The Trump team debate: how to send a furious health emergency message


Trump has told advisers and allies that he expects a vaccine for the new coronavirus to arrive this fall, a timeline for which there is no certainty, and he wants attendees to offer both facts and a message of optimism to the public, said a senior administration official. .

Since the federal government’s Covid-19 task force suspended its daily briefings in May, Pence has assumed most of the administration’s coronavirus messaging responsibilities, through interviews with local media, outreach to religious groups and engagement with key groups. Several of her trips outside of Washington in the past two months have featured informal updates on state reopens, disease transmission, and the status of a vaccine.

Now, Trump’s aides are trying to decide whether to re-focus national attention on what they have spent months discussing is a series of state and local issues, which had previously been relegated to the vice president’s office.

“The reduction in briefings left a gap that was filled by the media and the president’s political opponents in order to mislead people, and resulted in the administration being on the defensive,” said a second senior official at the administration.

The core of his puzzle is the president himself. Trump loves spotlights, and his briefings during the heart of the crisis turned into protracted events that sometimes lasted for two hours, with the president diverting the message and generating negative headlines.

Those sessions “have no end goal and only focus on the political issue of the day,” said another senior administration official. “A large group of advisers in the White House believe it would be more effective to do more regionally focused press than national briefings.”

The coronavirus vacuum at the White House, after a landmark series of briefings by the president himself, is highlighting holes in Trump’s latest focus while focusing on other issues and blaming the media for focusing on the coronavirus.

Trump’s handling of the virus runs the risk of further damaging his position, making him appear out of touch even with his own supporters in red states now struggling with the resurgence of the virus.

“You cannot unleash a pandemic,” said David Axelrod, former senior adviser to former President Barack Obama. “I mean, everyone lives with it. The reality is too obvious.

“The best thing you can do in a crisis, any crisis, if you are president is to be as forthcoming as possible and allow expert professionals to take the initiative,” Axelrod said. “During the H1N1 virus in 2009, I believe that every information session, except one, was held at CDC. They were the main agency. They had the best information. “

The CDC has held three briefings since mid-March, although the agency’s director recently promised to reinstate more regular briefings. The last briefing by the White House Coronavirus Task Force was held Friday at the Department of Health and Human Services. Pence also visited the headquarters of the US Public Health Service Commissioner Corps in Rockville, Maryland on Tuesday to offer comments and answer questions from journalists.

“At the request of President Trump, Vice President Pence is pleased to provide the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings to the American people,” said Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley.

Some White House officials, such as Meadows, want Dr. Deborah Birx, a global infectious disease expert on the White House task force, to become the face of the coronavirus response and appear in local media on affected areas like Texas, Arizona. and Florida Birx joined Pence on her trip last Sunday to Texas, where they met with Governor Greg Abbott and pleaded with the public to wear protective masks. She is expected to travel to Arizona with Pence on Wednesday as that state struggles with an overwhelming increase in coronavirus cases.

The White House is also working on a public service announcement at Covid-19 that features Surgeon General Jerome Adams, Birx, and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn.

Some of the White House advisers consider the government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, to be an expert in promoting excessive fear, despite being an icon in public health circles and, in general, the public considers it reliable.

Before a Senate panel on Tuesday, Fauci warned that the United States could see an explosion of daily cases if the coronavirus continues to spread. The increase in cases in the south and west “puts the entire country at risk,” he added.

“We now have more than 40,000 new cases a day,” said Fauci. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this doesn’t change. And so, I am very concerned. “

Trump’s handling of the coronavirus has become a political line of attack for the alleged Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden. Biden devoted most of a speech in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday to criticizing the Trump administration’s response to the virus and outlining the steps it would take if elected in November.

“Month after month, while other leaders took the necessary steps to control the virus, Donald Trump failed us,” said Biden. He argued that the White House should offer weekly updates on vaccine distribution and production and that Trump should send a clear signal on the use of masks.

Public health experts say the administration’s messages about the virus, which date back to January, have been contradictory and confusing: from Trump assuring Americans that the virus would disappear in April to the administration’s advice on the use of masks and the promotion of hydroxychloroquine by Trump, a proven drug for the treatment of Covid-19. They say that all of this has contributed to the poor performance of the United States compared to Europe and other advanced economies.

“The briefings we saw earlier were basically propaganda exercises,” said Gregg Gonsalves, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Medicine. “They provided a minimum to the public on how to protect themselves and were often a vehicle for disinformation and disinformation.”

“If we have briefings, they must be based on science. They must be based on facts, “added Gonsalves. “We are not asking for much from this administration.”

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