Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care.
President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Milley warns of 'Sputnik moment' for China WSJ publishes letter from Trump continuing to allege voter fraud in PA Oath Keeper who was at Capitol on Jan. 6 runs for New Jersey State Assembly MORE’s chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsAt least five Trump administration staffers have spoken with Jan 6 committee: CNN Democrats say GOP lawmakers implicated in Jan. 6 should be expelled Report: Rally organizers say GOP lawmakers worked on Jan. 6 protests MORE disputed the CDC director’s vaccine timeline, while casting doubt on the use of face masks to get people back to work. And a former White House aide is throwing their support to Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to meet House Dems before Europe trip: report 21 House Democrats call for removing IRS bank reporting proposal from spending bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Altria — Vulnerable House Dems push drug pricing plan MORE over Trump’s COVID response.
Let’s start there:
Ex-Pence aide throws support behind Biden, citing Trump's virus response
A former aide to Vice President Pence will vote for Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the November election because of President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new ad from an anti-Trump group of Republicans.
Olivia Troye, who served as Pence's Homeland Security adviser and an adviser to the White House coronavirus task force, said in an ad released Thursday from Republican Voters Against Trump that Trump failed to keep Americans safe.
"If the president had taken this virus seriously, or if he had actually made an effort to tell how serious it was, he would have slowed the virus spread, he would have saved lives," Troye said in the ad.
She claimed that the president said during one coronavirus task force meeting that the virus may be a "good thing" because he would no longer have to shake hands with "these disgusting people."
Trump's sharp words put CDC director on hot seat
President Trump’s latest broadside against one of his administration’s public health officials has shined a spotlight on his distrust of experts and placed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield in a potentially untenable position.
The president on Wednesday contradicted Redfield’s congressional testimony on vaccine distribution and the efficacy of masks, telling reporters he phoned the CDC director to inform him he was mistaken.
The situation is just the most recent instance of Trump undercutting public health professionals and officials in his own administration, and it’s far from the first time Redfield has been put in a compromising situation by the president.
Public health experts and former CDC officials argued Redfield should more forcefully defend the agency's reputation and the integrity of its work.
Flashback: Trump said Redfield made a “mistake” and was “confused” by questions from lawmakers, insisting that a vaccine would be available to the public “immediately” once it is deemed viable.
Meadows piles on
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Thursday joined President Trump in pushing back against Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield’s comments on a timeline for a possible coronavirus vaccine, saying Redfield was not clued into what those “closest to the process” know about vaccine distribution.
“If I were a betting man, I would bet on President Trump,” Meadows said on "Fox & Friends." “Based on what I know behind the scenes, how quickly we are moving on the clinical trials, I think that we will at least have some results in October and as we start to look at those results, I can tell you the president is pushing very hard to make sure that we’re delivering a vaccine before the end of the year.”
“I’m not sure where Dr. Redfield got his particular timetable, but it is not based on those that are closest to the process,” Meadows continued.
The reality: While the CDC is not directly involved in reviewing vaccine data and allowing a product on the market, if the agency's director is not familiar with the timeline of a vaccine development, he's probably not doing his job correctly. The CDC was also one of the agencies that developed the vaccine distribution plans that were unveiled on Wednesday.
Meadows questions mask effectiveness
It wasn't just vaccines.
During a brief Q&A with reporters, Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows also questioned the effectiveness of masks after Redfield said it might provide more protection than a vaccine — a statement Redfield clarified, but did not really change after hearing from Trump.
“If masks is the panacea for everything, that we could have everybody going back to work if they’ll just wear a mask … if that’s the way that we open back our economy and get everybody back to work, I will gladly wear my mask each and every day if that’s what makes the difference,” Meadows said. “And it doesn’t.”
He argued that Redfield and Anthony FauciAnthony FauciIt's time for Fauci to go — but don't expect it to happen The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Budget negotiators: 72 hours and counting CDC director urges Americans to go outside, 'enjoy your trick-or-treating' MORE, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, would say masks are a mitigating effort “but it’s not something that is actually designed to actually make sure we don’t have the coronavirus spread.”
Fact check: Many experts, including Fauci and Redfield, have supporting mask wearing as the best way we currently have to get back to semi-normal lives, including returning to work and school.
Context: Trump has never fully embraced mask wearing. The comments from Meadows come as the Trump campaign has resumed crowded indoor rallies where few people wear masks. Trump on Wednesday also questioned the effectiveness of masks.
"Masks have problems too," Trump said. "I mean, I think there’s a lot of problems with masks."
White House nixed Postal Service plan to send face masks to every household in US: report
The White House rejected a U.S. Postal Service proposal to send face masks to every household in the U.S., according to The Washington Post.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reportedly suggested the idea in April, proposing five reusable masks be delivered to every residential address and prioritizing areas with the worst coronavirus outbreaks. The Postal Service also prepared a news release saying it would send the first shipments to Louisiana’s Orleans and Jefferson parishes, according to a draft obtained by the Post. Masks would then go to King County, Wash., Wayne County, Mich., and New York.
However, the White House reportedly vetoed the plan, instead creating the Project America Strong initiative. The $675 million initiative has distributed about 600 million masks to vulnerable and critical sectors thus far, according to HHS.
“There was concern from some in the White House Domestic Policy Council and the office of the vice president that households receiving masks might create concern or panic,” an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Post.
Trump coronavirus adviser threatens to sue Stanford researchers
Scott Atlas, one of President Trump’s coronavirus advisers, is threatening to sue a group of Stanford doctors and researchers after they penned a public letter calling out “falsehoods” and “misrepresentations” of science around COVID-19.
Atlas, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution who has questioned the science of wearing masks to stop the spread of COVID-19, has made claims that “run counter to established science” and undermine public health authorities, 78 researchers and doctors wrote in the Sept. 9 letter posted on Stanford's website.
Attorneys for Atlas responded Thursday, threatening to “vindicate his reputation in court” and “seek compensatory and punitive damages” if the letter is not withdrawn.
“Your letter, which you wrote and sent with no regard for the truth, maliciously defames Dr. Atlas,” wrote attorney Marc Kasowitz, whose firm helped represent President Trump during the impeachment proceedings.
Michael Fischbach, an associate professor at Stanford Medicine who signed on to the letter, stood by it Thursday while sharing the legal threat on Twitter.
“Quick recap: We posted a public letter saying, basically: ‘Scott Atlas is giving the president bad advice. It will hurt people.’ Today we got this love note from [Atlas]," Fischbach tweeted.
“I stand by everything we said. More facts, more science. Less Kasowitz.”
What we’re reading
Moderna expects to know if its coronavirus vaccine works by November, CEO says (CNBC)
The other way Covid will kill: hunger (New York Times)
Trump’s attacks highlight CDC’s stumbles on public health messaging (Stat News)
When will you be able to get a coronavirus vaccine? (New York Times)
State by state
Coronavirus in Wisconsin: New cases reach all-time high as state reports more than 2,000 positive tests (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
NYC will again delay in-person classes for most students (The New York Times)
Op-eds in The Hill