A ‘Controllable’ Pandemic? White House Officials Offer Mixed Messages

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Statements from the White House chief of staff continue to raise questions and criticisms. In other Trump administration news: political appointees are leaving HHS; Jared Kushner invokes a racist stereotype; and the Agriculture Department keeps up the fight to shrink food stamps.

US Health Official Says Pandemic Clearly Can Be Controlled

A day after White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said “we’re not going to control the pandemic,” a top Trump administration health official said Monday that Americans have already proven they can do that through basic safeguards shown to work. “I think we can control the pandemic,” Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir said on a call with reporters. “I want to be clear that what we have done — what the American people have done — has been able to put out very significant outbreaks … all across the Deep South,” Giroir said. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 10/26)

The Hill:
Meadows Doubles Down On White House Pandemic Response: ‘We’re Not Going To Control It’ 

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Monday rejected the notion that the Trump administration has given up on fighting the spread of the coronavirus, but then doubled down on his controversial remarks that the U.S. will not control the virus. “We’re going to defeat the virus; we’re not going to control it,” Meadows told reporters outside the White House. “We will try to contain it as best we can, but … we need to make sure that we have therapeutics and vaccines.” (Weixel, 10/26)

The Washington Post:
Meadows Under Fire As Trump Chief Of Staff Amid Of Pandemic And Other Crises 

When touting his chief of staff Mark Meadows onstage in North Carolina this month, President Trump gave an unusual compliment for a risky move. “He follows me,” Trump said of his helicopter ride to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after testing positive for the coronavirus. “I said, ‘You know what? I just tested positive.’ He didn’t care. He was in that helicopter.” (Dawsey, 10/26)

WHO Warns Giving Up On Efforts To Control Covid-19 Would Be ‘Dangerous’

The World Health Organization on Monday warned countries against giving up on efforts to control the coronavirus pandemic, with the head of the agency saying doing so would be “dangerous.” “Giving up on control is dangerous,” said Tedros Adhamon Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general. “Control should … be part of the strategy.” (Branswell, 10/26)

In other Trump administration news —

‘A Mass Exodus’: HHS Staffers Jumping Ship Amid Pandemic, Fears Of Trump Loss

At least 27 political appointees have exited the embattled Health and Human Services department since the start of the Covid-19 crisis in February, according to a POLITICO review, and senior leaders are bracing for dozens more officials to depart swiftly if President Donald Trump loses re-election. Such a wave of departures would leave only a shell staff shepherding the department through a uniquely challenging winter of coronavirus outbreaks and drug and vaccine authorizations until Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, according to interviews with 17 current and former HHS officials, some of whom requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue. (Diamond, 10/26)

The New York Times:
Kushner, Employing Racist Stereotype, Questions If Black Americans ‘Want To Be Successful’ 

President Trump has repeatedly bragged about what he has done for Black America, pointing to his administration’s funding for Black colleges and universities, the creation of so-called opportunity zones and criminal justice reform. But on Monday, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, played into a racist stereotype by seeming to question whether Black Americans “want to be successful” despite what he said Mr. Trump had done for them. (Karni, 10/26)

Also —

Trump Fights In Court To Block Pandemic Food Aid For Lowest-Income Americans 

The Trump administration is fighting in federal court to block states from giving billions of dollars in emergency food stamps to the lowest-income Americans during the coronavirus crisis. Residents of Pennsylvania and California have sued President Donald Trump’s Agriculture Department over a policy that has kept roughly 40 percent of households who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from receiving any emergency benefits during the pandemic. After being ordered by a federal judge last week to proceed with the payments in the Pennsylvania case, the department is continuing to appeal. (Bottemiller Evich, 10/26)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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