US State Court Rules Election Back on, After Governor Orders Postponement

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday ordered the state’s Democratic primary election back on, hours after the governor issued an order postponing it in the face of a growing number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in the state. The court in the U.S. Midwestern state ruled 4-2 that Democratic Governor Tony Evers lacked the authority to postpone the election on his own. The court’s four conservative judges voted in support of the ruling while the two liberal judges voted against it. Evers issued an executive order earlier Monday to postpone the primary election until June 9 after he was unable to agree with the Republican-controlled state legislature on a plan for moving the vote to a later date as well as the terms of the balloting, such as whether to allow mail-in voting. Voters now face a choice of whether to vote in the primary election or to follow the advice of health officials and stay away from crowds.  Thousands of poll workers have said they will not work, leading to the closure of hundreds of polling sites in the state. The city of Milwaukee, the biggest Wisconsin city, said it would have just five polling stations open instead of the planned 180. National Guard troops have been dispatched to help staff the polls.   More than 2,200 confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported in Wisconsin and 73 deaths.   More than a dozen U.S. states have postponed Democratic presidential primaries in April and May between former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders until weeks from now in hopes that by then the effects of the virus will have dissipated enough to allow voters to show up at polling places to cast ballots without endangering their health.  But Wisconsin was the last holdout refusing to postpone its vote. Evers had previously questioned his own authority to postpone the state primary, but he said Monday he was acting in the interest of public health.  He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper, “The bottom line is the people of Wisconsin, they don’t care about the fighting between Democrats and Republicans — they’re scared. I’m standing up for those people who are afraid and that’s why I’m doing this.”  Key state Republican lawmakers called Evers’s action “an unconstitutional overreach.”  Recent polling shows that Biden is running well ahead of Sanders in Wisconsin. Biden appears to hold an insurmountable lead over Sanders in pledged delegates to the Democratic presidential nominating contest in August and is likely to face Republican President Donald Trump in the November national election. But on Sunday Biden did not directly call for postponement of the Wisconsin election, telling ABC’s “This Week” show, “Whatever the science says, we should do.”  Sanders had called for the election’s postponement. Residents in 41 U.S. states are under orders from their governors – including Evers in Wisconsin – to stay at home except for essential trips out in public, but Evers did not include voting as essential in issuing his stay-at-home edict.    Some Wisconsin Republicans suggested that Evers did not aggressively push to win legislative votes to postpone the election until recent days. On Saturday, Evers sought to move the voting to May 19 and convert it entirely to mail-in voting, but the Republican-controlled legislature quickly adjourned. It also did not block the election when it met briefly Monday ahead of Evers’ order. Federal district court judge William Conley had refused to stop the election, saying he did not have the power to do so.  “Let’s assume that this is a bad decision from the perspective of public health, and it could be excruciatingly bad,” he said last week. “I don’t think it’s the job of a federal district judge to act as a super health department for the state of Wisconsin.”  On Sunday, the mayors of Milwaukee and Madison, the state capital, along with other Wisconsin mayors asked state homeland security officials to make the decision to postpone Tuesday’s election. 



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Globe Commemorates World Health Day Amidst Pandemic

Tuesday is World Health Day, which is being commemorated as the world faces one of the biggest international health threats of the past century. The head of the World Health Organization, director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a virtual news conference Monday in Geneva that the organization is paying tribute to the contribution of health care workers who have been at the forefront of treating patients with the coronavirus. He said Worth Health Day, which is celebrated each year on the World Health Organization’s founding day, is usually one of the group’s biggest days of the year, but this year the day is being overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic. The 2020 Worth Health Day was “supposed to be the main event in our assembly in May. Unfortunately, we are in this situation,” Tedros said. He said the organization would still release a planned report on Tuesday focusing on the state of nursing around the world, saying the document “highlights gaps and makes recommendations for all countries.” “One of the lessons I hope the world learns from COVID-19 is that we must invest in health workers – not only to protect lives, but also to protect livelihoods,” Tedros said. The WHO director said that while the focus of the report is on nurses, “we will celebrate all health workers – midwives, pharmacists, doctors, you name it,” on World Health Day.” “The world is now seeing … the central role that health workers play,” he said. In previous years, groups around the world have held health and fitness events to commemorate World Heath Day. This year, much of the world’s population is under recommendations or orders to stay inside to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus. 



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Efficacy of Anti-Coronavirus Drug Tops US Treatment Debate

The debate over the usefulness of an antimalarial drug to treat U.S. coronavirus victims is pitting President Donald Trump against the country’s top U.S. infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. With the U.S. coronavirus death toll increasing by hundreds a day, Trump at daily news briefings regularly touts the use of hydroxychloroquine, calling it a potential “game-changer” to save lives.  President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, April 5, 2020, in Washington.”What do you have to lose? Take it,” the president said in a White House briefing over the weekend. “I really think they should take it. But it’s their choice. And it’s their doctor’s choice or the doctors in the hospital. But hydroxychloroquine — try it if you’d like.” Fauci, often standing a step or two away from the U.S. leader in the White House briefing room, says data showing possible hints of success from use of the drug in treating coronavirus patients is “at best suggestive” and not based on scientific studies. He is the longtime director of the country’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. A contentious debate over the use of the drug erupted at a coronavirus task force meeting in the White House situation room on Saturday between Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro and Fauci, who consistently has voiced skepticism and caution about use of the drug. FILE – White House trade adviser Peter Navarro speaks during a television interview at the White House, Oct. 8, 2019.“This drug could save lives,” Navarro told CNN on Monday. “We are at war here. We’re trying to make sure as few people die as possible.” But Navarro also acknowledged, “There are downsides to this. There can be in some cases negative effects. It’s related to [the] heart and related to vision.” He said that ultimately, use of the drug must depend on agreement between doctors and their patients after they have discussed possible side effects. Navarro downplayed the weekend argument with Fauci, saying, “If we didn’t have disagreement and debate in the Trump administration, this administration wouldn’t be as strong as it is.” Navarro, a social scientist with a doctoral degree but not a medical doctor, said initial studies from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus first appeared, show use of the antimalarial drug is promising as a treatment. Fauci mostly dismisses the reports, saying they were not conducted under rigorous scientific testing protocols. Navarro said the U.S. has a stockpile of 29 million tablets of the antimalarial drug, adding that “virtually every New York (coronavirus) patient is given hydroxy.” The country’s biggest city is at epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. FILE – President Trump listens as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, April 5, 2020, in Washington.The debate over hydroxychloroquine comes as Trump, Fauci and Surgeon General Jerome Adams all are warning Americans they face daunting days ahead, as the U.S. death toll mounts rapidly with more than 9,600, and with 337,000 confirmed cases of the infection. “This is going to be the hardest and saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly,” Adams told “Fox News Sunday.” “This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized. It’s going to be happening all over the country.”  Trump, speaking to reporters at a Sunday evening briefing, expressed some optimism, saying there is a “light at the end of the tunnel,” while noting the difficult circumstances that lay immediately ahead. “The next week and a half, two weeks, are going to be, I think, they’re going to be very difficult,” Trump said.  “At the same time, we understand what they represent and what that time represents. And hopefully, we can get this over with, because this is a very horrible thing for the world.” Fauci said that stay-at-home orders that cover 41 of the country’s 50 states and social distancing guidelines take time to show their effects. A body wrapped in plastic is unloaded from a refrigerated truck by medical workers wearing personal protective equipment due to COVID-19 concerns, March 31, 2020, at a hospital in New York.”What you’re hearing about potential light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t take away from the fact that tomorrow, the next day, are going to look really bad,” Fauci said. Trump has not issued national lockdown orders like those in Italy and Spain, preferring to leave that decision to state governors.  Most have given their own order, but nine have not. Fauci said the people in the nine states are “putting themselves at risk” by not self-isolating, even if their governors have not issued stay-at-home orders.  “This virus does not discriminate” whether one lives in a small community or a large city,” Fauci said.       



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Coronavirus Patients Rush to Join Studies of Gilead Drug

 The new coronavirus made Dr. Jag Singh a patient at his own hospital.His alarm grew as he saw an X-ray of his pneumonia-choked lungs and colleagues asked his wishes about life support while wheeling him into Massachusetts General’s intensive care unit.An X-ray room is seen at a Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia. (Photo: Diaa Bekheet). In some hospitals, chest X-ray has taken center stage as a frontline diagnostic test for COVID-19 patients.When they offered him a chance to help test remdesivir, an experimental drug that’s shown promise against some other coronaviruses, “it did not even cross my mind once to say ‘no,’” said Singh, a heart specialist.Coronavirus patients around the world have been rushing to join remdesivir studies that opened in hospitals in the last few weeks.Interest has been so great that the U.S. National Institutes of Health is expanding its study, which has nearly reached its initial goal of 440 patients. The drug’s maker, California-based Gilead Sciences, is quickly ramping up its own studies, too.“I would enroll my family in a heartbeat” if the need arose, said Dr. Libby Hohmann, who placed Singh and nearly 30 others in the NIH one at Mass General. To have no approved medicines for COVID-19 now is “kind of terrifying,” she said.For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough but sometimes pneumonia requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other health problems.Remdesivir is given through an IV. It’s designed to interfere with an enzyme that reproduces viral genetic material.In animal tests against SARS and MERS, diseases caused by similar coronaviruses, the drug helped prevent infection and reduced the severity of symptoms when given early enough in the course of illness. It’s farther along in testing than many other potential therapies and the current studies could lead to regulatory approval.Gilead has given remdesivir to more than 1,700 patients on a case-by-case emergency basis, but more people ultimately will be helped if the company does the needed studies to prove safety and effectiveness, chief executive Dan O’Day wrote in a recent letter to the public.“Many people have reached out to Gilead to advocate for access to remdesivir on behalf of friends and loved ones. I can only imagine how it must feel to be in that situation,” he wrote. “We are taking the ethical, responsible approach.”In another letter on Saturday, O’Day said the company has 1.5 million doses, which could mean more than 140,000 treatment courses, depending on how long treatment needs to last. The company is providing the drug for free for now and has set a goal of making 500,000 treatment courses by October and more than a million by the end of the year.Gilead supplied remdesivir for two studies in China expected to give results by the end of the month. It also launched two studies for hospitalized patients in the U.S., Asia, Europe and elsewhere. One in severely ill patients tests five versus 10 days of treatment. Another in moderately sick patients compares those two options to standard care alone.“There’s so much anxiety about the disease that the patients are quite interested” and no one offered the chance has refused, said Dr. Arun Sanyal, the study leader at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.The first patient he enrolled was a previously healthy middle-aged man who had an out-of-state visitor a few days before his symptoms began. What started as mild illness escalated to profound shortness of breath requiring supplemental oxygen.At University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, Dr. Grace McComsey has enrolled roughly half a dozen patients.“We’re seeing more and more younger people, like 30, really sick,” she said.The NIH study is the most rigorous test. It compares remdesivir to placebo infusions, and neither patients nor doctors know who is getting what until the end of the study. Besides the U.S., it’s open in Japan, Korea and Singapore.In Chicago, an 89-year-old man was Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s first participant and “the family was very excited” to have him included, said infectious diseases chief Dr. Babafemi Taiwo.At the University of California, Irvine, Dr. Alpesh Amin has enrolled several patients. All are getting standard care even if they wind up getting a placebo rather than remdesivir, Amin said.The Boston cardiologist, Singh, said he was willing to take that chance to advance science even if he personally winds up not benefiting. He’s now recovering at home after spending a week in the hospital.“The word ‘placebo’ freaks some people out,” but rigorous testing is needed to avoid giving false hope or using something unsafe. Still, it’s tough to face patients with no proven therapy now, Hohmann said.“The worst thing is seeing some really young people who are really, really sick,” such as a 49-year-old man with three young children on life support, she said. “That’s pretty awful.”



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Trump Sees Limits of Presidency in Avoiding Blame for Virus

President Donald Trump is confronting the most dangerous crisis a U.S. leader has faced this century as the coronavirus spreads and a once-vibrant economy falters. As the turmoil deepens, the choices he makes in the critical weeks ahead will shape his reelection prospects, his legacy and the character of the nation.
 
The early fallout is sobering. In the White House’s best-case scenario, more than 100,000 Americans will die and millions more will be sickened. At least 10 million have already lost their jobs, and some economists warn it could be years before they find work again. The S&P 500 index has plunged more than 20%, and the U.S. surgeon general predicted on Sunday that this week will be “our Pearl Harbor moment” as the death toll climbs.
 
Those grim realities are testing Trump’s leadership and political survival skills unlike any challenge he has faced in office, including the special counsel investigation and the impeachment probe that imperiled his presidency. Trump appears acutely aware that his political fortunes will be inextricably linked to his handling of the pandemic, alternating between putting himself at the center of the crisis with lengthy daily briefings and distancing himself from the crisis by pinning the blame for inadequate preparedness on the states.
 
Trump and those around him increasingly argue he is reaching the limits of his power to alter the trajectory of the outbreak and the economic fallout, according to White House officials and allies, many of whom were granted anonymity to discuss the situation candidly. The federal government has issued guidelines that in many areas have resulted in the shutdown of all but essential businesses, throwing the economy into a tailspin. The remaining options, the officials argue, are largely on the margins.
 
The limits of the presidency are self-imposed to some extent as the Trump administration continues to cede authority to state and local governments, which have adopted a patchwork of inconsistent social distancing policies. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, prickled at the suggestion that the Republican president has limited options, calling it “a diminished view of the presidential responsibility.”
 
“Was Franklin Delano Roosevelt done with his work 30 days after Pearl Harbor? Heavens, no. That’s ludicrous,” Inslee said in an interview. “For a person who’s struggling to get [personal protective equipment] to my nurses and test kits to my long-term care facilities, that is more than disappointing. It’s deeply angering.”
 
White House advisers note that Trump has already pulled vast levers to blunt the impact of the pandemic. He worked with Congress to pass a record $2.2 trillion rescue package; a fourth package is expected in the coming weeks. The Federal Reserve, which is technically independent of the White House, has unleashed another $4 trillion.
 
The administration extended for another month new social distancing recommendations calling for those who are sick, are elderly or have serious health conditions to stay home. And Trump has used the authority granted to him under the Defense Production Act to try to force private companies to manufacture critical supplies, though some have faulted him for not using the tool early or aggressively enough.
 
Those who are dying now were likely infected weeks ago, and most highly impacted states across the nation have already taken drastic steps — unthinkable just months ago — forcing their residents to stay in their homes. And though the federal government has faced widespread criticism to do more to force the production of critical supplies, it’s already too late for most new production to blunt the oncoming wave.
 
“I really think he’s done everything humanly possible. I don’t know what else he could do,” said Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of Liberty University and a Trump confidant.
 
By delegating significant responsibility to state leaders and the business community, Trump can continue to approach his job as he often has: as a spectator pundit-in-chief, watching events unfold on television with the rest of the nation and weighing in with colorful Twitter commentary.
 
But governors across the nation, including some Republicans, have screamed for additional assistance from the federal government. They warn of dangerous shortages of protective equipment for medical professionals on the front lines of the outbreak and ventilators that can help keep the death toll from exploding. Other critics suggest Trump can take a much more aggressive posture in forcing stricter social distancing rules upon reluctant state officials, while ordering all domestic flights and international arrivals grounded.
 
There is some debate about how visible the president should be as the crisis escalates. Inside the White House, some fear Trump’s continued role as the face of the government’s response will be increasingly dangerous politically as things get worse.
 
Trump is insistent that he remain in front of the public, where he can shower praise on his own performance and make the case for deflecting responsibility. He has also tried to take credit for averting a worst-case scenario in which more than 2 million Americans could die.
 
The last president to face a crisis of comparable scale and depth was Herbert Hoover, a Republican who held office during the onset of the Great Depression, according to Yale University historian Joanne Freeman. Like Trump in some ways, Hoover resisted sweeping federal government intervention to address the economic crisis of the early 1930s.
 
Freeman noted that the results were disastrous for the nation’s economy and Hoover’s presidency. As the nation slipped deeper into depression, he suffered a landslide loss in 1932 to Roosevelt.
 
The American public has mixed reviews for Trump’s performance, although his polling numbers have been ticking up.
 
The latest polling from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found Trump’s approval ratings are among the highest of his presidency, with 44% supporting his oversight of the pandemic. State and local leaders have earned much higher marks.
 
While few are thinking about traditional politics, Election Day is just seven months away.
 
Republicans have seized on the absence of the leading Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, who has struggled to break through the dire daily news cycle despite frequent appearances on cable television from a newly created television studio in his home basement.
 
“Biden is inconsequential for the next three months, and that’s weird,” said Democratic pollster Paul Maslin. “I mean, this is the Trump show, for better or worse.”
 
Former Trump aide Steve Bannon dismissed traditional politics as an afterthought as the nation enters a critical month to blunt the spread of the virus, yet the man who helped elect Trump four years ago said the political stakes could not be more dire.
 
“Every day for President Trump is now Nov. 3,” Bannon said, referencing Election Day.
 
There is no political playbook for a crisis of this magnitude. For the foreseeable future, there will be no more political rallies, traditional fundraisers or door-to-door canvassing that makes up the lifeblood of modern campaigns.
 
The Trump campaign 2020 slogan — “Keep America Great” — is already painfully disconnected from the reality on the ground in most states now fighting massive unemployment and health concerns.
 
Campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh described the evolution of Trump’s messaging in the midst of a pandemic this way: “Our argument is that it was President Trump’s leadership that built the economy up to such heights in the first place, and he’s the one to lead us back up again.”
 
He said the virus has “caused dramatic increase in desire” by the president’s supporters to get involved in the campaign, even if most have been encouraged not to leave their homes.
 
And while they believe his ability to implement new policy solutions may be limited, some Trump allies stressed his rhetorical ability to comfort an anxious nation.
 
“In the minds and the hearts of the American people, his ability to carry out the rhetorical functions of the presidency — to encourage, to comfort, to rally — those are among the most essential elements of leadership in a moment of crisis,” said Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition and a member of the White House Faith Initiative.
 
“It is critical right now to be a consoler-in-chief, to keep people’s spirits up, to give people optimism and hope,” Reed said, “and also show empathy and share in the sorrows of the struggling.”



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