “For example, we had isolation gowns on their way to San Francisco and they were diverted to France. We’ve had situations when things we’ve ordered that have gone through Customs were confiscated by FEMA to be diverted to other locations. We know everyone is dealing with a serious challenge. Through Customs, we’ve had situations where those items have been taken and put out on the market for the highest bidder, putting cities against cities and states against states.”
Maryland guarding its tests
Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan was forced to turn to South Korea to obtain coronavirus test kits in early April, using his wife – a Korean immigrant – as a key lifeline for his state. Speaking about the ordeal yesterday, Hogan described the operation like a top-secret mission, hiding the planeload from the feds out of fear FEMA would confiscate the test kits.
“This was an enormously valuable payload. It was like Fort Knox to us, because it was going to save the lives of thousands of our citizens.”
Like Fort Knox, the supplies are currently at “an undisclosed location” under the protection of the Maryland National Guard and state police. “The administration made it clear over and over again they want the states to take the lead, and we have to go out and do it ourselves, and that’s exactly what we did,” Hogan said.
Mismanagement of contracts
In 2015, the Obama administration inked a contract with medical manufacturer O&M Halyard called for the creation of a “one-of-a-kind, high-speed machine” that could produce at least 1.5 million N95 masks per day. In September 2018, the company delivered detailed plans for the machine to the Trump administration… but Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did not proceed with making the machine.
“The Halyard contract was part of an explicit strategy to ensure we could surge mask production in the next crisis,” said Nicole Lurie, who was the HHS assistant secretary for preparedness and response under Barack Obama. “Now we’re dealing with the consequences of not having that capability.”
HHS officials have said that there was no funding to build the machine, but the department that solicited the design had a budget of nearly $1.5 billion for 2020, according to an HHS report.
Contracts to Trump allies
In early March, Mike Bowen, the executive vice president of the medical mask manufacturer Prestige Ameritech, found the perfect way to drum up some federal business: He went on Steve Bannon’s podcast, which is highly popular at the White House… A month later, at the explicit request of the White House, Prestige Ameritech had a $9.5 million contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Bannon told NBC News that his team put Bowen in touch with White House advisor Peter Navarro, who apparently facilitated the deal.
In the only other agreement with a similar notation that NBC News could find in the 11 years or so of online disclosure of federal contracts, one that was first reported by ProPublica, the Trump White House was named in March as the authority seeking a $96 million deal with the Canadian company AirBoss of America. As ProPublica reported, the deal calls for the delivery of 100,000 respirators and filters to New York and other locations by July 31, and it isn’t clear why the White House was eager to award the no-bid contract to the company.
All it takes is a tweet
An electrical engineer in Silicon Valley (with 75 followers) responded to Trump’s tweet about ventilators at the end of March with his own tweet claiming he could “supply ICU ventilators.” Apparently this was all it took for the White House coronavirus to recommend the individual to New York state officials, who quickly paid Oren-Pines $69.1 million for 1,450 ventilators – at least triple the standard retail price of high-end models.
Now, a month later, not a single ventilator has arrived and the contract was terminated. New York state is trying to recover all of the money it paid the man, Yaron Oren-Pines. “The guy was recommended to us by the White House coronavirus task force because they were doing business with him as well,” said the New York state official.
A profile of the efforts of an ex-Google software developer to obtain medical supplies for American healthcare workers demonstrates “that this is not an impossible task and that the Trump administration has failed miserably in this mission.”
Ning Mosberger-Tang, of Boulder, Colorado, founded “Step Up in Crisis” to raise money and purchase PPE from China, despite having no previous experience in procuring medical equipment.
In late April, the first shipment of PPE obtained by Step Up in Crisis—50,000 of the surgical masks and the shoe covers—reached a warehouse in Los Angeles. The rest of the supplies are scheduled to arrive in different shipments through the first three weeks of May… Step Up in Crisis is looking to sell the PPE at its cost to hospitals that can afford to buy the supplies, but it also intends to donate some equipment to facilities that are financially strapped.
…Mosberger-Tang, an American citizen, points out that the current anti-China talk from Donald Trump and his political allies does not help on this front: “I wish the US government could be smarter in dealing with China. They know this manufacturing is in China. There is no point to calling this the ‘Chinese virus’ and irritate the Chinese government and end up not getting the equipment you need.”
FEMA stepping back
Other than seizing supplies, what is FEMA up to? The Trump administration is reportedly planning to end the role of FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center in managing the federal response to the coronavirus crisis. Its responsibilities will be handed over to unnamed persons at HHS.
House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney responded:
President Trump seems to be declaring ‘Mission Accomplished’ while hundreds of Americans are dying every day, communities across the country are facing critical shortages of test kits and life-saving medical equipment, and millions of Americans are out of work and need assistance. The Administration has not briefed Congress on this move and has not identified a clear, unified command structure for the continued federal response.”
Federal prosecutors are investigating a New York doctor who appeared on Fox News frequently to promote the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. The doctor, Vladimir “Zev” Zelenko, has been in touch with the White House
Zelenko came to the feds’ attention when – get this – Jerome Corsi (an associate of Roger Stone) accidentally sent an email intended for Zelenko to another “Z” name in his address book — federal prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, a member of Mueller’s team.
Zelinsky is tasked now with investigating coronavirus-related crimes in the Maryland U.S. attorney’s office, as part of a directive from U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr to prioritize such cases. The department already has charged a medley of fraudsters for peddling fake cures
Vaccine expert Dr. Rick Bright is preparing to submit a whistleblower complaint documenting Trump’s push of an unproven anti-malarial drug. “It is expected that Bright’s complaint, when revealed, will shed new light on the political pressure exerted by the Trump administration on health officials to back up the president’s sweeping praise of the drugs as a key weapon against Covid-19.”
States and reopening
- On Thursday, hundreds of protestors – some armed – stormed Michigan’s state capitol to protest the governor’s use of emergency powers to respond to the coronavirus pandemic: A tightly packed crowd of protesters, some carrying rifles, attempted to enter the floor of the legislative chamber, and were held back by a line of state police and capitol staff…“Let us in! Let us in!” the protesters chanted (video).
- Friday morning, Trump tweeted his support for the armed protestors: “The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”
- NBC News: As a handful of states begin to ease stay-at-home restrictions, no state that has opted to reopen has come close to the federally recommended decline in cases over a 14-day period.
- CNN: Florida will start to reopen May 4, but for now Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties won’t be included. DeSantis said restaurants and retail spaces could let customers inside, but only at 25% capacity.
- Tampa Bay Times: Florida medical examiners were releasing coronavirus death data. The state made them stop. When the medical examiners’ list was available, it showed more deaths than the state’s count.
- The Atlantic: Georgia’s Experiment in Human Sacrifice. The state is about to find out how many people need to lose their lives to shore up the economy.
- WaPo: Iowa, Oklahoma and other states reopening soon amid the coronavirus outbreak are issuing early warnings to their worried workers: Return to your jobs or risk losing unemployment benefits.
- Houston Chronicle: Texas reports most deaths in a day from COVID-19 as Gov. Abbott prepares to drop stay-home order
- The Hill: Tennessee has highest one-day jump in coronavirus cases ahead of restaurant reopening
- ABC news: A Michigan judge sided with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Wednesday in a lawsuit filed against her shelter-in-place order and denied the plaintiffs an injunction.
- CBS News: A southern Illinois judge on Monday blocked Governor J.B. Pritzker’s 30-day extension of the state’s stay-at-home order, granting a temporary restraining order sought by a Republican state lawmaker who argued the governor overstepped his authority
- AP: More than 50 people who voted in person or worked the polls during Wisconsin’s election earlier this month have tested positive for COVID-19 so far.
- Center for Economic and Policy Research: Meatpacking Workers are a Diverse Group Who Need Better Protections
- Government Executive: Federal Inspectors Are Fearful, Angry About Trump’s Order to Reopen Outbreak-Stricken Meat Plants. USDA is still not providing masks and is doing “absolutely nothing” to protect workers, inspectors say.
- The new coronavirus is likely to keep spreading for at least another 18 months to two years—until 60% to 70% of the population has been infected, a team of longstanding pandemic experts predicted in a report released Thursday.
- Center for Global Development’s Jeremy Konyndyk: it looks like US-style lockdowns are enough to freeze transmission in place (R=1) but not enough to drive it down (R<1). Which suggests that without further measures, we could remain on this plateau for quite a while… for each month we remain on the plateau, we risk losing more Americans than we lost in nearly a decade in Vietnam. If we spend May like we spent April, we will blow past 100k dead in weeks.
- The way forward is very clear: test, trace, isolate, protect. Putting that infrastructure into place can bring down cases to a manageable level, enable us to relax lockdowns, and move to a posture of sustainable suppression. But that will be tough to deliver without the feds… We are stuck in an untenable holding pattern as long as federal leadership means vague slide decks and empty assurances rather than test kits, PPE, and accountability.
The title refers to:
- Data across multiple states indicates that black communities have been infected with coronavirus and their residents killed at a disproportionate rate across the country.
- Testing rates are disproportionately low in minority and low-income communities.
- Trump has yet to release federal assistance specifically intended to help families cover burial costs for victims of the coronavirus, despite states requesting access to the funds.
TLDR of the rest:
- More than a dozen issues of the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) in January and February contained warnings about the novel coronavirus, its spread, and the suppression of information in China. During this period, Trump downplayed the virus and insisted it was under control.
- The Trump administration abruptly cut off funding for a project studying the transmission of coronaviruses from bats to humans after conspiracy theories linked the work to a lab in Wuhan, China.
- Trump officials tasked intelligence agencies to “hunt for evidence to support” the theory that the virus originated in the Wuhan laboratory.
- The Office of the Director of National Intelligence – currently run by Trump loyalist Richard Grenell – released a statement concluding that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified, but Trump professed not to believe his own DNI.
- More reports of seized medical supplies: FEMA blocked an order of 5 million masks from reaching VA facilities; A shipment of 1 million N95 face masks meant for Miami firefighters was seized by FEMA; San Francisco mayor said FEMA diverted orders of PPE destined for her city; Maryland Gov. Hogan has national guard and state police protecting a shipment of test kits he obtained from South Korea out of fear that the feds may confiscate it.
- The Trump admin did not move forward with a contract for a new machine that could produce millions of protective respirator masks at high speed. The deal was made by Obama in 2015, the design was delivered in 2018. The Trump admin failed to continue the project.
- Companies with connections to the White House and Trump allies are being granted lucrative contracts with no oversight.
- My favorite story: Federal prosecutors are investigating Vladimir “Zev” Zelenko, a New York doctor who appeared on Fox News frequently to promote the use of hydroxychloroquine. Zelenko came to the feds’ attention when – get this – Jerome Corsi (an associate of Roger Stone) accidentally sent an email intended for Zelenko to another “Z” name in his address book — federal prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, a former member of Mueller’s team and currently in charge of investigating COVID-snake-oil-salesmen.
- Trump defended protestors who stormed Michigan’s capitol building – some carrying rifles and clashing with police guarding the legislative chamber.