White House now has two CDC epidemiologists helping with contact tracing

President Trump and at least 34 White House staff members and other contacts have tested positive for the virus, according to Wednesday’s senior leadership brief on the covid-19 response prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Some of those people are suspected of having become infected at White House and Republican National Committee events.

The White House by Tuesday completed contact tracing related to the president’s infection and cases involving several other people, a senior White House official said, raising concerns among infectious-disease experts about whether a thorough investigation could be completed so quickly. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters, said anyone meeting the CDC’s definition of “close contact” with someone who tested positive had been notified and given health recommendations.

It remains unclear when the White House began contact tracing. If the effort did not begin right away, or go far back enough, infections may have been missed, experts said.

If the White House had started immediately, “then early control could have held back numbers of infections and further need for ongoing tracking,” said Jeanne Marrazzo, an infectious-diseases expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Several White House staffers and administration officials expressed anger and bewilderment that the White House had not undertaken a more robust contact-tracing effort sooner. They said many people — including White House residence staff who do not have the stature of a lawmaker or a top political aide — had not been contacted despite possible exposures, putting them and others at risk in a still-growing outbreak. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

The CDC began offering help last Friday, after President Trump announced he had tested positive, only to be repeatedly spurned, according to a CDC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. On Wednesday, an arrangement was made for “some limited CDC involvement,” the official said.

White House officials rejected the assertion they have turned down help, pointing to the CDC epidemiologist already detailed to the White House Medical Unit. That epidemiologist is leading the White House investigation and has been in communication with agency officials, according to a senior White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

White House officials said they have completed their investigation of the Rose Garden event celebrating the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett that was attended by nearly 200 people, based on photos.

The White House Medical Unit, with a staff of more than 50, has been in touch with the D.C. Department of Health and mayor’s office to report confirmed cases, the official added.

“Any positive case is taken very seriously, which is why the White House Medical Unit leads a robust contact-tracing program with CDC personnel and guidance to stop ongoing transmission,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said.

White House officials said their investigation is unlikely to find the outbreak’s source.

“There were a number of guests who

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Interior Designers Are Helping Businesses Reimagine Their Workspace

covid-19 workspace
Walled off: Glass or acrylic partitions in a workspace create a sense of separation that makes people feel safer. // Photograph courtesy of MarxModa

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to push businesses to reimagine their workspaces into more hygienic, socially distant environments, interior design professionals are busy helping metro Detroit companies transform offices, community areas, and more for a new age of working.

Whitney Marx, 33, CEO of MarxModa, a Michigan-based interior design business headquartered in Detroit that creates workspaces for commercial, healthcare, and small-business clients, among others, first saw a need for COVID-19 workspace redesigns in February, with the demand intensifying in March and remaining steady since.

“Best practices continue to evolve, and we continue to design for flexibility in the workplace,” she says. “We expect new information almost daily, so design with the ability to adapt is critical.”

Marx and her team of interior designers partner closely with clients to change or adjust their spaces to help employees feel safe at work. “The first clients we helped were the essential businesses, especially healthcare-related clients and organizations looking to set up temporary COVID-care facilities very quickly,” she explains.

MarxModa formed a focus group early on that included clients, manufacturers, experts, and some of its team members to discuss challenges created by the pandemic and possible solutions that space planning and design could offer. Since then, they have worked with hundreds of clients to implement these strategies as people have returned to work.

“We’ve tried to be a resource to help our clients sift through the noise and understand things like new space allocation requirements and density danger zones in their office,” Marx says. Critical locations for COVID-19 safety consideration include common areas where people gather, lobbies, elevators, kitchens, restrooms, and print areas.

Updates to floor plans to meet distancing recommendations, such as furniture reconfigurations to move people farther apart or change their orientation, have been common changes. Other popular additions to workstation layouts are clear glass or acrylic boundary screens for physical separation and psychological support. Demand for furniture and accessories that can be easily cleaned has increased as well.

But “one design does not fit all,” says Marx, who says her team is working with clients to understand the number of employees who want access to spaces at the same time. Determining capacity limits, defining “safe spaces,” and tapping into technology to track space utilization have helped MarxModa create custom designs.

Solutions are modified as new data on how the virus spreads emerges. “There was a big push in March for higher screens, panels, room dividers — any form of physical boundary that could be installed immediately within workplaces to help prevent the spread of the virus,” Marx says. “More recently, research has shown that while these physical boundaries can create a sense of safety psychologically and serve as good reminders to maintain physical distance, they don’t actually block airborne particles.”

Physical distancing, wearing masks, and regularly sanitizing high-touch surfaces are more effective for containing virus spread,

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U.S. Adversaries Are Exploiting Trump’s Illness and the White House Isn’t Helping

As Washington followed the rapid-fire news Friday of President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and his eventual hospitalization at Walter Reed Medical Center, national security and disinformation analysts watched as American adversaries sought to exploit the unfolding situation to their advantage.



Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on his way to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on September 30, 2020 in Washington, D.C.


© Drew Angerer—Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on his way to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on September 30, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Trump’s diagnosis was announced around 1 a.m. Friday morning with a tweet from his personal account. Over the following hours, the White House put out piecemeal statements that gradually became more concerning. Prior Administrations facing uncertainty at the top of America’s government have favored full briefings for the media by subject matter experts and advisors. Trump’s White House opted instead for sporadic announcements through non-traditional media channels over the course of the day which only fueled speculation.

This approach created a significant opening for misinformation by foreign adversaries and bad actors at home, analysts say. “What the White House has been sharing with us has been lacking in detail and fragmented, and whenever there is a gap in the information that’s shared there are conspiracy theories and misinformation,” says Samuel Woolley, who leads propaganda research at the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. “There’s a massive credibility gap.”

This distrust was exacerbated as details emerged that Trump had gone ahead with campaign events on Thursday despite knowing that his close aide Hope Hicks had tested positive for the virus. Trump traveled to several events in New Jersey after her diagnosis, which he downplayed in a television interview. Adversaries were quick to seize on the series of conflicting messages. “The propaganda ecosystem is going into overdrive,” Woolley says. “We should expect it to cause a massive cascade of misinformation from all quarters.”

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Some arms of government attempted to deploy the traditional approach to information in times of uncertainty. The Pentagon moved to reassure the public that there has been no change to U.S. armed forces’ level of alert since the President received a positive test. “The U.S. military stands ready to defend our country and interests,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement. “There’s no change to the readiness or capability of our armed forces. Our national command and control structure is in no way affected by this announcement.”

But foreign adversaries have already been at work on harder to patrol fronts, like propaganda outlets and cyberspace. Last month, FBI Director Chris Wray testified to Congress that Russia has been using “proxies, state media, online journals” and other mediums to influence U.S. elections and specifically damage the Democratic nominee,

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Gardening: Two former farm kids embark on new life in Clarkston after helping grow church garden

When I’m 86 years old, I hope I still have the spunk and the ability to garden like Jeanie Baker and Leon Alboucq do.

These two intrepid former farm kids have inspired – and put to shame – the rest of the gardeners at the Resurrection Episcopal Church Community Garden.

Between 2013 and 2019, they grew more than 18,000 pounds of produce and donated it to Spokane Valley Partners Food Bank. Earlier this summer they decided to hang up their hoses in Spokane and head back to Clarkston, to be closer to old friends, family and a milder climate.

The Resurrection Community Garden was started in 2013 when members of the church converted about a half-acre of the field behind the church into raised beds. There weren’t enough resources to build beds in the entire space, which left a quarter-acre empty. Jeanie and Leon saw an opportunity and asked to have the space to plant.

The two dusted off the farming skills they learned as children during the Depression era and began planting.

“We were a couple of old farm kids who knew how to grow stuff,” Jeanie said, so taking on a large garden was no big deal. “We remember the Depression and how people went hungry.”

They grew up in the Lewiston area and met as high school students at the 1951 Junior Livestock Show in Spokane.

“Leon was on the FFA judging team, and I was a cute blonde who was showing an Angus steer,” Jeanie said. Life took them on different paths for the next 60 years: Leon as a stock car racer, cattle rancher, grocer, fire chief and Snake River mailboat operator and Jeanie as a nurse in Henderson, Nevada, and Spokane.

Their paths crossed again in the early 2000s. Leon’s wife died, and Jeanie sent him a sympathy card and then two Christmas cards before he responded.

“It was like all those years just disappeared,” Jeanie said. “We’ve been together ever since.”

Leon moved to Spokane to be with Jeanie, saying what else was he going to do, “that’s where the cook went.”

Jeanie and Leon raised cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, radishes, several kinds of squash and collected produce from the other members of the garden to take to the food bank.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Jeanie said.

She also grew a long row of colorful zinnias to draw in pollinators and taught other members of the garden how to gather the seed for the next season.

Jeanie and Leon have been a priceless inspiration to all the members of the garden. Their knowledge of gardening has given confidence to many new gardeners. Their words of wisdom have made us better people. Their stories have grounded us in local history and the value of living a practical life. Lastly, their homemade wine kept us laughing. We will miss you, Jeanie and Leon.

And yes, they are already planning their new garden beds in Clarkston.

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Watching Jeff Mauro Cook With His Son on ‘The Kitchen’ is Helping Fans Through Hard Times

These are difficult days for everyone. Pandemic depression is real, and it’s touching most Americans. Even Michelle Obama admitted to being depressed due to the current global situation. Some things are making people feel a little better, however.

Actors, comedians, and artists are working harder than ever to keep peoples’ spirits up during this difficult time. Many shows are still being filmed, but actors can’t go to studios.

That means they’re opening up their homes, and recording themselves in their own houses so that fans can get the content they crave. Jeff Mauro, Food Network star, is one such celeb. Fans are forever grateful that he stepped up to film from his own kitchen. 

Jeff Mauro is the perfect person to lift spirits during quarantine 

Jeff Mauro
Jeff Mauro | John Lamparski/Getty Images for NYCWFF

When Mauro announced he would be doing episodes of The Kitchen from his own kitchen during lockdown, it seemed like a perfect fit. Mauro has two passions: comedy, and food.

On the Food Network, he’s able to combine them. Now, if it’s one thing people need, it’s comedy. A lockdown cooking show seems perfect for Mauro’s particular skill set. 

But setting up his New Jersey home wasn’t easy for this Chicago native. He went from a 70 person crew to himself, his son, and his wife. They surrounded the kitchen with multiple iPhones and iPads, as well as a laptop for Zoom conferencing with hi co hosts, Sunny Anderson, Alex Guarnaschelli, Katie Lee and Geoffrey Zakarian.

He didn’t even have all the food and spices he would normally have on set. Mauro and his family resorted to frozen salmon for their first lock down episode.

According to Mauro via Chicago Tribune: “Luckily we had enough salmon frozen that we could do this recipe. We do not have the resources that we normally do for ‘The Kitchen.’ We have the same stuff that everybody else has. It made it that much more special.”

Fans loved Jeff Mauro’s son Lorenzo 

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Something else made Jeff Mauro cooking at home during quarantine special for fans. Not only was he in his normal kitchen, using things he had at home like “everybody else,” but he was with his family.

Like most Americans, Mauro had his son Lorenzo with him full time during lockdown, and he didn’t shut him out of the kitchen to film for the Food Network. Instead, Lorenzo was right there with him, and fans loved it. 

One fan on Reddit wrote: “Any scene with Jeff and Lorenzo always brightens my day. I melted when Lorenzo said he makes grilled cheese very expertly (pun not intended).”

Other fans agreed, and say that the channel has done a good job adapting to the ‘new normal’ of coronavirus lock down. 

Geoffrey Zakarian is a ‘sous chef’ at home, and fans are here for it 

Fans are seeing new sides of their favorite celebrity chefs, and they’re loving it. Mauro was always

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