HHS Sec. Azar SCHOOLS CNN’s Tapper on Gov’s COVID Readiness

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In a feisty Sunday interview, CNN State of the Union host Jake Tapper grew increasingly irritated with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Throughout the interview, the cool-headed Trump administration official repeatedly schooled the shoddy CNN “journalist” on the federal government’s preparedness for coronavirus spikes around the country.

Tapper was in a foul mood right from the get-go. He repeatedly demanded that Azar answer for why President Trump was rarely seen wearing a facemask, and repeatedly lied about “no one” wearing a mask at Trump’s recent rallies. It was an easily disprovable lie because there was video of Senator James Lankford (R) (and a few other people) wearing a mask at Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

After reminding Tapper that the President was in a “unique position” that afforded him the constant health monitoring of himself and the people around him, Azar wanted to make it clear that the country was in a better place than it was at the start of the pandemic because of the administration:

But the important thing for the American people to know is our circumstances today, even though this is a very serious situation in these localities, very serious that has to be tackled. Our situation is are very different than it was several months ago. We have hospital capacity. We have personal protective equipment, and reserves of it at our hospitals, and at our states, and at our national level. We now have therapeutics, we have steroids, Remdesivir, we have convalescent plasma.

“We're definitely in a different position than we were several months ago, but just to take issue with a few things you said,” Tapper bitterly declared. “First of all, the AMA [American Medical Association] says there’s still a PPE problem in some hospitals. Second of all, some hospitals, including in Arizona, are actually starting to approach maximum capacity and they're worried what it’s going to look like in two weeks.” But the facts were on Azar’s side.

While Tapper was sitting there making faces at his guest (pictured above), the Secretary was schooling him on those facts:

 

 

So, Jake, back to some of the things you said there, because I want to make sure the American people are reassured about some of the actions of their government and their healthcare system. With all respect to the AMA, they don't have the information we have. We literally are on the phone with the hospitals in Arizona, [Tapper makes a face] Texas, California, Florida every day, measuring their PPE supplies and their reserves and making sure that we're there to support them.

Debunking Tapper’s second assertion, Azar added: “In Arizona, 15 percent of hospitalizations in-patient are from COVID. The rest of their capacity is consumed with other hospital uses and elective procedures. And you're going to see governors and hospitals slowing down on elective procedures to make capacity.”

Azar also wanted to reassure Americans that anyone who required a bed in an ICU would get one, along with a ventilator, and any therapeutics that they needed should they find themselves battling the virus. “And the numbers still keep going up,” Tapper sneered with no substantial rebuttal.

Tapper continued to press his attack by pointing to the Trump administration’s recent effort to overturn ObamaCare via the Supreme Court. “Is it not unconscionable, during a pandemic, to take health insurance away from 24 million Americans without having a replacement plan ready to go, so that those 24 million Americans do not have to not have health insurance in the middle of a pandemic,” he asked Azar in an elevated tone.

Azar immediately pulled the rug out from under Tapper by noting the government would be covering the healthcare costs of uninsured Americans suffering from the virus:

So, first off, President Trump has done something really historic here for the uninsured, and he’s made sure there’s a program that if you're uninsured for any reason, you get the COVID care you need with no cost-sharing, no co-payments, no deductibles, no surprise medical bills. So, the American people need to be reassured, get your medical care if you're uninsured, it will be covered by us.

From there the two argued about a possible replacement for ObamaCare before they ran out of time for the interview.

The transcript is below, click “expand” to read:

CNN’s State of the Union
June 28, 2020
9:11:44 a.m. Eastern

(…)

JAKE TAPPER: I agree with you. And we have been saying consistently on CNN and on my shows, if you're going to go out and protest – Well first of all, if you're in a vulnerable group, you shouldn't. But second of all, if you're going to, please social distance, please wear a mask.

But you know that there is a difference between indoor and outdoor, indoor and outdoor activity. It seems that indoor activity is much more dangerous potentially. And yet, the President continues to rallies where, not only does he not wear a mask, but no one on stage with him does, and none of his supporters do. And frankly I worry about his supporters going into these indoor rallies, not social distancing, and not wearing masks even though you are saying that they should be. The President and his campaign are not telling them to do so.

ALEX AZAR (HHS Secretary): With Jake, first, in regard to the President. You know he's in a unique position, the President, the Vice President are tested regularly. Anybody around them are tested that day. They're leaders of the free world. They have a very different circumstance than the rest of us.

Our message has been consistent. Which is — The surgeon general said this back in March, always, assess your individual circumstances. Are you at risk or are people in your family or your home at risk? And that means 80 years and over or say 65 and over with three of the very important co-morbidities like hypertension, diabetes, renal failure, et cetera.

Assess what’s going on in your community. What’s happening in Montana is going to be very different than what is happening in Las Vegas in terms of the community spread and risk. And then assess the type of activity that you're engaging in. Are you taking a walk in the park? Are you eating outside at a restaurant? Are you going out to an overcrowded bar? And you've got to take individual responsibility.

But the important thing for the American people to know is our circumstances today, even though this is a very serious situation in these localities, very serious that has to be tackled. Our situation is are very different than it was several months ago. We have hospital capacity. We have personal protective equipment, and reserves of it at our hospitals, and at our states, and at our national level. We now have therapeutics, we have steroids, Remdesivir, we have convalescent plasma.

And if you have had COVID, please contact your American Red Cross or your local blood bank and donate plasma so we can increase our supplies for people. And, we’re advancing on vaccines.

TAPPER: We're definitely in a different position than we were several months ago, but just to take issue with a few things you said.

First of all, the AMA [American Medical Association] says there’s still a PPE problem in some hospitals. Second of all, some hospitals, including in Arizona, are actually start to approach maximum capacity and they're worried what it’s going to look like in two weeks. And third of all, with all due respect, you, the surgeon general, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, yes, you're all consistent, you’ve had one message. President Trump and Vice President Pence are not having that message. They are not out there saying that masks are important. They are not out there demonstrating the importance of social distancing. They are holding rallies in which individuals are not social distancing at all. Do you think it is going to be safe to go to Florida to have masses, thousands of people going into the Republican national convention in a few months for the President in a state that is right now experiencing a huge surge in coronavirus cases?

AZAR: So, Jake, back to some of the things you said there, because I want to make sure the American people are reassured about some of the actions of their government and their healthcare system. With all respect to the AMA, they don't have the information we have. We literally are on the phone with the hospitals in Arizona, [Tapper makes a face] Texas, California, Florida every day, measuring their PPE supplies and their reserves and making sure that we're there to support them.

In Arizona, 15 percent of hospitalizations in-patient are from COVID. The rest of their capacity is consumed with other hospital uses and elective procedures. And you're going to see governors and hospitals slowing down on elective procedures to make capacity. We will ensure that Americans who need hospital beds have hospital beds, if they need an ICU, they'll have an ICU bed and if they need a ventilator, they'll have a ventilator, and we’ll be able to deploy therapeutics to them to help them through also.

It’s very important we rely on data, we're following this at the micro level, the county level, the hospital level.

TAPPER: And the numbers still keep going up.

Let me ask you, in the midst of all this, the Trump administration moved this week to ask the Supreme Court to strike down the entirety of Obamacare. Obviously, we're in the middle of a pandemic. Is it not unconscionable, during a pandemic, to take health insurance away from 24 million Americans without having a replacement plan ready to go, so that those 24 million Americans do not have to not have health insurance in the middle of a pandemic?

AZAR: So, first off, President Trump has done something really historic here for the uninsured, and he’s made sure there’s a program that if you're uninsured for any reason, you get the COVID care you need with no cost-sharing, no co-payments, no deductibles, no surprise medical bills. So, the American people need to be reassured, get your medical care if you're uninsured, it will be covered by us.

And in terms of the Affordable Care Act, we have made very clear that if the Supreme Court strikes down all or a large part of Obamacare, because it is constitutionally or statutorily infirm, we will work with Congress to create a program that generally protects individuals with pre-existing conditions. And by that I mean something very different than what we see today.

You know, a couple that’s age 55 in Missouri making $70,000 a year will pay $30,000 in premiums and have $12,000 of deductibles, I'm sorry, that's not real protection for somebody with pre-existing conditions.

(…)



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