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Overnight Health Care: Trump privately called coronavirus 'deadly' while comparing it to flu publicly | Health officials pledge to keep politics out of vaccine process | Senate report finds mail delays slow prescription delivery

Overnight Health Care: Trump privately called coronavirus 'deadly' while comparing it to flu publicly | Health officials pledge to keep politics out of vaccine process | Senate report finds mail delays slow prescription delivery
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Health Care. 

Excerpts from Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book reveal President TrumpDonald TrumpGuardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa wins GOP primary in NYC mayor's race Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump Schumer vows next steps after 'ridiculous,' 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster MORE knew the novel coronavirus was deadly even as he publicly downplayed the potential severity of the outbreak. Top health officials tried to reassure members of Congress Wednesday there would be no political interference in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine, and a Senate report highlights how Postal Service delays are impacting prescription drug delivery. 

We'll start with Woodward: 

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Bombshell coronavirus news from the new Bob Woodward book: Trump privately called coronavirus 'deadly' while comparing it to flu publicly

President Trump acknowledged in recorded interviews that he knew the danger of COVID-19 as early as February, even as he publicly downplayed the threat of the emerging coronavirus pandemic, according to a new book from Bob Woodward.

Trump told the Washington Post journalist in a March 19 interview that he "wanted to always play it down" to avoid creating a panic, according to audio published by CNN. But the president was privately aware of the threat of the virus.

"You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 call with Woodward for his book, "Rage," due out next week. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”

“This is deadly stuff,” the president added.

Contrast with public comments: In February, he repeatedly said in public that the United States had the situation under control. Later that month, he predicted the U.S. would soon have "close to zero" cases. In late March, during a Fox News town hall in the Rose Garden, Trump compared the case load and death toll from COVID-19 to the season flu, noting that the economy is not shuttered annually for influenza. 

Read more here.

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And beyond that, the comments are on tape, making it harder for the White House to push back.  

But Anthony FauciAnthony FauciWhite House admits July 4 vaccine marker will be missed Overnight Health Care: White House acknowledges it will fall short of July 4 vaccine goal | Fauci warns of 'localized surges' in areas with low vaccination rates | Senate Finance leader releases principles for lowering prescription drug prices Poll: 58 percent say Fauci should not resign MORE said he doesn't think Trump distorted anything

During a Fox News interview with John Roberts, Fauci said Trump's public comments echoed what he was told in private by the White House's coronavirus task force.

"I didn't see any discrepancies between what he told us and what we told him and what he ultimately came out publicly and said," Fauci, the country's top infectious disease doctor and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said.

"He really didn't say anything different than we discussed when we were with him," Fauci said.

Fauci acknowledged that Trump would "want to make sure the country wouldn't get down and out about things," but added, "I don't recall anything that was a gross distortion in anything I spoke to him about." 

Of note: Fauci's interview comes on the same day Politico reported on e-mails showing how a senior adviser for the Department of Health and Human Services tried to dictate what Fauci said during interviews to prevent him from talking to the media about the risks the coronavirus poses to children. 

Read more here. 

Top health officials pledge to keep politics out of COVID-19 vaccine process

 Top federal health officials tried to reassure lawmakers on Wednesday that politics will not play a role in determining whether a COVID-19 vaccine is approved, amid fears that President Trump is politicizing the process.

“Science and science alone will be the way in which this decision is made, otherwise I’ll have no part in it,” Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Trump has suggested that a vaccine could be approved before Election Day, raising concerns among Democrats, public health officials and scientists that he could try to rush the process to improve his reelection prospects.

Collins said Wednesday he is “cautiously optimistic” a vaccine could be approved by the end of the year, but “even that is a guess.”

“Whether it’s going to be done by a certain date, I could not possibly tell you right not because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he added. 

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Why it matters: Collins’s comments come as polls show Americans are increasingly skeptical about taking a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Distrust of vaccines was an issue long before Trump was elected, but Democrats and experts have raised concerns that the president's recent comments could deter more people from getting a COVID-19 vaccine if one is approved or authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Limited role: It's important to note that neither the Surgeon General nor the head of the NIH have a say in whether a vaccine gets to market. That's the FDA's purview. 

Read more here. 

Fauci: AstraZeneca pause in vaccine trial 'not uncommon'

The health world was abuzz with news of AstraZeneca pausing its vaccine trial to investigate a possible serious illness, but Anthony Fauci had a level-headed response. 

Fauci told “CBS This Morning” that the halting of one of the leading coronavirus vaccine clinical trials is “not uncommon,” noting the documented reaction to the vaccine is why trials are conducted. 

“It’s not uncommon at all,” the director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said. “We see this generally for the most part ... it's an adverse event that’s related to something else that just happened to have occurred during the period of time that the clinical trial is on.”

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But Fauci emphasized that researchers cannot assume the reaction is separate from the tested vaccine or treatment.

“You always make the presumption that it’s due directly to the actual vaccine or therapeutic or whatever it is that’s in the clinical trial,” he said.

Read more here

Senate report claims 'significant delays' in Postal Service delivery of prescription drugs

One consequence of mail delays, according to a new Senate report: delayed prescriptions. 

The 10-page report from Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate to vote on elections bill Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda Progressives fear nightmare scenario over voting rights assault MORE (D-Mass.) and Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyMcConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats Senate filibuster fight throws Democrats' wish list into limbo Parliamentarian changes Senate calculus for Biden agenda MORE (D-Pa.), released on Wednesday, found that Americans may have seen “significant” delays in the delivery of prescription drugs in recent months.

According to the report, mail-order pharmacies reliant on the Postal Service have reported between an 18 and 32 percent increase in delivery times for mail-order drugs in recent months. Deliveries that generally take between two and three days were instead taking three to four days. 

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One unnamed company said it saw a “marked increase in July in the number of patients experiencing shipment delays of seven days or more.” 

Read more here

What we’re reading

Emails show HHS official trying to muzzle Fauci (Politico)

Coronavirus tests are supposed to be free. The surprise bills come anyway. (New York Times)

Covid-19 vaccine trial participant had serious neurological symptoms, but could be discharged today, AstraZeneca CEO says (Stat News)

White House orders end to COVID-19 airport screenings for international travelers (Yahoo News)

State by state

The Kansas Senate race is hyper-focused on health policy and Covid-19 (Stat News)

Obamacare co-ops down from 23 to final ‘3 little miracles’ (Kaiser Health News

Near birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr., a predominantly Black nursing home tries to heal after outbreak (The Washington  Post)