We’re at war with science

QUICK READ: Trump has been lashing out at scientists whose conclusions he doesn’t like. Twice this week, Trump has not only dismissed the findings of studies but suggested — without evidence — that their authors were motivated by politics and out to undermine his efforts to roll back coronavirus restrictions. God help us.

First it was a study funded in part by his own government’s National Institutes of Health that raised alarms about the use of hydroxychloroquine, finding higher overall mortality in coronavirus patients who took the drug while in Veterans Administration hospitals. Trump and many of his allies had been touting the drug as a miracle cure, and Trump this week revealed that he has been taking it to try to ward off the virus — despite an FDA warning last month that it should only be used in hospital settings or clinical trials because of the risk of serious side effects, including life-threatening heart problems.

The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most well respected medical journals, published a new study Friday that echoed those findings.

“If you look at the one survey, the only bad survey, they were giving it to people that were in very bad shape. They were very old, almost dead,” Trump told reporters Tuesday. “It was a Trump enemy statement.”

Trump has long been skeptical of mainstream science — dismissing human-made climate change as a “hoax,” suggesting that noise from wind turbines causes cancer and claiming that exercise can deplete a body’s finite amount of energy. It’s part of a larger skepticism of expertise and backlash against “elites” that has become increasingly popular among Trump’s conservative base.

Undermining Americans’ trust in the integrity and objectivity of scientists is especially dangerous during a pandemic when the public is relying on its leaders to develop policies based on the best available information, said Larry Gostin, a Georgetown University law professor who is an expert in public health.

Neutering the CDC

Mr. Trump has proposed cutting the CDC’s budget each year by between 10% and 20%, but Congress has protected the agency. The CDC’s budget has been flat since 2016, and this year emergency-spending bills will provide an extra $6bn over the next five years.

IN 2014 TOM FRIEDEN, the head of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), appeared almost daily to brief the public about the Ebola virus, the last pandemic to hit the United States before the coronavirus. His agency formulated a policy for dealing with Ebola, and also embodied it. The CDC trained 6,500 people in America and 25,000 in West Africa to look after victims. The vaccine that finally treated the disease was tested in a CDC laboratory. The end of the outbreak confirmed the agency as the world’s leading public-health body.

Contrast that with what has happened during the coronavirus outbreak. On May 17th a senior White House official, the director of trade policy, said the CDC“really let the country down”. The administration gutted CDC guidelines telling restaurants, child-care centers, and others how to reopen, reducing them from more than 50 pages to six. The CDC has been muzzled, says Jeremy Konyndyk of the Centre for Global Development, a think-tank. It has held no public briefings since mid-March. Meanwhile, the first testing kits that the World Health Organisation is distributing came from Germany.

What used to be America’s most prestigious public health body has been relegated to one voice among many in the clamor of the White House. The result is to squander expertise, compound confusion about who, if anyone, is in charge of the federal response to the virus and make the reopening of the country riskier than it need be.

What’s really going on?

It’s simple. American lives are being put at risk as Trump tries to open the country to better his reelection chances. The silence from within the pharma community is deafening.

The real story, however, is that almost 80% of American’s aren’t ready to resume life before the pandemic. They understand the dangers involved and don’t trust this administration to protect its citizens.

Pharma, or course, is keeping quiet less they draw the wrath of an administration which loves punishing detractors. They should be ashamed of themselves.