Top U.S. health official to tour Atlanta hospitals, tout coronavirus response

Credit: Pool

Credit: Pool

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is headed to Atlanta on Wednesday to tour local hospitals and meet with experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to highlight the Trump administration’s response to a still-raging pandemic that’s killed more than 7,000 Georgians.

Azar will visit Grady Memorial Hospital, the state’s largest safety-net healthcare facility, to discuss how the team is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and then to Emory University Hospital to discuss new treatments for the virus. He’s also set to meet with emergency operations staff at the CDC and hold a press conference with local health officials.

Azar has urged Americans to “hang in there” and continue to practice social distancing and wear masks as the seven-month-old pandemic still rages, even as President Donald Trump holds rallies in Georgia and other competitive states where face coverings are not required.

It’s a message that Azar stressed in a statement ahead of his visit.

“While the country faces a new rise in cases, it’s vital we all take steps like wearing a face covering, watching our distance and washing our hands, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as we diligently work toward having a safe and effective vaccine,” he said.

The visit comes as the infection rate in the U.S. is climbing toward a new peak and amid reports that the White House is trying to shape the Atlanta-based CDC’s messaging with new political hires.

Polls show a tight race between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden in Georgia, a state Republicans have carried in every White House race since 1996. Along with two stops in Atlanta by Trump over the last month, a string of administration officials have recently visited the state to promote the president’s pandemic response.