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Under Pence, Politics Regularly Seeped Into the Coronavirus Task Force

WASHINGTON — Aboard Air Force Two en route to the Mayo Clinic on April 28, White House aides walked down the aisle distributing masks to members of Vice President Mike Pence’s entourage, a requirement for everyone entering the renowned hospital in Minnesota as the coronavirus spread.

But Marc Short, the vice president’s powerful chief of staff, said Mr. Pence, the leader of the White House’s coronavirus task force, would not be wearing one. Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, tried to intervene, saying it would be a bad message to the public if the vice president were to flout hospital rules.

But according to a person who witnessed the discussion and a senior administration official familiar with the episode, Mr. Short responded that photographs of Mr. Pence in a mask could be used by Democrats as campaign ammunition against President Trump, who had consistently refused to wear one as he downplayed the severity of the crisis.

Mr. Pence’s decision to walk the halls of the Mayo Clinic without a mask turned into a public relations mess — the hospital said on Twitter during the visit that the vice president’s staff had been informed about the mask policy — and Mr. Pence would later say his choice was wrong.

But it was only one example of how, over nearly eight months since the vice president was given a leading role in managing the nation’s pandemic response, political considerations seeped into decisions by Mr. Pence and his staff about how to combat a disease that has now killed more than 210,000 Americans.

At the task force, grim science-based projections were sometimes de-emphasized for rosier predictions, and guidance from public health agencies — about schools and summer camps, for example — was sometimes massaged by the vice president’s staff.

At one point, Mr. Short directed Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to soften the agency’s recommendations to a meat processing company about safety steps, in part to placate the embattled industry. Mr. Short was also part of a small group, which included Kellyanne Conway, then a senior adviser to Mr. Trump, that pushed to change C.D.C. guidance on church reopenings.

Interviews with task force members, government public health officials and current and former White House officials show how public health considerations were sometimes at odds in the task force with the White House’s imperative for 2020: winning re-election on the basis of a strong economy.

“The vice president admittedly was in a difficult situation; he was asked to lead a project where his boss wasn’t on board,” said Senator Angus King, independent of Maine, who clashed with Mr. Pence during an April conference call about coronavirus testing. During that call, Mr. King erupted at the vice president for what he believed were his evasive answers.

“And so, the question is: To what extent, if any, did he try to push back on the president, minimizing masks, minimizing testing, continually

Van Nuys dentist says nearby homeless encampments may force her out of business

VAN NUYS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Dr. Elizabeth Rojas says she wanted to invest in her community, but she says nearby homeless encampments may force her out of business and she fears her dream is now shattered.

“It’s just become a scary situation,” says Rojas.

She set up a dentistry office in Van Nuys where she grew up. She says the area is now surrounded by homeless encampments and it is not safe.

“They’re defecating, urinating but now it’s just become violent, it’s constant, they’re always fighting — they have machetes, they have knives, they have hammers,” Rojas says.

She says her security camera have caught people naked on the street, others armed with knives or screwdrivers, and two men breaking into her building. There is video of two people attacking someone on the ground.

“They’re fighting over ‘get my knife, she stole my drugs’ and they’re just attacking each other,” says Rojas.

This area is in the district of L.A. City Council President Nury Martínez.

“The County and our service agencies need to step up and address the severe mental health and addiction crisis on the streets,” she said in a statement.

The county says it can’t do it alone.

“Effectively addressing homelessness requires a complex interaction of many entities and, when we are successful, it is because willing partners have worked collaboratively to help people move from homelessness to housing,” Supervisor Sheila Kuehl told Eyewitness News.

The mayors office was direct saying, “No one should have to live in fear of violence, and Mayor Garcetti has been clear with the LAPD that while we should never criminalize homelessness, illegal behavior will not be tolerated on our streets.”

Rojas says she has called the city asking for help and despite what officials say nothing has changed. She feels it’s gotten worse. The city opened up a Bridge shelter facility just a few blocks away, but Rojas says the people on the streets won’t go there.

“I am empathetic to them, I see homeless shelters come out all the time and offer them services and they don’t want it. I don’t know what to do. Why should we bear the burden of having to see them do drugs in plain sight?” asks Rojas.

Rojas says she’s actually considering if it’s perhaps time to give up and get out

“We employ 10 assistants, hygienists, two other doctors. I’m at the point where I ask myself, should I leave? Should I just sell and get out of here?” I don’t know,” she says. “Take a loss and leave?

Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.

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DVIDS – News – Navy Medicine Force Master Chief Office Changes Hands

Force Master Chief (FORCM) Michael J. Roberts relieved FORCM Hosea Smith Jr. as Navy Medicine’s Force Master Chief and Director of the Hospital Corps during a change of office ceremony at the Defense Health Headquarters Oct. 1.

Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, Navy Surgeon General and chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, presided over the ceremony as staff witnessed the change of office.

“FORCM Smith focused on readiness and that has value to me, and to this organization,” said Gillingham. “FORCM has made significant contributions to Navy Medicine. Driving forward initiatives that are professionalizing the Hospital Corps and preparing it for the unknown challenges of the future.”

As the 15th director of the Hospital Corps, FORCM Smith represented more than 26,000 Hospital Corpsmen, ensuring they received the proper training to provide Sailors, Marines and families around the globe the best care our nation can offer.

“To all the corpsmen out there, you have something great, you have every opportunity to succeed,” said Smith. “You are integral to the Navy Medicine mission, I have traveled the world and seen the best Hospital Corpsmen out there, hands down.”

Roberts assumed the role as the enlisted leader of Navy Medicine and director of the Hospital Corps following the ceremonial “passing of the cutlass”.

Roberts is now serving as the 16th Navy Medicine force master chief. He previously served as the Command Master Chief at I Marine Expeditionary Force.

Navy Medicine consists of highly trained, professional people, who operate from well designed platforms, using high performance techniques to provide medical power to support naval superiority world-wide.

Date Taken: 10.02.2020
Date Posted: 10.02.2020 14:28
Story ID: 380117
Location: US

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