Top Trump adviser pleads for ‘more aggressive action’ against covid-19, even as president downplays threat

A top White House coronavirus adviser sounded alarms Monday about a new and deadly phase in the health crisis, pleading with top administration officials for “much more aggressive action,” even as President Trump continues to assure rallygoers the nation is “rounding the turn” on the pandemic.



Deborah Birx wearing a suit and tie: Deborah Birx delivers remarks on the pandemic in the White House last April. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)


Deborah Birx delivers remarks on the pandemic in the White House last April. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

“We are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic … leading to increasing mortality,” said the Nov. 2 report from Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force. “This is not about lockdowns — It hasn’t been about lockdowns since March or April. It’s about an aggressive balanced approach that is not being implemented.”

Birx’s internal report, shared with top White House and agency officials, contradicts Trump on numerous points: While the president holds large campaign events with hundreds of attendees, most without masks, she explicitly warns against them. While the president blames rising cases on more testing, she says testing is “flat or declining” in many areas where cases are rising. And while Trump says the country is “rounding the turn,” Birx notes the country is entering its most dangerous period yet and will see more than 100,000 new cases a day this week.

Through a spokesperson, Birx did not respond to a request for comment.

Other experts, including Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have warned of record surges in cases and hospitalizations as the United States records more than 9 million cases and 230,000 deaths. “We’re in for a whole lot of hurt,” Fauci told The Washington Post late Friday, predicting a long and potentially deadly winter unless there’s an “abrupt change” — prompting Trump to suggest he planned to fire the scientist after the election.

But Birx’s daily missives go much further, revealing how much the administration’s internal reports are in direct conflict with Trump’s public pronouncements that downplay the seriousness of the threat and erroneously suggest few people are dying. They also speak to the increasing desperation of health officials to spotlight the risks of a pandemic that is forecast to take thousands more lives as the weather worsens unless people change their behaviors.

The increasingly dire tone of her reports has gotten little traction, according to an administration official who works with Birx and spoke on the condition of anonymity to share sensitive information. “She feels like she’s being ignored,” the official said.

Birx’s message “has been urgent for weeks,” said another administration official, “as has the plea for the administration to ask the American people to use masks, avoid gatherings and socially distance, basically since it became apparent that we were heading into a third surge.”

The report hits hard on the worsening situation: “Cases are rapidly rising in nearly 30 percent of all USA counties, the highest number of county hotspots we have seen with this pandemic,” it said. “Half of the United States is in

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Gov. Mike DeWine pleads for Ohioans to rally to fight ‘common enemy’ as COVID cases surge

ABC News Corona Virus Government. Response

Ohio records a record number of new coronavirus cases on Friday.

Facing an alarming increase in new COVID-19 cases in his state, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine pleaded in an open letter for residents to come together, regardless of political affiliation, to fight a “common enemy” that has claimed nearly 230,000 lives in America.

DeWine released a video Sunday reading a letter he penned to Ohioans stressing the urgency of joining forces to keep the virus at bay until there is a vaccine.

The Republican governor began the video by appearing in a face mask and conceded that his request comes as Americans are “more divided than any of us can ever remember.”

“Today and for some time to come we also share a common enemy, one that cares not whether we vote for Donald Trump or Joe Biden, an enemy that is relentless and now clearly on the march,” DeWine said.

He implored Ohioans to immediately pull together and focus on fighting the virus, saying “the stakes could not be higher” and that “time is not on our side.”

PHOTO: Republican Gubernatorial-elect Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine gives his victory speech after winning the Ohio gubernatorial race at the Ohio Republican Party's election night party on Nov. 6, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio.

DeWine’s call to arms came after Ohio posted a record high 3,845 newly reported cases of coronavirus on Friday, according to the Ohio Department of Health. In the past month, the state has more-than-doubled its number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients and seen its positivity rate for cases nearly tripled from 2.7% in mid-September to nearly 7% now.

Even as DeWine released his video, Ohio reported another 3,303 new cases on Sunday with two additional deaths and 88 more hospitalizations. DeWine said the contagion has killed nearly 5,300 Ohioans.

“Now it’s been said one can find common ground only by moving to higher ground. Now is the time to move to that higher ground,” DeWine said. “We must come together, come together as Ohioans have always done. We must put the past behind us to move forward.”

DeWine also called on Congress to quickly pass a new bipartisan COVID-19 relief package that has been stalled due to a disagreement between Republicans and Democrats over the amount of money needed to prop up the sluggish U.S. economy and fund efforts to slow the virus, which has been raging across the country.

October marked the second-highest month on record for daily cases in the United States with more than 1.8 million new cases, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The nation reported 99,321 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, a record-high for single-day new cases, according to the Johns Hopkins data.

Ohio’s seven-day average of new cases is 2,984.

The data from October shows that 30 states and Puerto Rico reported record-high COVID-19 cases, 22

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Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty To Criminal Charges Over Opioid Sales

US drugmaker Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to three criminal charges over its intense drive to push sales of the prescription opioid OxyContin, which stoked a nationwide addiction crisis, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

Purdue also agreed to $8.3 billion in fines, damages and forfeitures to settle the criminal case against it, the department said.

In a separate agreement, the billionaire Sackler family, which built Purdue to a pharmaceutical giant on the back of lucrative sales of OxyContin, agreed to pay $225 million to resolve civil liability charges filed by the Justice Department.

“Purdue, through greed and violation of the law, prioritized money over the health and well-being of patients,” said FBI assistant director Steven D’Antuono.

Purdue, which filed for bankruptcy protection last year, pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and two counts of violating kickback laws over its marketing and sales of OxyContin and two other hydrocodone-based treatments, which involved encouraging distributors and doctors to aggressively push the highly addictive drugs to consumers.

Headquarters of Purdue Pharma LP, the maker of the painkiller OxyContin, in Stamford, Connecticut Headquarters of Purdue Pharma LP, the maker of the painkiller OxyContin, in Stamford, Connecticut Photo: AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY

Even after paying $600 million for falsely marketing the painkiller as “less addictive,” the Justice Department said, Purdue ratched up its sales drive and developed new addictive applications which it marketed through a network of 100,000 prescribing doctors and nurse practitioners.

Among them were thousands of hyper-prescribers that Purdue “knew or should have known were prescribing opioids for uses many of which were not for a medically accepted indication, were unsafe, ineffective, and medically unnecessary,” or which were resold on the black market, the charges said.

To encourage them Purdue had a program dubbed “Evolve to Excellence” which offered financial and other incentives, particularly offering doctors lucrative speaking gigs, which amounted to kickbacks for pumping out more prescriptions of the company’s drugs.

Its activities, combined with those of other prescription opioid producers and distributors, fed an epidemic of addiction. Millions of Americans became dependent on the painkillers while the drugmakers reaped billions of dollars in profits.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 500,000 Americans have died of opioid overdoses — both prescription and non-prescription — since 1999.

In a statement, Steven Miller, Purdue’s chairman since 2018, said the company “deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice.”

Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen(C) announces that Purdue Pharma has agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges over its sales of the addictive prescription opioid OxyContin, which fed a national addiction epidemic Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen(C) announces that Purdue Pharma has agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges over its sales of the addictive prescription opioid OxyContin, which fed a national addiction epidemic Photo: POOL / YURI GRIPAS

“Purdue today is a very different company. We have made significant changes to our leadership, operations, governance, and oversight,” he added.

Purdue also faces billions of dollars in claims from state and local authorities around the country, and in September 2019 filed for bankruptcy to fend off more legal claims against it.

Because of the bankruptcy and competing claims from litigants and creditors, the Justice Department admitted it might not

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