White House reportedly pushed CDC hard to fall in line on sending kids to school, sought alternate safety data

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began working in early summer on guidance for sending children back to school, and the White House then “spent weeks trying to press public health professionals to fall in line with President Trump’s election-year agenda of pushing to reopen schools and the economy as quickly as possible,” The New York Times reported Monday night, citing documents and interviews with current and former government officials.

This “strikingly political intervention in one of the most sensitive public health debates of the pandemic” included searching for “alternate data” that suggested children were at little or no risk from the coronavirus, the Times reports, and trying to swap in guidance from a little-known Health and Human Services Department agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

SAMHSA was focused on the emotional and mental health toll remote school could have on children, but CDC scientists found multiple problems with the agency’s assertion that COVID-19 posed a low health and transmission risk for children. That’s the language the White House was most interested in, though, and throughout the summer the CDC won some battles and lost others trying to keep it out of public guidance, the Times documents.

Olivia Troye, one of Vice President Mike Pence’s envoys on the White House coronavirus task force until leaving the administration in July, told the Times she regrets being “complicit” in the effort to pressure the CDC to make children look safer than the data supported. She said when she tried to shield the CDC, Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, charged “more junior staff” to “develop charts” for White House briefings.

In early July, several prominent medical groups, including the American Association of Pediatrics, advised sending kids back to school with stringent safety measures, in part because the data at the time suggested lower risk for kids. “More recently, data compiled by the academy from recent months shows that hospitalizations and deaths from the coronavirus have increased at a faster rate in children and teenagers than among the general public,” the Times reports. Read more at The New York Times.

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US military police ‘sought use of heat ray’ to disperse White House protesters | US policing

A military whistleblower has said federal officials sought some unusual crowd control devices, including a so-called heat ray, to disperse protesters outside the White House in June.

In written responses to questions from a House committee, the national guard major Adam DeMarco said the defence department’s lead military police officer for the national capital region sent an email asking if the Washington DC national guard possessed a long-range acoustic device used to transmit loud noises or an Active Denial System (ADS), the so-called heat ray.

DeMarco said he responded that the guard was not in possession of either device. National Public Radio and the Washington Post first reported DeMarco‘s testimony.

Use of either the acoustic device or the ADS would have been a significant escalation of crowd control for the guard, particularly since the defence officials ordered that guard troops not be armed when they went into the area. Law enforcement personnel were armed.

Athough active-duty military troops were sent to the region, they remained at bases outside the district in case they were needed.

The ADS was developed by the military nearly two decades ago and was unveiled to the public around 2007. It is not clear if it has ever been used in combat, although reports suggest it has been deployed.

The system, which emits a directed beam of energy that causes a burning sensation, was considered a non-lethal way to control crowds, particularly when it may be difficult to tell the enemy from innocent civilians in war zones.

Use of the device appeared to stall amid questions about whether it actually caused more serious injuries or burns than initially thought.

The long-range acoustic device, also called a sound cannon, sends out loud messages or sounds and has been used by law enforcement to disperse crowds.

The US military has, in recent years, ordered the cannon for the navy’s Military Sealift Command to be used by ships to hail or warn other vessels.

DeMarco testified in late July before the House natural resources committee, which is investigating the use of force against crowds in Lafayette Square that night. His remarks on the crowd-control devices came in response to follow-up questions from the committee.

DeMarco’s lawyer sent his answers to the committee on 28 August; NPR posted the document online Wednesday.

The Trump administration hasclaimed vicious attacks by protesters led federal forces to turn on what appeared to be a largely peaceful crowd on 1 June in the square in front of the White House.

Law enforcement and security officers that night clubbed and punched demonstrators and set mounted officers and chemical agents against them in one of the most controversial confrontations at the height of this year’s nationwide protests over the killing of black people at the hands of police.

The forceful clearing of Lafayette Square, long one of the country’s most prominent venues for demonstrations, came minutes before Donald Trump arrived in the area, en route to stage a photo event in front of a historic church

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