Coronavirus: Former White House aide sells unusable masks to Navajo

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).


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Missed and botched opportunities

Trump Team Killed Rule Designed To Protect Health Workers From Pandemic Like COVID-19… “If that rule had gone into effect, then every hospital, every nursing home would essentially have to have a plan where they made sure they had enough respirators and they were prepared for this sort of pandemic.”

Trump’s move to block travel from Europe triggered chaos and a surge of passengers from the outbreak’s center, increasing spread in the US… Epidemiologists contend the U.S. outbreak was driven overwhelmingly by viral strains from Europe rather than China. More than 1.8 million travelers entered the United States from Europe in February alone.

  • Trump botched Oval address announcing Europe travel restrictions, leading many US citizens to believe they were about to be locked out of the country. Air travel surged. Trump blamed Kushner, who helped draft speech and wouldn’t share a copy with DHS, HHS, CDC, or any other agency that had to execute the order. The administration spent hours issuing tweets and statements to fix Trump’s errors.

77 Nobel prize-winning American scientists denounce Trump officials for pulling funding on bats and coronaviruses… They say the decision “sets a dangerous precedent by interfering in the conduct of science” and “deprives the nation and the world of highly regarded science that could help control one of the greatest health crises in modern history and those that may arise in the future.”

Relief bills

Paycheck Protection Program is giving millions of dollars in American taxpayer money to a number of firms that have avoided paying U.S. tax… 12 of the companies recently used offshore havens to cut their tax bills, the analysis found. All together, these 12 received more than $104 million in loans from U.S. taxpayers. Seven of them paid no U.S. tax at all for the past year.

HHS watchdog to audit $50 billion in health care bailout funds… Small doctors’ groups, rural providers, and safety net facilities have said the money is life-or-death for them, but they aren’t getting proportionate amounts.

Bill Hagerty, a Republican Senate candidate in TN, has secured campaign funds from a number of people and corporate entities connected to the White House economic recovery council — of which he’s a member. The Hagerty campaign has pulled in $33,000 in campaign contributions from corporations and individuals on the task force, as well as a $2.5 million loan on the same day Trump signed the CARES Act.


Marc Short, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, owns between $506,043 and $1.64 million worth of individual stocks in companies doing work related to the Trump administration’s pandemic response… There is a law that requires executive branch employees to resolve conflicts of interest before participating in any decision — or even deliberations — affecting particular companies or specific industries in which they are invested.

Coronavirus postcard that featured Trump’s name cost struggling Postal Service $28 million… The card, sent in March, featured “President Trump’s coronavirus guidelines for America” on one side and social distancing guidelines on the other.

A Republican state lawmaker kept his coronavirus diagnosis secret from Democratic colleagues for more than a week… Outraged Democratic lawmakers condemned House Republicans for not disclosing that the novel coronavirus had infiltrated Pennsylvania’s state Capitol.

Equipment and testing

The Trump administration has given at least $1.8 billion in coronavirus contracts to hundreds of companies that have zero experience contracting with the government. Some formed just days before receiving their contracts.

Masks Sold by Former White House Official to Navajo Hospitals Don’t Meet FDA Standards… Zach Fuentes, President Donald Trump’s former deputy chief of staff, formed a company in early April and 11 days later won a $3 million contract with IHS to provide specialized respirator masks to the agency for use in Navajo hospitals.

The Trump administration mishandled the initial distribution of remdesivir*, the only approved coronavirus medication, delaying treatment to some critically ill patients with covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Taxpayers paid to develop remdesivir but will have no say when Gilead sets the price… Despite the heavy subsidies, federal agencies have not asserted patent rights to Gilead’s drug, potentially a blockbuster therapy worth billions of dollars.

Documents Expose FDA Commissioner’s Personal Interventions on Behalf of Trump’s Favorite Chloroquine Doctor… Looking past concerns about the drug’s safety, not to mention his own agency’s recommendations, Stephen Hahn took time during the COVID-19 crisis to lend a helping hand to Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, a hero among fringe Trumpworld figures.

Trump administration’s latest testing report again largely places responsibility with states… The US “will be capable of performing at least 40-50 million tests per month” by September, the report says. Sens. Pelosi, Schumer, Pallone, and Murray issued a joint statement: “This disappointing report confirms that President Trump’s national testing strategy is to deny the truth that there aren’t enough tests and supplies, reject responsibility and dump the burden onto the states.


In early April, Trump announced that his administration recommended that all Americans should wear cloth masks to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus. However, Trump simultaneously undercut the guidance by saying “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.” Thus began Trump’s months-long crusade against a health-measure his own government promotes.

On Memorial Day, the president retweeted Brit Hume’s mocking of Joe Biden for his appearance while wearing a black mask during a wreath-laying ceremony. Days later, the Trump campaign put up two Facebook ads mocking Biden wearing a mask with a China flag between him: ad 1 and ad 2.

Trump thinks you’re supposed to wear masks inside while hanging out with your spouse… When asked why he endorsed criticism of Biden for wearing a mask, Trump said: “He was standing outside with his wife, perfect conditions, perfect weather — when they’re inside they don’t wear masks. And so I thought it was very unusual he had one on.” (video)

  • Trump then criticized a press pool reporter for wearing a face mask when asking a question, accusing the journalist of wanting to be “politically correct.” (video)

The highly inconsistent messages sent by the White House about mask usage and social distancing is causing a lot of social strife all over the country… Press Secretary McEnany defended Trump’s criticism of Biden, saying “It’s a bit peculiar that he doesn’t wear a mask in his basement, but he wears one outdoors.” When the reporter pointed out that the guidance is to wear a mask in public, McEnany said: “It’s recommended but not required.” (video)

On Thursday, Trump shared a tweet by The Federalist that argued the mandated use of face masks to control the spread of the coronavirus represents a “culture of silence, slavery, and social death.” Trump retweeted Smith’s message to his 80 million followers and commented, “So many different viewpoints!”

Republicans in Congress, especially in the House, have also refused to wear face masks… “Can you smell through that mask?” Rep. Clay Higgins, a Republican of Louisiana, told CNN on Thursday. “Then you’re not stopping any sort of a virus. It’s part of the dehumanization of the children of God. You’re participating in it by wearing a mask.”

FACT CHECK: New study found that the coronavirus’ transmission rate via respiratory droplets or airborne particles dropped by as much as 75% when surgical masks were used.

FACT CHECK: Dr. Deborah Birx: “What we have said to people is there is clear scientific evidence now, by all the droplet experiments that happened, and that others have done, to show that a mask does prevent droplets from reaching others. Out of respect for each other, as Americans that care for each other, we need to be wearing masks in public when we cannot social distance.”

FACT CHECK: Dr. Anthony Fauci on why he wears a mask: “I want to protect myself and protect others, and also because I want to make it be a symbol for people to see that that’s the kind of thing you should be doing.”

Reopening and protests

Federal and state officials across the country have altered or hidden public health data crucial to tracking the coronavirus’ spread, hindering the ability to detect a surge of infections as President Donald Trump pushes the nation to reopen rapidly.

Trump’s order to reopen meatpacking plants caused a huge coronavirus outbreak among workers… For example, the number of Tyson employees with the coronavirus has exploded from less than 1,600 a month ago to more than 7,000 today.

Fox News viewership linked to higher non-compliance with stay-at-home orders… A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.found that a 1% increase in Fox viewership reduced compliance with stay-at-home orders by 8.9%

Trump retweets a video saying “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat…” Trump commented on the video from a group called Cowboys For Trump saying “Thank you Cowboys. See you in New Mexico!”

Kentucky governor blames GOP for protest with hanging effigy… “You cannot fan the flames and condemn the fire,” Beshear said Tuesday.

The husband of Reopen NC leader says he’s “willing to kill peope”’ in video… Adam Smith told WRAL-TV that violence would only be an option if society gets out of line from the group’s interpretation of the Constitution.


On Thursday, Trump claimed victory over the pandemic, oddly proclaiming, “I just got back from India. I just beat Covid!” (video)

The federal government fiddles as covid-19 ravages Native Americans, by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Deb Haaland. “In New Mexico, Native Americans make up just 11 percent of the population, but account for more than half of the covid-19 cases. Native nations’ economies have been devastated.”

Supreme Court rejects Justice Department bid to halt order requiring new measures to slow the spread of coronavirus at an Ohio prison where nine inmates have died from Covid-19.… Three of the court’s conservatives, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, said they would have granted the request.