Covid-19 Live Updates: White House Embraces ‘Herd Immunity’ Declaration

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The White House has embraced a declaration by a group of scientists arguing that authorities should allow the coronavirus to spread among young healthy people while protecting the elderly and the vulnerable — an approach that would rely on arriving at “herd immunity” through infections rather than a vaccine.

Many experts say “herd immunity” — the point at which a disease stops spreading because nearly everyone in a population has contracted it — is still very far off. Leading experts have concluded, using different scientific methods, that about 85 to 90 percent of the American population is still susceptible to the coronavirus.

On a call convened Monday by the White House, two senior administration officials, both speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to give their names, cited an October 4 petition entitled The Great Barrington Declaration, which argues against lockdowns and calls for a reopening of businesses and schools.

“Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health,” the declaration states, adding, “The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.”

The declaration has more than 9,000 signatories from all over the world, its website says, though most of the names are not public. The document grew out of a meeting hosted by the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian-leaning research organization.

Its lead authors include Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, an epidemiologist and infectious disease expert at Stanford University, academic home of Dr. Scott Atlas, President Trump’s science adviser. Dr. Atlas has also espoused herd immunity.

The declaration’s architects include Sunetra Gupta and Gabriela Gomes, two scientists who have proposed that societies may achieve herd immunity when 10 to 20 percent of their populations have been infected with the virus, a position most epidemiologists disagree with.

Last month, at the request of The New York Times, three epidemiological teams calculated the percentage of the country that is infected. What they found runs strongly counter to the theory being promoted in influential circles that the United States has either already achieved herd immunity or is close to doing so, and that the pandemic is all but over. That conclusion would imply that businesses, schools and restaurants could safely reopen, and that masks and other distancing measures could be abandoned.

“The idea that herd immunity will happen at 10 or 20 percent is just nonsense,” said Dr. Christopher J.L. Murray, director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which produced the epidemic model frequently cited during White House news briefings as the epidemic hit hard in the spring.

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Justice Dept. sues to seize profits of tell-all Melania Trump book, citing White House nondisclosure pact

In a statement, Wolkoff said she fulfilled all the terms of the agreement and that its confidentiality provisions ended when the White House terminated it.

Winston Wolkoff, 50, had a 15-year friendship with Melania Trump before she was ousted in 2018 as an unpaid senior adviser to the first lady in a scandal involving President Trump’s $107 million inauguration. Winston Wolkoff has said she felt “betrayed” when news accounts focused on $26 million paid to her event-planning firm by the inauguration. Most of the money went to pay for inaugural events, and she personally retained $484,126, The Washington Post has reported.

In the book, Winston Wolkoff described what she viewed as extensive mismanagement and opaque accounting for the inauguration, after which she cooperated with law enforcement investigators.

But the former right-hand events planner to Vogue editor Anna Wintour has created a larger media storm this month by playing excerpts of phone conversations that she began secretly recording with the first lady in February 2018 without her knowledge.

Melania Trump’s chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, has lambasted Winston Wolkoff for the recordings.

“Secretly taping the first lady and willfully breaking an NDA to publish a salacious book is a clear attempt at relevance,” Grisham said in an Oct. 2 statement to CNN. “The timing of this continues to be suspect — as does this never-ending exercise in self-pity and narcissism.”

The lawsuit is likely to draw renewed attention to the tapes, which capture Melania Trump venting in profane language about her frustrations with critical media coverage, expectations about her role in planning White House Christmas decorations and defending the administration’s separation of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Who gives a f— about the Christmas stuff and decorations?” Trump said in one portion played in interviews with Winston Wolkoff by CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

On another recording, the first lady refers to porn star Stormy Daniels as “the porn hooker.” Porn actresses took to Twitter and accused her of shaming sex workers. The recording played on “Mea Culpa,” a podcast hosted by Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, who went to jail for lying to investigators about paying hush money to Daniels, who said she had an affair with Trump before he became president. President Trump has denied the affair.

According to the lawsuit, Winston Wolkoff served as an adviser to the first lady from January to August 21, 2017, helping Melania Trump assemble her staff, remodel the East Wing and communicate with the media.

Winston Wolkoff then entered a formal “Gratuitous services Agreement” that included, among other things, the handling of “nonpublic, privileged and/or confidential information,” the suit asserts. Serving as a volunteer policy and media adviser, Winston Wolkoff agreed that she was “specifically prohibited from publishing, reproducing or otherwise divulging any such information to any unauthorized person or entity in whole or in part,” the Justice Department said in court filings.

The agreement also bound Winston Wolkoff to not disclose her work with the first lady’s office to anyone without written

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Proposal to hasten herd immunity grabs White House attention, appalls top scientists

WASHINGTON — Maverick scientists who call for allowing the coronavirus to spread freely at “natural” rates among healthy young people while keeping most aspects of the economy up and running have found an audience inside the White House and at least one state capitol.

The scientists met last week with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who has emerged as an influential adviser to President Donald Trump on the pandemic.

When asked for comment, HHS referred a reporter to Azar’s subsequent Twitter statement about the meeting: “We heard strong reinforcement of the Trump Administration’s strategy of aggressively protecting the vulnerable while opening schools and the workplace.”

A senior administration official told reporters in a background briefing call Monday that the proposed strategy — which has been denounced by other infectious-disease experts and has been called “fringe” and “dangerous” by National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins — supports what has been Trump’s policy for months.

“We’re not endorsing a plan. The plan is endorsing what the president’s policy has been for months. The president’s policy — protect the vulnerable, prevent hospital overcrowding, and open schools and businesses — and he’s been very clear on that,” the official said.

“Everybody knows that 200,000 people died. That’s extremely serious and tragic. But on the other hand, I don’t think society has to be paralyzed, and we know the harms of confining people to their homes,” the official added.

Trump has long chafed at the economic damage from shutdowns imposed to control the pandemic, and has repeatedly pushed states to reopen, at one point threatening to withhold federal funding from states that did not open schools. After he contracted the virus and developed symptoms of COVID-19 serious enough to require hospitalization, Trump tweeted, “Don’t be afraid of COVID.”

In pushing his agenda, Trump has steadily drifted away from the counsel of his own government’s top doctors, such as White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Into that void has stepped Atlas, who has relied on the maverick scientists to bolster his in-house arguments. At a recent White House news briefing, he cited them by name.

The three scientists pushing the strategy, which they call focused protection, have distinguished academic appointments. Martin Kulldorff is an epidemiologist at Harvard University. Sunetra Gupta is an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford. Jay Bhattacharya is a physician and epidemiologist at Stanford University’s medical school.

They have codified their argument in the form of a document posted online that called itself the Great Barrington Declaration, named after the town in Massachusetts where it was unveiled on Oct. 4 in a ceremony at a libertarian think tank.

The authors say their approach would decrease the undesirable public health effects of restrictions and closures, which disproportionately affect lower-income people. The declaration does not mention wearing masks, engaging in social distancing, avoiding crowds and indoor environments, or any of the other

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McConnell breaks from White House-Democratic negotiations, unveils separate bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced he will release a separate stimulus proposal worth $500 billion, significantly lower than the deal Democrats and the White House are negotiating.

“We’re going to go back on the floor next week, again, with a proposal more narrowly targeted,” McConnell said at an event in Kentucky on Tuesday. “I want to give my friends on the other side one more chance to do highly-targeted relief that the country desperately needs.”

The new proposal includes funding for the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), extra unemployment benefits, money for schools, and liability protections for businesses. McConnell is expected to put the proposal for a vote after the Senate returns on October 19.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 20: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (L) listens to U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters while hosting Republican congressional leaders and members of Trump's cabinet in the Oval Office at the White House July 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump and the congressional leaders talked about a proposed new round of financial stimulus to help the economy during the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (L) listens to U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters while hosting Republican congressional leaders and members of Trump’s cabinet in the Oval Office at the White House July 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

Soon after McConnell made his comments on the new targeted proposal, the president reiterated his support for a larger stimulus deal, tweeting “STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!” on Tuesday.

The White House’s latest proposal is around $1.8 trillion, up from $1.6 trillion, and closer to the price tag of the Democrats’ latest $2.2 trillion stimulus proposal that passed the House in September.

McConnell’s new proposal has similar provisions to the one the GOP released in early September, which was worth $650 billion, but only $300 billion of that was new spending with the rest being repurposed money. The previous package was rejected in the Senate.

At least 38 states have paid out all their funds available under the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program. (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)
At least 41 states have paid out all their funds available under the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program. (David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

‘We cannot get an agreement just by folding’

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who has been actively negotiating a new stimulus package with the White House, said that the latest offer by the administration falls short, but she still is hopeful for a deal.

Read more: Here’s what you need to know about unemployment benefits eligibility

Sticking points for any deal between the White House and Democrats include aid for state and local governments, funding for schools, workers’ protections and child care support, rental assistance, funding for increased testing and tracing as well as funding for small businesses, elections, and the census.

“We really need to have an agreement, but we cannot have an agreement by just folding,” Pelosi said on a conference call with House Democrats on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported. “I don’t think our leverage has ever been greater than it is now.”

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9, 2020 -- U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., the United States, on Oct. 9, 2020. U.S. President Donald Trump has approved a revised COVID-19 relief package in the negotiations with congressional Democrats, White House's National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said Friday. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is expected to discuss a new 1.8-trillion-U.S.-dollar relief proposal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when the two speak Friday afternoon, according to The Wall Street Journal. (Photo by Ting Shen/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/T IngShen/liujie via Getty Images)
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., the United States, on Oct. 9, 2020. (Xinhua/T IngShen/liujie via Getty Images)

Any deal reached by Democrats and the White House would likely face stiff opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, where it would need 60 votes to pass.

In early August, McConnell said that the GOP would

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The White House physician says Trump has tested negative, but experts warn about trusting the results.

President Trump has tested negative “on consecutive days” using a rapid antigen coronavirus test not intended for that purpose, the White House physician Dr. Sean Conley said in a statement released Monday before the president began a rally in Florida.

The memo said the president tested negative on a rapid test called Abbott BinaxNOW, but experts cautioned that the test’s accuracy has not yet been investigated enough to be sure that the president is virus-free.

“It doesn’t make much sense in my mind that they should be using the BinaxNOW test for this,” said Dr. Michael Mina, an infectious diseases expert at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “But it’s one additional piece of information.”

The BinaxNOW, which costs $5 and functions like a pregnancy test, looks for a protein produced by the coronavirus. It is most effective when the amount of virus in the body is high, but is much less sensitive than the P.C.R., the gold standard laboratory test. The Trump administration has purchased 150 million BinaxNOW tests and plans to ship them to states for use in schools and nursing homes.

In an announcement of the tests’ deployment to states on Sept. 28, the Department of Health and Human Services cautioned that “results from an antigen test may need to be confirmed with a molecular test prior to making treatment decisions; this may be particularly true for negative results if there is a high clinical suspicion that the patient is infected.”

“Infectiousness should be based more on symptom onset,” said Dr. Ranu Dhillon, a physician at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. The BinaxNOW, he said, “could be giving false negatives.”

According to guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with severe Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, may need to isolate for up to 20 days. But it has been unclear when exactly Mr. Trump’s symptoms began, or how severe they have been. On Monday, he departed for his Florida rally without a mask covering his face.

Doctors said it’s somewhat reassuring that Mr. Trump has tested negative more than once, but said without more details from the more sensitive P.C.R. tests, it’s impossible to be sure that he is past the point of infectiousness.

BinaxNOW’s “real power lies in marking someone who is transmissible, not the other way around,” Dr. Mina said. “I think they’re mixing things up a bit.”

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A bipartisan delegation of governors speaks to the media outside the White House in Washington

A bipartisan delegation of governors speak to the media outside of the White House in Washington, DC on December 4, 2012, after meeting with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet discuss the actions needed to keep our economy growing and find a balanced approach to reduce our deficit. Pictured (l-r) Gary Herbert (R-UT), Mary Fallin (R-OK), Scott Walker (R-WI), Mike Beebe (D-AR) and Jack Markell (D-DE). UPI/Pete Marovich/Pool

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White House Halloween to be ‘modified’ to meet CDC guidelines: report

The White House’s Halloween celebration will take place despite the coronavirus pandemic, albeit in “modified” form, CNN reported Tuesday.

Plans for the event are “full-steam ahead,” a source familiar with the White House’s planning told the network.

The specific modifications will include face masks and other mitigation measures, but the source did not offer further details. The annual event typically features the president and first lady handing out candy to local children on the White House South Lawn.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTwo ethics groups call on House to begin impeachment inquiry against Barr Trump relishes return to large rallies following COVID-19 diagnosis McGrath: McConnell ‘can’t get it done’ on COVID-19 relief MORE and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpEric Trump falsely calls president’s coronavirus treatment a vaccine Trump rallies supporters at White House in first event since COVID-19 diagnosis Christie released from the hospital after COVID-19 diagnosis MORE were diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month, with the president requiring a weekend in the hospital.

White House physician Sean Conley has said the president has tested negative and is no longer contagious. Trump has since returned to the campaign trail and resumed large rallies and events, holding a White House campaign event Saturday and a Florida campaign rally Monday.

Several other infections have been linked to a White House Rose Garden event last month nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, including those of Sens. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisDemocrats warn of ObamaCare threat from Barrett, Trump Gloves come off in Barrett confirmation hearing GOP senator attends Barrett hearings in person after COVID-19 diagnosis MORE (R-N.C.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senator attends Barrett hearings in person after COVID-19 diagnosis GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Harrison calls on Graham to take a COVID-19 test before debate MORE (R-Wis.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeThe Hill’s 12:30 Report – Sponsored by Facebook – Sights and sounds as Amy Coney’s Barrett hearing begins Gloves come off in Barrett confirmation hearing GOP senator attends Barrett hearings in person after COVID-19 diagnosis MORE (R-Utah), as well as former counselor to the president Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayTrump Jr. returning to campaign trail after quarantining Christie released from the hospital after COVID-19 diagnosis The Memo: Trump searches for path to comeback MORE.

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.

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McConnell plans coronavirus aid vote as Pelosi says White House stimulus plan falls short

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans a vote on limited coronavirus stimulus legislation based around the Paycheck Protection Program this month.
  • Meanwhile, President Donald Trump tweeted that lawmakers should “go big or go home” ahead of the 2020 election.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is negotiating a potential stimulus deal with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, said the latest White House proposal “falls significantly short” of what is need to address the crisis.

Senate will take up Covid-19 small business relief when it returns, says Mitch McConnell

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The Senate will vote on a limited coronavirus stimulus bill this month, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday, as lawmakers stumble in their push to send aid to Americans before the 2020 election.

In a statement, the Kentucky Republican said the Senate would take up aid legislation after the full chamber returns on Monday. McConnell called the plan “targeted relief for American workers, including new funding” for Paycheck Protection Program small business loans. Speaking at an event in his home state, he said the bill would also include money for schools, an unemployment insurance boost and liability protections for businesses.

McConnell said in his statement that the Senate would have enough time to both pass the relief proposal and confirm Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett “unless Democrats block this aid for workers.” Democrats have in recent days targeted Republicans for moving forward with Barrett’s nomination while millions of Americans left jobless by the virus outbreak await federal assistance.

Democrats, who blocked a roughly $500 billion Republican plan in the Senate last month, could dismiss the latest GOP proposal as inadequate. A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer did not immediately respond to a request to comment on whether Democrats would support the new Republican bill.

McConnell announced plans for a vote as hopes for new spending to boost the health-care system and economy dim. Democrats and the Trump administration have failed to strike a relief deal as the U.S. creeps closer to Election Day on Nov. 3. Meanwhile, the White House and Senate Republicans appear more out of sync than ever on what the federal response will require.

“STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!” President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday shortly after McConnell detailed plans to vote on narrow legislation.

Over the weekend, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin offered House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a roughly $1.8 trillion plan — about $400 billion less than the bill House Democrats passed earlier this month. Pelosi has dismissed the proposal, and on Tuesday suggested Trump “only wants his name on a check to go out before Election Day and for the [stock] market to go up.”

“Over 215,000 Americans have died, nearly 7.8 million have been infected and millions more are still without jobs or income security and therefore struggling to make rent and put food on the table,” she wrote to House Democrats. “Tragically, the Trump proposal falls significantly short of what this pandemic and deep recession demand.”

Pelosi for

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Exclusive: White House Moves Forward on Two More Arms Sales to Taiwan – Sources | World News

By Mike Stone, Patricia Zengerle and David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House is moving forward with more sales of sophisticated military equipment to Taiwan, telling Congress on Tuesday that it will seek to sell MQ-9 drones and a coastal defensive missile system, five sources familiar with the situation said.

The possible sales, which are likely to anger China in the run-up to the Nov. 3 U.S. election, follows three notifications first reported by Reuters on Monday.

China considers Taiwan a wayward province that it has vowed to reunite with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Reuters broke the news in September that as many as seven major weapons systems were making their way through the U.S. export process as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on China.

The pre-notification to Congress for the MQ-9 drone case is the first after President Donald Trump’s administration moved ahead with its plan to sell more drones to more countries by reinterpreting an international arms control agreement called the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees have the right to review, and block, weapons sales under an informal review process before the State Department sends its formal notification to the legislative branch.

(Reporting by Mike Stone, Patricia Zengerle and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Nancy Pelosi blasts the White House’s $1.8 trillion stimulus offer and lists 8 areas with ‘deficiencies’



Nancy Pelosi wearing a blue shirt: The House passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus to help keep the US economy afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images


© Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images
The House passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus to help keep the US economy afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped into the Trump administration’s virus relief proposal on Tuesday.
  • “A fly on the wall or wherever else it might land in the Oval Office tells me that the President only wants his name on a check to go out before Election Day and for the market to go up,” Pelosi said in a letter to House Democrats.
  • She listed eight areas where Democrats said it had “deficiencies,” among them state and local aid, virus testing, and tax credits for low-income individuals.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi fiercely criticized the Trump administration’s $1.8 stimulus offer for the third time on Tuesday, and outlined eight areas where Democrats say the plan falls woefully short.

She argued that President Donald Trump’s interest in an economic relief package stems from a desire to send another wave of $1,200 stimulus checks and juice the stock market.

“A fly on the wall or wherever else it might land in the Oval Office tells me that the President only wants his name on a check to go out before Election Day and for the market to go up,” Pelosi said in a letter to House Democrats.

The White House plan includes $1,200 direct payments, $400 weekly federal unemployment benefits, $300 billion in aid to state and local governments, and funds for virus testing and tracing.

The California Democrat listed eight areas with significant “deficiencies:”

  • Aid to state and local governments.
  • Coronavirus testing.
  • Tax credits for families and low-income individuals.
  • Rental assistance.
  • Workplace protections and childcare.
  • Federal funds for states to conduct safe elections.
  • Relief for small businesses.
  • Census funding.

Pelosi called for “significant changes” to the White House plan.

Read more: A $2.5 billion investment chief highlights the stock-market sectors poised to benefit the most if stimulus is passed after the election — and says Trump ending negotiations doesn’t threaten the economic recovery

Negotiations on another stimulus package appear to be deadlocked once again after the Trump administration bumped up its stimulus offer to $1.8 trillion on Friday. Both parties panned the proposal over the weekend. Republicans assailed it as a costly package while Democrats contended it didn’t do enough to address the public health and economic crises.

The on-again, off-again talks between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin entered a volatile period last week after Trump ended them and revived the discussions a few days later. But there’s been no major headway with Democrats calling for at least $2.2 trillion in spending. The Democratic-led House approved an economic aid package earlier this month.

Trump is doubling down on his efforts to secure a coronavirus relief package with three weeks to go before Election Day as polls indicate he is trailing his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.

The president called on Republicans to approve a federal rescue package on

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