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Clashes emerge over response to COVID-19

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NEW YORK — Controversy over COVID-19 protocols seems to be spreading as fast as the virus itself — as is concern over who is getting infected. Most notably, of course, was news that President Donald Trump was stricken with the virus and was flown to Walter Reed Hospital for monitoring. Many of the president’s inner circle, including top aides Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller, also tested positive as well as former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who was part of the president’s debate prep team.

The confirmed cases at the highest levels of the U.S. government coincided with the White House and Food and Drug Administration being at loggerheads over COVID-19 vaccine guidelines, which took another turn recently as the FDA released vaccine recommendations despite opposition from the White House.

The FDA is advising two months of monitoring after one receives a final doses of any potential vaccine, which could thwart Trump’s desire that a vaccine be approved before the election.

Despite the consensus of the scientific community, Trump has repeatedly said vaccines could be available before November 3 — which is contrary to the stricter FDA guidelines. But this feud has created a backlash against efforts to rush a vaccine, which, according to most reports, is viewed by the public as rooted in politics, not science.

Now, resulting from this backlash, the White House appears to be backing away from the president’s opposition to the guidance. The FDA has since posted its updated, stricter safety and efficacy guidance on the agency’s website.

“The White House’s reversal on this is a major victory and an important step toward restoring the public trust that President Trump has done so much to erode with his misinformation and political pressure,” said Eli Zupnick, spokesman for Accountable Pharma. “We thank the career staff at the FDA who understand that science and public health, not President Trump’s political interests, must guide the government’s vaccine approval process. And we urge the FDA leadership to stand strong with their staff in the face of the certain Trump tantrum and to continue putting patients and public health ahead of Trump’s political interests.”

The FDA is not the only agency to update its COVID guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now cautions that the coronavirus can be spread via airborne transmission. The updated guidance, available on the CDC’s “How It Spreads” page, illustrates that people who are more than six feet away from each other can still become infected from small droplets and particles that linger in the air, especially in enclosed spaces that have poor ventilation.

The revised updates come after the CDC briefly updated its website to warn about airborne transmission last month, but then removed the information pending further review as to the accuracy of its findings. Now, however, the CDC compares the potential transmission to different viral infections such as tuberculosis, measles and chickenpox, all of which can be spread through the air.


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