A healthcare worker outside the emergency center at Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York, April 13, 2020
UPDATE, 1600 GMT:
Even Trump’s favorite outlet, Fox TV, has split over his declaration that he takes the untested drug hydroxylchloroquine.
Fox News' Neil Cavuto on Pres. Trump saying he's taking hydroxychloroquine:
"If you are in a risky population here, and you are taking this as a preventative treatment … it will kill you. I cannot stress enough. This will kill you." pic.twitter.com/kjV27hjO2a
— Alex Salvi (@alexsalvinews) May 18, 2020
Trump responded angrily, retweeting a series of messages deriding Cavuto and concluding:
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2020
The official US death toll from Coronavirus passes 90,000, with more than 1.5 million cases.
Trying to divert attentions from the dark milestones, Donald Trump proclaims that he is ingesting an untested drug with serious side effects, and threatens to establish his Administration’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization on a permanent basis.
There are now 90,369 US deaths and 1,508,957 cases. While fatalities and infections have slowed in the hardest-hit states, such as New York (28,339 deaths) and Michigan (4,915), they are increasing in other parts of the US. Significantly, the rise is greatest in states where Governors have not imposed stay-at-home orders or — in line with Trump’s insistence on “re-opening” the US — removing the most significant measures.
In February, Trump projected that deaths in the US would be “close to zero”, estimating “about 15” victims. Since then, he has defied White House medical advisors by dismissing their advocacy of steps to limit the virus.
In the past week, Trump has belittled the testimony of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases expert, and insulted Dr. Rick Bright, who headed the organization seeking countermeasures until he was fired by Trump last month. The White House is now trying to shift blame, including over inadequate testing and tracking, to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Trump: I’m Taking Hydroxylchloroquine
Far from acknowledging the advice on Monday, Trump sought the shock diversion of announcing his disregard of it.
As he sat with owners of restaurant chains, he told journalists that he is taking the anti-malarial drug hydroxylchloroquine, the mythical “wonder cure” he has advocated since March.
He said he has been taking the drug in combination with other medicines for a “couple of weeks”.
On May 8, Trump’s Navy valet tested positive for Coronavirus. The next day, Trump revealed that Katie Miller — Vice President Mike Pence’s Press Secretary and the wife of top Trump advisor Stephen Miller — had contracted the virus.
Fed by Fox TV “doctors”, Bitcoin speculators, and a billionaire donor, Trump falsely declared in mid-March that hydroxylchloroquine had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. He continued to advise people to take it, even as Dr. Fauci and other specialists said there were no reliable tests confirming the drug’s efficacy.
Subsequent testing has shown limited or no benefits. It has also confirmed side effects which can be deadly, including interrupted or irregular heart rates.
Public health experts are concerned that Trump’s continued advocacy of the drug will lead to shortages, denying its recommended use for patients with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases.
Trump’s doctor, Sean Conley, tried to cover his client by saying there had been “numerous discussions” about the evidence surrounding hydroxychloroquine: “We concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.”
But Dr. Patrice Harris, President of the American Medical Association, emphasized, “There is no evidence that hydroxychloroquine is effective for the treatment or the prevention of Covid-19,” said “The results to date are not promising.”
Dr. David Aronoff, head of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, warned that people should not infer from Trump’s example “that it’s an approved approach or proven”.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also suggested caution:
“I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group, and in his, shall we say, weight group: ‘Morbidly obese,’ they say,” says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Pres. Trump’s revelation he is taking hydroxychloroquine. pic.twitter.com/0ImjpEjg9q
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) May 19, 2020
China, the target of a Trump campaign to shift responsibility for mismanagement of the pandemic, immediately responded through the editor of the Communist Party’s Global Times:
President Trump is leading the US’s struggle against pandemic with witchcraft, and as a result, more than 90,000 people have died. If it were in China, the White House would have been burned down by angry people.
The tweet was later removed.
Trump’s “Blame WHO” Ploy
Trump also tried — and succeeded with some outlets — to obscure the day’s news by proclaiming that the Administration’s 30-day withdrawal from the World Health Organization may be made permanent.
In a letter to WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Trump repeated his standard lines that the the organization had colluded with China in allowing the pandemic to spread. He accused it of praising Beijing’s “transparency” in late January.
Trump did not note in the letter that he had also praised China:
China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American People, I want to thank President Xi!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 24, 2020
As the Administration has come under pressure over its response to the US outbreak, Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have stepped up allegations that China “made” the virus in a laboratory in Wuhan, the initial epicenter, or allowed it to escape.
They have persisted despite the conclusion of US intelligence agencies that the virus is not man-made or genetically modified, and the assessment of the Five Eyes intelligence community (US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada) that it did not come from a laboratory.
On Sunday, White House trade advisor Peter Navarro went farther with the diversion, accusing China of “seeding” the virus around the world.