Why did an Oregon health official dressed like a clown read off the coronavirus death toll?

A video in which Oregon Health Authority officials dressed in costume give COVID-19 information is getting national attention, almost two weeks after it was initially posted.

The reason? A screenshot of the video showing an official in sad clown makeup reading off the daily virus death toll was shared widely on social media after it was tweeted by an Oregonian/OregonLive reporter, Samantha Swindler.

The story has been covered by Fox News, The Independent, TMZ and others.

Dr. Claire Poché, a public health physician with the Oregon Health Authority, kicked off the Halloween safety video by removing her surgical mask to reveal a full face of clown make-up, somewhat reminiscent of the Joker, one of Batman’s creepiest rivals.

“As of today, there have been 38,160 cases of COVID-19 in Oregon, with 390 new cases being reported today,” Poché said. “Sadly, we are also reporting three deaths today, bringing the statewide total for COVID-19 related deaths to 608.”

The optics aren’t ideal, especially as Oregon, like many states, deals with surging coronavirus cases.

Robb Cowie, communications director for the Oregon Health Authority, said the agency regretted how that part of the video was handled.

“We regret that, earlier this month, three tragic COVID-19 deaths were announced during a Facebook Live event focused on preventing the spread of COVID-19 during Halloween celebrations,” Cowie said in a statement.

“We mourn every person who has died from COVID-19 and we acknowledge the pain and loss their passing has left in the lives of their loved ones,” he said. “We’ll continue to do everything we can to warn Oregonians about the risks of COVID-19 and the steps they can take to protect themselves and the people around them.”

The rest of the video was a little less dark.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping how Oregonians celebrate holidays, and that includes Halloween but it doesn’t mean Halloween can’t still be spooky and fun this year,” Dr. Shimi Sharief, a health adviser to the Oregon Health Authority, said later while dressed in a fuzzy animal onesie.

Sharief and Poché offered plenty of trick-or-treating alternatives and did an informative question-and-answer session, which included an explanation about why trick-or-treating is riskier than going through a drive-thru.

“Although outdoor activities are generally less risky than indoor activities,” Poché said, “trick-or-treating is high risk because kids tend to get excited, which can lead to crowding people who aren’t members of their household.”

It isn’t until seven minutes in that either doctor acknowledges they are wearing costumes, and they never discuss the decision to wear them.

Poché refers to herself as a clown obliquely about 12 and a half minutes into the video

“As for me, we clowns kind of took a backseat to Halloween,” she said. “We were kind of relegated to birthday parties for several years. There were some bad actors who dressed up as clowns back in Halloween, I don’t know, maybe it was 2015, but I’m hoping to bring us back as the fun-loving, and happy clowns that we

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EU won’t see full coronavirus vaccination until 2022, official reportedly warns

Despite several deals securing more than 1 billion doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine, government officials do not expect to be able to vaccinate the full European Union population until 2022, officials reportedly said at a meeting on Monday.  

“There will not be sufficient doses of COVID-19 vaccines for the entire population before the end of 2021,” a European Commission official told diplomats during a closed-door meeting on Monday, according to Reuters.


The majority of nations in the EU, including Belgium, Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands are implementing or considering restrictions on travel, dining, gatherings and more due to a surge in coronavirus cases.

This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly warned that the country’s health system is being pushed to the brink amid the recent increase in cases. Spain has instituted a nationwide curfew and is mulling potential travel bans to hard-hit areas. In France, a doctor told a radio station that the country has “lost control” of the epidemic and should consider another lockdown.


“We lost control of the epidemic but that doesn’t date from yesterday,” Dr. Eric Caumes, head of infections and tropical disease at Paris’ Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, said, according to the Associated Press. “We lost control of the epidemic several weeks ago already.”

Several challenges to distributing a potential vaccine have been voiced by regulators and experts all over the world. Storage demands and application training are among the chief concerns, with some cautioning that such hurdles could delay delivering the vaccine in remote or hard-to-reach regions. As a result, officials have been asking governments to devise a plan to distribute the vaccine to the most vulnerable populations.


The European Medicine Agency, the EU’s drug regulator, has previously stated that it would approve a coronavirus vaccine even if it was below 50% effective but proved safe to use. The EU has already secured doses of potential vaccines from AstraZeneca, Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson, according to Reuters.


As of Tuesday, the world had seen more than 42.6 million cases of coronavirus, with the U.S., India, Brazil, Russia and France seeing the highest amount of infection.

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Trump official tests positive for COVID-19 after Europe trip

a sign on the side of a building: Trump official tests positive for COVID-19 after Europe trip

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Trump official tests positive for COVID-19 after Europe trip

A senior Trump administration official has tested positive for the coronavirus after a trip to Europe, sparking concerns over transmission of the virus among government personnel.

Peter Berkowitz, the director of policy planning at the State Department, met with officials at 10 Downing Street and the Foreign Office in London. He also had meetings in Paris and in Budapest, with Hungarian State Secretary Peter Sztaray and Deputy State Secretary Ferenc Dancs, earlier this month.

The diagnosis was first reported by The Washington Post, and an official told the paper that Berkowitz was inconsistent in following mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines.

The State Department denied that Berkowitz was lax in following health guidance.

Video: 19 times Trump promised to enact a health-care plan (The Washington Post)

19 times Trump promised to enact a health-care plan



“During all of Director Berkowitz’s engagements abroad, he consistently followed the mask-wearing protocol demonstrated by his counterparts from the host government. As Secretary Pompeo has said, we take the threat posed by COVID-19 very seriously, and extend every precaution to protect each member of our team as we carry out our diplomatic engagement during these unprecedented times,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hill.

“We are closely monitoring daily COVID-19 developments, and continue to apply the best science and the current public health recommendations to support the entire team as we continue to achieve results on behalf of the American people.”

Administration officials are reportedly in contact with government personnel in the three countries Berkowitz visited, and an official told the Post that no cases have been reported in Hungary that are related to the trip.

The news of the diagnosis comes as both the U.S. and Europe grapple with new rises in cases and hospitalizations from the coronavirus. Among the most high-profile outbreaks was last week’s news that several members of Vice President Pence’s staff had tested positive for the coronavirus, while Europe has reported more than 1.3 million new cases this past week.

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Close to ‘exponential spread’ in some parts of the US, former FDA official says

The country is facing another cycle of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it may be the hardest yet, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday.

a car parked on a city street filled with lots of traffic: People wait in their cars at a newly opened mega drive-thru site at SISD Student Activities Complex on July 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)

© Cengiz Yar/Getty Images
People wait in their cars at a newly opened mega drive-thru site at SISD Student Activities Complex on July 21, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. As coronavirus deaths surge past 4000 in Texas, overwhelmed hospitals are being forced to plan for extra refrigerated storage to hold deceased patients. (Photo by Cengiz Yar/Getty Images)

“I think we’re right now at the cusp of what’s going to be exponential spread in parts of the country,” Gottlieb said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“If we took aggressive steps right now, we could potentially forestall the worst of it, but we’re not going to do that,” because there’s a lot of fatigue and “policy resistance to taking strong action,” he said.

“We really have two or three months of the acute phase of this pandemic to get through,” he said. “This is going to be the hardest phase, probably.”

Worst number of cases yet

That’s as the country continues to report the most number of cases we’ve seen to date. The seven-day average of daily new cases reached an all-time high of 68,767 on Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The previous record of 67,293 was set July 22.

“Unfortunately, I think the statement about ‘new record’ is going to be repeated over and over again in the days and weeks to come,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

“I expect that those numbers will continue to climb. Hospitalizations are going to continue to climb.”

The abysmal week was marked by the two worst days of daily new cases reported since the pandemic began. More than 83,000 new cases were reported both Friday and Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins.

To be clear: This surge reflects an onslaught of new infections — not just increased testing, contrary to what skeptics claim.

“You know why we have cases? Because we test so much,” President Donald Trump claimed at a rally Saturday in North Carolina. “And in many ways, it’s good. And in many ways, it’s foolish.”

But the seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases has soared 23% in the past week, according to Johns Hopkins data. The seven-day average of new tests performed has risen only 2.87% over the past week, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

And we are long past the point of just urban, heavily populated areas being the only places hit hard. South Dakota’s test positivity rate is 23%, the state’s health department said Monday. That means of every 100 people tested, 23 have been infected. The World Health Organization in May advised governments not to reopen until test positivity rates were 5% or lower for at least 14 days.

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US health official says pandemic clearly can be controlled

WASHINGTON (AP) — A day after White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said “we’re not going to control the pandemic,” a top Trump administration health official said Monday that Americans have already proven they can do that through basic safeguards shown to work.

“I think we can control the pandemic,” Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir said on a call with reporters.

“I want to be clear that what we have done — what the American people have done — has been able to put out very significant outbreaks … all across the Deep South,” Giroir said.

He underscored what he calls the “3 W’s” — watching your distance from other people, wearing masks when you can’t keep away and frequently washing your hands.

Giroir said the data are pretty clear that while such simple measures cannot completely defeat the virus, they can control it. The “nail in the coffin” for the coronavirus will come when vaccines are approved and widely distributed, he added.

Giroir’s comments highlight open differences between government health officials and some in the top circle of White House advisers to President Donald Trump, who believe Americans can achieve widespread immunity by returning to normal life while protecting the elderly and others highly vulnerable. Trump himself asserts the U.S. is rounding the corner on the virus as he pursues a fast-paced schedule of public rallies in the closing days of the campaign. Most attendees appear to take no precautions.

A senior political appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services, Giroir is a pediatric critical care specialist but has also held high-level management posts and conducted scientific research. He has been working to increase coronavirus testing in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, which account for more than 40% of deaths from COVID-19. His office Monday announced new testing support for states bearing the brunt of the latest surge in cases.

On Sunday, Meadows had told CNN that “we’re not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas.”

Asked why the U.S. wasn’t going to get control, Meadows responded, “Because it is a contagious virus. Just like the flu, it’s contagious.”

But scientists say public health measures have already been shown to work. After the initial outbreak in early spring led to a national shutdown, the number of new cases a day dropped from about 40,000 to around 20,000.

Then came the summer surge. As southern states embraced reopening, new cases topped 70,000 a day, driven by increases in the South and West. When some of those same states pulled back, new daily cases dropped to between 35,000-40,000. Now they’re shooting back up across the northern part of the country, as cold weather returns and people spend more time indoors. Restriction-weary states elsewhere are also seeing increases as average daily cases again approach 70,000.

Giroir said basic public health measures are “smart” and “proven” policies. “We need to continue that

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Illinois Health Official Breaks Down Crying While Giving Update on State’s Rising COVID-19 Deaths

Gov. JB Pritzker/Twitter

The Illinois Director of the Department of Public Health broke down in tears during Friday afternoon’s press briefing on the coronavirus in the state.

While updating the public on the state’s rising numbers of COVID-19 deaths, Dr. Ngozi Ezike took a moment to herself, turning away from the podium as she was unable to hold back her tears.

“Since yesterday we have lost an additional 31 lives, for a total of 9,418 deaths. These are people who started with us in 2020 and who won’t be with us at the Thanksgiving table,” she said. “Today, we are reporting 3,874 new cases, for a total of 364,033 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.”

“Excuse me, please,” Ezike said as she paused to compose herself before someone brought over a box of tissues. “I’m sorry.”

Gov. JB Pritzker/Twitter Dr. Ezike

RELATED: U.S. Breaks Record for Most COVID Cases in a Single Day with More Than 75,000 New Infections

As of Saturday, an additional 286 people have died, bringing the total to 9,704, according to a New York Times database.

During her speech, Ezike told Illinois residents that she understands “the mental, social and the emotional toll that this pandemic continues to have on people.”

“Not just because I’m asking people, it’s because I’m feeling it and living it myself. I don’t get to live in some COVID-free bubble, exempt from all the pain and tragedy of this pandemic. So I understand how pandemic fatigue is striking everyone. It’s real,” she said.

“The way we work, the way we live, the way we play has changed, and the harsh reality is that the sacrifices we’ve made, that we continue to make do not have a future expiration date,” Ezike added. “And I know that that’s difficult.”

Illinois has been experiencing a rising number of COVID-19 cases, reporting an average of 4,131 cases per day, an 81 percent increase from the average two weeks ago. As of Saturday, there have been at least 370,134 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.

“My message to you is to stay strong,” Ezike said. “I have never run a marathon but I have the utmost regard for those who have been able to train and plan and finish a marathon. But this is a difficult race when you can’t actually see the endpoint and I’m sorry that that’s the message I have for you. Nevertheless, I’m asking you to fight the fatigue. Fight the urge to give up on social distancing.”

Ezike added that residents need to continue wearing a mask, maybe reconsider attending large gatherings and continue to opt for virtual hang-outs.

RELATED: ‘Long Hauler’ COVID Patients Still Have Symptoms Months Later — and Most Are Women and the Elderly

“This is what we will have to do to bring the spread down in our community… Let’s please work together. I know many of you are healthy and don’t have a concern in the world of dying from

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Health official tears up delivering latest COVID-19 numbers in emotional briefing

ABC News Corona Virus Health and Science

Illinois’ top doctor pleaded with residents to “fight the fatigue.”

“I want to say happy Friday, but I understand the mental, the social and the emotional toll that this pandemic continues to have on people,” Illinois Department of Public Health Department Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike began Friday’s COVID-19 briefing.

While acknowledging the sacrifices she has asked people to make, Ezike noted that COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to increase in the state.

“Yesterday we lost an additional 31 lives, for a total of 9,418 deaths,” she said. “These are people who started with us in 2020 and won’t be with us at the Thanksgiving table.”

PHOTO: Illinois Department of Public Health Department Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike teared up as she delivered the state's latest COVID-19 update.

Illinois Department of Public Health Department Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike teared up as she delivered the state’s latest COVID-19 update.

Her voice wavering, she reported there were 3,874 new cases on Thursday, for a total of 364,033 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.

The official then paused and stepped away from the podium to gather herself, before reporting that there were 2,498 people hospitalized overnight with COVID-19, including 511 in the intensive care unit and 197 on ventilators. Hospitalizations reached a record on Thursday, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

“My message to you is to stay strong,” Ezike said. “I’ve never run a marathon, but I have the utmost regard for those who’ve been able to train and plan and finish a marathon. But this is a difficult race when you can’t actually see the endpoint and I’m sorry that that’s the message I have for you.”

She pleaded with residents to “fight the fatigue” and continue to social distance, diligently wear a mask and reconsider large, in-person gatherings.

“This is what we’ll have to do to bring the spread down in our community,” Ezike said. “When we bring the spread down in our community, kids can go to school safely, people can go to work safely, activities, [and] family celebrations can be celebrations, instead of super-spreader events that result in disease and death.”

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    In Mississippi, more White people now have gotten Covid-19 than African Americans. Attitudes about masks might help explain why, official says

    Early on, Black Mississippians accounted for roughly 60% of the state’s cases and deaths, the state health department says.

    But the tide has turned in the Magnolia State.

    The same happened with total Covid-19 cases around October 14. Both categories, then, are aligning closer to the state’s overall population: 59.1% White and 37.8% Black.
    Mississippi's governor mandated masks in August in public gatherings and school. The state is top 5 for coronavirus cases per capita

    While several factors may be at play, the state health officer suggests one in particular: He thinks large segments of the White population aren’t social distancing and wearing masks as wholeheartedly as much of the Black community has been recently.

    “As far as the case trends, we have had really pretty good uptake by a lot of folks in the Black community with masking and social distancing,” state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs told reporters October 16, when asked about an uptick in White cases. “We’ve worked very aggressively to make sure that the Black community understands where the risks are and what can be done to prevent that.

    “And I just will say … I think big parts of the White community, especially in areas that maybe weren’t as hard-affected (previously), have not been as compliant or engaged actively with social distancing and masking. And I think that does make a difference.”

    Asked about this Thursday, Dobbs told CNN he’s relying somewhat on anecdotal evidence, but also “looking at how schools are operating. We are seeing a lot more enthusiastic compliance with … masking in public” and social distancing “in the Black community.”

    And, “we’ve seen a lot of stuff (with) parent-sponsored youth events — dances, parties, things of that nature, that have really undermined a lot of our efforts to keep the schools open,” he said.

    Dobbs highlighted a case to reporters earlier this week: Sumrall High School outside Hattiesburg closed for two weeks starting October 15 because of a Covid-19 outbreak that “seems to be related to an extracurricular social event put on by families and parents,” he said.

    Sumrall High, with about 560 students, is in a county with a 75% White population. Another school also in Lamar County, Purvis Middle School, announced Sunday it also was closing for two weeks because of Covid-19, CNN affiliate WDAM reported.

    Mississippi reissues mask mandates for some counties as cases rise

    Dobbs’ words about mask-wearing and distancing come as Mississippi, like the country, is seeing rises in new daily cases after easing down from a summer surge.

    After Mississippi reached a pandemic peak seven-day average of 1,360 new daily cases in late July, Gov. Tate Reeves announced a statewide mask mandate August 4 for social gatherings and indoor retail and school settings.
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    On September 14, Mississippi reported its post-peak low for average daily cases: 412, Johns Hopkins University data show. That meshes with the country’s post-peak case low of September 12. Reeves allowed the statewide mask mandate to expire September 30.

    Case averages are now on the rise, reaching the 750s this week. On Monday, Reeves put nine of Mississippi’s 82 counties back on a

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    Florida Official: No Birthday Parties to Keep Virus Away | Florida News

    ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The top health official in one of Florida’s most populous counties is discouraging parents from hosting birthday parties for their children, no matter the size, in an effort to prevent outbreaks of the new coronavirus.

    Dr. Raul Pino, health officer for Florida Department of Health in Orange County, said half of the 30 attendees at a recent Sweet 16 party in the Orlando area came down with the virus. Last month, an Orange County high school closed for two weeks after students who had attended a birthday party tested positive for the virus.

    “Those parties will not only affect those people participating in that activity, but also everyone else they come into contact with when they leave,” Pino said Thursday at a news conference. “I’m absolutely sure no one wants this to happen. We will continue to see consequences if we don’t act super-responsibly.”

    Orange County, which is home to some of the nation’s most famous theme park resorts, has had a moderate uptick in virus cases in the past few days, Pino said.

    In recent days, the county’s positivity rate has crossed into the 6% range after being in the 5% range. Maintaining the positivity rate around 5% makes it possible to contact trace and isolate people, keeping the virus under control, Pino said.

    Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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    Alabama official with COVID opposes mask mandate

    Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said Thursday that he remains opposed to mandatory mask orders despite being diagnosed with COVID-19, even though he encourages people to wear one.

    The Republican lieutenant governor announced Wednesday that he tested positive for the coronavirus. He said he sought a test after learning someone in his Sunday school group had COVID-19.

    “I have always encouraged mask-wearing, and I wear one in my daily life, Ainsworth said in a statement, adding that: “At the same time, I believe in personal responsibility and think everyone has the right to make their own choices regarding their health.”

    Ainsworth has been critical of the state’s COVID-19 response under Republican Gov. Kay Ivey. In March, he criticized what he said at the time was the state’s slow response to prepare for a possible “tsunami of hospital patients.” But he has also been critical of the state’s mandatory mask order. He said last month that “masks should be voluntary, not mandatory.”



    — France extends curfew to 38 regions because of coronavirus surge

    — African health officials expect WHO distribution of rapid virus tests

    — Oxford vaccine trial continues amid death report

    — Britain offering financial help for bars, pubs and restaurants struggling because of restrictions due to the coronavirus.

    — Czech Republic enters second lockdown to avoid health system collapse. New measures include closing stores, shopping malls and hotels.

    — Photographer in Dubai providing free photo shoots to laid-off expats forced to leave the skyscraper-studded Persian Gulf city because of the pandemic.


    Follow all of AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak



    Tallahassee, Fla. — Florida plans to more closely scrutinize deaths attributed to the coronavirus, as the state Department of Health notes some people listed as COVID-19 fatalities died months after testing positive.

    The state will not backtrack to reexamine the more than 16,000 deaths attributed to the virus, but rather take a closer look at deaths going forward, said Fred Piccolo, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaking Thursday.

    And the state won’t immediately discount those who tested positive for coronavirus and died weeks afterwards, recognizing the virus may have caused damage that contributed to the death, he added.

    Florida reported more than 5,500 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, raising the seven-day average in daily reported cases to about 3,300. That’s about 1,000 more per day since the beginning of the month.


    SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Gov. Kristi Noem has insisted South Dakota is excelling in its handling of the pandemic, although the state surpassed 9,000 active coronavirus cases and matched an all-time high for deaths reported in a day.

    The state ranks second in the country in new infections per capita over the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University data. There were about 1,036 new cases per 100,000 people in South Dakota, meaning that about one in every 97 people in the state has tested

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