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Trump 'should be role-modeling the basic public health measures that we know work': Yahoo News Medical Contributor

Dr. Uche Blackstock, Yahoo News Medical Contributor & Advancing Health Equity CEO, joins to Yahoo Finance's Kristin Myers to break down the latest coronavirus updates as President Trump returns to the White House following his coronavirus diagnosis.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, well, let's talk about coronavirus now. The president, as I had mentioned earlier, has returned to the White House to continue his recovery after leaving Walter Reed Hospital yesterday evening. So to chat about this and much more, we're joined now by Yahoo News medical contributor, Dr. Uche Blackstock, Advancing Health Equity CEO.

So doctor, good to have you with us. We saw the president is still infectious and headed to the White House. I'm wondering what your response was to his choosing to leave Walter Reed Hospital. And as a doctor, what do you think that that message that he's sending to the public is?

UCHE BLACKSTOCK: So those are just great questions. And I think what I would say is, like, for the average American who was at his age, in his condition, who had received the medications that he received and had the symptoms that he had, they would probably still be in the hospital. So it is unusual that in this course and the course of his disease, that he's left the hospital quite prematurely.

But also, we have to consider that he's essentially in a hospital within the White House. He's getting 24/7 medical care. He's still getting intravenous medications and being closely monitored. And so I want to say that this is definitely an exceptional situation, and not something that most Americans think about when thinking about the normal course of this disease.

KRISTIN MYERS: So speaking to the message we have been getting from the president, at least in terms of that move and that decision to leave the hospital, we also have a message that the president decided to tweet out to the American public.

He said, quote, "Flu season is coming up. Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the vaccine, die from the flu. Are we going to close down our country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with COVID, in most populations, far less lethal." I believe he was meaning far less lethal than the flu, coronavirus.

I'm wondering if you could just do a quick fact check for that statement for us. I have been reading a lot of what he said in that tweet is incorrect. But I figure it is better for the people to hear from a doctor than from me [INAUDIBLE] that fact checking.

UCHE BLACKSTOCK: Sure, yeah, it seems like he's trying to normalize the coronavirus. And the coronavirus is not like the flu. First of all, you have a 10 times-- you're 10 times more likely to be hospitalized by coronavirus, 10 times more likely to die from coronavirus.

The flu has killed, on average, between 12,000 and 62,000 people a year. We are ready at 210,000 deaths in this country. And so, you know, I just hope those points just show you how dealing with the coronavirus is totally different than dealing with the flu.

And we also have a vaccine for the flu. And we don't have a safe and effective one yet for coronavirus. So that's another big difference.

KRISTIN MYERS: I'm wondering if you've seen the president's moves, even just, let's just say, over the last 72 hours, or ever since Friday, when we found out he was diagnosed with coronavirus. I know you've seen the tweets. You've seen some of the messages that have come out from the president.

You know, he came out and said, you know, don't fear COVID. Don't let it dominate our lives. I'm wondering if you think that the president's actions, and also, just some of his latest messages, if you believe that he is endangering the American public, both directly, if you're working in the White House and you are one of those staffers, or even indirectly if you're just someone who listens to what the president has to say.

UCHE BLACKSTOCK: Yeah, I know. I agree. And the messaging, the actions, the behavior really are almost unconscionable and appalling and incredibly irresponsible. You know, he is the leader of this nation. He should be role modeling the basic public health measures that we know work.

I mean, he arrived at the White House and, you know, took off his mask. And so we have to worry about him exposing, you know, infectious particles to other White House staffers, people who are cooking his meals, serving him. I mean, it's incredibly irresponsible.

And the message that he's sending to Americans that this is a benign virus, this virus is far from benign. We saw what it did here in New York City and what it's done across the country. And I think that Americans need to understand that we're not anywhere near out of this pandemic and that we need to really keep using those public health measures that we know actually work.

KRISTIN MYERS: I want to mention or ask you, rather, about something that you just mentioned a moment ago, which is the vaccine, that we do not yet have a vaccine for coronavirus. We have seen the news that the White House has actually stepped in and intervened to block these new guidelines from the FDA, which is a reminder for everyone, is an agency that works to make sure that the food and the drugs that we take are safe and follow certain safety guidelines.

The White House stepped in and prevented the FDA from issuing these new guidelines for vaccines. That essentially would mean that a coronavirus vaccine, if these guidelines were implemented, a coronavirus vaccine would not be brought to market or available until after the election.

I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this move. The White House said that they did not believe that these stringent guidelines from the FDA, which essentially was going to require trials for, I believe, over two months, they did not believe them medically necessary. You, I'm sure, have been talking about vaccines quite a bit. What are your thoughts on that move?

UCHE BLACKSTOCK: Yeah, so I actually, along with a group of about 60 other physicians and public experts, actually sent a letter to Pfizer's CEO Albert Bourla about this the week before last. Because we were really concerned about political interference in the vaccine development process.

This is incredibly concerning. Those two months that we're asking for manufacturers to use are to really to assess whether or not there are any safety and efficacy issues that come up. And so we cannot compromise that timeline. It has to be done.

And if that results in a vaccine being available after the election, then so be it. You know, there's nothing worse than coming out with a vaccine that is ineffective and unsafe to undermine public trust.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, doctor, I just had one last question for you. If you can speak a little bit more to the fact that perhaps politics are interfering too much in this fight with the pandemic, and do you think that kind of gives credence to what you're hinting about right now, that people are fearful of taking that first generation vaccine and that people just frankly do not trust the president, and, in a way, more broadly, the government, when it comes to fighting and treating this virus?

UCHE BLACKSTOCK: Right. Yeah, no, I think the pattern of political interference that we've seen, whether it be from emergency use authorization of hydroxychloroquine, or interference in the school reopening guidelines, or even in whether or not coronavirus is airborne or not, right? We've seen interference in that with the CDC. You know, it really continues to undermine the trust the public has for these agencies that have been around for a very long time and that were really well respected.

And so I think that, you know, it's important. And what we've seen actually today is that the number of Americans that are willing to-- will be willing to take the vaccine is slowly decreasing. And so we really can't have that.

Because if that happens, we are going to prolong this pandemic, right? We need to get a certain percentage of the population who's willing to take these vaccines. And so this political interference is really sort of is decimating any trust that's left that the public has for these previously esteemed agencies.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, well, we will leave that there. Yahoo News medical contributor, Dr. Uche Blackstock, Advancing Health Equity CEO, thank you so much for joining us today.

UCHE BLACKSTOCK: Thank you for having me.