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The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Wednesday that U.S. residents shouldn’t expect to receive a vaccine for the coronavirus until at least mid-2021, contradicting President Trump’s claim that at least 100 million doses could be distributed by the end of 2020. Dr. Robert Redfield was speaking at a Senate hearing on the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Robert Redfield: “If you’re asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we’re probably looking at third — late second quarter, third quarter 2021.”
President Trump lashed out at Dr. Redfield’s testimony, telling reporters in the White House press briefing room that the top U.S. public health official misspoke.
President Donald Trump: “I think he made a mistake when he said that. It’s just incorrect information. And I called him, and he didn’t tell me that. And I think he got the message maybe confused.”
Trump also contradicted the CDC director over masks, saying a vaccine would be much more effective than facial coverings at stopping the spread of the coronavirus. His comment came after Dr. Redfield estimated a potential coronavirus vaccine might only be 70% effective at generating an immune response — making widespread mask use critical to ending the pandemic in the future.
Dr. Robert Redfield: “The face masks, these face masks, are the most important, powerful public health tool we have. And I will continue to appeal for all Americans, all individuals in our country, to embrace these face coverings. I’ve said that if we did it for six, eight, 10, 12 weeks, we’d bring this pandemic under control.”
The United States reported nearly 1,000 new coronavirus fatalities on Wednesday, with the official U.S. death toll nearing 197,000 — by far the worst in the world. Nearly 40,000 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed over 24 hours, many of them driven by large outbreaks on college campuses.
On Wednesday, members of the Big Ten college athletics conference reversed course and said the fall football season will proceed this year — even as they acknowledged many players will contract COVID-19 as a result. President Trump celebrated the announcement, tweeting, “It is my great honor to have helped!!!”
Big Ten institutions said they would establish a cardiac registry for infected student-athletes, writing, “The registry and associated data will attempt to answer many of the unknowns regarding the cardiac manifestations in COVID-19 positive elite athletes.”
In response, sports law professor Alicia Jessop tweeted, “The U.S. has an ugly history when it comes to medical research and the Black community — from the Tuskegee Syphilis study to the use of Henrietta Lacks’ cancer cells unknowingly by her. If the Big Ten did not receive INFORMED consent from players, it will add to this litany.”
On the Gulf Coast, at least one person was killed, and over a half a million customers were left without power, as Hurricane Sally brought torrential rains and severe flooding to coastal communities from the Florida Panhandle to Mississippi. In Pensacola, a section of the Three Mile Bridge was destroyed after a barge slammed into the structure, cutting off access to the city of Gulf Breeze. Officials say parts of Florida received four months’ worth of rain in just four hours.
Attorney General William Barr told federal prosecutors to consider bringing sedition charges against protesters who destroy property — accusing them of plotting the overthrow of the U.S. government. That’s according to The Wall Street Journal, which also reports Barr asked the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to consider bringing criminal charges against Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan for allowing Black Lives Matter protesters to set up a police-free zone in Seattle.
The American Civil Liberties Union condemned Barr’s remarks, writing in a statement, “Treating protest as a form of sedition won’t stand up in court, but that is clearly not the point here. This is a tyrannical and un-American attempt to suppress demands for racial justice and an end to police violence.”
This comes as The Washington Post reports the Pentagon’s top military police officer sought to deploy a microwave “heat ray” weapon against protesters in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square as Black Lives Matter protests spread to the doorstep of the White House in early June.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Barr on Wednesday compared stay-at-home orders during the pandemic to a slavery, saying, “Other than slavery … this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.”
Michael Caputo, the top spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, has announced he will take a 60-day leave of absence for medical reasons. Caputo has faced calls to resign after accusing government scientists of “sedition,” claiming there was a “resistance unit” inside the CDC attempting to undermine Trump. Caputo is a longtime associate of Roger Stone and was appointed to his post at HHS despite having no healthcare background.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans Wednesday confirmed two more of President Trump’s judicial nominees to lifetime appointments on the federal bench. David Dugan and Stephen McGlynn are both longtime opponents of reproductive freedoms, including the right to an abortion. Their confirmations came four months after the Democratic-controlled House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to schedule a vote on the coronavirus relief bill, calling it an “unserious liberal wish list.”
In Nebraska, a grand jury has indicted a white bar owner in Omaha in the fatal shooting of James Scurlock, a Black protester. Scurlock was shot dead on May 30 during protests over the killing of George Floyd. He was 22 years old. The local county attorney initially declined to bring charges but brought the case to a grand jury. The bar owner, Jake Gardner, had claimed self-defense, but a special prosecutor said evidence from Gardner himself undermines that claim.
Democratic lawmakers have called for an investigation into reports that a doctor in Georgia has been performing hysterectomies on immigrant women held at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement prison without their consent. The shocking claim first came to light in a whistleblower complaint filed by a nurse named Dawn Wooten, who works at the Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia. Wooten appeared on MSNBC on Tuesday night.
Dawn Wooten: “I had several detained women on numerous occasions that would come to me and say, 'Ms. Wooten, I had a hysterectomy. Why?' I had no answers as to why they had those procedures. And one lady walked up to me here this last time around, between October of '19 until July the 2nd, and said, ’What is he? Is he the uterus collector? Does he collect uteruses?' And I asked her what does she mean. And she says, 'Everybody that I talk to has had a hysterectomy.'”
In related news, ICE has temporarily halted the deportation of Pauline Binam, a Cameroonian mother who says she was involuntarily sterilized while detained in Georgia. Binam was already on the plane Wednesday when her deportation was stopped. She has lived in the United States since the age of 2.
In other immigration news, the Trump administration has asked the Supreme Court to decide whether it can exclude undocumented immigrants from the census numbers used to determine each state’s share of seats in Congress. A federal court in New York recently blocked the Trump administration from doing so.