FILE - In this April 22, 2020, file photo President Donald Trump passes Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a briefing about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Photo: Alex Brandon/AP
Photo: Alex Brandon/AP

The Jolt: A medical protest against the sidelining of the CDC

The Lancet is a 197-year-old weekly medical journal with a wide international following.

It has just published an editorial in which it declares that the Atlanta-based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – “the flagship agency for the nation's public health” – needs rescuing from the Trump administration. Two choice paragraphs:

There is no doubt that the CDC has made mistakes, especially on testing in the early stages of the pandemic. The agency was so convinced that it had contained the virus that it retained control of all diagnostic testing for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, but this was followed by the admission on Feb 12 that the CDC had developed faulty test kits. The USA is still nowhere near able to provide the basic surveillance or laboratory testing infrastructure needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

But punishing the agency by marginalising and hobbling it is not the solution. The Administration is obsessed with magic bullets—vaccines, new medicines, or a hope that the virus will simply disappear. But only a steadfast reliance on basic public health principles, like test, trace, and isolate, will see the emergency brought to an end, and this requires an effective national public health agency.

The editorial refers to the current U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic as “inconsistent and incoherent,” and all but calls for the replacement of Robert Redfield, the virologist currently serving as director of the CDC: “The CDC needs a director who can provide leadership without the threat of being silenced.”

***

The monthly job report from the state Department of Labor on Thursday produced a stampede of Tweets from both Democrats and Republicans. From our AJC colleague Michael Kanell:

Georgia’s Department of Labor processed nearly a quarter of a million unemployment claims last week as the flood of virus-triggered job cuts continued, officials said Thursday.

The latest figures bring the total number of claims handled since the start of March to 1,849,382. That’s 37% of Georgia’s pre-virus workforce, a much higher share than the national average of about 22%.

Democrats seized on the numbers as proof that low-wage earners need more help from Washington. Republicans cited them as proof that Gov. Brian Kemp’s emphasis on reopening businesses in the state is justified.

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The paragraph touching on U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., was couched deep in a Politico.com article focused on the decision by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., to step down temporarily as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee while the FBI looks at his stock trading:

Loeffler declined to comment Thursday when asked if she's spoken to the FBI. A spokesperson for Loeffler said "no search warrant has been served on Sen. Loeffler" and that the Georgia Republican "has followed both the letter and spirit of the law and will continue to do so."

Silence in the face of a binary, yes-or-no answer isn’t always productive. And so we have this in today’s AJC:

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler has supplied records about stock trading on her behalf to the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Senate Ethics Committee, her office announced.

The documents and information are centered on “establishing that she and her husband acted entirely appropriately and observed both the letter and the spirit of the law,” a Loeffler spokeswoman said in a statement late Thursday.

Loeffler wasn’t the only other senator forced to address the matter. Democrat Diane Feinstein of California was obliged, too. From the New York Times:

In April, law enforcement officials asked Ms. Feinstein “basic questions” about stock transactions made by her husband during the period in question, her spokesman, Tom Mentzer, said on Thursday. He said Ms. Feinstein complied and provided documents that showed she had no involvement.

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‘Tis the season for internal polls. Since posting on two in-house surveys showing GOP candidates in dire straits, we have gotten hold of a poll by the Republican State Leadership Committee painting a sunnier picture.

It pegged Gov. Brian Kemp with a 56% approval rating and had U.S. Sen. David Perdue leading Democratic frontrunner Jon Ossoff 46-41. Down-ballot Republicans led Democrats 47-42% on generic state House ballots. 

One constant: Like the other two internal polls, it also had the presidential race in a statistical tie in Georgia, with President Donald Trump at 48% and Democrat Joe Biden at 46%. 

Another interesting finding: The pollsters, BK Strategies, said only 17% of Georgia Democrats and independents offered Stacey Abrams’ name in response to the question about who they’d like to see Biden picked as a running mate. The other 83% put forth another name or said they were unsure. Check out the latest poll here.

***

The political prognosticators at Cook Political Report seem to agree with the surveys showing Sen. David Perdue in a tight battle. 

On Friday, the organization downgraded its rating of the race from “likely” to “lean Republican” -- a sign that Democratic chances to flip the seat are growing. The other U.S. Senate contest in Georgia, the race for Kelly Loeffler’s seat, was already in that category. From the post by Jessica Taylor:

My colleague Amy Walter also dives into Peach State presidential politics this week, explaining why, while it's becoming more competitive, it's not yet in the Toss Up category: "Winning Georgia is like trying to lose those last 5-10 pounds. On paper, it doesn't seem all that hard. But, once you spend two weeks desperately looking down at a scale that doesn't budge, you realize it's going to take a ton of effort to lose each and every pound."

The same may be said for this Senate race — Perdue still holds the advantage, but it is now a more competitive picture, and Georgia as a whole is a better opportunity than the other contests we have in Likely Republican, including Kentucky, Texas and South Carolina. So we are moving this contest from Likely to Lean Republican, meaning both of the Peach State's Senate seats are very much in play this year, though Republicans still retain the advantage.

***

On Thursday, the Georgia Supreme Court gave its approval to a system by which a sitting justice could submit a resignation months into the future, giving a sitting governor the authority to replace the justice with his/her own appointee – and erasing a statewide electoral contest for the seat for two years.

Our AJC colleague Bill Rankin has the details here. The case involves former congressman John Barrow, who had intended to run for the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice Keith Blackwell. A resort to federal court action by Barrow is a strong possibility. We received this note from Michael Moore, one of Barrow’s attorneys:

“We will be looking at the federal options. I think the Court’s reasoning is a vivid example of constitutional contortion. Can you imagine another situation where the arbiters of the facts are themselves the actual fact witnesses in the case? I think this would be of interest to the federal court.”

Barrow could file a separate action, or join the federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta by three voters, including the widow of late Justice Charles Weltner, who also are seeking to force an election for Blackwell’s seat.

***

In endorsement news:

— Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz endorsed Republican Rich McCormick’s campaign for Georgia’s Seventh District bid, saying he will “hold China accountable, rebuild our economy and stand against rampant socialism.”

—Democrat Dana Barrett was endorsed by a slate of high-profile party members for her campaign against U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk. They include former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, former Rep. Buddy Darden, Rep. Hank Johnson and Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson.

***

Club for Growth, the conservative anti-tax group, is out with an internal poll that shows its preferred candidate, Rich McCormick, in the lead in the GOP race for the Seventh District congressional seat.

The results show McCormick leading state Sen. Renee Unterman 41% to 23%. Lynne Homrich got support from 7% of voters, another 5% went to one of the other four candidates and 24% was undecided.

The survey of 408 likely Republican primary voters in the district was conducted May 11-12 and showed that McCormick was gaining support at a higher rate than Unterman compared to April numbers. The margin of error is 4.9%.

The Club for Growth endorsed McCormick, an emergency room doctor with military experience, in March.

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