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Georgia reopening economy draws backlash, excitement

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Multiple states across the country have seen protests as stay-at-home orders meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus continue.

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ATLANTA – Plans to reopen some Georgia businesses this week have triggered a backlash from local mayors who say there were blindsided  – and a mix of excitement and anxiety from businesses suffering financial losses during the coronavirus outbreak.

Amid a series of protests across the nation demanding immediate action to reopen states, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced plans Monday to allow gyms, bowling alleys, hair and nail salons, massage therapists and more to reopen their doors as early as Friday if they adhere to social distancing measures and hygiene requirements.

Bars, nightclubs and entertainment operations will remain closed, but restaurants and theaters will be able to reopen April 27.

Several mayors in Georgia said they weren’t given any notice of the announcement and questioned the governor’s decision.

Three months in: A timeline of how COVID-19 has unfolded in the US

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN on Monday she had not spoken with Kemp before learning of his decision to reopen businesses. Bottoms said she was concerned about the move as Georgia’s case count continues to go up and asymptomatic people or people with mild symptoms are not being tested. 

Georgia has not seen a 14-day downward trajectory in the rate of new cases, according to data from the state’s department of health. Nearly 90,000 tests have been conducted in the state of more than 10 million people. Of the total tests, about 23% were positive, with nearly 20,000 confirmed cases and 800 deaths as of Tuesday. 

“We really are at a loss and I am concerned as a mother and the mayor of our capital city,” Bottoms said. “I am perplexed that we have opened up in this way …  As I look at the data and as I talk with our public health officials, I don’t see that it’s based on anything that’s logical.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., echoed concerns about the decision on Twitter Tuesday. “I worry that our friends and neighbors in Georgia are going too fast too soon,” he said in a post.

Kemp has been widely criticized for his handling of the outbreak. He was among the last governors to sign a statewide stay-at-home order, which he did earlier this month. The order loosened some restrictions that cities and counties had put in place to fight the spread of the coronavirus, angering some local officials.

Kemp drew further scrutiny last week when he admitted that he had only just learned that asymptomatic individuals can still spread coronavirus – even though health experts had warned about the possibility as early as January.

Mayors say reopening is ‘premature’  

Many mayors are recommending that business owners take every precaution when making their own decisions about reopening.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said he believes the reopening of the state’s businesses was “premature,” and that it “places Savannahians at risk.”

“The politics in that are clear,” Johnson said. “The governor has not communicated with the city of Savannah since this began, so he obviously doesn’t have a clue about the situation here on the ground in Savannah, our efforts or what we’re trying to do. Now, we’re prevented from taking any additional action.”

Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions said the City Council was planning a retreat next week to discuss the process of reopening the city, but Kemp’s plans jump-started that process.

Lockdown demonstration: Photos show counterprotesters dressed in scrubs

“I think it’s putting a lot of pressure and stress on the businesses,” Sessions said. “Local government doesn’t have a say at this point. It really doesn’t matter what I think or what our council thinks. Right now it’s really up to the businesses and the public to decide if they’re ready or not.”

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. told CNN on Monday night that Georgia hasn’t implemented the “three Ts” – testing, contact tracing and treatment – at a level sufficient to reopen gyms, salons, restaurants and churches, he said. “Without a series of educational efforts to those industries it’s going to be extremely difficult for us to continue to flatten the curve,” Davis said.

‘We’re ready’: Some businesses eager to open

But some Georgia business owners said they were eager to reopen their doors. As of April 11, more than 16% of Georgia’s workforce had filed for unemployment in the last four weeks, according to a USA TODAY compilation of Department of Labor data.

Shannon Stafford, owner of New Era Hair Studio in Savannah, said she plans to reopen her salon Friday because it would be safer for her stylists and clients.

“You have so many people in the beauty industry who have never stopped servicing clients – either they’re traveling to someone’s home or they’re coming to their homes – and that makes them more vulnerable,” Stafford said. “Having the salons reopened is going to give you a more controlled environment. You can sanitize, space out your clients.”

Stafford said that being closed for a month hasn’t had a big affect on her finances but that she was growing concerned about how long it was sustainable.

“I have five children that are depending on me. So it’s a very scary situation that you’re in,” Stafford said.

Small-business loan program: Senate approves measure to replenish

In Macon, BodyPlex Fitness Adventure co-owner Mike Martino told WMAZ that he was “a little surprised, but excited” about reopening. “I mean, we’re going to be very precautious,” he said.

Martino said Bodyplex, a health-club chain with locations across the state, had been sanitizing fitness centers and wiping down equipment to ensure safety.

Salem Makhlouf, who owns four metro Atlanta restaurants, told WSB-TV last week that he’s optimistic that the president laid out a plan to reopen the country.

“Everybody is excited. My chef, my wife, my employees. We’re ready,” he told WSB-TV.

‘It’s simply not safe’: Others staying shut

But some Georgia business owners say they don’t want to put employees and customers at risk. 

Bill Mabry, owner of Mr. Everything Café in downtown Decatur – an Atlanta suburb located just a few miles from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters – said he will not resume in-person dining on Monday. Mabry said his restaurant will only offer delivery and takeout until there is a vaccine for COVID-19 and adequate testing. 

“We don’t think that’s wise,” Mabry said of in-person dining. “If there’s not a vaccine, and there are not enough tests, anybody who comes in the restaurant may have the COVID-19 virus. There are too many instances you can’t control.”

Autumn Weaver, manager of Home.made, a restaurant in Athens, said despite having to lay off several staff members, she refuses to resume dine-in service next week. Weaver said it would be nearly impossible for waiters to serve customers while practicing social distancing. 

“Anything that would make a restaurant run in a normal way with servers touching plates and touching utensils . .  it’s simply not safe,” said Weaver, who is offering curbside takeout to customers. “It also seems counter to all the advice we have heard and all the actions we have taken (before now).”

David Gonzalez, co-owner of tattoo shop Atlanta Tattoo League, said he didn’t plan to re-open on Friday.

“Every shop is worried,” Gonzalez said. “Most of them are not trying to open. They’re still concerned. They’re trying to wait at least another month.”

Most local tattoo shops have four or five artists inside the shop, with one or two customers each on a given day, Gonzalez said. “There would be, throughout the day, multiple people (inside the store). That’s why most shops are not wanting to open,” he said.

Your questions, answered: Will parents of college students get the $500 in stimulus money?

Gonzalez co-owns the tattoo shop with his wife. He said the closure has been difficult financially for them and their 9-year-old son. Gonzalez said he’s been exploring new ways to make money, including taking painting commissions. Some tattoo artists might start working from home or making house calls, he said.

The Painted Duck bowling alley in downtown Atlanta said in a statement that it would not be reopening Friday.

“Small businesses, including restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, are currently fighting for their lives due to the nationwide forced closures. On one hand, we need to be open to be able to survive, but we only have one opportunity to get it right, there are no second chances,” said Justin Amick, President & CEO of Painted Hospitality.

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Georgia is spending $21.5 million to build a temporary hospital to house COVID-19 patients that Gov. Brian Kemp toured this week. (April 17)

AP Domestic

Religious groups have also pushed back against the governor’s provision allowing houses of worship to gather for in-person services.

Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, Presiding Prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, issued a directive to more than 520 churches Tuesday prohibiting gatherings for services on Sunday.

“This decision by the governor puts economic interest above the safety and well-being of the citizens of Georgia. There is no data which justifies or gives credibility to the governor’s decision,” Jackson said in a statement. “This is unacceptable, and citizens should not be put at this risk.”

The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church said in a statement Monday that it was advising churches not to gather through May 13, “as we do our best to do no harm.”

Researchers have expressed concern about lifting restrictions at this time.

“I wouldn’t be considering reopening society until I had testing in place. Period,” Caroline Buckee, an associate professor of epidemiology, said in a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health forum Tuesday.

The governors of Tennessee and South Carolina also announced measures Monday aimed at easing restrictions on some businesses in their states.

Contributing: Will Peebles, Savannah Morning News; Susan McCord and Kim Luciani, The Augusta Chronicle

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Rand Paul and Mike Lee rip Senate for passing coronavirus aid

“Even more alarming than the money is the idea that one senator can stand on the floor and pass legislation spending a half a trillion dollars and have no recorded vote and no debate,” added Paul, who said he came back to the chamber “so that history will record that not everyone gave in to the massive debt Congress is creating.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled it would be difficult to pass another major relief package by unanimous consent or voice vote.

“I will predict that we will not try to pass another rescue package by consent,” McConnell told reporters. “My view is we ought to bring everybody back, have full participation.”

The bipartisan legislation, which passed Tuesday after weeks of stalemate, will provide billions to the Paycheck Protection Program, which ran out of funds last week, as well as allocate new money to hospitals and testing for the coronavirus. The nearly $500 billion package comes weeks after Congress approved a $2 trillion rescue measure to address the pandemic’s devastation of the economy.

Lee criticized Senate leadership for not consulting with the majority of members on the package and said the deal was not a “true negotiation.” He added that being away from Washington allowed Democrats to “politicize” and “stifle legislation with impunity.”

“The American people need to know who is helping them and who is simply playing politics,” he said. “We can’t allow them to know that if we’re not in session.”

Meanwhile, Paul said the spending package would not save the country from the disease. Instead, he said, the economy needs to reopen — echoing a push from President Donald Trump.

“No amount of bailout dollars will stimulate an economy that is being strangled by quarantine,” Paul said. “It is not a lack of money that plagues us but a lack of commerce.”

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William Barr Knuckles Local Officials Enforcing Coronavirus Lockdowns

In my life, I have lived through the tenures of John Mitchell, Richard Kleindienst, William French Smith, Edwin Meese, John Ashcroft, and Alberto Gonzales as attorneys general under Republican presidents. I thought I’d seen it all when it came to using the Department of Justice as the presidency’s shield and cudgel. But William Barr, after auditioning quite successfully while helping squash the Iran-Contra threat to the presidency of George H.W. Bush, has become the full, blooming, odiferous flower of reeking corruption—the hacko di tutti hacki of all AGs.

And now, it seems, he believes it to be his duty to knuckle local officials for the offense of trying to keep their citizens alive. From Bloomberg:

We have to give businesses more freedom to operate in a way that’s reasonably safe. To the extent that governors don’t and impinge on either civil rights or on the national commerce — our common market that we have here — then we’ll have to address that…These are very, very burdensome impingements on liberty, and we adopted them, we have to remember, for the limited purpose of slowing down the spread, that is bending the curve. We didn’t adopt them as the comprehensive way of dealing with this disease. You can’t just keep on feeding the patient chemotherapy and say, well, we’re killing the cancer, because we were getting to the point where we’re killing the patient. and now is the time that we have to start looking ahead and adjusting to more targeted therapies.

Barr’s gift for epidemiology is approximately as profound as his gift for disinterested law enforcement. The measures he is decrying happen to be the only “comprehensive way of dealing with this disease” that we have right now. No infectious disease expert of any note thinks that “reopening” the country will result in anything except the renewed strength of the pandemic. The national government for which Barr ostensibly works—more accurately, he’s house counsel for Camp Runamuck—has left the states virtually alone to develop the wide-ranging testing regime that everybody fighting the disease knows is necessary for any legitimate long-range progress. But now that same national government is presuming to make governors virtual enemies of the state if their efforts to save their constituents make the president* look bad. I’m beginning to doubt the sincerity of that Republican devotion to the 10th amendment.

Barr has been a terrible nuisance throughout the days of plague. And he is not alone. Last week, something called the Conservative Action Project wrote an open letter to Barr asking him to rein in state and local officials who are trying to keep their constituents alive. In part, the letter reads:

Petty, would-be, dictators are attempting use the crisis as an opportunity to flex their perceived new muscles at the expense of the Constitution, and even telling citizens their right to protest such excess has been “suspended.”

The first signature on the letter was that of…Edwin Fcking Meese.

We will never be rid of them. Barr’ll probably live to be 105.

Respond to this post on the Esquire Politics Facebook page here.

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William Barr Knuckles Local Officials Enforcing Coronavirus Lockdowns

In my life, I have lived through the tenures of John Mitchell, Richard Kleindienst, William French Smith, Edwin Meese, John Ashcroft, and Alberto Gonzales as attorneys general under Republican presidents. I thought I’d seen it all when it came to using the Department of Justice as the presidency’s shield and cudgel. But William Barr, after auditioning quite successfully while helping squash the Iran-Contra threat to the presidency of George H.W. Bush, has become the full, blooming, odiferous flower of reeking corruption—the hacko di tutti hacki of all AGs.

And now, it seems, he believes it to be his duty to knuckle local officials for the offense of trying to keep their citizens alive. From Bloomberg:

We have to give businesses more freedom to operate in a way that’s reasonably safe. To the extent that governors don’t and impinge on either civil rights or on the national commerce — our common market that we have here — then we’ll have to address that…These are very, very burdensome impingements on liberty, and we adopted them, we have to remember, for the limited purpose of slowing down the spread, that is bending the curve. We didn’t adopt them as the comprehensive way of dealing with this disease. You can’t just keep on feeding the patient chemotherapy and say, well, we’re killing the cancer, because we were getting to the point where we’re killing the patient. and now is the time that we have to start looking ahead and adjusting to more targeted therapies.

Barr’s gift for epidemiology is approximately as profound as his gift for disinterested law enforcement. The measures he is decrying happen to be the only “comprehensive way of dealing with this disease” that we have right now. No infectious disease expert of any note thinks that “reopening” the country will result in anything except the renewed strength of the pandemic. The national government for which Barr ostensibly works—more accurately, he’s house counsel for Camp Runamuck—has left the states virtually alone to develop the wide-ranging testing regime that everybody fighting the disease knows is necessary for any legitimate long-range progress. But now that same national government is presuming to make governors virtual enemies of the state if their efforts to save their constituents make the president* look bad. I’m beginning to doubt the sincerity of that Republican devotion to the 10th amendment.

Barr has been a terrible nuisance throughout the days of plague. And he is not alone. Last week, something called the Conservative Action Project wrote an open letter to Barr asking him to rein in state and local officials who are trying to keep their constituents alive. In part, the letter reads:

Petty, would-be, dictators are attempting use the crisis as an opportunity to flex their perceived new muscles at the expense of the Constitution, and even telling citizens their right to protest such excess has been “suspended.”

The first signature on the letter was that of…Edwin Fcking Meese.

We will never be rid of them. Barr’ll probably live to be 105.

Respond to this post on the Esquire Politics Facebook page here.

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Russia Interfered in 2016 Election to Help Donald Trump, Senate Report Finds

AFP ContributorGetty Images

Remember earlier today, when the buzz here in the shebeen was all about how the president*’s manic demeanor at his daily briefings over the weekend might be a reaction to—or a distraction from—some other bad news that he knew was hanging over his head? CNN may have part of that answer here.

The committee’s findings in its report on the Obama administration’s assessment on Russian election interference are at odds with House Intelligence Committee Republicans, who raised issues in 2018 with the assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to help Trump. The Senate report also rebuts Trump’s frequent claims that it was a “hoax” that Russia was trying to help him win. Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr said in a statement that the assessment reflected “strong tradecraft” and “sound analytical reasoning.”

“The Committee found no reason to dispute the Intelligence Community’s conclusions,” Burr said.

Despite his current position in the middle of an ethical morass, Burr seemed to be something of a straight shooter in his handling of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He certainly appeared to be so by comparison to hysterics like Lindsey Graham, to say nothing of the wild kingdom that was the Republican minority on various House committees. The bar was low, but Burr seemed to clear it on a somewhat regular basis.

The report itself is heavily redacted, with entire sections remaining classified, including much of the detailing of the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia was trying to help Trump. In the section on Putin ordering the campaign to influence the US election, a single line is unredacted: “The Committee found that reporting from multiple intelligence disciplines was used as evidence to support this analytic line, and that the analytic tradecraft was transparent.” The Intelligence Committee report explains there was a difference in confidence levels on that assessment between the CIA and FBI, which had “high confidence,” and the National Security Agency, which had “moderate confidence.”

That this news likely will fall into a deep, dark memory pit of medical waste is a measure of how many things have changed over the past two months. But Russia’s help to the Trump campaign in 2016 was not a hoax. The Steele dossier was not used in the analysis on which the intelligence community based its conclusions. That it’s happening again, in the strangest possible context in which to hold a presidential election, is now beyond question. Thumbs, reeking of borscht, have never left the scales.

Respond to this post on the Esquire Politics Facebook page here.

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Trump Says His 60-Day Immigration Ban Will Apply To People Applying For Green Cards

The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.

President Trump on Tuesday said his 60-day ban on immigration will only apply to people applying for permanent residency, claiming it was necessary in order to protect American jobs as the economy continues to struggle during the coronavirus pandemic.

The need for any extension or modification of the ban will be evaluated “by myself and a group of people based on economic conditions at time,” he told reporters at the White House.

Trump did not provide many details on the order, explaining that it would likely come through on Wednesday and was still being drafted.

Trump, who initially announced that immigration would be suspended in a Monday evening tweet, said the restriction would not apply to those coming to the country to live temporarily.

“There will be some people coming in, but it’s, it’s a strong order,” he said. “It involves a big circle, as you know.”

He couched the policy announcement as an effort to protect US jobs, which has been battered by a pandemic that has shutdown huge swaths of the economy.

“This pause on new immigration will also help to conserve vital medical resources for American citizens, a short break from new immigration, depending on the time we are talking about, will protect the solvency of our health care system, and provide relief to jobless Americans,” he said.

From the early days of his administration, Trump has gravitated toward sweeping policies that restrict immigrants from entering the country. The actions have taken various shapes: multiple bans on asylum at the southern border, blocks on entry for those coming from several Muslim-majority countries, and a halt to the refugee system.

The latest order appears to be a continuation of that effort and comes as Trump faces criticism for his handling of the pandemic.

“The administration’s decision to condition the pause on the economy indicates that they intend the suspension to be long term, since this crisis will not abate quickly,” said Sarah Pierce, an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.

In 2017, Trump backed legislation that would’ve made dramatic cuts to the immigration system. The RAISE Act, which was introduced by Tom Cotton, would’ve barred people from sponsoring siblings, parents and adult children who are citizens of other countries from immigrating to the U.S.

Immigrants that want to come to the country to live permanently obtain visas through their relationships with family members who are already US citizens or green-card holders. Some groups of people are able to obtain these permanent visas by having “extraordinary” abilities in the arts and sciences or being a highly specialized and skilled worker.

Each year, the government generally provides around a million green cards with about half being given to those who are already in the US who are able to obtain the status after coming to the country on a separate visa, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Temporary workers come to the US to work through various programs. For example, agricultural workers obtain temporary visas through the H2 program to staff farms that are key to stabilizing the country’s food supply.

Trump first announced the order in a late night tweet Monday:

“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” he tweeted.

The policy comes during a time when the immigration system has already slowed down.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the State Department has already stopped processing visas and refugee admissions have also been paused. US Citizenship and Immigration Services has closed down its offices to the public for the past several weeks.

Despite working to restrict immigration since taking office and chastising US companies for hiring overseas workers, Trump’s businesses have hired hundreds of temporary foreign workers in recent years.

On Monday, the administration extended a March 20 order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that bars the entry of those who cross into the country without authorization. The order effectively bars asylum at the southern border and has led to US officials quickly expelling immigrant children apprehended alone.

Last month, the State Department eased requirements for most seasonal foreign workers, waiving previously required in-person interviews for temporary worker visas. DHS also announced changes last week that would make it easier for US farmers to hire temporary workers, saying it was necessary to protect the nation’s food supply.

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$484 Billion for Small Businesses, Testing, Hospitals – Reason.com

The Senate on Tuesday passed an addition to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which will funnel another $484 billion toward small business loans, hospitals, and testing.

At the center of the new package is $320 billion in funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, the stimulus measure meant to provide a lifeline to small businesses hit hard by COVID-19 shutdowns. A $60 billion portion of that has been set aside specifically for community bankers in order to help companies that have had trouble securing loans from large lending institutions.

Another $75 billion will go toward hospitals on top of the $100 billion allotted to them in the first version of the CARES Act. That funding will assist medical centers in making up for COVID-19 costs and lost revenue, particularly as hospitals across the country have had to cancel elective surgeries.

A $25 billion carveout has been reserved to ramp up COVID-19 testing. Out of that sum, $11 billion will go to states and localities, $1 billion will go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), $1.8 billion will go to the National Institutes of Health, $1 billion will go to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, and up to $1 billion can be utilized to cover testing for those without insurance.

“I am encouraged that Democrats have finally agreed to reopen the Paycheck Protection Program and abandon a number of their unrelated demands,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) in a statement. “Republicans never wanted this crucial program for workers and small businesses to shut down. We tried to pass additional funding a week before it lapsed. But Democratic leaders blocked the money and spent days trying to negotiate extraneous issues that were never on the table.”

In fact, lawmakers from both parties have used the crisis to push for unrelated demands. The Democrats publicly pushed for additional money for hospitals, which lawmakers agreed to spend in this bill. 

“Congressional Democrats are proud to have secured an agreement on an interim emergency funding package that has been transformed to provide real support for the lives and livelihoods of the American people,” House Speaker Pelosi (D–Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) said in a statement. “Democrats flipped this emergency package from an insufficient Republican plan that left behind hospitals and health and frontline workers and did nothing to aid the survival of the most vulnerable small businesses on Main Street.

Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.) announced his opposition and urged the need for remote voting, as many lawmakers are away from Washington, D.C., in quarantine. “This money doesn’t exist anywhere. It will be created or borrowed,” he said on the Senate floor. “I did return today so that history will record that not everyone gave into the massive debt that Congress is creating.”

The compromise will likely be welcome news to many small businesses who were shut out of the Paycheck Protection Program’s first round of loans, which ran out of funding after less than two weeks.

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Fox News Quietly Backs Away From Hyping Trump’s Coronavirus ‘Miracle Drug’

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Getty

After weeks of incessantly hyping an unproven anti-malarial drug as a potential miracle cure for the coronavirus, Fox News has seemingly ditched its nearly round-the-clock promotion of hydroxychloroquine. 

Unsurprisingly, the change in tone coincided with President Donald Trump’s own retreat from touting the drug, and comes as multiple studies have shown no benefit to COVID-19 patients.

Beginning in mid-to-late March and ramping up through the first two weeks of April, the president repeatedly lauded hydroxychloroquine—a drug developed decades ago to combat malaria and currently also used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis—as a “game-changer” that has brought people back from the dead.  

“What really do we have to lose?” Trump implored the public earlier this month, adding that the drug “doesn’t kill people.” Doctors and medical experts, however, consistently warned that the drug has some severe side effects, such as sudden cardiac arrest.

As is often the case with the cable-news obsessed president, Trump only began promoting the malaria drug as a miracle cure after his favorite Fox opinion hosts openly touted it on-air and in private meetings with him. According to Media Matters for America, a liberal media watchdog, between March 23 and April 6, Fox hosts and guests lauded hydroxychloroquine almost 300 times.

Throughout that time, both the president and Fox stars relied heavily on both anecdotal evidence and flawed studies—namely from a controversial French doctor whose methods have come under scrutiny—to push the drug as a coronavirus cure. The FDA eventually issued “emergency use authorization” in late March for doctors to prescribe the drug to COVID-19 patients in off-label use.

But by mid-April, however, both Trump and his Fox News allies began to clam up on the drug. 

As first noted by Politico, the president barely spoke about the drug over the past week. Last Tuesday, during a meeting with coronavirus survivors, Trump did positively mention the drug with a Michigan state representative who credited hydroxychloroquine for saving her life. Prior to that, the president briefly mentioned the drug at last Monday’s briefing, announcing that the administration had obtained and deployed 28 million doses of the drug to hospitals nationwide. At the same briefing, however, he also spoke glowingly about the “promising results” from remdesivir, another drug that’s currently being tested as a potential COVID-19 treatment.

Since then, and as several small studies showed no benefit to hydroxychloroquine, the president has been mum on the drug. Even on his Twitter account, which previously featured dozens of boasts about the drug, Trump has noticeably slowed down. Outside of a Saturday retweet of a story crediting him with taking a “gamble” on the drug, the president hasn’t tweeted about the drug in nearly two weeks.

And the president’s relative silence has been mirrored by Fox. 

Twitter Deletes Laura Ingraham’s ‘Misleading’ Post Touting Coronavirus Cure

Since April 15, hydroxychloroquine has been mentioned on Fox News and its sister network, Fox Business Network, a total of 51 times. The week before that, the drug was mentioned 138 times. During the first week of April, there were at least 194 mentions between the two channels.

Nowhere has the pivot been more noticeable than during Fox News’ primetime hours. The network’s three weeknight stars—Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham—were all among Fox’s loudest hydroxychloroquine boosters up until around the president’s pivot. Ingraham, for instance, touted the drug’s “Lazarus”-like resurrective effects on coronavirus sufferers and privately met with Trump at the White House to further sell him on the drug.

Although Ingraham spent two full weeks touting the drug on her show every night, she barely mentioned it last week, and has done so only once since last Wednesday.

The virtual blackout has been even more stark with the network’s two other biggest primetime  hosts. Carlson, who helped kick off the president’s hydroxychloroquine craze by hosting a lawyer last month trumpeting the questionable French study, has only mentioned the drug once in passing over the past 10 days—and only as a way to discuss remdesivir. Such a dropoff is stunning: Like Ingraham, the Tucker Carlson Tonight host spent the first two weeks of April touting the drug in all of his broadcasts except one.

Hannity, meanwhile, had been a loud and proud promoter of the drug, hosting Dr. Mehmet Oz, an alleged “quack” celebrity doctor, on a near-nightly basis since mid-March to repeatedly push hydroxychloroquine. Throughout those broadcasts, Hannity praised Oz’s work and, in turn, the TV doc touted the work of Didier Raoult, the doctor behind the questionable French studies.

Like his colleagues, Hannity was a prolific cheerleader for the drug during the first two weeks of April. Since then, however, he has only mentioned the drug three times, with the last mention being nearly a week ago. Furthermore, after being a routine fixture on the show, Dr. Oz hasn’t appeared on Hannity’s program since April 14.

And a new government-funded study released on Tuesday, will likely ensure that both Trump and his favorite Fox News stars continue to quietly back away from ceaselessly hyping the drug in coming weeks.

In a preliminary study of 368 patients in Veterans Affairs medical facilities—not yet peer-reviewed, but backed by the National Institutes of Health—28 percent of those who received hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus died, compared to the 11 percent who received routine care.

Additionally, 22 percent who were treated with hydroxychloroquine plus the antibiotic azithromycin passed away. The drug made no difference in whether or not patients needed a breathing machine, the research found.

“In this study, we found no evidence that use of hydroxychloroquine, either with or without azithromycin, reduced the risk of mechanical ventilation in patients hospitalized with Covid-19.”

Study of Trump-Promoted Coronavirus Drug Finds More Deaths, No Benefit

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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Bill Barr & Hugh Hewitt — Barring the States

Attorney General William Barr in Washington, D.C. February 6, 2020 (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

I am seeing a lot of Twitter outrage and criticism descend on Attorney General Bill Barr for what strikes me as fairly anodyne comments he made on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. The first set of relevant remarks came when Hewitt asked whether federal and state authority over the coronavirus response had collided:

Well, they can be in tension, and there are potentials for collision. I think you know, when a governor acts, obviously states have very broad police powers. When a governor acts, especially when a governor does something that intrudes upon or infringes on a fundamental right or a Constitutional right, they’re bounded by that. And those situations are emerging around the country, to some extent. And I think we have to do a better job of making sure that the measures that are being adopted are properly targeted. They also can run into the federal role under the Commerce Clause, the so-called Dormant Commerce Clause. We do have a national economy which is the responsibility of the federal government. So it is possible that governors will take measures that impair interstate commerce. And just where that line is drawn, you know, remains to be seen.

Hewitt then asked if Barr had seen any state infringe on national commerce in a way that could trigger DoJ action. “Not yet.”

Later in the interview, Hewitt presses Barr on the possibility of litigation in federal court against state restrictions. Barr tries to avoid answering what he calls “a general hypothetical bereft of any facts,” but eventually offers this comment:

Well, if people bring those lawsuits, we’ll take a look at it at that time. And if we think it’s, you know, justified, we would take a position. That’s what we’re doing now. We, you know, we’re looking carefully at a number of these rules that are being put into place. And if we think one goes too far, we initially try to jawbone the governors into rolling them back or adjusting them. And if they’re not and people bring lawsuits, we file statement of interest and side with the plaintiffs.

These are all extremely general statements. In themselves they are not objectionable. What’s the attorney general supposed to say? “We’ll ignore those lawsuits and we won’t try to enforce constitutional rights”? They’re also statements that were elicited more than they were volunteered. They do not bespeak any great eagerness to interfere in state policymaking.

I have no doubt that the administration will give people something worth criticizing before the day is over. (Maybe the president will re-assert his “total authority” over lockdowns.) This isn’t it.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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AP Top News at 5:36 p.m. EDT – Boston Herald

ATLANTA (AP) — Spain called off the Running of the Bulls in July, the U.S. scrapped the national spelling bee in June and Germany canceled Oktoberfest five months away, making it clear Tuesday that the effort to beat back the coronavirus and return to normal could be a long and dispiriting process. Amid growing impatience over the shutdowns that have thrown tens of millions out of work, European countries continued to reopen in stages, while in the U.S., one state after another — mostly ones led by Republican governors — began taking steps to get back to business. Business owners in the U.S.

Iconic events like the U.S. national spelling bee in June, Spain’s Running of the Bulls in July and Germany’s Oktoberfest are being scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic, even amid growing impatience over shutdowns that have thrown millions of people out of work. The push to reopen has set off warnings from health authorities and politicians about a crisis that by Tuesday had killed well over 170,000 people worldwide. Experts say the crisis is far from over and relaxing the stay-at-home restrictions too quickly could enable the virus to surge. Meanwhile, economic damage has mounted as stocks dropped around the world and oil prices suffered a historic collapse.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Their back-and-forth during the coronavirus pandemic has included insults, sharply contrasting views on the role of the federal government and some moments of mutual admiration. Now President Donald Trump and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will meet face-to-face Tuesday for the first time since the global crisis began. Ahead of their Oval Office meeting, Cuomo said he wanted to discuss the need for more federal help in increasing testing capacity — a persistent sticking point between the governors and Washington. Cuomo said Trump is right in saying that “states should take the lead” on testing, but the federal government needs to manage the flow of supplies from abroad while governors are “trying to put together their testing protocol in their state.” “I think in many ways we’re talking past each other,” Cuomo said.

NEW YORK (AP) — Oil prices crumpled even further Tuesday, and U.S. stocks sank to their worst loss in weeks as worries swept markets worldwide about the economic carnage caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The market’s spotlight was again on oil, where prices have plummeted because very few people are flying or driving, and factories have shut amid widespread stay-at-home orders. Global demand is set to drop to levels last seen in the mid 1990s. At the same time, oil producers can’t slow their production fast enough, and all the extra crude means storage tanks are quickly running out of room.

TORONTO (AP) — Canadian police said Tuesday they believe there are at least 22 victims after a gunman wearing a police uniform shot people in their homes and set fires in a rampage across rural communities in Nova Scotia over the weekend. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said they have recovered remains from some of the destroyed homes. Earlier, authorities had said at least 18 people were killed in the 12-hour attack. Officials said the suspect, identified as 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, was shot and later died on Sunday. Authorities did not provide further details or give a motive for the killings.

A malaria drug widely touted by President Donald Trump for treating the new coronavirus showed no benefit in a large analysis of its use in U.S. veterans hospitals. There were more deaths among those given hydroxychloroquine versus standard care, researchers reported. The nationwide study was not a rigorous experiment. But with 368 patients, it’s the largest look so far of hydroxychloroquine with or without the antibiotic azithromycin for COVID-19, which has killed more than 171,000 people as of Tuesday. The study was posted on an online site for researchers and has not been reviewed by other scientists. Grants from the National Institutes of Health and the University of Virginia paid for the work.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Health officials in Wisconsin said they have identified at least seven people who appear to have contracted the coronavirus from participating in the April 7 election, the first such cases following in-person voting that was held despite widespread concern about the public health risks. The cases involve six voters and one poll worker in Milwaukee, where difficulty finding poll workers forced the city to pare nearly 200 voting locations back to just five, and where voters — some in masks, some with no protection — were forced to wait in long lines for hours. The conditions of the seven weren’t immediately available.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Returning to a divisive issue at a time of national crisis, President Donald Trump says he will sign an executive order “to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States” because of the coronavirus. “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” Trump tweeted late Monday. He offered no details about which immigration programs might be affected, and by Tuesday afternoon the White House had yet to release any details.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. agreed Tuesday to pay a record $25 million fine to resolve criminal charges that it served tainted food that sickened more than 1,100 people in the U.S. from 2015 to 2018. The fast food company was charged in Los Angeles federal court with two counts of violating the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by serving adulterated food that in some instances caused outbreaks of norovirus, which causes diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal cramps, at restaurants. The virus is spread easily by people mishandling food. The company admitted that poor safety practices, such as not keeping food at proper temperatures to prevent pathogen growth, sickened customers in Los Angeles and nearby Simi Valley, as well as Boston, Sterling, Virginia, and Powell, Ohio.

NEW YORK (AP) — In the NBC “Nightly News” inaugural kids edition, Sadie of Morristown, New Jersey, posed the question that everyone wishes had an answer. “When is coronavirus going to end? she said. After a test run last week, NBC’s Lester Holt on Tuesday is starting a twice-weekly newscast that he hopes can ease some of the mystery and worry for young people about a pandemic that’s kept them out of school and many of their parents at home. Posted Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, the program will run between six to 10 minutes and be available on NBC’s YouTube channel and other digital platforms.

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Cuomo, Trump ready to meet after trading virus barbs, praise

Oil’s chaotic collapse deepens; stocks drop worldwide

Canadian police say 22 victims after rampage in Nova Scotia

More deaths, no benefit from malaria drug in VA virus study

Officials: 7 virus cases appear related to in-person voting

Trump vows to ‘suspend immigration’ to US because of virus

Chipotle agrees to record $25 million fine over tainted food

Lester Holt starts show for children about the coronavirus