WHO chief wants collaboration with U.S. to continue despite Trump terminating relationship

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during an event in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday, May 27. Christopher Black / orld Health Organization via AFP - Getty Images

The head of the World Health Organization said Monday the U.S. role in the health agency's work has been "immense," and he wants that collaboration to continue despite President Donald Trump announcing last week that the U.S. would be “terminating” its relationship with the WHO over the organization's response to the coronavirus pandemic.  

“The world has long benefited from the strong collaborative engagement with the government and the people of the United States," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in an online briefing with reporters from Geneva. “The U.S. government’s and its people's contribution and generosity towards global health over many decades has been immense and it has made a great difference in public health all around the world.”

“It is WHO’s wish for this collaboration to continue,” Tedros added. 

He deflected further questions on whether there is a formal process for a country to withdraw from the WHO. Tedros also indicated that the WHO first heard that the U.S. was ending its relationship through news media reports on Friday.  

Trump says he's yanking RNC from North Carolina over potential pandemic restrictions

President Donald Trump said Tuesday said that he will be seeking another state to host the Republican National Convention because the North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper had refused to guarantee that coronavirus restrictions wouldn’t affect the party’s nominating convention.

“Governor Cooper is still in Shelter-in-Place Mode, and not allowing us to occupy the arena as originally anticipated and promised,” he wrote in a string of tweets. “We are now forced to seek another state to host the 2020 Republican National Convention.”

Earlier today, Cooper said he would not provide the president and his party with a "guarantee" that the party could hold a full-scale convention in Charlotte this summer, citing public health concerns.

Read the full story here. 

Fauci asked about mass gatherings, protests

Dr. Anthony Fauci — arguably the most well-known and well-respected U.S. public health figure in the COVID-19 pandemic — spoke out Tuesday afternoon about large public gatherings across the country, stopping short of specifically addressing protesters taking a stand against the death of George Floyd.

"Pictures, photos and TV clips of people very much congregated, no masks together, very closely congregated on a boardwalk, on a beach, in a pool, has been and continues to be a concern to me," Fauci said.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, made the comment during an interview with Dr. Howard Bauchner, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The interview was posted on the journal's YouTube account.  

Bauchner touched on the the death of Floyd and mass protests across the country in the interview, but Fauci did not specifically speak about those demonstrations, which have occurred in hundreds of cities.

Fauci added that it won't be known for several more weeks whether the impact of large public gatherings of people will fuel the spread of COVID-19

Senate confirms Trump pick for pandemic recovery watchdog

The Senate voted 51-40 on Tuesday to confirm President Trump's pick to be the special inspector general for pandemic recovery.

The nomination of Brian Miller, who'd been working for Trump in the White House Counsel's office, was opposed by most Senate Democrats, who questioned whether he was independent enough to oversee the $500 billion economic relief fund. 

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Al., was the only Democrat to join all Republicans in confirming Miller, a former inspector general for the General Services Administration. 

After Miller's nomination, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Trump put "a fox in charge of the henhouse." 

Concerns mount about two studies on drugs for coronavirus

Concerns are mounting about studies in two influential medical journals on drugs used in people with coronavirus, including one that led multiple countries to stop testing a malaria pill.

The New England Journal of Medicine issued an "expression of concern" Tuesday on a study it published May 1 that suggested widely used blood pressure medicines were not raising the risk of death for people with COVID-19.

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NIH director say warm weather unlikely to stop spread of coronavirus

Warmer weather is unlikely to slow or stop the spread of coronavirus, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said in a blog post on Tuesday

Dr. Collins’ post on the NIH website was based on a new study published in Science, by scientists with the Princeton Environmental Institute. In this study, researchers developed three mathematical models to simulate how temperature changes may affect the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, in cities around the world. All three scenarios showed that climate would only be an important factor when large proportions of a community are already immune to COVID-19.

“The team found that, even if one assumes that SARS-CoV-2 is as sensitive to climate as other seasonal viruses, summer heat still would not be enough of a mitigator right now to slow its initial, rapid spread through the human population,” Dr. Collins explained, referencing the rapid spread of the virus in warm tropical climates like Brazil and Ecuador. 

There is, however, one glimmer of hope in one of the group’s models, the blog post said. One of the models included control effects, most notably, social distancing in its study, which showed that a combination of warm weather and social distancing may slow the spread of the virus.

Protesting in a pandemic: COVID-19 testing sites shut down amid national unrest

Just as access to COVID-19 tests was ramping up in many areas across the country, some testing sites have been forced to suspend operations because of violence and protests in recent days.

The temporary closures — from California to Florida — are sure to hamper efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus, particularly as social distancing has given way to mass gatherings of potentially contagious people who don't know they're infected.

Read more. 

Group of attorneys general ask Walmart to step up protection for workers and public

Walmart is under pressure from a group of state attorneys general to improve paid time off rules for staff and prevent overcrowding in stores in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

California’s Xavier Becerra is the latest to add his name to a letter to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon asking the country's largest employer to improve protections against the coronavirus.

Walmart only offers half pay to workers who are infected, according to the letter, which also claims employees are not being informed about their potential exposure to people who have tested positive. The letter asks Walmart to install shields to separate cashiers, have employees wipe down carts and hand baskets, reduce customer counts, and inform state officials about the number of cases in each store. 

The states backing Becerra’s letter include: Illinois; Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Washington and the District of Columbia.

Walmart did not immediately respond to an email for comment.

How China blocked WHO and Chinese scientists early in coronavirus outbreak

Throughout January, the World Health Organization publicly praised China for what it called a speedy response to the new coronavirus. It repeatedly thanked the Chinese government for sharing the genetic map of the virus “immediately,” and said its work and commitment to transparency were “very impressive, and beyond words.”

But behind the scenes, it was a much different story, one of significant delays by China and considerable frustration among WHO officials over not getting the information they needed to fight the spread of the deadly virus, The Associated Press has found.

Read more. 

Whitmer slams Trump's use of Defense Production Act, calls for national testing plan

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday blasted the Trump administration for its response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying that the U.S. "lost valuable time in the early days of COVID-19."

"When we could have been planning, when there could have been a national strategy, when the use of the DPA could have been used not for meat production, but for swabs, which we still don’t have enough of," Whitmer said at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the states' responses to the pandemic, referring to President Donald Trump's use of the Defense Production Act to ensure continued operation of meat production plants.

Whitmer, a Democrat, said supply shortages "continue to significantly restrict Michigan's testing capability." Right now, the state is able to conduct about 15,000 tests a day, but the goal is 30,000 a day. In March, the federal government made several allocations of personal protective equipment, but they were "dangerously insufficient," Whitmer said. 

The governor called on the White House to "create a specific, long-term plan outlining how the federal government will ensure we've got adequate testing supplies." 

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NYC mayor worried about potential spike in coronavirus cases if protests continue

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday he was concerned that more days of protests would lead to an increased spread of coronavirus as the city looks to begin the first phase of reopening next week. 

"The message has been heard loud and clear ... but I’m very worried, also, that protest is leading to the potential of the spread of the coronavirus," de Blasio said. 

"This is not a minor matter at this point. One day, two days — that’s one thing. As it continues, that danger is increasing ... particularly if people are not keeping distance, particularly if people are not wearing face coverings. You're endangering yourself and your family. Please think about that now."

New York City has "a lot to do on criminal justice reform" and "healing wounds," de Blasio acknowledged. "But the pandemic is still here, and we must address that."

A citywide curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. will be in place until Sunday. The city is supposed to enter phase one of reopening the next day.