by Daryl Slusher

For new readers of the Independent, the first two installments of our coronavirus timeline can be found the Categories section under Coronavirus in the in the right hand column, or at these two links. “I Don’t Take Responsibility At All” and “Tired of Winning – Trump Coronavirus April Timeline.”

Monday April 20.

Kemp announces reopening of Georgia. Even as the number of coronavirus cases and deaths in hard-hit Georgia continue to rise sharply, Governor Brian Kemp announces that Georgia will lead the way in reopening.  As reported by 11 Alive in Atlanta, “Gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians and their schools, and massage therapists can reopen on Friday, April 24.” Then,“Subject to the specific social distancing and sanitation mandate, theaters, private social clubs, and restaurant dine-in services will be allowed to reopen on Monday, April 27.” Kemp also made clear that his order “means local action cannot be taken that is more or less restrictive.” Kemp also emphasized that his order overruled any stricter actions local officials had taken or might take. Several Mayors in Georgia, including Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, said they were not consulted on Kemp’s order and said they opposed it.

Kemp, however, may have had a smaller, non-Georgian audience in mind, saying, “We appreciate the leadership and share in the president’s desire to reopen the economy and get Americans back to work.”

A study by the CDC found that the coronavirus in Georgia is having, and likely will have, a dramatically uneven impact on African Americans. Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick, a cancer surgeon and also the president of Howard University, who was not involved in the study, told the New York Times, “A lot of it may come from the fact that African-Americans are essential employees in our system. Everything from bus drivers to health care workers and cleaning services, they are on the front line, and therefore are far more likely to be exposed.”

800,970 US Cases. 42,970 Deaths.

Tuesday April 21

Cuomo visits White House. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo visits the White House and meets with Trump. Trump invites him to attend his afternoon press briefing, but. Cuomo declines. Cuomo also manages to slip away without being photographed with the President.

Head of federal search for vaccine removed from post. The medical journalism website Stat reports, “Director of U.S. agency key to vaccine development leaves role suddenly amid coronavirus pandemic.” This was Rick Bright, director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). Stat said Bright “will instead move into a narrower role at the National Institutes of Health.” Bright had been the director since 2016, meaning late in the Obama Administration.

The Stat report, by Nicholas Florko, also noted that Bright’s departure “couldn’t come at a more inopportune time for the office, which invests in drugs, devices, and other technologies that help address infectious disease outbreaks and which has been at the center of the government’s coronavirus pandemic response.”

Redfield Roams Outside the Tent. A Washington Post quotes CDC Director Robert Redfield on a potential second coronavirus wave come winter, “There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through.” Attention focuses on Redfield’s prediction that a second wave in the winter could be “more difficult,” and few, if any question his use of the past tense in regard to the current coronavirus crisis.

The Bright departure, Redfield’s comments, and Governor’s Kemp’s order in Georgia provide grist for the next day’s briefing.

827,358 US Cases. 45,447 Deaths.

Wednesday April 22.

Things Get Even More Difficult for Redfield. Wednesday morning Trump tweets about the Post story quoting Redfield. “CDC Director was totally misquoted by Fake News @CNN on Covid 19. He will be putting out a statement.” 

Trump gets the source of the quote wrong, attributing it to CNN (instead of the Washington Post) where he likely saw a follow-up report. By the afternoon briefing he gets that straight when he calls Redfield to the podium for his statement.

Removed Doctor Speaks Out. Rick Bright, removed yesterday as head of BARDA, releases a blunt, whistleblower style statement. “Yesterday, I was removed from my positions” as Director of BARDA “by the Administration and involuntarily transferred to a more limited and less impactful position at the National Institutes of Health.” 

Bright continues, “I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit. I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”

Bright specifically mentions “chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.” Trump has repeatedly promoted “hydroxychloroquine” as a cure for the virus, urging patients to use it with the same words with which he appealed to African American voters in his 2016 campaign, “What have you got to lose?” 

Bright added, that he was willing to “think ‘outside the box,’“ on experimental treatments, “I rightly resisted efforts to provide an unproven drug on demand to the American public,” drugs with “potentially serious risks. . . including increased mortality observed in some recent studies in patients with COVID-19.” Instead, continued Bright, he “insisted” that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine be “provided only to hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19 while under the supervision of a physician.”

Rick Bright

The departing doctor added poignantly as he moved on to a lesser role, “My professional background has prepared me for a moment like this — to confront and defeat a deadly virus that threatens Americans and people around the globe.” And, “Sidelining me in the middle of this pandemic and placing politics and cronyism ahead of science puts lives at risk and stunts national efforts to safely and effectively address this urgent public health crisis.”

Campaign team presents bad poll numbers to Trump. According to a later report in the Washington Post,April 22 was also the day, that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, his campaign manager Brad Parscale and others on his campaign team presented him with polling data which both showed Democratic candidate Joe Biden leading in key swing states and provided evidence that the president’s daily press briefings were driving down his approval ratings. According to the Post’s sources, the Kushner and Parscale hoped the poll numbers might persuade Trump to abandon or cut back on the daily briefings. 

It didn’t work. Instead, the Post reported, Trump flew into a rage, directed particularly at his campaign manager, and said he didn’t believe the polls. They later made up.

An Even Livelier Than Usual Daily Briefing.

Redfield’s Statement. At the daily briefing Trump quickly brings up the Redfield quote: “I do want to mention a man who’s done a very good job for us: Dr. Robert Redfield. He was totally misquoted in the media on a statement about the fall season and the virus.  Totally misquoted.  I spoke to him.  He said it was ridiculous.  He was talking about the flu and corona coming together at the same time.  And corona could be just some little flare-ups that we’ll take care of.  We’re going to knock it out.  We’ll knock it out fast.  But that’s what he was referring to: coming together at the same time.” Trump then asks Redfield to “to come up, say a couple of words just to straighten that out.” As Redfield heads to the podium, however, Trump then semi-retreats. He reiterates that “the Washington Post was totally inaccurate,” but then shifts the focus to the headline, “ the headline was ridiculous, which is — as I say, that’s fake news.”

Then perhaps reflecting an arrangement he and Trump had reached, Redfield then focuses on the Post’s use of the word “worse” in its headline and maintains that is different than “more difficult.” He also, however, affirms that the Post quoted him accurately.. 

Trump asked about vaccine doctor’s removal. Later, Jonathan Karl of ABC News asks Trump about Bright: “He says he has been pushed out of his job because he raised questions about hydroxychloroquine and some of your directives on that.  Was he pushed out of that job?”

Trump: “ never heard of him,” Trump answers. You just mentioned the name. I never heard of him. When did this this happen?”

Karl: “This happened today.”

Tump: “Never heard of him. If the guy says he was pushed out of a job, maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t. You’d have to hear the other side. I don’t know who he is.”

Trump Abandons Kemp. Also, during a ramble in the question and answer segment, Trump praises New York Governor Mario Cuomo and California Governor Gavin Newsom, then volunteers: 

“I told the governor of Georgia Brian Kemp that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities.” After a detour to praise the “the incredible people of Georgia,” Trump adds “At the same time, he must do what he thinks is right.  I want him to do what he thinks is right, but I disagree with him on what he’s doing though,” not going so far as to ask him to hold back.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp

Trump then reiterated a point he has made in earlier briefings after claiming he had “total” authority over when governors could reopen their state, “But I want to let the governors do — now, if I see something totally egregious, totally out of line, I’ll do,” then abandoned that thought and continued, “But I think spas and beauty salons and tattoo parlors and barbershops in phase one — we’re going to have phase two very soon.  I think it’s too soon.”

(Two days later, the Associated Press, citing two unnamed “administration officials,” reports that both President Trump and Vice-Presidant Mike Pence gave Kemp a “green light. . . in separate private conversations with the Republican governor both before Kemp announced his plan to ease coronavirus restrictions and after it was unveiled.”)

856,823 US Cases. 48,050 Deaths.

Thursday April 23

Fauci says US not yet at adequate level on testing. As virtually every single governor and health expert maintain, the US is still sorely lacking in testing capacity. At the daily briefing a reporter asks Trump: “In a new interview today with Time Magazine, (Coronavirus Task Force) Dr. (Anthony) Fauci said that the U.S. is not in a situation where we can say we are where we want to be, with regard to testing capacity.  He said we need much more testing capacity, as well as tests.  So why do you keep saying we have a tremendous testing capacity?”

Trump doesn’t answer directly, but expands at length and insists,  “We’re very advanced in testing.  Other countries are calling us to find out what are we doing.” 

Then, asked whether he agrees with Fauci, Trump replies, “No, I think we’re doing a great job in testing.  I don’t agree.  If he said that, I don’t agree with him.”

Kemp gets it in the gut again. During questioning Trump also criticizes Georgia Governor Kemp again and actually provides some specifics, “And I wasn’t happy with Brian Kemp.  I wasn’t at all happy, because — and I could have done something about it if I wanted to, but I’m saying let the governors do it.  But I wasn’t happy with Brian Kemp.  Spas, beauty parlors, tattoo parlors ”

The reporter then persists with in asking whether Trump changed his thinking:

Trump: “I want them to open, and I want him to open as soon as possible.  And I want the state to open.  But I wasn’t happy with Brian Kemp.  I will tell you that right now.” He then calls on another reporter.

Just to review, within a few weeks Trump claimed “total” authority over when governors could reopen their states. Then, after massive pushback, he said that despite his total power, he would give them each authority to open on their own, even though that authority was not his to give. But, (from April 14 briefing) “If they (governors) don’t do a good job, we’re going to come down on them very hard.  We’ll have no other choice.” In contrast to that vow, Trump said he disagreed strongly with Kemp’s action, but took no action to stop him.

Powerful lights and disinfectants. The really big news of the day, however, comes after Acting Under Secretary Bill Bryan, head of the Science and Technology Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security discussed research on what kills the virus and used the terms “solar light” and “disinfectants.” 

When Bryan concludes, Trump asks him, “So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you said that that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it.  And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that too.  It sounds interesting.”

“We’ll get to the right folks who could,” replies Bryan.

Not done, Trump adds, “Right.  And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute.  One minute.  And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning.  Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs.  So it would be interesting to check that.  So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with.  But it sounds — it sounds interesting to me. So we’ll see.  But the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute, that’s — that’s pretty powerful.” [Readers can review the official White House transcript here.]

Luckily for Bryan, Trump goes to media questions rather than waiting for an answer. Trump’s disinfectant comments, however, dominate the evening’s news shows, then the late night comedy shows. Numerous medical authorities rush to speak out. The disinfectant giant Lysol issues a press release telling people in no uncertain terms not to ingest their product. Health Departments in several states get calls asking if they should ingest disinfectant. 

891,650 US Cases. 50,451 Deaths.

Friday April 24

Doesn’t anybody get sarcasm? In a short exchange with reporters at the White House Trump maintains of his disinfectant remarks, “I was asking a very sarcastic question to the reporters in the room, about disinfectant on the inside.” Video of the briefing, however, shows him addressing the question to doctors and gives no hint of sarcasm. At that afternoon’s press conference Trump cuts his daily press off after 22 minutes and doesn’t take questions. The sessions routinely last between an hour and a half and two hours, and sometimes longer.

928,699 Cases. 52,490 Deaths

Saturday April 25

Saturday Night Reflections. With coverage of his his disinfectant comments dominating weekend news reports, and with some US citizens still calling Health Departments to ask if ingesting disinfectants is really safe, Trump tweets early Sunday evening: “What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately. They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!”

Cases 960,379. 54,254 Deaths.

Sunday April 26.

Hundreds of Calls. Trump’s disinfectant musings still top the news. On Sunday morning’s Face the Nation Republican Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland says, “We had hundreds of calls come in to our emergency hotline at our Health Department asking if it was right to ingest Chlorox or alcohol cleaning products, whether that was going to help them fight the virus. So we had to put out that warning to make sure that that people were not doing something like that, which would kill people that actually do it.”

Cases 987,581. 55,513 Deaths.

Monday April 27

On Again. Off Again. With disinfectant still leading the news, the day begins with a daily briefing scheduled as usual. Then the White House issues a statement saying the briefing is canceled. Then, later it’s back on, but in the Rose Garden instead of the press room.

Trump is asked, “Do you take any responsibility if someone were to die?”

He replies, “No, I don’t.” 

Also, in the Rose Garden, Trump’s medical advisers announce national testing guidelines. On even cursory examination, the guidelines leave testing to the states, or as Weija Jiang puts it on CBS News, the new guidelines are “much more a list of suggestions for states.” 

None of that stops Trump from saying, ““We are continuing to rapidly expand our capacity and confident that we have enough testing to begin reopening and the reopening process. We want to get our country open, and testing is not going to be a problem, at all.” 

Pence asked about earlier testing promise. Also at the briefing, Jonathan Karl of ABC asks Vice-President Mike Pence about his promise more than a month earlier that within a week US testing would reach four million. Pointing out the US had just reached that figure, Karl asked, “So what have you learned about what went wrong over the last month and a half or two months, and what’s going to go right now?” 

Pence replied that Karl’s question “represents a misunderstanding on your part, and frankly a lot of people in the public’s fault on the difference between having a test and the abililty to process a test.” (The ability to test has been hampered by a shortage of products needed to administer the tests, like swabs and reagents, the acquisition of which the administration has largely left to the states.)

Food Supply Crisis. Meanwhile, there is a rapidly escalating outbreak of coronavirus cases among workers in the meat packing industry — an issue advanced early and repeatedly by Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. Simultaneously the US food supply chain has broken down, with hundreds of thousands lined up in their cars at food banks, while farmers are letting crops rot in the fields — and piling up picked crops for anyone who wants them to take. The CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell presents a searing report on this situation, with O’Donnell bluntly summarizing, “It’s because of a lack of a federal plan to distribute the food.” 

One farmer explains, “People could be living off what we have to throw away.” CBS also reports that farmers, food bank operators, and state officials sought unsuccessfully to get federal officials to help “connect the over supply with the growing need.” CBS reporter Manuel Bojorquez reports that the federal government is now promising to help, but due to the number of workers out sick combined with the lack of federal coordination, “Some grocery stores could start to see meat shortages by the end of this week.”

1,011,878 Cases. 56,729 Deaths.

Tuesday April 28

Meat shortage gets Trump’s attention. The White House announces Trump will invoke the Defense Protection Act (DPA) to force meat packing plants to stay open. Trump has routinely resisted calls to invoke the DPA to organize acquisition of testing materials, ventilators, or personal protective equipment for medical workers; and ultimately did so only in isolated instances. The administration issues suggested workplace guidelines to protect workers from getting the virus, but refuses to actually require them.

Zero vs One Million. A reporter asks Trump how he squares a million cases with his prediction in late February that cases “would go down to zero.”

“Well, it will go down to zero ultimately,” replies the President.

1,036,657 Cases. 59,061 Deaths. 

  • With the deaths of April 28, the total number of American deaths from coronavirus exceeds the number of Americans who died in the war in Vietnam. 

Wednesday April 29

Kushner Declares Victory. Trump son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner appears on the morning show Fox and Friends, proclaiming a day after American coronavirus deaths exceeded the total during the war in Vietnam: “We are on the other side of the medical aspect of this. And, I think that we’ve achieved all the different milestones that are needed. So the  federal government rose to the challenge and this is a great success story. And, I think that that’s really what needs to be told.”

He adds, “I think you’ll see by June a lot of the country should be back to normal. And, the hope is by July the country’s really rocking again.”

Trump renews claim that virus will simply go away. At a meeting with corporate executives Trump predicts that the virus will go way, prompting a reporter to ask, “Without a vaccine sir why  do you think the virus will just be gone?”

Without offering specifics, Trump replies, “It’s going to go. It’s going to leave. It’s going to be gone. It’s going to be eradicated.”

This comment echoes a February 27 claim by Trump that, “It’s going to disappear. Like a miracle it will disappear.” Since then, 63,849 Americans have died from coronavirus. Trump’s new prediction also comes as April nears an end. On February 10, Trump said of April, ““A lot of people think that (coronavirus) goes away in April.” 

Dreaming wistfully of rallies. At the same meeting Trump waxes wistfully about rallies, “Hopefully in the not too distant future we’ll have some massive rallies and people will be sitting next to each other. I can’t imagine a rally where you have every fourth seat full, every six seats are empty for every one that you have full. That wouldn’t look too good. No, I hope that we are going to be able to do some good old-fashioned 25,000 person rallies.”

Americans are just too smart. Also, speaking to reporters that day in the Oval Office about election polls, Trump offers, “I don’t believe the polls,” continuing, “I believe the people of this country are smart. And I don’t think that they will put a man in who’s incompetent.”

Who Could Have Stopped It? That afternoon Trump also makes a vague claim, evidently directed at China: “This plague should never have happened. It could have been stopped. But people chose not to stop it.” 

A bit of potentially good news. Also, on Wednesday April 29, Dr. Anthony Fauci reports on early results on a study of the drug Remdesivir in treating coronavirus. Fauci says the study showed Remdesivir  has “a clearcut, significant positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery.” He calls the finding “highly significant.”

1,065,998 US Cases. 61,601 Deaths.

Thursday April 30 

Zero new cases reported in South Korea. South Korea which reported its first Covid case on the same day the United States did, announces that it had no new cases today. The US reports 31,417 new cases.

Protests in Michigan. Protestors gather, minus social distancing, at the Michigan capital to protest Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s extension of her coronavirus emergency orders. Some carry automatic weapons and some wave Confederate flags — well outside the old Confederacy. 

Federal coronavirus guidelines expire. With April ending, Trump lets federal guidelines expire, leaving further actions up to governors.

1,097,415 US Cases. Deaths 63,849.

During April, 59,762 Americans died of coronavirus. That means not have more Americans died from coronavirus than died in Vietnam, but also that more Americans died just in April than during the entire span of American involvement in Vietnam. The first American death was in 1956, the last in 1972.

Also, April was the month Trump predicted the virus “goes away.”

Friday May 1

Just Make a Deal. Before heading to Camp David for a “working weekend,” Trump tweets: “The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

1,132,295 US Cases. 65,710 Deaths

Sunday May 3

Sunday Morning Shows. Appearing on CNN Sunday morning Governor Whitmer fires back at Trump and the protestors: ““Some of the outrageousness of what happened at our capitol depicted some of the worst racism and awful parts of our history in this country,” Whitmer also pointed out that the protestors were relatively small in number. As to negotiating with the protestors, she added, ““We’re in a global pandemic. This isn’t something we just negotiate ourselves out of.”

Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan

Also on Sunday morning, Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. Asked about the Michigan protestors, she said, “It’s devastatingly worrisome to me, personally, because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a co-morbid condition and they have a serious or a very — or an unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives. So we need to protect each other at the same time we’re voicing our discontent.”

Birx was also asked about the death toll exceeding 60,000 and replied, “our projections have always been between 100,000 and 240,000 American lives lost, and that’s with full mitigation and us learning from each other how to social distance.”

Trump at the Lincoln Memorial. Later Sunday Trump holds a town hall with Fox News, seated in the Lincoln Memorial beneath the statue of Abraham Lincoln. In response to a question about why he uses “descriptive words that could be classified as bullying,” he responds, ““I am greeted with a hostile press, the likes of which no president has ever seen. The closest would be that gentleman right up there (pointing at the Lincoln statue). They always said, ‘Lincoln, nobody got treated worse than Lincoln.’ I believe I am treated worse.”

1,186,023 US cases. 68,394 Deaths.

Figures on cases and deaths come from the University of Virginia COVID-19 Surveillance Dashboard.

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