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Politics And Science Of Coronavirus – NPR

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Now that President Trump has tested positive for the coronavirus, NPR checks in with what that means for life and work at the White House and what is known about living with COVID-19.



TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:

Tonight, President Trump boarded Marine One, bound for Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, following his coronavirus diagnosis. Before getting on board, he recorded a video posted to Twitter.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want to thank everybody for the tremendous support. I’m going to Walter Reed Hospital. I think I’m doing very well, but we’re going to make sure that things work out. The first lady is doing very well, so thank you very much. I appreciate it. I will never forget it. Thank you.

MOSLEY: Trump announced his positive test overnight and is said to be experiencing mild symptoms. Joining us now for more on today’s news from the White House is NPR’s Ayesha Rascoe.

Welcome.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Hello.

MOSLEY: And to discuss the president’s risk factors and treatments is NPR’s Allison Aubrey.

Hey there.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Good to be here.

MOSLEY: And, Ayesha, let’s start with you. What do we know about the president’s health and how much he’s been able to work?

RASCOE: The president right now is staying at Walter Reed Hospital. The White House says he’ll be there for a few days and that this is happening out of an abundance of caution, and it’s at the recommendation of his physician and White House medical officials. You know, there was video of Trump walking from the White House to Marine One to be flown to Walter Reed, which is not unusual, but he was walking on his own, normally. The only difference was he’s now – he was now in a mask. As we heard earlier, he also released that video on Twitter, you know, talking about – you know, thanking everyone for all of their support and saying he thinks he’s doing pretty well.

You know, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that he does plan to work from the presidential suite there at Walter Reed. There is a pretty extensive set of offices and things for – designed for presidents at Walter Reed. But we really don’t know what this all means, and we may not know for some time exactly the extent of what is happening at the hospital. You know, earlier, White House officials have been saying that Trump is having mild symptoms and that the president and first lady were planning to stay at home at the White House for the time being. But the White House hasn’t really elaborated on what symptoms Trump has or when they started.

Here’s chief of staff Mark Meadows talking to reporters this morning about how Trump is doing.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARK MEADOWS: The American people can rest assured that we have a president that is not only on the job, will remain on the job. And I’m optimistic that he’ll have a very quick and speedy recovery.

RASCOE: And McEnany earlier said today – insisted that Trump had been working even today, talking to senators on the phone. And she said that she’d even – that they’d even had to try to slow him down a little.

MOSLEY: Allison, can you tell us more about the treatment that the president is receiving today?

AUBREY: Sure. This afternoon, the president’s physician, Sean Conley, said that he’d been given a single infusion of an experimental drug. It contains two antibodies, so it’s referred to as an antibody cocktail. It’s made by Regeneron. This drug has shown promise, but it is still under review. It has not been approved by the FDA. He received a high dose, 8 grams.

Now, how the president’s medical team got the medicine wasn’t disclosed. But the company, Regeneron, released preliminary results this week from a test of patients who’d been treated outside of hospitals. The study found that in COVID-19 patients who had not produced their own antibodies against the coronavirus, that the medicine both improved symptoms and lowered the amount of virus compared to a placebo. So, again, the drug has shown promise but is not approved.

MOSLEY: I see. Ayesha, last night, we learned also that White House adviser Hope Hicks also tested positive. What do you know about her situation and how widespread this could actually be within Trump’s circle?

RASCOE: Hope Hicks has traveled with the president. It is hard to tell where either of them contracted the virus. We don’t know, and we should be clear about that. And we don’t know exactly when Hicks tested positive, though we learned of it last night. She traveled with the president several times, as recently as Tuesday and Wednesday. Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, said that core staff have been tested, and they’re negative. Vice President Pence has tested negative. Trump’s youngest son, Barron, is also negative.

But Trump was actively attending events and traveling up until just today. I mean, he held an event for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Saturday. And at least five people from that event have now announced that they’ve tested positive, including Utah Sen. Mike Lee.

MOSLEY: So, Ayesha, what is the White House doing to try and test people and contact trace those who’ve crossed paths with the president and the first lady and Hope Hicks?

RASCOE: Meadows has said that the White House has begun the contact tracing process. He said they started yesterday, before the president’s trip to New Jersey, when they learned about Hicks’ positive test. Here’s Kayleigh McEnany talking about the decision for Trump to go to that fundraiser in New Jersey yesterday, even though Hicks had gotten this positive result.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KAYLEIGH MCENANY: It was deemed safe for the president to go. He socially distanced. It was an outdoor event, and it was deemed safe by White House operations for him to attend that event.

RASCOE: Meadows says he expects others in the White House may eventually test positive for the virus and that the White House is working on making plans to ensure that its work can move forward.

MOSLEY: Allison, with the little bit of time that I have with you, we know there’s a lot of variability with coronavirus. How do we know when somebody is free to move around and interact with others following a diagnosis?

AUBREY: Well, typically, that would be 10 to 14 days after symptoms begin. And I think it’s worth pointing out that just because the president’s symptoms have reportedly been mild now, that might not be true going forward. You know, all the experts I speak to say he’s at very high risk. Given his weight, given his age, it’s likely he could develop some more serious symptoms. And CDC statistics show that a person his age is five times more likely to be hospitalized compared to an adult, say, in their 20s, so this is serious.

MOSLEY: This is serious. NPR health correspondent Allison Aubrey and NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe, thank you both.

RASCOE: Thank you.

AUBREY: Thank you.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Commons showdown highlights tension between politics and science – Alberni Valley News

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Monday’s vote on a Conservative motion to launch an in-depth review of the Liberal government’s COVID-19 response highlights a key challenge of pandemic politics: how to hold a government accountable for decisions based on science, when the science itself is changing nearly every day.

The opposition wants a committee probe into everything from why regulators are taking so long to approve rapid testing to an early decision not to close the border to international travel, and what concerns the Liberals is how that probe is being framed.

“One of the narratives that I find most distressing coming from the opposition, is that somehow because advice changed at some point that the government was hiding information or that the government was giving misinformation,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said late last week.

“And nothing could be further from the truth.”

It’s not the science itself that’s up for debate, said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.

“In a pandemic, borders, since the Middle Ages, have been part of a stop of spreading of the virus and that was a failure of elected officials to put the health of Canadians first,” O’Toole told reporters last week.

“There has been conflicting information on masks and other things. My concern is that the Trudeau government relies more on open source data from China than our own science and intelligence experts.”

The relationship between a nation’s scientists and their senior politicians is a challenging one, said Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides the scientific evidence there is, but at the end of the day, it is the politicians who make the call, he said.

A decision on whether or not to close the borders is a good example, he said.

In the early days of the pandemic, the World Health Organization cautioned against widespread border closures. Scientific research has suggested there’s little medical benefit to them and the economic impacts can be severe and wide-ranging.

READ MORE: Companies warn Tory motion could deter domestic production of PPE

But the optics of border closures, the idea that if countries can keep out a virus out they will be immune, creates political pressure to act, Culbert said .

“The tension between what is in the public’s good, as opposed to all of the varying political considerations the politicians have to take into consideration — there’s always a tension there,” Culbert said.

While heated, the interplay between Liberal government and Opposition Conservatives is a far cry from the hyper-partisanship around pandemic response in the U.S., where even the president has circulated misinformation and challenged that country’s top scientists.

Canadian researchers studying the response of political elites here in the early days of the pandemic found no evidence of MPs casting doubt on the seriousness of the pandemic, or spreading conspiracy theories about it. In fact, there was a cross partisan consensus around how seriously it needed to be taken.

“As far as we can tell, that story hasn’t changed,” said Eric Merkley, a University of Toronto political scientist who led the study.

Both he and Culbert said a review of the Liberals’ pandemic response is warranted, but a balancing act is required.

“Everyone has 20/20 hindsight and thinks that they can go, look back, and and point to points at which bad decisions were made,” Culbert said.

“But that’s with the knowledge that we have today. We didn’t have that knowledge back in March.”

The Liberals have sometimes hit back at criticism by pointing to how the previous Conservative government handled the science and health files, including budget cuts and efforts to muzzle scientists.

But critics can’t be painted as anti-science for asking questions, Merkley said.

“There’s plenty of scope for democratic debate about proper responses to the pandemic, there’s plenty of scope for disagreement,” Merkley said.

“And just because there’s that disagreement and an Opposition party holding government accountable, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, that’s a sign of a healthy democracy.”

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


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Misogyny in politics is not an all or nothing problem: Ioannoni – NiagaraFallsReview.ca

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Just because some women feel they haven’t faced misogyny in politics doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist, says Niagara Falls city Coun. Carolynn Ioannoni.

The veteran politician said she’s “very glad” four former female councillors who wrote an Oct. 20 letter to council saying they were not treated any different because of their gender by their male counterparts feel that way.

“I am very glad that that was the experiences for these four women. We would never want any other woman to face the issues that many of us in politics feel we’re facing today,” said Ioannoni.

“I don’t have any right to talk about or criticize their opinion or what they believe their lived experiences would be. I thought they would have had the same courtesy for those of us who participated in that article and shown the same kind of respect, maybe a little bit of compassion.”

Former councillors Shirley Fisher, Joyce Morocco, Paisley Janvary-Pool and Selina Volpatti signed a letter sent to Niagara Falls city council about their experiences sitting around the table over the years.

The women said they “did not feel unsafe, disrespected or alienated by gender” by their male counterparts during the several decades they spent in politics.

The letter was in response to recent comments made in a local newspaper by the two current female city councillors in Niagara Falls — Ioannoni and Lori Lococo. The seven other members, including the mayor, are male.

Ioannoni and Lococo were quoted in a Sept. 3 story in Niagara This Week titled “#HerSay: Cracking the ‘old boys club’ at Niagara Falls council.” It was part of a series on gender and politics in Niagara.

In the story, Ioannoni commented on her 23 years on council and her numerous run-ins with male councillors and mayors.

“Misogyny is alive and well in Niagara politics,” she is quoted, adding “it’s hard being on an old boys’ club council in Niagara Falls.”

Lococo, elected in 2018, said in the story “some lines have been crossed regarding respect and decorum because I’m a woman.”

At the Oct. 6 meeting, council approved a motion by Coun. Victor Pietrangelo for an “outside opinion” on whether council’s code of conduct was violated.

Ioannoni said the series opened a discussion that was “long overdue,” adding several women were quoted about their experiences in politics.

Ioannoni said she has received “many” letters of support from the community since being quoted in the story, and against council’s decision to look into whether comments broke the code of conduct.

Lococo said it’s important for everyone to “share their experiences and we should value them and learn from them.”

“I think that cultures, timing, situations can change, so I can only comment on my experiences,” she said.

Volpatti said she wrote the letter, adding the initiative was driven by the women, not any outside pressure, with Morocco adding the women felt it was important to share their lived experiences in politics.

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“We had a lot of arguments while I was on council … with all of them, but they were never personalized, they were always about the issue,” said Volpatti.

Morocco said accusations about misogyny doesn’t just call into question a councillor’s political integrity, but also their personal and professional standing.

“I know it is in a lot of areas that women are experiencing inappropriate behaviour by men, and I’m not going to discredit that at all. But in this situation, c’mon, let’s look at the writing on the wall,” she said, pointing to Ioannoni’s involvement in seven of nine integrity commissioner investigations since 2015, costing taxpayers $273,741.

“Now, all of a sudden after how many years has this seasoned, female councillor been there with those men and now it’s OK to start saying, ‘Oh, I’ve been mistreated horribly?’”

Janvary-Pool said she was asked if she would read and sign the letter, adding “I certainly felt the same way.”

“We all worked together. We worked for the good of the city,” she said of her experience as a councillor.

“If (Ioannoni) is in trouble, it’s her own making. That’s her own interpretation, that’s not the rest of us. We never had any problems.”

Fisher said she received a phone call from Morocco, and also had a discussion about the issue with Janvary-Pool.

“When I was on council, we didn’t have this type of issue that they’re having, so-called, now,” said Fisher.

“I had no difficulties with anyone on council — man or woman. The years I was there, there’s always someone you don’t agree with, but that does not mean we get into any kind of a (personal) issue. We just moved on and did our work.”

— With files from John Law

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Commons showdown highlights tension between politics and science – Campbell River Mirror

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Monday’s vote on a Conservative motion to launch an in-depth review of the Liberal government’s COVID-19 response highlights a key challenge of pandemic politics: how to hold a government accountable for decisions based on science, when the science itself is changing nearly every day.

The opposition wants a committee probe into everything from why regulators are taking so long to approve rapid testing to an early decision not to close the border to international travel, and what concerns the Liberals is how that probe is being framed.

“One of the narratives that I find most distressing coming from the opposition, is that somehow because advice changed at some point that the government was hiding information or that the government was giving misinformation,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said late last week.

“And nothing could be further from the truth.”

It’s not the science itself that’s up for debate, said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.

“In a pandemic, borders, since the Middle Ages, have been part of a stop of spreading of the virus and that was a failure of elected officials to put the health of Canadians first,” O’Toole told reporters last week.

“There has been conflicting information on masks and other things. My concern is that the Trudeau government relies more on open source data from China than our own science and intelligence experts.”

The relationship between a nation’s scientists and their senior politicians is a challenging one, said Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides the scientific evidence there is, but at the end of the day, it is the politicians who make the call, he said.

A decision on whether or not to close the borders is a good example, he said.

In the early days of the pandemic, the World Health Organization cautioned against widespread border closures. Scientific research has suggested there’s little medical benefit to them and the economic impacts can be severe and wide-ranging.

READ MORE: Companies warn Tory motion could deter domestic production of PPE

But the optics of border closures, the idea that if countries can keep out a virus out they will be immune, creates political pressure to act, Culbert said .

“The tension between what is in the public’s good, as opposed to all of the varying political considerations the politicians have to take into consideration — there’s always a tension there,” Culbert said.

While heated, the interplay between Liberal government and Opposition Conservatives is a far cry from the hyper-partisanship around pandemic response in the U.S., where even the president has circulated misinformation and challenged that country’s top scientists.

Canadian researchers studying the response of political elites here in the early days of the pandemic found no evidence of MPs casting doubt on the seriousness of the pandemic, or spreading conspiracy theories about it. In fact, there was a cross partisan consensus around how seriously it needed to be taken.

“As far as we can tell, that story hasn’t changed,” said Eric Merkley, a University of Toronto political scientist who led the study.

Both he and Culbert said a review of the Liberals’ pandemic response is warranted, but a balancing act is required.

“Everyone has 20/20 hindsight and thinks that they can go, look back, and and point to points at which bad decisions were made,” Culbert said.

“But that’s with the knowledge that we have today. We didn’t have that knowledge back in March.”

The Liberals have sometimes hit back at criticism by pointing to how the previous Conservative government handled the science and health files, including budget cuts and efforts to muzzle scientists.

But critics can’t be painted as anti-science for asking questions, Merkley said.

“There’s plenty of scope for democratic debate about proper responses to the pandemic, there’s plenty of scope for disagreement,” Merkley said.

“And just because there’s that disagreement and an Opposition party holding government accountable, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, that’s a sign of a healthy democracy.”

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


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Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

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