Image: President Donald Trump speaks during an event on the food supply chain during the coronavirus pandemic, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Tuesday, May 19, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe, Austin, and Washington, D.C., May 20 – The Montgomery County Public Health District (MCPHD) has some serious explaining to do, but the secretive local agency remains out of the public’s eye. On March 27, 2020, MCPHD disseminated a report among local government leaders which predicted Montgomery County would have 100,000 cases of Chinese Coronavirus by April 24, 20,000 new cases per week thereafter, between 1,000 and 5,000 deaths from the disease by April 24, and all local hospitals filled far beyond capacity with Chinese Coronavirus cases. Nothing like that even came close to the truth. The MCPHD report contained no data or statistical models but merely prose and scare tactics.
As a result of voluntary social distancing and hygienic practices, none of those dire predictions leading the County government to promulgate business closure and residential lockdown orders came to fruition. Instead, Montgomery County’s Chinese Coronavirus curve has remained flat from the beginning of the circumstance through the present. Montgomery County presently has 521 active cases and 278 recoveries. Our community has suffered 18 fatalities, at least two of whom were actually residents in other locales. This newspaper has confirmed that deaths from government shutdown-driven economic-related suicides has continued to exceed the number of fatalities from the disease.
Despite risks, Trump says he’s taking hydroxychloroquine
President Trump told reporters a day earlier that he has been taking the drug, hydroxychloroquine, and a zinc supplement daily “for about a week and a half now,” after two White House staffers tested positive for the coronavirus. Trump has spent months pushing hydroxychloroquine as a potential cure or preventive drug for COVID-19 against the cautionary advice of many of his administration’s top medical professionals. The drug has the potential to cause significant side effects in some patients and has not been shown to combat the new coronavirus.
Amid concerns from some public health experts that Trump’s example could send more people to misuse the drug, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Tuesday that “tens of millions of people around the world have used this drug for other purposes,” including malaria prophylaxis. She emphasized that “any use of hydroxychloroquine has to be in consultation with your doctor. You have to have a prescription. That’s the way it must be done.”
The drug is also prescribed for some lupus and arthritis patients.
At the White House, Trump said his doctor did not recommend hydroxychloroquine to him, but that he requested it from the White House physician.
“I started taking it, because I think it’s good,” Trump said. “I’ve heard a lot of good stories.”
The White House physician, Dr. Sean Conley, said in a statement released through the press office that, after “numerous discussions” with Trump about the evidence for and against using hydroxychloroquine, “we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.”
The Food and Drug Administration warned health professionals last month that the drug should not be used to treat COVID-19 outside of hospital or research settings, due to sometimes fatal side effects. Regulators issued the alert for the drug, in part, based on increased reports of dangerous side effects made to U.S. poison control centers.
Calls to centers involving hydroxychloroquine increased last month to 96, compared with 49 in April 2019, according to data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers provided to the AP. It was the second month of elevated reports involving the drug, following 79 calls in March. The problems reported included abnormal heart rhythms, seizures, nausea and vomiting.
Trump dismissed reports of side effects, saying, “All I can tell you is, so far I seem to be OK.”
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in an emailed statement Tuesday: “The decision to take any drug is ultimately a decision between a patient and their doctor.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN, “He’s our president, and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and his, shall we say, weight group … morbidly obese, they say.”
Trump is 73. At his last full checkup in February 2019 he passed the official threshold for being considered obese, with a body mass index of 30.4. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a BMI of 40 or above is considered “severe” obesity, which some also call “morbid” obesity.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called Trump’s remarks on the drug dangerous.
“Maybe he’s really not taking it because the president lies about things characteristically,” Schumer said on MSNBC. He added: “I don’t know whether he is taking it or not. I know him saying he is taking it, whether he is or not, is reckless, reckless, reckless.“
At least two White House staffers tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, sparking concerns about the steps taken by the administration to protect the president and sending Vice President Mike Pence and other officials into varying forms of self-isolation.
The White House has since mandated that those in the West Wing wear face coverings and has introduced daily testing for the virus for the president, vice president and those they come in close contact with. Trump says he continues to test negative for the coronavirus.
Trump last underwent an “interim” medical checkup in a November visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center that was not noted on his public schedule. His last complete physical took place in February 2019.
Several prominent doctors said they worried that people would infer from Trump’s example that the drug works or is safe.
“There is no evidence that hydroxychloroquine is effective for the treatment or the prevention of COVID-19,” said Dr. Patrice Harris, president of the American Medical Association. “The results to date are not promising.”
People should not infer from Trump’s example “that it’s an approved approach or proven,” because it’s not, said Dr. David Aronoff, infectious diseases chief at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
Hydroxychloroquine can cause potentially serious heart rhythm problems even in healthy people, but “it’s hard to infer” that Trump’s artery plaque, revealed in tests from his 2018 physical, makes the drug especially dangerous for him, Aronoff said.
White House officials did not say whether any other administration officials were taking the drug.
Trump said he took hydroxychloroquine with an “original dose” of the antibiotic azithromycin. The president has repeatedly promoted the use of the drug with or without the azithromycin, but no large, rigorous studies have found them safe or effective for preventing or treating COVID-19.
Two large observational studies, each involving around 1,400 patients in New York, recently found no COVID benefit from hydroxychloroquine. Two new ones published Thursday in the medical journal BMJ reached the same conclusion.
Prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine surged roughly 80% in March to more than 830,000 compared with same period in the prior year, according to data tracking firm IQVIA. That jump in prescribing came before the federal government accepted nearly 30 million doses of the drug donated to the strategic national stockpile by foreign drugmakers. Since then, millions of those tablets have been shipped to U.S. hospitals nationwide for use treating patients with COVID-19.
Texas Governor Abbott announces Phase II of state’s reopening
Governor Greg Abbott today announced the second phase of the State of Texas’ ongoing plan to safely and strategically open Texas while minimizing the spread of COVID-19. Under Phase II, restaurants may increase their occupancy to 50% and additional services and activities that remained closed under Phase I may open with restricted occupancy levels and minimum standard health protocols laid out by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).
Additionally, the Governor announced that public schools in Texas have the option to provide in-person summer school so long as they follow social distancing practices and health protocols laid out by DSHS. These classes may begin as soon as June 1st.
“Today, tomorrow, and every day going forward is one step closer to medical discoveries that can treat and protect people from COVID-19—but until that day comes, our focus is keeping Texans safe while restoring their ability to get back to work, open their businesses, pay their bills, and put food on their tables,” said Governor Abbott. “By continuing to use safe practices, we are slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting our most vulnerable. Now more than ever, we need to work together as one Texas. I ask all Texans to continue heeding the guidance of our state and federal medical experts and do their part to protect public health. If we all unite in our resolve, we will overcome this challenge.”
Via Executive Order, the following services and activities may open under Phase II.
- Child Care Centers (May 18)
- Massage and Personal-Care Centers (May 18)
- Youth Clubs (May 18)
- Rodeo and Equestrian Events (May 22)
- Bowling Alleys, Bingo Halls, Simulcast Racing, and Skating Rinks (May 22)
- Bars (May 22)
- Aquariums and Natural Caverns (May 22)
- Zoos (May 29)
- Day Youth Camps (May 31)
- Overnight Youth Camps (May 31)
- Youth Sports (May 31)
- Certain professional sports without in-person spectators (May 31)
All sporting and camp activities are required to adhere by special safety standards, and minimum standard health protocols have been established for all newly-announced opened services and activities. Businesses located in office buildings may also open but must limit their occupancy to the greater of 10 employees or 25% of their workforce.
Additionally, restaurants may expand their occupancy to 50% beginning May 22. Bars—including wine tasting rooms, craft breweries, and similar businesses—may open at 25% occupancy but like restaurants, these occupancy limits do not apply to outdoor areas that maintain safe distancing among parties.
Opened services and activities under Phase II are subject to certain occupancy limits and health and safety protocols. For details and a full list of guidelines, openings, and relevant dates, visit www.gov.texas.gov/opentexas.
Certain counties experiencing surges in COVID-19 cases will have their beginning date of Phase II delayed until May 29. These counties include El Paso, Randall, Potter, Moore, and Deaf Smith. Surge Response Teams are actively working in these areas to increase testing, maintain hospital capacity, and ensure that COVID-19 is contained and mitigated.