Birx warns Trump administration ‘aggressive action’ must be taken on COVID-19

Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, wrote in an internal report shared with White House officials on Monday that the Trump administration must take “much more aggressive action” in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Birx warned that “cases are rapidly rising in nearly 30 percent of all USA counties, the highest number of county hotspots we have seen with this pandemic,” The Washington Post reports. In many areas, testing is “flat or declining” but the number of cases is increasing, Birx wrote, and the country is “entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic … leading to increasing mortality. 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.”

President Trump has been claiming the U.S. is “rounding the turn” on the virus, and in the report, Birx expressly contradicts Trump, warning against huge gatherings like his campaign rallies. One administration official told the Post that Birx has been sending “urgent” messages like this for weeks, and has been pleading with Trump staffers 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.”

Another administration official told the Post that Birx feels “like she’s being ignored,” especially since Trump has been persuaded by his new medical adviser, radiologist Scott Atlas, that herd immunity is the way to go. Birx has been challenging Atlas in meetings, the Post reports, and has spent the last few weeks traveling to virus hot spots and asking health officials to shutter restaurants and bars and make masks mandatory. Read more at The Washington Post.

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Fauci warns of COVID-19 surge, opposes Trump’s response

‘It’s not a good situation,’ said Fauci

President Donald Trump’s repeated stance that the United States is “rounding the turn” on the coronavirus global pandemic has increased concerns among the government’s top health experts.

Many have warned that the country is heading towards a long and potentially deadly winter with “an unprepared government unwilling to make tough choices,” according to The Washington Post.

Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s leading infectious-disease expert, warned in a wide-ranging interview late Friday of what’s to come for the country in the winter months during the pandemic.

“We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. It’s not a good situation,” Fauci said. “All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.”

Read More: Fauci advocates mask mandate amid COVID-19 surge across US

Fauci’s stern warnings come in response to the number of maskless Trump rallies across the country, and cities experiencing record surges in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. 13 battleground states have reported rising coronavirus cases including Michigan, Texas, Florida, and Wisconsin.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on September 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. The committee is examining the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Alex Edelman-Pool/Getty Images)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on September 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. The committee is examining the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Alex Edelman-Pool/Getty Images)

Fauci said the United States needed to make an “abrupt change” in its public health practices and behaviors in response to the virus. He said the country could surpass 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day and predicted fatalities in the next coming weeks.

His response comes as the country hit a new daily record Friday with more than 98,000 confirmed cases, according to The Washington Post.

During his campaign stop in Waterford Township, Mich., Trump downplayed the virus and mocked those who take it seriously, saying that some doctors record more COVID-19 deaths than others because they receive more money.

Read More: White House vetted celebrities to help president ‘defeat coronavirus despair’

“I mean our doctors are very smart people. So what they do is they say, ‘I’m sorry but everybody dies of COVID,’ ” Trump said.

By contrast, the Biden-Harris campaign has taken strides to follow protocols by wearing masks in public and having socially distanced events. Harris cancelled travel for several days when two people who travelled with her tested positive in October, as reported by NPR. When asked about the difference in approaches, Fauci commented that Biden’s campaign “is taking it

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Fauci warns of covid-19 surge, offers blunt assessment of Trump’s response

President Trump’s repeated assertions the United States is “rounding the turn” on the novel coronavirus have increasingly alarmed the government’s top health experts, who say the country is heading into a long and potentially deadly winter with an unprepared government unwilling to make tough choices.

“We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. It’s not a good situation,” Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s leading infectious-disease expert, said in a wide-ranging interview late Friday. “All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.”

Fauci, a leading member of the government’s coronavirus response, said the United States needed to make an “abrupt change” in public health practices and behaviors. He said the country could surpass 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day and predicted rising deaths in the coming weeks. He spoke as the nation set a new daily record Friday with more than 98,000 cases. As hospitalizations increase, deaths are also ticking up, with more than 1,000 reported Wednesday and Thursday, bringing the total to more than 229,000 since the start of the pandemic, according to health data analyzed by The Washington Post.

Fauci’s blunt warnings come as Trump has rallied in states and cities experiencing record surges in infections and hospitalizations in a last-ditch effort to convince voters he has successfully managed the pandemic. He has held maskless rallies with thousands of supporters, often in violation of local health mandates.

Even as new infections climb in 42 states, Trump has downplayed the virus or mocked those who take it seriously. “Covid-19, covid, covid, covid,” he said during one event, lamenting that the news media gives it too much attention. In another rally, he baselessly said that U.S. doctors record more deaths from covid-19, the disease the coronavirus causes, than other nations because they get more money.

“I mean our doctors are very smart people. So what they do is they say, ‘I’m sorry but everybody dies of covid,’ ” Trump said Friday at a rally in Waterford Township, Mich., without offering any evidence.

Fauci said former vice president Joe Biden’s campaign “is taking it seriously from a public health perspective.” Trump, Fauci said, is “looking at it from a different perspective.” He said that perspective was “the economy and reopening the country.”

[Tracking coronavirus cases across the U.S.]

Fauci, who once took a starring role in the response and briefed the president almost every day as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, described a disjointed response as cases surge. Several current and former senior administration officials said the White House is almost entirely focused on a vaccine, even though experts warn it is unlikely to be a silver bullet that ends the pandemic immediately since it will take months under the best of circumstances to inoculate tens of millions of people to achieve herd immunity.

Officials told governors on a call Friday that

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FBI warns ransomware assault threatens US health care system

BOSTON (AP) — Federal agencies warned that cybercriminals could unleash a wave of data-scrambling extortion attempts against the U.S. health care system, an effort that, if successful, could paralyze hospital information systems just as nationwide cases of COVID-19 are spiking.

In a joint alert Wednesday, the FBI and two federal agencies said they had credible information of “an increased and imminent cybercrime threat” to U.S. hospitals and health care providers. The alert said malicious groups are targeting the sector with attacks aiming for “data theft and disruption of healthcare services.”

The impact of the expected attack wave is difficult to assess.


It involves a particular strain of ransomware, which scrambles a target’s data into gibberish until they pay up. Previous such attacks on health care facilities have impeded care and, in one case in Germany, led to the death of a patient, but such consequences are still rare.

The federal warning itself could help stave off the worst consequences, either by leading hospitals to take additional precautions or by expanding efforts to knock down the systems cybercriminals use to launch such attacks.

The offensive coincides with the U.S. presidential election, although there is no immediate indication the cybercriminals involved are motivated by anything but profit. The federal alert was co-authored by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Independent security experts say the ransomware, called Ryuk, has already impacted at least five U.S. hospitals this week and could potentially affect hundreds more. Four health care institutions have been reported hit by ransomware so far this week, three belonging to the St. Lawrence Health System in upstate New York and the Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

Sky Lakes acknowledged the ransomware attack in an online statement, saying it had no evidence that patient information was compromised. It said emergency and urgent care “remain available.”

The St. Lawrence system also acknowledged a Tuesday ransomware attack, noting in a statement released Thursday that no patient or employee data appeared to have been accessed or compromised. Matthew Denner, the emergency services director for St. Lawrence County, told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise that the hospital owner instructed the county to divert ambulances from two of the affected hospitals for a few hours Tuesday. The company did not return requests for comment on that report.

Alex Holden, CEO of Hold Security, which has been closely tracking Ryuk for more than a year, said the attack could be unprecedented in magnitude for the U.S. In a statement, Charles Carmakal, chief technical officer of the security firm Mandiant, said the cyberthreat could be the “most significant” the country has ever seen.

The U.S. has seen a plague of ransomware over the past 18 months or so, with major cities from Baltimore to Atlanta hit and local governments and schools walloped especially hard.

In September, a ransomware attack hobbled all 250 U.S. facilities of the hospital chain Universal Health Services, forcing doctors and nurses to rely on paper and pencil

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FBI warns of “imminent” ransomware attacks on hospital systems

Federal agencies warned that cybercriminals are unleashing a wave of data-scrambling extortion attempts against the U.S. healthcare system designed to lock up hospital information systems, which could hurt patient care just as nationwide cases of COVID-19 are spiking.

In a joint alert Wednesday, the FBI and two federal agencies warned that they had “credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers.” The alert said malicious groups are targeting the sector with attacks that produce “data theft and disruption of healthcare services.”

The cyberattacks involve ransomware, which scrambles data into gibberish that can only be unlocked with software keys provided once targets pay up. Independent security experts say it has already hobbled at least five U.S. hospitals this week and could impact hundreds more.

The offensive by a Russian-speaking criminal gang coincides with the U.S. presidential election, although there is no immediate indication they were motivated by anything but profit.

“We are experiencing the most significant cyber security threat we’ve ever seen in the United States,” Charles Carmakal, chief technical officer of the cybersecurity firm Mandiant, said in a statement.

Alex Holden, CEO of Hold Security, which has been closely tracking the ransomware in question for more than a year, agreed that the unfolding offensive is unprecedented in magnitude for the U.S. given its timing in the heat of a contentions presidential election and the worst global pandemic in a century.

The federal alert was co-authored by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Agence France-Presse notes that the agencies urged U.S. healthcare providers to take “timely and reasonable precautions” such as patching their operating systems, software and firmware as soon as possible and running antivirus and anti-malware scans regularly.

The cybercriminals launching the attacks use a strain of ransomware known as Ryuk, which is seeded through a network of zombie computers called Trickbot that Microsoft began trying to counter earlier this month.U.S. Cyber Command has also reportedly taken action against Trickbot.

While Microsoft has had considerable success knocking its command-and-control servers offline through legal action, analysts say criminals have still been finding ways to spread Ryuk.

Recent attacks

The U.S. has seen a plague of ransomware over the past 18 months or so, with major cities from Baltimore to Atlanta hit and local governments and schools hit especially hard.

In September, a ransomware attack hobbled all 250 U.S. facilities of the hospital chain Universal Health Services, forcing doctors and nurses to rely on paper and pencil for record-keeping and slowing lab work. Employees described chaotic conditions impeding patient care, including mounting emergency room waits and the failure of wireless vital-signs monitoring equipment.

Also in September, the first known fatality related to ransomware occurred in Duesseldorf, Germany, when an IT system failure forced a critically ill patient to be routed to a hospital in another city.

Holden said he alerted federal law enforcement Friday after monitoring infection attempts at a number of hospitals, some of which may have

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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.

ITALY PROTESTS OVER LATEST CORONAVIRUS CRACKDOWN TURNS VIOLENT

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.

INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT WARNS FRANCE HAS ‘LOST CONTROL’ 

“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.

SPAIN ORDERS SECOND NATIONWIDE STATE OF EMERGENCY

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.

CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE

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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FBI warns ransomware assault threatens US healthcare system

BOSTON (AP) — Federal agencies warned that cybercriminals are unleashing a wave of data-scrambling extortion attempts against the U.S. healthcare system designed to lock up hospital information systems, which could hurt patient care just as nationwide cases of COVID-19 are spiking.

In a joint alert Wednesday, the FBI and two federal agencies warned that they had “credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers.” The alert said malicious groups are targeting the sector with attacks that produce “data theft and disruption of healthcare services.”

The cyberattacks involve ransomware, which scrambles data into gibberish that can only be unlocked with software keys provided once targets pay up. Independent security experts say it has already hobbled at least five U.S. hospitals this week, and could potentially impact hundreds more.

The offensive by a Russian-speaking criminal gang coincides with the U.S. presidential election, although there is no immediate indication they were motivated by anything but profit. “We are experiencing the most significant cyber security threat we’ve ever seen in the United States,” Charles Carmakal, chief technical officer of the cybersecurity firm Mandiant, said in a statement.

Alex Holden, CEO of Hold Security, which has been closely tracking the ransomware in question for more than a year, agreed that the unfolding offensive is unprecedented in magnitude for the U.S. given its timing in the heat of a contentions presidential election and the worst global pandemic in a century.

The federal alert was co-authored by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.


The cybercriminals launching the attacks use a strain of ransomware known as Ryuk, which is seeded through a network of zombie computers called Trickbot that Microsoft began trying to counter earlier in October. U.S. Cyber Command has also reportedly taken action against Trickbot. While Microsoft has had considerable success knocking its command-and-control servers offline through legal action, analysts say criminals have still been finding ways to spread Ryuk.

The U.S. has seen a plague of ransomware over the past 18 months or so, with major cities from Baltimore to Atlanta hit and local governments and schools hit especially hard.

In September, a ransomware attack hobbled all 250 U.S. facilities of the hospital chain Universal Health Services, forcing doctors and nurses to rely on paper and pencil for record-keeping and slowing lab work. Employees described chaotic conditions impeding patient care, including mounting emergency room waits and the failure of wireless vital-signs monitoring equipment.

Also in September, the first known fatality related to ransomware occurred in Duesseldorf, Germany, when an IT system failure forced a critically ill patient to be routed to a hospital in another city.

Holden said he alerted federal law enforcement Friday after monitoring infection attempts at a number of hospitals, some of which may have beaten back infections. The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

He said the group was demanding ransoms well above $10 million per target and that criminals involved on the

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Dr. Fauci warns of a ‘whole lot of pain’ due to coronavirus pandemic in the coming months

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNBC in an interview Wednesday that the United States is “going in the wrong direction” as coronavirus cases rise in 47 states and infected patients overwhelm hospitals across the country.

“If things do not change, if they continue on the course we’re on, there’s gonna be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases and hospitalizations, and deaths,” the White House coronavirus taskforce member said in an interview Wednesday evening on “The News with Shepard Smith.”

States in the northeast held the virus in check over the summer, but are seeing cases climb again. New York topped half a million confirmed cases while hospitalizations in New Jersey crossed 1,000 for the first time since July.

Fauci noted, however, that cities like New York and Philadelphia are more equipped to deal with the surge, whereas locations in the northwest and heartland are going to have a more difficult time with the pandemic.

“They never had the kind of hospital and intensive care facility and flexibility that some of the larger hospitals in larger cities have,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “They’re concerned that if the trajectory continues, they may be in a position where they are going to be strapped for things like intensive care beds,” said Fauci.

In the Midwest, cases and hospitalizations are surging at record numbers. Wisconsin had a 7-day positivity rate of 28% while Minnesota reported its highest number of Covid-19 hospitalizations to-date. Hospitalizations have tripled in less than three weeks in El Paso, Texas. Joel Hendricks, the Chief Medical Officer at El Paso’s University Medical Center even warned about the possibility of rationing hospital care there during an interview with NBC’S Gabe Gutierrez.

“Rationing of care is the worst thing doctors ever want to talk about,” said Hendricks. “Having said that, we have looked at that, we’re in the process of looking at that.”

Dr. Fauci told Smith that he doesn’t foresee the United States taking the same lockdown measures that Melbourne, Australia took to curb its summer spike in cases. Melbourne only reopened Wednesday after spending three months shutdown.

“There is very little appetite for a lockdown in this country,” said Fauci. “There’s going to be major pushback both from above and at the local level, however, what Melbourne did, what Australia did as a country, was very successful.”

Dr. Fauci suggested doubling down on masks, distancing, and avoiding crowds and congregations amid Americans’ coronavirus fatigue, and added that the country would “be much better than we’re doing right now.”

For more of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s interview with Shepard Smith, watch the full interview above.

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Hours after Lightfoot announces new COVID-19 restrictions, Birx warns during Chicago visit that closing public spaces won’t be enough

CHICAGO — Just hours after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced new restrictions on businesses in response to rising COVID-19 cases, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx cautioned that closing public spaces won’t be enough to stop the illness’s spread.



a person wearing a suit and tie: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks before delivering her budget address on October 21, 2020, in Council Chambers at City Hall.


© Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks before delivering her budget address on October 21, 2020, in Council Chambers at City Hall.

Birx said it’s possible some of the recent spread is happening in people’s homes, during family gatherings, as the weather gets colder. She spoke at a news conference following a private meeting with leaders from Rush University System for Health, Northwestern Medicine and the Illinois and Chicago departments of public health at Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Thursday.

“It won’t be as simple as closing public spaces because public spaces … were very safe over the summer and probably remain safe,” Birx said. “This is really something that has happened in the last three to four weeks. What has happened in the last three to four weeks is that people have moved their social gatherings indoors.”

On Thursday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a curfew for nonessential businesses and no more indoor service at bars that don’t serve food. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has also announced tighter restrictions on bars, restaurants and gatherings in suburban counties with high COVID-19 positivity rates.

On Thursday the state announced 4,942 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, and the statewide rolling positivity rate stood at 5.7%, up from 3.7% two weeks earlier. In Illinois, 2,463 patients were in the hospital with COVID-19, according to Thursday figures, up from 1,812 two weeks earlier.

Birx also said Thursday that she advocated for weekly testing while meeting privately with hospital and public health leaders.

She said, at the news conference, that finding the “silent cases” and asymptomatic cases is “critical in preventing community spread.”

She recommended asking certain community members — such as community college students, teachers or hospital workers — if they would be willing to be tested weekly. She said universities that have tested students weekly have had more success limiting infections than those that only tested students who had been directly exposed to COVID-19 or had symptoms.

Birx said testing, along with mask-wearing and social distancing, are key to getting the spread of COVID-19 under control.

When asked what she’s doing to get President Donald Trump to understand the importance of social distancing and mask-wearing, she said: “My public health guidance is consistent no matter who I’m speaking to. I think you can see there’s a diversity of how people relate to that message.”

———

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New Study Warns of Negative Impact COVID-19 is Having on Cancer Screenings, Diagnosis and Treatment

Co-Authored by Florida Cancer Specialists Oncologists Lucio Gordan, MD and Michael Diaz, MD, Study Predicts Significant Increase in Late-Stage Cancers and Potentially More Cancer Deaths

President & Managing Physician Lucio Gordan, MD; Assistant Managing Physician Michael Diaz, MD
President & Managing Physician Lucio Gordan, MD; Assistant Managing Physician Michael Diaz, MD
President & Managing Physician Lucio Gordan, MD; Assistant Managing Physician Michael Diaz, MD

Fort Myers, Fla., Oct. 28, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Lucio Gordan, MD, President and Managing Physician of Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute (FCS) and FCS Assistant Managing Physician Michael Diaz, MD are co-authors of a new national study that details the devastating effect the COVID-19 crisis has had on cancer screenings, diagnosis and treatment. Conducted for the Community Oncology Alliance (COA) by Avalere Health and in collaboration with Debra Patt, MD, PhD, MBA, FASCO, executive vice president, policy and strategic initiatives at Texas Oncology, the study is scheduled to be published in the November issue of the journal JCO Clinical Cancer Informatics. Its findings show a substantial decrease in the number of cancer screenings, diagnosis and treatment for senior adults and Medicare beneficiaries in 2020.

Gordan, Diaz and colleagues were part of the study’s research team of oncologists who reported that they are already seeing patients being diagnosed with later stage cancers, which require more complex treatment and often result in higher morbidity and mortality rates. “In the early months of the pandemic,” Dr. Gordan explained, “many people chose or had to delay or even skip regular screenings, such as mammograms, prostate exam, PSA testing or colonoscopies, among others, for various types of cancer. This has resulted in later diagnoses for some patients and delays in beginning treatment. Oncologists are preparing their practices for significant impact in cancer patient outcomes due to these delays.”

Dr. Diaz, who also serves as President of COA, concurs. “If cancers are not diagnosed at an early stage, we could face rising death rates for several years to come,” he said. “It is critical that adults with a family history of cancer and others who may be experiencing symptoms do not delay their screenings for the fear of being exposed to or contracting coronavirus. Medical practices now have numerous strategies in place to protect the safety and health of patients, doctors, nurses and other staff members.”

One positive revealed in the study was the rapid adoption of telehealth and other strategies by community oncology practices, such as Florida Cancer Specialists. Dr. Gordan said, “Community oncologists and their team members showed incredible resilience and resolve to deal with this severe crisis, by adopting telehealth very quickly, reorganizing workflows, enhancing safety processes at their clinics, and migrating staff to work from home, among other strategies. Although a decrease in services was inevitable, the resolve of these practitioners and staff handled and avoided what could have been a much worse situation.”

The study concludes that further analysis will be needed to evaluate the ongoing consequences of COVID-19 and its probable long-term impact on cancer care and outcomes.

The full study can be found online

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