Trump campaign acknowledges risk of rally COVID spread–but avoids responsibility

Preparations under way for the Trump rally in Sanford, Fla., scheduled for tonight. (Image: News6)

Oct. 12, 2020 by David Silverberg

The re-election campaign of President Donald Trump acknowledges that his rallies may spread COVID-19—but requires attendees to sign away any rights to compensation should they come down with the virus.

Trump, who was diagnosed with coronavirus on Oct. 2, will hold a rally at Orlando Sanford International Airport in Sanford, Fla., tonight at 7:00 pm. It is the first rally outside Washington, DC since his diagnosis.

On the Trump-Pence campaign website, would-be attendees are told: “By registering for this event, you understand and expressly acknowledge that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. In attending the event, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19, and waive, release, and discharge Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; the host venue; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers from any and all liability under any theory, whether in negligence or otherwise, for any illness or injury.”

A White House gathering on Sept. 26 to introduce Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has been characterized by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as a “superspreader” event for infecting at least six people present, who then spread the virus among numerous other White House staff and administration officials.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

Banyai blasts Donalds for COVID carelessness at Trumper superspreader event in Golden Gate

A tightly-packed, mostly unmasked crowd gathers at the Golden Gate Veterans of Foreign Wars hall yesterday. (Image: NBC2 News)

Oct. 9, 2020 by David Silverberg

Cindy Banyai, Democratic congressional candidate in Florida’s 19th Congressional District, blasted her opponent, Republican Byron Donalds, for potentially spreading COVID-19 at a largely maskless rally for Donald Trump in the Golden Gate area of Naples yesterday, Oct. 8.

“My opponent took part in this MAGA event in Naples today,” she tweeted. “Many people crowded together, hardly anyone wore a mask. We can pretend COVID-19 isn’t real or we can work to stop it. I acknowledge science, mitigate the risk, and work to protect the vulnerable.”

Donalds, who addressed the crowd of roughly 250 Trump supporters, said those not wearing masks believe in freedom, Dave Elias, political correspondent for NBC-2 News reported.

“You should not be ridiculed if you wear one or you choose not to wear one,” he said. Donalds has consistently opposed mask mandates.

The crowd at the Golden Gate Veterans of Foreign Wars hall (which is in the neighboring 25th Congressional District) was also addressed by Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager fired by Trump in June 2016 for his erratic and divisive behavior, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), whose state is a current coronavirus hotspot, with 26,441 cases.

Cindy Banyai with mask.

Banyai chose to drop a scheduled, in-person debate with Donalds at the Estero Republican Club last night due to the risk of catching coronavirus.

She said the Republican Club had refused to take basic safety measures like spacing out seats, requiring masks, doing temperature checks and putting partitions between the candidates.

“I was looking forward to connecting with members of our community and a lively exchange of ideas, but your health and that of my family, including my youngest daughter who has a history of health issues, are more important than any single event,” she stated. “The health and safety protocols requested are particularly important because Byron Donalds was potentially exposed to COVID19 during his recent visit with Trump. He has not released a secondary test to indicate he is in the clear. Mr. Donalds was also at a rally earlier today that did not observe pandemic public health measures.”

Yesterday Banyai also began running a paid advertisement on local television stations.

The night before, Banyai and Donalds had starkly different reactions to the debate between Vice President Mike Pence (R) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

“The moderator is doing a great job tonight. Just let the candidates speak. They will tell us who they are, and they have to answer for their records. The records of @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris is destructive of our economy and our country,” tweeted Donalds, who issued three tweets during the debate.

Banyai maintained a running commentary throughout the debate. “Seriously, Kamala channeled every woman whoever tried to get her point across while being interrupted by a lesser qualified man with #imspeaking,” she tweeted.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Roundup: COVID, masks and Byron Donalds; a ‘no’ to stimulus and QAnon; and a loud silence

Maskless State Rep. Byron Donalds and President Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Sept. 23. (Photo: White House by Joyce N. Boghasian)

Oct. 4, 2020 by David Silverberg

On Saturday, Oct. 3, in the wake of President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and quarantine, Cindy Banyai, Democratic congressional candidate in the 19th Congressional District called on her opponent, Republican state Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee), to quarantine himself, having met with the president.

“Given the current skyrocketing rate of infection among White House staff and event attendees, and considering Mr. Donalds is still in the potential incubation period of 14 days, I think it would be in the best interest of our community if he quarantined until that window has passed,” she said in a statement. “He should also get tested for COVID-19 and release the results, so anyone he may have exposed to the virus in the interim can have the best information possible to take care of themselves and their loved ones. This is especially important because of Mr. Donalds’ stance against mask wearing, which is effective in reducing transmission rates of the virus.”

Donalds met with the president in Washington, DC on Sept. 23, where he was photographed in the Oval Office. He told the Fort Myers News-Press that he had been tested for the virus on Friday, Oct. 2, and the results were negative. He said he had also tested negative prior to his meeting with Trump.

“After you’ve had two negative tests within 10 days, that’s sufficient,” he told reporter Amy Bennett Williams. “I have no symptoms … That puts it to rest. I’m fine.”

“I was disappointed to see Mr. Donalds attend indoor events without social distancing or masks in Southwest Florida over the past week, including events after the announcement of the president testing positive for COVID19,” stated Banyai. “It seems like he is not taking the risk seriously and doesn’t care about the people in our community.”

Donalds has vociferously opposed mask mandates by local governments, arguing that mask wearing should be an individual decision. He appeared at the Cape Coral City Council to oppose masking when that body debated a mandate on July 6.

“You have no authority to mandate what people can put on their body. The fear people are having doesn’t justify it,” Donalds said at the time. “As a council, you have the solemn duty to vote this down and get back to common sense.”

On July 14, when the Collier County Commission first debated a mask mandate, Donalds argued it would put “extensive burdens” on local law enforcement.

“How are you going to have them enforce such a mandate?” he asked commissioners. “Who are they going to decide to enforce it on and who are they not going to enforce it on? There are major issues with such an order.” The commission ultimately voted in a mask mandate.

Donalds repeated his positions during his televised debate with Banyai on Sept. 28 at the studio of WGCU.

Donalds has not worn a mask at public events he has attended.

There is no indication that Donalds has changed his position on mask mandates given the president’s diagnosis and the spread of COVID-19 among high-level officials and presidential intimates.

On Oct. 2, The Paradise Progressive sent the following questions to the Byron Donalds for Congress campaign:

1. In light of the president’s contracting coronavirus, have you changed or altered your position against government mask mandates?

A. If you have made any changes, please state your current policy position.

2. What is your position on wearing masks in general?

No answer has been received to date.

President Donald Trump leaves the White House wearing a mask on is way to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Oct. 2.

No on stimulus, yes on QAnon

Southwest Florida congressional representatives, Reps. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) all voted against a second stimulus package in Congress last week.

Called the HEROES Act (House Resolution 925), the bill passed late Thursday, Oct. 1, by a vote of 214 to 207.

The bill provides $2.2 trillion in relief to people, businesses, states and local governments hard hit by the pandemic. It is a follow-on to a previous $3.4 trillion HEROES Act passed in May that propped up a badly damaged economy.

Passage of the bill occurred following a stalemate in talks between House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The administration had proposed a $1.6 trillion package and the two were unable to resolve their differences, so Pelosi proceeded with the House version.

None of the Southwest Florida congressmen issued statements explaining their votes.

The bill is not expected to make any progress in the Senate.

The same day, the House of Representatives passed House Resolution 1154, “Condemning QAnon and rejecting the conspiracy theories it promotes.”

While not a law, the bill explicitly condemned the online QAnon conspiracy theory as well as “all other groups and ideologies, from the far left to the far right, that contribute to the spread of unfounded conspiracy theories and that encourage Americans to destroy public and private property and attack law enforcement officers.” It called on federal agencies and the intelligence community to investigate and “uncover any foreign support, assistance, or online amplification QAnon receives.”

This bill passed by an overwhelming vote of 371 to 18.

Of Southwest Florida’s representatives, Diaz-Balart and Steube voted for it. Rooney was absent.

No endorsement here

On Sept. 29 the News-Press and on Oct. 4 the Naples Daily News published an op-ed by Rep. Francis Rooney and Michael Whittaker, a conservation activist, titled, “Climate is on the ballot in Florida this November.”

It argued that voters should elect environmental champions this November given the urgency of climate issues facing Southwest Florida. It made the case that political conservatives have to take the lead in devising market-based solutions to environmental threats.

“As constituents of Southwest Florida, when we head to the ballot box this fall, we need to remain vigilant and strong to ensure that our principles are upheld and our environment is protected,” they wrote.

Politically, what was most interesting about the op-ed was what it didn’t say: it didn’t endorse any candidates running and most especially did not mention Byron Daniels, whom Rooney might have been expected to anoint as a fellow Republican seeking to fill his seat. Rooney has not made any endorsements of any candidates to date.

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

Editorial: Everything Trump touches dies—and right now that means Florida

07-14-20 Charlie ChaplinCharlie Chaplin in the movie ‘The Great Dictator.’

Everything Trump touches dies: it’s the title of a book and never was a title more accurate, more appropriate and now more literal, especially here in Florida.

Trump has really touched Florida. He’s an official resident, he has his second White House in Florida as well as a golf club in Doral. He dominates the Republican political landscape, the Party and its two senators. He also handpicked the state’s governor.

And sure enough, his touch is killing Florida and Floridians. His incompetence, delusions and arrogance at the national level in handling the pandemic have, as of this writing, resulted in 3,361,042 confirmed American coronavirus cases and 135,582 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

In his adopted state 4,381 Floridians have died since March 1 and 295,312 have been infected to date, according to Florida’s Community Coronavirus Dashboard (the one posted by dissident scientist Rebekah Jones). On Sunday, July 12, Florida hit a record 15,300 new cases; the next day it reached 12,624.

All this would be bad enough but Trump’s disastrous mismanagement at the national level has been imitated on the state level by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Florida’s path from haven to hotspot starts with Trump’s denial of the seriousness of the coronavirus threat, his characterization of warnings of it as a Democratic hoax and his dismissive assurances that it would disappear “like a miracle.” Then, when its devastation couldn’t be denied, he resisted strong measures to contain it and rushed to open the economy for the sake of his re-election.

DeSantis mirrored the president’s performance almost word for word and gesture for gesture. He denied the seriousness of the threat, failed to prepare for it and dismissed warnings as exaggerations. Then he failed to provide statewide guidance for responding and rushed to re-open the economy. When infections and deaths began to spike, he accused the media of using the spectacle to gain ratings.

Now two events in Florida are threatening to turn the spike into an eruption: unrestricted re-opening of schools—an all-caps demand that Trump made on Twitter—and bringing the Republican National Convention to Jacksonville. There is no telling what the rate of infection will be and how many deaths will result if these two events occur as Trump demands.

Trump is on his way to causing more American deaths from coronavirus than Americans killed by Adolf Hitler during World War II.

(Between June 1944 and May 8, 1945, there were 552,117 US casualties in the European theater of operations, of which 104,812 were killed in action, according to the US Department of Defense.)

The question that arises from all this is: Given Trump’s glaring incompetence, the demonstrated danger of his delusions and the clear path to disaster that he continues pursuing, how long will Florida politicians in positions of power—or aspiring to positions of power—allow themselves to be led by a man whose course clearly leads to catastrophe? How long will they blindly follow him?

Certainly, there seems no answer in Florida where the governor, better educated than his mentor, shows no signs of independent thought. In Southwest Florida the Republican candidates up and down the ballot make a point of going to ever greater extremes in their praise and defense of this person whose decisionmaking seems insane.

Every day, every person who dies from this plague rebukes this man and his tweets. But throughout the peninsula of Florida there’s only silence from the members of his party and the people scratching and scrambling to get votes.

In 1940 Charlie Chaplin released his anti-Nazi film, The Great Dictator. In it, Chaplin as an imposter dictator gives a final speech against dictatorship that sounds hauntingly relevant today.

“You are not machines!” he tells his listeners. “You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate—the unloved and the unnatural!”

It’s time for Florida’s leaders and voters to stop being machines and start thinking hard and independently about what’s best for themselves, their state, their nation and humanity—and not just what’s best for Donald Trump.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

 

 

For the record: The candidates on whether to mask or not–UPDATED

07-11-20 Mask tantrum 5Dan Maples lashes out in a Fort Myers Costco when videoed without a mask.   (Image: Twitter)

July 12, 2020 by David Silverberg.

Updated at 5:30 pm with David Holden comment.

Mask madness has reached Southwest Florida.

Whether or not to wear a mask is no longer a question of a medical and hygienic precaution but a political statement, thanks to President Donald Trump’s politicization of the issue and stubborn refusal to set an example—before yesterday.

Of course, in Southwest Florida, a coronavirus hotspot, mask wearing has become a raw, emotional issue. It was in a Fort Myers Costco that Dan Maples had an anti-mask tantrum that went viral and cost him his job. Local towns and counties are debating mask mandates in meetings ringing with rage. Individual businesses have to decide whether to require customers to wear masks.

Where do the people who are seeking to represent Southwest Florida stand on masks and mandates?

The Paradise Progressive surveyed the tweets, websites, Facebook posts, news reports and statements of local congressional candidates regarding masks and compiled the following list of their positions—in addition to sending questions in direct messages. The results are presented here, for the record, along with some context. All names are listed by alphabetical order.

Democrats

Cindy Banyai: “Masks slow the spread of COVID19 and everyone should wear one when while they’re out and can’t social distance. With cases across Florida spiking and Lee Health system nearing 100% staff capacity we should all care about one another and wear a mask. It’s the most patriotic thing you could do right now–care about your fellow Americans.”

David Holden: “Since the vigorous resurgence of the virus around June 24th, I’ve been calling for a state-wide mask mandate. I believe that mandate should not be criminalized, as those penalties will only dig regular folks further in the hole–but I do know we need universal mask wearing and clear leadership. As ironic as it may seem, individual mask wearing will increase freedom as it will slow the spread and help us return to normal more quickly and safely.”

Republicans

Darren Aquino: Asked by NBC2’s Political Reporter Dave Elias in an interview broadcast on July 10, if the President should wear a mask, Aquino differed from Trump’s longstanding refusal and stated: “Different times, he should be, yeah. I would say he should put one on when it’s necessary.”

Casey Askar:  NBC2’s Dave Elias, reported on July 9 that Askar told him that Askar does not believe in wearing a mask in public and he doesn’t expect people to be forced to do so.

State Rep. Byron Donalds (R-80-Immokalee): Donalds told the Cape Coral City Council during its debate on a mask mandate: “Do not issue such an order when it is not clear you have the power to do so,” according to the News-Press.

State Rep. Dane Eagle (R-77-Cape Coral): Approvingly retweeted a July 7 tweet from Gov. Ron DeSantis (R): “I urge all Floridians to continue social distancing to help protect our state’s most vulnerable and slow the spread of #COVID19. Avoid the ‘Three Cs’ and high-risk environments. Wearing a facial covering when you can’t social distance may also help reduce transmission.”

Dr. William Figlesthaler: The only medical doctor among the candidates, Figlesthaler has not commented on mask-wearing on any of his platforms. Questions on the need for individuals to wear masks and mask mandates by local governments have been sent to his campaign e-mail address. As of this writing, no response has been received.

Mayor Randy Henderson: On July 9, following a vote of the Fort Myers City Council, Mayor Randy Henderson tweeted: “Today I proudly voted against a #MandatoryMasks policy for the @cityftmyers. Look, I agree with @realDonaldTrump – it is not feasible and a gross overreach of government. The individual must take responsibility for their health and respect others decision when they do the same.”

Daniel Kowal: No postings or positions on masks on his media platforms. As of this posting, no response to a direct question.

Christy McLaughlin: On July 7, at a Cape Coral City Council meeting on a mask mandate as reported by Fox4 News, where she went to oppose a mask mandate: “We do have the personal responsibility and ability to make our own choices with the autonomy of our own bodies.”

Daniel Severson: No postings or positions on masks on his media platforms. As of this posting, no response to a direct question.

Independent

Antonio Dumornay: In a July 8 Facebook post: “So people are happy about mandated mask 😷 to breathe in your own toxins (that you exhale called carbon dioxide) when only sick people need them! Like what are we doing!? Yes people get sick but your not sick.” As of this posting, no response has been received to a direct question for clarification of the post.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

 

US House passes major revision of coronavirus business aid; Rooney absent for sixth time, Diaz-Balart, Steube approve

US_Capitol_west_side 3-2-19

May 28, 2020 by David Silverberg.

By a near-unanimous vote of 417 to 1, the US House of Representatives today passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (House Resolution 7010), which eases the terms of  government emergency loans for businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The lone “nay” vote was cast by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-4-Ky.).

Despite new House rules allowing remote and proxy voting, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) was absent. This makes the sixth major coronavirus-related vote that he has missed. As of this writing, Rooney had not issued a statement on his absence.

Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) both voted for the measure. As of this writing, neither had issued statements explaining their votes .

The bill, which now goes to the Senate, makes a variety of changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help businesses hurt by the pandemic.

Under the bill, businesses have more time to use loans, extending the period from eight to 24 weeks.

Businesses will now also get greater flexibility in using the loans. Until now the businesses had to use 75 percent of their loans for payroll and limit other costs to no more than 25 percent of the loan in order to be eligible for loan forgiveness. Under HR 7010 that ratio changes to 60 percent and 40 percent respectively. The new bill also allows businesses to defer payroll taxes.

The bill was a bipartisan effort, introduced by Reps. Chip Roy (R-21-Texas) and Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips (D-3-Minn.).

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

House passes $3T HEROES Act; Rooney absent for fifth virus vote, Diaz-Balart, Steube oppose

Capitol at night 5-16-20 cropped

May 16, 2020 by David Silverberg.

By a vote of 208 to 199 the US House of Representatives last night approved the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, House Resolution 6800, a $3 trillion bill to provide relief to the economy as well as states and localities devastated by the coronavirus and its quarantines.

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) was absent, marking the fifth major coronavirus-related vote he has missed. Rooney did not issue a statement explaining his absence.

Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) both opposed the bill.

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) in a lengthy floor speech  said: “The Congress must honor its responsibility to the American people to lessen the blow of the coronavirus by making the same serious investment of The Heroes Act to our state, local, tribal and territorial governments.” The bill, she said, “will make a tremendous difference not only in the budgets in the states, but in the lives of the American people.”

In a statement, Diaz-Balart called the bill “an irresponsible, blatantly partisan effort that was written behind closed doors by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.” (The full text is below.) Steube denounced the bill as “Pelosi’s liberal wishlist.”

The vote did not go entirely along partisan lines. One Republican, Rep. Peter King (R-2-NY), voted for it and 14 Democrats opposed it.

The bill will now go to the Senate, where the Republican majority is likely to either extensively rewrite it or kill it altogether. President Donald Trump has threatened to veto it.

Among other things, the bill:

  • provides FY2020 emergency supplemental appropriations to federal agencies;
  • provides payments and other assistance to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments;
  • provides additional direct payments of up to $1,200 per individual;
  • expands paid sick days, family and medical leave, unemployment compensation, nutrition and food assistance programs, housing assistance, and payments to farmers;
  • modifies and expands the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides loans and grants to small businesses and nonprofit organizations;
  • establishes a fund to award grants for employers to provide pandemic premium pay for essential workers;
  • expands several tax credits and deductions;
  • provides funding and establishes requirements for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing;
  • eliminates cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatments;
  • extends and expands the moratorium on certain evictions and foreclosures; and
  • requires employers to develop and implement infectious disease exposure control plans.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s statement on HR 6800:

“This $3 trillion, 1,800-page legislation is an irresponsible, blatantly partisan effort that was written behind closed doors by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It’s shameful that during this time of crisis, House Leadership is wasting invaluable time on a bill that is nothing more than a wasteful spending wish list that will never become law. While we must continue to help the American people, we cannot lose sight of excessive, reckless spending and the long-term adverse effects it will have on our children and grandchildren. House Democratic Leadership should put politics aside and work across the aisle to reach a bipartisan agreement for the American people who desperately need it.”

Liberty lives in light

©2020 by David Silverberg

BREAKING NEWS: US House passes $484B business aid bill; Rooney absent, Diaz-Balart, Steube approve

04-23-20 Final HR 266 voteThe final vote on the latest Coronavirus aid bill.       (Image: C-Span)

April 23, 2020 by David Silverberg.

By an extraordinarily lopsided bipartisan vote of 388 to 5, the US House of Representatives tonight voted in favor of House Resolution (HR) 266, providing $484 billion in further stimulus, aiding small businesses devastated by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Two of Southwest Florida’s representatives, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) voted for the bill.

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) was absent, making this the fourth major Coronavirus relief package whose vote he has missed.

Ironically, on April 16 and 17 Rooney was vocal on the need to replenish the Paycheck Protection Plan, the previous stimulus bill for business that almost immediately ran out of money once it launched.

“Over 90 percent of our Southwest Florida economy is tied to small business owners that need the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to be funded and functioning,” Rooney argued in an April 17 statement.

“Most of these businesses are desperately trying to do the right thing by keeping their employees on the payroll and continuing to pay their bills. The people that are being helped by this program do not have weeks, or even days to wait – they need this funding immediately. This economic disaster was not caused by anything that these businesses did and was not a market driven collapse. The government, in response to the deadly health aspects of COVID-19, shut the economy down -and the government must provide assistance. Now is not the time for partisan political games.”

He also tweeted: “Small businesses are hurting and the original PPP funds have been exhausted. Hopefully leaders of both parties will quickly work out an additional funding plan.”

That was precisely what was in HR 266.

A request for comment by Rep. Rooney and his office had not been answered as of this posting.

Passage of the bill by the House approves action taken earlier by the Senate. The bill now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature to be enacted into law.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

 

IHME: Florida may have passed Coronavirus peak; June 14 re-opening safe with conditions

04-23-20 IHME

Projected Coronavirus deaths in Florida. The shaded area shows the range of uncertainty in the projection (how high or low the death rate per day could go), the dotted line is the projected deaths and the solid line shows actual fatalities.    (Chart: IHME)

April 23, 2020 by David Silverberg.

Florida appears to have hit its peak of Coronavirus deaths on April 12 and may safely re-open in mid-June, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), a respected independent population health research center at the University of Washington.

According to an analysis released yesterday, April 22, “After June 14, 2020, relaxing social distancing may be possible with containment strategies that include testing, contact tracing, isolation, and limiting gathering size.”

According to the Florida Department of Health, as of today Lee County has 821 COVID-19 cases and has suffered 30 deaths. Collier County has 487 cases and suffered 11 deaths. Charlotte County had 154 cases and 11 deaths.

At the moment the state is prohibiting mass gatherings, is requiring residents to stay at home, and non-essential businesses and educational facilities remain closed.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Rep. Rooney signs Republican letter calling for W.H.O. leader’s resignation

01-13-19 us capitol cropped

April 18, 2020 by David Silverberg.

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) has signed a letter to President Donald Trump that calls for making US funding of the World Health Organization (WHO) contingent on the resignation of the organization’s director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The letter was sent yesterday by 17 of 21 Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), of which Rooney is a member.

On April 14, Trump announced that the United States would be withholding funds from WHO, in the midst of the global Coronavirus pandemic.

“We are writing to express our support for your April 14th announcement of an administration review and hold on U.S. voluntary contributions to the World Health Organization (WHO) due to their mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic response,” stated the letter (reproduced in full below).

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-10-Texas), ranking member of the HFAC, was the lead signatory.

Trump alleged that WHO failed to alert the United States to the dangers of the Coronavirus, an allegation that is widely disputed.

“I am instructing my administration to halt funding of the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the Coronavirus,” Trump said on April 14. “Everybody knows what’s going on here.”

“That’s the usual Trump hyperbole and flip-flopping,” stated the Washington Post in an article fact-checking Trump’s statement.

“The President’s halting of funding to the WHO as it leads the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic is senseless,” stated House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) in a statement following Trump’s announcement.

“We can only be successful in defeating this global pandemic through a coordinated international response with respect for science and data,” she continued.  “But sadly, as he has since Day One, the President is ignoring global health experts, disregarding science and undermining the heroes fighting on the frontline, at great risk to the lives and livelihoods of Americans and people around the world.  This is another case, as I have said, of the President’s ineffective response, that ‘a weak person, a poor leader, takes no responsibility.  A weak person blames others.’

“This decision is dangerous, illegal and will be swiftly challenged.”

The full text of the HFAC Republican letter is below:

President Donald J. Trump

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20500

 

Dear President Trump:

We are writing to express our support for your April 14th announcement of an administration review and hold on U.S. voluntary contributions to the World Health Organization (WHO) due to their mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic response. Below please find additional information to help inform your due diligence related to this valuable institution.

First, we are deeply concerned with the WHO’s and Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) handling of the early stages of COVID-19. The CCP’s lies and WHO’s poor handling of this crisis enabled a regional epidemic to become a pandemic. This resulted in countries around the world, including ours, fighting the virus with incomplete information and valuable time wasted. Sadly, as a result, we will have to count the lives lost in China and around the world for far too long.  This malfeasance is another example of the CCPs treatment of their own people and reminds us this is the same regime who puts millions of their own citizens in “concentration camps” and uses them for forced labor.

As you know, the United States is the largest funder of the WHO, contributing more than $893 million during their current two-year budget cycle. While the United States was assessed dues by the WHO totaling $118 million for the current cycle, Congress has provided an additional $657 million in voluntary funding. In comparison, during the same budget cycle, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) contributed approximately $86 million in both assessed dues and voluntary contributions.

Signs of the outbreak of a new, deadly virus in Wuhan were visible in early December 2019, when Zhang Jixian, a doctor at the Hubei Provincial Hospital, warned PRC health authorities that a novel coronavirus was affecting some 180 patients. Several other doctors publicly discussed the outbreak in an attempt to sound the alarm but were subsequently arrested by PRC authorities or disciplined by their supervisors. A senior doctor at the Wuhan Central Hospital, Ai Fen, instructed her staff to wear protective clothing and masks despite PRC official instructions to the contrary. In a later interview, she said “I knew there must be human-to-human transmission.” Despite this, China did not send any information on COVID-19 whatsoever to the WHO until December 31st. That same day, Taiwan warned the WHO that medical staff in China were becoming ill via human-to-human transmission.

Six days after Taiwan warned the WHO about human-to-human transmission, on January 5th, the WHO released a statement claiming that “based on the preliminary information from the Chinese investigative team, no evidence of significant human-to-human transmission and no health care worker infections have been reported.” This is despite Taiwan’s clear warning and reports from Chinese doctors that human-to-human transmission was occurring. On January 23rd, as Wuhan was being locked down, the WHO Emergency Committee was split on declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). As Director-General, Tedros had the deciding vote – he opted not to declare a public health emergency. Days later, he praised China’s response to COVID-19, calling the response and PRC’s transparency “very impressive, and beyond words.” He went on to say that the PRC was “actually setting a new standard for outbreak response.” This was despite widespread reporting that the PRC had obfuscated information and delayed its initial response. According to a professor of global health law at Georgetown University, the WHO’s public statements misled public health experts, “giving a false sense of assurance” that contributed to the spread of the disease. The WHO did not announce a PHEIC until January 30th. It is likely that this delay contributed to a regional epidemic becoming a global pandemic.

On January 6th, the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) offered to send a team of experts to China to assist the PRC’s response. Their offer was turned down. It was not until February 16th, 41 days later, that a joint WHO-PRC mission traveled to China to examine the outbreak and origin of COVID-19. Many members of that team, including at least one American, were not allowed to visit Wuhan. It was not until February 28th that their report was allowed to be published. This delay was a result of the PRC’s refusal to allow the use of certain language, such as describing the virus as “dangerous.” The same day, the first COVID-19 death occurred on U.S. soil. It would take another twelve days for the WHO to declare a pandemic, after 114 countries reported 118,000 cases; more than 4,600 people had already died.

Director-General Tedros has failed in his mandate to objectively respond to the largest global health crisis since the HIV/AIDS pandemic reached its peak in the mid-2000s. Similar criticism was brought to bear on his leadership during the WHO’s response to the recent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to the New York Times, Director-General Tedros reportedly covered up three cholera epidemics in Ethiopia during his time as Minister of Health. In addition to a troubled record of response to health emergencies, Director-General Tedros has a record of embracing PRC propaganda and policies. After serving as Minister of Health, Director-General Tedros served as Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister from 2012-2016. During his tenure, China invested $13.6 billion in his home country, leading many to refer to Addis Ababa as “the city China built.” The next year, during his candidacy for his current office, he was supported by the Chinese. In the days leading up to the election, he gave a public speech at a Chinese university in Beijing where he praised the PRC for its global health and disease control work. The day after his election as Director-General, he announced that the WHO would follow the PRC’s “One China” policy which resulted in Taiwan being banned from participating any longer in WHO forums. As a result, despite Taiwan warning the WHO on December 31st that human-to-human transmission was occurring, that information was not published on the WHO’s platform for data exchange amongst its member countries.

In sum, there are several concerning facts that have been established:

  • WHO knew that COVID-19 was spreading through human-to-human interaction at least three weeks before it informed the rest of the world.
  • Director-General Tedros’ policies prevented the WHO from heeding Taiwan’s warning and undermined the credibility of the information Taiwan provided to other countries.
  • Director-General Tedros cast the tie breaking vote that delayed the declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, despite clear evidence of the rapid spread and human-to-human transmission of COVID-19.
  • Director-General Tedros heaped praised on the PRC despite clear evidence that the Chinese government COVID-19 cover up delayed the proper response to the initial outbreak.
  • Director-General Tedros’ long-standing relationship with PRC authorities and embrace of CCP propaganda and polices undermines his ability to serve impartially as Director-General.

As such, we have lost faith in Director-General Tedros’ ability to lead the World Health Organization. We understand, and value, the vital role that the WHO plays around the world, especially in acute humanitarian settings. At times, the WHO is the only organization working on the ground in the worst places in the world, and the U.S. should continue to support this important work. However, it is imperative that we act swiftly to ensure the impartiality, transparency, and legitimacy of this valuable institution. In light of the information presented in this letter, we recommend that you condition any future Fiscal Year 2020 voluntary contributions to the WHO on the resignation of Director-General Tedros. Sadly, we know COVID-19 is not the last pandemic the world will have to face.

Sincerely,

Michael T. McCaul

Guy Reschenthaler

Tim Burchett

Steve Watkins

Michael Guest

Ron Wright

Jim Sensenbrenner

Ken Buck

Scott Perry

Ted Yoho

Joe Wilson

Ann Wagner

Adam Kinzinger

Brian Mast

Greg Pence

Francis Rooney

Christopher  Smith

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg