White House Covid Task Force Tells Public Health Officials to Go Around Leadership if States Fail to Mandate Sufficient Restrictions

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, speaks during a briefing with the coronavirus task force at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, speaks during a briefing with the coronavirus task force at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Ohio Attorney General faces public records lawsuit from watchdog group … One Virginia county says coronavirus restrictions akin to “tyranny” … Beer inspired by Michigan governor.

The White House coronavirus task force warned public health officials that the risk of Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations is “at a historic high” and asked these officials to appeal directly to the public if state or local governments choose not to impose pandemic-related restrictions like mask mandates. "We are in a very dangerous place due to the current, extremely high COVID baseline and limited hospital capacity; a further post-Thanksgiving surge will compromise COVID patient care, as well as medical care overall,” the taskforce wrote in a report to states. "If state and local policies do not reflect the seriousness of the current situation, all public health officials must alert the state population directly.” The task force said that public health officials should particularly target those over the age of 65 and people with significant health conditions; these groups should be warned not to enter indoor spaces with maskless people and should have groceries and medications delivered. The report also says that people under 40 should assume they are infected if they gathered with anyone outside their immediate household during Thanksgiving, even if they have no symptoms. There are now more than 180,000 daily positive cases and 90,000 hospitalizations across the country, an alarming rate of rise since Memorial Day, when there were fewer than 25,000 daily cases and 30,000 hospitalizations. The report concluded that "in many areas of the USA, state mitigation efforts remain inadequate” and that public health officials must "flatten the curve now in order to sustain the health system for both Covid and non-Covid emergencies." [CNN]

WATCHDOG LAWSUIT | Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is facing a public records lawsuit from the Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal watchdog group that says the state AG failed to hand over documents related to his work with the Republican Attorneys General Association. The watchdog group said that RAGA and its Rule of Law Defense Fund coordinate actions to promote Republican "electoral interests,” with Yost and his staff assisting in their official capacity. Yost spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle said their office “provided the documents that are legally required and reflect the official business of the office." Arn Pearson, the Center for Media and Democracy's executive director, contented that “Yost’s bid to keep secret his dealings with industry-funded influence groups about official actions he is taking on behalf of Ohio is a clear violation of Ohio’s public records law and cannot be allowed to stand.” [Columbus Dispatch]

CORONAVIRUS “TYRANNY” | One Virginia county approved a resolution rejecting statewide coronavirus restrictions after residents spoke up at the Campbell County Board of Supervisors meeting, calling Gov. Ralph Northam’s disease mitigation orders “tyranny.” The Democratic governor’s executive orders mandate mask wearing, ban restaurants from serving alcohol after 10 p.m. and limit public gatherings to 25 people. County Supervisor Charlie A. Watts II, a Republican, said that “free people have a duty to push back against these restrictions.” The Board then voted unanimously in favor of a resolution declaring the county a “First Amendment sanctuary” and ordering local law enforcement not to enforce any of the coronavirus mandates. [Washington Post]

GOVERNOR-INSPIRED BEER | A Michigan brewery debuted a beer called “Big Gretch” that features an image on the label of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wearing shades and a chain necklace. “It’s fun, it’s goofy, and it’s a great beer,” Progressive Farmhouse Ales posted on social media to announce the new product. The beer sold out online within 10 minutes of being released. “This is the largest single batch of beer that we have ever produced, and the most cases that we have ever released at once, all gone in under just 10 minutes … From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to each and every person that placed an order.” [Click on Detroit]

QUARANTINE REVISION | The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised their quarantine recommendations this week for people after they have been possibly exposed to the coronavirus, from a recommended 14-day isolation period to 10 days or even seven. CDC leaders acknowledged that the new guidelines are a tradeoff, with a 14-day period more likely to contain the spread of the virus, but also more likely to result in compliance failures if people aren’t able to take two weeks off work and could lose their jobs. “We are accepting some risk in exchange for reduction in burden that will allow us to better control this epidemic,” one senior official told The Washington Post. [The Washington Post]

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

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