No longer working under the Trump administration, leading US health officials have revealed to CNN the challenges they faced during the nation’s fight against Covid-19 over the past year, including tension behind closed doors and a lack of preparedness. Here are some of the most haunting revelations from CNN’s new documentary, “COVID WAR: The Pandemic Doctors Speak Out”:
- Dr. Deborah Birx, who served as the White House coronavirus response coordinator under former President Donald Trump, said the number of Covid-19 deaths could have “decreased substantially” if cities and states across the United States had aggressively applied the lessons of the first surge. “There were about a hundred thousand deaths that came from that original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially,” she said. The virus has since claimed nearly 550,000 lives in the US.
- Former CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said former Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar wanted him to revise the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) — the agency’s roundup of key research on death and disease as well as its recommendations. Redfield said he was asked to change the report “on more than one occasion.” Azar responded in a statement to CNN saying, in part: “Any suggestion that I pressured or otherwise asked Dr. Redfield to change the content of a single scientific, peer-reviewed MMWR article is false.”
- Several officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, pointed the finger at China for not being open enough about the virus. Fauci said it would have made a “significant” difference if American investigators were allowed access into China at the start of the pandemic. He added he was “always” skeptical about the Covid-19 data being reported out of China. “I always had skepticism about it because of what we went through with SARS,” Fauci said.
Watch “COVID WAR: The Pandemic Doctors Speak Out” at 8 p.m. Friday, April 2 on CNN and CNNI. The special report will also be available on demand, on CNNgo and CNN mobile apps.
YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED.
Q. Do my kids need to be vaccinated before going to summer camp?
A. Children may not need to be vaccinated for Covid-19 for parents to send them to camps or playgrounds this summer, Fauci told CBS News on Sunday. He has previously said that elementary school-aged kids likely won’t be inoculated until the first quarter of 2022, as vaccine developers continued to study their effects in children.
Fauci stressed it was important for Covid-19 to continue declining and for infections not to plateau at a high level. But he pointed to the pace of vaccinations in the US as a main factor, which will invariably “drive the rate and the level of infections per day to a much, much lower level,” he said.
“If we get into the summer and you have a considerable percentage of the population vaccinated, and the level in the community gets below that plateau that’s worrying me and my colleagues in public health,” he said, “it is conceivable that you would have a good degree of flexibility during the summer, even with the children with things like camps.”
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WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY
Paris hospitals could be overwhelmed amid Europe’s third wave
Dozens of doctors from the Paris public hospital group AP-HP this weekend warned they face the prospect of having to triage patients in the next two weeks, amid fears of surging Covid-19 cases in the French capital, Martin Goillandeau reports.
In an op-ed, published in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper, 41 ICU and emergency doctors said they had “never experienced such a situation, even during the worst terrorist attacks in recent years.”
On Saturday evening, there were 4,791 people in ICUs across France, nearing the peak of its second Covid-19 wave. The country has the fourth highest number of confirmed cases in the world, after the US, Brazil and India. French President Emmanuel Macron, who is up for re-election next year, has so far resisted imposing a third nationwide lockdown — against the advice of his Scientific Council, citing the potential impact a lockdown would have on mental health and on the French economy.
Signs of collapse across Brazil as Covid spirals out of control
Brazil is suffering through its worst days of this pandemic so far, and there are signs of collapse at every level of the healthcare system in nearly every state across the country. But President Jair Bolsonaro has yet to take any significant steps to try and implement a coordinated national response, Matt Rivers reports.
Last Thursday, Brazil’s Health Ministry reported the gruesome figure of more than 100,000 new Covid-19 cases confirmed in a single day, the highest such figure in the country since the pandemic began. Brazil has accounted for 24% of all Covid-19 deaths worldwide in the past two weeks. “It’s a war scenario,” paramedic Luis Eduardo Pimentel in São Paulo told CNN. “I can barely describe what I’m seeing, it is so sad what is happening to the country.”
‘I spent a whole year indoors and upstairs.’ Life during the pandemic for people with disabilities
Jim Elder-Woodward has spent an entire year, the span of Britain’s pandemic, confined to the top floor of his house. This is not out of choice. The 73-year-old did not want to be there, but his stairlift broke in late March 2020, days before the UK went into a nationwide lockdown.
Elder-Woodward’s ordeal is just one of the many problems people with disabilities have had to endure during the pandemic and experts say they are not surprised. “Ignored at worst, and an afterthought at best,” people with disabilities have experienced a three-fold risk during the outbreak, disability experts argued in a commentary published in the Lancet earlier this month.
Those with disabilities have a bigger risk of severe or fatal outcomes from the disease; greater risk of reduced access to routine healthcare and rehabilitation, even though disabled people on average have a narrow margin of health; and harmful social impacts of efforts to mitigate the pandemic, the experts write.
ON OUR RADAR
- Dutch people are partying like it’s 2019 as a government-backed experiment attempts to work out how the events industry can get back on its feet.
- The Pacific Island nation of Papua New Guinea only has about 500 doctors for a population of 9 million people. Now it’s dealing with a Covid outbreak.
- India sees a muted festival of Holi, the Hindu celebration of colors, on Monday as it experiences its sixth consecutive day of record-high Covid-19 cases during its second wave.
- Louisiana Rep.-elect Julia Letlow on Sunday urged Republicans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, citing her own tragic experience of losing her husband.
“Throughout the White House, there was a sense that I could not have access to national media. Now, I had no idea that people were requesting me until about November when someone wrote me directly and said, we have asked for you for weeks. And I was like, what?” — Dr. Deborah Birx, former White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator.
Birx’s tenure at the White House was contentious. Now, she tells her side of the story to CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, for a behind-the-scenes look at what went wrong in the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic, and how that can inform public health strategy going forward. Listen now.