Coronavirus Pandemic COVID-19 Dr. anthony fauci Gain of function research Intelwars Rand Paul Wuhan lab leak theory

Sen. Rand Paul and Dr. Fauci clash again over NIH funding for Wuhan lab and virus leak theory

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci denied that the National Institutes of Health has ever funded “gain of function research” at the Wuhan Institute of Virology — the Chinese lab that became the focus of intense scrutiny at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — during yet another heated back-and-forth with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

Fauci appeared Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions to testify on the ongoing pandemic response. When it was his turn to ask questions, Paul grilled Fauci on NIH funding for viral research in Wuhan, China, and the possibility that the novel coronavirus that caused the current global pandemic was a product of “gain of function” research that leaked from that lab.

“Dr. Fauci, do you still support funding of the NIH funding of the lab in Wuhan?” Paul asked.

“Sen. Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely, entirely and completely incorrect,” Fauci retorted. “The NIH has not ever, and does not now, fund ‘gain of function research’ in the Wuhan Institute.”

“Gain of function” research involves genetically enhancing viral pathogens in order to predict which may become especially dangerous to the human population. The research is controversial because of the risk that a virus found naturally occurring in animals that is modified to be able to infect humans could accidentally — or deliberately — be released and cause a pandemic.

Paul made numerous references to an article published by New York Magazine in January that described the development of gain of function research and how a U.S. virologist named Dr. Ralph Baric collaborated with Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Institute of Virology to study bat and human coronaviruses beginning in 2015. The article noted there is no direct evidence that SARS-CoV-2 was artificially created and subsequently leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab, but also acknowledged there is a lack of direct evidence for the virus occurring naturally.

Between 2014 and 2019, a U.S. nonprofit group called the EcoHealth Alliance diverted $600,000 in National Institutes of Health subgrants to the Wuhan Institute to study bat coronaviruses. In March, Politico reported that the U.S. government was aware WIV was conducting gain-of-function research “on a much larger scale than was publicly disclosed.”

Fauci insisted that claims the NIH grants were used to fund gain-of-function research were false. He defended the subgrants to the Wuhan Institute, which he says were used to study coronaviruses in bats.

“Let me explain to you why that was done, the SARS-CoV-1 originated in bats in China. It would have been irresponsible of us if we did not investigate the bat viruses and the serology to see who might have been infected,” Fauci said.

“Or perhaps it would be irresponsible to send it to the Chinese government that we may not be able to trust with this knowledge and with this incredibly dangerous viruses,” Paul interrupted.

Fauci then adamantly denied that he supported gain-of-function research in China.

Paul’s next question dealt with the hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 escaped from the Wuhan lab.

“Will you in front of this group categorically say that the COVID-19 virus could not have occurred by serial passage in a laboratory?” Paul asked.

“I do not have any accounting of what the Chinese may have done, and I’m fully in favor of any further investigation of what went on in China,” Fauci said in response. “However, I will repeat again, the NIH and NIAID categorically has not funded gain-of-function research to be conducted in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”

After the hearing, Paul accused Fauci of dissembling during his questions.

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CDC’s misleading stat exaggerates risk of outdoor COVID-19 spread. Agency says it was done to protect people.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used a misleading statistic in its updated mask wearing guidance last month that exaggerated the risk of contracting COVID-19 while outdoors, according to the New York Times.

When CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced the updated guidance on mask-wearing, she told reporters that studies showed “less than 10 percent” of documented COVID-19 transmissions occurs outdoors. But several epidemiologists who spoke to the Times say the CDC’s benchmark is misleading.

The number “seems to be a huge exaggeration,” said Dr. Muge Cevik, a virologist at the University of St. Andrews.

Epidemiologists who spoke to the Times say the actual rate of outdoor transmission is less than 1% and may even be below 0.1%. If outdoor transmission does occur, it happens in crowded places or during close conversation, the Times’ David Leonhardt reported.

By saying outdoor transmission is “less than 10 percent” of COVID-19 transmission, the CDC actually made the risk of catching COVID outdoors seem far greater than it actually is.

Leonhardt wrote:

This isn’t just a gotcha math issue. It is an example of how the C.D.C. is struggling to communicate effectively, and leaving many people confused about what’s truly risky. C.D.C. officials have placed such a high priority on caution that many Americans are bewildered by the agency’s long list of recommendations. Zeynep Tufekci of the University of North Carolina, writing in The Atlantic, called those recommendations “simultaneously too timid and too complicated.”

They continue to treat outdoor transmission as a major risk. The C.D.C. says that unvaccinated people should wear masks in most outdoor settings and vaccinated people should wear them at “large public venues”; summer camps should require children to wear masks virtually “at all times.”

These recommendations would be more grounded in science if anywhere close to 10 percent of Covid transmission were occurring outdoors. But it is not. There is not a single documented Covid infection anywhere in the world from casual outdoor interactions, such as walking past someone on a street or eating at a nearby table.

He went on to explain how the academic research cited by the CDC to come up with the “10 percent” number seems suspect. Frequently cited studies linked most outdoor transmissions of COVID-19 to construction sites in Singapore.

“In one study, 95 of 10,926 worldwide instances of transmission are classified as outdoors; all 95 are from Singapore construction sites. In another study, four of 103 instances are classified as outdoors; again, all four are from Singapore construction sites,” Leonhardt wrote.

Noting that it doesn’t make sense for all cases of outdoor transmission to be linked to construction sites, Leonhardt said Times investigative reporter Shashank Bengali learned that the government agency that collects data on COVID-19 in Singapore did not categorize construction-site cases as outdoor transmission.

In fact, there is reason to think many of the infections at those sites occurred indoors, with workers congregating in enclosed spaces for meetings, eating lunch together, or working in buildings that have completed concrete shells but need their interiors constructed.

Additionally, academic researchers collecting data on COVID-19 from government databases made a judgment call to define outdoor spaces “very broadly.”

“We had to settle on one classification for building sites, and ultimately decided on a conservative outdoor definition,” said French researcher Quentin Leclerc, who authored one of the papers analyzing Singapore. Another paper defined “workplace, health care, education, social events, travel, catering, leisure and shopping” settings as outdoors, only counting “mass accommodation and residential facilities” as indoor settings.

The result was many cases of indoor transmission were reported as outdoor transmission by media outlets citing the CDC, which cited this research.

In a statement to the New York Times, a CDC spokesperson described the “less than 10 percent” number as a “conservative estimate” and explained that the CDC “errs on the side of protection when it comes to recommending steps to protect public health.”

The attitude of the CDC echoes what White House top medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN about the CDC back in March: “They’re being careful, understandably. They want to get science, they want to get data, and then when you don’t have the data and you don’t have the actual evidence, then you’ve got to make a judgment call.”

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‘We just can’t do this anymore’: Small business owners say federal unemployment handouts are crippling them

Small businesses across the country have reportedly fallen on hard times in recent months, but not for lack of business. Rather, they suggest that pandemic-related government handouts are keeping much-needed workers out of the labor force.

Business owners from Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, and North Carolina told the Dispatch recently that pandemic-enhanced unemployment benefits are stymieing their hiring efforts. It seems, they argued, that people would rather collect money from the government while they can instead of working in lower-wage industries such as the restaurant business.

“I’ve been in business for 33 years … this is the absolute worst it’s ever been,” Bill Anderson, who owns Dale’s Diner in Waterville, Ohio, told the news outlet. He added that it’s primarily back-of-the-house employees such as dishwashers, managers, cooks that he needs.

“Usually, we’ll put ads in in different locations to get people and we’ll get anywhere from 6 to 12 applications in the first week or whatever and we’ll get to take our pick — we’ll get to pick the best of that bunch. Within the last couple of months, we don’t even get a call — we don’t get anything,” he added.

Unable to keep up with generous unemployment benefits, Anderson closed his restaurant earlier this month. A line cook at his restaurant typically earns wages of $11 an hour, which amounts to roughly $21,000 a year for a full-time worker, he said.

But current unemployment benefits — which include $300 weekly federal payments often stacked onto similar payments made by state governments — pay much more. The Dispatch reported that an unemployed worker in Ohio could easily make $33,000 or more to stay home.

Last month, federal benefits unemployment benefits were extended to run through September as a part of the Biden administration’s $2.25 trillion coronavirus relief bill, which means that things won’t be changing anytime soon, even as the country begins to open up again.

“We just can’t do this anymore,” Anderson told the outlet.

His sentiment was shared by Kevin Rudzki, owner of Juana’s Pagodas, a popular beachfront restaurant in Florida panhandle currently short-staffed during the busy spring and summer season. Rudzki said his restaurant has two kitchens but, at the moment, there are only enough workers to operate one of them.

“We’re not even seeing applications, we’re not even seeing people trying, except ones that are playing the game of filling out the paperwork, so that they can say they tried,” he said.

“Normally, I have people lined up to work. I have never advertised for a job — ever. People just show up,” he continued. “My competitors are running ads on radio stations, Facebook, etcetera — the same thing. There’s no one.”

Across the inlet, Paul Ruiz, owner of Where Y’at Seafood, is dealing with the same problem. He closed his restaurant on Tuesdays to give his staff a break, but that hasn’t fixed the problem. Even now, he is short a line cook or two.

“You can’t incentivize people not to work,” argued Ruiz, a longtime Air Force veteran. “You need to have incentives to get people to work, not to stay home. You’ve got the hard workers who want to have a job, but the others need that motivation.”

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CDC: US drug overdose deaths surged during COVID-19 pandemic, most since opioid epidemic began

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found an alarming jump in the number of drug overdose deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data from the CDC shows that drug overdose deaths in the U.S. increased by nearly 29% during the pandemic.

The CDC report discovered that more than 87,000 Americans died from drug overdose deaths from September 2019 to September 2020. The one-year period death toll is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a year since the opioid epidemic began in the 1990s, according to the New York Times. Overdose deaths had declined slightly in 2018, the first decrease in decades.

The data was collected by the National Center for Health Statistics, but the CDC noted that the actual number of overdose deaths is likely higher.

“Provisional drug overdose death data are often incomplete, and the degree of completeness varies by jurisdiction and 12-month ending period,” the CDC stated. “Consequently, the numbers of drug overdose deaths are underestimated based on provisional data relative to final data and are subject to random variation.”

The largest increases in drug overdose deaths happened in April and May 2020, when government-mandated lockdowns were the strictest.

The areas with the largest increases in drug overdose deaths: District of Columbia (61.2%), Louisiana (54%), Kentucky (50%), West Virginia (47.3%), and Colorado (43%).

Also this week, Maryland’s Opioid Operational Command Center revealed that 2,773 people died from drug and alcohol overdoses, the most by far in the state since records were kept. Nearly 84% of all reported overdoses were attributed to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.

Last week, the CDC announced the launch of Overdose Prevention Programs, which will supply the public with rapid fentanyl testing strips.

“The test strips can be used to see if drugs have been mixed or cut with fentanyl,” WSPA-TV reported. “The goal is to provide drug users more information, so that they can reduce the chances of overdosing on the drug.”

In 2017, then-President Donald Trump declared the national opioid crisis to be a public health emergency.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said reasons for increased drug addiction could stem from: “Historically high unemployment rates and preventative physical distancing measures have also exacerbated social isolation and despair, known risk factors for substance use disorders.”

A report from the Associated Press released in December found that there were far more overdose deaths than COVID-19 deaths in San Francisco in 2020.

During the coronavirus pandemic, there were also reports of increased suicides of students in Las Vegas, a record-high number of suicidal students in San Francisco, and a 39% increase in suicides in Japan last October.

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Fauci must answer why his agency bypassed security oversight for Wuhan lab grant, GOP lawmaker says

Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Scott Perry is demanding that President Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, explain why his agency bypassed oversight of a grant that funded bat-based coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

What’s the background?

News broke last summer that Fauci’s agency, the National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), backed the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in its decision to commit more than $7 million in taxpayer money to fund research at the lab — suspected by some to be the origin point of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Newsweek reported at the time that the NIH grants funded controversial and risky “gain-of-function” research as well as surveillance of bat coronaviruses at the lab. Federal funding for gain-of-function research — which involves genetically enhancing pathogens in order to predict which may become especially dangerous to the human population — was temporarily suspended in 2014 due to the concern that all it would take is one lab leak and the entire human population could be at risk.

Federal funding for the risky research was restarted in 2017 by the Department of Health and Human Services, only this time a review board called the Potential Pandemic Pathogens Control and Oversight (P3CO) Framework was set up evaluate whether grants that fund research on dangerous pathogens were worth the risk.

But according to the Daily Caller, a $600,000 grant sent from NIAID to nonprofit group EcoHealth Alliance prior to the pandemic, which funded gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, was not transferred to the independent board for review.

What are the details?

In an interview with the Daily Caller, Perry called the revelation “very concerning” and said, “When it comes to oversight of U.S. tax dollars headed to the Chinese Communist Party, Dr. Fauci seems like he’s literally whistling past the graveyard.”

Perry, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, reportedly said he plans to call on Fauci to testify as to why his agency decided not to flag the grant for board review. An NIH spokesperson had reportedly told the news outlet that the grant wasn’t flagged for review because it did not meet the framework’s definition of gain-of-function research.

“We seem so cavalier about this approval paradigm for this funding and the definitions seemingly allow you to drive a truck through them regarding what is gain-of-function research and what isn’t,” Perry noted. “It seems to me this was done by design to allow this kind of research to be done in these kinds of places without any kind of scrutiny. And this is the result of that.”

The congressman added that while he and other Republicans have a great deal of interest in probing the federal government’s funding of pathogen research in China, Democrats likely won’t allow any investigation.

“I won’t be surprised after requesting to bring these folks in as witnesses, have an open hearing about it, that those things fail to ever occur. I won’t be surprised,” Perry said. “In the minority, we can’t force it. If they’re not going to allow it or to pursue it, then it just won’t happen in the House side.”

Anything else?

An investigation into the origins of the pandemic by the World Health Organization last month concluded it was “extremely unlikely” that the pandemic was the result of a lab leak. However, that theory is still widely believed, especially considering the great deal of circumstantial evidence.

Adding weight to the theory last year, a pair of leaked State Department cables detailed concerns U.S. diplomats had with safety protocols at Wuhan Institute of Virology upon their visit in 2018.

In one of the cables, officials specifically warned that inadequate safety measures and risky research could result in a new SARS-like pandemic.

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Texas Rangers stadium opens up at full capacity amid pandemic — and seats 38,000 people strong

The Texas Rangers packed in at least 38,000 fans during Monday night’s home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) removed all COVID-19 restrictions in March, including social distancing, capacity limits, and mask mandates.

The Rangers’ website stated on Monday that masks were required for all fans at the game “except when actively eating or drinking at their ticketed seats.”

What are the details?

Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, fully opened on Monday night, welcoming nearly 40,000 baseball fans to a night of normalcy.

The MLB game was one of the very first full-capacity sporting events that took place in the state since the COVID-19 pandemic shut most everything down in 2020.

According to CNN, the paid attendance at the Monday game was 38,238 — a “sellout,” according to Rangers spokesperson John Blake. The stadium capacity is 40,518.

Rangers manager Chris Woodward said that the game “resembled some sort of normalcy” amid the pandemic.

“We were excited, man,” he said. “We haven’t played in front of any crowd. We played a little bit in Kansas City, a little bit in spring training, but full capacity, it’s amazing how quickly we get used to certain things and not having that was, ‘Oh, this is what it felt like.'”

Rangers infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa said that the overall feel of the baseball game was like coming home.

“It felt like it was my debut all over again,” he said. “It was a good feeling to just have the crowd there cheering us on. I think the introduction when I first came out early in the game, that was probably one of the coolest moments of my career to this date.”

Anything else?

During a recent interview with ESPN, President Joe Biden called the decision a “mistake.”

“Well, that’s a decision they made,” he said. “I think it’s a mistake. They should listen to Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, the scientists, and the experts. But I think it’s not responsible.”

Last week, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported that the state saw a seven-day average decrease in the daily number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and coronavirus-related deaths — meaning there has been no apparent coronavirus surge in the state despite Abbott lifting related restrictions.

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Gov. DeSantis: Proof of vaccination not required to live your lives as free people in Florida

As vaccine distribution reaches the 100 million mark in the United States and Americans yearn to return to their normal lives, some state governments and private industries are considering adopting a “vaccine passport” program.

But not Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Thursday that under no circumstances would Florida impose a state mandate requiring people to show documented proof of their vaccination before traveling or attending large public gatherings like concerts or sporting events, at least not while he is governor.

“I just want to make very clear in Florida, we are not doing any vaccine passports. All those experts said that it was a bad idea. I think it’s a bad idea, and so that will not happen. And so folks should get vaccinated, if they want to, we’ll obviously provide that, but under no circumstances will the state be asking you to show proof of vaccination, and I don’t think private companies should be doing that either,” DeSantis said Thursday.

The governor believes it’s all Floridians’ individual responsibility to decide whether they get the vaccine and what kind of places they go or activities they do.

“To start going down the road of vaccine passports, I mean, you have some of these states saying to go to a sporting event, you have to show either a negative test or a vaccine proof. I think you just got to make decisions. If you want to go to an event, go to an event. If you don’t, don’t. But to be requiring people to provide all this proof, that’s not how you get society back to normal, so we’re rejecting any vaccine passports here in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.

The idea of showing proof of vaccination before being permitted to travel places is gaining traction worldwide. On Feb. 21, Israel introduced the “green pass,” an app Israelis can download to display proof that someone has recovered from COVID-19. Advertising for the green pass promoted the idea that anyone with the pass could return to life as normal, going where they please without social distancing or masks.

Currently, the Biden administration requires international travelers who want to fly to the United States to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before they can travel. The international airline industry is considering taking the next step by requiring travelers to present a digital certificate showing proof of vaccination.

In the European Union, a proposal to create a Digital Green Certificate to facilitate travel across its 27 member countries will be discussed at the next summit of EU leaders. The certificate would “serve as proof that a person has either been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result or recovered from COVID-19,” according to NPR.

Several health experts have criticized the idea, warning that free Americans who decline to receive a vaccine could be relegated to second-class status.

“The vaccine hesitancy data show that the people who are hesitant to take vaccines actually tend to be the working class people, poor, poor people, minority populations. We’re going to then turn around and say, ‘You have to have a vaccine passport to participate in American life,’ it’s going to be a new vaccine Jim Crow. It’s a huge, huge mistake that will undermine trust in public health, and I think it’s just morally, it’s just morally wrong,” Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University said, speaking at a roundtable discussion with DeSantis and other health experts Thursday.

The federal government has explored the idea of some kind of vaccination passport. President Biden signed an executive order in January directing government agencies to “assess the feasibility” of linking coronavirus vaccine certificates with other vaccination records and providing digital copies for international travelers to use.

The White House has since rejected the idea of a federal mandate for domestic vaccination passports, which would require a database of who has been vaccinated and who has not.

“It’s not the role of the government to hold that data and to do that,” White House senior adviser for COVID-19 response Andy Slavitt said during a briefing Monday.

He added that whatever system Americans eventually adopt to demonstrate they’ve been vaccinated “should be private. The data should be secure. Access to it should be free. It should be available both digitally and in paper and in multiple languages. And it should be open source.”

Coronavirus mask mandates Coronavirus Pandemic COVID-19 Covid-19 vaccinations Dr. anthony fauci Intelwars Senator Rand Paul us senate

Sen. Rand Paul demands Dr. Fauci point to scientific data showing vaccinated people need to wear masks. He doesn’t.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) confronted top White House health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday over the purported need for Americans who have already been infected with or vaccinated against COVID-19 to continue wearing masks.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has recommended that Americans who receive a vaccination against COVID-19 continue to wear face masks and practice social distancing through the end of the year and into 2022.

During a Senate hearing on the nation’s coronavirus response, Paul questioned Fauci on the science behind his recommendation, asking if any studies had shown mask-wearing is necessary post-vaccination.

“No scientific studies have shown significant numbers of reinfections of patients previously infected or previously vaccinated, what specific studies do you cite to argue that the public should be wearing masks well into 2022?” Paul asked.

“You’re telling everybody to wear a mask whether they’ve had an infection or a vaccine, what I’m saying is they have immunity and everybody agrees they have immunity,” he continued. “What studies do you have that people who have had the vaccine or have had the infection are spreading the infection?”

“If we’re not spreading the infection, isn’t it just theater?” Paul pressed.

“Here we go again with the theater,” Fauci responded. “Let’s get down to facts.”

Fauci argued that different variants of the coronavirus present “a good reason to wear a mask,” citing a Johnson & Johnson study that found some individuals previously infected with “wild” type of coronavirus had no resistance to and were infected by a South African variant of the virus.

“I agree with you that you very likely would have protection from wild type for at least six months if you’re infected but we in our country now have variants that are circulating,” Fauci said.

But Paul pushed back on Fauci’s assertion, demanding that the doctor point to a scientific study that shows there’s significant risk of coronavirus reinfection, hospitalization, or death for people who have been vaccinated.

“It doesn’t exist. There is no evidence that there are significant reinfections after vaccine,” Paul contended.

Fauci said Paul was “not hearing what I’m saying about variants,” but the senator countered that there is no evidence of a significant problem with coronavirus reinfections. Fauci then explained the coronavirus variants aren’t prevalent enough to cause a problem but may become a serious issue later.

“You’re making policy based on conjecture,” Paul accused.

“You’ve been vaccinated and you parade around in two masks for show,” he continued. “You can’t get it again, there’s virtually 0% chance you’re going to get it … you’re defying everything we know about immunity by telling people to wear masks who’ve been vaccinated.”

“Let me just state for the record that masks are not theater, masks are protective,” Fauci began to say before Paul interjected.

“Past-immunity they are theater,” the senator said. “If you already have immunity, you’re wearing a mask to give comfort to others. You’re not wearing a mask because of any science.”

“I totally disagree with you,” Fauci said.

Fauci did not point to a scientific study that shows there is a significant risk of coronavirus reinfection for vaccinated Americans.

Previously, Fauci has said that when health experts and policy makers “don’t have the data and you don’t have the actual evidence, then you’ve got to make a judgment call.”

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Mark Levin shreds Biden’s ‘disgusting, propagandistic’ speech to nation on COVID-19

LevinTV host Mark Levin shredded President Joe Biden’s speech to the nation on the progress made to end the COVID-19 pandemic as “the most disgusting, propagandistic speech” any politician has ever given on Fox News Thursday.

“I used to think Joe Biden was a doddering fool. He couldn’t tell his sister from his wife, and he didn’t know the name of the secretary of defense, and there you are with Peter Doocy mocking him for not having press conferences,” Levin told Sean Hannity sardonically. “Now I know why he doesn’t have press conferences. He’s busy inventing the [vaccines] and figuring out how to distribute them.”

“In seven weeks’ time this man will have killed the virus. Joe Biden, 50 years in the Senate, not one profound thing. Joe Biden, who had to cheat his way through law school. Joe Biden, who was plagiarizing from people, even as a senator. And little did we know, he’s not a doddering old fool, an egomaniac, and a narcissist taking credit for the work of Donald Trump and all these other people. He has been working like no president in American history! He is the modern-day Jonas Salk,” Levin said, referring to the virologist and medical researcher who developed the first successful polio vaccine. “He’s Thomas Edison! We’ve never had a president like this; he’s fantastic!”

“Let me tell you something about this guy Biden,” Levin continued. “He’s a liar, he’s a plagiarist.”

Levin accused Biden of taking credit for former President Donald Trump’s work with Operation Warp Speed to fund the development and distribution of a vaccine against the coronavirus in record time.

“The Trump administration, last summer, before we had a vaccine, just in case one of these would work, contracted and paid for 800 million doses to cover 400 million people,” Levin said. “On Dec. 23, when only Pfizer and Moderna had received emergency authorizations, the Trump administration went in and they ordered another 200 million vaccinations. Where do you think these vaccines are coming from? You think they’re coming from Joe Biden in the basement? They didn’t have any idea what the hell was going on. … In the end, before Donald Trump left office, he had contracted for enough approved vaccines to inoculate 550 million people.”

He went on to say:

This speech that Joe Biden gave is the most disgusting, propagandistic speech that a demagogue, even a politician, has ever given. It is pathetic. And you’ll notice he and his spokesperson Psaki never tell us exactly what they’ve done and exactly who’s done it. That is so different from the Trump administration.

This is so appalling. This man has exploited this pandemic like no politician has ever exploited a pandemic. When he’s sitting in his basement eating his oatmeal that’s dripping on his loafers, what does he do? He accuses President Trump of killing hundreds of thousands of people when it’s Trump who gets the testing done, when it’s Trump who’s getting the ventilators and the respirators, when it’s Trump who’s getting the PPE, when it’s Trump who’s bailing out fools like Cuomo with hospital beds and so forth and so on.

“The Democrat Party has been a disaster,” Levin concluded. “The Democrat governors have destroyed their economies; people can’t get out of their states fast enough to go to Republican states. This is a disgrace, what Joe Biden did. And by the way, he says it’s a war on the virus, well, who started the war? Communist China — his friends. What did he say about communist China today? Not a damn thing.

“Press conference from Joe Biden? What’s the point?”

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls for ‘full investigation’ of Gov. Cuomo’s COVID-19 nursing home scandal

Squad leader Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has joined a growing chorus of New York lawmakers calling for a full investigation into how Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) mishandled the coronavirus pandemic in nursing homes.

On Wednesday, the Albany Times Union reported that the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York have opened an investigation into the Cuomo administration’s coronavirus task force and the crisis in New York nursing homes.

“I support our state’s return to co-equal governance and stand with our local officials calling for a full investigation of the Cuomo administration’s handling of nursing homes during COVID-19,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “Thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers lost their lives in nursing homes throughout the pandemic. Their loved ones and the public deserve answers and transparency from their elected leadership, and the Secretary to the Governor’s remarks warrant a full investigation.”

The Cuomo administration has faced scathing public criticism from New York lawmakers ever since a top Cuomo aide privately admitted last week that the state government withheld data on COVID-19 nursing home deaths from the legislature out of fear President Donald Trump would wield Cuomo’s failure as a political weapon.

On the same day, the Associated Press published a bombshell report revealing that thousands more coronavirus patients were sent to nursing homes than Cuomo previously admitted.

During a news conference Monday in Albany, Cuomo blamed nursing home staff for spreading the virus and repeated his insistence that his policy of sending coronavirus patients to nursing homes was not responsible for the wave of nursing home deaths.

The governor is also under fire for privately threatening a Democratic state lawmaker who publicly criticized him, telling him “you will be destroyed.” That lawmaker, Assemblyman Ron Kim, went public with Cuomo’s threat and inspired a renewed wave of criticism of the governor.

“We are deeply disturbed by the Governor’s attacks on our colleague — a fellow Democrat — Assemblymember Kim,” said 12 Democratic lawmakers in a joint statement condemning Cuomo’s actions. They also announced support for legislation sponsored by Kim to strip Cuomo of his pandemic-related emergency powers.

“As a co-equal branch of government, the Legislature is well within its rights to seek oversight of executive action. In fact, we have a duty to seek that oversight,” the lawmakers wrote in their statement.

“It is our job to represent our constituents and seek answers to the tragedies that took place in nursing homes around the State. We have no interest in name calling — we aim to restore the proper balance of power between the Legislature and Executive” branches of state government.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci says he’s finally free to speak the truth of public health and COVID-19 under the Biden administration

Dr. Anthony Fauci claims that he’s finally free to speak the truth of science now that former President Donald Trump is out of the White House.

What are the details?

According to a Friday NBC News report, Fauci — who is President Joe Biden’s White House health adviser — said that the new administration is intent on being “completely transparent, open, and honest.”

“It was very clear that there were things said, be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things like that, that really was uncomfortable because they were not based in scientific fact,” he told reporters during a Thursday press briefing, the first in which he featured in months. “I can tell you, I take no pleasure at all in being in a situation of contradicting the president, so it was really something that you didn’t feel that you could actually say something and there wouldn’t be any repercussions about it.”

“The idea that you can get up and talk about what you know, what the evidence is, what the science is, it is somewhat of a liberating feeling,” he said.

Fauci added that he met with the new president ahead of Thursday’s news conference, and the two addressed the presentation of information on COVID-19, promising that “everything we do will be based on science and evidence.”

“One of the new things about this administration is that if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess,” Fauci added. “Just say you don’t know the answer.”

The infectious diseases expert also appeared to take a subtle dig at Trump and said, “One of the things that we’re going to do is be completely transparent, open, and honest. If things go wrong, not point fingers, but to correct them and to make everything we do based on science and evidence.”

What else?

Earlier on Thursday, Fauci told the World Health Organization that the United States would remain a member of the agency under the Biden administration.

In May, the former president withdrew from the WHO following controversy regarding the origins and early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As such, I am honored to announce that the United States will remain a member of the World Health Organization,” he said in prepared remarks. “Yesterday, President Biden signed letters retracting the previous Administration’s announcement to withdraw from the organization, and those letters have been transmitted to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.”

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People may soon need ‘vaccine passports’ to travel, attend large events

With vaccines now being distributed and administered in the United States and around the world to combat the coronavirus pandemic, plans are reportedly under way to produce technologies capable of assessing who has and who hasn’t been inoculated.

According to a new CNN report, several international organizations and large businesses — including the World Economic Forum and IBM — have begun “developing smartphone apps or systems for individuals to upload details of their COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, creating digital credentials that could be shown in order to enter concert venues, stadiums, movie theaters, offices, or even countries.”

One of the emerging technologies, known as the CommonPass app, being developed by the World Economic Forum and The Commons Project, a nonprofit based in Geneva, Switzerland, allows users to upload medical data such as a COVID-19 test or, eventually, a proof of vaccination. The app then generates a certificate in the form of a QR code, which users can show to officials reportedly without revealing sensitive information.

The well-known tech firm IBM also created its own app, called the Digital Health Pass, which operates in much the same way but would store credentials in a mobile wallet.

The forthcoming credentialing systems could work as “vaccine passports,” the CNN report noted, allowing vaccinated persons to provide a record showing they’ve received a shot in order to enter venues or travel abroad.

But the new technologies raise several questions as well, such as whether or not those who choose not to get vaccinated, or perhaps simply choose not to allow their medical information to be shared, will be barred from entry into participating venues or countries. That’s not even to mention the fact that much of the world’s population still doesn’t have access to smartphones or the internet.

The news will almost certainly spark a new round of debate over to what extent individual freedom and privacy can be encroached upon in the name of public health, especially as many may still be wary about receiving a vaccine.

Nevertheless, the development of such technologies presses on. Two large groups are even working to establish universal standards for the credentialing systems.

According to CNN, “The Linux Foundation has partnered with the Covid-19 Credentials Initiative, a collective of more than 300 people representing dozens of organizations across five continents,” to make standardized vaccine passports a reality.

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Ohio permits high school wrestling to commence amid COVID pandemic — as long as wrestlers don’t shake hands

Ohio lawmakers are now permitting high school wrestlers to wrestle, but those wrestlers cannot shake hands before or after matches.

What are the details?

According to the College Fix, state lawmakers will permit the public high school wrestling season to commence — but with a big caveat: Players will not be permitted to shake hands at any point before, during, or after the match.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association states that wrestlers in the full-body contact sport will not be required to wear masks, but will also not be able to congregate or shake hands and will be required wear facial coverings while off the mat, and more:

  • No congregating before or after practices or games
  • Wear facial coverings off the mat when not actively competing or warming up
  • [T]hose on the team bench shall observe social distancing of 6 feet
  • Do not share equipment, towels, facial coverings, water bottles, other drinks or food
The Fix noted, “Coaches must not share ‘clipboards, whiteboards, dry erase boards, or any other equipment used for coaching purposes.'”

All coaches are required to carry out “pre-travel symptom and temperature checks.”

“Wrestling officials, who literally have to get down flat to determine pins (their head and hands touching the mat), don’t have to wear masks during matches … but are forbidden to hold up a winning wrestler’s arm in victory at match’s conclusion,” the outlet notes.

WLWT-TV reported that the Ohio High School Athletic Association also requires that all student athletes should sanitize their hands before and after warmups, even though they’re not permitted to shake hands.

“Equipment should not be shared. If equipment needs to be shared, OHSAA mandates the proper sanitation between use,” WLWT reports. “Student-athletes must also sanitize their hands before and after warmups, at all timeouts and period breaks any time they leave the competition or practice mats.

You can read the full list of regulations here.

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Fauci: Christmas will be worse than Thanksgiving for COVID spread

Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning Americans that the Christmas holiday could be worse than Thanksgiving for spreading the coronavirus.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared on CNN’s “New Day” with host John Berman and issued a warning to America about the potential dangers of holiday celebrations.

“My concerns, John [Berman], are the same thing of the concerns that I had about Thanksgiving, only this may be even more compounded because it’s a longer holiday,” Fauci said.

He explained that because the Christmas holiday leads into New Year’s Day celebrations, the potential for virus spread is greater than Thanksgiving, which lasts one day before people return to work.

“I think it can be even more of a challenge than what we saw with Thanksgiving,” Fauci said. “So I hope that people realize that and understand that as difficult as this is, nobody wants to modify, if not essentially shut down, their holiday season.”

“But we’re at a very critical time in this country right now,” he added. “We’ve got to not walk away from the facts and the data. This is tough going for all of us.”

Fauci’s advice comes amid a recent increase in positive coronavirus cases being reported. According to the COVID Tracking Project, as of Dec. 7 there were 14,717,065 identified cases of coronavirus in the United States. The previous Friday saw 228,000 new cases reported, the largest volume of positive cases reported in a single day since the pandemic began. Currently there are 102,148 people hospitalized with COVID, with 20,098 people currently in the ICU and 7,073 currently on a ventilator. Tragically, 274,745 Americans have died with confirmed or probable cases of COVID.

Progress toward the release and distribution of a COVID vaccine continues.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration released documents containing the agency’s analysis of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The documents show Pfizer’s vaccine provides some protection after the first dose and full protection from the coronavirus after the second dose. The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will meet Thursday and vote on whether to grant Pfizer emergency use authorization to begin distributing the vaccine in the United States.

In the United Kingdom, a retired British shop clerk received the first shot of the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination program after the nation last week authorized the use of Pfizer’s vaccine. The UK is the first Western country to begin a mass vaccination program.

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Rapper Ice-T says his father-in-law was anti-mask until he contracted coronavirus and landed in the ICU for 40 days

Rap music icon and actor Ice-T said that his own father-in-law was persuaded against his anti-mask beliefs after he contracted coronavirus and landed in the Intensive Care Unit for forty days.

The actor, whose real name is Tracy Lauren Marrow, tweeted about his wife’s father and posted a photograph of him suffering from the symptoms associated with the pandemic virus.

“My father-in-law ‘Coco’s dad’ was a serious ‘No Masker’ COVID hit him. Pneumonia in both lungs.. 40 days in ICU close to death.. Now he’s on Oxygen indefinitely. Ohhh he’s a Believer now,” tweeted Marrow.

The rapper was debating with people on Twitter about the seriousness of the pandemic when he brought up his father-in-law.

“I have 6 DEAD close friends from this Virus.. You need to shut the F**k up…” responded Marrow to one skeptic.

Marrow’s wife, Coco Austin, provided more details about her father dealing with the coronavirus in a post on Instagram from June.

“He is having trouble breathing and feels like he is being stabbed with pins throughout his body .. For all the people that say it cant happen to your family..think again ..Sending happy thoughts to my father and all the families that are dealing with it? also sending prayers to 2 of my aunts who also have covid seems they all got it at the same time,” said Austin.

Marrow appeared to put some of the blame from people not wearing masks on President Donald Trump.

“Honestly.. A lot of no maskers only do it because they’re listening to the President.. Just sayin,” he tweeted.

The rapper made headlines in 2019 when he tweeted an image many associated with the “QAnon” conspiracy theory, but he denies that he knew anything about it after many harangued him about it.

Here’s Ice-T defending the 2nd Amendment in 2012:

Ice T’s gun comment leaves Michael Moore cold

Andrew Cuomo Coronavirus Pandemic Coronavirus vaccine COVID-19 Intelwars New York City New york pandemic

Hypocritical Gov. Andrew Cuomo says strong leaders ‘admit your mistakes’ — though he won’t admit his

The New York Republican Party and several pundits and commentators lambasted New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo after he gave a speech over the weekend criticizing the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and saying that strong leaders admit their mistakes.

Plugging his new book on leadership during the pandemic at Riverside Church in Morningside Heights in Manhattan Sunday, Cuomo said that a strong leader shouldn’t be defensive when he’s made mistakes.

“The key is to be strong and secure enough to admit your mistakes and admit your shortcomings, don’t get defensive,” Cuomo said. “Denying the mistake only assures repeating the mistake.”

The New York GOP responded to a video of Cuomo’s remarks, blasting the governor and accusing him of dodging responsibility for his numerous mistakes.

After the onset of the pandemic at the beginning of the year, Cuomo infamously issued an executive directive on March 25 requiring nursing home facilities to accept patients diagnosed with COVID-19 from hospitals. The purpose of the order was to free up hospital bed space for an expected overwhelming influx of virus patients. The result of this extraordinary mistake was to house sick coronavirus patients with elderly populations that proved to be extremely susceptible to contracting the disease, resulting in the deaths of about 6,720 New Yorkers in nursing homes, according to estimates from the state Health Department.

Cuomo has never accepted responsibility for this mistake. In fact, the governor has defensively accused his critics of lying and blamed state Republicans and the New York Post for the controversy over his administration’s disastrous policy.

In the speech, Cuomo also discussed progress on a coronavirus vaccine, accusing the federal government under President Donald Trump’s leadership of politicizing vaccine progress and undermining the American people’s confidence in the government.

“We have a vaccine on the way, truly great news,” Cuomo said. “But polls say 50% of the American people say they would not take the vaccine if it were available today because they don’t trust the way this federal government has politicized the process.”

Cuomo added that his administration and independent medical experts will review any vaccine supplied by the Trump administration before distributing it to New Yorkers to increase confidence in the vaccine. He did not mention that in October he said he himself was “not that confident” in the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process for a potential vaccine, adding that the American people “should be” “very skeptical.”

President Trump on Friday held a press conference updating the nation on Operation Warp Speed and the progress pharmaceutical companies partnered with the federal government have made toward creating and distributing a coronavirus vaccine. The Trump administration announced that they expect to be able to vaccinate 20 million Americans in December and another 25 to 30 million Americans per month on an ongoing basis from there.

In his remarks, Trump called out Cuomo’s vaccine skepticism and said the federal government will not be able to deliver a vaccine to New York until Cuomo’s reviewers give it approval. In response, Cuomo on Sunday threatened to sue the Trump administration.

“I tell you today, if the Trump administration does not change this plan and does not provide an equitable vaccine process … we will bring legal action to protect New Yorkers,” he vowed.

“President Trump must learn the lesson: Stop the abuse. Stop the division. Stop the anger. Stop the hatred. Stop the narcissism. And spend your last months trying to help people and repair the damage you have done,” Cuomo said.

Commentators noted Cuomo’s jarring hypocrisy. Fox News meteorologist Janice Dean called Cuomo “a real piece of work.” Dean’s husband’s parents were both residents of New York assisted living facilities or nursing homes before they contracted COVID-19 and died.

Others mocked Cuomo for his seeming lack of self-awareness.

Or just criticized his attempt to gaslight New York and the rest of the nation.

In August at the Democratic National Convention, Cuomo declared that “our way succeeded,” claiming his policies lowered the spread of coronavirus in New York and attacking Republicans for failing to control the pandemic, even as tens of thousands of New Yorkers died of the virus and the state’s economy was crippled by his policies.

Now, Cuomo’s comments on Sunday and his new book on lessons learned from the pandemic come as New York faces a new spike of coronavirus cases and an increase in hospitalizations. In response to this second wave of the pandemic, Cuomo days ago announced a new series of coronavirus restrictions, limiting private gatherings in New York to just 10 people indoors with Thanksgiving around the corner.

“Rhetoric only goes so far, we don’t want to hear any more,” Cuomo said Sunday. “We want actions, because it is results that matter at the end of the day.”

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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem won’t comply if Biden pursues national mask mandate

As former Vice President Joe Biden proposes a nationwide lockdown and a national mask mandate in response to resurgent coronavirus cases in several states, at least one Republican governor is promising she will not comply.

In a statement made to the Argus Leader, a South Dakota newspaper, Gov. Kristi Noem’s office said that Biden, as president, would lack the authority to impose a nationwide mask mandate on state governments.

“It’s a good day for freedom. Joe Biden realizes that the president doesn’t have the authority to institute a mask mandate,” Noem communications director Ian Fury said. “For that matter, neither does Governor Noem, which is why she has provided her citizens with the full scope of the science and trusted them to make the best decisions for themselves and their loved-ones.”

Though Biden cannot constitutionally compel state governments to adopt a mask mandate, senior advisers on his presidential transition team reportedly say the presumptive president-elect will begin contacting governors and prominent mayors asking for local governments to impose mask requirements. Currently, 33 state governments have some sort of mask requirement for people who go out in public.

Noem, a first-term governor, has adopted a freedom first approach in response to the coronavirus pandemic in South Dakota. While many states imposed stay-at-home orders, Noem refused to implement what she’s referred to as “draconian lockdowns.”

“We already know that lockdowns don’t stop the spread of the virus. However, they destroy small businesses and jobs, and they make it difficult for families to put food on the table,” she wrote on social media Thursday.

According to the Argus leader, as of Friday 62,327 South Dakotans have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and 568 have died from the virus or from complications related to it.

In an October op-ed for the Rapid City Journal, Gov. Noem explained why mandatory masking as a “one-size-fits-all approach” to combating the virus is not right for South Dakota.

“In many other places — from Los Angeles and Miami to London and Paris — cases have exploded despite the existence of mask mandates and other harsh restrictions,” Noem wrote.

There are times when masks are appropriate. For example, masks are a smart precaution when caring for a symptomatic person who is coughing or sneezing. Masks are also recommended in hospital settings. Data suggest that N95 masks can be effective when worn appropriately – changed regularly, fitted properly, and not touched. But if you’re alone in a park, or hunting in a field, risk of transmission is negligible, even without a mask.

Oxford’s Dr. Carl Heneghan, also the editor-in-chief of British Medical Journal Evidence-Based Medicine, says: “It would appear that despite two decades of pandemic preparedness, there is considerable uncertainty as to the value of wearing masks.”

Though they’ve flipped-flopped on this issue, even the World Health Organization wrote this summer, “the widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence and there are potential benefits and harms to consider.”

There are many others who question the effectiveness of masks, and South Dakotans should take the time to read this information so they can make informed decisions for themselves and their families. As I’ve said before, if folks want to wear a mask, they should be free to do so. Similarly, those who don’t want to wear a mask shouldn’t be shamed into wearing one. And government should not mandate it. We need to respect each other’s decisions – in South Dakota, we know a little common courtesy can go a long way.

Noem wrote that she will trust South Dakotans “to make wise and well-informed decisions for themselves and their families” instead of having the government tell citizens what to do under penalty of law.
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‘He is absolutely not a flight risk,’ defense attorney argues before his client, accused rapist, disappears

A Chicago man accused of robbery and sexual assault has gone missing after he was released on $500 bail by a judge who determined he was at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and reduced his bail bond to keep him out of jail during the pandemic.

CWB Chicago reported that Rene Chandler, 31, was awaiting trial on charges of sexually assaulting and battering two women he met on dating apps in 2018 when he allegedly assaulted and robbed a third woman in an Uber in April 2019. At the time of the third alleged assault, he was wearing an electronic monitor pending a trial on the first two charges. Chandler was arrested and initially ordered to be held without bail for violating the terms of his sexual assault case bonds.

However, in the spring Chandler’s attorney filed an emergency motion to reduce his client’s bond based on the higher health risk from COVID-19 imposed by Chandler’s asthma condition.

“He is absolutely not a flight risk,” the attorney wrote in his bail reduction request.

Judge Thomas Hennelly granted the defense attorney’s request, imposing a $500 bail bond, according to court records reported by CWB Chicago.

After his release, Chandler disappeared.

Chandler is accused of committing assault and robbery while previously on bail awaiting trial for sexual assault charges.

In August 2018, Chandler was charged by prosecutors with sexually assaulting and battering two different women he met on dating apps. He was arrested for the assaults and the presiding judge set his bail at $100,000 for each alleged attack. He posted $20,000 to be released from jail with electronic monitoring.

A few months after he was released, while his trial for sexual assault was pending, a third woman accused Chandler of battering and robbing her as they rode in an Uber. She claims that he struck her in the face and stole her new phone along with $640 cash from her purse, according to prosecutors. The state alleges that Chandler ran from the Uber and fled in a taxi cab.

After his arrest for the third assault, a judge ordered him held without bail for violating the terms of bail in the sexual assault cases, and set a new bail for the robbery charges at $80,000, according to court records.

However, in April after the coronavirus pandemic arrived in the United States, Chandler’s defense attorney was able to successfully argue for his bail to be reduced. Judge Hennelly presided over the bail hearing on April 9 but was not the judge overseeing Chandler’s sexual assault and battery cases.

According to CWB Chicago, prosecutors “presented minimal counter-arguments” to Judge Hennelly at Chandler’s bail hearing. The state attorney’s office admitted that its lawyers did not present Hennelly with all of the facts of the sexual assault cases. After Chandler’s bail was reduced prosecutors filed an emergency motion to have his no-bail status reinstated.

Further, after the bail hearing, prosecutors accused Chandler of discussing a plan to pay off one of his alleged victims to prevent her from testifying against him at trial. During a phone call on March 31, Chandler “details one of his cases and also discusses a previous attempt to tamper with a victim and pay her a sum of money to alter her story,” state attorneys said.

At a new hearing conducted over Zoom because of the coronavirus pandemic, prosecutors presented the new allegations before Judge Michael McHale. After hearing the prosecutors’ arguments and Chandler’s defense, McHale ordered Chandler to return to jail without bail, but he was not taken into custody immediately. Chandler has since vanished.

A warrant has been issued for Chandler’s arrest. He remains at-large.

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Joe Biden begins calls for mask-wearing nationwide

While the 2020 presidential election remains contested, former Vice President Joe Biden will charge ahead and begin phase one of his coronavirus pandemic response plan: Pursuing a national mask mandate.

Biden on Monday called on all Americans to wear a mask as his presidential transition team rolled out his coronavirus task force.

A “senior Biden adviser” who spoke to NBC News said that in the coming weeks Biden will begin calling on governors and local state officials to impose mask mandates in anticipation of a spike in COVID-19 cases this winter.

“If a governor declines, he’ll go to the mayors in the state and ask them to lead,” NBC News’ source said. “In many states, there is the capacity of mayors to institute mandates.”

Utah is the most recent state among 33 state governments to implement requirements for people to wear face coverings while in public.

Biden’s team is also reportedly considering a mask mandate for federal buildings, which the Trump administration has not implemented.

Speaking Monday after meeting with the 12-member coronavirus task force assembled to fulfill his campaign promises on the pandemic, Biden asked Americans to refrain from politicizing masks.

“The goal of mask-wearing is not to make your life less comfortable or take something away from you. It’s to give something back to all of us: a normal life,” Biden said. “The goal is to get back to normal as fast as possible, and masks are critical to doing that. It won’t be forever.”

He said wearing a mask is not a “political statement” but is “a good way to start pulling the country together.”

“It doesn’t matter who you voted for; where you stood before Election Day,” Biden continued. “It doesn’t matter your party, your point of view. We could save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months. Not Democrat or Republican lives — American lives.”

Biden’s task force includes Dr. Rick Bright, the former chief of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, who claimed he was removed from his position by the Trump administration for questioning the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in treating coronavirus symptoms. The Biden task force also includes several prominent health policy experts, academics, former Obama administration officials, and doctors.

Following mask mandates, the next step of Biden’s coronavirus plan calls for nationwide testing. The Biden team is reportedly exploring potential executive orders to carry out his plan in case legislative initiatives are blocked by a Republican-controlled Senate come next year.

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NY Gov. Cuomo blames Republicans and the New York Post for nursing home deaths controversy

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo accused his critics of lying and blamed state Republicans and the New York Post for the controversy over nursing home deaths in New York and other states during the COVID pandemic.

Cuomo, writing in his new memoir, “American Crisis,” said, “The most painful aspect of the COVID crisis has been its devastating effect on our elderly in nursing homes,” the New York Post reported.

He accused the Trump administration of botching the federal response to the virus and Republicans of creating a false narrative to deflect blame for virus deaths on Democrats.

“By early spring, Republicans needed an offense to distract from the narrative of their botched federal response — and they needed it badly,” Cuomo wrote. “So they decided to attack Democratic governors and blame them for nursing homes.”

The Post reported that nearly 6,700 people have died in nursing or adult-care facilities of confirmed or presumed cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began. In March, New York issued a policy that required nursing homes to admit patients returning from hospitals who were suspected to have or had tested positive for COVID-19. The mandate also prohibited patients from being tested prior to admission or readmission to care facilities. The purpose of the policy was to make sure hospitals did not run out of beds in anticipation of a surge of coronavirus hospitalizations. The unintended consequence of this policy may have been introducing positive coronavirus cases to a population of elderly people who are more susceptible to contracting the disease and dying from it.

Cuomo has previously falsely asserted that nursing homes “never needed” to accept patients with coronavirus. The fact is that according to the New York State Department of Health, “6,326 COVID-positive residents were admitted to [nursing home] facilities” following Cuomo’s policy that nursing homes accept coronavirus patients, according to a CNN fact-check.

Now, Cuomo blames conservative columnist Michael Goodwin and the New York Post for the controversy over his executive order.

“On April 25, conservative columnist Michael Goodwin published a piece in Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post aimed at New York with the headline, ‘State lacked common sense in nursing homes’ coronavirus approach,'” wrote Cuomo. “It was an orchestrated strategy and a Fox News drumbeat.”

“It wasn’t just me,” he continued. “[Govs.] Phil Murphy in New Jersey, Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan, Gavin Newsom in California and Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania were all in the Republican crosshairs on nursing homes. As the states with the most deaths were Democratic states, the Trump forces saw us as an easy target.”

In May, Cuomo partially reversed his nursing home policy after critics raised questions about the policy and voices from both major political parties called for an independent probe into the mandate.

He admits to no mistakes in his memoir and accuses his critics of lying about his record.

“Unfortunately, although I tried, I never successfully communicated the facts on the situation,” Cuomo wrote. “The Trump forces had a simple line: ‘Thousands died in nursing homes.’ It was true.

“But they needed to add a conspiracy, which was that they died because of a bad state policy that ‘mandated and directed’ that the nursing homes accept COVID-positive people, and these COVID-positive people were the cause of the spread of the disease in the nursing homes,” he continued. “It was a lie.”

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Officials: Overall active-duty military suicides up by as much as 20% during pandemic

Suicides by active-duty U.S. military service members have risen by as much as 20% during the coronavirus pandemic, according to reports from senior military officials.

While the Pentagon has not released 2020 data, which remains incomplete, U.S. Army and Air Force leaders told the Associated Press they believe the pandemic is adding stress to service members who are already under the strain of war-zone deployments, national disasters, and violent demonstrations in U.S. cities. They say there have been 114 active-duty suicides this year compared to 88 at the same time last year, roughly a 30% increase.

“Army officials said discussions in Defense Department briefings indicate there has been up to a 20% jump in overall military suicides this year,” the AP reports. “The Army Guard is up about 10%, going from 78 last year to 86 this year. The Navy total is believed to be lower this year.”

The causes of suicide are complex and cannot solely be attributed to stress caused by COVID-19, but Army officials say the increase in suicides is timed with the start of the pandemic.

“I can’t say scientifically, but what I can say is — I can read a chart and a graph, and the numbers have gone up in behavioral health related issues,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told the AP.

“We cannot say definitively it is because of COVID. But there is a direct correlation from when COVID started, the numbers actually went up,” he added.

The active-duty Air Force and reserves had 98 suicides as of Sept. 15, the same number as reported last year. But 2019 was the worst year in three decades for active-duty Air Force suicides. While the overall number of reported active-duty and reserves suicides initially dipped beginning in 2020, since spring it has trended upward, discouraging military leaders.

“COVID adds stress,” Air Force Gen. Charles Brown said. “From a suicide perspective, we are on a path to be as bad as last year. And that’s not just an Air Force problem, this is a national problem because COVID adds some additional stressors — a fear of the unknown for certain folks.”

James Helis, director of the Army’s resilience program, attended department briefings on suicide data. He said lockdown-related isolation, financial difficulties, learn-from-home schooling, and the loss of child care happening suddenly and at the same time have put significant stress on military families.

“We know that the measures we took to mitigate and prevent the spread of COVID could amplify some of the factors that could lead to suicide,” Helis said.

Among those measures was increased deployment time. Soldiers’ 10-month deployments were increased to 11 months because of two-week quarantine requirements at the beginning and end of overseas deployments. The Army is looking into shortening combat deployments to lessen the stress soldiers are facing.

“We were very focused on readiness four years ago because we had some readiness challenges, and we did a great job. The force is very, very ready now. But I think it’s time now to focus on people,” Gen. James McConville said.

The AP report noted that civilian suicides have also risen in recent years, but because 2020 data isn’t yet available, it’s difficult to compare with the military.

A CDC report released in August did note that 25.5% of 18-24-year-olds surveyed in late June had serious thoughts about committing suicide during the previous 30 days. “The levels of suicidal tendencies overall more than doubled since 2018 and nearly quadrupled for people between 25 and 44,” Daniel Horowitz wrote for TheBlaze.

Military officials are encouraging troops to reach out and support their fellow service members, particularly wounded warriors who may be less inclined to get mental or medical help due to infection concerns.

Need help? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) Military veterans press 1. Individuals can also go to: and veterans can go to or call the project’s resource center at: 888-997-2586.

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‘The death toll would be enormous’: Dr. Fauci warns against herd immunity

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci warned against seeking to combat coronavirus through nationwide herd immunity and explained that the death toll would be “enormous and unacceptable.”

The head of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force made the comments during a live Instagram session on Friday with actor Matthew McConaughey.

“If everyone contracted it, even with the relatively high percentage of people without symptoms,” Fauci said, “a lot of people are going to die.”

Fauci pointed to the prevalence of health issues among Americans that would result to large numbers of deaths if the coronavirus was spread widely.

“You look at the United States of America, with our epidemic of obesity, as it were. With the number of people with hypertension. With the number of people with diabetes. If everyone got infected, the death toll would be enormous and totally unacceptable,” Fauci explained.

Lockdown versus herd immunity

Fauci is a proponent of the lockdown and social distancing model to combat the spread of coronavirus. He has insisted that the best response to the pandemic is to await the development of vaccines and other treatments against the virus.

Some critics advocate for a different model where the virus is allowed to spread freely and infect people who would then become immune after recovery. While it would result in some deaths, the proponents say, the herd immunity model allows for the economy to continue operating.

One study by scientists at King’s College London found that antibodies disappeared after a short period of time, meaning that herd immunity would not be a solution for the pandemic.

It’s getting worse

Despite the U.S. adopting the lockdown model of combatting the coronavirus, there have been nearly 170,000 deaths and experts believe there will be tens of thousands more before the pandemic abates. There have been more than 5.3 million cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. alone, which accounts for one fourth of all the cases worldwide.

On Thursday, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called for a nationwide mask mandate in order to quell what appears to be a second wave of the pandemic. The president responded by accusing “sleepy Joe” of not trusting the states and their governors.

Here’s more about the interview with Dr. Fauci:

Matthew McConaughey Interviews Dr. Fauci

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Joe Biden and Kamala Harris call for a nationwide mandatory mask order; Trump slaps down the suggestion

The presumed Democratic presidential candidates called for a federal order for mandatory mask mandate that would apply to all Americans nationwide.

Former Vice President Joe Biden made the demand on Thursday and California Sen. Kamala Harris endorsed the policy.

“Every American should be wearing a mask when they’re outside for the next three months at a minimum,” Biden told reporters in a media briefing in Wilmington, Delaware.

“Let’s institute a mask mandate nationwide starting immediately and we will save lives. The estimates are we will save over 40,000 lives in the next three months if that is done,” Biden added.

Harris approved of Biden’s statement.

“That’s what real leadership looks like,” Harris said. “We just witnessed real leadership.”

The announcement was made only a day after Harris was announced as Biden’s vice presidential pick.

Federal vs. local control

President Donald Trump has resisted calls for a federal mask mandate and has instead left it up to state and local governments to determine their own policies on enforcing social distancing guidelines.

When asked to respond to the suggestion from Biden and Harris, he gave a characteristically dismissive response.

“We do not need to bring the full wait of the government down on law-abiding Americans to accomplish this goal. Americans must have their freedoms, and I trust the American people and their governors very much,” President Trump said in his media briefing.

“I trust the American people and the governors want to do the right thing to make the smart decisions and Joe doesn’t. Joe doesn’t, Joe doesn’t, know too much,” he continued.

“Unlike the Biden approach, our approach is guided by science,” he added. “Sleepy Joe rejects the scientific approach in favor of locking all Americans in their basements for months on end!”

The president went on to accused Biden of wanting to “shut down our economy” and “grind society to a halt” through a federal mandate.

A poll in June found that 76% of Americans thought the lockdown was appropriate or didn’t go far enough, while 80% of Americans said that they looked favorably at people who wore masks to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The U.S. has seen more than 5.2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the country, and the death toll in the U.S. is at more than 166,000 people.

Here’s the video of the demand:

BREAKING: Joe Biden, Kamala Harris call for nationwide mask mandate

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Breaking: Trump admin backs off on plan to force out foreign students over online instruction

The Trump administration reversed itself on a decision announced last week to force foreign students out of the country if they moved to online instruction for the fall semester because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The change in policy was first announced on July 6 but was reversed on Tuesday.

However, according to Reuters, a senior official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that the administration is still considering some kind of new policy regarding foreign students taking online courses in the U.S.

Critics of the president were outraged at the previous announcement and called it racist and xenophobic.

“The cruelty of this White House knows no bounds. Foreign students are being threatened with a choice: Risk your life going to class in-person or get deported,” responded Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

“We must stand up to Trump‘s bigotry,” he added. “We must keep all our students safe.”

California became the first state to sue over the decision and seek an injunction to stop the order.

“Shame on the Trump administration for risking not only the education opportunities for students who earned the chance to go to college but now their health and well-being as well,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in statement during a virtual news conference.

The order “could put everybody at risk of getting the coronavirus or being subject to deportation,” he added.

“Not on our watch,” Becerra concluded.

Reuters reported that more than a million foreign students attend U.S. colleges and universities, and many schools depend on revenue from foreign students, who often pay full tuition.

Here’s more about the admin. rescinding the order:

Trump admin rescinds rule on foreign students amid pressure from colleges